Daily Archives: March 2, 2012

Galactic Views (26)


                                                                                                                                        
SPACE WATCH

Merging Galaxy Cluster Abell 520
NASA – This composite image shows the distribution of dark matter, galaxies, and hot gas in the core of the merging galaxy cluster Abell 520, formed from a violent collision of massive galaxy clusters.

The natural-color image of the galaxies was taken with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii.

Superimposed on the image are “false-colored” maps showing the concentration of starlight, hot gas, and dark matter in the cluster. Starlight from galaxies, derived from observations by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, is colored orange. The green-tinted regions show hot gas, as detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. The gas is evidence that a collision took place. The blue-colored areas pinpoint the location of most of the mass in the cluster, which is dominated by dark matter. Dark matter is an invisible substance that makes up most of the universe’s mass. The dark-matter map was derived from the Hubble Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 observations by detecting how light from distant objects is distorted by the cluster of galaxies, an effect called gravitational lensing.

The blend of blue and green in the center of the image reveals that a clump of dark matter resides near most of the hot gas, where very few galaxies are found. This finding confirms previous observations of a dark-matter core in the cluster. The result could present a challenge to basic theories of dark matter, which predict that galaxies should be anchored to dark matter, even during the shock of a collision.

Abell 520 resides 2.4 billion light-years away.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CFHT, CXO, M.J. Jee (University of California, Davis), and A. Mahdavi (San Francisco State University)

Pact for budget discipline signed by 25 EU states


By John O’Donnell – All but two European Union countries signed a treaty on tighter budget discipline for the euro zone on Friday (Mar 2, 2012), marking a coup for Germany which pushed for the accord to try to prevent a repeat of the loose spending that led to a debt crisis.

Only Britain and the Czech Republic did not sign the ‘fiscal compact’, under which countries in the euro zone are bound to write a ‘golden rule‘ on balanced budgets into their national constitutions or equivalent laws, with automatic correction mechanisms if the rule is breached.

“We have the two instruments,” German chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters. “On the one hand, the fiscal pact, and, on the other, the permanent European rescue mechanism. The two are interlinked.” more> http://is.gd/97Bole

McCain, GOP Leaders Intro Cybersecurity Bill Alternative


"United States Senate" "Washing...

"United States Senate" "Washington DC" "US Capitol Building" (Photo credit: ttarasiuk)

By Kenneth Corbin – The so-called SECURE IT Act — backed by eight ranking members on various Senate committees and subcommittees that claim jurisdiction over some aspect of cybersecurity — would focus narrowly on provisions to facilitate the sharing of information about cyber threats, while avoiding the expanded regulatory oversight and compliance mandates provided for in the competing bill.

Bill Differ on How to Share Information Both bills address the information sharing question, albeit with sharply contrasting approaches. Rather than create new federally administered cybersecurity exchanges for public and private entities to share information, as the Lieberman-Collins bill would, the GOP alternative bill would rely on existing centers such as the six facilities the National Security Agency maintains throughout the country, as well as U.S. Cyber Command, which is administered by the Defense Department and collocated with the NSA.

“More government is seldom the solution to any problem,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence and a co-sponsor of the SECURE IT Act. more> http://is.gd/96Wwtf

Super-human brain technology sparks ethics debate


By Kate Kelland – With the prospect of future conflicts between armies controlling weapons with their minds, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics launched a consultation on Thursday (Mar 1, 2012) to consider the risks of blurring the lines between humans and machines.

“Intervening in the brain has always raised both hopes and fears in equal measure. Hopes of curing terrible diseases, and fears about the consequences of trying to enhance human capability beyond what is normally possible,” said Thomas Baldwin, a professor of philosophy at Britain’s York University who is leading the study.

“If brain-computer interfaces are used to control military aircraft or weapons from far away, who takes ultimate responsibility for the actions? Could this be blurring the line between man and machine?” Baldwin said. more> http://is.gd/JpnN5J

What you should know about Twitter’s data sales


By Mitch Lipka – Twitter users are about to become major marketing fodder, as two research companies get set to release information to clients who will pay for the privilege of mining the data.

Boulder, Colorado-based Gnip Inc and DataSift Inc, based in the U.K. and San Francisco, are licensed by Twitter to analyze archived tweets and basic information about users, like geographic location. DataSift announced this week that it will release Twitter data in packages that will encompass the last two years of activity for its customers to mine, while Gnip can go back only 30 days.

“Harvesting what someone said a year or more ago is game-changing,” said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego. more> http://is.gd/dSbyMf