China accused over global computer spy ring

• Dalai Lama and foreign ministries bugged
• Cambridge researchers point finger at Beijing

An enormous electronic espionage programme run from servers in China has been used to spy on computers in more than 100 countries, according to two reports published at the weekend.

The reports, published by the universities of Cambridge and Toronto, detail a “murky realm” where cyber spooks infiltrate email, take over humble desktop computers and use them to spy on organisations, individuals and governments.

The reports name the system GhostNet, and claim that it has been used to attack governments in south and south-east Asia as well as the offices of the Dalai Lama. In two years, the reports suggest, the operation infiltrated 1,295 computers in 103 countries.

Read moreChina accused over global computer spy ring

The Living Robot

Researchers have developed a robot capable of learning and interacting with the world using a biological brain.


Credit: Kevin Warkwick

Kevin Warwick’s new robot behaves like a child. “Sometimes it does what you want it to, and sometimes it doesn’t,” he says. And while it may seem strange for a professor of cybernetics to be concerning himself with such an unreliable machine, Warwick’s creation has something that even today’s most sophisticated robots lack: a living brain.

Life for Warwick’s robot began when his team at the University of Reading spread rat neurons onto an array of electrodes. After about 20 minutes, the neurons began to form connections with one another. “It’s an innate response of the neurons,” says Warwick, “they try to link up and start communicating.”

For the next week the team fed the developing brain a liquid containing nutrients and minerals. And once the neurons established a network sufficiently capable of responding to electrical inputs from the electrode array, they connected the newly formed brain to a simple robot body consisting of two wheels and a sonar sensor.

Read moreThe Living Robot

Volkswagen introduces world’s most economical car

While we don’t have a great deal of information available at this stage, we do know that …

Volkswagen is set to reveal the world’s most economical non-hybrid car to shareholders attending the 42nd annual general meeting of Volkswagen AG in Hamburg.

The single-seater is capable of 0.91 litres per 100km (or 258mpg in the old measure) and can manage a top speed of 123km/h.

The prototype, as shown here, was built in conditions of such great secrecy that little more is known about the car, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted after next week’s meeting.

6 Mar, 2009

Source: CarAdvice

Pentagon exploring robot killers that can fire on their own

“We are sleepwalking into a brave new world where robots decide who, where and when to kill,” said Noel Sharkey, an expert on robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Sheffield, England.


WASHINGTON — The unmanned bombers that frequently cause unintended civilian casualties in Pakistan are a step toward an even more lethal generation of robotic hunters-killers that operate with limited, if any, human control.

The Defense Department is financing studies of autonomous, or self-governing, armed robots that could find and destroy targets on their own. On-board computer programs, not flesh-and-blood people, would decide whether to fire their weapons.

“The trend is clear: Warfare will continue and autonomous robots will ultimately be deployed in its conduct,” Ronald Arkin, a robotics expert at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, wrote in a study commissioned by the Army.

“The pressure of an increasing battlefield tempo is forcing autonomy further and further toward the point of robots making that final, lethal decision,” he predicted. “The time available to make the decision to shoot or not to shoot is becoming too short for remote humans to make intelligent informed decisions.”

Read morePentagon exploring robot killers that can fire on their own

Google’s spy in the streets triggers a wave of protests

  • Internet giant’s busiest day as traffic jumps 41%
  • Invasive pictures are removed from site


Google street views, Birmingham. Photograph: Google

For 24 hours, Google’s new Street View brought a vision of British cities to the web that included such memorable sights as a man throwing up between his knees outside a London bar and youths with traffic cones on their heads in Edinburgh.

But while the chance to take a 360-degree tour of every street in 25 UK cities continued to bring most offices to a standstill yesterday, some of the more invasive moments caught on camera saw Google hit with a wave of privacy complaints.

The company said yesterday that it had removed scores of photographs from the site, including an image in London of someone coming out of a sex shop in Soho, the forlorn man being sick on a pavement, and another man being arrested by police.

Read moreGoogle’s spy in the streets triggers a wave of protests

Military Laser Hits Battlefield Strength

Huge news for real-life ray guns: Electric lasers have hit battlefield strength for the first time — paving the way for energy weapons to go to war.

In recent test-blasts, Pentagon-researchers at Northrop Grumman managed to get its 105 kilowatts of power out of their laser — past the “100kW threshold [that] has been viewed traditionally as a proof of principle for ‘weapons grade’ power levels for high-energy lasers,” Northrop’s vice president of directed energy systems, Dan Wildt, said in a statement.

