If the screen below has ever popped up as you were supposedly logging into Netflix, we’ve got some bad news for you. No, it’s not your Netflix account—that’s perfectly safe (at least for now). But if you followed the instructions on the screen, you’ve been duped by a new phishing scheme that seems so painfully obvious, it’s almost brilliant.
Jérôme Segura of Malwarebytes Unpacked was the first to uncover the dastardly little trick, which he painstakingly details in the video above. It starts when Segura attempts to login to his account with a bogus username and password, bringing him to a screen that prompts him to call what is, supposedly, Netflix tech support.
That number is, of course, not connected to Netflix in any way. Instead, Segura found that it was actually coming from an unaffiliated phone number in India. The “support staffer” then told Segura that hacker had infiltrated his computer, even going so far as to show him a “Foreign IP Tracer,” which, as he notes, is actually “a fraudulent custom-made Windows batch script.”
That’s when things start to get bizarre for even the untrained eye. The operator’s next step is to connect him with a “Microsoft Certified Technician.” Why Netflix would be sending users straight to Microsoft tech support, though, is anyone’s guess. As all this is going on, the scammers downloaded any files of interest from his computer (seen below), sent him a bill for their services, and even asked him to take a photo of his ID and credit card for “proof.” When they were unable to do so—Segura’s camera is disabled by default—the call promptly came to an end.
Private space mission will slingshot past Venus and Mars
Our species has an ongoing fascination with the planet Mars. Perhaps that has everything to do with a NASA rover named Curiosity, or just an increased awareness of Mars and its habitable potential, but governmental organizations and private companies are all racing to explore the red planet. A new private mission, called Inspiration Mars, is planning what would be the first manned mission to Mars and back, by using a slingshot trajectory to send a spacecraft by Mars and Venus before returning to Earth.
Inspiration Mars is the brainchild of Dennis Tito, multimillionaire and the world’s first space tourist. In 2001, Tito spent eight days in orbit on a mission to the International Space Station. That trip must have inspired him, because he’s now making plans to send humans even farther, past both Venus and Mars, taking us closer to two planets (and farther from Earth) than we’ve ever been. Tito will need some help, though, and is asking NASA for equipment and expertise. The idea is to work with a modified capsule from NASA’s newly-designed Orion spacecraft, partnered with Orbital Sciences Cygnus module. The entire thing would be launched into space by NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket.
The two-person manned mission would use gravity assists to slingshot around Mars and Venus before returning to Earth. This sort of maneuver uses a rare alignment of the Sun and planets (hence the 2021 window of opportunity to fly by both Mars and Venus) that creates a gravity situation that will accelerate a spacecraft without the need for costly rockets. Inspiration Mars’ initial trajectory would be towards the Sun, whose gravity would help it pick up speed. Then it will get hurled towards Mars and Venus, flying by them, and finally, like a boomerang, it will swing back to Earth.
Last week, The U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Space and Technologybegan hearings on Inspiration Mars, as well as discussing the technology that the project will need from NASA to actually fly the mission. The mission could be the forerunner to actually putting people on the surface of Mars.
A Solar-Powered Drone Designed To Fly For Five Years Nonstop
If a drone never had to land, it could track hurricanes, spot pirates and smugglers, follow animal migrations, and even act as an auxiliary GPS. In essence, it would be a geostationary satellite without the expense of going to space. Later this year, the company Titan Aerospace will test a drone that could do just that. The Solara 50, named for its 50-meter wingspan, will fly at 65,000 feet—above most other aircraft and above weather that could disturb its flight and block the sun, its source of power. Titan will market it as an “atmospheric satellite.”
Is there anything better than awe-inspiring photos of space? Probably not.
Inflatable airships designed to explore the skies of Venus
Drones and solar-powered ultralight aircraft have already conquered Earth’s skies, but if the engineers at Northrop Grumman and L’Garde have anything to say about it, our atmosphere is just the beginning. Someday, unmanned aircraft could soar across the skies of such alien worlds as Venus, Mars and Titan. In fact, we have the tech to have these specialized aircraft flying alien skies today. They just have to be built and sent along their way.
The first alien world Northrop Grumman’s engineers have set their sights on is Venus, Earth’s sun-scorched neighbor. A Venus-specific version of the drone, named VAMP (short for Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform) could be loaded aboard a mothership spacecraft and fired at Venus. Once in the atmosphere, the aircraft could be deployed by inflating its frame with hydrogen. During this process, the mothership would keep the drone aloft, jettisoning it once the frame was fully inflated.
Once on its own, the drone would be capable of both powered flight and drifting on the winds. Power for the engines as well as any instruments could be generated by solar panels during the day and a system that converts heat from the radioactive decay of plutonium-238 into electricity at night. With a wingspan of 151 feet and a weight of 992 pounds, the drones would be capable of carrying 440 pounds of scientific instrumentation and flying the Venutian skies for as long as a year. Altitudes would range from a daytime maximum height of 43 miles to a nighttime low of 34 miles.
On Venus, the driving winds would aid the aircraft in circumnavigating the planet every six days. A year of data gathered in this way would give us a detailed picture of what forces are at work on Venus from day to day. Gaining this information from other planets and moons across our solar system could also give us insight into what sorts of atmospheres exist across the galaxy. As we hunt for life on alien worlds and even new homes for humanity, the more we know about what lies below the clouds of our own neighboring planets, the better.
The next time you feel the urge to raid the fridge, you may want to consider grabbing a video game controller instead. As a new study shows, computer games like Tetris provide a visual distraction that can reduce cravings by as much as 24%.
