Day: July 5, 2019

Little-known twists in moonshot tales come to light for Apollo 11’s golden anniversary

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Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins (played by Patrick Kennedy) looks out at the moon in a dramatization that’s part of “8 Days: To the Moon and Back.” (BBC Studios)

Even after 50 years, it’s still possible to find new angles on one of history’s most widely witnessed events — as this year’s retellings of the Apollo 11 moon saga demonstrate.

The golden anniversary of the historic mission to the lunar surface in July 1969 provides the hook for a new wave of documentaries showing up in movie theaters and on video screens. Perhaps the best-known example is “Apollo 11,” which capitalized on recently rediscovered 70mm film footage from NASA’s vaults as well as 19,000 hours’ worth of audio recordings of Mission Control conversations.

But “Chasing the Moon,” a six-hour documentary series that premieres Monday on PBS, freshens the Apollo story in different ways. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Robert Stone goes back to the roots of the U.S.-Soviet moon race and brings in perspectives that rarely get a share of the spotlight.

For example, Sergei Khrushchev, the son of ’60s-era Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, helps tell the Russian side of the story — including the fact that the “missile gap” used as the rationale for the President John Kennedy’s ramped-up space program didn’t actually exist. Just before his assassination in 1963, a budget-conscious Kennedy floated an offer to cooperate with the Soviets on moon missions — but the Soviets turned him down, for fear that their secrets would be exposed.

“Chasing the Moon” also turns the spotlight on hidden figures including Poppy Northcutt, the first woman engineer to work in NASA’s Mission Control; and Ed Dwight, the test pilot who seemed destined to become Apollo’s first black astronaut but lost his place after Kennedy’s death. (In the documentary, Dwight recalls how Ed White, one of the astronauts who would later die in the 1967 Apollo 1 fire, kept getting fan mail that was meant for him instead.)

PBS is serving up several more final-frontier documentaries as part of its “Summer of Space” extravaganza, including a look at modern-day lunar exploration titled “Back to the Moon” (premiering July 10);  “8 Days: To the Moon and Back,” a co-production with the BBC that includes dramatizations of moonshot moments (July 17); “Ancient Skies,” tracing the history of astronomy (July 24); and “The Planets,” a grand tour of the solar system (July 24). There’s even an online-only space series called “Stellar” and a book tie-in for “Chasing the Moon.”

National Geographic takes a different tack in its retelling of the Apollo story. Premiering on Sunday, “Apollo: Missions to the Moon” knits together a two-hour documentary that relies exclusively on archival video. Poppy Northcutt makes her appearance in a ’60s-era miniskirt. There’s an inside look at the lives of the astronauts’ families, courtesy of TV coverage from the time. And we see TV personalities and news anchors chronicling the space effort’s feats, foibles and failures as they happen.

The Smithsonian Channel is adding a twist of augmented reality to “Apollo’s Moon Shot,” its six-part documentary series: You can download an app for iOS or Android that gives you the sense of sitting inside the Apollo 11 command module, lets you take a selfie in a virtual spacesuit, or watch a Saturn V rocket lift off from your AR-enhanced surroundings.

In cooperation with the Smithsonian, USA Today and Florida Today are gearing up their 321 Launch augmented-reality app to track the Apollo 11 mission as it happened 50 years ago, on an hour-by-hour basis starting July 16. The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation is offering it own AR app for iOS and Android called “JFK Moonshot.” And Microsoft has created an Apollo AR app for HoloLens — which unfortunately was involved in something of a misfire at its launch in May.

Book authors are also in the hunt for new angles to Apollo. When science writer Nancy Atkinson was doing the research for her newly published book, “Eight Years to the Moon,” she came across reports of a potentially catastrophic anomaly that occurred during the Apollo 11 command module’s re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere. The problem was addressed by the time Apollo 13 was launched and faded into the background.

Atkinson said an engineer who was in on the Apollo 11 debriefings shared information about the anomaly with her for the book. The engineer also shared the details with the team working on NASA’s Orion deep-space crew capsule “so that the same problem doesn’t happen for future missions returning from the moon or elsewhere,” she told GeekWire.

You can get the full story in “Eight Years to the Moon,” starting on page 214. “Being honest here, I want people to buy the book!” Atkinson joked.

Last month we compiled a book roundup for Apollo anniversary reading, but here are a few more new works worthy of note:

Facebook’s Image Outage Reminds Us How Bad Social Media Accessibility Really Is

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Facebook’s brief image outage earlier this week exposed the general public just how bad accessibly really is in our modern visual-first social Web. While governments and the technology community are investing heavily in AI bias, they care little about accessibility bias.

7-Eleven Japan shut down a mobile payments app after only two days because hackers exploited a simple security flaw and customers lost over $500,000

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  • On July 1, 7-Eleven Japan launched a mobile payment app, called 7pay, that had the security flaw of allowing anyone to reset any other user’s password, ZDNet reported
  • Bad actors accessed 900 customers’ accounts and ripped them off to the tune of about $510,000, the company says. 
  • 7-Eleven Japan has shut down the app and promised to compensate users for the money they lost.
  • Read more on the Business Insider homepage.

