‘Gas Station in Space’ – A New Proposal to Convert Space Junk Into a Rocket Fuel

“An Australian company is part of an international effort to recycle dangerous space junk into rocket fuel — in space,” reports the Guardian.

Slashdot reader votsalo shared their report (which also looks at some of the other companies working on the problem of space debris).
South Australian company Neumann Space has developed an “in-space electric propulsion system” that can be used in low Earth orbit to extend the missions of spacecraft, move satellites, or de-orbit them. Now Neumann is working on a plan with three other companies to turn space junk into fuel for that propulsion system… Another U.S. company, Cislunar, is developing a space foundry to melt debris into metal rods. And Neumann Space’s propulsion system can use those metal rods as fuel — their system ionises the metal which then creates thrust to move objects around orbit.

Chief executive officer Herve Astier said when Neumann was approached to be part of a supply chain to melt metal in space, he thought it was a futuristic plan, and would not be “as easy as it looks”.

“But they got a grant from NASA so we built a prototype and it works,” he said…

Astier says it is still futuristic, but now he can see that it’s possible. “A lot of people are putting money into debris. Often it’s to take it down into the atmosphere and burn it up. But if it’s there and you can capture it and reuse it, it makes sense from a business perspective, because you’re not shipping it up there,” he said.

“It’s like developing a gas station in space.”

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First Electric Autonomous Cargo Ship Launched In Norway

Zero emissions and, soon, zero crew: the world’s first fully electric autonomous cargo vessel was unveiled in Norway, a small but promising step toward reducing the maritime industry’s climate footprint. TechXplore reports: By shipping up to 120 containers of fertilizer from a plant in the southeastern town of Porsgrunn to the Brevik port a dozen kilometres (about eight miles) away, the much-delayed Yara Birkeland, shown off to the media on Friday, will eliminate the need for around 40,000 truck journeys a year that are now fueled by polluting diesel. The 80-meter, 3,200-deadweight tonne ship will soon begin two years of working trials during which it will be fine-tuned to learn to maneuver on its own.

The wheelhouse could disappear altogether in “three, four or five years”, said Holsether, once the vessel makes its 7.5-nautical-mile trips on its own with the aid of sensors. “Quite a lot of the incidents happening on vessels are due to human error, because of fatigue for instance,” project manager Jostein Braaten said from the possibly doomed bridge. “Autonomous operating can enable a safe journey,” he said.

On board the Yara Birkeland, the traditional machine room has been replaced by eight battery compartments, giving the vessel a capacity of 6.8 MWh — sourced from renewable hydroelectricity. “That’s the equivalent of 100 Teslas,” says Braaten. The maritime sector, which is responsible for almost three percent of all man-made emissions, aims to reduce its emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050. Despite that, the sector has seen a rise in recent years.

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Alphabet Puts Prototype Robots To Work Cleaning Up Google’s Offices

The company announced today that its Everyday Robots Project — a team within its experimental X labs dedicated to creating “a general-purpose learning robot” — has moved some of its prototype machines out of the lab and into Google’s Bay Area campuses to carry out some light custodial tasks. The Verge reports: “We are now operating a fleet of more than 100 robot prototypes that are autonomously performing a range of useful tasks around our offices,” said Everyday Robot’s chief robot officer Hans Peter Brondmo in a blog post. “The same robot that sorts trash can now be equipped with a squeegee to wipe tables and use the same gripper that grasps cups can learn to open doors.”

These robots in question are essentially arms on wheels, with a multipurpose gripper on the end of a flexible arm attached to a central tower. There’s a “head” on top of the tower with cameras and sensors for machine vision and what looks like a spinning lidar unit on the side, presumably for navigation. As Brondmo indicates, these bots were first seen sorting out recycling when Alphabet debuted the Everyday Robot team in 2019. The big promise that’s being made by the company (as well as by many other startups and rivals) is that machine learning will finally enable robots to operate in “unstructured” environments like homes and offices.

