June 7, 2013
New Robot Helps Fight Fires – The Daily Orbit
There’s a new firefighter in town…
Scientists say our Sun was once a feisty little guy…
Big Brother’s watching Verizon customers…
And can you answer the million-dollar question? On the Daily Orbit!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit., I’m Emerald Robinson.
Fire! Firefighters are getting a little help from robotics. It may look like a Segway but it’s so much more! This little guy creates a virtual reality picture of a burning building’s interior — characterizing the state of the fire, temperatures, volatile gases and structural integrity of the building — while looking for survivors. The robot will provide near real time data to first responders. This first vehicle prototype is already built, and findings will be presented at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Hong Kong in 2014. Don’t worry ladies, they’re not going to replace the HOT firefighters we love—just help them!
And from hot to hotter—turns out our Sun was a feisty little toddler. By studying the young star, TW Hydrae, astronomers can understand what happened when our Sun was a wee one about a half-billion years ago. The 10-million-year-old star located about 190 light-years away weighs about 80 percent as much as our sun and is still accreting gas from a surrounding disk of material. To grow, the star “eats” the disk by funneling gas along its magnetic field. In-falling material smashes into the star, creating a shock wave that heats temperatures up to 5 million degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers said the accretion process changes from night to night and that things are happening all the time! And that’s how our Sun was in its youth!
And Big Brother is watching you a little more closely now. The US National Security Agency was granted a court order by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that has been allowing the agency to collect phone records of millions of Verizon customers since April 25 of this year. It requires Verizon to hand over all of its customers’ calls daily until July 19—regardless of individuals’ involvement in any wrong-doing or not. However, it’s only allowed to collect “metadata,” which is the number of every caller and recipient, the unique serial number of the phones involved, the time and duration of each call, and the potential GPS location of where the call originated—not the actual contents of the call. The government argues that call data is not personal and likens it to looking at the outside envelope of a letter. Privacy advocates assert that this is essentially “a form of espionage.” We’ll let you judge for yourself.
And this story sounds like something you might go see in theaters this weekend, but it’s all too true. The FBI and Microsoft have broken up a huge network of computer hijackers, called ‘The Citadel,’ that is responsible for stealing more than $500 million from bank accounts around the world. The group remotely installed a key-logging program on about five million machines to steal data. Using login and password details from online bank accounts stolen from compromised computers, the Citadel stole cash from a huge number of banks. The FBI is working with Europol to track down the ringleader, who is currently a “John Doe” believed to go by the nickname “Aquabox,” and to find the 81 “lieutenants” that helped him. I think the movie version, if there ever is one, should star George Clooney as the lead FBI agent who breaks the case! Love Clooney!
Well Aquabox, if you’re good at math (and I’m guessing you are) here’s a way to get honest money from a banker—solve his math problem! Wealthy Texas banker D. Andrew Beal is offering $1 million to anyone who can solve a complex math equation, The Beal Conjecture, which has stumped mathematicians since the 80s. Beal hopes the contest will get students more interested in math. So get to work math whiz’s, if you think you have what it takes! You’ve got two years to submit an answer. The clock is ticking and the money is up for grabs!
Well that’s it for the Daily Orbit.