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Fourteen years after his death, the FBI has released a set of heavily redacted documents on the murder of Christopher "Biggie Smalls" Wallace, (1972-1997), the rapper known as "Notorious B.I.G." The FBI closed the case in 2005 without determining who killed him. More at Time Magazine.
This week, Boing Boing visited NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a peek inside the clean room where NASA's next Mars rover, Curiosity, and other components of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft (MSL) have been built for launch in late 2011 from Florida. Our big photo gallery with first-ever media access for "hands-on" images is here. Spacecraft assembly and testing specialists showed Boing Boing the rover and the other spacecraft components, including the descent stage "sky crane." Shipment from the clean room to Florida is scheduled to begin within the next two months, with launch scheduled for late 2011 and landing on Mars in mid-2012.
Xeni spoke with Ashwin Vasavada, Deputy Project Scientist at JPL for the MSL mission, to understand more about how MSL works and what its creators hope to accomplish, how one scores a job designing interplanetary explorer robots, and how this updated Mars rover is (or is not) like an iPad.
Xeni Jardin, Boing Boing: So, the MSL and Curiosity unveiling this week represents a big milestone for you folks.
Ashwin Vasavada, NASA JPL: Right. The rover is almost complete. We've been working on for several years now, it has all come together and works great and we're putting the final touches on.
BB: So as I understand it, Curiosity will have a lot more science gathering capability than either Spirit or Opportunity.
Ashwin Vasavada: Yes. You can think of it as having nearly everything that Spirit and Opportunity had in the sense that it's a rover capable of driving over some pretty rough terrain, have cameras to look around at the landscape, had some instruments on the end of a robotic arm to look at rocks up-close and do some chemical analysis up-close on the rock. But in addition to that, it has a major new capability of being able to take samples of rocks and soils, and analyze those samples in instruments on board the rover itself.
BB: So much of the science and the public interest around Mars expeditions has been -- is there water on Mars, with the thought being that this would mean life on Mars. How does this change that question?
Ashwin Vasavada: Well, that definitely is the kind of overarching question in Mars exploration, is there life on Mars today? Was there ever life on Mars in the past? As we've tried to answer that question over the past two decades, we realized it's a pretty difficult question to answer. Not only do you need very sophisticated instruments to be able to detect microbial life, but that may not be the kind of life that we're used to on Earth.
But you also have to know a lot about Mars itself as a planet and where you might want to look for life, where the sort of environmental niches are on Mars. What the Mars Science Laboratory aims to do is not detect life directly, but ask those questions about the environment on Mars, and specifically early Mars, a period for which there's a lot of evidence that there were rivers and lakes and a much more kind of a life-friendly environment. So we're going to go to a place that dates back from Mars' early history, maybe three billion, four billion years ago and try to detect whether that environment at that time was an environment that could have supported life.
The New York Times has published an obituary for Jean Jennings Bartik, "one of the first computer programmers and a pioneering forerunner in a technology that came to be known as software." She died on March 23 at a nursing home in Poughkeepsie, NY, at age 86. She was the last surviving member of the group of women who programmed the Eniac, or Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, regarded as the first all-electronic digital computer. (via Jim Roberts)
Photo, via Wikipedia: "Two women operating the ENIAC's main control panel while the machine was still located at the Moore School. 'U.S. Army Photo' from the archives of the ARL Technical Library. Left: Betty Jennings (Mrs. Bartik) Right: Frances Bilas (Mrs. Spence)
If these newly discovered votes are allowed to stand, it will reverse the upset in the state Supreme Court election that saw the judgeship go to a candidate who attracted a large anti-Walker protest vote.
Today's announcement by Nickolaus drew immediate suspicions from Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, a liberal activist group.Newly discovered Waukesha County votes would give win to Prosser (Thanks, Saljake, via Submitterator!)
"Wisconsin deserves elections that are fair, clean and transparent," Ross said. "There is a history of secrecy and partisanship surrounding the Waukesha County Clerk and there remain unanswered questions."
Nickolaus, a former staffer for the Assembly Republican Caucus, has been criticized in recent months for her handling of recent elections. The Waukesha County Board sharply condemned Nickolaus after past elections, demanding an audit of her practices last year.
The auditors criticized Nickolaus for moving some sensitive files, such as election results, onto her personal computer.
