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Intelligent Satellite Notices Volcanic Activity

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the lookee-down-there dept.

Space 116

Dik Zak points us to this NASA page about a new generation of intelligent Earth observation satellites. From the article: "The Indonesian volcano Talang on the island of Sumatra had been dormant for centuries when, in April 2005, it suddenly rumbled to life. A plume of smoke rose 1000 meters high and nearby villages were covered in ash. Fearing a major eruption, local authorities began evacuating 40,000 people. UN officials, meanwhile, issued a call for help: Volcanologists should begin monitoring Talang at once. Little did they know that, high above Earth, a small satellite was already watching the volcano. No one had told it to. EO-1 (short for "Earth Observing 1") noticed the warning signs and started monitoring Talang on its own. Indeed, by the time many volcanologists were reading their emails from the UN, 'EO-1 already had data,' says Steve Chien, leader of JPL's Artificial Intelligence Group."

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116 comments

It was December the 3rd (5, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17092782)

It was December the 3rd, the day skynet became self aware....

What an absolutely awesome piece of self identifying hotzone locating piece of hardware, the guys at Cyberdyne must have had a field day making it.

And now the intelligence is growing. "We're teaching EO-1 to use sensors on other satellites." Examples: Terra and Aqua, two NASA satellites which fly over every part of Earth twice a day. Each has a sensor onboard named MODIS. It's an infrared spectrometer able to sense heat from forest fires and volcanoes--just the sort of thing EO-1 likes to study. "We make MODIS data available to EO-1," says Chien, "so when Terra or Aqua see something interesting, EO-1 can respond."

This thing sounds like it can detect a fart from orbit!

What I want to know is if all this processing actually occurs onboard the sat, or if its a land based super computer brain?
Are these machines by chance running Linux? or are they using another VX-Works OS?

For the first time every I really think it could be possible for us to build a beowolf cluster of linux running space fem-bots, all we need to do is sabotage the main dev tree (if(GPS.Height>'200miles') ...)!

Year of the desktop? PAH! This year - the world!

Re:It was December the 3rd (4, Funny)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093260)

This thing sounds like it can detect a fart from orbit!

Sorry, that was me.

Re:It was December the 3rd (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17093336)

What I want to know is if all this processing actually occurs onboard the sat, or if its a land based super computer brain? Are these machines by chance running Linux? or are they using another VX-Works OS?
EO-1 has a couple of 12Mhz MIPS processors running vxWorks. The processor is similar to the CPU in the Playstation 1.

Re:It was December the 3rd (4, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094680)

It was December the 3rd, the day skynet became self aware....

What an absolutely awesome piece of self identifying hotzone locating piece of hardware


      And to think - Skynet was supposed to wipe out the entire human race because it felt threatened - but now we know the truth. In reality it just got bored one day, and wanted something to watch.... kaboom, kaboom -....

It was December the 3rd, 1984 (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17096634)

Let me see what I can say about this that doesn't get me on some list...

If they admit the satellite has 1m resolution, it can read license plates. If they say it sees thermal events, it knows when you're getting busy. If Intel says they're at a 65nm node, satellites are launching at 17nm.

I first met self-aware hardware in the '80s. I assume development has developed apace. The only thing surprising about this report is that some people consider it surprising. Our only saving grace at this point is that the wonks that manage these programs don't see their potential for abuse.

Does it run linux? Don't be silly. They can do much better than that.

Oh Oh. (1)

lecithin (745575) | more than 7 years ago | (#17092786)

It becomes self-aware at 2:14am Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.

And, EO-1 fights back.

Good Morning Dave... (1)

Codename46 (889058) | more than 7 years ago | (#17092802)

A Growing Intelligence Around Earth
ROFL

I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that. (4, Funny)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 7 years ago | (#17095300)

I replaced this for the 'beep' in Windows once. Was funny for a few days.

...but did it tell anyone? (5, Insightful)

trainsnpep (608418) | more than 7 years ago | (#17092832)

Did the satellite tell anyone it noticed anything? That's important too.

Re:...but did it tell anyone? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17093002)

Yeah, that's the first thing that came to my mind: this would have been _really_ awesome if the satellite notified someone that some parameter was outside it's usual range. SNMP would be kool here (Space Network Monitoring Protocol).
Seriously, that would be real intelligence. Of course, this might not be doable because of a number of false alarms, or other technical details.
Does someone around here have some insight in this ?

(posting anonymously because I modded parent up)

ENMP? (1)

nietsch (112711) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093534)

Pardon me, but wouldn't earth observing satelites react with the EarthNetworkMonitoringProtocol?
The space one is for the satelites looking the other way.

Re:...but did it tell anyone? (1)

ozbird (127571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097770)

SNMP would be kool here (Space Network Monitoring Protocol).

EO-1: Itsa(SNMP)trap!

Re:...but did it tell anyone? (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093126)

I would have hoped that it would have noticed something!

"A plume of smoke rose 1000 meters high and nearby villages were covered in ash."

Re:...but did it tell anyone? (4, Interesting)

tqk (413719) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093198)

Did the satellite tell anyone it noticed anything? That's important too.
It's enough that it stored its observations. I consider the little creature bloody brilliant and look forward to its further adventures.

Re:...but did it tell anyone? (1)

GigG (887839) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094242)

It's enough that it stored its observations. I consider the little creature bloody brilliant and look forward to its further adventures.

