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Mark Kelly, former NASA astronaut: Trump’s Space Force ‘a dumb idea’

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President Donald Trump has pushed the US one step closer to establishing the first new military branch in more than 70 years: a Space Force.

Trump can’t create a Space Force on his own; that requires the approval of Congress. So on Tuesday, the President signed a document called Space Policy Directive-4, or SPD-4.

The new memorandum asks the Department of Defense (DoD) to draft legislation for Congress that would ultimately set up a Space Force. Should such legislation pass, the new division would exist alongside the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy.

“Space Force would be authorized to organize, train, and equip military space forces … to ensure unfettered access to, and freedom to operate in, space, and provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces in peacetime and across the spectrum of conflict,” according to the directive.

President Donald Trump displays the “Space Policy Directive 4” directive he signed to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces in the Oval Office at the White House on February 19, 2019.
Jim Young/Reuters

The directive says the legislation establishing a Space Force should not include NASA. But Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator and a former Republican congressman, weighed in on the document’s signing via Twitter.

“Civilization is dependent on freedom of navigation in space. SPD-4 ensures our freedom continues. @NASA has billions of dollars of assets and a permanent human presence in space. NASA will not have a direct role, but I support @POTUS Trump’s announcement,” Bridenstine said on Tuesday, adding that he once voted for a similar proposal in Congress.

But not everybody is on board with a Space Force.

Retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly has been vocal in his opposition to the idea. Kelly is a former Navy captain, pilot, combat veteran, four-time space-flyer, and the identical twin brother of former astronaut Scott Kelly. He is also running for a US Senate seat in Arizona.

“This is a dumb idea. The Air Force does this already. That is their job,” Kelly tweeted in June. “What’s next, we move submarines to the 7th branch and call it the ‘under-the-sea force?'”

Kelly reiterated and expanded upon his argument in August, during an MSNBC interview.

“There is a threat out there, but it’s being handled by the US Air Force today. [It] doesn’t make sense to build a whole other level of bureaucracy in an incredibly bureaucratic DoD,” he said, according to Reuters. “It is an area where we should continue focus … but we can do this within the US Air Force.”

Kelly and his campaign did not immediately respond to Business Insider requests for comment on the signing of SPD-4.

However, some members Congress have also voiced their distaste for the idea of a Space Force, and other critics question its utility, expense, and potential role in weaponizing space— perhaps to disastrous effect.

Why the US already has a ‘space force’

USAF

In his criticisms, Kelly was referring to the Air Force Space Command — though the group has had different names over the years.

Space Command is headquartered in Colorado, and its responsibilities include supporting military use of satellites, rocket launches, and cyberwarfare operations. The group also helps track the countless pieces of space junk and debris around Earth that pose a persistent threat to anything in orbit.

Space Command is managed by US Strategic Command, one of 10 groups that direct major pieces of the Defense Department. Its responsibilities include oversight of the country’s nuclear-weapons capabilities, which involves space because long-range, nuclear-tipped missiles fly through space.

In July 2016, Space Command even announced the creation of a Space Mission Force, which military leadership said was akin to an expeditionary force.

Red dots are known pieces of China’s destroyed FY-1C satellite. Green dots are low-Earth orbit satellites.
Celestrak/Analytical Graphics, Inc.

This force was created in part to quickly respond to outer-space attacks from adversaries. The main countries of concern are Russia, which continues to publicize new weaponry, and China, which destroyed one of its own satellites in a 2007 test with a “kill vehicle” (essentially a giant bullet launched by missile).

“Despite world interest in avoiding militarization of space, potential adversaries have identified the use of space as an advantage for US military forces, and are actively fielding systems to deny our use of space in a conflict,” Gen. John E. Hyten, the commander of US Strategic Command, wrote in a white paper about the decision in 2016, when he led Space Command.

The Trump administration wants to peel these space-related capabilities from the Air Force, however, and form a new division entirely.

For and against a Space Force

Aaron Bernstein/Reuters

Some members of Congress, especially Republicans in the House of Representatives, have appeared warm to the idea.

“As we get all these briefings about what adversaries are doing, our dependence on space, it’s clear that we have to do better,” Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters in early June, according to Space News. “Organizational changes don’t fix all the problems. But on the other hand, they can sometimes help make sure space gets the kind of priority it should have, like cyber, as a domain of warfare.”

But others in Congress — and apparently some high-ranking military officials — have, like Kelly, questioned and pushed back on the idea of a Space Force.

“The president told a US general to create a new Space Force as 6th branch of military today, which generals tell me they don’t want,” former Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida tweeted in June. “Thankfully the president can’t do it without Congress because now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart. Too many important missions at stake.”

