Sunday Buffet: Domestic Drones, Cosmic Clouts, and More

photo: Parrot AR Drone via

photo: Parrot AR Drone via

Here’s an assortment of goodies that crossed my tablet over the last 24 hours or so. Which of these tidbits fires you up?

•  The Verge reported Friday that a new bi-partisan privacy bill sponsored by representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) targets the use of drones in the US.

“As written, it would ban police from operating unmanned aerial vehicles armed with weapons of any kind, and any drone surveillance operation would require a warrant notifying the target within 10 days, except when the notice would “jeopardize” an investigation. It also requires they make efforts to “minimize” the amount of data collected or shared, to avoid violating privacy unnecessarily. …

…Fears over the use of drones have increased lately as both President Obama and his counterterrorism chief John Brennan refused to answer whether lethal strikes could be used against American citizens on US soil. …”

When drones can be remotely operated by iPhone or Android cellphones and cost less than $300, we’re way past time for this bill. It might not hurt citizens to act locally as Charlottesville, Virginia has, enacting a ban on their use in their municipality. Think a drone couldn’t possibly slip by you to monitor you without permission? This one pictured here is only 22 inches long, comes equipped with a 720p high-def camera on board–imagine it hovering and peering in your bedroom window, or your kid’s room, its video output watched from an iPhone miles away.

•  Friday’s meteorite-asteroid-meteorite triple whammy certainly shook up the globe. What? You didn’t hear about the third one? Apparently when the smaller meteorite passed over California about 7:42 pm PST, the media had already used up its allotment of cosmic-related coverage for the week. Or year. Anyhow, objects hit our planet all the time that we don’t notice or publicize widely; it was the rare confluence of a near-miss asteroid and a larger-than-average meteorite within a 24-hour window that only made us think earth’s pummeling by space debris is unusual. Given that meteorites and asteroids are not all that rare, it seems like we’d do more to be prepared for impacts–especially since we’ve had pretty decent guesstimates about the damage space objects could inflict.

•  Speaking of science, science writer Philip Ball looks at the discovery of the microscope and its dramatic impact on science and religion. Technology that allowed us to look at our world at meta-scale has also had an impact on our perspective; the famous “blue marble” photo* from an Apollo mission is credited with increasing public interest in ecological studies, environmental protection, and space exploration. What technology will encourage us to get our tails in gear on climate change?

•  Finally, this photo-dense piece gives me pause. I was two years old when these were taken; what an incredible year that was. I wish I’d been old enough to remember any of these events, and yet, I’m glad some of them were well behind us by the time I was school-aged. Some of these photos remind me how little things have changed. Just Google “church arson” or “race hate crime” and you’ll see what I mean.

By the way, I’m open to suggestions as to naming these collections of newsy bits and pieces. Leave me your thoughts in comments. Thanks!

* When I first drafted this post, I didn’t know today marked the anniversary of the similarly important “pale blue dot” photo. How time flies.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.
11 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    @peasantparty: I’m surprise that these little drones haven’t already been put into use, they’ve been around a few years now. (Should have whispered that…)

    I don’t think there are secret laws, IMO–I think the secret is that there are no laws as far as gov’t is concerned, and they like it that way, lawless.

  2. JohnLopresti says:

    Thanx for the difficult memories of my senior year in Boston college.

    Meanwhile, now, in stanford, there is a new nonprofit fundraising to place a dedicated satellite into orbit for the purpose of helping trace all objects that will bring them into our planet’s path. Its name is something like

  3. Rayne says:

    @JohnLopresti: It’s a kicker revisiting the past in one post like that. No wonder my parents are screwed up. LOL

    Thanks for the info on — what a pity, another nonprofit doing what governments should be doing collectively to protect their people. It was sad enough that a volunteer nonprofit group in Spain discovered asteroid 2012 DA14.

  4. JohnLopresti says:

    @Rayne: The name of the nonprofit is imprecise. It was a call-in from a program on ghe radio kqed. The caller claimed his organization was far along with financing, had a payload cotract with the outfit that is orbiting satellites now, and even is working with NASA. for a launch in ?2015? Maybe the program I was listening to was sci-fri.

  5. geoschmidt says:

    Oh, ah, my question is: how will the Drones” be anything like the “Nukes”, in the sense that: the nukes were only… “available to ‘super powers’, however, these new things, call them ” drones”, are nuthing but gadamned remote controlled ‘modal airplains’ on steroids… if you will, and that means: (dunt da dunt dunt…)
    well may I make a irreverrent comment?… such as: maybe drones are not all that, high tech, and can and will be available to the world wide. So then the commies could start makin’ em too! S/

  6. geoschmidt says:

    Hi again Rayne, I got canned at the fdl site, where I enjoyed a couple of interchanges with you, ad so many others, and tell you what, I really miss that.

    However, I was summarily shut out from there, (about a week after I sent them the $50, and in my estimation that is… search for a term: not cool.

    And, when I asked, or in todays patwaw: Axed em, well: why did you ban me? [crickets… ] they: Bill Egnor, and others, don’t have the time to tell you: (folks, customers, clients, DUES PAYING MEMBERS!!, so I guess, if you boil it down really…

    Jane is a bitch!

  7. geoschmidt says:

    Rayne: I really don’t see how it can be a good thing with this “Drone” stuff.

    I mean, gadamned gangsters and just about anybody could do it!

    Then when the time comes: when the day that some…. “genius” will put a nuke on a drone, and/or satalite…. or both… and both X10, well that was the day!

  8. Rayne says:

    @geoschmidt: Nice to see you here at EW! I deleted what looked like a duplicate comment, hope that was the case.

    Yes, just about anybody can do a drone–and unfortunately, the wrong anybodies will likely do them first. I think this technology, while relatively simple, is a sign of futureshock; humans cannot react quickly enough because they cannot understand the repercussions of its use, nor can they model its use in order to act preemptively against possible/probable damages resulting from deployment.

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