No, it really isn't. If it looks down and notices something that will tell us that LA is going to fall into the Pacific a week from Tuesday it really isn't going help anyone if it doesn't tell us about it.

Re:...but did it tell anyone? (2, Funny)

Boronx (228853) | more than 7 years ago | (#17095754)

Sure it will help people, just not people in LA.

Re:...but did it tell anyone? (1)

GigG (887839) | more than 7 years ago | (#17098514)

Well LA was a bad example for Mod points. I should have picked a place that wouldn't make the rest of the country happy if it fell into the ocean.

Re:...but did it tell anyone? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17099152)


If you find such a place, please let me know and I'll begin preparations to move immediately. Just msg me in private, because I don't want everyone else moving in and spoiling the place.

Re:...but did it tell anyone? (2, Funny)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094580)

It's enough that it stored its observations.

Notice to the Slashdot grammarstapo community: there are people out there who can use both "it's" and "its" correctly--In the same sentence!

- RG>

Re:...but did it tell anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17094354)

Yes ... scientists can register for notifications, but this is nothing new.
Google for MODVOLC, GOESVOLC, Dartmouth Flood Observatory, VAAC, or Rapidfire.

The new thing here is that automated response from detections.

Re:...but did it tell anyone? (2, Funny)

mrogers (85392) | more than 7 years ago | (#17099240)

Did the satellite tell anyone it noticed anything? That's important too.

No, it just snickered. It's seen a couple of other things coming our way too, but whenever the operators try to get more information is just says "Oh you'll find out. You'll find out... soon enough."

Today volcanoes.... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17092910)

....tomorrow, Sarah Connor.

And then we're all in trouble.

Re:Today volcanoes.... (1)

Easy2RememberNick (179395) | more than 7 years ago | (#17095720)

Actually it will be naked Austrian body builders materializing out of a ball of light.

Obligatory Comments (1, Funny)

w3woody (44457) | more than 7 years ago | (#17092922)

"I for one welcome our new satellite overlords."

"I wonder what would happen if we created a beowulf cluster of them?"

Re:Obligatory Comments (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17092960)

SHUTUP

Those jokes are SO OLD

Re:Obligatory Comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17093326)

the moderators on the other hand obviously are not...

or maybe these two comments rating got mixed up?

Joke old (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17093558)

Old joke delivered well still funny.

Re:Joke old (0, Flamebait)

ampathee (682788) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093800)

Old joke delivered well still funny.

Yeah, but old joke regurgitated mindlessly to whore for karma == not funny and not cool.

Seriously people. Stop up-modding 'obligatory' overlords/beowulf/hotgrits rubbish!
It was funny the first time ONLY. Nothing new has been added to make it funny again.

Seriously, quit it.

Re:Joke old (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17094208)

I'm completely okay with people modding these up as funny. Funny doesn't get a karma boost. It then makes the post more noticeable, which means it is then more likely to be modded as offtopic, which gives a karma penalty.

I... (4, Funny)

alienmole (15522) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094396)

Seriously people. Stop up-modding 'obligatory' overlords/beowulf/hotgrits rubbish!
I, for one, welcome our new anti-obligatory-upmodding overlords!

Re:I... (1)

ampathee (682788) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094748)

Haha - I suppose I should have expected that :P

Re:Joke old (0)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094654)

Stop up-modding 'obligatory' overlords/beowulf/hotgrits rubbish!
It was funny the first time ONLY.


      But, but, in Soviet Russia, the mod jokes YOU!

Re:Obligatory Comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17094238)

"Those jokes are SO OLD"

Too late. It's culture now.

Re:Obligatory Comments (0)

xornor (165117) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093658)

In Soviet Russia Volcano Satellites monitor you!

Re:Obligatory Comments (0)

Pixelmixer (907566) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094176)

"I wonder what would happen if we created a beowulf cluster of them?" possibly, but first we need to know... does it run Linux?

Re:Obligatory Comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17094670)

Those "jokes" are nigh more obligatory than saying "I'd hit it" at an open-casket funeral.

How intelligent is it? (2, Funny)

Goody (23843) | more than 7 years ago | (#17092926)

I wonder if it notices hot chicks when there's no interesting volcanos?

Re:How intelligent is it? (2, Funny)

comradeb14ck (1018746) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093100)

If it watches hot chicks, then there is no doubt in my mind that you will soon be getting emails from EO-1 titled, "FREE SATELLITE PORN CLICK HERE!!!" Just what we need... More spam.

Re:How intelligent is it? (-1, Troll)

thc69 (98798) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093164)

Stuff it! Maybe we'll get "FREE SATELLITE PORN" of Natalie Portman's Clit covered in Hot Grits while Naked And Petrified...

Next step, Skynet! (0, Redundant)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093016)

I welcome the... oh, forget it.

UN (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17093076)

Does the UN actually believe it needs to inform geologists about volcanic activity and direct them to monitor volcanoes? Really?

UN: "You soulless western pig dogs get out there and monitor"

First world geology: "Uhmm, good idea. BTW, our satellites do this automatically now."

Re:UN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17094812)

The u.n. (lowercase intentional) believes its job is to tell everyone else what to do while its members sit on their fat asses and bitch about the results.

Re:UN (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17096516)

What would the Useless Nations have to do with this?

Intelligent Earth observation satellites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17093108)

I knew we were being watched!!

