China's Out-of-Control Rocket Plunges Out of Orbit, Crashes Into Ocean

An out-of-control Chinese rocket plunged out of orbit and reentered Earth’s atmosphere in the Indian Ocean (just west of the Maldives), reports CNN, citing China’s space agency:

Most of the rocket was “destroyed” on reentry to the atmosphere, the space agency said. The rocket, which is about 108 feet tall and weighs nearly 40,000 pounds, had launched a piece of a new Chinese space station into orbit on April 29.

After its fuel was spent, the rocket had been left to hurtle through space uncontrolled until Earth’s gravity dragged it back to the ground.

Generally, the international space community tries to avoid such scenarios. Most rockets used to lift satellites and other objects into space conduct more controlled reentries that aim for the ocean, or they’re left in so-called “graveyard” orbits that keep them in space for decades or centuries. But the Long March rocket is designed in a way that “leaves these big stages in low orbit,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard University.

In this case, it was impossible to be certain exactly when or where the booster would land. The European Space Agency had predicted a “risk zone” that encompassed “any portion of Earth’s surface between about 41.5N and 41.5S latitude” — which included virtually all of the Americas south of New York, all of Africa and Australia, parts of Asia south of Japan and Europe’s Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. The threat to populated areas of land was not negligible, but fortunately the vast majority of Earth’s surface area is consumed by oceans…

The rocket is one of the largest objects in recent memory to strike the Earth after falling out of orbit, following a 2018 incident in which a piece of a Chinese space lab broke up over the Pacific Ocean and the 2020 reentry of an 18-metric-ton Long March 5B rocket [also launched by China].

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Source: Slashdot – China’s Out-of-Control Rocket Plunges Out of Orbit, Crashes Into Ocean

Elon Musk Begins Hosting 'Saturday Night Live' – As the World Watches

This afternoon Elon Musk tweeted a special URL allowing viewers outside the U.S. to simultaenously livestream his 90-minute appearance on Saturday Night Live for the first time in more than 100 countries, starting at 11:30 p.m. EST. The A.V. Club had a sardonic reaction to the livestreaming on YouTube:

Good news for anyone looking at tonight’s upcoming broadcast of Saturday Night Live — in which labor-busting vaccine skeptic Elon Musk will be given a platform to broadcast his techno-dystopian brain contents to the world — and thought, “Wow, there’s not enough Google involved here.” Well, not anymore.

Musk has already appeared in a two promos for the show. (Though CNN quips that the tonight’s live show means NBC is “relying on Musk to filter his thoughts in real time, despite little evidence, historically, of him holding back on just about anything he wants to say — even when under scrutiny by federal regulators.”) And the rest of the world is getting ready too. While Tesla brought the Cybertruck prototype to its New York City store, Lucid Air made plans to broadcast an ad for its coming 500-mile-range electric car that will compete with cars from Musk’s Tesla.

Meanwhile, Bleeping Computer reports that Twitter scammers have been hacking into verified Twitter accounts and changing the profiles to impersonate SNL’s, then replying to Musk’s tweets with URL’s lead to cryptocurrency giveaway scams. “We have determined that the scammers have made at least $97,054.62 over the past two days. The Ethereum giveaway scams also earned them $13,758.” And the Dogecoin scammers netted at least $42,456.

And this week also Slate noted a spike in the price of Dogecoin.

The joke cryptocurrency based on a shiba inu meme is up — uh, let me check — about 20 percent since this time Tuesday, has just about doubled in price since April 27, and as of this moment is up about 26,000 percent for the year (lol). It’s trading around 64 cents as I type this… [I]t’s probably not worth overthinking this. We’re living in the stonks era. Elon is going on a sketch comedy show and is hinting that he might bring up a dumb digital token that everyone finds inherently funny. Now CNBC is hauling on experts to illuminate what the hell is going on, and members of the financial media are having to write earnest explainers about why you should invest in the dog money with caution, as if a single sane person would think otherwise.

What makes the whole rally uniquely amusing, compared with, say, the rise of Bitcoin, is that it’s a willfully dumb affront not just to traditional finance, but also to the broader crypto community — which has, shall we say, mixed feelings about Dogecoin, mostly because they think it makes their project, which they tend to treat with self-righteous seriousness, look very silly… Dogecoin is the, well, underdog of the crypto world, the currency that was looked down upon by much of the Bitcoin- and Ethereum-boosting elite. Except now it has an $82 billion market cap. The dogecoiners — basically the sweet, dumb, bong-ripping frat of the crypto world — find all this hilarious.

So what will happen tonight? Ultimately castmember Michael Che, who co-hosts the show’s parody newscast segment Weekend Update, joked that while some of the show’s performers objected to Musk’s appearance, he saw the selection of Musk as both “polarizing” and “exciting.”

“You know, what’s funny is that I would say I know about 20 to 25% of the white people that get to host the show anyway. So Elon, I was like, ‘Oh, I know who he is at least.'”