In September 2018, the Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson noted that creating a Space Force may cost $13 billion, and he pushed back on aspects of its creation, according to Defense One. One independent security organization suggested that money would be better spent on establishing a Cyber Force to better prepare the US for cyberwarfare.

Stationing or testing any weapons of mass destruction in space, including nuclear weapons, is banned by the United Nations’ Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Peaceful use and exploration is permitted, however, and smaller-scale weapons are not explicitly barred. Experts fear that militarizing space with such weapons could stoke a costly new arms race.

A war in space might also lead to something called a Kessler event. In this scenario, uncontrolled space debris could collide and create even more uncontrolled space debris, ultimately shutting off human access to space for decades, if not centuries.

Ben Brimelow contributed reporting.

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Trudeau Government Should Turn to Sustainable Floor Heating In Its New Deal

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A consortium has been chosen by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to manage the $1.1-billion overhaul of five heating and cooling plants in the National Capital Region. However, this decision has been met with a lot of disapproval by the country’s largest federal public service union.

Early June, the department announced that Innovate Energy has been awarded the 30-year contract “to design, retrofit, maintain and operate the plants,”winning the bid over a rival group that included SNC-Lavalin.

Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, said the federal government was “leading by example” in its bid to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. McKenna noted that by supporting this project, they’re utilizing heating and cooling infrastructure to promote a more environmentally friendly option.

“We’re very proud that our government is working with partners like Innovate Energy to modernize this critical infrastructure,” she said during the announcement at one of the facilities that will be upgraded, the Cliff Heating and Cooling Plant in downtown Ottawa.

The plants would be known as the district energy system and would heat 80 buildings in the area with steam. It is also expected to cool 67 of these buildings with chilled water through more than 14 kilometres of underground pipes.

Under the Energy Services Acquisition Program, PSPC will be tasked with modernizing the outdated technology in the plants to lower emissions and supportgrowth in the eco-friendly technology sector.

During the first stage of the overhaul, the system would be converted from steam to low temperature hot water and then switched from steam to electric chillers—with the estimated completion date being 2025. PSPC notes that the project will reduce current emissions by 63 per cent, the equivalent of removing 14,000 non-eco-friendly cars off the road.

Afterwards, the natural gas powering the plant will then be replaced by carbon-neutral fuel sources, which according to estimated will reduce emissions by a further 28 per cent. The renovation project is bound to save the government an estimated fee of more than $750 million in heating and cooling costs in the next 40 years.

Furthermore, the implementation of radiant floor heating in Ottawa by the federal government would be an additional step in driving its agenda for a more eco-friendly state.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website, radiant floor heating has a lot of benefits and advantages over alternate heat systems and can cut heating costs by 25 to 50 per cent.

“It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because no energy is lost through ducts,” the website states.

Radiant floor heating provides an equal amount of heat throughout a building, including areas that are difficult to heat, such as rooms with vaulted ceilings, garages or bathrooms. Consideringit warms people and objects directly—controlling the direct heat loss of the occupant—radiant floor heating provides comfort at lower thermostat settings.

“Radiators and other forms of ‘point’ heating circulate heat inefficiently and hence need to run for longer periods to obtain comfort levels,” reports the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNet).

Radiant heating is a clean and healthy option—a perfect choice for those with severe allergies—as it doesn’t rely on circulating air, meaning there are no potentially irritating particles blowing around the room. Additionally, it is more energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing with wall radiators or floor registers and virtually noiseless when in operation.

“They draw cold air across the floor and send warm air up to the ceiling, where it then falls, heating the room from the top down, creating drafts and circulating dust and allergens.”

It is important for the leadership in Ottawa to equally drive the adoption of radiant floor heating as doing this would lead to increased usage in residential buildings—and even government-owned buildings.

However, in October, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a representative body of employees of the plants,began a campaign target at the government against their decision to use a public-private partnership (P3) for the retrofitting project, citing concerns about costs and safety.

According to the union, outside employees won’t be bound to the same health and safety standards of government workers and that typically P3 projects cost a lot more than traditional public financing deals.

The union demands that the government scraps the proposed project and meet PSAC members and experts to brainstorm on a new way forward that would ensure federal employees continue to operate and maintain the plants.

However, parliamentary secretary to public services and procurement minister, Steve MacKinnon said that the union officials have consulted him but that after conducting an analysis, the P3 option was still the best for the job.

“We didn’t have (to) sacrifice on safety or health — we didn’t have to sacrifice on job security,” he said.

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Steps to becoming a Data Scientist

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Data science has become one of the most in-demand career paths in this century, according to Business Insider. With the amount of information being circulated online, it has created a huge demand for storing, interpreting and implementing big data for different purposes—hence the need for a data scientist.

Today, there too much information flying around for regular people to process efficiently and use. Therefore, it has become the responsibility of data scientists to collect, organize and analyze this data. Doing this helps various people, organizations, enterprise businesses and governments to manage, store and interpret this data for different purposes.