The Beastie Boys' trailer for "Fight For Your Right-Revisited" is a star-studded hilarity of a thing, as silly as you can imagine, funny and just plain great. It's to promote their next CD, Hot Sauce Committee Part 2, which comes out on May 3. I never met a Beastie Boys album I didn't like, and from the sounds of things, this will be no exception. (via Waxy)
Michelle Trammell, associate director of Kirby Pines and president of TSG, said she was unaware that her computer systems were being sold to cyber crooks when I first contacted her this week. I later heard from Steve Cunningham from ProTech Talent & Technology, an IT services firm in Memphis that was recently called in to help secure the network.Is Your Computer Listed "For Rent"?
Cunningham said an anti-virus scan of the TSG and retirement community machines showed that one of the machines was hijacked by a spam bot that was removed about two weeks before I contacted him, but he said he had no idea the network was still being exploited by cyber crooks. "Some malware was found that was sending out spam," Cunningham said, "It looks like they didn't have a very comprehensive security system in place, but we're going to be updating [PCs] and installing some anti-virus software on all of the servers over the next week or so."
Matt Alt points ot to a beautiful clip from the 1970s animated show Manga Nippon Mukashibanashi (Animated Japanese Fairy Tales). The legend upon which this particular clip is based is hundreds of years old. Matt writes:
In it, a young mother and child from the island of Kessenuma Oshima happen across a statue called the michibiki jizo -- the guiding bodhisattva. According to local legend, the soul of a person that is about to die appears before this particular jizo the day before they pass away. The mother and child are shocked to see a whole parade of spirits appear before the statue -- male and female, old and young.
When they return home, the father laughs it off as a figment of their imaginations. But the very next day, when the family is fishing at the seashore, the tide pulls out and doesn't come back in. Minutes later, a massive tsunami wipes out the entire town as the mother, son, and father watch escape to a hilltop. They are the only survivors.
Given the fact that Kessenuma is in the headlines today for the very same reason, there is no doubt that this "fairy tale" is based on a true story. It's particularly haunting in light of the ancient stone markers that dot the Japanese coastline warning of tsunami from times of old, a literal message to future generations from ancestors long since shuffled off this mortal coil.
I just downloaded this and gave it a spin, and as with all dj BC projects, the amazing thing isn't the incongruity of the two sources he combines, but how he finds their underlying similarities and brings them to the fore. I love dj BC's work, and a new album is always cause for celebration.
Will the 21st-century equivalent of an offshore call-center worker who insists he is "Bob from Des Moines" be the Guangzhou assembly-line worker who carefully "hand-wraps" a cellphone sleeve and inserts a homespun anti-corporate manifesto (produced by Markov chains fed on angry blog posts from online maker forums) into the envelope?Untouched By Human Hands
I wouldn't be surprised. Our species' capacity to commodify everything -- even the anti-commodification movement -- has yet to meet its match. I'm sure we'll adapt, though.
We could start a magazine for hobbyists who want to set up nostalgic mass-production assembly lines that use old-fashioned injection molders to stamp out stubbornly identical objects in reaction to the corporate machine's insistence on individualized, 3D-printed, fake artisanship.
Here's a fantastic animated adaptation comic/skeptic/awesomesauce purveyor Tim Minchin's poem "Storm," a verse-form rant about the miseries of woowoo, the glory of science, the delights of skepticism and the miracle of the actual world.
I've recently lent my support to Worldreader, an innovative nonprofit program that distributes ebook readers to children in the developing world and then exposes them to a large library of donated texts from writers from across the world, as well as newspapers and other materials. I was delighted to give them access to all my books (of course), and put them in touch with a large group of other kids' and young adult writers who were happy to do the same (including my hero Daniel Pinkwater, who travelled in and wrote about Kenya and has a real love of Africa).
WR: What advice do you have for kids in developing countries who are just beginning to read and only have recently gotten access to books because of technology advancements?Writers Changing Lives: A Chat With Cory Doctorow
Cory: I have a couple of pieces of advice about reading. One is that the most dangerous thing in the world is someone who has only read one book. The great thing about reading is that you can triangulate your ideas among lots of different authors, different times, or different place. When you read widely and broadly it shows you that everything is relative. It shows that there is a lot of ways of looking at things, and often times, problems can become solutions if looked at creatively.
The other piece of advice I would give them about reading electronically is to not allow their collections to be tied to one device or platform. Devices come and go, but data can live forever. The only way you can maintain access to them is if you insist on the ability and the right to move the books into any format or any platform you want to.