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Space Science

Intelligent Satellite Notices Volcanic Activity 116

Posted by kdawson
from the lookee-down-there dept.
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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Intelligent Satellite Notices Volcanic Activity

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  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @05:56PM (#17092782) Homepage Journal
    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!
    • by Gilmoure (18428) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:03PM (#17093260) Journal
      This thing sounds like it can detect a fart from orbit!

      Sorry, that was me.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.
    • by Dunbal (464142) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @10:15PM (#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 -....
      • by kalirion (728907)
        There's always the possibility that it will relieve its boredom by merely using the satellite defense grid lasers to doodle on the Earth's surface.
    • 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 th

      • by Yvanhoe (564877)
        Well, in my experience, when they say it can read license plates, it means it has a 1 meter resolution. When they say they can identify a double of the chinese president from the original one from orbit, this is in order not to blow up their covert agent in the place, but well...
        I also like to cosplay in tinfoil sometimes...
      • by jfdawes (254678)
        When you say "resolution", I'm guessing you mean the lay definition of "the smallest object that can be resolved". Having never seen a license plate in my life, I'm guessing the letters in them must be about 1m wide? After all, to read it you need to be able to resolve the letters. I guess this means your standard license plate must be about 12m to 15m wide.
  • 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.
  • A Growing Intelligence Around Earth
    ROFL
  • by trainsnpep (608418) <mikebenza AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:02PM (#17092832)
    Did the satellite tell anyone it noticed anything? That's important too.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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)

      • by nietsch (112711)
        Pardon me, but wouldn't earth observing satelites react with the EarthNetworkMonitoringProtocol?
        The space one is for the satelites looking the other way.
      • by ozbird (127571)
        SNMP would be kool here (Space Network Monitoring Protocol).

        EO-1: Itsa(SNMP)trap!
    • by mspohr (589790)
      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."

    • by tqk (413719) <s.keeling@mail.com> on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:56PM (#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.
      • by GigG (887839)
        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: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Boronx (228853)
          Sure it will help people, just not people in LA.
          • by GigG (887839)
            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: (Score:1, Funny)

              by Anonymous Coward

              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.

        • by tqk (413719)

          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.

          Implementation detail. Presumably, whoever put the thing where it is cares about what it's doing. These things aren't cheap. cronjob: "any interesting satellite data l

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by RealGrouchy (943109)
        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>
        • 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!

          However, punctuation and capitilization appear still to need a bit of work. Colons denote lists; semicolons denote breaks. Emdash should not be used outside marketing circles, nor should it precede a new sentence. At least it sort of looks like a new sentence, though it's not really.

          IMHO.

          Thanks for the compliment, though.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mrogers (85392)
      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."

  • "I for one welcome our new satellite overlords."

    "I wonder what would happen if we created a beowulf cluster of them?"
    • by treofan (960278)
      ...the cerebrate is awakening..."Spawn more Overlords"
  • by Goody (23843) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:13PM (#17092926) Journal
    I wonder if it notices hot chicks when there's no interesting volcanos?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by comradeb14ck (1018746)
      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.
  • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
    I welcome the... oh, forget it.
  • a couple weeks ago when my computer had a melt down :
  • Disturbing (Score:4, Funny)

    by uchihalush (898615) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:14PM (#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: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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.
  • 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
    • Remember, the volcano is no threat to the satellite. In terms its self-awareness, there was no cause for concern.
    • by slim-t (578136)
      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 (Score:4, Informative)

    by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:46PM (#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.
  • This satellite is part of Skynet [wikipedia.org].
  • i wonder if the Vulcanologist got an email from the saterlite!!.......
  • Sarah Conner is history.
  • 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
  • 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 po

    • by jfdawes (254678)
      Perhaps it's as intelligent as some lower order animal. Ants possibly can't be accused of setting goals either.

      It's need to observe things and what it deems to be "interesting" are entirely instinctual (programmed). But guess what? This thing DID decide by itself that the volcano was interesting and decided to observe it, without being told.
      • This thing DID decide by itself that the volcano was interesting and decided to observe it, without being told
        I wasn't told to observe that particular volcano but it was told that sudden changes were interesting. It did not figure that out by itself.
  • 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 :-)
  • If you're so smart, then tell me, what is love?
  • Am I missing something here? The /. blurb says Talang has been dormant for centuries, which repeats what the article says, but the first link in the article says there have been confirmed eruptions as recently as 1968:

    "Talang is a stratovolcano with 8 confirmed eruptions between 1833 and 1968. The volcano may have had a phreatic eruption in 1986 but the activity has not been confirmed. Most of the eruptions are moderate in size (VEI=2) and explosive. Eruptions in 1833, 1843, 1845, and 1876 were from fla
  • keeno. This is what I have been waiting for in a non military earth monitoring system..

    Like when they first came out with those lam-o- CDrom atlasas I had 'google earth' in my braim as how it should be and was so dissapointed when I saw them. Watch this sattelite (sp?) is late I am going to bed, and I gave my spell check the night off.

    With the data this thing can generate in the time it can generate it. it can be way faster than our earth based vulcanoligist in predicting a magor eruption. saving millions o

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