Friday, October 31, 2014

Officials: 1 pilot dead, 1 injured in SpaceShipTwo test-flight failure

from cnn

By Chelsea J. Carter and Jason Hanna, CNN
updated 5:57 PM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014

  • NEW: "We are going to be supporting the investigation," Virgin Galactic CEO says
  • NEW: Both pilots worked for Virgin Galactic's partner, Scaled Composites
  • NEW: One pilot died, and one is seriously injured, officials say
  • SpaceShipTwo is a ''loss'' after a ''serious anomaly'' during a test flight, company says
(CNN) -- The first sign there was a problem Friday with Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo came at about 45,000 feet, just two minutes after it separated from the jet-powered aircraft that carried it aloft, officials said.
It wasn't something overt with SpaceShipTwo. It was what didn't happen.
"I knew when things weren't happening," said Stuart Witt, the chief executive of Mojave Air & Space Port, where SpaceShipTwo was launched and monitored. He didn't offer details.
"...If there was a huge explosion, I didn't see it."
Nothing seemed abnormal during the takeoff or flight prior to the spaceplane's failure, he said.
This much is known, according to Witt and others: One pilot is dead and another has been hospitalized with serious injuries.
The injured pilot was airlifted to Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, California, authorities said.
There have been reports that the pilots managed to bail out, using parachutes. But neither Virgin Galactic or its partner conducting the test flight, Scaled Composites, have confirmed the accounts.
The two pilots worked for Scaled Composites, according to that company's president, Kevin Mickey. He declined to publicly identify the pilots or detail their experience.
"Space is hard, and today was a tough day. We are going to be supporting the investigation as we figure out what happened today, and we are going to get through it," Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said.
"The future rests in may ways on hard, hard days like this."
Virgin Galactic has planned for years to sell trips in which SpaceShipTwo transports passengers about 62 miles above Earth -- the beginning of outer space -- and lets them experience a few minutes of weightlessness before returning to ground.
News of the crash of SpaceShipTwo came just after 10 a.m. local time (1 p.m. ET).
The incident occurred over the Mojave Desert shortly after SpaceShipTwo separated from WhiteKnightTwo, the vehicle designed to carry it aloft, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
Television footage from CNN affiliate KABC-TV in Los Angeles showed SpaceShipTwo in pieces in the Mojave Desert.
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a "go team" to investigate the test flight failure, the agency said.
Virgin's chief, Richard Branson, confirmed the loss on Twitter: "Thoughts with all @virgingalactic & Scaled, thanks for all your messages of support. I'm flying to Mojave immediately to be with the team."
It's unclear what the failure of the spaceplane will mean for the program. Virgin Galactic planned to send paying customers on SpaceShipTwo as early as 2015.
With composite lightweight materials, "feathered" rudders capable of turning 90 degrees and a hybrid rocket engine, it is as safe as modern technology can make it. As designer and aviator Burt Rutan put it in 2008, "This vehicle is designed to go into the atmosphere in the worst case straight in or upside down and it'll correct."
Details of Friday's test flight plan were not immediately known. But in previous test flights, SpaceShipTwo has been loaded on the jet-powered WhiteKnightTwo, which can take the spaceplane to about 50,000 feet.
At that altitude, SpaceShipTwo would then fire its RocketMotorTwo -- a hybrid rocket engine powered by both solid and liquid fuel.
SpaceShipTwo would reach supersonic speeds on its way to its intended altitude of about 62 miles above the Earth. At that point, people onboard would get about five minutes of weightlessness before the bonds of earth retract with 6 G's of force.
The spaceplane would then glide back through the atmosphere to landing.
Friday's is the second incident in a week involving the commercial space industry.
On Tuesday, an unmanned Antares rocket exploded just after takeoff off the coast of Virginia. Controllers deliberately destroyed the craft after it became apparent there was a problem, a spokesman for Orbital Sciences Corporation said Thursday.

