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Hackaday Links: December 21, 2014

Most of the incredible flight simulator enthusiasts with 737 cockpits in their garage are from the US. What happens when they’re from Slovenia? They build a A320 cockpit. The majority of the build comes from an old Cyprus Airways aircraft, with most of the work being wiring up the switches, lights, and figuring out how to display the simulated world out of the cockpit.

Google Cardboard is the $4 answer to the Oculus Rift – a cardboard box and smartphone you strap to your head. [Frooxius] missed being able to interact with objects in these 3D virtual worlds, so he came up with this thing. He adapted a symbol tracking library for AR, and is now able to hold an object in his hands while looking at a virtual object in 3D.

Heat your house with candles! Yes, it’s the latest Indiegogo campaign that can be debunked with 7th grade math. This “igloo for candles” will heat a room up by 2 or 3 degrees, or a little bit less than a person with an average metabolism will.

Last week, we saw a post that gave the Samsung NX300 the ability to lock the pictures taken by the camera with public key cryptography. [g3gg0] wrote in to tell us he did the same thing with a Canon EOS camera.

The guys at Flite Test put up a video that should be handy for RC enthusiasts and BattleBot contenders alike. They’re tricking out transmitters, putting push buttons where toggle switches should go, on/off switches where pots should go, and generally making a transmitter more useful. It’s also a useful repair guide.

[Frank Zhao] made a mineral oil aquarium and put a computer in it. i7, GTX 970, 16GB RAM, and a 480GB SSD. It’s a little bigger than most of the other aquarium computers we’ve seen thanks to the microATX mobo, and of course there are NeoPixels and a bubbly treasure chest.

Filed under: Hackaday links

Boxing Trainer Uses DIY Force Sensors

A team of Cornell students have designed and built their own electronic boxing trainer system. The product of their work is a game similar to Whack-A-Mole. There are five square pads organized roughly into the shape of a human torso and head. Each pad will light up based on a pre-programmed pattern. When the pad lights up, it’s the player’s job to punch it! The game keeps track of the player’s accuracy as well as their reaction time.

The team was trying to keep their budget under $100, which meant that off the shelf components would be too costly. To remedy this, they designed their own force sensors. The sensors are basically a sandwich of a few different materials. In the center is a 10″ by 10″ square of ESD foam. Pressed against it is a 1/2″ thick sheet of insulating foam rubber. This foam rubber sheet has 1/4″ slits cut into it, resulting in something that looks like jail bars. Sandwiching these two pieces of foam is fine aluminum window screen. Copper wire is fixed the screen using conductive glue. Finally, the whole thing is sandwiched between flattened pieces of corrugated cardboard to protect the screen.

The sensors are mounted flat against a wall. When a user punches a sensor, it compresses. This compression causes the resistance between the two pieces of aluminum screen to change. The resistance can be measured to detect a hit. The students found that if the sensor is hit harder, more surface area becomes compressed. This results in a greater change in resistance and can then be measured as a more powerful hit. Unfortunately it would need to be calibrated depending on what is hitting the sensor, since the size of the hitter can throw off calibration.

Each sensor pad is surrounded by a strip of LEDs. The LEDs light up to indicate which pad the user is supposed to hit. Everything is controlled by an ATMEGA 1284p microcontroller. This is the latest in a string of student projects to come out of Cornell. Make sure to watch the demonstration video below.

[Thanks Bruce]

Filed under: Microcontrollers

15 Futuristic Technologies You’ll Probably See In Your Lifetime

From the possible colonization of other worlds to clothes that will automatically clean themselves when you step into sunlight, here are 15 technological advances predicted by wise minds for the future of our species. Oh, and they should be here sometime within the next 50 years or so.

Sometimes the universe is a bright place…

The post 15 Futuristic Technologies You’ll Probably See In Your Lifetime appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

The Higgs Boson Could Be Connected to The Antimatter Mystery

Matter vs Antimatter

When matter and antimatter come in contact. they wipe themselves out (Original image author is unknown)

Several experiments, including the BaBar experiment at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, have helped explain some — but not all — of the imbalance between matter and antimatter in the universe. Now a SLAC theorist and his colleagues have laid out a possible method for determining if the Higgs boson is involved.

In a paper published in Physical Review D, they suggest that scientists at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), where the Higgs was discovered, look for a specific kind of Higgs decay when the collider starts up again in 2015. The details of that decay could tell them whether or not the Higgs has a say in the matter-antimatter imbalance.

“The time to plan a search strategy is now,” said Matt Dolan, a research associate in SLAC’s Particle Theory group and co-author of the paper. “That way, when the LHC begins to operate at full strength we’ll be ready.”

Why there’s more matter than antimatter is one of the biggest questions confounding particle physicists and cosmologists, and it cuts to the heart of our own existence. In the time following the Big Bang, when the budding universe cooled enough for matter to form, most matter-antimatter particle pairs that popped into existence annihilated each other. Yet something tipped the balance in favor of matter, or we — and stars, planets, galaxies, life — would not be here.

The recently discovered Higgs boson is directly connected to the issues of mass and matter. Asking whether the Higgs is involved in the preponderance of matter over antimatter seems a reasonable question.

