Tuesday, August 31, 2010

NASA Extends Contract With United Space Alliance

Michael Curie

Headquarters, Washington
James Hartsfield
Johnson Space Center, Houston


WASHINGTON -- NASA has extended the Space Program Operations Contract with United Space Alliance, LLC, of Houston to March 31, 2011. The $909,593,590 contract extension supports flight operations for the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs.

The contract provides mission design and planning, astronaut and flight controller training, system integration, flight operations, vehicle processing, launch and recovery, vehicle sustaining engineering, and flight crew equipment processing. This is a cost reimbursement contract with award and performance fees.

Work will be performed at United Space Alliance facilities in Houston, Huntsville, Ala., and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as well as major subcontractor facilities in Huntington Beach, Calif., Houston, and Cape Canaveral, Fla. Significant subcontractors include Barrios Technology, LTD of Houston, Bastion Technologies, Inc. of Houston, Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems of Newtown, Pa., Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., and The Boeing Company of Houston.

Wound Care Conference

Astronauts Linda Godwin and Scott Altman Leave NASA

Michael Curie

Headquarters, Washington

Nicole Cloutier-Lemasters
Johnson Space Center, Houston

RELEASE : 10-204

HOUSTON -- NASA astronauts Linda Godwin and Scott Altman have announced plans to leave the agency. Godwin will retire and Altman will take a job in the private sector.

Godwin joined NASA in 1980 and worked in the Payload Operations Division. She was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1985. A veteran of four spaceflights, Godwin logged more than 38 days in space, including more than 10 hours during two spacewalks. She flew aboard STS-37 in 1991; served as payload commander of STS-59 in 1994; and flew on STS-76 in 1996 and STS-108 in 2001. Godwin also supported numerous technical assignments within NASA's Astronaut Office and most recently served as the assistant to the director for exploration, Flight Crew Operations Directorate.

"Linda's 30-year career at NASA was filled with contributions to the human spaceflight mission," said Brent Jett, director of Flight Crew Operations at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "She should be proud of her service to the agency and the country."

Altman, a retired U.S. Navy captain, joined NASA in March 1995. He also has flown four shuttle missions, logging more than 51 days in space. He was the pilot of STS-90 in 1998 and STS-106 in 2000, and was commander of the final two missions to the Hubble Space Telescope, STS-109 in 2002 and STS-125 in 2009.

Altman also performed other technical duties within the agency, including temporary duty to NASA Headquarters as deputy director of the Requirements Division of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. Most recently, he served as chief of the Exploration Branch of the Astronaut Office.

"Scott has been a tremendous contribution to the astronaut corps and this agency," said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office. "In his 15 years with NASA, he has performed flawlessly and demonstrated leadership in every position he's served. He will be greatly missed."

NIST Researchers Create 'Quantum Cats' Made of Light

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have created "quantum cats" made of photons (particles of light), boosting prospects for manipulating light in new ways to enhance precision measurements as well as computing and communications based on quantum physics.

The NIST experiments, described in a forthcoming paper,* repeatedly produced light pulses that each possessed two exactly opposite properties—specifically, opposite phases, as if the peaks of the light waves were superimposed on the troughs. Physicists call this an optical Schrödinger's cat. NIST's quantum cat is the first to be made by detecting three photons at once and is one of the largest and most well-defined cat states ever made from light. (Larger cat states have been created in different systems by other research groups, including one at NIST.)

A "cat state" is a curiosity of the quantum world, where particles can exist in "superpositions" of two opposite properties simultaneously. Cat state is a reference to German physicist Erwin Schrödinger's famed 1935 theoretical notion of a cat that is both alive and dead simultaneously.

"This is a new state of light, predicted in quantum optics for a long time," says NIST research associate Thomas Gerrits, lead author of the paper. "The technologies that enable us to get these really good results are ultrafast lasers, knowledge of the type of light needed to create the cat state, and photon detectors that can actually count individual photons."

The NIST team created their optical cat state by using an ultrafast laser pulse to excite special crystals to create a form of light known as a squeezed vacuum, which contains only even numbers of photons. A specific number of photons were subtracted from the squeezed vacuum using a device called a beam splitter. The photons were identified with a NIST sensor that efficiently detects and counts individual photons (see "NIST Detector Counts Photons With 99 Percent Efficiency," NIST Tech Beat, Apr. 13, 2010, at www.nist.gov/eeel/optoelectronics/detector_041310.cfm.) Depending on the number of subtracted photons, the remaining light is in a state that is a good approximation of a quantum cat says Gerrits—the best that can be achieved because nobody has been able to create a "real" one, by, for instance, the quantum equivalent to superimposing two weak laser beams with opposite phases.

NIST conducts research on novel states of light because they may enhance measurement techniques such as interferometry, used to measure distance based on the interference of two light beams. The research also may contribute to quantum computing—which may someday solve some problems that are intractable today—and quantum communications, the most secure method known for protecting the privacy of a communications channel. Larger quantum cats of light are needed for accurate information processing.

Asymmetric Electron Behavior Discovered in High-temperature Superconductors

Scientists at Cornell University, along with an international team of researchers, recently discovered that electrons in a superconducting material, copper oxide, spontaneously picked a preferred direction in which to spin.

The finding could lead to the long-sought goal of conducting electricity without power loss at room temperature, paving the way for wide use in an energy-saving electrical power grid.

Superconductors are materials that lose all electrical resistance when cooled below a certain temperature. The first superconductors scientists found had to be cooled to temperature of near absolute zero (about -273 degrees Celsius or -460 degrees Fahrenheit) in order to transmit electricity without losing any power.

But the need to keep the materials so cold before they can superconduct makes it impractical to use them in long promised technologies such as ultra-fast computers, advanced modes of high-speed transportation and loss-free power grids.

In the mid-1980s, a new class of "high-temperature" superconductor materials was discovered that superconduct well above absolute zero, although still far below room temperature.

Among these materials is a group of materials called cuprates, which superconduct at temperatures as "high" as about -123 C (-190 F). The copper oxide crystal used by the scientists at Cornell is a cuprate superconductor.

Normally, the material's copper and oxygen atoms group together into symmetrical units, and scientists would expect the electrons in each unit to behave symmetrically also. This means each unit's electron spin picks a random up or down direction. But when each unit's electron spin picks the same direction, it's called broken symmetry, and it's a sign that a significant change in the material has taken place.

Examples of these changes, also called phase transitions, include liquid water freezing into ice or boiling into a vapor. A material changing from a non-conducting state to a superconducting state is another kind of phase transition.

"Think of it like a magnet on a refrigerator door," explained Eun-Ah Kim, assistant professor of physics at Cornell. "This type of magnet works because it has electron spins all pointing in one particular direction, rather than randomly. Such spontaneous collective choice is called symmetry breaking."

In the case or the research team working with the copper oxide material, the broken symmetry showed up in images of cuprates taken by a scanning tunneling microscope operated by researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York.

Kim said the finding presents "an opportunity for a whole new stage of research. We have a map of this broken symmetry; now we can experimentally study how it affects superconductivity." The finding further points to a theoretical model that may explain the mechanism of high temperature superconductivity.

Getting to the bottom of this broken symmetry in cuprates may eventually help scientists create new materials that show superconductivity at warmer and warmer temperatures.

"Solving the mystery of how some materials can superconduct at something akin to room temperature is important," said Kim. "But there is also an element of genuine curiosity. Unlocking secrets of a collective behavior of an astronomical number of interacting electrons is like discovering a new galaxy."

Contributing to this research were scientists from Cornell; Brookhaven National Laboratory; Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY; University of Tokyo; Magnetic Materials Laboratory, Saitama, Japan; Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Ibaraki, Japan; and University of St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland.

To read more about it, see Cornell University's press release; also see the published report in the July 15 issue of the journal Nature.

The National Science Foundation's Division of Materials Research supported the research.

