Discovering an alien life form would be quite an achievement, but we've been burned before by over-eager press releases that claimed to find evidence of life from beyond our planet. NASA might be more careful about making any announcements about life based on peculiar and potentially extra-terrestrial-based life, but NASA seemed to have forgotten about the extraordinary claims over ALH84001. Overall, though, it's probably good that NASA hasn't given up on searching for aliens, so here are a few links on looking for life from outer space.
A manned spaceship to Mars sounded like a logical next step in the 1970s after the first astronauts walked on the moon. But it's been a while since then, and we've sent a few robotic missions to the red planet recently to check out the place a bit more to see if it's really worth visiting. Maybe there isn't anything living on Mars now, but it certainly looks like there could have been conditions favorable for life there in the past. For space exploration fans, here are some interesting links on going to Mars, pointing out some of the challenges and technological advances that will help us get there (someday).
Over the next few years, we should be learning quite a bit more about our Martian neighbors. The Curiosity Rover is just starting out, but if it performs as well as its predecessors, then it should provide tons of interesting data about Mars and its geological history. When Curiosity ceases to function, maybe we'll be more willing to send manned missions, but robots seem to be doing a pretty good job so far. Here are just a few interesting tidbits on the red planet.
The successful landing of NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars will hopefully be followed by several years of fascinating data collection about our planetary neighbor. The mission has already gathered tons of useful radiation measurements on its journey that will give scientists a better idea of what kind of radiation levels a future manned mission would face on a similar trip to Mars. Here are just a few other interesting Mars-related missions to peruse while Curiosity performs its self-diagnostics before roaming around the surface of Mars.
We hear from copyright system supporters that bogus copyright takedowns are rare and we only highlight the "exceptions." Of course, it seems like there are an awful lot of these exceptions. The latest is that with the massive success of last night's Mars landing of the Curiosity Rover, NASA posted the video to YouTube for those who didn't watching the thrilling, suspenseful landing live... except, if you checked out NASA's own YouTube page a few hours later, you got this:
It's back now, but as Vice's Motherboard blog explains, this kind of thing happens all the time. They spoke with Bob Jacobs, NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Communications, who said that this happens about once a month, and almost always happens with NASA's popular videos.
“We spend too much time going through the administrative process to clear videos slapped with needless copyright claims,” says NASA’s Bob Jacobs. “YouTube seems to be missing a ‘common sense’ button to its processes, especially when it involves public domain material paid for by the American taxpayer.”
Jacobs is quite reasonably annoyed at the lack of consequences for these bogus takedowns:
“There seems to be few consequences for companies that engage in such activities, which often include legitimate news organizations. We do agree that people who make false copyright claims against our material should be held accountable, regardless of their automated systems.”
What's amazing here is that Scripps is a repeat offender with NASA. Back in April, people noticed that it had forced the removal of NASA's (again, public domain) footage of the Boeing 747 that carried the space shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian (its "final journey"). But, of course, there aren't many (or even any) serious consequences for these kinds of mistakes. While it's not clear what happened, it seems likely that Scripps replayed the footage itself somewhere, and via some semi-automated process uploaded it to YouTube's ContentID, in which it claimed copyright on all its works. But, of course, it was actually broadcasting public domain video from NASA. Unfortunately, YouTube can't recognize that Scripps is the latecomer here, rebroadcasting others' public domain material, and thus took down the material, only to have it corrected later.
Given that Scripps is now a repeat offender, it seems that perhaps YouTube should cut it off from automatically censoring others' videos.
Oh, and if you want to know one of the reasons we're so concerned about a possible broadcast treaty (which the US government is now supporting), it's because it actually would make these kinds of claims quasi-legal, in that broadcasters who broadcast public domain material could then claim a separate "broadcast right" over that footage. Even without that, we see operations like Scripps abusing the law. Do we really want to expand that power?
Now, since the video is back up, here's the actual (public domain) footage, in case you missed it (and if you did miss it, you should watch it, as it really is incredible):
Robots are incredibly useful machines that are becoming more and more important for everyone. Kids are building them. Robots are building more robots. Pretty soon, we'll be surrounded by robots... oh sorry Roomba, we already are. Here are some cool videos and some examples of robots that are helping us out (and not trying to enslave us).