The paper is based on a phenomenon called CP — or charge-parity — violation, the same phenomenon investigated by BaBar. CP violation means that nature treats a particle and its oppositely charged mirror-image version differently.

“Searching for CP violation at the LHC is tricky,” Dolan said. “We’ve just started to look into the properties of the Higgs, and the experiments must be very carefully designed if we are to improve our understanding of how the Higgs behaves under different conditions.”

First, researchers need to confirm that the Higgs fits into the Standard Model, our current best explanation of matter, energy and the processes that turned them into us. A Higgs that fits the Standard Model where CP violation is concerned is called CP-even; one that does not is called CP-odd. A tell-tale sign that the Higgs is involved in CP violation is if it’s a mixture of even and odd.

The theorists proposed that experimenters look for a process in which a Higgs decays into two tau particles, which are like supersized cousins of electrons, while the remainder of the energy from the original proton-proton collision sprays outward in two jets. Any mix of CP-even and CP-odd in the Higgs is revealed by the angle between the two jets.

In this illustration, two protons collide at high energy, producing a Higgs boson that instantly decays, producing two tau particles. The rest of the energy from the collision sprays outward in two jets (pink cones). Measuring the angle between these jets could reveal whether or not the Higgs is involved in charge-parity (CP) violation, which says that nature treats a particle and its oppositely charged antiparticle differently. A SLAC researcher and his colleagues propose such an experiment in a recent paper in Physical Review D. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

In this illustration, two protons collide at high energy, producing a Higgs boson that instantly decays, producing two tau particles. The rest of the energy from the collision sprays outward in two jets (pink cones). Measuring the angle between these jets could reveal whether or not the Higgs is involved in charge-parity (CP) violation, which says that nature treats a particle and its oppositely charged antiparticle differently. A SLAC researcher and his colleagues propose such an experiment in a recent paper in Physical Review D. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

“This is a very high-profile and involved analysis,” said Philip Harris, a staff physicist at CERN and co-author of the paper along with Martin Jankowiak of the University of Heidelberg and Michael Spannowsky of Durham University. A member of the CMS collaboration, Harris focuses on Higgs-to-tau-tau decays, evidence of which has only recently begun to mount.

“I wanted to add a CP violation measurement to our analysis, and what Matt, Martin and Michael proposed is the most viable avenue,” Harris said, adding that he’s looking forward to all the data the LHC will generate when it starts up again early next year at its full design strength.

“Even with just a few months of data we can start to make real statements about the Higgs and CP violation,” he said.

(Originally seen on SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s site.)

The post The Higgs Boson Could Be Connected to The Antimatter Mystery appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

Plug Into USB, Get a Reverse Shell

Computers blindly trust USB devices connected to them. There’s no pop-up to confirm a device was plugged in, and no validation of whether the device should be trusted. This lets you do some nefarious things with a simple USB microcontroller.

We’ve recently seen two examples of this: the USBdriveby and the Teensyterpreter. Both devices are based on the Teensy development board. When connected to a computer, they act as a Human Interface Device to emulate a keyboard and mouse.

The USBdriveby targets OS X. When connected, it changes the DNS server settings to a custom IP, to allow for DNS spoofing of the victim’s machine. This is possible without a password through the OS X System Preferences, but it requires emulating both keystrokes and clicks. AppleScript is used to position the window in a known location, then the buttons can be reliably clicked by code running on the Teensy. After modifying DNS, a reverse shell is opened using netcat. This allows for remote code execution on the machine.

The Teensyterpreter gives a reverse shell on Windows machines. It runs command prompt as administrator, then enters a one-liner to fire up the reverse shell using Powershell. The process happens in under a minute, and works on all Windows versions newer than XP.

With a $20 microcontroller board you can quickly fire up remote shells for… “support purposes”. We’d like to see the two projects merge into a single codebase that supports both operating systems. Bonus points if you can do it on our Trinket Pro. Video demos of both projects after the break.

Filed under: security hacks

ISIS operates spear phishing attacks against a Syrian citizen media group

A Syrian citizen media group critical of ISIS was recently targeted in a spear phishing campaign which aim to de-anonymize its members.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is accused to have run cyber attacks against the Syrian citizen media group known as Raqqah is being Slaughtered Silently (RSS), the news was reported by the organization Citizen’s Lab. The ISIS hit the Syrian citizen media group because criticized the cruel conduct of the ISIS members. The intent of the ISIS hackers was to unmask the location of the militants of the Raqqah is being Slaughtered Silently.

The Syrian group RSS critics abuses made by ISIS members during the occupation of the city of Ar-Raqqah, located in northern Syria.

“A growing number of reports suggest that ISIS is systematically targeting groups that document atrocities, or that communicate with Western media and aid organizations, sometimes under the pretext of finding “spies”.”

ISIS vs Syrian Group

ISIS members are persecuting local groups searching for alleged spies of Western governments.

Alleged members of the ISIS supported the group into tracking members of the organization that have convicted them, through the use of malware. The experts at the Citizen’s Lab uncovered a spear phishing campaign targeting RSS members.