According to a theory called Elaborated Intrusion, our cravings are driven by visual images that often pop into our heads. With this in mind, Plymouth University psychologists Jessica Skorka-Brown, Jackie Andrade, and Jon May wondered if a visually based task, like playing a video game, could decrease the frequency of craving imagery, and with it, the cravings themselves.
For the experiment, the researchers asked one group of volunteers to play Tetris — a popular puzzle game — while a second sat in front of a screen after being told the program was loading (ultimately, this group never did get a chance to play). Both groups were asked to rate their cravings before and after the experience (both groups had similar levels of cravings prior to the experiment).
After three minutes, the participants who played Tetris had significantly lower craving and less vivid craving imagery than the ‘wait’ group — by as much as 24% in some cases.
"The findings support EI theory, showing that a visuospatial working memory load reduces naturally occurring cravings, and that Tetris might be a useful task for tackling cravings outside the laboratory," conclude the authors in the study.
The study was also interesting in that, unlike previous lab studies, the researchers tested naturally, or spontaneously, occurring cravings (as opposed to artificially induced cravings).
Strange Signal From Galactic Center Is Looking More and More Like Dark Matter
The more that scientists stare at it, the more a strange signal from the center of the Milky Way galaxy appears to be the result of dark matter annihilation. If confirmed, it would be the first direct evidence for dark matter ever seen.
Dark matter is a mysterious, invisible substance making up roughly 85 percent of all matter in the universe. It floats throughout our galaxy, but is more concentrated at its center. There, a dark matter particle can meet another dark matter particle flying through space. If they crash into one another, they will annihilate each other (dark matter is its own antiparticle) and give off gamma rays.
To search for a dark matter signal, astronomers use NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Telescope to map the gamma radiation throughout the galaxy. Then, they try to account for all known sources of light within this map. They plot the location of gas and dust that could be emitting radiation and subtract that signal from their gamma-ray map. Then they determine where all the stars are and subtract out that light, and so on for every object that might be emitting radiation. Once all those sources are gone, there remains a tiny excess of gamma radiation in the data that no known process can account for.
“The more we scrutinize it, the more it looks like dark matter,” said astrophysicist Dan Hooper of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, co-author of a paper that appeared Feb. 26 on arXiv, a website that hosts scientific papers that have yet to go through peer-review.
Since 2009, Hooper has been claiming that this bright signal is evidence of dark matter. According to his team’s latest data, the gamma radiation could be produced by dark matter particles with a mass of 30 to 40 gigaelectronvolts (GeV) crashing into one another. A proton is roughly 1 GeV for comparison.
Super Earths are probably super dead
Just last week, the not entirely dead Kepler space telescope discovered over 700 new exoplanets, many of those falling into the super Earth category. A super Earth is a planet that is significantly larger than Earth, but has a similar rocky composition to our planet and falls within its star’s habitable zone. Unfortunately, astronomers have determined that these super Earths probably do not harbor life, dashing hopes that aliens may reside upon their surfaces.
These findings come after astronomers at the Space Research Institute at the Austrian Academy of Sciences modeled some of these super Earths. Planets that are actually closer to Earth’s size are probably the only planets capable of sustaining life as we know it, as any rocky planet bigger than that probably has too much hydrogen in its atmosphere. Generally speaking, when such a large planet forms, its gravity draws hydrogen into its atmosphere and keeps it there. This thick atmosphere creates a lot of pressure on the surface of the planet, meaning that life on it would be nearly impossible.
This changes what we believe about habitable planets. We know that a planet needs to fall within a certain distance from its star, known as the habitable zone. We also know that if a planet is too small, it can’t have enough gravity for the right atmosphere to form for it to sustain life. Now, we’ve learned that if a planet is too big, it’s just the opposite: there is too much atmosphere. According to this new study, a habitable planet must have a size and mass fairly similar to Earth’s.
Being able to narrow down exactly what a habitable planet looks like gives us a better idea of what to look for. And with new exoplanets being discovered every day, we now have a better idea of which ones may sustain life.
Why Is The Milky Way A Spiral?
The shape of our galaxy is nothing special. Among the other clusters of stars that can be easily observed from our corner of the universe, a few are blobby and egg-shaped, but more than two-thirds are so-called “disc galaxies,” or ones whose stars have settled into flat orbits, as if traveling along the surface of a giant vinyl record. Almost every disc galaxy looks at least a bit like ours, with stars that group together into spiral arms.
What causes the spirals? “A galaxy is constantly bombarded by satellite galaxies,” says Chris Purcell of West Virginia University. When one galaxy passes by or through another, the resulting forces can send a shockwave throughout its structure, bunching stars together in spindly shapes that rotate around the center. “It’s essentially a vibration that travels gravitationally throughout the disc,” Purcell explains. As a galaxy ages, these perturbations tend to mount, and the disc goes from being thin, circular, and relatively homogeneous to thicker and more distorted. It’s a natural process, says Purcell: “These galaxies are not only trying to turn themselves into spirals, they are constantly getting banged into by things that are turning them into spirals.”
The Milky Way would seem to be somewhat early in the process, as evidenced by its slender figure. But things are changing: Several of the other, smaller galaxies are now (on a cosmological time-scale) bumping up against us. One of these is the Sagittarius Dwarf. “It turns out that it’s on the opposite side of the galaxy from us,” Purcell says, “and so it’s hitting the disc from underneath.” Purcell’s simulations suggest that these collisions could account for the spiral that we see today.
But an even more extreme collision could be in the cards. “We’re on our first in-fall toward Andromeda,” Purcell warns, “and we’re approaching it directly.” What would happen then? “It’s going to destroy both discs and turn the entire system into an elliptical blob.” But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: That crash is still more than a billion years off.