October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM 2012)
So what can you do? The idea of NCSAM is to help get the word out and to protect yourself.
It more important than ever to safely manage your passwords. Password theft has increased by 300% so far in 2012, and that trend will continue to grow. So how can you manage those passwords safely?
With social media, email, shopping, banking and dating, a lot of your life is online and on your phone. Each one of these applications uses a password to protect your sensitive data, but how do you keep them all straight?
Here are some tips from DHS.gov to share with friends, family and your social networks:
1. Set strong passwords and don’t share them with anyone.
2. Keep your operating system, browser, and other critical software optimized by installing updates.
3. Maintain an open dialogue with your family, friends, and community about Internet safety.
4. Limit the personal information you post online and use privacy settings to avoid sharing info widely.
5. Be cautious about what you receive or read online – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Here are some common mistakes when creating passwords, courtesy of an Infographic from SecurityCoverage. [ makers of Password Genie] http://bit.ly/Sf2qHB
Astronomers have announced they have found a planet orbiting one of the stars making up the most famous star in the sky: Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to our own! At 4.3 light years distant, this is far and away the closest exoplanet known… and of course, it has to be.
Alpha Centauri is triple-star system, composed of a binary star, two stars much like the Sun – one slightly larger and hotter, called Alpha Centauri A, and the other slightly smaller and cooler, called Alpha Centauri B – orbited themselves by a red dwarf (called Proxima Centauri) much farther out.
The planet orbits close in to Alpha Cen B, and is technically called Alpha Centauri Bb – planets have lower case letters assigned to them, starting at b. Its mass is only 1.13 times the Earth’s mass, making this one of the lower mass planets yet found! But don’t get your hopes up of visiting it – its period is only 3.24 days, meaning it must be only about 6 million kilometers (less than 4 million miles) from its star. Even though Alpha Cen B is a bit cooler than the Sun, this still means the planet is baking hot, far too hot to sustain any kind of life as we know it, or even liquid water.
The Kepler space telescope has spotted the most tightly-packed exoplanet system yet, with five planets orbiting around the star KOI-500 within a fraction of the distance between Mercury and our Sun. The planets orbit their star in (going from innermost to outermost) 1.0, 3.1, 4.6, 7.1, and 9.5 days each, respectively, and each planet is between 1.3 and 2.6 times the size of the Earth. The outer four planets exist in a kind of orbital resonance, which sees them return to a set formation every 191 days -- that seems to keep them from being knocked out of orbit by each others' gravitaties and hurled either further out into the system or into the star to burn up.
The system was discovered by Darin Ragozzine, a planetary scientist at the University of Florida at Gainesville, and his team. It's roughly 1,100 light years from us, in the direction of the constellation Lyre. Its five planets are each slightly larger than the Earth, but their orbits are remarkably close to KOI-500 -- 150 times smaller than the orbit of the Earth. That's even less than the orbital distance of Mercury. Yet despite flying around so fast that it's only a manner of Earth days for each "year", they exist in an orbital resonance that keeps them from crashing into each other or falling into the star.
UCLA astronomers report the discovery of a remarkable star that orbits the enormous black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy in a blistering 11-and-a-half years — the shortest known orbit of any star near this black hole. The star, known as S0-102, may help astronomers discover whether Albert Einstein was right in his fundamental prediction of how black holes warp space and time.
Before this discovery, astronomers knew of only one star with a very short orbit near the black hole: S0-2, which Ghez used to call her "favorite star" and whose orbit is 16 years. (The "S" is for Sagittarius, the constellation containing the galactic center and the black hole). Black holes, which form out of the collapse of matter, have such high density that nothing can escape their gravitational pull, not even light. They cannot be seen directly, but their influence on nearby stars is visible and provides a signature, said Ghez, a 2008 MacArthur Fellow. Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts that mass distorts space and time and therefore not only slows down the flow of time but also stretches or shrinks distances.
According to general relativity, the elliptical orbits of objects like S0-2 and S0-102 should themselves “rotate,” creating a rosette-pattern over time. This motion is known as precession and is most easily observed in bodies orbiting close to massive objects. But the mass of other stars near the galaxy’s center creates a different type of precession that is difficult to separate from precession caused by general relativity. By studying the orbits of S0-02 and S0-102 together, the Galactic Center Group will be able to distinguish between the two precessions.