“Though we are unable to conclusively attribute the attack to ISIS or its supporters, a link to ISIS is plausible,” Citizen’s Lab noted. “The malware used in the attack differs substantially from campaigns linked to the Syrian regime, and the attack is focused against a group that is an active target of ISIS forces.”

The malicious emails contain a link to a decoy file, which is used to serve a custom malware that gathers information on the victim’s computer.

 “The unsolicited message below was sent to RSS at the end of November 2014 from a Gmail email address. The message was carefully worded, and contained references specific to the work and interests of RSS.” states the report. “The custom malware used in this attack infects a user who views the decoy “slideshow,” and beacons home with the IP address of the victim’s computer and details about his or her system each time the computer restarts.”

The experts noticed that the specific malware is quite different from the malicious RATs used by the Syrian Government, one of the differences is for example in the control infrastructure, replaced in the case of the alleged ISIS malware with an email account used to gather information from infected machine.

“Unlike Syrian regime-linked malware, it contains no Remote Access Trojan (RAT) functionality, suggesting it is intended for identifying and locating a target,” said CL. “Further, because the malware sends data captured by the malware to an email address, it does not require that the attackers maintain a command-and-control server online. This functionality would be especially useful to an adversary unsure of whether it can maintain uninterrupted Internet connectivity.”

This attack chain implemented by hackers is not sophistication, the experts haven’t observed the use of exploits neither complex evasion technique.

Western intelligence is aware of the presence of hackers in the ISIS collective that are already working to secure communications between ISIS members and is supporting the group to spread propaganda messages avoiding detection.

“In addition, ISIS has reportedly gained the support of at least one individual with some experience with social engineering and hacking: Junaid Hussain (aka TriCk), a former member of teamp0ison hacking team.While Mr. Hussain and associates have reportedly made threats against Western governments, it is possible that he or others working with ISIS have quietly supported an effort to identify the targeted organization, which is a highly visible thorn in the side of ISIS.”

Experts reported also numerous cyber attacks by ISIS members targeting Internet cafés that are used by many hacktivits in the country.

“Reports about ISIS targeting Internet cafés have grown increasingly common, and in some cases reports point to the possible use of keyloggers as well as unspecified IP sniffers to track behavior in Internet cafes,” Citizen’s Lab reported “

The Citizen’s Lab seems to be confident of the involvement of a non state-actors in the attack and ISIS it a plausible suspect.

“After considering each possibility, we find strong but inconclusive circumstantial evidence to support a link to ISIS,” CL said. “Whether or not ISIS is responsible, this attack is likely the work of a non-regime threat actor who may be just beginning to field a still-rudimentary capability in the Syrian conflict. The entry costs for engaging in malware attacks in a conflict like the Syrian Civil War are low, and made lower by the fact that the rule of law is nonexistent for large parts of the country.”

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  ISIS, malware)

The post ISIS operates spear phishing attacks against a Syrian citizen media group appeared first on Security Affairs.

RISC, Tagged Memory, and Minion Cores

Buy a computing device nowadays, and you’re probably getting something that knows x86 or an ARM. There’s more than one architecture out there for general purpose computing with dual-core MIPS boards available and some very strange silicon that’s making its way into dev boards. lowRISC is the latest endeavour from a few notable silicon designers, able to run Linux ‘well’ and adding a few novel security features that haven’t yet been put together this way before.

There are two interesting features that make the lowRISC notable. The first is tagged memory. This has been used before in older, weirder computers as a sort of metadata for memory. Basically, a few bits of each memory address tag each memory address as executable/non-executable, serve as memory watchpoints, garbage collection, and a lock on every word. New instructions are added to the ISA, allowing these tags to be manipulated, watched, and monitored to prevent the most common single security problem: buffer overflows. It’s an extremely interesting application of tagged memory, and something that isn’t really found in a modern architecture.

The second neat feature of the lowRISC are the minions. These are programmable devices tied to the processor’s I/O that work a lot like a Zynq SOC or the PRU inside the BeagleBone. Basically, they’re used for programmable I/O, implementing SPI/I2C/I2S/SDIO in software, offloading work from the main core, and devices that require very precise timing.

The current goal of the lowRISC team is to develop the hardware on an FPGA, releasing some beta silicon in a year’s time. The first complete chip will be an embedded SOC, hopefully release sometime around late 2016 or early 2017. The ultimate goal is an SOC with a GPU that would be used in mobile phones, set-top boxes, and Raspi and BeagleBone-like dev boards. There are enough people on the team, including [Robert Mullins] and [Alex Bradbury] of the University of Cambridge and the Raspberry Pi, researchers at UC Berkeley, and [Bunnie Huang].

It’s a project still in its infancy, but the features these people are going after are very interesting, and something that just isn’t being done with other platforms.

[Alex Bardbury] gave a talk on lowRISC at ORConf last October. You can check out the presentation here.

Filed under: hardware, news

Taking The Fiery Plunge Through Earth’s Atmosphere

The invisible boundary that separates Earth from space, called the Karman Line, stands around 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth’s surface. As innocuous as it sounds, this boundary isn’t like crossing the state line; it’s violent, fiery and downright harrowing for astronauts and spacecrafts alike.