Bobbie Mixon
Holly Martin

Melissa Hines
Francis DiSalvo
Eun-Ah Kim

Next International Space Station Crew Holds News Conference

Joshua Buck

Headquarters, Washington

Nicole Cloutier-Lemasters
Johnson Space Center, Houston


HOUSTON -- The next crew to live and work on the International Space Station will participate in a news conference at 1 p.m. CDT on Wednesday, Sept. 15, at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The news conference will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website. The crew also will answer questions from reporters at participating NASA centers and from those in Europe.

NASA astronaut Cady Coleman and her crewmates Dmitry Kondratiev, of the Russian Space Agency, and Paolo Nespoli, of the European Space Agency, will participate in individual round-robin interviews, in person or by phone, following the news conference. The crew also will participate in a photo opportunity for reporters at Johnson.

U.S. and foreign media representatives planning to attend the briefing must contact the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 7. To participate in the round-robin interviews, reporters should contact the Johnson newsroom by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

Coleman, Kondratiev and Nespoli will constitute three of the six crewmembers for both Expedition 26 and 27. They will launch aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in mid-December.

They will join NASA's Scott Kelly, who will command the station, and Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka. Kelly, Kaleri and Skripochka will launch in a separate Soyuz on Oct. 7 and arrive at the orbiting laboratory Oct. 9.

Hear Latest Watches, Warnings With A NOAA Weather Radio

Release Date: August 31, 2010
Release Number: 1924-011

LINCOLN, Neb. -- The severe storms, tornadoes and flooding in June and the damage they caused serve as reminders of how important it is to be prepared when it comes to bad weather. One of the essential preparedness items your family should have is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio.

A weather radio will alert you to severe weather and dangerous conditions before they arrive. Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommend that all homes and businesses have a weather radio.

NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting weather information directly from National Weather Service (NWS) offices across the country. Warnings are sent 24 hours a day following an alarm tone to alert listeners. Broadcasts also are translated to serve the Spanish-speaking population.

Weather radios are available at electronic, home-improvement and department stores throughout the state at prices ranging from $25 to more than $100. Here are some features you should look for when purchasing one:

•Alarm tone – this allows the radio to be on but silent, allowing for a special tone to alert you to severe weather.

•Specific Area Message Encoding – this feature provides area specific information by filtering out alerts that do not impact your immediate area.

•Battery operated – since there will be times when electrical power is unavailable, a radio should be able to operate on batteries.

•Tunable to all NWS frequencies – for the latest list of frequencies visit www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr

•For those with hearing impairments – this allows radios to connect the alarms to other attention-getting devices such as personal computers and text printers.

In addition to keeping you informed about severe weather, a weather radio also can alert you to man-made disasters, such as chemical releases.

More information is available online at www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

How Army’s New Handheld Solutions Will Give Taxpayers an “Edge”

Written on August 31, 2010 at 12:07 pm by Armed with Science

Yesterday, we defined Edge-Enabled systems and explored some real-world examples. Today, we’ll conclude by discussing how they could increase our operational effectiveness while providing a greater return-on-taxpayer-investment (ROTI).

Today’s Warfighters are facing an ever-changing, ever-adapting, enemy force, so they require a system (or systems) that can adapt as fast (threshold) or faster (objective) than that enemy. Unfortunately, many of their traditional Army systems cannot adapt as quickly as necessary. However, the commercial marketplace routinely showcases this capability.

LTG Sorenson (CIO/G-6 Army) recently gave a brief where he stated that, “DoD should leverage this [commercial marketplace] innovation more effectively.” He then went on to state his “Big Four” goals which all centered on transforming the current acquisition process from one that takes more than five years into one that takes months.

It’s fairly obvious that there is a greater ROTI if solutions reach the field faster. Because our enemies are adapting so fast, a system that takes five years to go from requirement definition to deployment is not optimized for the current fight. As a result, that system goes underutilized or units spend additional dollars to build a solution that meets their needs. In both cases, that initial investment is wasted, but in the latter case, multiple units may end up building the same (or nearly identical solutions) because there is no mechanism to share those products. As a result, not only is the initial investment lost, but new, similar products are being developed three, four, or five times over.

A better way to gain ROTI would be to create an infrastructure (and Apps for the Army is a great start) where applications can be shared, downloaded, modified, resubmitted and ranked. Think of it this way: when iPhone or Android users go to their devices marketplace, they can search and find (within seconds) pretty much any application that they can conceive of. And if they can’t find that application, odds are someone is developing it and it will be on the marketplace next time they look.

We hope this brief series provides some insights on how the Army may approach this area to ultimately provide Warfighters with much needed capabilities while reducing the total life cycle costs.

Again, we’re open to your thoughts on this model, so please share feedback or leave questions. For a more in-depth explanation regarding our approach, listen to the DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable discussion we had last week at the C4ISR Symposium in Baltimore. If you simply want more information about CERDEC C2D, contact our Public Affairs office, (732) 427-1594 – and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, too!

Hurricane Season 2010: Tropical Storm Natheun (Western Pacific)

August 31, 2010

NASA's Terra satellite flew over the Northwestern Pacific Ocean at 10:30 p.m. EDT Aug. 30 and captured Tropical Storm Lionrock, Tropical Storm Namtheun, and Typhoon Kompasu in one incredible image. Two of these tropical cyclones are expected to merge, while the other is headed for a landfall in China.

On August 31, at 0900 UTC (5 a.m. EDT), Typhoon Kompasu had maximum sustained winds near 109 mph and is 45 nm east-southeast of Kadena AB, Japan. The cyclone will track over Okinawa within the next few hours and continue on a northwestward track for the next 12 to 24 hours, then cross the Korean Peninsula (from western to eastern Korea) into the Sea of Japan, cross northern Japan and exit into the Northwestern Pacific Ocean by September 4.

When the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument that flies on Terra captured the image of all three storms the center of circulation was apparent in Tropical Storm Namtheun, and the eye was visible in Typhoon Kompasu, although some high clouds were filling in the center.

At 1 a.m. EDT, Kadena Air Base wasn't reporting tropical storm force winds from Typhoon Kompasu yet. Kadena Air Base is a United States Air Force base located in the towns of Kadena and Chatan and the city of Okinawa, in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. Kadena Air Base is the hub of U.S. airpower in the Pacific, and home to the USAF's 18th Wing and a variety of associate units. Kadena Air Base did report, however, that sea level pressure dropped and amazing 44 millibars in less than 2 hours, indicating the Typhoon was approaching.

After impacting Kadena Air Base, Typhoon Kompasu is expected to turn north, then northeast and track over the Korean Peninsula and into the Sea of Japan

The other two tropical cyclones, Tropical Storm Lionrock and Tropical Storm Namtheun, are forecast to merge in the next day or two. NASA satellite data show that the two storms are in close proximity of each other. On August 31 at 0900 UTC (5 a.m. EDT), Tropical Storm Lionrock, formerly Tropical Depression 07W, had maximum sustained winds near 57 mph. It was located about 195 nm southwest of Kaohsiung, Taiwan and it is forecast to merge with Tropical Storm Namtheun (formerly Tropical Depression 09W). Lionrock has moved east-northeastward at 2 mph. Infrared satellite imagery, such as that from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument that flies aboard NASA's Aqua satellite was showing a decrease in convection in the storm's center. By mid-day (Eastern Time) on Thursday, Lionrock should make the merge with Namtheun and turn northwestward. It is expected to make landfall in eastern China late on Thursday, September 2 and dissipate.

On August 31 at 0900 UTC (5 a.m. EDT) Namtheun was about 80 nautical miles west of Taipei, Taiwan and moving west-southwestward at 8 mph. Its winds were sustained near 39 mph, so it was just at the threshold for being a tropical storm. The storm's low level center is partially exposed because of an upper level trough (elongated area of low pressure) to its north causing wind shear. Despite this, Namtheun is expected to remain the dominant circulation when it merges with Lionrock.

Text credit: Rob Gutro, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

NASA and ATK Successfully Test Five-Segment Solid Rocket Motor

Michael Braukus

Headquarters, Washington

Jennifer Stanfield
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Aug. 31, 2010 RELEASE : 10-202

PROMONTORY, Utah -- With a loud roar and mighty column of flame, NASA and ATK Aerospace Systems successfully completed a two-minute, full-scale test of the largest and most powerful solid rocket motor designed for flight. The motor is potentially transferable to future heavy-lift launch vehicle designs.

