Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Inflatable spacecraft launches from Russia - Yahoo! News: "Inflatable spacecraft launches from Russia By ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer
5 minutes ago

An experimental inflatable spacecraft bankrolled by real estate magnate Robert Bigelow rocketed into orbit Wednesday to test technology that could be used to fulfill his dream of building a commercial space station.
The Genesis I satellite flew aboard a converted Cold War ballistic missile from Russia's southern Ural Mountains at 6:53 p.m. Moscow time. It was boosted about 320 miles above Earth minutes after launch, according to the Russian Strategic Missile Forces.
The launch was a first for the startup Bigelow Aerospace, founded by Bigelow, who owns the Budget Suites of America hotel chain. Bigelow is among several entrepreneurs attempting to break into the fledgling manned commercial spaceflight business.
Mission controllers began communicating with Genesis about seven hours after liftoff. Early indications showed that the spacecraft was behaving as planned, according to a statement by the company.
The spacecraft's internal battery was at full charge, meaning that it had deployed its solar panels, the statement said.
Despite the successful launch, significant hurdles remain.
Mission controllers will continue to download information from the spacecraft over the next several hours to determine its health. Once that's confirmed, it will begin the tricky job of ballooning itself to twice its pre-launch width in a process that could last several hours.
Bigelow hopes to use inflation technology to build an expandable orbital outpost made up of several Genesis-like modules strung together like sausage links that could serve as a space hotel, science lab or even a sports arena.

Monday, July 10, 2006

US judge to rule on legality of warrantless wiretaps - Yahoo! News: "US judge to rule on legality of warrantless wiretaps by Mira Oberman
Mon Jul 10, 7:15 PM ET

CHICAGO (AFP) - A federal judge heard arguments in a suit arguing that US President George W. Bush overstepped his authority when he authorized the use of warrantless wiretaps on Americans.
The arguments came less than two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that the Bush administration overstepped its authority in setting up military tribunals to try war on terror detainees held at a US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The American Civil Liberties Union asked a judge in Detroit, Michigan to rule that the wiretaps are illegal because they circumvent the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the executive branch to obtain a warrant before engaging in electronic surveillance of Americans.
Those warrants are obtained in a secret court which has only denied three requests in nearly 30 years and which allows law enforcement to initiate surveillance before the warrant is obtained, Michael Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan, told AFP.
'Our democracy depends on checks and balances,' he said. 'Obtaining a court order before intercepting people's personal communication serves as a check on unbridled executive power.'
A spokesman for the Department of Justice declined to comment on the case.
In a motion, the department argued that 'The United States submits that the actions authorized by the President are essential to meeting a continuing and grave foreign terrorist threat and are well within lawful bounds.'
It argued that to demonstrate this 'would require evidence that must be excluded from consideration under the military and states secrets privilege' and as a result the judge sh"

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Roots of human family tree are shallow - Yahoo! News: "Roots of human family tree are shallow By MATT CRENSON, AP National Writer
Sat Jul 1, 5:17 PM ET

Whoever it was probably lived a few thousand years ago, somewhere in East Asia � Taiwan, Malaysia and Siberia all are likely locations. He � or she � did nothing more remarkable than be born, live, have children and die.

Yet this was the ancestor of every person now living on Earth � the last person in history whose family tree branches out to touch all 6.5 billion people on the planet today.
That means everybody on Earth descends from somebody who was around as recently as the reign of Tutankhamen, maybe even during the Golden Age of ancient Greece. There's even a chance that our last shared ancestor lived at the time of Christ.
'It's a mathematical certainty that that person existed,' said Steve Olson, whose 2002 book 'Mapping Human History' traces the history of the species since its origins in Africa more than 100,000 years ago.
It is human nature to wonder about our ancestors � who they were, where they lived, what they were like. People trace their genealogy, collect antiques and visit historical sites hoping to capture just a glimpse of those who came before, to locate themselves in the sweep of history and position themselves in the web of human existence.
But few people realize just how intricately that web connects them not just to people living on the planet today, but to everyone who ever lived.
With the help of a statistician, a computer scientist and a supercomputer, Olson has calculated just how interconnected the human family tree is. You would have to go back in time only 2,000 to 5,000 years � and probably "