Though data scientists come from different educational backgrounds, a majority of them need to have a technical educational background. To pursue a career in data science, computer-related majors, graduations and post graduations in maths and statistics are quite useful.

Therefore, the steps to becoming a data scientist are quite straightforward.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in an IT related field—such as computer science, maths or physics—you can also further your education by obtaining a master’s degree in a data science or any other related field of study. With the necessary educational background, you can now search for a job and obtain the required experience in whichever filed you choose to invest your acquired skills.

Here are the necessary steps to be taken to become a data scientist.

Step 1: Obtain the necessary educational requirements

As earlier noted, different educational paths can still lead to a career in data science. However, it is impossible to begin a career in data science without obtaining a collegiate degree—as a four-year bachelor’s degree is really important. However, according to a report by Business Insider, over 73% of data scientist in existence today have a graduate degree and about 38% of them hold a Ph.D. Therefore, to rise above the crowd and get a high-end position in the field of data science, it is important to have a Master’s degree or a Ph.D.—and with various online data science masters program, obtaining one is quite easy.

Some institutions provide data science programs with courses that will equip students to analyze complex sets of data. These courses also involve a host of technical information about computers, statistics, data analysis techniques and many more. Completing these programs equips you with the necessary skills to function adequately as a data scientist.

Additionally, there are some technical—and computer-based degrees—that can aid you begin a career in data science. Some of them include studies in, Computer Science, Statistics, Social Science, Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Applied Math. These degrees will imbibe some important skills related to data science in you—namely, coding, experimenting, managing large amounts of data, solving quantitative problems and many others.

Step 2: Choose an area of specialization

There rarely exists an organization, agency or business today that doesn’t require the expertise of a data scientist. Hence, it is important that after acquiring the necessary education to start a career as a data scientist, you need to choose an area of specialization in the field you wish to work in.

Some of the specializations that exist in data science today include automotive, marketing, business, defence, sales, negotiation, insurance and many others.

Step 3: Kick start your career as a data scientist

After acquiring the necessary skills to become a data scientist, it is important to get a job in the filed and company of your choice where you can acquire some experience.

Many organizations offer valuable training to their data scientists and these pieces of training are typically centred around the specific internal systems and programs of an organization. Partaking in this training allows you learn some high-level analytical skills that were not taught during your various school programs—especially since data science is a constantly evolving field.

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Artificial intelligence pioneers win tech’s ‘Nobel Prize’

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Computers have become so smart during the past 20 years that people don’t think twice about chatting with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri or seeing their friends automatically tagged in Facebook pictures.

But making those quantum leaps from science fiction to reality required hard work from computer scientists like Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. The trio tapped into their own brainpower to make it possible for machines to learn like humans, a breakthrough now commonly known as “artificial intelligence,” or AI.

Their insights and persistence were rewarded Wednesday with the Turing Award, an honor that has become known as technology industry’s version of the Nobel Prize. It comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google, a company where AI has become part of its DNA.

The award marks the latest recognition of the instrumental role that artificial intelligence will likely play in redefining the relationship between humanity and technology in the decades ahead.

Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society,” said Cherri Pancake, president of the Association for Computing Machinery, the group behind the Turing Award.

Although they have known each other for than 30 years, Bengio, Hinton and LeCun have mostly worked separately on technology known as neural networks. These are the electronic engines that power tasks such as facial and speech recognition, areas where computers have made enormous strides over the past decade. Such neural networks also are a critical component of robotic systems that are automating a wide range of other human activity, including driving.

Their belief in the power of neural networks was once mocked by their peers, Hinton said. No more. He now works at Google as a vice president and senior fellow while LeCun is chief AI scientist at Facebook. Bengio remains immersed in academia as a University of Montreal professor in addition to serving as scientific director at the Artificial Intelligence Institute in Quebec.

“For a long time, people thought what the three of us were doing was nonsense,” Hinton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They thought we were very misguided and what we were doing was a very surprising thing for apparently intelligent people to waste their time on. My message to young researchers is, don’t be put off if everyone tells you what are doing is silly.” Now, some people are worried that the results of the researchers’ efforts might spiral out of control.

While the AI revolution is raising hopes that computers will make most people’s lives more convenient and enjoyable, it’s also stoking fears that humanity eventually will be living at the mercy of machines.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun share some of those concerns especially the doomsday scenarios that envision AI technology developed into weapons systems that wipe out humanity.

But they are far more optimistic about the other prospects of AI empowering computers to deliver more accurate warnings about floods and earthquakes, for instance, or detecting health risks, such as cancer and heart attacks, far earlier than human doctors.

“One thing is very clear, the techniques that we developed can be used for an enormous amount of good affecting hundreds of millions of people,” Hinton said.

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