The stationary firing of the first-stage development solid rocket motor, dubbed DM-2, was the most heavily instrumented solid rocket motor test in NASA history. More than 760 instruments measured 53 test objectives.

Prior to the static test, the solid rocket motor was cooled to 40 degrees Fahrenheit to verify the performance of new materials and assess motor performance at low temperatures during the full-duration test. Initial test data showed the motor performance met all expectations.

"For every few degrees the temperature rises, solid propellant burns slightly faster and only through robust ground testing can we understand how material and motor performance is impacted by different operating conditions," said Alex Priskos, first stage manager for Ares Projects at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "Ground-testing at temperature extremes pushes this system to its limits, which advances our understanding of five-segment solid rocket motor performance."

The first-stage solid rocket motor is designed to generate up to 3.6-million pounds of thrust at launch. Information collected from this test, together with data from the first development motor test last year, will be evaluated to better understand the performance and reliability of the design.

Although similar to the solid rocket boosters that help power the space shuttle to orbit, the five-segment development motor includes several upgrades and technology improvements implemented by NASA and ATK engineers. Motor upgrades from a shuttle booster include the addition of a fifth segment, a larger nozzle throat, and upgraded insulation and liner. The motor cases are flight-proven hardware used on shuttle launches for more than three decades. The cases used in this ground test have collectively launched 48 previous missions, including STS-1, the first shuttle flight.

After more testing, the first-stage solid rocket motor will be certified to fly at temperature ranges between 40-90 degrees Fahrenheit. The solid rocket motor was built as an element of NASA's Constellation Program and is managed by the Ares Projects Office at Marshall. ATK Aerospace Systems, a division of Alliant Techsystems of Brigham City, Utah, is the prime contractor.

Manufacturing Extension Partnership Awards Grant to Support Green Building Technologies

From the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Gaithersburg, Md. (August 31, 2010)—The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) has awarded a grant of $1.5 million over 3 years to the Delaware Valley Industrial Resources Center (DVIRC) and the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NJMEP), the MEP affiliate centers in Philadelphia and New Jersey, to encourage expanded manufacturing of energy-efficient building technologies.

The grant complements a larger U.S. Department of Energy project announced August 24, that provides up to $122 million to the Pennsylvania State University for an Energy Innovation Hub. To be located at the Philadelphia Navy Yard Clean Energy campus, the Hub will focus on developing energy-efficient building designs that will save energy, cut pollution, and position the United States as a leader in this industry.

According to MEP, this project represents the first time that federal, state, and local public and private resources will be pooled to create a formal applied research/manufacturing cluster that spans from the lab bench, through production to implementation.

“Expanding the capabilities of U.S. manufacturers to respond to the market opportunities resulting from the development of new energy efficient building technologies is key to ensuring the linkage between R&D and commercial application,” said Roger Kilmer, director of NIST MEP.

DVIRC's and NJMEP's role will be to connect manufacturers, specifically small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs), to the project at all levels, including R&D, design and testing of new products, materials, technologies, and systems, and, more importantly, commercializing those opportunities for business growth and job creation.

The Energy Innovation Hub will pursue a research, development and demonstration (RD&D) program targeting technologies for single buildings and district-wide systems. These new building systems and components will need to be manufactured, presenting a unique opportunity for businesses in the area to get in on the ground floor.

The DVIRC in collaboration with its sister-center, the NJMEP, will leverage their knowledge of and relationships with region companies to identify technologies such as sensors, new building materials, and computer simulation tools developed by the Energy Innovation Hub, and translate them into components they can license, develop and manufacture.

“Our region is home to a significant asset and essential resource to innovate new products and technologies,” says Joe Houldin, CEO of DVIRC. “SME manufacturers are true innovators and contribute substantial value to the region’s economic prosperity, and will play a vital role in taking energy research and applied technology to market.”

“We hope that this effort will be a model for public-private collaborative partnerships across the nation,” said Aimee Dobrzeniecki, deputy director of NIST MEP.

Social Media Shapes Markets, the Military and Life

By Tom Budzyna, Director of Public Affairs
USAG Schinnen

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2010 – The Department of Defense and all of its components maintain thousands of Facebook pages according to the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs' registry maintained on www.Defense.gov.

So to think that the Department of Defense is timid about the use of social media -- think again.

Facebook boasts more than 500 million users and may reach 700 million within the next year. Like Google, Facebook can be thought of as one of the world's largest countries, according to a July 22, 2010, social media article in the Economist magazine entitled "The Future Is Another Country."

Public relations firm Burson-Marsteller studied the largest 100 Fortune 500 companies and found that 79 percent of them use Facebook, Twitter or YouTube; and many of them have more than four Twitter accounts.

Social media is impacting new marketing approaches. There are online shopping communities where the number of participants can drive down the price of a desirable product. If the online shopping community is big enough to meet the seller's goal, bargain. If not, no sale.

The times may always have been 'a-changing', but they just seem to change faster these days. David Armano, vice president of Critical Mass, a marketing company, said in 2009 that the one thing your company will do in 2010 is have a social media policy and actually enforce it.

And in 2010 the Department of Defense did just that.

The U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III issued a directive-type memorandum on the "Responsible and Effective Use of Internet Capabilities" on Feb. 25, 2010, and within months servicemembers discovered they had access to social media on their computers at work.

Thinking back to the introduction of email in the workplace in the late 1980's, applications like Facebook are steering computer users away from the email inbox and into exclusive online (and mobile) virtual communities where the first stop is not just email, but much more.

Social media emerged in 1997 and is more than just marketing buzz today. It's proving to be a transformation technology that is changing business practices, markets and our entire information environment.

The Department of Defense's new policy explains that if your organization has a Facebook page, then it's referred to as an 'official external presence' and must be registered with the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs on a list maintained on www.Defense.gov (linked under 'social media'). A military organization's presence on social media pages must use official logos, official website links and adhere to a list of directives and regulations.

Being registered enables users, be they soldiers, family members or the public media, to confirm that a site is an official and a reliable source of information. Recognition on the DoD Social Media registry, like USAG Schinnen's Facebook page for example, confirms that it's operating under guidance from their commanders, officers-in-charge or service component and that the information posted complies with DoD policy, existing regulations and official public affairs guidance.

Most of the regulations are not new, but what is new is how the Department of Defense is ensuring that their presence in social media is deliberate, coherent and on target.

Even the Army's Installation Management Command, who oversees Army communities worldwide makes, it clear in their terms of reference that public affairs offices are responsible for telling the Army and IMCOM story "through all communication venues inclusive of press releases, internet, newspapers, and social media."

It's important to heed the rules and the DoD isn't the only organization that monitors its official external presence. Former Home Depot operations manager Mark Pannell learned the hard way about speaking on behalf of his company without approval according to a case study reported in Fortune magazine's August 16, 2010, issue.

Pannell had over 700 Twitter followers and 35 years with Home Depot when his good intentions were not welcomed by Home Depot's management despite the approval by Pannell's immediate boss. Pannell now works part-time at a coffee shop.

To avoid an unwanted trip to a coffee shop, be sure your organization's official external presence is in synch with your public affairs office and the organizations web policy. If an individual thinks it's cool to start a Facebook page for their section and fail to obtain their chain of command's approval, well that's not good - plain and simple.

Social media has raised privacy concerns and social media platforms like Facebook have capabilities that enable users to protect privacy, on-line discussions and messages. It behooves users to learn these features so they can worry less about privacy and focus on communicating. According to one user, simply signing up to use social media services is an effective way to protect your privacy.

"One way to protect against identity theft is to sign up and register your Facebook page (or other popular social media account) before someone else does. Own your space," said Steve Dalby, an Army Europe Information Technology training specialist who teaches a Social Networking Systems and Site Awareness course.

Even though the new DoD social media policy does not require organizations to use social media, it has an entire hub dedicated to social media. The U.S. Army alone has hundreds of official Facebook pages registered. Thousands more comprise the collection of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines pages, mostly Facebook, Twitter and Flickr pages that are listed on the online registry.