Re:Intelligent Earth observation satellites (1)

alienmole (15522) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094406)

Boy, am I glad I've been wearing a tinfoil hat all this time!

already posted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17093116)

already got posted a long time ago, probably around April.

Inefficient use of funds (0, Flamebait)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093174)

What are we doing with so many satellites in orbit we can spare one look at targets generated by AI heuristics? these things costs millions of dollars a year to run. I don't see that the *possibility* of managing to look at an interesting event before being actually commanded to do so is a proportional use of that money. There are MUCH more essential things to spend millions of dollars on.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (3, Insightful)

D3m0n0fTh3Fall (1022795) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093296)

God forbid they actually do some *research* and *invent* something *useful* ? How can you say that it wouldn't be great for them to have a network of satellites that watch the globe for this activity tirelessly day and night, rather than having some poor tired geologists staring at seismometeres ? I'm sure you're against educating people in the third world because other people are starving etc. Please think about things a little bit before you call them a waste of money.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (2, Interesting)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094700)

> God forbid they actually do some *research* and *invent* something *useful* ?

Research is an essential aspect of progress. However, all because research is essential does not mean ALL research is essential, or that any given research is an efficient use of the finite resources available with which to conduct research.

More to the point, research is not the issue here, despite the fact you're raised it as THE issue. There are a zillion ways to develop AI heuristics. There is no need whatsoever to spend millions of dollars developing them in a spacecraft when you can spend thousands of dollars and develop them in a computer, with attached sensors, in a lab.

The issue here is that there is a finite amount of money and this seems to be a rather gratitious and extremely expensive satellite.

> How can you say that it wouldn't be great for them to have a network of satellites that watch the globe
> for this activity tirelessly day and night, rather than having some poor tired geologists staring at
> seismometeres ?

I doubt there is a single geologist, tired or otherwise, staring at seisometers, waiting for something to happen. I suspect they are all computer monitored and the geologists, being rather bright, have so arranged matters that they are warm and comfy in bed.

> I'm sure you're against educating people in the third world because other people are starving etc.

You think that because you don't understand where I'm coming from and have projected a set of opinions you dislike on to me.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093312)

Earth is big and details like a volcano explosion is small. I really don't think a satellite that scans the whole earth and pinpointing changes relevant to its mission is that out of line.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (2, Interesting)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094768)

> I really don't think a satellite that scans the whole earth and pinpointing changes relevant to its
> mission is that out of line.

There are MANY satellites which monitor the entire planet, 24/7.

My point is that the report seems to be that this satellite is being used to experiment with AI heuristics.

It's all good and well to do research, but it's not all good and well to do needlessly expensive research. Firing a satellite into orbit and running it is VERY expensive. The more you spend doing this, the less you have to spend on other research, which now simply doesn't get done. (And that's if you spend it on research; what about the 2.9 billion people who live on less than $2 a day?)

More to the point, it's actually an example of an abuse of economic freedom. I pay taxes - a whacking great big chunk of my income is taken from me. Why do I pay so much? what's the money used for? turns out some of it is being used to fire what seems to be entirely excessive hardware into space. I'm not happy with having so much money taken from me for things like this! but what choice do I have? none at all. My economic freedom - my ability to own what I earn from my own work - is compromised, for the State comes along and dispossesses me of a whacking great big chunk of my work; and it seems some of that money is being very inefficiently used. The people spending my money aren't the person who had to do the work to earn that money.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17094904)

"I pay taxes - a whacking great big chunk of my income is taken from me."

The fact that your 11th-grade Social Studies class is doing economics this trimester does not make you an "economist"; and we all feel bad for you that your Burger King paychecks aren't big enough to get you that '94 Sentra before you get your "real" license. Now brush your teeth and go to bed.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (2, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097378)

And lets all give Toby a great big hand for demonstrating exactly why we have taxes and why government funded research is so important!

After all, it's not as if Toby's own economic potential didn't completely rely on the fact that he works in a nation whose citizenery benefited from the advances in science that such 'inefficient' research produces! No of course not! No, Toby is one of those billions of $2 a day workers who happens to have access to the Internet. An inefficient, failure of an attempt by the US and NATO signatories to create a decentralized network of communication capable of withstanding nuclear war.

And after all! It's not as if Toby's own opinion on EO-1 isn't well researched and thought out, I'm sure that right now he can spout off all of the sundry mission objectives that EO-1 has, as well as how successful so far it has been at meeting them.

No ladies and gentlemen, Toby has successfully shown to the world how selflessness and a broad world view, focused not on the impact of others actions upon oneself but on the impact of one's own actions upon others, can completely trump the necessity for government taxes collected for the benefit of it's citizens and applied in the pursuit of making their life better.

After all, if it were up to him, we'd just donate it all to the $2 a day workers! I'm sure that would make their day. For a week....

Re:Inefficient use of funds (2, Insightful)

Elrac (314784) | more than 7 years ago | (#17099096)

@Toby: Living in Europe, I handily pay more taxes than you, yet I don't go whining about it. If you pay taxes, that means you have a job and an income and a means to feed yourself, plus a bunch of comforts probably far beyond the necessary. This being the case, how much have you donated to the cause of feeding poor people on the other side of the planet? Nothing? OK, so now that we know your motivation is largely simple greed, let's proceed to talk about priorities.

