If true, this could be one of the greatest discoveries in human history – U.S. News – Haaretz.com

“I don’t care what people say,” asserts Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard University’s astronomy department and author of one of the most controversial articles in the realm of science last year (and also one of the most popular in the general media). “It doesn’t matter to me,” he continues. “I say what I think, and if the broad public takes an interest in what I say, that’s a welcome result as far as I’m concerned, but an indirect result. Science isn’t like politics: It is not based on popularity polls.”

Prof. Abraham Loeb, 56, was born in Beit Hanan, a moshav in central Israel, and studied physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as part of the Israel Defense Forces’ Talpiot program for recruits who demonstrate outstanding academic ability. Freeman Dyson, the theoretical physicist, and the late astrophysicist John Bahcall admitted Loeb to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, whose past faculty members included Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer. In 2012, Time magazine named Loeb one of the 25 most influential people in the field of space. He has won prizes, written books and published 700 articles in the world’s leading scientific journals. Last October, Loeb and his postdoctoral student Shmuel Bialy, also an Israeli, published an article in the scientific outlet “The Astrophysical Journal Letters,” which seriously raised the possibility that an intelligent species of aliens had sent a spaceship to Earth.

Source: If true, this could be one of the greatest discoveries in human history – U.S. News – Haaretz.com

Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why

Something strange is going on at the top of the world. Earth’s north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet’s core. The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world’s geomagnetism experts into a rare move.

On 15 January, they are set to update the World Magnetic Model, which describes the planet’s magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation, from the systems that steer ships at sea to Google Maps on smartphones.

The most recent version of the model came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020 — but the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now. “The error is increasing all the time,” says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Centers for Environmental Information.

Source: Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why

Opinion | Our Cellphones Aren’t Safe – The New York Times

America’s cellular network is as vital to society as the highway system and power grids. Vulnerabilities in the mobile phone infrastructure threaten not only personal privacy and security, but also the country’s. According to intelligence reports, spies are eavesdropping on President Trump’s cellphone conversations and using fake cellular towers in Washington to intercept phone calls. Cellular communication infrastructure, the system at the heart of modern communication, commerce and governance, is woefully insecure. And we are doing nothing to fix it.

Source: Opinion | Our Cellphones Aren’t Safe – The New York Times

The Lincoln Memorial During the Government Shutdown – The Atlantic

We had made plans to go to Washington weeks ago, and there was no way to change the trip. The train was almost empty when it pulled into Union Station on Friday night. The next morning, we went out into the dead heart of the city. The government shutdown was in its third week. Nearly all the museums that would have interested the kids were closed, and so were the ones that would have bored them. There was nothing to do except wander around, but the crowds we expected in the district center were absent, the streets and sidewalks almost empty. Without people, the scale of the capital dwarfed us. Each mid-century concrete building looked like its own walled city, the National Mall was a vast plain, and an endless highway separated the White House and the Capitol dome. It was as if Washington had been stricken by a grotesque illness that caused the body to swell up and suffocate the spirit within. The federal city was one great sarcophagus.

Source: The Lincoln Memorial During the Government Shutdown – The Atlantic

Repair Cafes Aim to Fix Our Throwaway Culture – CityLab

Repair cafes. What a brilliant idea!

We were at a “repair cafe” inside the Elkridge Library in Howard County, Maryland. Instead of silence, we were surrounded by the buzzing of power drills and the whirring of sewing machines. Goedeke was one of the “master fixers” there. He doesn’t like the term, though; he says it should be reserved for the professionals. “We’re all just amateurs at this, and we’re just having fun, mostly,” the 67-year-old retired engineer said.

Around the room, 10 others were helping residents repair everything from tables and lamps to jewelry and clothing. In one corner, a handful of vacuums had begun to accumulate. These were things people normally threw away when they malfunction. “[Our society] has been inculcated in the last 50 years with this disposable concept and to buy the best and the latest,” Goedeke said. “We just don’t expect to keeps things around.”