CNN's Brooke Baldwin, Rosalina Nieves, Sonya Hamasaki, Shelby Lin Erdman and Todd Leopold contributed to this report.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

4 killed after plane hits building near Wichita airport

from cnn

By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
updated 4:46 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014

  • NEW: 4 still missing after airport crash, Wichita fire marshal says; pilot among victims
  • Fire under control as authorities determine if there are more victims, official says
  • Official: A Hawker Beechcraft King Air crashed into a building near Wichita's airport
  • Part of building's roof collapses

(CNN) -- Four people died after a small plane crashed into a building near Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport in southern Kansas on Thursday morning, city Fire Marshal Brad Crisp said.
Four remain unaccounted for, he said. While five people were initially transported to the hospital, three of those patients have reportedly been treated and released.
"Firefighters engaged in a horrific fight for several minutes. We have the fire under control. We are in the process of trying to determine if all the employees and visitors who may have been in the building are accounted for," Fire Chief Ron Blackwell told CNN affiliate KSNW.
About 50 to 60 firefighters responded and were evacuated after the structure was deemed unstable, Wichita police said.
Plane crash at Kansas airport
Two of those killed were inside the building when the plane crashed, police said. The pilot was killed, CNN affiliates reported.
One of the injured is in serious condition and another in fair condition, an official with Via Christi Health, a local hospital, told KSNW. The other three, who were in good condition earlier in the day, have been released, the station reported.
FAA and National Transportation Safety Board investigators are on the scene.
"There is a small aircraft that went into the FlightSafety building" near Mid-Continent Airport, said Steve Phillips, a FlightSafety International spokesman.
The plane is a Hawker Beechcraft B200 Super King Air, Phillips said. It was en route to Mena, Arkansas, CNN affiliate KWCH reported.
The FAA said the twin-engine plane lost an engine on takeoff and crashed into a two-story building, KSNW reported. The roof on the building's eastern side has collapsed, the station reported.
No information has yet been released on the identities of those in the plane or in the building. According to one aviation website, the aircraft can carry as many as 13 passengers.
It "crashed into the roof of our training center. I have no information on how many on board," Phillips said. "We have the manager of the training center on site, and he's making sure everyone is OK, but I don't have an answer for that."
The building is across the street from the airport, he said.
There were about 100 people inside the building at the time,Blackwell told KWCH.
Video from KSNW showed thick smoke rising from the building at 10:20 a.m. (11:20 a.m. ET).
Flights were operating normally, though some roads around the airport have been blocked off, the airport said in a tweet.
"The building has sustained serious damage, including the collapse of walls and ceilings," read another airport tweet.

CNN's Jason Hanna and Amanda Watts contributed to this report.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wal-Mart and allies in face-off with Apple Pay over mobile payments

from reuters

CHICAGO Wed Oct 29, 2014 7:49pm EDT

Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Service, introduces Apple Pay during an Apple event at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, September 9, 2014. REUTERS-Stephen Lam
1 OF 2. Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Service, introduces Apple Pay during an Apple event at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, September 9, 2014.


