Thursday, June 30, 2016

The First Authoritative Prediction of the 2016 Presidential Election

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

An Incredible Space Museum In Seattle

Pivot Art + Culture exhibit
The “Imagined Futures” exhibit includes an XLR-99 engine (left) and a variety of space art. (credit: J. Foust)

Storytelling with space art and artifacts

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Last week’s NewSpace 2016 conference in Seattle had a strong focus on the commercial space business in general, and its growing presence in Seattle in particular. However, one surprising theme that emerged from the conference, interspersed among the sessions about finance and markets, was the importance of storytelling. Several speakers urged attendees to move beyond discussions of technology and applications and offer a bigger, more human story to explain their spaceflight pursuits.
“I love you people, but you’ve got to understand: you love your machines much more than most people do,” advised Miles O’Brien, the former CNN space correspondent, in a closing keynote at the conference. “I love machines, but that’s because I’m into it. The average person is more into ‘Mohawk guy’ [Bobak Ferdowsi] and Adam Steltzner and how they feel about it,” a reference to two of the engineers at JPL involved in the successful landing of Curiosity nearly four years ago.
“I love you people, but you’ve got to understand: you love your machines much more than most people do,” advised O’Brien.
Storytelling, though, can be more than just promoting interesting people involved with companies and missions. There’s long been an interplay between fact and fiction, reality and fantasy, each feeding off the other to offer visions of humanity future in space. A couple of museum exhibits within walking distance of the conference hotel in downtown Seattle offered some glimpses of how that can work.
“Imagined Futures” is an exhibit at the Pivot Art + Culture gallery located within the Allen Institute building near Lake Union. The “Allen” of the Allen Institute is Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and the exhibit is comprised of items from Allen’s own collection of art and artifacts.
Pivot Art + Culture exhibit
The exhibit includes several models of Von Braun concepts for launch vehicles and lunar landers. (credit: J. Foust)
The exhibition, according to the gallery, “explores the visualization of new space frontiers through works of art by modern masters of the speculative and fantastic.” It’s primarily a collection of artwork that depicts space exploration in one manner or another, from classics by Chesley Bonestell to more recent works by Don Dixon and Ron Miller. There are also models of both von Braun’s V-2 and his proposals for orbital launch vehicles and lunar landers.
That art is accompanies by a little bit of actual artifacts of spaceflight and space exploration. There is an XLR-99 engine used on the X-15 on display, as well as an IBM 360 computer like those used during the Apollo era. They are the exceptions, though, to an exhibit dominated by artwork and conceptual models.
Outside of the main gallery room, there is a separate art installation called “voyager one.” It is concept art created for this exhibition: you go inside a darkened room where the only light is from a single LED suspended from the ceiling. That light changes color to represent the distance of the Voyager 1 spacecraft from the Earth—but so slowly as it’s impossible to perceive any changes while you’re in the room, or even for the duration of the exhibition. “The pin-point of colored light emitted by the LED device parallels our experience of gazing skyward and looking for a sign from this distant muse,” an explanation accompanying the art installation explains. Okay, then.
While the exhibit is designed, according to the gallery, to address “the challenges of imagining the multiple realities of the unknown,” it’s hard to see a clear, coherent story being told by what’s on display. It’s interesting to look at the individual items on display, but put together they seem less than the sum of their parts. For $5, though, it’s worth a look if you’re in Seattle in the next couple of weeks (it closes July 10), and you may not have a lot of company: during a visit late on a Friday morning, there was no one else in the gallery.
The pin-point of colored light emitted by the LED device parallels our experience of gazing skyward and looking for a sign from this distant muse,” an explanation accompanying the art installation explains. Okay, then.
There are plenty of people, though, at the nearby EMP Museum, in the shadow of the Space Needle. Originally known as the Experience Music Project, the EMP Museum is now a mix of exhibits about music, video games, and science fiction. The museum is hosting a special exhibition this summer about Star Trek to mark the 50th anniversary of the science fiction franchise.
EMP Star Trek
A view of some of the items, like models of Deep Space Nine and iterations of the USS Enterprise, at the EMP Museum exhibit. (credit: J. Foust)
The exhibit features what you might expect: a collection of costumes, props, and starship models from the various series and movies. It’s really intended for people who are already fans of the show; visitors were gawking at, and taking photos of themselves with, the various items on display, like part of the bridge from the original series.
Star Trek, of course, excelled at storytelling, and provided a vision for the future that inspired generations of people to pursue careers in space. There’s not much of that link between science fiction and fact on display, beyond a video in an upper level of the exhibit that discusses the broader cultural impact of Star Trek. Elsewhere, there’s a brief discussion of the role in the 1960s played on the original series, including the inspiration the series took from the early space program. A silvery NASA garment from the Gemini program is on display with the nametag “E. H. WHITE II” on it, indicating it was worn, or at least assigned to, the late Ed White, although the description of the item doesn’t offer more details about it.
EMP Star Trek
A Gemini-era NASA garment, with Ed White's name, is the one real space item on display at the Star Trek exhibit. (credit: J. Foust)
The crowds in the exhibit (which requires an additional charge to the museum’s regular fee, for a total of $30 for adults) do demonstrate the interest and staying power of Star Trek that transcended the storylines and special effects. That doesn’t mean NewSpace companies should abandon technologies and business plans for good stories, but that storytelling, like the personalities O’Brien described, can help stoke interest beyond those companies’ customers and advocates.