Social media is so pervasive now that the DoD are marching to this new drum to make sure its voice is heard. USAG Schinnen's Facebook and Twitter page are open for business and is posted on the DoD registry. Just google "USAG Schinnen, Facebook" or "USAG Schinnen, Twitter" to find them and become a 'fan' or to 'follow' them. JFC Brunssum's Community Activity Section is also on Facebook.

In a June 11, 2009, Government Computer News story, Stephen Bullock, the strategic communication director for 7th Signal Command, which oversees brigades across Europe that control government computer networks, said that allowing access to Internet capabilities like Facebook on government computers was an effort to address inconsistent and often arbitrary decisions that had been made from base to base.

"We gave guidance that made a consistent set of web filtering standards, resulting in better service for our users," Bullock said.

Now, at one's own discretion, social media sites are accessible at home or work, prompting consideration of how to manage an individual's "brand" while safeguarding privacy. To make your online experience secure and enjoyable, Dalby offered these best practices in the social networking site awareness class:

• Physical security is important. Safeguard your mobile phone, secure your computer when it's not in use, lock the computer and the door when you leave and don't keep lists of your passwords lying around.

• Keep online conversations light, unclassified and clean.

• If you don't recognize who wants to be part of your network, simply don't let them in.

• Learn and use the privacy features of your social media service.

• Social media applications can enable conversations to be private. They also don't stop you from using another means to converse. Public Internet access points may not be private or secure. Private, real life conversations are alive, well and often the safest option.

• The principle of "need to know" applies to military conversations just as much as it does to private conversations. Instead of posting comments on a friend's Facebook page, maybe a private message is better idea.

• If you need help learning how to use social media, ask a friend. That's what being social is about.

Cluster Collisions Switch on Radio Halos


This is a composite image of the northern part of the galaxy cluster Abell 1758, located about 3.2 billion light years from Earth, showing the effects of a collision between two smaller galaxy clusters. Chandra X-ray data (blue) reveals hot gas in the cluster and data from the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) in India (pink) shows huge “halos” generated by ultra-relativistic particles and magnetic fields over vast scales. Optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey are colored gold.

A study of this galaxy cluster and 31 others with Chandra and the GMRT shows that huge radio halos are generated during collisions between galaxy clusters. This result implies that galaxy clusters with radio halos are still forming, while clusters without this radio emission are not still accumulating large amounts of material. The result also implies that relativistic electrons are likely accelerated by turbulence generated by mergers between clusters.

Galaxy clusters are the largest structures in the Universe that are bound together by gravity. They form when smaller clusters or groups of galaxies collide and merge. Collisions between galaxy clusters, such as this one in Abell 1758 and its more famous cousin the Bullet Cluster, are the most energetic events in the Universe since the Big Bang. Their growth rate over the last 7 billion years has been slowed by the effects of dark energy, as shown by previous studies with Chandra.

Credits: X-ray (NASA/CXC/SAO/M.Markevitch); Radio (TIFR/GMRTSAO/INAF/R.Cassano, S.Giacintucci); Optical (DSS)

Monday, August 30, 2010

"Stocky Dragon" Dinosaur Terrorized Late Cretaceous Europe

Press Release 10-158

August 30, 2010

Paleontologists have discovered that a close relative of Velociraptor hunted the dwarfed inhabitants of Late Cretaceous Europe, an island landscape largely isolated from nearby continents.

While island animals tend to be smaller and more primitive than their continental cousins, the theropod Balaur bondoc was as large as its relatives on other parts of the globe, and demonstrated advanced adaptations including fused bones and two terrifyingly large claws on each hind foot.

A team of Paleontologists from the University of Bucharest and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) present their findings as the cover story of the Aug. 31 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"While we would expect that there were carnivorous animals in these faunas, finding one as unusual as Balaur is thrilling and is testament to the unusual animals found on islands today and in the past," said paleontologist and co-author Mark Norell of AMNH.

The Balaur bondoc bones (Balaur from an archaic Romanian term for dragon, bondoc meaning stocky) represent the most complete predator skeleton paleontologists have found in sediments from the end of the Mesozoic in Europe.

While few in number, the fossils reveal an animal perhaps six to seven feet long with a stockier build than similarly sized Velociraptors elsewhere on the globe, but numerous similarities to the more familiar predator.

"Although Balaur is so extremely divergent morphologically, it is closely related to animals like Velociraptor and the feathered dinosaurs in China," said lead author Zoltan Csiki, a paleontologist at the University of Bucharest. "The finding indicates that this area of the world, despite its archipelago geography, had at least intermittent faunal connections with the mainland up to the end of the Cretaceous. This connection was not really acknowledged until very recently."

The Balaur research was funded in part by the American Museum of Natural History, the National Science Foundation through grant EAR-0207664, the Columbia University Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, the Romanian National University Research Council, and Richard and Lynn Jaffe.

For more information about the discovery, read the AMNH press release.


THOMAS: The Revamp during the Recess

August 30th, 2010 by Andrew Weber

Over the past couple months I, along with the great THOMAS team here at the Library of Congress, have been working hard on the latest set of enhancements. Thankfully, we’ve been able to finish them before Congress returns from August recess. User feedback is continuing to drive our newest update. We collect feedback through OpinionLab on THOMAS, through the questions people ask our law librarians, and read what other people have to say.

For example, we’ve listened to concerns about the difficultly of using THOMAS on older mobile devices as well as how to find legislation on the state level. We’ve also tried to make adjustments to better coordinate with the rest of the Library of Congress website. Just as with our January and June enhancements, there is a new page on THOMAS describing the changes. Thank you for all the helpful feedback, which we’ve used to improve the website this year.

It’s no secret that many people on Capitol Hill use BlackBerrys. They are a great way for people to connect to their email but not as great for surfing the web. With that in mind, we are releasing a mobile-friendly THOMAS homepage for devices with smaller screen resolutions including BlackBerrys. For those of you with a touch screen smartphone, we’ve optimized the homepage for you to take advantage of the larger screens to enjoy complete access to the full version of THOMAS.

I’ve talked about our use of Twitter before and I’m happy to report that it’s easier to find the Law Library of Congress account so that you can send and receive tweets about THOMAS. Our @LawLibCongress account is accessible in the left hand navigation. Also, the Law Library’s Facebook, YouTube, and iTunes U accounts are prominently displayed. I’ve answered several questions about THOMAS and legislation through our Facebook and Twitter accounts. And occasionally (for the more difficult questions) I refer people to Ask A Law Librarian.

In addition to now having the Law Library’s social media on THOMAS, the new global footer also includes links to the Library of Congress social media and all ways to connect with us. The Library of Congress is increasingly coordinating across our websites and the global footer is a good example of this. It also includes a Speech Enabled link that helps enhance the accessibility of THOMAS.

As a result of legislation introduced in the Arizona State Legislature, our law librarians started receiving questions about it. We realized having a page linking to sources similar to THOMAS at the state level would be a good idea. Christine organized the links to all of the states, territories, and the District of Columbia for their THOMAS equivalent. Our new State Legislature page displays a map with links to the legislative bodies.

Oh, and don’t miss seeing our blog, In Custodia Legis, on the homepage. It’s the current feature on THOMAS!

Feasts at a Funeral

Press Release 10-157

August 30, 2010

Ancient Israeli burial site suggests that feasts were important to building first communities

Whether the occasion is a wedding reception or another milestone in life, the feast is a time-honored ritual in which a large meal marks a significant occasion. We know that the Romans, Greeks and Vikings did it, and today it's still an active part of occasions such as birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. Now a University of Connecticut (UConn) anthropologist says there is new evidence that nearly 12,000 years ago, feasts were used to celebrate burial of the dead, bringing about the world's first established communities.

UConn Associate Professor of Anthropology Natalie Munro and a team of scientists found clear evidence of feasting at the ancient Hilazon Tachtit Cave burial site near Karmiel, Israel. Unusually high densities of butchered tortoise and wild cattle led them to conclude that the Natufian community members who lived in the area at the time gathered at the site for "special rituals to commemorate the burial of the dead, and that feasts were central elements."