Only a knuckle-dragging halfwit would get incensed about his government's expenditures in research while staying silent about the uncalled-for, counterproductive and outrageously expensive war his country chooses to blow his taxes on. Please note, Mr. Economist, that

  • the US' war^H^H^Hdefense budget is greater than that of all other countries in the world combined;
  • that the War on the People of Iraq is costing more every day than the entire project lifecycle associated with this satellite;
    and, on a totally unrelated topic also near and dear to your wallet,
  • that you possibly pay more for health insurance than taxes, yet on average per capita your country has some of the worst health care in the world.

I wouldn't object so much to your foolish rant if it didn't make it obvious that you have no idea of the difference between major costs and minor, important and unimportant.

Never mind, I'm sure I'm not reaching you. I hope you contribute generously to the abolishment of science education in schools. You know, science has been known to get in the way of teaching the Truth about Creation.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

Virtual_Raider (52165) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093340)

There will always be more important things to do than those currently being done for as long as people have individual opinions. Resources are limited, and the way those resources are used is determined by those people that can gather enough of them.

In this case, the purpose of this satellite is specifically to look around for things that are out of the ordinary, and as such there is nothing more important for their team to do with their resources because this is exactly what they wanted to do. Many times science for the sake of science has yielded unexpected and highly beneficial results that can have practical applications. Think microwaves. And also the way they are using AI and networking with other satellites may in itself become useful in the future. I can imagine this satellite working together with the early warning systems currently being deployed to warn against future tsunamis for example.

The fact that so many people has so many different viewpoints, opinions and priorities is the main reason IMHO that we as a race can make any progress at all. I think it would be nice, and morally better to tackle world hunger first, but I'm sure some people consider other things to be more pressing. So to close, there is little point in saying that some project is a waste and its resources would be better employed elsewhere unless you have some direct say in how those resources are being allocated.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094816)

> There will always be more important things to do than those currently being done for as long as people
> have individual opinions.

Weasel words.

If 10 million dollars is spent running a satellite when the research it's doing can be done on the ground and people are starving, then there really IS more important stuff for that money to be spent on.

> In this case, the purpose of this satellite is specifically to look around for things that are out of
> the ordinary, and as such there is nothing more important for their team to do with their resources
> because this is exactly what they wanted to do.

I'm saying they shouldn't have been given that money in the first place, because what they're doing isn't worth the money they've been given, considering the other things that money could be spent on.

> Many times science for the sake of science has yielded unexpected and highly beneficial results that can
> have practical applications. Think microwaves. And also the way they are using AI and networking with
> other satellites may in itself become useful in the future. I can imagine this satellite working
> together with the early warning systems currently being deployed to warn against future tsunamis for
> example.

So why don't we give them 100 billion dollars and let them do research with that?

Obviously, because it's disproportionate. You don't spend THAT much money on this, because you need the money for other things and also the benefits you'll get become progressively more expensive to have obtained because it cost you so much more in the first place.

And my point is that these maybe's and could-have's are NO way to seriously justify millions of dollars of spending. If you're going to spend serious money, you better have a bloody good idea of what you're spending it on and why - and given how expensive satallites are, this does not seem like a good, efficient way of converting millions of dollars into lots of research - it seems like a bad, inefficient way to convert millions of dollars into just a little bit of research.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

Virtual_Raider (52165) | more than 7 years ago | (#17095160)

> There will always be more important things to do than those currently being done for as long as people > have individual opinions. Weasel words.
Why thank you =) Although they were intended more like an abstract of the points I made afterwards.

I'm saying they shouldn't have been given that money in the first place, because what they're doing isn't worth the money they've been given, considering the other things that money could be spent on.

I got that but maybe I didn't address it as clearly as I thought. Allow me to try again, by joining these two statements of yours thus:

I'm saying they shouldn't have been given that money in the first place, because what they're doing isn't worth the money they've been given, considering the other things that money could be spent on. So why don't we give them 100 billion dollars and let them do research with that? Obviously, because it's disproportionate. You don't spend THAT much money on this, because you need the money for other things and also the benefits you'll get become progressively more expensive to have obtained because it cost you so much more in the first place.

What I tried to say —and hopefully will be more clear now— is that they were allocated whatever resources they currently have because someone thinks its worth it. You and I my disagree on this worthiness, but people found 'reasonable reasons' for doing this. Besides, the budget they have is but a fraction of the whole, where the rest has been earmarked for some other uses. This is the fraction (big or small) that the people doing the slicing deemed reasonable to spend in this particular task.

My point in saying that there are many different opinions is that we wouldn't be (aren't?) able to agree on what is more or less important, so we allocate some resources to this, some to that. There is simply no consensus over what to prioritize as you and I are illustrating, so we have to split the cake several ways. But its not like this guys are getting the whole enchilada.

I for one think it's cool that they are doing it, and if what they say about their AI is true, it looks like in the near future computer assisted tasks might get a big boost. That's a direct result of the program, "make AI smart enough so it can self-direct through its activities". Automation makes certain things run smoother (meaning cheaper and faster).

To sum: I contend this does have value, and the fact that there are other valuable things as well does not diminish the value of this one or make it inappropriate to invest in it.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

fotbr (855184) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093358)

Because, of course, satellites designed to do one thing are automatically capable of doing other things, and doing them well enough to be considered a "good" use of money.