Thomas Matula's avatar
Thomas Matula· 11 hours ago
Good article. One of the reason classic science fiction had the impact it did was because it consisted of good stories. But good story telling is almost a lost art in this age of sound bites and tweets.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Serious Warning To Politicians All Over The WOrld!

I was both sad and shocked to see the UK vote to leave the European Union. Once I recovered I had a Eureka Moment.
Throughout this presidential campaign I have issued the warning that there is literally a giant army of men and women in this country who have been left behind in this new economy. These people see all of the money going to the richest 1%. This is not the fault of one political party. Both parties share the responsibility for what has happened.
Any politician who does not offer recognition to these people and some solutions for them will find themselves out of work after the election.
The surprise vote in England shows that the army of angry and left-behind people are a worldwide phenomenon and not just a U.S. problem.
My friends a big upheaval and major changes are coming!!!!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Results Of A Personality Test That Elena Gave Me

Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit Will Reconfigure The UK Economy


Brexit will reconfigure the UK economy

Britain has prospered inside the EU but it will not do as well outside
Image of Martin Wolf
© Reuters
David Cameron, the prime minister, took a huge gamble and lost. The fearmongering of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Nigel Farage, The Sun and the Daily Mailhas won. The UK, Europe, the west and the world are, this morning, damaged. The UK is diminished and will, quite possibly, end up divided. Europe has lost its second-biggest and most outward-looking power.
The hinge between the EU and the English-speaking powers has been snapped. This is quite probably the most significant event in British history since the second world war. It could mark an important moment in the west’s retreat from globalisation. It is, above all, a victory of the disappointed and fearful over those confident in the UK’s ability to adapt to change and lead in Europe.
The geography of the outcome reveals that this has also been a revolt of the provinces against a prosperous and globalised London. It is also a revolt against the establishment — political, economic and commercial. Meanwhile, those who consider themselves losers and those who resent the changes in their country, notably the mass immigration, have won. They have torn down the structures built up by the establishment over half a century. The Labour party, to mention one notable casualty, must have lost a huge part of its support.
Yet the UK might not be the last country to suffer such an earthquake. Similar movements of the enraged exist elsewhere, notably in the US, with the rise of Donald Trump, France, with the rise of Marine Le Pen, and even Germany, with the rise of Alternative for Germany. Others might follow. But, in an act of terrible self-mutilation, the UK has led.
It is one of the great ironies that Tony Blair’s Labour government, with its decision to open the UK at once to migration from the new members of the EU, paved the way to an outcome that will horrify him and his erstwhile colleagues. It is now clear that the failure to introduce safeguards on migration when opening the EU to newer and far poorer members was a mistake. But that is ancient history. Its impact cannot be reversed.
It is another of the ironies that people like Mr Johnson and Mr Gove, the rising powers in this land, must now rely on the experts whose advice they scorned.
The UK is now at the beginning of an extended period of uncertainty that, in overwhelming probability, foreshadows a diminished future. The Conservatives will now end up with new leadership. Whether they will manage to produce anything that can operate as a government is another matter. They then will have to do what the Brexiters failed so egregiously to do during their mendacious campaign, namely, map out a strategy and tactics for unravelling the UK’s connections with the EU. This will probably consume the energies of that government and its successors over many years. It will also involve making some huge decisions. But one point seems evident: the UK will bring in controls over immigration from the EU. That rules out membership of the single market. At best, the UK might participate in a free trade area in goods.
Meanwhile, the rest of the EU, already burdened with so many difficulties, will have to work out its own negotiating positions. I expect them to be tough ones. Why should they treat a country that has given them such a kick in the teeth generously? Yes, Germany has a trade surplus with the UK. But it will continue to sell high-quality products that the UK does not make with ease. It is vital for the interests of the UK that it tries to make the process as easy as possible for its soon-to-be ex-partners. They will always be its neighbours.