In order for a ship to make the return trip to Earth, it must survive temperatures exceeding 3,000° F (1,650°C), while traveling at about 25 times the speed of sound. (These days, the trip from the International Space Station (ISS) to Earth (268 miles/431 km in all) can be made in about 3.5 hours That might sound like a disproportionately long amount of time, but there are multiple steps involved.)

Now, the process has been revealed in a new GIF documenting the atmospheric descent of the manned Soyuz Spacecraft, which hosted cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazansky, and astronaut Michael Hopkins, at the time.

Soyuz's Trip Through the Atmosphere

In addition to the clear dangers astronauts face during the descent (mostly related to potential mechanical problems), the force of gravity alone could cause extreme bodily harm. To minimize the risk, the seats are equipped with shock absorbers, and passengers are instructed to lay on their side (in a position that is perpendicular to the spine). Even then, many other issues could arise. 

It’s much worse for spacecrafts themselves. At the most intense point, the outside of the ship reaches temperatures high enough to melt iron (friction helps too). Then, during the deceleration phase, the ship feels a gravitational pull approximately 7 times stronger than that felt on Earth. 

So, how do they hold up? It mostly boils down to the way in which we protect shuttles from the searing heat. Soyuz, in particular, has an ablative heat shield. Think of it as an eco-friendly device; it sacrifices itself to protect the capsule, burning up before it even reaches Earth’s surface.

These measures are highly effective most of the time, but they can be rendered moot by something as small as a piece of foam. Unfortunately, we learned this first hand when Columbia disintegrated during reentry in 2003, killing all 7 people onboard. The investigation revealed that foam damaged the shuttle’s thermal protection system during launch. 

Now, NASA has released a video taken by the unmanned Orion test vehicle, which was launched into space by the Delta 4 Heavy rocket earlier this month (on December 5th). After its record breaking, historical flight, it safely landed in the Pacific Ocean, where it was retrieved and ultimately sent back to the Kennedy Space Center. 

This unprecedented footage documents Orion’s descent back to Earth, and it brings us one step closer to putting men and women back on the moon, or potentially  Mars.

WATCH: “Astronaut’s-Eye View of NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Re-entry”

In a press release, NASA explains exactly what the video entails:

“We can’t give you a ride inside Orion firsthand, but we can show what it looked like from the spacecraft thanks to cameras aboard the ship during the 4.5-hour flight test on Dec. 5. The last 10 minutes of Orion’s flight test show the plunge through Earth’s atmosphere, when searing plasma so hot it appears purple (upper left) surrounds Orion.”

“A few minutes later you can witness the jettison of the forward bay cover, followed by the release of the drogue chutes and then the main chutes (lower left). It’s all right there before your eyes just as it happened on Orion and how future astronauts will see it when they return from deep space missions and one day coming home from Mars”

The post Taking The Fiery Plunge Through Earth’s Atmosphere appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

Christmas 1908

Today's picture shows a Christmas Tree scene from 1908. Three small children are posed around a nicely decorated tree, with lots of presents underneath.

Astronomy Photo of the Day: 12/21/14 — Andromeda in Infrared

Image Credit: Subaru Telescope (NAOJ), Hubble Space Telescope  Mayall 4M Telescope (KPNO, NOAO), Digitized Sky Survey, Spitzer Space Telescope  (Processing: Robert Gendler)

Image Credit: Subaru Telescope (NAOJ), Hubble Space Telescope, Mayall 4M Telescope (KPNO, NOAO), Digitized Sky Survey, Spitzer Space Telescope (Processing: Robert Gendler)

Our closest galactic neighbor, called the Andromeda Galaxy (also known as Messier 31), is superior to the Milky Way in pretty much every way. For instance, while the Milky Way has a diameter of about 100,000 light-years, Andromeda is about twice as large (some estimates suggest it’s around 220,000 light years across), and where the Milky Way has 400 billion stars, Andromeda has about one TRILLION.

Many of these stars are high-mass, blue-white stars that assemble themselves into sweeping, but slightly-warped spiral arms. Providing contrast is a number of darkish dust lanes, which wind into, and around, Andromeda’s central core. Naturally, like most large galaxies, a gargantuan black hole looms in Andromeda’s nucleus. It has the mass of between 30 million and 100 million Suns, making it about ten times larger than the Milky Way’s central black hole.

This image is a synthetic color composite, created using archive images of the galaxy at optical and infrared wavelengths. Visible light data was collected by various space and ground-based observatories, while infrared data was gathered by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. In post processing, the data was put through red and green color channels, which exaggerate Andromeda’s lumpy dust lanes, and the young stars that provide warmth. These dusty regions are pictured in orange.

On his website, Gendler remarked:

Based on observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and obtained from the Hubble Legacy Archive, which is a collaboration between the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI/NASA), the Space Telescope European Coordinating Facility (ST-ECF/ESA) and the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre (CADC/NRC/CSA).

The H alpha data come from the Local Group Galaxies Survey (Massey et al. 2006, Astrophysical Journal, 131, 2701) and are based on images taken with the Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.

The Spitzer Space Telescope World Wide Web Site is the result of a collaborative effort by the Education and Public Outreach team at the Spitzer Science Center (SSC), California Institute of Technology.

