DAILY DOSE: NASA plays inter-planetary target practice; Cases against researchers accused of China-ties dropping like flies.

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SHOT ACROSS THE BOW.

NASA has succeeded in what you can only call inter-planetary target practice. Sure, this time it was an asteroid and, sure, its stated goal was the future diversion of a theoretical doomsday asteroid. But it’s still a projectile hitting its mark in space.  Per the Associated Press,

A NASA spacecraft rammed an asteroid at blistering speed Monday in an unprecedented dress rehearsal for the day a killer rock menaces Earth.

The galactic slam occurred at a harmless asteroid 7 million miles (11.3 million kilometers) away, with the spacecraft named Dart plowing into the space rock at 14,000 mph (22,500 kph). Scientists expected the impact to carve out a crater, hurl streams of rocks and dirt into space and, most importantly, alter the asteroid’s orbit.

“We have impact!” Mission Control’s Elena Adams announced, jumping up and down and thrusting her arms skyward.

Take that. https://bit.ly/3RfqACT


MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Natural infections plus vaccinations have brought Japan to the Covid-19 immunity promised land, aka herd immunity. At least, that’s what a recent study suggests. Per Reuters,

Japan's population level immunity to COVID-19 has reached about 90% in major population areas after a recent Omicron wave, though that level of protection is likely to diminish in a matter of months, according to a study published on Tuesday.

Cue the anti-vaxxers shouting, “See we told you!” while ignoring the fact that vaccines played a role. https://reut.rs/3Ca6Vjr


ME TOO.

India wants its own version of GPS and who can blame them? Per The Wire India,

India is pushing tech giants to make smartphones compatible with its home–grown navigation system within months, worrying the likes of Samsung, Xiaomi and Apple, who fear elevated costs and disruptions as the move requires hardware changes, according to two industry sources and government documents seen by Reuters.

In line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s drive for self-reliance, India has over the years expanded the use of its regional navigation satellite system, called the Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC).

The Indian government wants to reduce dependence on foreign systems, including the widely used US Global Positioning System (GPS), and says NavIC provides more accurate domestic navigation and that its use would benefit the economy.

China, the European Union, Japan and Russia have their own global or regional navigation systems to rival GPS. Operational since 2018, NavIC’s uptake is minimal; it is mandated in public vehicle location trackers, for example.

Why depend on someone else’s system when you can make your own and trust its security? https://bit.ly/3SDFWSY


A LITTLE BUT DODGY.

A recent study revealed that, when it comes to landing lasting jobs, the best interpersonal connections people have aren’t their closest ones but rather their weaker ones. It was widely quoted and shared. Now, ethicists are voicing their concerns about the way LinkedIn conducted the study. Per Ars Technica,

This month, LinkedIn researchers revealed in Science that the company spent five years quietly researching more than 20 million users. By tweaking the professional networking platform's algorithm, researchers were trying to determine through A/B testing whether users end up with more job opportunities when they connect with known acquaintances or complete strangers.

To weigh the strength of connections between users as weak or strong, acquaintance or stranger, the researchers analyzed factors like the number of messages they sent back and forth or the number of mutual friends they shared, gauging how these factors changed over time after connecting on the social media platform. The researchers' discovery confirmed what they describe in the study as "one of the most influential social theories of the past century" about job mobility: The weaker the ties users have, the better the job mobility. While LinkedIn says these results will lead to changes in the algorithm to recommend more relevant connections to job searchers as "People You May Know" (PYMK) moving forward, The New York Times reported that ethics experts said the study "raised questions about industry transparency and research oversight."

Among experts' biggest concerns was that none of those millions of users LinkedIn analyzed were directly informed they were participating in the study—which "could have affected some people's livelihoods," NYT's report suggested.

Michael Zimmer, an associate professor of computer science and the director of the Center for Data, Ethics, and Society at Marquette University, told NYT that "the findings suggest that some users had better access to job opportunities or a meaningful difference in access to job opportunities.

A LinkedIn spokesperson told Ars that the company disputes this characterization of their research, saying that nobody was disadvantaged by the experiments. Since NYT published its report, LinkedIn’s spokesperson told Ars that the company has been fielding questions due to “a lot of inaccurate representation of the methodology” of its study. https://bit.ly/3rdRctA


WHAT A WASTE…

The Trump Administration’s drive to target and prosecute researchers in the United States that have ties to China – known as the China Initiative – is proving to have been a tremendous waste of time and money. Court cases associated with the program are dropping like flies. Per Science,

The U.S. government overplayed its hand in prosecuting U.S. academics under the controversial China Initiative, three federal courts ruled last week.

In separate cases, attorneys for the Department of Justice (DOJ) had maintained that chemist Franklin Tao, materials scientist Zhengdong Cheng, and mathematician Mingqing Xiao jeopardized the nation’s security and defrauded the government by deliberately hiding ties to Chinese institutions from the federal agencies funding their research. But last week, judges in Kansas, Texas, and Illinois either invalidated some of the most serious charges or handed down relatively lenient sentences for lesser violations. One judge overturned Tao’s fraud convictions, another accepted a plea deal that dropped nine fraud charges against Cheng, and the third sentenced Xiao to probation rather than prison for failing to report a foreign bank account.

Legal experts say DOJ’s theory of what constitutes defrauding a funding agency has turned out to be untenable. “These [results] show that the government’s [underlying] theory of the case was questionable,” says Margaret Lewis, a law professor and China scholar at Seton Hall University who doubts prosecutors should have pursued criminal convictions for what are often treated as civil or administrative violations. “The primary duty of a prosecutor is to obtain justice, not a conviction,” she says.

It’s not that industrial and scientific espionage doesn’t happen. It’s that the approach to solving the problem was bone headed. https://bit.ly/3dLWTM1

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

IMAGE CREDIT: NASA.


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