This thing is designed to look for heat sources. Chances are it will suck at trying to determine crop yields, count WMDs in Iraq (or wherever they're supposedly at now), and will fail to determine wether Kim Jong Il managed to get ahold of a PS3 in violation of the latest round of sanctions -- although if sony makes the ps3 power supply like they do their batteries, it might succeed at that last bit.

A secondary role it MIGHT be good at is monitoring for weapon launches, as well as monitoring of other countries' space shots, depending on the software and resolution of sensors. Or that might be the primary mission and watching fires and volcanos is just what they tell us.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (4, Insightful)

tomhath (637240) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093676)

A secondary role it MIGHT be good at is monitoring for weapon launches, as well as monitoring of other countries' space shots, depending on the software and resolution of sensors.

The US has had satellites that detect missile launches for decades. Calling this thing AI is a stretch; a sensor picks up something and it starts collecting. Maybe some pattern matching, not much else.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (0, Troll)

fotbr (855184) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094838)

Which was my point, but thanks for spelling it out so people don't have to think for themselves.

The US doesn't really like to tell which satellites are designed for that particular mission, but they do like to point out the capability by using them for other semi-related things. In this case, the US says "we have a satellite that can detect fires, and its even 'smart' about it" and while the idiots say "hey spiffy, they can see fires" other countries get the message "it can spot launches, and record information on them, without people on the ground telling it what to do". In the past the US has sent similar messages to the former USSR by doing things like using ground-penetrating radar to map underwater rivers. The message wasn't "hey, here's a river" it was "hey, don't bother trying to hide your missile silos, we can still find them".

I'll agree its not really AI -- but it makes a nice "hook" to point out capabilites and make sure it gets into the press.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

bloobloo (957543) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097032)

I don't think so in this case - if it was used for weapons launch monitoring I'd expect it to notify NORAD or someone else when it sees something unusual.

The flip side is that it could be watching the events and its 'intelligence' is actually used to categorise unusual measurements as weapon fire or not, and then only report the hostile activity.

Your assumption (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17096440)

Is that because intelligence is not required for this function, it is not present. A logical fallacy.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (-1, Troll)

slightlyspacey (799665) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093360)

Right, why spend millions of dollars on satellites that are now able to directly benefit mankind when we can send over $100 million/year to the National Endowment for the Arts? Someone remind me what it is their mission is ...

Re:Inefficient use of funds (4, Insightful)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094160)

Right, why spend millions of dollars on satellites that are now able to directly benefit mankind when we can send over $100 million/year to the National Endowment for the Arts? Someone remind me what it is their mission is ...


OK, I'll bite. I'm a scientist who does utterly useless, blue-sky type stuff that will never make anyone money, or save anyone's life. So why should anyone pay me to do things that don't have a clear payoff?

The answer I've come up with is that these things- pure research, art, music, philosophy, museums- may not make us live any longer, and they may not make us richer, but they make our lives richer. Sure, if we diverted all government funding from the arts, public TV, the Smithsonian, the National Parks Service and soforth, and used it to fund stuff that would directly benefit people, people might live longer, more comfortable lives. But a world with less art, music, museums, and pure research is a deader, duller, less interesting world. Who'd want to live in that world? I'm not saying that justifies any level of funding, you've got to figure out how many dollars you're willing to pay for each "Angels in America" (an incredible work funded by the NEA, incidentally), but it's worth something and I'm more than happy to have my tax dollars promote that kind of thing. It's a hell of a lot more productive than having my tax dollars kill my countrymen and foreigners in the Middle East. And a hundred million a year works out to what, 30 cents per American on the arts?

The other answer is that there is a payoff, but it's a long-term, indirect one. Look at a city like New York. It's a vibrant, changing, economic powerhouse. Part of that, I think, is that the city is so filled with the arts- writers, photographers, musicians, scholars and soforth- that it's just a damn interesting place to live. Many of the best and the brightest from across the nation are drawn to the city because they want to experience a place that's alive intellectually and artistically, and in the long term that helps the city to reap huge economic benefits. I think a vibrant culture will help foster a vibrant economy. If nothing else, millions of people visit cities like New York and San Francisco to take in that culture, spending a lot of money in the process. So I think that long term, a few dollars wisely invested in the arts and academia are a good move.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17095744)

Not that I disagree with you, but weren't most of the avant-garde arts of the last, say, two centuries or so characterized by their lack of funding?

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17096492)

You miss the fact that the most important purpose of government is to deplete the excess productivity. In a sense, revenue sucking pork projects motivate the populace to produce more in order to pay their taxes rather than develop civil unrest.

Unfortunately in the long term blue-sky, pure research always pays dividends much greater than money invested in other ways by making people more productive or resources more plentiful and thus increases the burden of surplus productivity to be depleted. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Now go teach an Origami course for penance.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

Fear the Clam (230933) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097730)

Look at a city like New York. It's a vibrant, changing, economic powerhouse. Part of that, I think, is that the city is so filled with the arts- writers, photographers, musicians, scholars and soforth- that it's just a damn interesting place to live. Many of the best and the brightest from across the nation are drawn to the city because they want to experience a place that's alive intellectually and artistically, and in the long term that helps the city to reap huge economic benefits.


Actually they come here for weird sex. The fact that they have to spend money to get it is what helps the city to reap huge economic benefits.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (2, Informative)

xmundt (415364) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094634)

Greetings aqnd Salutations

        Hum...$100 million sounds like a lot on an individual basis, but, in terms of the entire budget it is closer to what falls on the floor from the change pocket. In 1998, the budget spent on "secret" programs was $28 BILLION. That is, unless I am confused $28,000 million, and that is not even the BIGGEST money sink in the federal goverment.