And according to Ghez, “It is conceivable that we will be able to observe deviations from Einstein’s theory in regions where S0-102 and other short period stars reside.” S0-102 was discovered using images taken with the twin 10-metre telescopes of the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawai’i, the largest optical telescopes on the planet. These included observations with the Keck II telescope using adaptive optics and laser guide-star technology that corrects for distortions caused by the Earth’s atmosphere. With a resolution greater than that of the Hubble Space Telescope, the observations allow Ghez, Do, and the group to resolve individual stars in the crowded region.
Humans have reached the moon and are planning to return samples from Mars, but when it comes to exploring the land deep beneath our feet, we have only scratched the surface of our planet. This may be about to change with a $1 billion mission to drill 6 km beneath the seafloor to reach the Earth's mantle -- a 3000 km-thick layer of slowly deforming rock between the crust and the core which makes up the majority of our planet -- and bring back the first ever fresh samples.
It could help answer some of our biggest questions about the origins and evolution of Earth itself, with almost all of the sea floor and continents that make up the Earth´s surface originating from the mantle. Geologists involved in the project are already comparing it to the Apollo Moon missions in terms of the value of the samples it could yield.
However, in order to reach those samples, the team of international scientists must first find a way to grind their way through ultra-hard rocks with 10 km-long drill pipes -- a technical challenge that one of the project co-leaders Damon Teagle, from the UK's University of Southampton calls, "the most challenging endeavor in the history of Earth science."
Their task will be all the more difficult for being conducted out in the middle of the ocean. It is here that the Earth´s crust is at its thinnest at around 6 km compared to as much as 60 km on land. The hole they will drill will be just 30cm in width all the way from the ocean floor to inside the mantle -- a monumental engineering feat. "It will be the equivalent of dangling a steel string the width of a human hair in the deep end of a swimming pool and inserting it into a thimble 1/10 mm wide on the bottom, and then drilling a few meters into the foundations," says Teagle.
Anyone can tell you that the future of information is in Web-based services like the cloud. Who would’ve thought, though, that this would also apply to the biological information that identifies who you are?
New calculations suggest we might actually be able to build a warp drive for faster than light travel. Nothing in flat space-time can move faster than light, but space-time itself is not restricted by the speed of light at all, as the rapid expansion of space-time after the big bang demonstrates. Even today, areas that are far apart in an expanding universe move faster than light, based on the hubble law.
A warp drive would manipulate space-time itself to move a starship, taking advantage of a loophole in the laws of physics that prevent anything from moving faster than light. A concept for a real-life warp drive was suggested in 1994 by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre; however, subsequent calculations found that such a device would require prohibitive amounts of energy. Now physicists say that adjustments can be made to the proposed warp drive that would enable it to run on significantly less energy, potentially bringing the idea back from the realm of science fiction into science.
An Alcubierre warp drive would involve a football-shape spacecraft attached to a large ring encircling it. This ring, potentially made of exotic matter, would cause space-time to warp around the starship, creating a region of contracted space in front of it and expanded space behind. Meanwhile, the starship itself would stay inside a bubble of flat space-time that wasn't being warped at all.
"Everything within space is restricted by the speed of light," explained Richard Obousy, president of Icarus Interstellar, a non-profit group of scientists and engineers devoted to pursuing interstellar spaceflight. "But the really cool thing is space-time, the fabric of space, is not limited by the speed of light." With this concept, the spacecraft would be able to achieve an effective speed of about 10 times the speed of light, all without breaking the cosmic speed limit. The only problem is, previous studies estimated the warp drive would require a minimum amount of energy about equal to the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter.
But recently White calculated what would happen if the shape of the ring encircling the spacecraft was adjusted into more of a rounded donut, as opposed to a flat ring. He found in that case, the warp drive could be powered by a mass about the size of a spacecraft like the Voyager 1 probe NASA launched in 1977. Furthermore, if the intensity of the space warps can be oscillated over time, the energy required is reduced even more.
From simple charts to complex maps and infographics, Brian Suda's round-up of the best – and mostly free – tools has everything you need to bring your data to life. A common question is how to get started with data visualisations. Beyond following blogs, you need to practice – and to practice, you need to understand the tools available. In this article, get introduced to 20 different tools for creating visualisations.