(Reuters) - Suddenly it's Apple versus Wal-Mart in the fight for shoppers' digital wallets.
With the development of a new mobile payment system, a group of retailers led by Wal-Mart Stores (WMT.N) is aiming to upend the $4.5 trillion credit card market and control the precious transaction data generated at the checkout line.
    The difficulty of the task became clear this week when drugstore chains CVS Health Corp (CVS.N) and Rite Aid (RAD.N), in a move apparently aimed at shoring up the retailers' pay system, stopped accepting payments on Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) iPhones. That prompted consumers to complain that they were being denied a user-friendly payment option.
The “skirmish,” as Apple CEO Tim Cook put it this week, is the latest dispute to emerge from the Byzantine world of payment systems, which is dominated by banks and credit card firms.
Many payment experts said they are skeptical that the retailer-backed system, known as CurrentC, can gain traction, let alone thwart Apple Pay, a payment system launched by the iPhone maker last week. CurrentC is set to go live in 2015.
The retailers' main objective appears to be to push credit card companies out of the payment equation, or at least get them to lower their costs.
"CurrentC is built for retailers, to help them cut out interchange fees," said Nick Aceto, senior director at payment technology firm CardConnect, referring to the fees paid by retailers to credit card companies when a shopper makes a purchase. "It's not a solution that will appeal to customers because it does not make their lives any easier."
That's not stopping the retailers from trying, and their consortium, the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), has clout, with $1 trillion in annual sales. In addition to Wal-Mart, its members include Best Buy Co (BBY.N) and Target Corp (TGT.N).
    MCX officials said CurrentC will work on any phone, integrating loyalty programs and payments into one transaction. While the group's focus is helping consumers, they said, it hopes to shake up the payment system.
"MCX and the merchants that founded MCX are challenging ... an entrenched, very large status quo, a $500 billion ecosystem on the payments side," Chief Executive Dekkers Davidson said on a conference call Wednesday.
    Davidson said MCX has made arrangements with two credit card companies and wants to partner with large issuers. But he did not say whether MCX would be willing to work with the likes of Visa Inc (V.N) and Mastercard Inc (MA.N) and pay them conventional rates on interchange fees. Eventually, he said, "We expect that all cards will be welcome at CurrentC."
    Wal-Mart, which has made little secret of its disdain for paying processing charges, is suing Visa for $5 billion for what it says are excessive card swipe fees.
    Credit card firms typically charge 2 percent to 3 percent of the value of each transaction. Retailers paid $66 billion in credit-card-related fees in 2013, out of $4.5 trillion in spending tied to major U.S. cards, according to the Nilson Report.
    In contrast to Apple Pay, which encrypts payment data and keeps it out of the hands of retailers, CurrentC connects directly to a customer's bank account. It will allow retailers to glean valuable data on spending patterns, which they can use to better target advertising and drive loyalty programs.
There would be no pooling of data across retailers, Davidson said, and shoppers can opt to remain anonymous. "Consumers will determine how they are marketed to or not marketed to," he said.
    MCX says CurrentC will be secure, an assertion that was tested on Wednesday when the group confirmed that hackers had obtained the e-mail addresses of some participants in a pilot program.
    While Wal-Mart has said it has no plans to support Apple Pay, its rival Target is taking a more nuanced approach. Target has said it plans to use MCX for in-store checkout but is allowing Apple Pay for online purchases through its mobile app. Target is featured on the Apple Pay website.
    MCX members have made up-front payments of $200,000 to $500,000 to join the group and signed multiyear agreements, according to people familiar with contract terms.
    MCX said on Wednesday that when retailers join the consortium they do so on an exclusive basis, but there are no fines if they leave the group.
    Walgreen Co (WAG.N), a rival to CVS and Rite Aid, said it decided to offer Apple Pay to give its customers more options.
    “It is ultimately about providing the choice to customers because no one really knows how this space will evolve,” said Deepika Pandey, head of digital marketing at the pharmacy.

(Additional reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Eric Effron and Douglas Royalty)

With Sprout, HP bets on remaking the PC as a 3D maker tool

from zdnet

By  for Between the Lines |

Summary: Hewlett Packard wants to infuse life into PCs with a new kind of machine that uses a built-in projector for surface-enabled touch and 3D scanning. Will makers and creatives get on board?

