The Daily Flash -Sci, Space, Tech (1/18)

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Astronomer Mike Brown on How He Killed Pluto

Why does Pluto not deserve to be a planet? Pluto as an individual is absolutely not as important as the other eight planets. If it were to disappear suddenly tomorrow, it would not change anything dramatic about the solar system. We wouldn’t even feel it. You can’t say that about the eight real planets. Might there be another ninth planet out there? I predict eight will stay the number forever. Maybe there’s something larger than Mercury in the very distant part of the solar system that’s in a crazy elliptical orbit. But if we found something like that, we would have to rethink the definition of a planet all over again.

Natanz-nuclear-facility Did a U.S. Government Lab Help Israel Develop Stuxnet?

Questions have been raised about the involvement of U.S. government researchers in the creation of a digital weapon that experts believe may have sabotaged centrifuges at a uranium-enrichment plant in Iran. Researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Energy, may have passed critical information to Israel about vulnerabilities in a system that controls Iran’s enrichment plant at Natanz. That information was then used to create and test the so-called Stuxnet worm that was unleashed in a joint cyber attack on Natanz, according to the New York Times. The report, based on anonymous sources, is sparse on detail but asserts that in 2008 INL worked with the German firm Siemens to uncover vulnerabilities in its industrial control system. Stuxnet was then created to exploit those vulnerabilities and was tested at a lab at Israel’s nuclear facility in Dimona. The Dimona facility, according to the Times, has been involved in a joint U.S.-Israel operation for the last two years to thwart Iran’s production of enriched uranium and forestall its development of a nuclear weapon.

Size0-army.mil-60353-2010-01-04-070125 Tweet Away, Troops: Pentagon Won’t Ban Social Media

Using Facebook to stay connected to your friends and family while stationed in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan? Whatever changes are underway for the Pentagon’s use of social media, they’re not going to stop you from updating your Wall. “Social media tools are pervasive in the 21st century communications environment, and the department intends to fully utilize those capabilities,” Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, assures Danger Room.

 

JobsA What's wrong with Steve Jobs, and will Apple suffer?

Steve Jobs's sick leave has generated the sort of news coverage normally reserved for a member of the first family. The speculation is of two types: what might be wrong with him, and the implications for Apple. Most likely, as explained in the San Jose Mercury News is one of two possible outcomes: first, as backed by ABC News, that a rare form of pancreatic cancer diagnosed and successfully treated in 2004 has returned; second, as articulated by the San Francisco Chronicle, that his body is rejecting the liver transplant he received in 2009. Beyond that, there are numerous other possibilities relating both to the original cancer and to likely complications of the transplant, each with its own implications for his future health.

Independence_day Best Sci-Fi Effects of All Time

Sometimes it's the little things that send the mind soaring. Take the pen that floats, weightless, before being plucked from the air by a space stewardess in 2001: A Space Odyssey: It's a simple scene, but it feels real and sends the imagination into hyperdrive. Still, when Wired.com asked its readers to name their favorite sci-fi visual effects of all time, we got plenty of over-the-top nominations, from Alien's vicious extraterrestrials to Avatar's groovy bioluminescent trees. The conversation that unfolded in the comments section of our Monsters giveaway post was surprisingly thoughtful — and surprisingly long.

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