Our knowledge of the tree of life—a phylogenetic tree summarizing the evolutionary relationships among all life on Earth—is expanding rapidly. “Mega-trees” with millions of tips (species) are expected to appear imminently ( for example, see http://www.opentree.wikispaces.com ). Unfortunately, there has so far been no practical and intuitive way to explore even the much smaller trees with thousands of tips that are now being routinely produced. Without a way to view megatrees, these wondrous objects, representing the culmination of decades of scientific effort, cannot be fully appreciated. The field really needs a solution to this problem to enable scientists to communicate important evolutionary concepts and data effectively, both to each other and to the general public. Just like Google Earth changed the way people look at geography, a sophisticated tree of life browser could really change the way we look at the life around us. Our advances in understanding evolution are moving really fast now, but the tools for looking at these big trees are lagging behind. Displaying large trees is a hard problem that has so far resisted solution. We are still waiting for the equivalent of a Google Maps. However, trees with millions of tips, richly embellished with additional data, can now be easily explored within the web browser of any modern hardware with a zooming user interface similar to that used in Google Maps.
University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists have identified what they think is the ancestral trait that allowed for the evolution of air breathing in vertebrates. They will present their research at the 42nd annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience Oct. 17 in New Orleans.
“To breathe air with a lung you need more than a lung, you need neural circuitry that is sensitive to carbon dioxide,” said Michael Harris, a UAF neuroscientist and lead researcher on a project investigating the mechanisms that generate and control breathing. “It’s the neural circuitry that allows air-breathing organisms to take in oxygen, which cells need to convert food into energy, and expel the waste carbon dioxide resulting from that process,” he said. “I’m interested in where that carbon-dioxide-sensitive neural circuit, called a rhythm generator, came from.”
Lampreys are ancient fish that have characteristics similar to the first vertebrates. They do not have lungs and do not breathe air. As larvae, they live in tubes dug into soft mud and breathe and feed by pumping water through their bodies. When mud or debris clogs a lamprey’s tube, they use a cough-like behavior to expel water and clear the tube. A rhythm generator in their brain controls that behavior. Air breathing evolved in fish and allowed the movement of vertebrates to land and the evolution of reptiles, birds and mammals. Without a carbon-dioxide-sensitive rhythm generator, the structure that would become the lung might not have worked as a lung. “The evolution of lung breathing may be a repurposing of carbon dioxide sensitive cough that already existed in lungless vertebrates, like the lamprey,” said Harris.
What can parasitic flukes and zombie bees tell us about love and free will? A lot.
"Zombie Bees" are victims of a parasitic fly, Apocephalus borealis. The fly lays eggs within honeybees, inducing their hosts to make a nocturnal “flight of the living dead,” after which the larval flies emerge, having consumed the bee from the inside out.
These events, although bizarre, aren’t all that unusual in the animal world. Many fly and wasp species lay their eggs inside hosts. What is especially interesting, and a bit more unusual, is the way an internal parasite not only feeds on its host, but also frequently alters its behavior, in a way that favors the continued survival and reproduction of the parasite.
Not all internal parasites kill their hosts, of course: pretty much every multicellular animal is home to numerous fellow travelers, each of which has its own agenda, which in some cases involves influencing, or taking control of, part or all of the body in which they temporarily reside. And this, in turn, leads to the question: who’s in charge of your own mind? Think of the morgue scene in the movie “Men in Black,” when a human corpse is revealed to be a robot, its skull inhabited by a little green man from outer space. Science fiction, but less bizarre than you might expect, or want to believe.
Providing room and board to other life-forms doesn’t only compromise one’s nutritional status (not to mention peace of mind), it often reduces freedom of action, too. The technical phrase is “host manipulation.” Take the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis, which causes its mouse host to become obese and sluggish, making it easy pickings for predators, notably foxes, which — not coincidentally — provide an optimal environment for the tapeworm to move into the next phase in its life cycle.
Sometimes the process is truly strange. For example, a kind of fluke known as Dicrocoelium dentriticum does time inside a snail, then an ant, followed by a sheep. Ensconced within an ant, some of the resourceful worms migrate to their host’s brain, where they manage to rewire its neurons, essentially hijacking its body. The manipulated ant, in response to Dicrocoelium’s demands, then climbs to the top of a blade of grass and waits patiently and conspicuously until it is consumed by a grazing sheep. Once in its desired happy breeding ground, the worm releases its eggs, which depart with a healthy helping of sheep poop, only to be consumed once more by snails, which eventually excrete the immature worms for another generation of unlucky ants to consume.