With Sprout HP bets on remaking the PC as a 3D maker tool

One of the biggest problems with today's 3D printer market is that you practically have to be a CAD engineer to make something useful. On Wednesday in New York, Hewlett Packard announced a new breed of PC to give everyday designers and makers a tool to unlock the potential of 3D printing.
It's called Sprout by HP and it's an all-in-one PC that looks similar to an iMac, but sports a small digital projector on the top of the monitor that projects down onto a mat (where the keyboard would normally be) and creates a second screen that is fully touch-enabled and also works with a digital pen. And the projector also serves as a 2D image scanner and a full 3D scanner for digitizing real world objects.
That's the hardware. The software involves what HP refers to as an "apperating system" called Workspace. It sits on top of Windows 8 and the computer boots directly into this HP environment to access a suite of creative tools. HP has Microsoft's support on this, which is a first in terms of a third party being sanctioned to bypass Windows and boot into their own environment.
Inside of Workspace, HP preloads a number of specific tools, but the centerpiece is an app named Create that functions as a digital canvas for mixing 2D scans, 3D scans, digital photos, images from the internet, drawings with the device's digital pen, and more.
HP sees the purpose of Sprout as a bridge between the physical and digital worlds. But, in practical terms it's about making it simpler to create 3D things since 3D printing continues to emerge as one of the tech world's next big trends. On Wednesday, HP also pre-announced its line of 3D printers that will be coming during the second half of 2016. HP said that its Multi Jet Fusion printers will use the company's unique thermal jet technology to deliver printing speeds 10x faster than today's 3D printers.
However, unlike HP's 3D printers that are still years away, Sprout will arrive next month. It will cost $1899, and will be available on November 9, with pre-orders now available on
The idea is clearly to get 3D-making tools into the hands of creative people to allow them to start experimenting with techniques for building 3D models. For now, users can take advantage of these tools to print to existing 3D printers from companies such as Makerbot and 3D Systems, but HP claims that its 3D printers will eventually not only be faster but will have higher resolution.
While the HP line of 3D printers have long been teased and anticipated, the ambitiousness of Sprout announcement was a surprise.
The inventor of the Sprout system, Brad Short, a distinguished technologist at HP, said, "People say the desktop is dead. We disagree... It just needs to go way past where it is today."
HP demos Sprout's 3D scanning. | Image: Jason Hiner
HP said that it has been working on Sprout for four years -- five years if you include the first year when Short was working on it in the lab -- and has now filed 70 patents that apply specifically to this project. It also has 4 PhDs working on the research associated with the product. The project originated when Short was working on a revolutionary new scanning device and he proposed that the scanner should be part of the PC and not a multifunction printer. It was a revolutionary idea inside HP at the time, but it was the seed for the digital scanner that's now built into Sprout.
The company believes that the market of creative people it's targeting with this product is 135 million in the US. It also believes there are 35-40 million businesses in the US that could also benefit from the product.
With Sprout, HP tested the product with about 400 people whose reality already intersects physical and digital, including kids as young as 3, doctors, engineers, designers, teachers, and even nurses with digital cadavers. Some makers are already using Sprout to capture the creative process.
Nevertheless, there's still work to do. Sprout can do 3D snapshotting now, but full 3D capture won't come until spring 2015. On Wednesday, HP released an SDK for software developers to tap into Sprout with their existing Windows 8 apps or to build new apps on top of Sprout and Workspace.
The company has already worked with specific software developers on Sprout apps and plugins. Crayola has developed a Sprout coloring app for kids and Dreamworks has created a Sprout app to let you use their characters and animation tools to design scenes and create stories; the Dreamworks app shows scenes on the computer screen while putting user controls on the projected canvas, which HP applauded.
Short said that the goal with Sprout is that "you won't think any more of going back and forth" between digital and the real world.
"It's not just a PC with two screens. It's new dual screen immersive form factor," he said.

Also see

Topics: CXOHardwarePrintersPCs


Jason Hiner is the Editor in Chief of TechRepublic. He writes about the products, people, and ideas that are revolutionizing business with technology.
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pope Francis: Evolution and Big Bang Theory Are Real

from nbc

Big Bang theory and evolution in nature "do not contradict" the idea of creation, Pope Francis has told an audience at the Vatican, saying God was not “a magician with a magic wand.” The Pope’s remarks on Monday to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences appeared to be a theological break from his predecessor Benedict XVI, a strong exponent of creationism.
“The beginning of the world is not the work of chaos that owes its origin to something else, but it derives directly from a supreme principle that creates out of love,” Pope Francis said. “The Big Bang, that today is considered to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the creative intervention of God; on the contrary, it requires it. Evolution in nature is not in contrast with the notion of [divine] creation because evolution requires the creation of the beings that evolve.”
The Pontiff said God created beings “and let them develop in accordance with the internal laws that he has given to each one.” He said: “When we read in Genesis the account of creation [we are] in danger of imagining that God was a magician, complete with a magic wand that can do all things. But he is not.”

Joy Ride: Boys Treated to Trip on Popemobile



- Alastair Jamieson, Claudio Lavanga and Emma Ong