White House Honors Two Techies for Making Programming Cool

Bay Area residents Carlos Bueno and Kimberly Bryant are helping to prepare kids to use programming concepts in daily life and work.

Tech Titans Join Forces on Internet Surveillance

More than 60 technology firms and other groups are urging the federal government to let companies disclose Patriot Act data requests.

LinkedIn Co-Founder Calls for New Workplace 'Alliance'

Known as "the startup whisperer" of Silicon Valley, Bay Area native and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman joins us to discuss his recent book, "The Alliance." In it, Hoffman writes about the new era of employee-employer relationships, and proposes a model that emphasizes transparency over empty promises of loyalty and job security.

Privacy and the Internet of Things

Everyday objects -- watches, refrigerators and thermostats to name a few -- are becoming increasingly connected to each other and to us. The promise of "the Internet of things" is that we will be more efficient, healthier and ultimately happier. But so far consumers are not convinced. Recent research by data privacy company Truste found that a mere 22 percent of consumers believe the benefits of smart devices outweigh the risks. What are your hopes and concerns about these objects of the future?

PBS NewsHour

The dangers that lurk within USB devices

Photo by Flickr user

Photo by Flickr user

USB devices, commonly used to copy, store and share data, have also been known as a prime place to carry malware, or malicious software, from one computer to another. But that’s not the end of the story: researchers argue that USB security breaches don’t just originate from bad software, but from the fundamental core of how memory sticks function .

A recent finding by researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell from security consultancy SR Labs revealed that USB firmware can be reprogrammed to hide attack code, which means that malware can stay hidden. Not only can this prevent antivirus and other security software from locating malicious code, but it even allows malware to survive when all the data in a device is wiped clean.

To prove these fundamental security problems, they created a malware called “BadUSB” that demonstrates how malware could be carried on a USB drive to take over a computer and make inconspicuous changes to files. The malware hides inside the firmware of the USB that controls the basic functions, instead of the flash memory of the device, remaining almost impossible to fix.

“These problems can’t be patched,” Nohl told Wired magazine. “We’re exploiting the very way that USB is designed.”

Lell and Nohl plan to present the research at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas next week.

The post The dangers that lurk within USB devices appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Sleep study shows new moms are dangerously exhausted for months

Should new moms get more time off to catch up on sleep before going back to work? Photo by Getty Images

Should new moms get more time off to catch up on sleep before going back to work? Photo by Getty Images

Four months isn’t enough time for new moms to recover from the exhaustion of having a kid, a new study published in PLOSone reports.

New parents know the feeling: a shell-shocked, sleep-deprived, zombie-like state that manifests itself after too many nights of interrupted REM cycles. Months into a new parenting adventure, even after an infant is beginning to sleep more regularly, data shows moms are often still sleep-deprived.

The Australian study tracked the sleep quality of 33 mothers through their first months taking care of new infants. The mothers registered medically-significant levels of sleepiness, even after 18 weeks.

But how does that lack of sleep affect the rest of the world? “Sleep disruption strongly influences daytime function, with sleepiness recognized as a risk-factor for people performing critical and dangerous tasks,” said Dr. Ashleigh Filtness, who carried out the study at the Queensland University of Technology’s Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety.

“Policy makers developing regulations for parental leave entitlements should take into consideration the high prevalence of excessive daytime sleepiness experienced by new mothers, ensuring enough opportunity for daytime sleepiness to diminish to a manageable level prior to reengagement in the workforce.”

For an American audience, the study might raise eyebrows. According to their research, Australian newborn moms tended to get about seven hours and 20 minutes of sleep at the infant’s six-week mark. Compare that to the average American worker who clocks in with only six hours and 53 minutes per night. Though new parents experience more frequent interruptions to their sleep than people without small children, resulting in lower overall sleep quality.

The researchers behind the study plan to develop a program to raise awareness among pregnant women about the dangers of sleeplessness for freshly-minted parents.

The post Sleep study shows new moms are dangerously exhausted for months appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Firefighters get high tech to douse wildfires

Wildfires can destroy thousands of acres quickly. A gust of wind can quickly push the fire in another direction. But firefighters may be able to get the jump on wildfires with new technology.

University of California San Diego computer scientists stitch together information from weather sensors and satellite images to predict where wildfires are moving in real time. All of the images and data is fed into a supercomputer and creates a network of real-time wildfire information. Their cyber infrastructure system, called WIFIRE, analyzes the information to forecast where the fire will move while it is burning.

Knowing where the fire will spread could stop it in its tracks.

“The quicker we can get that information, the quicker firefighters can make that decision,” said Ilkay Altintas, a computer scientist at University of California San Diego who is heading the WIFIRE project.

The network is currently being tested in San Diego County, but it could spread internationally. Computer scientist Larry Smarr with the California Institute for Telecommunication and Information Technology hopes the WIFIRE technology will make forecasting wildfires as common as predicting the development of other major storms.

“Imagine that you could have a detailed model of a wildfire path and you could actually compute the progress of the flames faster than real time and provide advanced warning to the first responders,” he said.

Science correspondent Miles O’Brien has more on this story for the National Science Foundation series “Science Nation.”*

*For the record, the National Science Foundation is also an underwriter of the NewsHour.

The post Firefighters get high tech to douse wildfires appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Why the moon hits your eye like a big … lemon?

That's not Amore, that's a lemon. Photo by Flickr user Paolo Nespoli

That’s not amore, that’s a lemon. Photo by Flickr user Paolo Nespoli

Scientists have finally made lemonade out of the origins of our lemon-shaped moon.

While the moon may look, to quote crooner Dean Martin, like a big pizza pie — the real shape is a bit more similar to a lemon. To explain, a study published in the journal Nature says, one needs to go back to when the satellite first formed.

“This happened a long time ago, when the moon was not completely solid,” said Ian Garrick-Bethell, lead author of the study. “This was in the first 100 to 200 million years of lunar thermal evolution.”

The moon consisted initially of liquid, molten rock. As the rock began to cool and solidify, the process was not even; the thin outer crust hardened first and continued to float on the molten core. The moon, at that time, was spinning rapidly, its shape bulging at the equator similar to the same effect you see in a spinning water balloon. All the while, its close proximity to earth allowed tidal and gravitational forces to pull at the thin crust, further distorting it. As it began to move away from Earth and cool more completely, the odd shape “froze” in place.

Garrick-Bethell told that solving the lunar mystery can aid in future studies of gravitational effects on celestial objects. “Chipping away at this problem of the shape of the moon can give us insight into those types of fundamental geology problems,” he said.

The post Why the moon hits your eye like a big … lemon? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.