It may be distressing to those committed to “autonomy,” but such manipulators have inherited the earth. Including us. Take coughing, or sneezing. It may be beneficial for an infected person to cough up or sneeze out some of her tiny organismic invaders, although it isn’t so healthful for others nearby. But what if coughing and sneezing aren’t merely symptoms but also, even primarily, a manipulation of us, the “host,” by influenza viruses? Shades of zombie bees, fattened mice and grass-blade-besotted ants.
One of the unsolved mysteries of contemporary science is how highly organized structures can emerge from the random motion of particles. This applies to many situations ranging from astrophysical objects that extend over millions of light years to the birth of life on Earth. The surprising discovery of self-organized electromagnetic fields in counter-streaming ionized gases (also known as plasmas) will give scientists a new way to explore how order emerges from chaos in the cosmos.
"We've created a model for exploring how electromagnetic fields help organize ionized gas or plasma in astrophysical settings, such as in the plasma flows that emerge from young stars," said lead researcher Nathan Kugland, a postdoctoral researcher in the High Energy Density Science Group at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). "These fields help shape the flows, and likely play a supporting role alongside gravity in the formation of solar systems, which can eventually lead to the creation of planets like the Earth."
"This observation was completely unexpected, since the plasmas move so quickly that they should freely stream past each other," explained Hye-Sook Park, team leader and staff physicist at LLNL. Park added that "laser-driven plasma experiments can study the microphysics of plasma interaction and structure formation under controlled conditions."
Studying astrophysics with laboratory experiments can help answer questions about astrophysical objects that are far beyond the reach of direct measurements. This research is being carried out as part of a large international collaboration, Astrophysical Collisionless Shock Experiments with Lasers (ACSEL), led by LLNL, Princeton University, Osaka University and Oxford University, with many other universities participating.
There is an international quantum teleportation space race heating up. Around the world, countries are investing time and millions of dollars into the technology, which uses satellites to beam bits of quantum information down from the sky and and could profoundly change worldwide communication.
This is not a maybe-sort-of-one-day quantum technology. Quantum teleportation has been proven experimentally many times over and researchers are now eyeing the heavens as their next big leap forward. Most of what remains are the nuts and bolts engineering challenges (and some more money) before it becomes a thing of the present.
Though it may be disappointing to hear, quantum teleportation is not about instantly sending a person or object between two places – this is no “Beam me up, Scotty,” or “Bampf!” Instead, the technique involves the perhaps even freakier task of separating a subatomic particle from its quantum state.
Though the team’s paper was purely theoretical at the time, scientists since then have done many experiments teleporting particles over longer and longer distances. In the past year, a team from China and another in Austria set new records for quantum teleportation, using a laser to beam photons through the open air over 60 and 89 miles, respectively. This is many times farther than the previous record of 10 miles, set in 2010 by the same Chinese team. With scientists extending quantum teleportation to such distances, many are already considering the next step: zapping particles and information from an orbiting satellite to a relay station on Earth.
If developed, quantum teleportation satellites could allow spies to pass large amounts of information back and forth or create unhackable codes. Should we ever build quantum computers – which would be smaller and exponentially more powerful than modern computers, able to model complex phenomenon, rapidly crunch numbers, and render modern encryption keys useless – they would need quantum teleporters in order to be networked together in a quantum version of the internet.
China plans to launch a satellite with a quantum teleportation experiment payload in 2016 and the European, Japanese, and Canadian space agencies are hoping to fund their own quantum teleportation satellite projects in the coming years. Conspicuously, the U.S. is far behind the pack because of a bureaucratic reshuffling that left quantum communication research experiments without government support in 2008. Whoever loses this new competition could fail to capitalize on the promise of quantum communication altogether.
Robin Good: If you are wondering how your web site can be easily penalized by Google, here is a great review of the most popular and frequent types of penalizations.
Sujan Patel, co-founder of Single Grain, a SEO agency based in San Francisco, has put together this useful annotated list of search engine penalities which brings together both the recent new algorithm updates Google has introduced as well as classical troublemakers.
From the original article: "Have you seen a recent drop in your website’s traffic levels? Perhaps you’ve received a notification of unnatural SEO practices in your Google Webmaster Tools account?
Unfortunately, SEO penalties can happen to any website, at any time. While it is possible to repair the damage incurred by these negative effects, it’s ultimately much more effective to take a proactive stance on penalty prevention by avoiding the following known penalty causes:..."
"...keep in mind that things change all the time in the SEO world – so this list shouldn’t be construed as the “end all, be all” of penalties your site might experience in 2012."
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