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Thousands of Firefox Users Accidentally Commit Login Cookies On GitHub

Thousands of Firefox cookie databases containing sensitive data are available on request from GitHub repositories, data potentially usable for hijacking authenticated sessions. The Register reports: These cookies.sqlite databases normally reside in the Firefox profiles folder. They’re used to store cookies between browsing sessions. And they’re findable by searching GitHub with specific query parameters, what’s known as a search “dork.” Aidan Marlin, a security engineer at London-based rail travel service Trainline, alerted The Register to the public availability of these files after reporting his findings through HackerOne and being told by a GitHub representative that “credentials exposed by our users are not in scope for our Bug Bounty program.”

Marlin then asked whether he could make his findings public and was told he’s free to do so. “I’m frustrated that GitHub isn’t taking its users’ security and privacy seriously,” Marlin told The Register in an email. “The least it could do is prevent results coming up for this GitHub dork. If the individuals who uploaded these cookie databases were made aware of what they’d done, they’d s*** their pants.”

Marlin acknowledges that affected GitHub users deserve some blame for failing to prevent their cookies.sqlite databases from being included when they committed code and pushed it to their public repositories. “But there are nearly 4.5k hits for this dork, so I think GitHub has a duty of care as well,” he said, adding that he’s alerted the UK Information Commissioner’s Office because personal information is at stake. Marlin speculates that the oversight is a consequence of committing code from one’s Linux home directory. “I imagine in most of the cases, the individuals aren’t aware that they’ve uploaded their cookie databases,” he explained. “A common reason users do this is for a common environment across multiple machines.”

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Programmer Restores YouTube Dislike Counts With Browser Extension

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: YouTube’s decision to hide dislike counts on videos has sparked anger and derision. One inventive programmer has attempted to restore the feature in a browser extension. The plugin currently uses the Google API to generate the dislike count. However, this functionality will be removed from December 13. “I’ll try to scrape as much data as possible until then,” the extension’s creator said on Reddit. “After that — total dislikes will be estimated using extension users as a sample.”

The alpha version isn’t perfect. It currently only works on videos for which the Youtube API returns a valid dislike count. The calculations could also be skewed by the userbase, which is unlikely to represent the average YouTube viewer. The developer said they’re exploring ways to mitigate this, such as comparing the downvotes collected through the public of extension users to a cache of real downvotes. The results should also improve as uptake grows. The plugin could provide a useful service, but its greatest value may be as a potent symbol of protest. You can try it out here — but proceed at your own risk. If you want to check out the code, it’s been published on GitHub. Further reading: YouTube Co-Founder Predicts ‘Decline’ of the Platform Following Removal of Dislikes

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Tea and Coffee May Be Linked To Lower Risk of Stroke and Dementia, Study Finds

Drinking coffee or tea may be linked with a lower risk of stroke and dementia, according to the largest study of its kind. The Guardian reports: Strokes cause 10% of deaths globally, while dementia is one of the world’s biggest health challenges — 130 million are expected to be living with it by 2050. In the research, 365,000 people aged between 50 and 74 were followed for more than a decade. At the start the participants, who were involved in the UK Biobank study, self-reported how much coffee and tea they drank. Over the research period, 5,079 of them developed dementia and 10,053 went on to have at least one stroke.

Researchers found that people who drank two to three cups of coffee or three to five cups of tea a day, or a combination of four to six cups of coffee and tea, had the lowest risk of stroke or dementia. Those who drank two to three cups of coffee and two to three cups of tea daily had a 32% lower risk of stroke. These people had a 28% lower risk of dementia compared with those who did not drink tea or coffee. The research, by Yuan Zhang and colleagues from Tianjin Medical University, China, suggests drinking coffee alone or in combination with tea is also linked with lower risk of post-stroke dementia. “[W]hat generally happened is that the risk of stroke or dementia was lower in people who drank reasonably small amounts of coffee or tea compared to those who drank none at all, but that after a certain level of consumption, the risk started to increase again until it became higher than the risk to people who drank none,” said professor Kevin McConway, an emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University who was not involved in the study.

“Once the coffee consumption got up to seven or eight cups a day, the stroke risk was greater than for people who drank no coffee, and quite a lot higher than for those who drank two or three cups a day.”

The study has been published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

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