        Why should we spend money on the arts? well, I believe it is because the LOSS of that facet of life will leave us a poorer and less capable civilization. Not all expression of creativity is appreciated enough to keep the artist alive and able to produce, but, there is always the chance that this will change when society advances enough to understand that point of view and appreciate it fully. It has happened before and it will happen again.

          Now, I also think that a larger chunk of funds should go to National Public Radio, mainly because it COULD be a truely neutral voice that speaks without the agenda (hidden or otherwise) that seems to infect so much of the commercial broadcasters. One thing that used to tell me that NPR was doing its job very well was how it irritated EVERYONE at some point in time. I heard conservatives cursing it for its obvious liberal bias, and I heard liberals complaining about its almost reactionary conservative attitudes. I do not agree or like everything I hear on public broadcasting, but, I know that the erosion of that support over the past decade or two has also left AMerica a poorer place.

        Regards

        Dave Mundt

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094880)

> Right, why spend millions of dollars on satellites that are now able to directly benefit mankind

I wrote specifically about THIS ONE SATELLITE.

You have IGNORED THAT, and FABRICATED the assertion that I am against spending money on ALL satellites.

I wish you well in your career in politics.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

slightlyspacey (799665) | more than 7 years ago | (#17095142)

Wanna be my campaign manager? :)

Re:Inefficient use of funds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17093566)

I noticed that the quote came from an Artificial Intelligence researcher, working for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a component of the National Air And Space Administration.

Jet Propulsion
Air
Space

Hmm. Not a lot of room for either AI or Geology in there. Yet I'll bet this guys wages are NASA/JPL budget items. The US actually has a USGS, but only NASA is permitted to be the universal clearing house for all things science. Whether its ocean temperatures or diabetes, the national AIR and SPACE administration has your budget.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094512)

The name "Jet Propulsion" hails from the days before we generally called things rockets...and even then, the lab was heavily invested in probe and satellite work. From what I remember, they were heavily involved in the V2 "sounding rocket" tests, and the Ranger, Mariner and Voyager probe series. And certainly more that I've forgotten.

Satellites are space-based machinery whose focus of attention happens to generally be the Earth. JPL's skill and experience with space-based electronics and machinery makes them the ideal lab for work on satellites, especially since we've stopped really focusing on sending probes to other planets and planetoids.

Would you rather the labor pool for satellite work be balkanized between different labs? You'll hurt communication and, as a result, product quality. We'll end up with stupid mistakes borne of mis communications.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17096144)

Would you rather the labor pool for satellite work be balkanized between different labs?

Yes. That way when some politician starts looking for funds with which to buy votes, they'll find a much smaller target in NASA. This would be the case if the operational cost of EO-1 and its like were in the USGS instead of NASA. Similarly if the EPA budget reflected the cost of monitoring and modeling the condition of the atmosphere and oceans. James Hansen could then go work for the EPA and experience less trouble espousing his views from within an agency that doesn't mind employing activists. NASA would then be less of a science budget clearing house, less worthy of targeting by incumbent politicians seeking bacon for their districts. About half of NASAs budget belongs in more appropriate agencies, and those agencies should have the burden of defending them.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094270)

...it's a satellite, it looks at stuff on Earth. Every so often it decides on its own to look at something interesting, it still looks at the other stuff it's told to. Unlike you the satellite has enough intelligence to multi task. It is apparently the case that the loss of satellite time due to looking at uninteresting events is considered worth less than the extra data it gains by looking at interesting events on it's own. Human reaction time is slow, by the time we tell it to look at something a lot of data is lost.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094866)

So, we have this satellite. It spends all it's time looking at stuff on the Earth - okay, that's cool. It's being used all the time and I'm prepared to accept it's useful and needed. Not a problem.

Ah, but wait. Apparently, if the satellite is looking at something uninteresting, the cost of the time lost is a problem - so it would be good if the satellite could know to look at more interesting things.

But wait - isn't it always looking at stuff it's been told to look at?

Well, either it is - in which case we've got this AI heuristics which is going to be right sometimes and wrong sometimes and every now and then it's going to interrupt what it's been *told* to do on the chance that the heuristic is right. That *ain't* how you run a multi-million dollar resource.

But if it isn't always looking at stuff, then doesn't that seem like we have excess capacity? which gets back to my feeling that this seems like a gratitious satellite, if we can afford to be monkeying around wiht it's *expensive* observation time based on the output of an AI heuristic, ESPECIALLY when a human is going to come along very shortly afterwards *anyway* and tell it to look at the right thing.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094988)

Well, either it is - in which case we've got this AI heuristics which is going to be right sometimes and wrong sometimes and every now and then it's going to interrupt what it's been *told* to do on the chance that the heuristic is right. That *ain't* how you run a multi-million dollar resource. ...why exactly not, just because you're incapable of understanding why that is done doesn't mean it's wrong. Let's put value on data and the satellite 50% of the time gather data worth 10 per percent and the rest of the time it gathers data worth 5 per percent. Now it has an AI routine that sometimes will stop looking at the data worth 1 and look at what it thinks is interesting. Let's say the limit on this is 10% of the total time and it is right 10% of the time. However when it is right the data is worth 100 while if it is wrong the data is worth 1. So instead of capturing data worth 50 you instead on average capture data worth 109.