Share your own reactions in the comments.

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Source: Slashdot – Elon Musk Begins Hosting ‘Saturday Night Live’ – As the World Watches

Colonial Pipeline, the Largest Fuel Pipeline in the U.S., Has Shut Down Over a Ransomware Attack

If you live on the East Coast and see fuel prices go up soon, there’s a good chance it’s because of the cyberattack that forced the Colonial pipeline, the country’s largest refined products pipeline, to shut down. There is currently no indication of when it will start back up again.

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Source: Gizmodo – Colonial Pipeline, the Largest Fuel Pipeline in the U.S., Has Shut Down Over a Ransomware Attack

Justice Department Quietly Seized Washington Post Reporters' Phone Records During Trump Era

The Department of Justice quietly seized phone records and tried to obtain email records for three Washington Post reporters, ostensibly over their coverage of then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election, according to officials and government letters reviewed by the Post

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Source: Gizmodo – Justice Department Quietly Seized Washington Post Reporters’ Phone Records During Trump Era

Does XKCD's Cartoon Show How Scientific Publishing Is a Joke?

“An XKCD comic — and its many remixes — perfectly captures the absurdity of academic research,” writes the Atlantic (in an article shared by Slashdot reader shanen).

It argues that the cartoon “captured the attention of scientists — and inspired many to create versions specific to their own disciplines. Together, these became a global, interdisciplinary conversation about the nature of modern research practices.”

It depicts a taxonomy of the 12 “Types of Scientific Paper,” presented in a grid. “The immune system is at it again,” one paper’s title reads. “My colleague is wrong and I can finally prove it,” declares another. The gag reveals how research literature, when stripped of its jargon, is just as susceptible to repetition, triviality, pandering, and pettiness as other forms of communication. The cartoon’s childlike simplicity, though, seemed to offer cover for scientists to critique and celebrate their work at the same time…

You couldn’t keep the biologists away from the fun (“New microscope!! Yours is now obsolete”), and — in their usual fashion — the science journalists soon followed (“Readers love animals”). A doctoral student cobbled together a website to help users generate their own versions. We reached Peak Meme with the creation of a meta-meme outlining a taxonomy of academic-paper memes. At that point, the writer and internet activist Cory Doctorow lauded the collective project of producing these jokes as “an act of wry, insightful auto-ethnography — self-criticism wrapped in humor that tells a story.”

Put another way: The joke was on target. “The meme hits the right nerve,” says Vinay Prasad, an associate epidemiology professor and a prominent critic of medical research. “Many papers serve no purpose, advance no agenda, may not be correct, make no sense, and are poorly read. But they are required for promotion.” The scholarly literature in many fields is riddled with extraneous work; indeed, I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that this sorry outcome was more or less inevitable, given the incentives at play. Take a bunch of clever, ambitious people and tell them to get as many papers published as possible while still technically passing muster through peer review … and what do you think is going to happen? Of course the system gets gamed: The results from one experiment get sliced up into a dozen papers, statistics are massaged to produce more interesting results, and conclusions become exaggerated. The most prolific authors have found a way to publish more than one scientific paper a week. Those who can’t keep up might hire a paper mill to do (or fake) the work on their behalf.

The article argues the Covid-19 pandemic induced medical journals to forego papers about large-scale clinical trials while “rapidly accepting reports that described just a handful of patients. More than a few CVs were beefed up along the way.”

But pandemic publishing has only served to exacerbate some well-established bad habits, Michael Johansen, a family-medicine physician and researcher who has criticized many studies as being of minimal value, told me. “COVID publications appear to be representative of the literature at large: a few really important papers and a whole bunch of stuff that isn’t or shouldn’t be read.”

Unfortunately, the Atlantic adds, “none of the scientists I talked with could think of a realistic solution.”

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Source: Slashdot – Does XKCD’s Cartoon Show How Scientific Publishing Is a Joke?

Embedded Linux conferences announce plans

The virtual Embedded Online Conference is scheduled for May 17-20 with a keynote on the Mars Perseverance rover. Meanwhile, the Linux Foundation has a call for proposals for the Open Source Summit + Embedded Linux Conference to be held in Seattle, Sept 27 to Oct. 1. Beningo Embedded Group and announced a schedule and […]

Source: LXer – Embedded Linux conferences announce plans

NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter Nails Its Last Scheduled Flight, but It’s Not Goodbye Yet

After what we’ve seen over the past few weeks, it goes without saying that a little helicopter built by NASA can pack a big punch. The space agency’s Ingenuity helicopter nailed its fifth scheduled flight on Mars on Friday and completed its initial objectives. It will now embark on a new mission on the faraway planet.