Additionally, several companions galaxies are in view, including Messier 110 (pictured below) and Messier 32 (seen above the primary galaxy). Both are much smaller than Andromeda itself, which happens to be the largest and most massive galaxy in our local group.

Radio data comes from GALEX, visible light is from Robert Gendler, ultraviolet is from SWIFT, x-ray is from various sources (ESA/XMM-Newton/EPIC/W. Pietsch) and far-infrared comes from Herschel (ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/J. Fritz, U. Gent)  (GIF via Brian Koberlein on G+)

Radio data comes from GALEX, visible light is from Robert Gendler, ultraviolet is from SWIFT, x-ray is from various sources (ESA/XMM-Newton/EPIC/W. Pietsch) and far-infrared comes from Herschel (ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/J. Fritz, U. Gent)  (GIF via Brian Koberlein on G+)

To compare visible light images to Gendler’s infrared view, click here. (See a larger image here.)


The post Astronomy Photo of the Day: 12/21/14 — Andromeda in Infrared appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

Beating the Skins of Oatmeal Tins

Ithaca-based power trio [Nick, Roshun, and Ian] share a love of music and beating on things with drum sticks. To that end (and for class credit), they built a Digitally-Recordable, User-Modifiable Sound Emitting Tool (DRUMSET) using force-sensing resistors housed in oatmeal cans.

Anyone who has dealt with FSRs knows how persnickety they can be. In order to direct the force and avoid false positives, these enterprising beat purveyors suspended a sawed-off 2-liter bottle to the underside of each lid. This directs the force coming in from their patent-pending foam-enhanced drum sticks to the small, round sensing area of the FSR. There’s just enough space between the cap and the FSR to account for the play in the oatmeal can lid drum head when struck.

DRUMSET offers different-sounding kits at the push of a momentary switch. At present, there are four pre-programmed kits: the acoustic and electronic foursomes you’d expect, and a kit of miscellaneous sounds like hand claps and wooden claves that sound like something They Might Be Giants would have used on their first album. The fourth is called ‘Smoke on Water’, and is exactly what it sounds like. Should you tire of these, DRUMSET has a program mode with around 20 samples. These can be cycled through on the LCD and assigned to any of the four drums.

The microphone is for record mode, and whatever is recorded can be mapped to any drum. The memory limitations of the ‘1284P make for a 0.2 second sample of whatever is barked into the mic, but that’s plenty of time for shouting ‘hack!’ or firing off whatever hilarious bodily sound one can muster. We think this four track-like functionality of DRUMSET has interesting recording and live performance implications. The team’s future plans include space for longer samples and more robust drum construction (although it is possible to do this without any drums whatsoever). They’d also like to add more drums in case Neil Peart calls. The beat goes on after the break.

Filed under: Microcontrollers, musical hacks

Signs of Europa Plumes Remain Elusive in Cassini Data

Image Credit: NASA

Image Credit: NASA

A fresh look at data collected by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its 2001 flyby of Jupiter shows that Europa’s tenuous atmosphere is even thinner than previously thought and also suggests that the thin, hot gas around the moon does not show evidence of plume activity occurring at the time of the flyby. The new research provides a snapshot of Europa’s state of activity at that time, and suggests that if there is plume activity, it is likely intermittent.

The Europa results are being presented today at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco and published in the Astrophysical Journal. Europa is considered one of the most exciting destinations in the solar system for future exploration because it shows strong indications of having an ocean beneath its icy crust.

Members of Cassini’s ultraviolet imaging spectrograph (UVIS) team analyzed data collected by their instrument during the brief time it observed Europa in 2001, as Cassini sped through the Jupiter system en route to Saturn. The observations show that most of the hot, excited gas, or plasma, around Europa originates not from the moon itself, but from volcanoes on the nearby moon Io. In fact, from their data, the researchers calculated that Europa contributes 40 times less oxygen than previously thought to its surrounding environment.

“Our work shows that researchers have been overestimating the density of Europa’s atmosphere by quite a bit,” said Don Shemansky, a Cassini UVIS team member with Space Environment Technologies in Pasadena, California, who led the study. The team found that the moon’s tenuous atmosphere, which was already thought to be millions of times thinner than Earth’s atmosphere, is actually about 100 times less dense than those previous estimates.

Artist rendering of Europa's atmosphere (Credit: Kees Veenenbos)

Artist rendering of Europa’s atmosphere (Credit: Kees Veenenbos)

A downward revision in the amount of oxygen Europa pumps into the environment around Jupiter would make it less likely that the moon is regularly venting plumes of water vapor high into orbit, especially at the time the data was acquired. Scientists would expect that ongoing plume activity at Europa, as Cassini has observed at Saturn’s moon Enceladus, would inject large amounts of water vapor into the area around Europa’s orbit if the plumes were large enough, but that is not what UVIS observed.

“We found no evidence for water near Europa, even though we have readily detected it as it erupts in the plumes of Enceladus,” said Larry Esposito, UVIS team lead at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

“It is certainly still possible that plume activity occurs, but that it is infrequent or the plumes are smaller than we see at Enceladus,” said Amanda Hendrix, a Cassini UVIS team member with the Planetary Science Institute in Pasadena, who co-authored the new study. “If eruptive activity was occurring at the time of Cassini’s flyby, it was at a level too low to be detectable by UVIS.”