But if it isn't always looking at stuff, then doesn't that seem like we have excess capacity? which gets back to my feeling that this seems like a gratitious satellite, if we can afford to be monkeying around wiht it's *expensive* observation time based on the output of an AI heuristic,

See above, your inability to comprehend time management is amusing.

ESPECIALLY when a human is going to come along very shortly afterwards *anyway* and tell it to look at the right thing.

Except the data it failed to get in that time is gone and you will never get it, a volcano doesn't magically go back two hours of activity because you want the data from then. Also the normal reaction time of a human is probably 8 hours + half orbit time of the sat (so 9 hours or so). That is hardly short and a lot can happen in that time especially if the event happens at night.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#17095062)

Let me put it another way: there is no difference between a human and AI deciding what to focus on in the end. Both can make mistakes and both would be giving higher priority for some data instead of other (note that satellites are probably quite in demand with a backlog of potential observations so something will always get bumped out).

If the AI can increase the overall worth of the data gathered by the satellite than good for them. And of course there is no other bloody way to really check (simulation only go so far) how much it helps than to actually stick it on a satellite, that's also research (into better use of satellite resources).

Funny that you call yourself an economist despite having such a horrid ability to understand time or money management.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

MacJedi (173) | more than 7 years ago | (#17095266)

The way government research grants usually work as follows: there is a pot of money and a solicitation for projects on a certain topic, theme or general research thrust. People then submit proposals and depending on the size of the pot and the number of proposals submitted, a certain percentage of them are funded. The fact that this project got funded is indicative that it was "better" than other, unfunded proposals that we don't get to read about on Slashdot. Perhaps, if you are such hot stuff, you should submit one of your own so that our tax dollars are not wasted loser proposals like this one in the future.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097430)

> The way government research grants usually work as follows: there is a pot of money and a solicitation for
> projects on a certain topic, theme or general research thrust. People then submit proposals and depending on the
> size of the pot and the number of proposals submitted, a certain percentage of them are funded. The fact that
> this project got funded is indicative that it was "better" than other, unfunded proposals that we don't get to
> read about on Slashdot.

You're making a relative comparison. You're saying - there's all these research projects, this one got funded, the projects compete between themselves and the better projects get funding - THEREFORE this is a worthwhile use of the research budget.

What I'm saying is that the research budget is too large if this sort of project gets funding.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17096180)

Well, let's see what we know about all this:

From the following pages:
[1] http://www.spaceandtech.com/spacedata/logs/2000/20 00-075a_eo-1_sumpub.shtml [spaceandtech.com]
[2] http://eo1.usgs.gov/index.php [usgs.gov]
[3] http://eo1.usgs.gov/products.php [usgs.gov]
[4] http://nmp.jpl.nasa.gov/st6/ABOUT/About_index.html [nasa.gov]

The Earth Observation 1 satellite was launched on the 21st of November 2001, to validate technology for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission. The satellite cost $193'000'000. As the mission approached its end, interest was expressed in keeping it up there to gather more pictures, and an agreement was formed between NASA and the United States Geological Survey to continue the EO-1 Program as an extended mission. Later, in early 2004, the group responsible for the original sending of the satellite decided to try a new thing called the "Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment". This is the what the article above is talking about. So, they beam their program to the satellite, and make more than 100 photos while the thing is autonomous, tweaking the program many, many times in between. One of them happened to be useful and noticeable, and NASA made an article about it for the sake of PR. Now, according to [3], taking a single photo costs at most 500$, and that's with a bunch of add-ons. If by "more than 100" they mean 150 shots, that's still only 75'000$. In short, they used a satellite that should have sunk into disuse years before to test and tweak some AI using real data and a real satellite. I'd say that's actually a very efficient use of money. I mean, compared to sending yet another satellite just to do these experiments.

Re:Inefficient use of funds (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097826)

What are we doing with so many satellites in orbit we can spare one look at targets generated by AI heuristics? these things costs millions of dollars a year to run. I don't see that the *possibility* of managing to look at an interesting event before being actually commanded to do so is a proportional use of that money. There are MUCH more essential things to spend millions of dollars on.

Perhaps you ought to think this through before commenting. There are a few points that are relevant. First, a genuine economist (I am assuming from your name that you have some sort of intent to be an economist) would probably try to figure out a system before commenting on how inefficient it is. Timely satellite imaging is a key part of their business. But they don't necessarily know what to image, hence the use of algorithms to find potentially interesting (or at least more interesting than the default stuff) things to image. Second, what is the true costs of this approach. You are making the dubious assumption that the satellite is always busy imagining valuable things. My bet is that there's a lot of time when this isn't so.

Finally, what's this garbage about "much more essential things to spend millions on"? The economy fairly allocates resources. There's no point to second guess it when it is operating without distortion (such as appears to be the case here).

I could have used this (1)

jon_joy_1999 (946738) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093188)

a couple weeks ago when my computer had a melt down :

Disturbing (4, Funny)

uchihalush (898615) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093368)

"Is this real intelligence? "Absolutely," he says. EO-1 passes the basic test: "If you put the system in a box and look at it from the outside, without knowing how the decisions are made, would you say the system is intelligent?" Chien thinks so."