Source: Repair Cafes Aim to Fix Our Throwaway Culture – CityLab

Defense Department Announces Departure of Chief of Staff > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > News Release View

RADM Kevin Sweeney stepped down as SECDEF chief of staff this weekend. I served with Sweeney when he was a mere lieutenant serving as Combat Systems Officer (CSO) on the USS Elliot DD-967. Though some considered him an “arrogant prick,” Sweeney seemed to me to be a brusque-yet-squared-away sailor and I have been pleased to learn of his career success.

Rear Admiral Kevin Sweeney, USN (Ret.), has stepped down as Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense. He has served in this role since January 2017. “After two years in the Pentagon, I’ve decided the time is right to return to the private sector. It has been an honor to serve again alongside the men and women of the Department of Defense,” said Sweeney.

Source: Defense Department Announces Departure of Chief of Staff > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > News Release View

My daughter, Laura Riddick, is in prison. There’s nothing ‘light’ about her punishment. | News & Observer

Cue the tiny violins. I understand the desire for Riddick’s father to defend his daughter but sometimes by doing so one does more harm than good.

In October, a News & Observer editorial endorsing Democratic Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman asserted that Freeman had agreed to “a relatively light sentence” in the embezzlement case of my daughter, former Wake County Register of Deeds Laura M. Riddick.

The newspaper was hardly alone in that assessment, but the common assumption is wrong. The truth is the opposite — and it’s time to respond to mistaken claims of “a relatively light sentence.”

Relative to what, exactly? Not compared to other embezzlers. Not as to other public officials across North Carolina, either. Not even other public-figure embezzlers in Wake County.

Source: My daughter, Laura Riddick, is in prison. There’s nothing ‘light’ about her punishment. | News & Observer

Amazon and Facebook Reportedly Had a Secret Data-Sharing Agreement, and It Explains So Much

Back in 2015, a woman named Imy Santiago wrote an Amazon review of a novel that she had read and liked. Amazon immediately took the review down and told Santiago she had “violated its policies.” Santiago re-read her review, didn’t see anything objectionable about it, so she tried to post it again. “You’re not eligible to review this product,” an Amazon prompt informed her.

When she wrote to Amazon about it, the company told her that her “account activity indicates you know the author personally.” Santiago did not know the author, so she wrote an angry email to Amazon and blogged about Amazon’s “big brother” surveillance.

I reached out to both Santiago and Amazon at the time to try to figure out what the hell happened here. Santiago, who is an indie book writer herself, told me that she’d been in the same ballroom with the author in New York a few months before at a book signing event, but had not talked to her, and that she had followed the author on Twitter and Facebook after reading her books. Santiago had never connected her Facebook account to Amazon, she said.

Source: Amazon and Facebook Reportedly Had a Secret Data-Sharing Agreement, and It Explains So Much

Virginia Tech and UVa: Trademarks and tradition before the football begins | Webmin | roanoke.com

“Every once in awhile, somebody new will come to our tailgate, and it will come up, ‘This is the guy that helped design the VT logo,’ and people are like, ‘No way,’ ” Craft said.

“I have to say, ‘Well, yeah, and I got $50 for it.’ ”

It could have been worse. Welsh said he received no compensation for designing the V-sabers logo, although he later turned it into an online business venture, thesabre.com.

Source: Virginia Tech and UVa: Trademarks and tradition before the football begins | Webmin | roanoke.com

Mickey Mouse will be public domain soon—here’s what that means | Ars Technica

As the ball dropped over Times Square last night, all copyrighted works published in 1923 fell into the public domain (with a few exceptions). Everyone now has the right to republish them or adapt them for use in new works.

It’s the first time this has happened in 21 years.

In 1998, works published in 1922 or earlier were in the public domain, with 1923 works scheduled to expire at the beginning of 1999. But then Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. It added 20 years to the terms of older works, keeping 1923 works locked up until 2019.

Many people—including me—expected another fight over copyright extension in 2018. But it never happened. Congress left the existing law in place, and so those 1923 copyrights expired on schedule this morning.

And assuming Congress doesn’t interfere, more works will fall into the public domain each January from now on.

Source: Mickey Mouse will be public domain soon—here’s what that means | Ars Technica