Artist renderings of plumes on Europa (Image Credit: K. Retherford, Southwest Research Institute, NASA/ESA/K)

Artist renderings of plumes on Europa (Image Credit: K. Retherford, Southwest Research Institute, NASA/ESA/K)

Indications of possible plume activity were reported in 2013 by researchers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, launching a wave of interest in searching for additional signs, including this effort by the UVIS team. Cassini’s 2001 Jupiter flyby provided UVIS the opportunity to directly measure the environment near Europa, which is not possible with Hubble.

For more than a decade, Cassini’s UVIS has observed the cold, dense doughnut of gas that encloses the orbit of Enceladus. There, the massive amount of gas being breathed into orbit around Saturn by the Enceladus plumes acts like a brake on electrons being dragged through it by Saturn’s magnetic field, which rotates with the planet. This braking helps to keep down the temperature of the plasma. Apparently there is no such brake at Europa.

Since UVIS saw a hot plasma, rather than a cold one, around Europa’s orbit, it suggests Europa is not outputting large amounts of gas — including water. Snapshots provided by missions that visited Jupiter prior to Cassini provided strong indications that Io is the major contributor of material to the environment around Jupiter, and indicated a hot, low density plasma surrounding Europa. The new results confirm that. “Io is the real monster here,” Shemansky said.

“Europa is a complex, amazing world, and understanding it is challenging given the limited observations we have,” said Curt Niebur, Outer Planets program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Studies like this make the most of the data we have and help guide the kinds of science investigations NASA should pursue in the future.”

Scientists are currently using the Hubble Space Telescope to conduct an extensive six-month long survey looking for plume activity, and NASA is also studying various possible Europa missions for future exploration.

(Provided by NASA)

The post Signs of Europa Plumes Remain Elusive in Cassini Data appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

Diving in the Illegal Underground Hacking Markets

Experts at Dell Secure Works Counter Threat Unit (CTU) published a new report on the evolution of the hacking underground marketplaces.

The monitoring of black hat markets is one the principal activities of security experts and intelligence agencies, it allows information gathering on evolution of cyber threats and emerging trends in the criminal ecosystem.

In 2013, experts at Dell Secure Works Counter Threat Unit (CTU) published a very interesting report titled “The Underground Hacking Economy is Alive and Well.”, which investigated the online marketplace for stolen data and hacking services. The report detailed the goods sold in the black markets and related cost, giving the readers an interesting picture of the criminal underground.

The criminal underground is characterized by rapid dynamics and a careful analysis could allow law enforcement and security agency to understand the evolution of cyber threats and the TTPs of principal operators. One year later, the same team of experts at Dell SecureWorks released an update to the study of black hat markets, titled “Underground Hacker Markets“, which reports a number of noteworthy trends.

The researcher noticed a growing interest in the personal data, in particular in any kind of documentation that could be used as a second form of authentication, including passports, driver’s licenses, Social Security numbers and even utility bills.

“The markets are booming with counterfeit documents to further enable fraud, including new identity kits, passports, utility bills, social security cards and driver’s licenses.” states the report.

Another distinguishing element of the evolution of the underground marketplaces in the last year is the offer of Hacker Tutorials.

Training tutorials provide instruction to criminals that want to sell stolen credit cards to other crews, or detailed information on running exploit kits, on the arrangement of spam and phishing campaigns or how to run DDoS attacks.

“These tutorials not only explain what a Crypter, Remote Access Trojan (RAT) and exploit kit is but also how they are used, which are the most popular, and what hackers should pay for these hacker tools,” the report said.

Other tutorials include instruction to do an ATM hack, how to do bank transfers without being detected and cashing out stolen credit card data.

underground hacking tutorials

The data provided by Dell confirms the findings of another report issued by TrendMicro that noticed in the Brazilian underground a significant availability of similar products and services.

Criminal crews specialized their business in selling premium credit cards, a direct consequence of the large number of data breaches occurred this year and that flooded the underground hacking markets with millions of credit and debit card stolen data.

The researchers explained black marketplaces, exactly like any other market, reward the reliability and reputation of the leading vendors who devote so much attention to customer care.

In particular, cyber criminals are differentiating their offer based on the service levels provided to the buyers and guarantees on stolen data.

“It is apparent that the underground hackers are monetizing every piece of data they can steal or buy and are continually adding services so other scammers can successfully carry out online and in-person fraud,” is reported in the report.

For those criminals that desire to acquire a new identity for illegal activities the underground market offer identity packages that include passports, drivers licenses and social security cards, practically anything is necessary to commit an identity theft.

In the underground marketplace, it is possible to acquire a working social security card, name, and address for $250, paying another $100 a scammer can buy a utility bill to use in identity verification processes. Counterfeit non-US passports are available for a cost between $200 to $500. The experts explained that it is very hard to find US passports because US law enforcement is believed to infiltrate the Hacking community, making risky their commercialization. Fake US driver’s licenses run for $100-$150, meanwhile counterfeit Social Security Cards run between $250 and $400 on average, in both cases, these documents could be used to improve efficiency of fraud schemes.