Does anyone else find this disturbing. Reminds me of that episode of Star Trek season 2 Episode 12, 16 minutes in, 45 seconds where.......errr never mind.

Re:Disturbing (0, Troll)

ACDChook (665413) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093442)

You mean where Kirk is getting old fast and talking to that blonde chick?? :P

Re:Disturbing (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17093758)

In TNG data is talking to Riker at 16 minutes 45 seconds about conducting some observations on a poker match that is taking place at the Royale. I believe that fits the bill nicely.

In the original series, Captain Kirk is talking to some overlord guy about his wife that has been placed under suspended animation in a display case of some sort. Not as appropriate.

Clearly the parent was referencing TNG.

Mod +1 scary (1)

aurelian (551052) | more than 7 years ago | (#17098122)

I'm betting you didn't even have to check your collection before answering that..

That's Great, but... (1)

szabodabo (1035126) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093466)

Is this satellite not totally useless without notifying someone? I mean really, it's nice to have data on volcanic activity, but if the volcano had erupted, and then someone checks the satellite and sees that there was data collected from the point that the volcano got hot, it's a little late then isn't it? Even if it is a false alarm, couldn't it use some tracking from the moment that the satellite notices volcanic activity? Think of our modern-day hurricane tracking systems... Each storm is tracked, and some hit land, but many either are "false-alarms" or miss land. If most tropical storms are seen but then are deemed "false-alarms", then one hits land as a Cat-5 hurricane is it not too late? Yes, people will see the hurricane as it approaches land via weather radar and whatnot, but will it not be too late to evacuate adequately? Think of Katrina! I'm just saying that the satellite is next to useless if it's not being put to good use by warning of potential disasters... Because it's nice to have data after a disaster, but will it not have been infinitely better if it had been used to save lives?

Self aware satellite != alert bird (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17096420)

Remember, the volcano is no threat to the satellite. In terms its self-awareness, there was no cause for concern.

Re:That's Great, but... (1)

slim-t (578136) | more than 7 years ago | (#17098030)

Is this satellite not totally useless without notifying someone?

Maybe the satellite is tracking thousands of things at a time. I would bet it does send notification emails for everything, but anybody who gets them all has them marked as spam.

DoD Funded (4, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093678)

This sort of thing is being funded under the next-generation space reconnaissance satellite programs for the follow-on programs for the KH-11/12 and Lacrosse birds as well as the sats used to detect IR plumes of rockets and nuclear detonations.

I saw it in Janes a while back, no time to find sources right now, working on papers for Grad School.

Skynet (0)

spoonist (32012) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093734)

This satellite is part of Skynet [wikipedia.org] .

fa1lIzors! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17093848)

the project is in Lay down paper 4, 3hich by all

To Intelligent? (1)

Smithd132 (1035124) | more than 7 years ago | (#17093876)

i wonder if the Vulcanologist got an email from the saterlite!!.......

Re:To Intelligent? (1)

gordonwallace (1026508) | more than 7 years ago | (#17096598)

Volcanologist. Vulcanologists are a form of hardcore Star Trek nerd.

EO1 set off the volcano, (1)

Lost Penguin (636359) | more than 7 years ago | (#17094486)

Sarah Conner is history.

D'oll (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17094522)

Which don't use the all know we want. paRties). At THE Bad for *BSD. As *BSD has steadily Baby take my marketing surveys AT&T and Berkeley has run faster

This is news? (1)

Fallen Seraph (808728) | more than 7 years ago | (#17095188)

I'll be honest, I don't see why this is important.

According to the article, it was essentially programmed to notice abnormal changes and begin collecting data if something occurs... How is this in any way intelligent? Just because it wasn't hardcoded to monitor it or manually told to doesn't mean it's "thinking." It did as it was programmed. Somewhere in there is an "if" statement saying that if certain values are out of a certain range, begin collecting data. So... it did exactly what it was programmed to do. Where's the breakthrough?

Now, if it did something that actually wasn't in it's code, that'd be news; like oh, say, actually notifying someone of the change.

automatisation is not intelligence (2, Insightful)

tonigonenstein (912347) | more than 7 years ago | (#17095808)

Is this real intelligence? "Absolutely," he says. EO-1 passes the basic test: "If you put the system in a box and look at it from the outside, without knowing how the decisions are made, would you say the system is intelligent?" Chien thinks so."

All the system does is basically to compute the score (interest) of the different points of the earth's surface using predetermined criteria (plume of smokes +5 points, flash-floods +2 points) set by humans, and then allocate observation time in priority to the points that have the highest score. This is not what I call intelligence.
An intelligent system would set its own goals, not follow predetermined ones. In this case an intelligent system would decide by itself that a certain phenomenon is interesting and decide to observe it, without being told about it beforehand.
If intelligence is their goal they have a long way to go.

PR mistake ! (1)

Zoxed (676559) | more than 7 years ago | (#17096862)

So NASA try to hype up sexy, new, "intelligent" technology, and how it got the pictures soooo fast. And what do they illustrate it with ? An old Landsat photo, taken at the latest in 1994 http://volcano.und.edu/vwdocs/volc_images/southeas t_asia/indonesia/talang.html [und.edu]

Well, made me laugh :-)

What's so intelligent about this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097068)

I don't see how this is any more intelligent than an extremely souped up version of the motion sensor light in my driveway. You might as well say that my car is using artificial intelligence when my gas light goes on.
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