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The NASA Opportunity Mars Rover has completed a marathon on the Red Planet of Mars, taking 11 years and two months to complete the distance. The rover landed on Mars on January 25, 2004, and continues to surpass all expectations, as project managers only expected a three-month mission.
"This is the first time any human enterprise has exceeded the distance of a marathon on the surface of another world," said John Callas, Opportunity rover project manager at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "A first time happens only once."
Opportunity continues to collect information related to an ancient wet climate on Mars - and while the marathon milestone is impressive, program managers want to continue making scientific discoveries. NASA is using Opportunity for additional bonus extended missions, with a focus on tracking signs of water.
Boeing is working on a force field defense system that seems like something straight out of Star Trek or Star Wars, as the company can now work on its "method and system for shockwave attenuation via electromagnetic arc."
Many US military personnel returning home from the battlefield had no visible injuries, but suffered varying levels of brain damage - enduring shock waves from IEDs, bomb blasts, and other similar attacks.
The system works, according to Boeing, when a selected "by heating a selected region of the first fluid medium rapidly to create a second, transient medium that intercepts the shockwave and attenuates its energy density before it reaches a protected asset."
Swedish police are testing the use of drones, with a special emphasis on SWAT and possible search and rescue operations. It's unknown how many drones the police in Sweden plan to order, but they would be used in select cases, with testing beginning sometime this summer.
Drones could also be used to capture aerial photographs of crime scenes, fire damage, and other carefully chosen scenarios deemed too dangerous for humans.
"Drones are equipped with sensors and technology for video transfer, which would act as an addition to the police helicopters, and there are plans to use them all over the country," a Swedish police spokesperson told Newsweek. "This will be mostly in special units like SWAT teams, bomb squads, and rescue operations if someone gets lost in the mountains or at sea. They could be used for traffic monitoring as well."
An airstrike conducted on March 17 reportedly destroyed a drone being used by ISIS militants outside of Fallujah, Iraq, according to the US military. The so-called "model airplane" was not sophisticated, US military officials confirm.
It's unknown what the extremist group was using the drone for, but it was likely involved in conducting reconnaissance in the immediate area - and It's unknown how many drones the group may have.
"We observed it flying for approximately 20 minutes," said Army Col. Steve Warren, Pentagon spokesman, in a statement to the media. "We observed it land. We observed the enemy place it in the trunk of a car and we struck the car. It was a commercially available, remotely piloted aircraft, really something anyone can get."
There is a popular debate among tech industry executives about artificial intelligence and whether it could one day pose a threat to humans.
However, there is potential that as technologies become smarter, humans could be portrayed as dumber and less skilled than the AI counterparts. Machine learning poses a threat to the human job market, and critics also believe humans could one day be at risk if AI gets out of control.
"I'll be very interested to spend time with people who think they know how we avoid that," Gates recently told Re/Code following a TED talk. "I know Elon [Musk] just gave some money. A guy at Microsoft, Eric Horvitz, gave some money to Stanford. I think there are some serious efforts to look into could you avoid that problem."
The United States military is embracing virtual reality and other advanced technologies in an effort to better train soldiers. The US Air Force and NATO allies will soon participate in the Red Flag mock battles event, though the 2015 edition will utilize a fully virtual war environment.
The test will utilize Live-Virtual Constructive (LVC) integration, using physical trucks on the Nellis Air Force Base to create a more dynamic target mission.
"The benefits to the warfighter of integrating 'virtual' into Red Flags are that it allows us to bring in more of the combat-realistic threat envelope, and we're now able to maximize the air tasking order with the most amount of 'Blue Forces' in both the virtual and live sides of a joint air operations area that is 1,200 by 1,100 nautical miles, compared to the Nevada Test and Training Range which is about 100 by 100 nautical miles," said Lt. Col. Kenneth Voigt, commander of the 505th Test Squadron, in a statement.
The US military is conducting studies in South Africa and found that elephants possess a great natural ability to sniff out explosives. The increasingly endangered animals picked out samples laced with TNT 73 out of 74 times - and wrongly identified just 18 out of 502 buckets, yielding a 3.6 percent error rate.
During the test, elephants were rewarded with fruit if they were able to accurately identify samples of TNT and lift a front leg. The second test saw the elephants accurately pick 23 out of 23 buckets, despite the use of soap, gasoline, tea, bleach, and other "distractor odors" used. In the past, elephants were able to instinctively avoid fields in Africa which were littered with land mines used in previous battles.
Since trying to take elephants to the battlefield would present a logistical nightmare, military officials are trying to find ways to take soil samples to the animals.
Syrian military forces reportedly shot down an unarmed MQ-1 Predator drone that was being used to conduct surveillance. The US military confirmed it "lost contact" with a drone that was flying over northwest Syria, though additional details remain scarce.
"As soon as it entered Syrian air space, we considered it to be gathering security and military information on Syria's territory," a Syrian government source told the AFP. "The aircraft entered areas where Daesh is not present."
Although the US confirmed they lost contact with a drone, there has been no confirmation if it was actually shot down.
"At this time, we have no information to corroborate press reports that the aircraft was shot down," a US military official told the AFP. "We are looking into the incident and will provide more details when available."
Now is the time for chief information officers (CIOs) and other business leaders to begin developing ethical programming protocols for smart machines, according to the Gartner research group.
Smart machines must build - and maintain - trust with human counterparts, and it will take ethical programming to ensure that happens. One day, it will be up to the machine to be self-aware and understand that it is responsible for its own behavior - but humans must be able to program them to adapt to these changes, Gartner believes.
"Clearly, people must trust smart machines if they are to accept and use them," said Frank Buytendijk, research VP at Gartner. "The ability to earn trust must be part of any plan to implement artificial intelligence (AI) or smart machines, and will be an important selling point when marketing this technology."
Google's Eric Schmidt isn't too worried about artificial intelligence potentially trying to end human civilization anytime in the near future. Even with Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and other well-known tech visionaries showing AI concern, Schmidt believes humanity will be secure for the immediate future as AI developments continue.
"I think that this technology will ultimately be one of the greatest forces for good in mankind's history simply because it makes people smarter," said Eric Schmidt, Google Chairman, during a SXSW keynote address. "I'm certainly not worried in the next 10 to 20 years about that. We're still in the baby step of understanding things. We've made tremendous progress in respect to [artificial intelligence]."
AI is used in smartphones, tablets, PCs, vehicles, and countless other products and services currently available - and will continue to expand in the years to come. Google is one of the companies at the forefront of AI, and Schmidt wants to reduce concerns that AI will one day try to fight back against humans.