Premium cards continue to be precious commodities in the criminal underground, a full collection of stolen credentials, also referred with the hacker slang term “fullz”, run for $30 in US while in 2013 it was offered for $5. The fullz includes also information related to the card holder like name, address, phone number, email addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers and banking credentials.

The expert noticed that the price of individual credit card numbers remains unchanged from last year, Premium Master Card and Visa cards including both Track 1 and 2 data are selling for $35 and $23 respectively.

Another precious commodity in the hacking underground is the malware, cost for Remote access Trojans (RATs) is decreased respect the previous year, and today are sold for a price ranging from $20 to $50 for notorious RATS such as DarkComet. Several RATs are also offered for free deflating the prices. The underground community also offers popular exploit kits like Nuclear and Sweet Orange for the best prices with Sweet Orange at $450 for a weekly lease up to $1,800 for an entire month.

“Hackers are looking for a RAT that is easily available for purchase or to use for free and which they can run through a Crypter (a program which encrypts malware, making it FUD or fully undetectable to Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware programs),” the report said.

The report includes a lot of interesting data related to products and services offered in the hackig underground, including botnet renting and DDoS attack on demand.

Regarding the price for bots located in specific countries, it is increased respect previous year and it depends on the location of the infected computers.

These random bots were considerably cheaper, for example, 1,000 bots ran $20; 5,000 bots ran $90; 10,000 ran $160; etc. However, this year they found pricing for bots located in specific countries, and these bots are considerably more expensive. The price for buying access to compromised computers does vary from country to country. The price for 5,000 individual bots located in the US runs from $600 to $1,000, while the same number of UK-based bots runs $400 to $500, a 50 to 100 percent decrease in price from the US bots.”

Don’t waste time … give a look to report!

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  Hacking underground, cybercrime)

The post Diving in the Illegal Underground Hacking Markets appeared first on Security Affairs.

World’s First Smart Snowboard Changes Music According To Your Actions

Ever wanted a soundtrack to your life? For a couple of minutes at a time, Signal Snowboards creates that experience with a smart snowboard that varies your music depending on the tricks you perform on your way down the mountain.

The sign on the door says “School For Gifted Hackers”. Inside [Matt Davis] helped interface audio with an accelerometer – something he regularly does with all manner of hacked devices. At first the prototype was an iPhone mimicking the motions of a snowboarder the way fighter pilots describe dogfights with their hands. The audio engine that pulls those mostions to sound is open source and anyone is welcome to do their own tuning.

Once the audio was figured out the boys took it back to their shop and embedded the sensors into a new snowboard. The board is equipped with GPS, an accelerometer, a few rows of LEDs and a bluetooth board to connect to the phone app. It’s all powered by an on-board LiPo battery and a barrel jack out the side to charge it. Channels were cut by hand with a router then electronics sealed in place with epoxy. Not wanting to “just strap some Christmas lights onto a snowboard” the lighting is also connected to the sensors and is programmable.

See the video below of them making the board and taking it out for a test run on Bear Mountain.

Thanks [Ronald] for the tip.

Filed under: digital audio hacks

WonderFox DVD Video Converter provides one-stop total solution to rip DVDs (released by Disney, Paramount, Sony, etc), convert video, download online video, edit and play movies/video with excellent performance.

WonderFox DVD Video Converter provides one-stop total solution to rip DVDs (released by Disney, Paramount, Sony, etc), convert video, download online video, edit and play movies/video with excellent performance. The easiest way to deal with any encrypted DVDs including DVD with CSS, region code, RCE, Sony ArccOS, UOPs, Disney X-project DRM and the latest encryption techniques. Besides the powerful DVD decryption technology, this DVD converter can flawlessly rip out DVD content, with fast speed and 0-quality-loss.

It supports multi-core CPUs, GPU (NVIDIA, CUDATM and AMD) acceleration, batch mode and unique encode technology, which makes the conversion speed 30-50X faster. What’s more, it adopts Variable Bite rate (VBR) which offers better quality in a smaller file size. Convert DVD/Video to 150+ video formats and portable devices, including the newest iPhone 6/6 plus, Samsung Note 4, iPad mini 2, Moto X, Google Nexus 6 and etc.

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Is This Power Supply Bigger Than A Bread Box? No, It Is One.

[newtonn2] must have had food on his mind when he was deciding to embark on a power supply project. The enclosure is quite different…. it is a Bread Box! Even so, flipped up on end we must say it looks pretty cool. [newtonn2’s] previous power supply had crapped out and he needed a replacement supply ASAP, it was a loaf or death situation for this electronics enthusiast.

Similar to a lot of DIY bench power supplies, this one would also be based on an ATX computer power supply. These are good high-current supplies that output voltage in several convenient amounts and in this case are are all routed to their own spring terminals mounted on the enclosure. Even though those standard voltages might be good enough for most, [newtonn2] is extremely kneady and wanted a fully adjustable output so he designed up an adjustable voltage regulation circuit using an LM350 regulator. A volt meter and an amp meter indicates the power being supplied on the adjustable circuit.