That much power won’t get you a Star Wars-style blaster. But it should be more than enough to zap the mortars and rockets that insurgents have used to pound American bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The battlefield-strength breakthrough is just one part in a larger military push to finally make laser weapons a reality, after decades of unfulfilled promises. The Army recently gave Boeing a $36 million contract to build a laser-equipped truck. Raytheon is set to start test-firing a mortar-zapper of its own. Darpa is funding a 150 kilowatt laser project that is meant to be fitted onto “tactical aircraft.”

Read moreMilitary Laser Hits Battlefield Strength

Star Wars scientists use laser gun to kill mosquitoes in fight against malaria

Scientists who worked the Star Wars anti-missile programme in the United States are building a ray-gun than can kill mosquitoes in a bid to tackle the scourge of malaria.


Insect-killing lasers could fight the spread of malaria Photo: AFP

Experts behind the 1980s missile shield idea have helped to develop a laser that locks onto and kills airborne insects.

It is thought the device, dubbed the ‘Weapon of Mosquito Destruction’ (WMD), could be used against mosquitoes, which kill almost one million people around the world every year by spreading malaria.

The research in Seattle, reported in the Wall Street Journal, has been funded by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates through his charitable foundation.

The WMD laser works by detecting the audio frequency created by the beating of mosquito wings. A computer triggers the laser beam which burns the wings off the mosquito and kills it.

Among those working on the research project are astrophysicists Dr Lowell Wood and Dr Jordin Kare who both worked on the original Star Wars plan to shield America from nuclear attack.

Dr Kare said: “We like to think back then we made some contribution to the ending of the cold war. Now we’re just trying to make a dent in a war that’s actually gone on a lot longer and claimed a lot more lives.”

Read moreStar Wars scientists use laser gun to kill mosquitoes in fight against malaria

Lasers to create mini sun in hunt for clean energy

However, the NIF experiment is not without controversy. The Californian facility’s primary purpose is to allow munitions to be tested without a radioactive fallout, which would contravene the nuclear test ban treaty.

Critics fear the US military is using the NIF complex to develop a new generation of advanced nuclear weapons, although a spokesman for the facility denied this.


Physicists hope to develop the first form of nuclear fusion technology by firing laser beams at a pellet of hydrogen

SCIENTISTS are to use the world’s most powerful laser system to replicate the fiery core of the sun in experiments that may ultimately offer humanity a clean source of energy.

After more than 50 years of experimentation, physicists are hoping to develop the first form of nuclear fusion technology that produces more energy than it consumes.

Within the next fortnight, researchers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California will fire 192 separate laser beams capable of generating 500 trillion watts – 1,000 times the power of the US national grid – for a fraction of a second.

The energy pulse will be concentrated on a tiny pellet of hydrogen in an attempt to mimic the reactions that take place inside the sun.

The scientists hope to refine the process over the next year until they trigger a nuclear reaction capable of producing large amounts of energy.

Read moreLasers to create mini sun in hunt for clean energy

Scientists develop battery that can be charged in just 10 seconds

Thing of the past? The new mobile phone batteries will be recharged in just 10 seconds

A revolutionary mobile phone battery that recharges in 10 seconds instead of several hours has been created by scientists.

The new device charges 100 times as fast as a conventional battery and could also be used in phones, laptops, iPods and digital cameras within just two or three years, they say.

The same technology could even allow an electric car to be charged up in the same time that it takes to fill a conventional car with petrol – removing one of the biggest obstacles to green, clean motoring.

The quick-charge battery is the brainchild of engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The MIT team say their invention uses materials already available to battery manufacturers and would be simple to mass produce.


The new battery could also work with rechargeable cars

The invention is based on conventional lithium ion rechargeable batteries found in most cameras, phones and portable computers.

Read moreScientists develop battery that can be charged in just 10 seconds

Wireless Tasers extend the long arm of the law

Take a close look at the logo of TASER International and …
(Wikipedia: Waffen-SS and SS)


TASER stun guns are going wireless, doubling their range.

The Taser XREP is an electrically charged dart that can be fired from up to 20 metres away with a 12-gauge shotgun. Upon impact, its barbed electrodes penetrate a victim’s skin, discharging a 20-second burst of electricity to “distract, disorient and entice the subject to grab the projectile”, says Taser. But grabbing the dart routes the shock through the hand, making it difficult to let go and spreading the pain further.

While the XREP delivers a lower voltage for a longer time, a spokeswoman for Taser says its effect is similar to existing versions.

Commercial production of the XREP is due to start later this month, with US police departments and the US military expected to be using the weapons by the end of 2009.

11 March 2009

Source: New Scientist