We’ve all wondered at one point or another if intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe. “I think it’s very unlikely that we are alone,” says Eric Korpela, an astronomer at the University of California Berkeley’s Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Research Center. “They aren’t right next door, but they may be within a thousand light years or so.”
Korpela is project director of the [email protected] project. For more than two decades, that project harnessed the surplus computing power of over 1.8 million computers around the globe to analyze data collected by radio telescopes for narrow-band radio signals from space that could indicate the existence of extraterrestrial technology. On 31 March 2020, [email protected] stopped putting new data in the queue for volunteers’ computers to process, but it’s not the end of the road for the project.
Now begins the group’s next phase. “We need to sift through the billions of potential extraterrestrial signals that our volunteers have found and find any that show signs of really being extraterrestrial,” says Korpela. That task is difficult, he adds, because humans “make lots of signals that look like what we would expect to see from E.T.”
Researchers with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria recently explored another potential solution: the return of airships to the skies. Airships rely on jet stream winds to propel them forward to their destinations. They offer clear advantages over cargo ships in terms of both efficiency and avoided emissions. Returning to airships, says Julian Hunt, a researcher at the IIASA and lead author of the new study, could “ultimately [increase] the feasibility of a 100 percent renewable world.”
Today, world leaders are meeting in New York for the UN Climate Action Summit to present plans to address climate change. Already, average land and sea surface temperatures have risen to approximately 1 degree C above pre-industrial levels. If the current rate of emissions remains unchecked, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that by 2052, temperatures could rise by up to 2 degrees C. At that point, as much as 30 percent of Earth’s flora and fauna could disappear, wheat production could fall by 16 percent, and water would become more scarce.
According to Hunt and his collaborators, airships could play a role in cutting future anthropogenic emissions from the shipping sector. Jet streams flow in a westerly direction with an average wind speed of 165 kilometers per hour (km/h). On these winds, a lighter-than-air vessel could travel around the world in about two weeks (while a ship would take 60 days) and require just 4 percent of the fuel consumed by the ship, Hunt says.
Scientists in Switzerland have demonstrated a technology that can produce kerosene and methanol from solar energy and air
Scientists have searched for a sustainable aviation fuel for decades. Now, with emissions from air traffic increasing faster than carbon-offset technologies can mitigate them, environmentalists worry that even with new fuel-efficient technologies and operations, emissions from the aviation sector could double by 2050.
But what if, by 2050, all fossil-derived jet fuel could be replaced by a carbon-neutral one made from sunlight and air?
In June, researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich demonstrated a new technology that creates liquid hydrocarbon fuels from thin air—literally. A solar mini-refinery—in this case, installed on the roof of ETH’s Machine Laboratory—concentrates sunlight to create a high-temperature (1,500 degrees C) environment inside the solar thermochemical reactor.
The state government says closed-circuit TVs will help fight crime, but digital liberties activists are concerned about the project’s lack of transparency
In India, the government of Delhi is rolling out an ambitious video surveillance program as a crime-prevention measure. Technicians will install more than a quarter million closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras near residential and commercial properties across the city, and in schools. A central monitoring system is expected to take care of behind-the-scenes logistics, though authorities have not shared details on how the feeds will be monitored.
After delays due to political and legal wrangles, the installations began on 7 and 8 July. The first cameras to go up in a residential area were installed in Laxmi Bai Nagar, at a housing society for government employees, and at the upmarket Pandara Road in New Delhi. When the roll out is complete, there will be an average of 4,000 cameras in each of Delhi’s 70 assembly constituencies, for a total of around 280,000 cameras.
In early 2020, the National Capital Territory of Delhi (usually just called ‘Delhi’), which includes New Delhi, the capital of India, will vote to elect a new state assembly. Lowering the crime rates is a key election issue for the incumbent Aam Aadmi Party (literally, Common Man’s [sic] Party). The party has promised that the CCTV cameras will deter premeditated crime and foster a semblance of order among the general public.
Kaspersky says the group used an HTML-based exploit that’s almost impossible to detect
Following a trail of suspicious digital crumbs left in cloud-based systems across South Asia, Kaspersky Lab’s security researchers have uncovered a steganography-based attack carried out by a cyberespionage group called Platinum. The attack targeted government, military, and diplomatic entities in the region.
Platinum was active years ago, but was since believed to have been disarmed. Kaspersky’s cyber-sleuths, however, now suspect that Platinum might have been operating covertly since 2012, through an “elaborate and thoroughly crafted” campaign that allowed it to go undetected for a long time.
The group’s latest campaign harnessed a classic hacking tool known as steganography. “Steganography is the art of concealing a file of any format or communication in another file in order to deceive unwanted people from discovering the existence of [the hidden] initial file or message,” says Somdip Dey, a U.K.-based computer scientist with a special interest in steganography at the University of Essex and the Samsung R&D Institute.
With traces of a user’s browsing history and online behavior, hackers can build a fake virtual “twin” and use it to log in to a victim’s accounts
As new security technologies shield us from cybercrime, a slew of adversarial technologies match them, step for step. The latest such advance is the rise of digital doppelgängers—virtual entities that mimic real user behaviors authentic enough to fool advanced anti-fraud algorithms.
In February, Kaspersky Lab’s fraud-detection teams busted a darknet marketplace called Genesis that was selling digital identities starting from US $5 and going up to US $200. The price depended on the value of the purchased profile—for example, a digital mask that included a full user profile with bank login information would cost more than just a browser fingerprint.
The masks purchased at Genesis could be used through a browser and proxy connection to mimic a real user’s activity. Coupled with stolen (legitimate) user accounts, the attacker was then free to make new, trusted transactions in their name—including with credit cards.
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