The pound has already plunged. If sustained, which is likely, that might cushion the effect on output. If the pound’s fall generates a short-term jump in inflation, so be it. But George Osborne’s fiscal warnings were not entirely foolish. The provinces will have to learn, possibly quite soon, what the likely loss of economic dynamism will mean for the tax revenues on which they depend. An emergency Budget is unnecessary. But it is probable that the underlying fiscal position has now deteriorated because the economy will be smaller. That will demand a fiscal response, at some point, if not at once. Of course, this assumes that the loss of confidence in the UK is not so severe as to devastate belief in its capacity to manage itself. That cannot be ruled out.
The UK economy is going to be reconfigured. Those businesses that have set up in the UK to serve the entire EU market from within must reconsider their position. The City’s role in trading in euro-denominated assets will surely be reduced. But manufacturers, too, will have to consider how to readjust their structure of production. Many will ultimately wish to relocate. Businesses who depend on their ability to employ European nationals must also reshape their operations. Many, surely, will want to move within the EU single market. Such decisions will not have to be made at once. But they will adversely affect investment right now. In economic life, the future is always, to an extent, today.
In the short term, however, it will be difficult for businesses to make such decisions sensibly. They just cannot know how the complex decisions to be taken will finish up. This uncertainty has always been the most obvious result of a vote to leave. It is now with us. Only time will clear this fog. But the view that, beyond this period, the UK will end up poorer than it would otherwise have been remains overwhelmingly probable. The UK did very well during its period inside the EU. It is unlikely to do anything like as well outside it.
Yet economics are only a part of what matters. The UK’s decision to join the EU was taken for sound reasons. Its decision to leave was not. It is likely to be welcomed by Ms Le Pen, Mr Trump and Vladimir Putin. It is a decision by the UK to turn its back on the great European effort to heal its divisions. It is, for me, among the saddest of hours.
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Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Orlando Shooter Was Rigorously Investigated For His Security Officer's Job And "Slipped Through The Cracks"

Vetting Against the Odds

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For law enforcement officials and the public at large, the investigation of Omar Mateen, the gunman behind the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando, has raised as many questions as it has answered. What were his motivations? What was the state of his mental health? How did it happen that the FBI, which twice investigated Mateen, did not have him under active surveillance at the time of the attack? And why was he still employed in good standing as an armed security officer with GS4, the world's largest security services provider?
The answer to this last question, at least, has already surfaced. By GS4's own account, Mateen underwent a pre-employment screening in 2007, including criminal background checks, credit checks and, according to one report, a psychometric test. The company reinvestigated Mateen for cause in 2013, around the same time that the FBI was looking into pro-jihadist statements he had made to a co-worker. Neither investigation revealed anything of concern for the company. If Mateen could pass through a relatively rigorous screening process, how can other companies ensure that they have adequately vetted their employees?

A Brief History of Modern Security Vetting

Security vetting in its modern form is a fairly recent development. Before World War II, no formal, structured process governed vettings, which relied instead on personal recommendations and, often, blind faith. But the war, and the associated risk of espionage, spurred a series of laws and presidential orders formalizing an information classification system and establishing standards of loyalty and character for prospective government employees. As the Cold War set in, vetting became increasingly robust. Even so, the process was focused primarily on weeding out candidates who might be amenable to approach by hostile intelligence services. Character, mental stability and sound judgment were secondary concerns, considered only insofar as they might make a person vulnerable to blackmail. That determination depended on the social values and mores of the day. Sexual orientation, adultery and membership in certain organizations were all potential disqualifiers at one time.
As societal norms changed, so did vetting standards. The U.S. government now repeats screenings of its employees at least every five years — more often if they work in intelligence agencies or raise suspicions. In May, the government widened the scope of its investigations to include current or prospective employees' social media activity.
Outside the federal government, however, employers have lagged in their screening procedures. In fact, even for high-level or security positions, most employee vetting in the private sector consists of a single, pre-employment records check. Meanwhile, globalization and advances in technology have made trade secrets more vulnerable than ever to espionage, and the threat of workplace violence — such as the San Bernardino attack — has grown. That danger will become only more substantial as terrorist groups at home and abroad continue to encourage attacks on soft targets.

An Imperfect System

Regardless of their differences, security-screening procedures in the public and private sectors alike fall far short of foolproof. Both processes suffer from an overreliance on three principles that, though not entirely misguided, are also not universally true.

First fallacy: The official record is complete and reliable.

Although examining criminal and other records is essential to assessing a person's trustworthiness, it is only one part of effective security vetting. In the absence of documented evidence that a candidate has broken laws or exhibited other unacceptable behaviors, employers too often assume that he or she can be trusted. But many people flout laws and ethical standards throughout their lives without detection. For instance, skilled criminals using computers can pursue a life of crime without leaving an easily followed trail. Moreover, in many countries, official records may be incomplete, inaccurate or missing entirely, posing a special challenge to multinational companies vetting local employees. When considering candidates for initial appointment to sensitive positions, vetting must go much further and deeper than the official written record. 

Second fallacy: Past history is an accurate predictor of future behavior.

Security vetting has always relied on the idea that a person who has exhibited good character traits and has never run afoul of the law will stick to the straight and narrow going forward. But people change, and so do their circumstances. Mental illness, traumatic life events, deep debt, addiction and even career disappointments can change a person's character and behavior in unpredictable ways. Besides, there's a first time for every criminal. Even if an employee passes a rigorous security screening prior to hire, he or she could become dangerous.

Third fallacy: Experienced investigators are reliable judges of character and know when someone is lying.

Too often, even experienced investigators can fall short when it comes to judging a person's character. A psychopath subject to even the most robust security protocols can fly under the radar for decades. When speaking from sincere belief or pathological delusion, people can fool interviewers and, indeed, themselves. Years ago, I sat in on a polygraph in the Middle East conducted by a widely respected U.S. government professional who was attempting to verify threat information volunteered by a walk-in informant. Although we had good reason to doubt the informant's story, the detail and specificity of the supposed threats and the importance of the alleged targets prompted the government to take the extra precaution of performing a voluntary polygraph. For more than an hour, the polygrapher took the informant through every detail of his complicated story, and at no point did the machine indicate deception. Finally, the polygrapher turned it off and explained to the informant how important it was that he reveal his source, something he had refused to do throughout the process. The informant lowered his head and paused for a long moment, then looked the polygrapher in the eye and said, "The Prophet Mohammed told me these things." When the polygrapher turned the machine back on to verify this response, it once again registered no deception.

Tools of the Trade

With few exceptions, private employers are prohibited from subjecting candidates or employees to polygraph tests. But most polygraphers agree that the most valuable part of the test happens during the initial interview, before the polygraph machine is even turned on. A face-to-face interview by a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in employee vetting is likely just as effective as a polygraph, if not more so. Much like polygraphs, which indicate only whether a subject is uncomfortable with a question, psychometric tests require human interpretation to be of any value. Many believe that the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a test widely used in candidate vetting, is sensitive to attempts at deception. But a brief online search turns up various tutorials on how to "beat" the test. Furthermore, people with the very personality types that such tests are designed to screen against are also those most likely to try, and succeed, to game the system. Without expert interpretation and follow-up interviews, psychometric tests are insufficient for evaluating a potential employee. In Mateen's case, this was apparently overlooked: The psychologist whose name appeared on the form as Mateen's MMPI administrator has denied any involvement in his vetting process.
Security vetting for employees in sensitive positions is more than a means to provide bureaucratic cover for employment decisions; it is an important part of protective intelligence for any institution. An effective screening investigation should be comprehensive, including human sources beyond a candidate's provided references, social media activity, face-to-face interviews by a trained psychologist and routine — ideally, randomly spaced — security updates. Ultimately, however, employers must remember that the best intelligence in the world is useless unless it is acted upon.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sad Last Photgraphs