On July 1st, 7-Eleven Japan launched 7pay, a new mobile app that allows customers to make purchases at its convenience stores, which are widely popular in Asia. But two days later, 7pay was shut down, after the company advised customers that third parties had accessed some accounts.

All told, the company said in a press release, over 900 customers had their accounts accessed, and they lost a collective total of ¥55 million, the equivalent of about $510,000. It promises compensation for affected users.

7pay was 7-Eleven’s mobile wallet system, allowing users to make in-store payments by scanning a barcode at the cash register tied to a credit or debit card, similarly to systems like Walmart Pay. 

The way it went down, reports ZDNet and Yahoo Japan, is that some bad actors had exploited a simple security flaw with the password system — specifically, that anybody could reset any 7pay user’s password.

The issue, per those reports, was that 7pay only required the user’s email address, phone number, and date of birth to reset a password. Once all of that information is entered, however, it will apparently send a link to reset the password to any e-mail address you choose, even if it’s not your own. 

In other words, unauthorized parties could allegedly send the reset link to their own addresses, create their own passwords, and access that account, without any sophisitcated hacking technique. From there, those hackers could have theoretically walked into any 7-Eleven store that accepts 7pay and made purchases with somebody else’s account.

Read more: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory network was hacked by targeting a Raspberry Pi that wasn’t supposed to be connected to it

After the app launched, 7pay users tweeted about being locked out of their accounts.

A spokesperson for 7-Eleven did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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Apple Loop: New iPhone Leaks, Ugly Design Confirmed, Surprising MacBook Cancellation

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This week’s Apple Loop includes leaked iPhone 11 specs, confirmation of the new look iPhone, the fallout from Jony Ive’s resignation, confirmation of the new MacBook Pro, Apple sacrificing the butterfly keyboard, falling iPhone sales in India, and how much is Apple really worth.

Android Circuit: New Galaxy Camera Leaks, Nokia 9 PureView’s Next Step, Note 10 Launch Date

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This week’s Android Circuit includes the Galaxy Note 10 launch date, Samsung’s lack of selfie focus, a very special Galaxy camera feature, the Nokia 9 arriving in India, the vibrant colors of the Honor 20, OnePlus’ trade-in program updated, and the history of the notification bar.

Incredible videos show California’s biggest earthquake in 20 years rippling across North America

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Before fireworks streaked across the skies of southern California on July 4, nature unleashed its own thunderous blast of energy: an earthquake.

The magnitude 6.4 temblor struck near Ridgecrest around 10:34 a.m. PT, cracking roads, bursting water mains, and toppling electrical power lines with its might.

It was the most powerful quake to rattle the state in 20 years, and its shaking ended a five-year “drought” of earthquakes for California. Luckily, no deaths or major injuries have yet been reported.

As with all earthquakes, the Ridgecrest event was felt far beyond the borders of California — though not by people. Rather, incredibly sensitive devices called seismometers picked up the quake’s rumbles from thousands of miles away.

Seismometers record the various ground motions of earthquakes, and a single station’s data isn’t all that interesting. Yet when many of the devices are sprinkled across a continent, they can be used to reconstruct a seismological event as it spreads, dissipates, and even bounces off underground structures.

As shown by a network of hundreds of seismometers called USArray, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, that seismic-wave data can look incredible.

“The ground motions can be captured and displayed as a movie, providing a visual demonstration of these often indiscernible movements,” IRIS, a research group that studies seismological events and logs USArray data, says on its website. “The visualizations illustrate how seismic waves travel away from an earthquake.”

A Twitter account managed by IRIS posted one such video of California’s earthquake on Thursday night.

“Watch the waves from the M6.4 southern California earthquake roll across the USArray seismic network,” the group said in a tweet sharing the video below.

On its website, IRIS also shared a US-focused clip of the July 4th quake:

Each animation of the earthquake by IRIS compresses about 34 minutes into roughly 20 seconds.

“This animation, called a Ground Motion Visualization (GMV), shows the motion of the ground as detected on USArray seismometers,” IRIS said. “Each dot is a seismic station and when the ground moves up it turns red and when it moves down it turns blue.”

White shows a relatively inactive station, and the more intense the red or blue color, the stronger the relative motion. However, the colors are accentuated far away from Ridgecrest to show ground movements on the scale of the width of a human hair.

“Once the earthquake waves are far enough away from the location where the earthquake occurred they can no longer be felt by people, but they can still be detected by sensitive seismic instruments,” IRIS added. “That’s what this animation is showing — the waves from the California earthquake traveling through the Earth and across Earth’s surface.”

The shaking was felt from Mexico to San Francisco to Las Vegas, IRIS noted, “but was measured across the world.”

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