Since his last power supply was toast, [newtonn2] wanted this one to be easily repairable. The ATX power supply inside can be replaced in two minutes because nothing is hard wired. The only connections are the ATX connector and power cord. For cooling, holes were drilled in the side of the enclosure so that fans could be installed. This was the yeast he could do to keep the temperature of the interior components down.

In the end [newtonn2] completed his goal of building a pretty unique and functional bench top power supply without spending a lot of dough. Check out his Instructable for extremely detailed build instructions including schematics for how all his components are wired.

Filed under: tool hacks

Electronic Glove Detects Sign Language

A team of Cornell students recently built a prototype electronic glove that can detect sign language and speak the characters out loud. The glove is designed to work with a variety of hand sizes, but currently only fits on the right hand.

The glove uses several different sensors to detect hand motion and position. Perhaps the most obvious are the flex sensors that cover each finger. These sensors can detect how each finger is bent by changing the resistance according to the degree of the bend. The glove also contains an MPU-6050 3-axis accelerometer and gyroscope. This sensor can detect the hand’s orientation as well as rotational movement.

While the more high-tech sensors are used to detect most characters, there are a few letters that are similar enough to trick the system. Specifically, they had trouble with the letters R, U, and V. To get around this, the students strategically placed copper tape in several locations on the fingers. When two pieces of tape come together, it closes a circuit and acts as a momentary switch.

The sensor data is collected by an ATmega1284p microcontroller and is then compiled into a packet. This packet gets sent to a PC which then does the heavy processing. The system uses a machine learning algorithm. The user can train the it by gesturing for each letter of the alphabet multiple times. The system will collect all of this data and store it into a data set that can then be used for detection.

This is a great project to take on. If you need more inspiration there’s a lot to be found, including another Cornell project that speaks the letters you sign, as well as this one which straps all needed parts to your forearm.

Filed under: Microcontrollers, peripherals hacks

Santa’s Autonomous Helping Hands Let the Jolly ol’ Fellow Kick Back this Season

For those skeptical about the feasibility of Santa’s annual delivery schedule, here’s an autonomous piece of the puzzle that will bewilder even the most hard-hearted of non-believers.

The folks over at the Center of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) in Germany have whipped together a fantastic demo featuring Santa’s extra pair of helping hands. In the two-and-a-half minute video, the robot executes a suite of impressive autonomous stocking-stuffing maneuvers: from recognizing the open hole in the stocking, to grasping specific candies from the cluster of goodies available.

On the hardware-side, the arms appear to be a KUKA-variant, while on the software-side, the visualizations are being handled by the open source robot software ROS‘ RVIZ tool.

If some of the props in the video look familiar, you’ll find that the researchers at CITEC have already explored some stellar perception, classification, and grasping of related research topics. Who knew this pair of hands would be so jolly to clock some overtime this holiday season? The entire video is set to a crisp computer-voiced jingle that serves as a sneaky summary of their approach to this project.

Now, if only we could set these hands off to do our other dirty work….

Filed under: Holiday Hacks, robots hacks

How Do High Heels Impact the Human Body? (infographic)

Humans do a lot of silly things to their bodies. Sometimes we do them simply because they are pleasurable; sometimes we do them because of cultural standards. But whatever rational we have, their impact is the same. Something that hurts the human body hurts the human body. Neither money nor the weight of cultural traditions can change that.

That said, of course, people are free to make their own decisions. At least, From Quarks to Quasars is not here to tell anyone what they should or should not do. But it is important for people to make informed decisions. Here, knowledge is the key.

With that in mind, wearing high heels is common in Western cultures. It is generally believed that a good pair of pumps can make or break an outfit. But as it turns out, a good pair of pumps may also make or break your knees. Ultimately, the knee is the largest joint in the human body. As such, it is built to take a lot of pressure; however,  high-heel use can puts a lot extra stress on the inner sides of the knees (an increase by as much as 26%). This can dramatically increase the rate at which osteoarthritis forms due to increased wear and tear.

And obviously, there are a number of different ways that heels hurt the body.

Now this likely won’t make anyone swear off high heels. After all, we all (more or less) already knew this. But it might help you remember to maybe forgo wearing them every now and again.


The post How Do High Heels Impact the Human Body? (infographic) appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

First Ever Parts Emailed to Space

The shocking thing is not that this happened. The shocking thing is how normal it seems. An astronaut inside a space station needed a ratcheting socket wrench. Someone else on Earth drew it up on a computer then e-mailed the astronaut. The astronaut clicked a button and then the tool was squirted out of a nozzle. Then he picked up and used the tool for the job he needed done. No big deal.

The story itself is almost uneventful – of course we can do these things now. Sure, it happens to be the first time in mankind’s history we have done this. Yes, it is revolutionary to be able to create tools on demand rather than wait months for one to be built planet-side and put onto the next resupply rocket. But, amateurs living in places without even widespread electricity or running water have already built these machines from actual garbage.

Every once in a while a story slaps us with how much the future is now.

These particular 3d prints were duplicated on the ground, and both sets preserved for future comparative analysis to see if microgravity has any effect on 3d prints. They have an eye on sending them to Mars, a journey where resupply is more than just a couple-month inconvenience.

See the first link above for more detail and photos of NASA’s 3d printer and the Microgravity Science Glovebox in the Columbus laboratory module.

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks