Absent warrant standard, police could monitor anyone via location data

ARS Technica:

This case, Carpenter v. United States, asks a simple question: is it OK for police to seize and search 127 days of cell-site location information (CSLI) without a warrant?

Previously, lower courts have said that such practices are compatible with current law. But the fact that the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case suggests that at least four justices feel that perhaps the law should be changed.


This is not a trivial distinction. A so-called “d-order” can be circumspect with how information is obtained by authorities. It does not, as the Fourth Amendment demands, require as much particularity. A warrant, unlike a d-order application, also mandates a signed and sworn affidavit (“on oath or affirmation”), as the Constitution requires, which describes the “places to be searched and the things to be seized.”


NASA Unleashes Two Vintage Warplanes to Chase the Eclipse


WHILE MILLIONS OF astronomy enthusiasts chase the moon’s shadow on the ground during the August 21 total solar eclipse, four NASA personnel are going to have front row seats. Two pilots and two technicians will race the big black spot at 50,000 feet, well above any cloud cover. And at 400 mph, they’ll be able to stretch their time in the shadow to three minutes, compared to two on the ground.

They’re not just up there for the view. The aircraft, two 1960s vintage WB-57F jets that NASA frequently dispatches for high-altitude research, will carry instruments to help scientists study the solar atmosphere. At cruising altitude, the sky will be 20 to 30 times darker than on the ground, enhancing the details in the sun’s atmosphere—and allowing for pictures in the greatest detail yet.

Genetic evidence suggests the Canaanites weren’t destroyed after all

Annalee Newitz, writing at ARSTechnica:

The Canaanites are famous as the bad guys of the Book of Joshua in the Tanakh, or the Hebrew Bible. First, God orders the Hebrews to destroy the Canaanites along with several other groups, and later we hear that the Canaanites have actually been wiped out. Among archaeologists, however, the Canaanites are a cultural group whose rise and fall has remained a mystery. Now, a group of archaeologists and geneticists has discovered strong evidence that the Canaanites were not wiped out. They are, in fact, the ancestors of modern Lebanese people.

Donald Trump Jr., Sub-Master of the Universe

Matt Bai, writing at Yahoo News:

Say what you will about President Trump, and I’ve said plenty; you can’t say he ever lacked for what New Yorkers call chutzpah. He had the brass ornaments to risk his modest inheritance, to plow through bankruptcies, to court public humiliation in pursuit of far-flung enterprises. I actually admire that. […]

But the kids, near as I can tell, never risked a thing or placed a bet. They appear never to have learned anything their dads couldn’t teach them in the warm safety of a penthouse. Their birthrights became the whole of their identities.

Any one of them could have struck out for points west or south, where the postindustrial economy was flowering, where there were new markets to be conquered and untold sums to be amassed. Even the young Kennedys, however aimless and entitled, wandered off to Maryland and Illinois and California, seeking some meaning beyond the name.

Not the Trumps. Not young Kushner. They went right from adolescence to the highest echelon of family businesses, dabbling in pageants and shoes and niche media. They were Sub-Masters of the Universe, eons removed from the Big Bang.

I’ve said this from the beginning: The Trump kids were privileged to have been born on third base, and yet have spent the entirety of their lives acting as though they had earned a triple.


Aging Soviet Space Vehicles Still Impress

Eric Berger, writing at Wired:

The Soviet Union’s Buran space shuttle program stands as one of the saddest episodes in aerospace history. After NASA began working on its space shuttle program in the early 1970s, the Soviet Union conceived of its own orbiter program, the eerily similar looking Buran shuttle. Ultimately, the vehicle made just one flight, an uncrewed mission in 1988. The Soviet Union’s collapsing economy doomed the program.

The Buran orbiter that made the initial three-hour flight was destroyed in 2002, when the roof of the hangar where it was stored in Kazakhstan collapsed. Like the United States, the Soviet Union didn’t make just one Buran, they made several with the intention of eventually having a fleet of orbital vehicles. When the program was canceled, those vehicles, from mock-ups to nearly flight ready articles, were mothballed.

Eclipse 2017: T-2 Months

If you’re anything like me, you heard about the 2017 eclipse over a year ago and thought “cool,” but haven’t really thought about it since.

This week, some of the photography podcasts I listen to started talking about the eclipse and man, I’m really starting to get excited!

Adjustments With A Restrained Hand

Photographer Brian Matiash, writing at Digital Photo Pro:

You may be asking what all this talk about camera sensors and RAW file formats has to do with faithfully representing your image. The bottom line is that making even some mild tonal, white balance and color adjustments to the straight-out-of-camera image can pay back with massive dividends, and it’s as applicable to portrait photos as it is to landscape, nature and urban ones. The trick is to know when to say “when.”

Nice reminder that often, “less is more.”

Remember Chain Letters? Hackers Do

Ashwin Seshagiri, New York Times’ Tech Roundup:

The victims have a choice […] Pay the hackers a ransom of one bitcoin, a digital currency worth roughly $2,365, in exchange for regaining access to the computer, or try to infect two new people on behalf of the attackers.

That sucks.

Oldest Fossils of Homo Sapiens Found in Morocco

Carl Zimmer, writing for The Paper of Record:

Dating back roughly 300,000 years, the bones indicate that mankind evolved earlier than had been known, experts say, and open a new window on our origins.

The fossils also show that early Homo sapiens had faces much like our own, although their brains differed in fundamental ways.

Until now, the oldest fossils of our species, found in Ethiopia, dated back just 195,000 years. The new fossils suggest our species evolved across Africa.


Trump decides not to invoke executive privilege, not that he could

John Dean, writing at CNN:

As a leading student and expert on the subject of executive privilege, Mark J. Rozell, has written, it is an accepted doctrine when appropriately applied in two circumstances: (1) certain national security needs and (2) protecting the privacy of White House deliberations when doing so serves the public interest.

Clearly, Donald Trump’s conversations with James Comey do not fall into either area. Trump was wise not to try to concoct a phony justification for using the doctrine, which at best would have been a delaying tactic and only increased the already-fiendish interest in the specifics of Comey’s testimony.

Pretending James Comey is testifying only because the President is not invoking executive privilege is not only disingenuous, it borders on small-bore fraud. To claim you have a power you do not, in fact, possess is dishonest.

My comments on Facebook, just yesterday, in response to an article announcing the President’s “decision”:

I just love that this is presented by the White House as though our reaction should be “gee, the President is such a great guy,” when all along they know that if he even tried, the rational reaction could only be “gee, the President is an even bigger piece of shit that I had previously thought”…