Some 14,500 to 11,500 years before the present, the Natufian people occupied the area around Karmiel, near the Mediterranean Sea. They lived there during the region's pre-Neolithic period, which marked the end of the very long Stone Age period.

"Feasting [...] is one of humanity's most universal and unique social behaviors," the researchers write in their report published in the Aug. 30 early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Our paper documents the first good evidence for feasting in the archaeological record that we know of," said Munro. She said that although many researchers believe feasting likely began with the emergence of modern humans, compelling supporting proofs have not been found.

Detection of feasting nearly 12,000 years ago may signal important culture changes. The Natufian people were the first to settle into more or less permanent communities and the act of settling would have been a time of social and economic upheaval.

Prior to this, populations were more mobile and could separate into smaller groups for food and other resources to deal with disputes. But, settling down probably strained social relationships.

The researchers theorize that feasts may have played a significant role in easing the potentially rocky transition from a hunting-gathering lifestyle to one of agricultural dependency.

"Sedentary communities require other means to resolve conflict, smooth tensions and provide a sense of community," said Munro. "We believe that feasts, especially in funerary contexts, served to integrate communities by providing this sense of community."

Funerals may have provided special opportunities to bring communities together to mark the last event in a person's life and send the deceased off to another life. Instilled with additional layers of spiritual meaning, they may have provided an opportunity to commemorate an individual's life and soothe social disputes. And it appears that feasts would have played a significant role in that.

The discovery of cattle and other animals at "Hilazon Tachtit testifies to symbolic and ritual continuity with the succeeding Neolithic cultures," the researchers write. "This continuity in tradition emphasizes the importance of local contributions to the agricultural transition."

Leore Grosman of the Institute of Archaeology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem also contributed to this research. A grant from the National Science Foundation's Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences division supported it.


NASA Selects Two Firms for Experimental Space Vehicle Test Flights

David E. Steitz
Headquarters, Washington

Aug. 30, 2010
RELEASE : 10-203

WASHINGTON -- NASA's Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program (CRuSR) has awarded a total of approximately $475,000 to Armadillo Aerospace of Rockwall, Texas and Masten Space Systems of Mojave, Calif. The awards will allow the two companies to perform test flights of their experimental vehicles near the edge of space.

The flights will demonstrate the capabilities of new vehicles to provide recoverable launch and testing of small payloads going to "near-space," the region of Earth's atmosphere between 65,000 and 350,000 feet. The CRuSR program fosters the development of commercial reusable transportation to near space. The overall goal of the program is regular, frequent and predictable access to near-space at a reasonable cost with easy recovery of intact payloads.

"These two awards are just the beginning of an innovative teaming relationship with industry to provide affordable access to the edge of space while evaluating the microgravity environment for future science and technology experiments," said NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "CRuSR represents the sort of government-commercial partnership that will facilitate near-space access at affordable costs."

The CRuSR awards will fund two flights this fall and one this winter of Armadillo's Super-Mod vehicle from Spaceport America in New Mexico. The first two flights will be to an altitude of approximately nine miles and the third to approximately 25 miles.

The Masten Space Systems' Xaero vehicle will make four flights this winter from the Mojave Spaceport in California. Two flights will reach an altitude of approximately three miles and two others will be to approximately 18 miles, with an engine shutdown during flight.

Both launch vehicles will be modified to mount three antennas for the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) payload. ADS-B-equipped vehicles can determine their position using global navigation satellite systems. The vehicles can periodically broadcast position data and other relevant information to ground stations and other similarly equipped aircraft.

In NASA's fiscal 2011 Space Technology Program, CRuSR will become an integral part of the Flight Opportunities Program within the Office of the Chief Technologist.

Army’s “Edgy” Concept: Customizable, Mobile Solutions for the Warfighter

Written on August 30, 2010 at 11:21 am by John Ohab

Michael Anthony is the Chief of the Advanced Applications Branch and Collaborative Battlespace Reasoning and Awareness (COBRA) Army Technology Objective (ATO) Manager for the US Army Research Development and Engineering Command, CERDEC, Command and Control Directorate (C2D). Ron Szymanski is a Lead Computer Scientist for CERDEC C2D and the Technical Lead for the COBRA ATO. Both are located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD.

There has been a recent push for the Army to leverage commercial hardware, software, and graphical user interface technologies for handheld military specific use. As part of our goal to advance the Army’s agenda, the Battle Command division of the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) is leveraging an “Edge-Enabled Systems” paradigm. I know; that’s a mouth full. But over the next two days, we’ll explain what we mean by Edge-Enabled Systems, we’ll provide some real-world examples, and we’ll end with a brief discussion on the potential return-on-taxpayer-investment.

First, what the heck are we talking about? An Edge-Enabled System is one that is utilized at the “edges” of the network. Typically, the users are dismounted Warfighters or other users that do not have access to a thick client terminal. We tend to classify those users in two categories: those that use thin client (aka web only) solutions and those that use hand-held devices (tablets, mobile phones). Those users are at the “tip of the spear” and not only are collecting and transmitting relevant information on a daily basis, but also have a critical need for the most up-to-date information on their mission area.

Additionally, an Edge-Enabled System “lives in the cloud.” That is to say, application data is not tied to any one device/platform. No matter where one logs in to their Facebook account, they can still access all of their pictures, their friends’ contact information and posts. Facebook doesn’t “care” where you log in from; all your data is available no matter where you are.

Finally, an Edge system usually offers some type of composability. The system is customizable, offers a wide variety of configuration settings, applications, or themes to ensure that each user can have an experience that is unique to their needs. Users might even be able to build and share their own apps to the community-at-large.

So how does this work and how do we intend to leverage it? We’ll discuss that and share some real-world examples in the next couple of posts. But for those who just can’t wait, feel free to listen to the DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable discussion we had last week at the C4ISR Symposium in Baltimore.

In the meantime, we’re interested in your thoughts on this model, so please share comments or leave questions. If you want more information about CERDEC C2D, contact our Public Affairs office, (732) 427-1594 – and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, too!

Hurricane Season 2010: Typhoon Kompasu (Northwestern Pacific)

August 30, 2010

Over the weekend of August 28-29, the eighth tropical depression in the Northwestern Pacific Ocean formed and strengthened into Tropical Storm Kompasu. NASA's Aqua satellite flew over Kompasu right after it became a tropical storm on August 29 at 0411 UTC (12:11 a.m. EDT) and it appeared as tightly wound storm. The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder instrument captured visible, infrared and microwave images of Kompasu as it passed overhead from space. The infrared image revealed high, cold, strong thunderstorm cloud tops around the center of the compact storm. Those temperatures were as cold as or colder than -63 Fahrenheit indication strong convection (rapidly rising air that condenses and forms the thunderstorms that power a tropical cyclone). The convection continued to strengthen and by Monday, August 30 at 1200 UTC (8 a.m. EDT), Kompasu had grown to Typhoon strength with maximum sustained winds near 86 mph (75 knots). Kompasu was about 240 nautical miles southeast of Kadena, Japan, near 23.7 North and 131.2 East. It was moving northwestward near 8 mph, and kicking up 17 foot -high seas. It is expected to curve to the north-northeast and then become extratropical before it reaches the Korean peninsula.

Text credit: Rob Gutro, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Galaxy at the Edge


Spiral galaxy NGC 4921 presently is estimated to be 320 million light years distant. This image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, is being used to identify key stellar distance markers known as Cepheid variable stars. The magnificent spiral NGC 4921 has been informally dubbed anemic because of its low rate of star formation and low surface brightness. Visible in the image are, from the center, a bright nucleus, a bright central bar, a prominent ring of dark dust, blue clusters of recently formed stars, several smaller companion galaxies, unrelated galaxies in the far distant universe, and unrelated stars in our Milky Way Galaxy.

NASA, Internet Archive And Flickr Launch Historic Image Collection

Aug. 30, 2010

RELEASE : 10-186

Sonja Alexander
Headquarters, Washington

Jon Hornstein
Internet Archive, San Francisco

Jason Khoury
Yahoo!, Sunnyvale, Calif.