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Source: Gizmodo – NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter Nails Its Last Scheduled Flight, but It’s Not Goodbye Yet

Emails, Text Messages Can Be Retrieved From Smartphones Synced to Vehicles

Slashdot reader ytene writes: As reported by The Intercept, U.S. Customs and Border Protection have just spent $456,063 for a package of technology specifically designed to access smartphone data via a motor vehicle. From the article:

“…part of the draw of vacuuming data out of cars is that so many drivers are oblivious to the fact that their cars are generating so much data in the first place, often including extremely sensitive information inadvertently synced from smartphones.”

This data can include “Recent destinations, favorite locations, call logs, contact lists, SMS messages, emails, pictures, videos, social media feeds, and the navigation history of everywhere the vehicle has been, when and where a vehicle’s lights are turned on, and which doors are opened and closed at specific locations” as well as “gear shifts, odometer reads, ignition cycles, speed logs, and more. This car-based surveillance, in other words, goes many miles beyond the car itself.”

Perhaps the most remarkable claim, however, was, “We had a Ford Explorer we pulled the system out, and we recovered 70 phones that had been connected to it. All of their call logs, their contacts and their SMS.”

Mohammad Tajsar, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), is quoted as saying, “Whenever we have surveillance technology that’s deeply invasive, we are disturbed,” he said. “When it’s in the hands of an agency that’s consistently refused any kind of attempt at basic accountability, reform, or oversight, then it’s Defcon 1.”

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Source: Slashdot – Emails, Text Messages Can Be Retrieved From Smartphones Synced to Vehicles

eBPF for Advanced Linux Infrastructure Monitoring

One emerging technology in particular – eBPF – has made its appearance in multiple projects, including commercial and open-source offerings. Before discussing more about the community surrounding eBPF and its growth during the pandemic, it’s important to understand what it is and how it’s being utilized.

Source: LXer – eBPF for Advanced Linux Infrastructure Monitoring

Astronomers Search For Answers To Origins of Interstellar Visitors Like 'Oumuamua

“Getting to another extrasolar planet is never going to happen in my lifetime, or that of Western civilisation,” says Alan Jackson, an astronomer and planetary scientist at Arizona State University. “But we can have nature deliver pieces of them to us that we can actually see up close.”

Slashdot reader boudie2 shares this article from BBC Future, which notes that astronomers spent decades looking for objects from outside our solar system — until two arrived at once. “‘Oumuamua has not yet been definitively classified as a comet or an asteroid — it might be something else entirely,” the article points out. For one thing, ‘Oumuamua didn’t have a comet-like tail:

Two things in particular fixated scientists. The first was its mysterious acceleration away from the Sun, which was hard to reconcile with many ideas about what it might have been made of. The second was its peculiar shape — by some estimates, it was 10 times as long as it was wide. Before ‘Oumuamua, the most elongated known space objects were three times longer than they were wide… [F]inally, earlier this year Jackson and his colleague Steven Desch came up with an explanation that seems to explain ‘Oumuamua’s quirky features, without the need for any alien technology… “We just realised that nitrogen ice could supply exactly the amount of push it needs — and it’s observed on Pluto,” he says. To corroborate the idea, they calculated how shiny the surface of ‘Oumuamua was and compared it to the reflectivity of nitrogen ice — and found that the two were more or less exact matches.

The team concluded that the object was likely to be a chunk of nitrogen ice, which was chipped off the surface of a Pluto-like exoplanet around a young star. Based on the evolution of our own solar system, which started out with thousands of similar planets in the icy neighbourhood of the Kuiper belt, they suggested that the fragment may have broken off around half a billion years ago…

Though the object would have finally reached the very outermost edge of the Solar System many years ago, it would have taken a long time to travel to the balmy, central region where it was first discovered — and been gradually worn down into a pancake as it approached. This explains its unusual shape and its acceleration in one go, because the evaporating nitrogen would have left an invisible tail that propelled it forwards. “Our atmosphere is mostly nitrogen and you can see though it,” says Jackson. “Nitrogen gas is difficult to detect.”

Again, not everyone is happy with this suggestion.

Luckily, the second interstellar object, 2I/Borisov “has turned out to be emphatically less difficult to decipher than its cosmic companion. It’s been recognised as the first interstellar comet ever found.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot – Astronomers Search For Answers To Origins of Interstellar Visitors Like ‘Oumuamua

Hacked Verified Twitter Accounts Are Spamming Musk Fans With Bitcoin Scams Ahead of SNL Debut

Several verified Twitter accounts strangely started flooding the replies of Elon Musk and his followers with bitcoin spam on Saturday. The apparent hacks come just hours before the Tesla CEO’s much-discussed hosting gig on Saturday Night Live.

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Source: Gizmodo – Hacked Verified Twitter Accounts Are Spamming Musk Fans With Bitcoin Scams Ahead of SNL Debut

Screaming Into The Void

Welcome to Snapshots, Kotaku’s weekly round-up of the best and coolest screenshots from around the web. This week I got a ton of emails from folks and it was hard to pick the best of the best. And look, our first screenshot from Resident Evil Village. I can’t wait to see what folks do with that game in the coming…

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Source: Kotaku – Screaming Into The Void