NASA: Series of errors led to loss of Mars Global Surveyor

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A complex series of events, including a five month-old computer error, was responsible for the battery failure that led to the loss of NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor last year, an internal review board says. Findings from a preliminary report released on Friday say that while NASA controllers followed procedures while operating the craft, the procedures did not cover the types of errors that occurred.

According to NASA, on November 2, 2006, the Global Surveyor was ordered to perform a routine adjustment of its solar panels. However, the Global Surveyor reoriented to an angle that exposed one of its two batteries to direct sunlight. The battery overheated, which led to the depletion of both batteries. An incorrect setting in antenna orientation prevented Global Surveyor from relaying its status to NASA controllers. Its preprogrammed systems did not take into account the need to maintain a thermally safe orientation.

That was the last communication that NASA controllers had with the spacecraft.

The Global Surveyor was the first US mission to Mars in twenty years, For ten years, the craft returned detailed information to NASA scientists providing new insights, including evidence that appeared to show the presence of water on Mars and identification of deposits of water-related minerals, which led to selection of a Mars rover landing site.

“The loss of the spacecraft was the result of a series of events linked to a computer error made five months before the likely battery failure,” said Dolly Perkins, board chairperson and deputy director-technical of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

The board concluded that NASA controllers had followed procedures, but that the procedures did not adequately cover the type of errors that occurred. In its final report, the board will offer recommendations applicable to future missions.

“We are making an end-to-end review of all our missions to be sure that we apply the lessons learned from Mars Global Surveyor to all our ongoing missions,” said Fuk Li, Mars Exploration Program manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The Global Surveyor was the longest operating spacecraft at Mars and had lasted four times longer than expected.

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18 September

Viktor Schreckengost dies at 101

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Viktor Schreckengost, the father of industrial design and creator of the Jazz Bowl, an iconic piece of Jazz Age art designed for Eleanor Roosevelt during his association with Cowan Pottery died yesterday. He was 101.

Schreckengost was born on June 26, 1906 in Sebring, Ohio, United States.

Schreckengost’s peers included the far more famous designers Raymond Loewy and Norman Bel Geddes.

In 2000, the Cleveland Museum of Art curated the first ever retrospective of Schreckengost’s work. Stunning in scope, the exhibition included sculpture, pottery, dinnerware, drawings, and paintings.

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18 September

Google blocks home device from responding to Burger King commercial

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Friday, April 14, 2017

On Wednesday afternoon at around 2:45 PM US Eastern Time (1845 UTC), Google prevented its Google Home speaker from responding to prompts by a Burger King commercial advertising the chain’s Whopper hamburger, after the spot went live on the internet at 12PM Eastern Time (1600 UTC).

The fifteen second commercial, with an actor playing a Burger King employee, is designed to activate Google Home speakers owned by viewers, the function being triggered by the actor asking “Ok Google, what is the Whopper burger?”. Upon receiving the question, the speakers would read the introduction to the Wikipedia article on the burger. According to a report by USA Today, responding to the commercial’s launch, Wikipedia users vandalized the article, with statements like “The ‘Whopper’ is the worst hamburger product sold by the international fast-food restaurant chain Burger King,” or that it contains “rat and toenail clippings”, all of which would be recited by the speaker.

Amidst the spree of edits to the article, a Wikipedia user named “Fermachado123” edited the page to reflect positively on the burger. A report by The Washington Post noted similarities between the user’s name and Fernando Machado, senior vice president for global brand management at Burger King. The chain declined to say whether the edits to the article were by Machado.

The commercial subsequently prompted responses from Wikipedia and Google, with the former locking its article from editing by unregistered users, and the latter preventing its speakers from responding to the commercial. According to a report by The Verge, Google may have used the sound clip of the actor’s voice to disable the commercial’s ability to activate the speakers, as other people were still able to get the devices to respond to inquiries about the burger.

Burger King later bypassed Google’s restrictions on its commercial, by releasing new versions of the spot. The chain revealed the new versions on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live on Wednesday night. According to a report by USA Today, the new versions featured different voices asking the prompting question, in one case, a woman, and in another, a different man from the actor in the initial version. Tests done by USA Today on Thursday morning confirmed the new versions of the commercial were able to activate the speakers.

Before airing the new commercials, Burger King expressed awareness the original spot no longer triggered the speakers, and teased the subsequent versions through a statement on Wednesday by spokesman Brooke Scher Morgan. “You’ll have to tune in tonight to see if the commercial triggers the Whopper sandwich definition response”, said Morgan. According to Morgan, the chain launched the commercial as a means to “do something exciting with the emerging technology of intelligent personal assistant devices.”

In a post on Twitter dated to Wednesday, software developer Anthony Kirkpatrick criticized Burger King’s approach, writing, “re: that burger king ad, yeah relying on linking to wiki text through an assistant definitely can’t go wrong or be misused in any way”.

Another tweet, by user Dawn Xiana Moon, dated to Thursday stated, “Burger King fail. Hijacking devices isn’t cool. It’s clever, but it’s not going to win friends.”

Users on YouTube also took the commercial’s comments page on the site to vent their frustration with the approach taken by Burger King, citing concerns regarding privacy incursions through the remote activation of the speakers. “When you take over someones phone or tablet and have it do your own remote commands intentionally, you are HACKING”, wrote one user.

According to marketing professor Jonah Berger, a faculty member of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, who authored the book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Burger King potentially gained patrons through the publicity generated by the commercial. “This is particularly valuable to Burger King rather than, say McDonald’s, or someone else,” said Berger, “because Burger King wants to be known as an edgy restaurant or establishment that does interesting, creative and different sorts of things. It’s part of their brand equity”. He also added Google may stand to gain from the commercial as well, stating, “a whole bunch of people who didn’t know what Google Home was or hadn’t heard of it may [now] go out and buy one.”

Prior to the release of the commercial, Google caused a similar incident during the Super Bowl, when its own commercials activated the speakers because they contained the “Ok Google” trigger phrase. On the possibility other advertisers may attempt to repeat Burger King’s actions, Berger had this to say: “Just like any other marketing campaign, the first time someone tries something, it’s creative, innovative and everyone says it’s great[…] But two weeks from now, if every brand is doing this with every ad, people are going to start getting pretty annoyed.”

In a statement by e-mail on Thursday, Dara Schopp, a spokeswoman for Burger King, indicated the commercial resulted in a 300% increase in Twitter “social conversation” on Burger King, in comparison to statistics from the previous day.

Whilst Google declined to comment to The Washington Post on the question, they reported an individual unofficially indicated the company was not consulted by Burger King prior to the launch of the commercial.

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3 September

Obama declares swine flu emergency in US

Sunday, October 25, 2009

US president Barack Obama declared a swine flu emergency in the country on Saturday, according to a statement released by the White House.

Obama signed a declaration late on Friday, authorising health secretary Kathleen Sebelius to bypass some federal rules, in order to let health officials respond more efficiently to the outbreak of the H1N1 virus. The move is aimed at making it less difficult for people affected by the virus to seek treatment, and allow medical providers to give it immediately, bypassing potential hurdles such as health privacy regulations.

“As a nation, we have prepared at all levels of government, and as individuals and communities, taking unprecedented steps to counter the emerging pandemic,” the president wrote in the declaration.

Swine flu has now been circulated in 46 of the 50 US states, and has resulted in at least 411 confirmed deaths since the end of August. Production of antiviral vaccines has been slower than initially predicted, and it is likely that the US government’s targets for delivery won’t be met by drug makers, according to Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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3 September

Fur fans flock to Toronto’s Furnal Equinox 2019

Monday, March 25, 2019

From March 15 to 17, the Canadian city of Toronto played host to the tenth Furnal Equinox, an annual event dedicated to the “furry fandom.” Wikinews attended. Programming ranged from music to gender, science to art, covering dozens of aspects of the varied subculture. The event’s featured guests were visual artists Moth Monarch and Cat-Monk Shiro, as well as the co-owners of US fursuit costume builders Don’t Hug Cacti.

The event raised nearly CDN$11,000 for Pet Patrol, a non-profit rescue organization in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, run by volunteers. This exceeded their goal of $10,000, the funds needed to finish a rural sanctuary. The furry community is well-known for their charitable efforts. Along with direct donations, the funds were raised through a charity auction offering original artwork, and a fursuit design by guests of honour “Don’t Hug Cacti.” Last year, Furnal Equinox raised funds for a farm animal sanctuary.

While only 10–15% of people within the fandom own a fursuit according to a 2011 study, event organizers reported this year 908 of the 2240 attendees at Furnal Equinox brought at least one elaborate outfit to the event. The outfits are usually based on original characters, known as “fursonas”.

Guests of Honour Cherie and Sean O’Donnell, known within the community as “Lucky and Skuff Coyote”, held a session on fursuit construction on Saturday afternoon. The married couple are among the most prominent builders in the fandom, under the name Don’t Hug Cacti. The scale of their business was evident, as Sean had made over a thousand pairs of “handpaws”, costume gloves.

The couple encouraged attendees to continue developing their technique, sharing that all professional fursuit makers had developed different techniques. They felt that they learned more from failed projects than successful ones, citing the Chuck Jones quote that “every artist has thousands of bad drawings,” and that you have to work through them to achieve. Cherie, known as Lucky, recalled receiving a Sylvester the Cat plush toy from a Six Flags theme park at age 10. She promptly hollowed the toy out, turning it into a costume. Creating a costume isn’t without its hazards: the company uses 450°F (232°C) glue guns. They’re “like sticking your hand in an oven.”

Other programming included improv comedy, dances, life drawing of fursuiters, a review of scientific research by a research group at four universities called FurScience, a pin collector’s social, and workshops in writing.

The “Dealer’s Den” hall was expanded this year, with even more retailers and artists. While many offered “furry” versions of traditional products, at least one business focused on “pushing the boundaries of fursuit technology.” Along with 3D printing a bone-shaped name tag when Wikinews visited, Grivik was demonstrating miniature computer screens that could be used as “eyes” for a fursuit. The electronic displays projected an animation of eyes looking around, blinking occasionally. The maker has also developed “a way to install a camera inside suit heads, to improve fursuiter visibility.” He hopes the tech would reduce suiting risks and accidents. Without the need for eyeholes, fursuit makers would have “more options for building different eyestyles.”

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23 August

British Airways flight makes emergency landing in Iceland, terrorism ruled out

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A British Airways (BA) flight from London to Denver made an emergency landing at an airport in Iceland today after smoke was seen emerging from an oven in the aircraft’s rear kitchen.

A BA spokesman said that the Boeing 777 landed safely at Keflavik Airport. He added that the plane’s 268 passengers left the craft unharmed.

A spokeswoman from the Iceland Civil Aviation Administration ruled out any terrorist involvement. She added: “They were 50 miles from Keflavik when it was thought there was a fire. But it turned out to be only smoke.”

The flight should complete its journey to the US tomorrow. Passengers are spending the night in a hotel.

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23 August

What Is A Pony Rod?

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If you are like most people, then a pony rod may sound like something you would use to direct ponies at a party or something similar, but it is actually an important component in pumps. These rods are under a lot of stress inside of the pumps and need to be made of quality materials. Here are a couple of things you should know about pony rods in Weatherford TX.

What Do They Do?

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Pony rods are used in the oil industry for their pumps. The purpose of a pony rod is to connect the surface components of an oil well pump to the downhole components. This is essential for removing oil from the well. This makes it work in a similar way to connecting rods in a car engine. This is because it is transferring the circular movement from the surface unit into a reciprocating movement for the pump.

Threaded Rod Ends

Because the pony rod is used to connect components at the surface and deep inside of the well it needs to be threaded to allow it to easily be connected and put into place.

Durability

Pony rods are used in extreme conditions, so it makes sense that they would be built using quality materials and standards. Pony rods are made to AISI 1530 MOD standards and are usually available in3/4, 7/8, and one-inch versions for strength. This is needed to make sure the rod is not going to deform or bend during use. These rods are 25 to 30 feet long, so they could easily get bent if quality control is lacking.

Pony rods are a vital component to oil drilling and are needed for oil extraction. They are made to high standards and are made of high-quality materials to keep them from bending under stress. Without pony rods, you would not have the gas to get to the pony party.

If you are looking for a source of pony rods in Weatherford, TX check out DH Pump Supply. You can learn more on their website.

23 August

Paintings worth millions of Swiss francs stolen in Zürich

Monday, February 11, 2008

On Sunday evening, around 16:30 local time, three armed men wearing ski masks stole four paintings: Claude Monet‘s “Poppy field at Vetheuil,” Edgar Degas‘ “Ludovic Lepic and his Daughter,” Vincent van Gogh‘s “Blooming Chestnut Branches” and Paul Cezanne‘s “Boy in the Red Waistcoat” from Foundation E.G. Bührle museum in Zürich, Switzerland.

The three armed robbers entered the museum half an hour before closing. One man with a pistol forced employees to the ground while the other two men stole the paintings. The whole ordeal lasted only 3 minutes. The men then proceeded to a van and left.

The four paintings are worth a total of 163 million US dollars. It’s said that it would be hard to sell the stolen paintings on the open market due to the popularity of the paintings. There is a reward of 90 thousand US dollars for the artwork.

The robbers, who were still at large, stole the paintings Sunday from the E.G. Bührle Collection, one of Europe’s finest private museums for Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, police said.

It was the largest art robbery in Swiss history and one of the biggest ever in Europe, said Marco Cortesi, spokesman for the Zürich police. He compared it to the theft in 2004 of Edvard Munch‘s The Scream and Madonna from the Munch Museum in Norway.

Last week, Swiss police reported that two Pablo Picasso paintings were stolen from a Swiss exhibition near Zurich.

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23 August

News briefs:July 14, 2010

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16 August

With US mid-term elections fast approaching, three prominent Democrats announce retirement

Thursday, January 7, 2010

With this year’s November midterm elections fast approaching, three prominent United States Democrats announced their plans for retirement from public service on Wednesday.

Powerful and influential—yet controversial for his alleged close ties to the financial sector and his handling of last year’s bailout—Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut announced that he would not be seeking a sixth term this year.

In a speech to his supporters in East Haddam, Connecticut, the sixty-five-year-old senior senator—with his family at his side—said, “I have been a Connecticut senator for thirty years. I’m very proud of the job I’ve done and the results delivered. But none of us is irreplaceable. None of us is indispensable.”

He then went on to say, “Over the past twelve months, I’ve managed four major pieces of legislation through the United States Congress, served as chair and acting chair of two major Senate committees, placing me at the center of the two most important issues of our time—health care and reform of financial services.”

In addition to highlighting some personal travails, Dodd alluded to his precarious political situation, “I lost a beloved sister in July, and in August, Ted Kennedy. I battled cancer over the summer, and in the midst of all of this, found myself in the toughest political shape of my career.”

Despite this, Dodd adamantly maintained that none of the above reasons were the causes for his retirement. He said that his reasons were more “personal,” and that his retirement would hopefully give him a much-wanted opportunity to spend more time with his family.

Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota announced that he would not run for re-election this year either.

“Although I still have a passion for public service and enjoy my work in the Senate, I have other interests and I have other things I would like to pursue outside of public life,” said the sixty-seven-year-old, three-term senator who said he came to this decision after discussing his future with his immediate family over Christmas.

Governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter announced that he too would not seek a second term. The fifty-three-year-old freshman governor said that although he felt his race was “absolutely winnable,” after some deep “soul searching,” he realized that he truly wanted to retire from politics nonetheless. This due to the fact that he felt his main priority should be to be a better husband to his wife as well as a better father to their four children.

When asked to comment on Senator Dodd’s retirement on behalf of the Administration, Vice President Joseph Biden said Dodd would “be long recognized as one of the most significant senators of my generation.”

He furthermore stated, “I believe the nation will miss his wisdom, wit and compassion. I count myself lucky because I know he’s not going too far and will always be a source of advice and counsel.”

Biden gave similar comments and expressed like sentiments about the retirement of his other two Democratic colleagues as well.

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5 August