WASHINGTON -- Three compilations of images from more than half a century of NASA history are available for comment on a section of the photo-sharing site Flickr known as The Commons.

Visitors to NASA on The Commons can help tell the photos' story by adding tags, or keywords, to the images to identify objects and people. In addition, viewers can communicate with other visitors by sharing comments. These contributions will help make the images easier to find online and add insight about NASA's history.

The capability to interact with these already-public photos is the result of a partnership between NASA, Flickr from Yahoo! in Sunnyvale, Calif., and Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library based in San Francisco.

Three sets of photos share a common theme of NASA beginnings. The "Launch and Takeoff" set captures iconic spacecraft and aircraft taking flight. "Building NASA" spotlights ground-breaking events and the construction of some of NASA's one-of-a-kind facilities. The "Center Namesakes" set features photos of the founders and figureheads of NASA's 10 field centers. To view NASA on The Commons images, visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasacommons.

"NASA's long-standing partnership with Internet Archive and this new one with Yahoo!'s Flickr provides an opportunity for the public to participate in the process of discovery," said Debbie Rivera, lead for the NASA Images project at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "In addition, the public can help the agency capture historical knowledge about missions and programs through this new resource and make it available for future generations."

The Commons was launched with the Library of Congress to increase access to publicly-held photography collections and provide a way for the public to contribute information and knowledge.

"NASA on The Commons is bringing literally out-of-these-world images to Flickr," said Douglas Alexander, general manager of Flickr. "We are thrilled to be working with NASA to offer such a rich archive and provide amazing insight into this country's space program and its early beginnings."

As the project leader, the New Media Innovation Team at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., enlisted the help of NASA photography and history experts to compile the three image sets for The Commons. The group will continue to create and release new photo sets that highlight different elements, themes or achievements.

Through a competitive process, NASA selected the Internet Archive in 2007 to organize a comprehensive online compilation of the agency's vast collection of photographs, historic film and video on the NASA Images website. Launched in 2008, NASAimages.org provides hundreds of thousands of images and thousands of hours of video, HD video and audio content available free to the public for download.

"Sharing important assets like NASA photography is the core mission of the Internet Archive. Through this partnership with NASA and Flickr, NASA on The Commons is bringing these images to a vast audience and providing an opportunity for the public to give fresh insight and increase our shared knowledge of NASA in all its varied activities," said Jon Hornstein, director of the NASA Images Project at the Internet Archive in San Francisco.

Citizen Science: Volunteers help scientists understand birds and changing habitats

August 30, 2010

Citizen science has been around for centuries, with lay people collecting data and making observations for scientists in a variety of fields. And, citizen scientists are contributing to discoveries as much in the 21st century as ever before.

Lab ecologist Janis Dickinson depends on citizen scientists to help her track the effects of disease, land-use change and environmental contaminants on the nesting success of birds.

"It goes back to the 18th century, with people studying birds in Finland," explains Dickinson, director of citizen science at the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y. "It's a wonderful tradition in Europe, with a couple hundred years of data. It goes back pretty far in North America as well."

But the Internet has indeed made a huge impact on the volume of information Dickinson and other scientists can get their hands on, especially in the fields of ornithology and astronomy.

"So those are the two areas where citizen science has been enormously successful," continues Dickinson. "[And that's] because there is this wonderful match between this data that we want to gather, and what these hobbyists like to do. There is also a lot of altruism involved. We hear from people that they enjoy helping science, that they are interested in conservation."

With help from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dickinson and her colleagues are using data from these volunteers on several research projects.

Dickinson is on the faculty of Cornell's Department of Natural Resources. Among their projects: research on the effects of mercury on wood thrushes and research on a new disease in house finches.

The input from across North America is now especially important in the study of climate change.

"For all kinds of environmental change, we are fast becoming aware that we need to be looking at these problems at very large geographic scales," says Dickinson. "And the only way to do that is with citizen science. So we absolutely have to have these monitoring schemes in place if we want to project what might be happening with climate change on birds, and even look at the effects that climate change has already had on birds."

Biologist Caren Cooper combines citizen science from several decades for her work. She pulls out some weathered, yellowed file cards from a room at the lab that contains hundreds of thousands of bits of information on just about every species of bird in North America. Birdwatchers started sharing their finds in the 1950s.

"It could seem like paper would be obsolete in today's world," notes Cooper. "But these paper records are invaluable because each one is a little diary of a nesting attempt. And [as for] the birds that we see today, these are nesting records of their great, great, great, great grandmothers!"

"We have historic temperature records, too, for historic patterns on climate, in all of these different regions," she explains. "And so, we can look at what the relationships were in the past between local weather or climate trends, and the timing of when birds breed."

Laura Burkholder's job at the lab gives her some time to explore the beauty of Sapsucker Woods, which surrounds the research facility. "What's really amazing to me is, when I come out here to walk, I always see something interesting or something new," says Burkholder, who is the leader of NestWatch, a nest-monitoring project.

"There are a lot of wetlands, and birds, everything from warblers to sparrows to geese and other waterfowl. And we have many nesting birds, including some great blue herons that are nesting right over the pond," she says.

NestWatch was developed by Cornell, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, and is funded by NSF.

Sometimes, NestWatch will get 20-30 emails a day from volunteers who are watching birds build nests, lay eggs, and feed their young. "They really care about the birds and they love watching them," says Burkholder. "They like seeing the nestlings and the eggs, and they are really, really careful not to impact those birds or disturb their nesting."

Before they can participate, volunteers have to learn about observing nests and birds without interfering. They must pass a quiz to get certified for monitoring, and follow a code of conduct. The tools are simple--a mirror, data sheet and pencil.

Once the volunteers log on to the NestWatch site, they can submit their findings: details like where the nest is located, what species of bird has moved in, how many eggs, how many chicks, when they leave the nest.

And, since the oil blowout disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, NestWatch is seeking data for backyard birds that may use the Gulf during their annual cycle.

The lab also works with many school groups. One collaboration with a local science center is a program called "Communicating Climate Change," or "C3."

"The kids in some of these programs will actually build nest boxes, put them up and monitor them," says Burkholder. "And not only that, they will learn about the birds that are using them, they will have target species, and they just show so much enthusiasm. They become so knowledgeable about birds. And they spread that information around. They tell their parents, they tell their friends."

Middle-school student Sophia Shi says she loves getting outdoors. "What I find really fascinating about birds is their diversity. That they all fit into one group but they all have these different characteristics," she adds.

Thirteen-year-old Jean Sinon is also intrigued by the differences in bird species. "I used to live in Africa and we have different kinds of birds and I compare them to birds here. I saw a lot of cardinals around my apartment this year. We saw fledglings and it's really cool," he says.

Owen Zhang, also 13, combines a love of photography with a growing interest in birds. "I like taking pictures of nature, mainly common birds like chickadees and robins and eastern bluebirds and swallows. I just like seeing stuff that people usually don't see, like nests, and getting the opportunity to see young fledglings," he says.

Burkholder also directs another computer-based, citizen-science project called CamClickr. It's a crowdsourcing effort that helps catalog millions of bird photos. "We need help from volunteers, to sort and tag the behaviors so that researchers are better able to look at them and to examine the nest and ask questions like, 'How often do the parents feed?' 'Does the male parent feed more often than the female, as the nestlings grow?'" she explains.

NestWatch data can be viewed, downloaded and explored by anyone interested in birds and their habitats.

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Marsha Walton, Science Nation Producer

Sunday, August 29, 2010

C-5M Super Galaxy delivers 7-ton particle detector

by 1st Lt. Kathleen Ferrero
Headquarters AMC Public Affairs

8/27/2010 - GENEVA, Switzerland (AFNS) -- A team of internationally renowned physicists led by Nobel laureate Dr. Sam Ting, specially requested the Air Force's largest, newly remodeled airlifter to transport the 7.5-ton Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer from the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland to Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Aug 26.

A C-5M Super Galaxy crew flew the device on its last terrestrial journey before traveling on the final space shuttle mission to the International Space Station.

"I'm very grateful the U.S. Air Force came to help us," Dr. Ting said. The particle detector is so large that, without the C-5, it would have required a certain level of disassembly for its flight, he said.

The secrets that the AMS can decode are so important that hundreds of physicists from 16 countries came together to build it. Although the project is officially sponsored by NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy, nations around the globe have collectively invested an estimated $2 billion to ensure its success.

AMS team members waited 16 years for the day they could accompany it on to Kennedy Space Center.

"We're so honored to be on this flight," said Dr. Susan Ting, Dr. Sam Ting's wife and budget manager for the project. "To have the U.S. Air Force take us home is just ..." and she paused and smiled, then patted her hand over her heart.

Dr. Ting and his international team faced many trials through the years, to include last-minute modifications and shuttle cancellation. But he said he was determined to see the only physical science experiment on the International Space Station come to fruition.

During its 18 years of scheduled operation, the AMS is expected to use its magnetic detection powers to survey charged particles, While the European lab's Large Hadron Collider is famous for its ability to charge particles at extremely high energies; their levels are nothing compared to the energies of charged particles found in space and the stories they can tell, Dr. Ting said.

"The cosmos is the ultimate laboratory," Dr. Ting said.

But it's important to shed preconceived ideas, he said. For example, the Hubble Telescope's purpose was galactic survey by detecting light; and it stumbled upon the curvature of the universe and existence of dark energy.

Likewise, the hope is that the AMS will stumble upon unchartered realms.

"You always discover something new, and that's what it's all about," Dr. Ting said.

Virtual High School Opens 'Doors' to Learning

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 27, 2010 - The Defense Department's newest high school is devoid of walls or windows, but yet has opened its "doors" this year to students scattered around the globe.

The Department of Defense Education Activity's virtual high school is an accredited distance-learning program for military students, whether they're geographically separated, transitioning between schools or just dealing with a scheduling conflict.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to close gaps and enhance students' educational experience in a 21st century environment," Marilee Fitzgerald, the activity's acting director, said. "I think it opens up possibilities for learning that we have yet to understand, yet to explore."

The virtual school offers students 48 online courses in a wide range of disciplinary areas, including foreign language, math, science, social studies, language arts and physical education, as well as 15 advanced placement courses. The school also is equipped to offer English as a second language and special education, Patricia Riley, chief of the activity's distance learning and virtual school, said.

The school primarily is designed for students eligible to attend a Defense Department school but are living in remote locations, Riley said, noting that students from as far away as Australia and Papua New Guinea already have enrolled. Most attend local schools but need courses such as U.S. history to graduate, she explained, and the virtual high school can help to fill this gap.

Next up on the priority list are students currently attending Defense Department schools, Riley said. Students are asked to seek traditional in-school classes first, but can request online access when there's a scheduling conflict or if a required course isn't offered in the school. The virtual school also is useful, for instance, for students transitioning from overseas to stateside, or from a Defense Department to public school, who need to ensure they meet the requirements for their new school, she added.

"This school is particularly important for military dependent students, who do move more often," Riley said, noting she's talked to parents whose children have attended up to four different schools during their high school careers.

"The flexibility of scheduling is critical and speaks to the transition needs of students in military families," Riley said. Education activity officials are "well aware of the curriculum needs and planning that needs to take place to help students meet academic goals."

The courses are self-paced, but students still receive support every step of the way. Teachers are located in three hubs -- Wiesbaden, Germany; Camp Humphries, South Korea; and Arlington, Va. – and offer real-time online support to students scattered worldwide in a range of time zones, Riley said.

"We strategically placed them in different parts of the world to be closer to where students are," she explained.

This live support enables Web conferencing, peer-to-peer data sharing and question-and-answer sessions with teachers. "They're also there to simulate the true classroom experience of a face-to-face environment," Riley said.

The school has a model of 20 to 25 teachers per 1,000 students, but is far from full capacity, Riley said. Additionally, the school has a "virtual counselor" who works in concert with counselors at local schools. The counselor can help students identify possible voids and fill those requirements with virtual classes, she added.

As for the road ahead, Riley said plans are in the works to make the virtual school diploma-granting, which would require the school to offer all of the courses needed to meet graduation requirements. The virtual high school currently operates as a supplemental school, she explained, meaning it's intended to fill in the gaps rather than replace the activity's brick-and-mortar schools.

"The majority of students only need supplemental courses," Riley said. "However, we also want to accommodate those students who are in isolated situations and might need the ability to acquire a diploma from a distance."

Officials also hope to create virtual elementary and middle schools down the road, Riley said. "But this high school is a great starting point and increases education opportunities for our students."

Fitzgerald called the virtual high school a "great step forward."

"It's an important contribution to the way we educate children in the 21st century DoDEA," she said.

VIALS Can Now Process, Generate Flu Vaccine Requisitions

By Sheila Gorman, Naval Medical Logistics Command Public Affairs

FORT DETRICK, Md. (NNS) -- Naval Medical Logistics Command (NMLC) announced Aug. 26 that the Vaccine Information and Logistics System (VIALS) can now process and generate seasonal influenza vaccine requisitions for ashore and afloat Navy activities.

"VIALS is an internal database developed to process vaccine program requirements accurately and timely," said Cmdr. Mary Seymour, NMLC executive officer. "Creating the automated database enhances our ability to process and manage centrally funded vaccine programs such as the 2010-2011 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Program."

VIALS is being developed incrementally. The initial working model became available in February and was used to capture Navy-wide requirements for the FY 10-11 seasonal influenza program. As a result, requirements from ashore and afloat activities have now been turned into requisitions and sent to the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP).

As the vaccine becomes available, DSCP will ship it to the requesting activities to fill orders in accordance with the NMLC release plans that reflect priority guidance directed by the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

"Getting VIALS up and running opens doors to using this type of database for all commodities that NMLC manages," said Seymour. "It is a great use of our resources and another example of our commitment to providing our customers with quality medical logistics support requirements throughout the enterprise."

Easy to use, VIALS will provide the Navy with an efficient accounting of vaccine requirements, purchases and deliveries. It will also have the capability to provide executive reporting on program status, while providing field-level activities with status and tracking information on their specific requirements.

"The value of sharing information across Navy Medicine and with our Fleet customers reduces variability within the supply chain," said Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Kachenchai, director for Medical Equipment and Logistics Solutions (MELS). "VIALS will allow NMLC to virtually manage the supply chain while offering real-time reporting metrics to support our customer base."

The MELS Directorate's effort to provide detailed documentation of the existing seasonal influenza vaccine process was critical to developing the VIALS database. Their coordination with the Operational Forces Support Directorate ensured the needs of both ashore and afloat activities were met.

Influenza can be a life-threatening disease that annually results in more than 30,000 U.S. deaths. Receiving an annual influenza vaccine immunization protects many people from getting the disease or becoming severely ill and helps protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of the disease.

The Department of Defense has mandated a policy of annual seasonal influenza vaccinations for all active duty military personnel and selective reserves. With the goal of 100 percent immunization compliance by Dec. 1, 2010, Navy Medicine will be monitoring the influenza virus carefully over the coming weeks and months.

Rich Schlegel, NMLC director for Operational Forces Support, said VIALS is another way NMLC is directly supporting the DoD mandate, Navy Medicine and the fleet.

"Providing the same level of visibility seasonal flu vaccine requisitions that fleet customer's are accustomed to for their equipment purchases will ensure accurate reporting and forecasting of medical readiness for those Sailors at the tip of the spear," Schlegel said.

NMLC's rapid development of VIALS is designed to keep pace with the seasonal influenza program and be fully capable of processing vaccine distribution data. For additional information or help with VIALS, contact NMLC-VialsHelp@med.navy.mil.

NMLC is the center of logistics expertise for Navy Medicine, designing, executing and administering individualized state-of-the-art solutions to meet customer's medical materiel and healthcare support needs.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Air Force Announces Changes to Headquarters Air Force Space Management and Organization

The Air Force today announced the realignment of some Headquarters Air Force space functions, following the recent completion of a review of Headquarters Air Force space management and responsibilities, which was directed by Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley in December 2009.

In a memorandum signed today, Donley reinforced some existing alignments and directed several changes to Air Force Headquarters space organization. This would include the identification of the under secretary of the Air Force as the focal point for space within the Headquarters Air Force, with responsibility for coordination of functions and activities across the Air Force space enterprise, and the realignment of space acquisition from the under secretary of the Air Force’s office to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition.

“These decisions will allow us to perform our space work in a more streamlined and effective way, with our ultimate goal of providing the best space support to the warfighter,” said Donley in the memorandum. “We recognize the importance and criticality of space not only for the Air Force, but for all our joint military and inter-agency partners, and with these changes I believe the Air Force and our headquarters will be better organized to carry out this vital work.”

The review was focused on Headquarters Air Force, so it did not address any changes within field organizations such as Air Force Space Command or the Space and Missile Systems Center. Richard W. McKinney, who was recently named deputy under secretary for space programs, led the review that involved more than 70 interviews with key individuals and organizations from the Air Force, DoD, Congress, and other space related government, commercial, and international organizations.

Kepler Discovers Multiple Planets Transiting a Single Star

August 26, 2010: NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star.

The transit signatures of two distinct Saturn-sized planets were seen in the data for a sun-like star designated "Kepler-9." The planets were named Kepler-9b and 9c. The discovery incorporates seven months of observations of more than 156,000 stars as part of an ongoing search for Earth-sized planets outside our solar system. The findings will be published in Thursday's issue of the journal Science.

Kepler's ultra-precise camera measures tiny decreases in the stars' brightness that occur when a planet transits them. The size of the planet can be derived from these temporary dips.

The distance of the planet from the star can be calculated by measuring the time between successive dips as the planet orbits the star. Small variations in the regularity of these dips can be used to determine the masses of planets and detect other non-transiting planets in the system.

In June, mission scientists submitted findings for peer review that identified more than 700 planet candidates in the first 43 days of Kepler data. The data included five additional candidate systems that appear to exhibit more than one transiting planet. The Kepler team recently identified a sixth target exhibiting multiple transits and accumulated enough follow-up data to confirm this multi-planet system.

"Kepler's high quality data and round-the-clock coverage of transiting objects enable a whole host of unique measurements to be made of the parent stars and their planetary systems," said Doug Hudgins, the Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC.

Scientists refined the estimates of the masses of the planets using observations from the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The observations show Kepler-9b is the larger of the two planets, and both have masses similar to but less than Saturn. Kepler-9b lies closest to the star with an orbit of about 19 days, while Kepler-9c has an orbit of about 38 days. By observing several transits by each planet over the seven months of data, the time between successive transits could be analyzed.

"This discovery is the first clear detection of significant changes in the intervals from one planetary transit to the next, what we call transit timing variations," said Matthew Holman, a Kepler mission scientist from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. "This is evidence of the gravitational interaction between the two planets as seen by the Kepler spacecraft."

In addition to the two confirmed giant planets, Kepler scientists also have identified what appears to be a third, much smaller transit signature in the observations of Kepler-9. That signature is consistent with the transits of a super-Earth-sized planet about 1.5 times the radius of Earth in a scorching, near-sun 1.6 day-orbit. Additional observations are required to determine whether this signal is indeed a planet or an astronomical phenomenon that mimics the appearance of a transit.

The Bio-Battery: Converting Sugar into Electrical Energy

Christopher Hurley is an engineer with the Army Power division of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), which is located at Fort Monmouth, N.J. Mr Hurley is manager for the Dismounted Soldier Power Army Technology Objective and specializes in energy storage devices.

Last day of the symposium and CERDEC Army Power will be wrapping it up with a media roundtable today! In addition to the “traditional” R&D efforts, I hope we get questions regarding our work in alternative power solutions.

We’re developing fuel cells, smart grids and environmental control units; harvesting wind and solar power; and examining waste-to-energy and biofuels. But one of the more novel projects we’re developing is a power source which converts commonly available sugars directly into electrical energy.

The bio-battery (enzymatic fuel cell) uses enzymes to convert sugar into energy similar to the way your body uses enzymes to convert food into energy. Researchers have spent the last five years working on a unique recipe for a reproducible, stable bio-battery which is both low cost and green.

The bio-battery has numerous advantages over existing batteries. The biggest of which is that it allows for instant recharge (through supply of more sugar) in comparison with traditional batteries which require access to power for two or more hours.

In comparison to fuel cells, the bio-battery has the advantage of a non-toxic, non-flammable fuel source (sugar) which is already in the Army supply chain. This is a huge logistics bonus considering the military’s one-fuel-forward policy makes providing methanol, hydrogen and other alternative fuels difficult.

The first target application is to provide a clean renewable power source for the Warfighter and fulfill a critical role in lightening the soldier’s load. In today’s increasingly electronic Army, Soldiers carry 20-40 pounds of batteries for a typical 72-hour mission. The bio-battery is designed to be a mission-extender to decrease the number of batteries carried by the Warfighter.

Other Defense Department applications include a range of remote monitoring, sensing and surveillance needs. Finally, applications are foreseen in implantable applications where the bio-battery can produce power indefinitely from a self-sustaining supply of sugar bearing materials in both plants and animals.

The promise of the technology was recently demonstrated at the Power Sources Conference where the bio-battery was connected to an electronic device comprising a Microprocessor and LCD display. The bio-battery was able to power the system for over 10 hours using less than 20mL of sugar solution. The current intent of this innovative technology is to integrate it with military systems and demonstrate it in field trials in 2011.

The potential is very exciting, and I’d like to hear you thoughts regarding this or other alternative energy/power solutions – especially if you have recommendations or lessons learned. If so, visit Army Power or contact CERDEC Public Affairs: (732) 427-1594.

Lynn Outlines Cyber Threats, Defensive Measures

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 25, 2010 - An infected flash drive inserted into a Defense Department computer in 2008 caused "a significant compromise" of the department's classified computer networks and was a "wake-up call" for Pentagon officials to expedite cyber defense measures, the deputy secretary of defense revealed in a new magazine article.

The previously classified incident caused the most significant breach ever to U.S. military computers, William J. Lynn III wrote for an article appearing in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.

Titled "Defending a New Domain," the article outlines the evolution of computer network threats and measures the department has put into place to deal with them. The frequency and sophistication of intrusions into U.S. military networks have increased exponentially in the past 10 years, Lynn wrote. They now are probed thousands of times and scanned millions of times, every day, he added.

Sometimes the adversaries are successful, Lynn said, and they have acquired thousands of files from Defense Department networks and those of the Pentagon's industry partners and U.S. allies, including weapons blueprints, operational plans and surveillance data.

To counter the threat, the Pentagon has built "layered and robust defenses" around military networks and created the new U.S. Cyber Command to integrate processes, Lynn said. Department officials are working with their counterparts at the Homeland Security Department, which has jurisdiction over the "dot-com" and "dot-gov" domains, to protect the networks.

The Defense Department has 15,000 networks and 7 million computing devices in use in dozens of countries, with 90,000 people working to maintain them, Lynn said, and it depends heavily on commercial industry for its network operations.

"Information technology enables almost everything the U.S. military does," Lynn wrote, from logistical support and command and control to real-time intelligence and remote operations. Any future conflict will include cybersecurity, he has said.

In his article, Lynn outlines five pillars of the department's emerging cybersecurity policy:

-- Cyber must be recognized as a warfare domain equal to land, sea, and air;

-- Any defensive posture must go beyond "good hygiene" to include sophisticated and accurate operations that allow rapid response;

-- Cyber defenses must reach beyond the department's dot-mil world into commercial networks, as governed by Homeland Security;

-- Cyber defenses must be pursued with international allies for an effective "shared warning" of threats; and

-- The Defense Department must help to maintain and leverage U.S. technological dominance and improve the acquisitions process to keep up with the speed and agility of the information technology industry.

Pentagon officials are developing a cyber strategy document to be released in the fall. It will address, among other things, any statutory changes needed for cyber defense, and the capability for "automated defenses," such as the ability block malware at top speed, Lynn has said.