Follow-Up Roundup

Many of the stories I’ve previously covered on Sword of Science have resurfaced in the news within the past couple of weeks, too many to give each of them the full attention they deserve. I’ve compiled a number of links to the latest information on these topics, together with the links to the original SoS articles. Catching up seems like a fine way to spend a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon.

The proposed Mars One lander, which would be the first private mission to Mars. Courtesy of the Mars One Foundation.

The Arctic 30 – Although all of the 30 Greenpeace activists arrested by Russian authorities during a protest of Arctic drilling have been released on bail, the international group has been ordered to remain in Russia during the legal proceedings. Russia’s decision is in direct conflict with that of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, who ruled in late November that the 30 should be allowed to leave the country and that their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, should also be released.

Mars One – The private Mars colonization project has announced plans for an unmanned mission to the planet in 2018 that will prepare the way for its eventual astronauts. The aerospace firms Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. have signed agreements with Mars One, which plans to fund the mission largely through selling corporate sponsorships of its spacecraft and advertising rights to its broadcasts.

3-D Firearms – On Monday, the Senate passed an extension to the Undetectable Firearms Act, which outlaws the sale, manufacture or possession of firearms that can escape the notice of scanning technology. Congress debated the strength of the act in light of advancements in 3-D printing; although current printed gun designs call for the inclusion of some metal, these parts can be easily removed to make the firearms completely undetectable.

NSA Surveillance – The revelations of former National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden continued last week with documents suggesting that the NSA conducted operations inside virtual gaming worlds such as those of World of Warcraft and Second Life. The agency claims that terrorists could use the communication functions of these games to plan operations in secrecy, but none of the leaked documents indicate that any actual terrorist activity was foiled.

Sea World and “Blackfish” – The animal rights group PETA staged a protest of SeaWorld’s float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, hoping to bring visibility to the theme park’s mistreatment of killer whales as outlined in the documentary “Blackfish.” Although the mass of protesters stayed behind the crowd barricades, 12-year-old Rose McCoy leapt into the path of the float to chant “Boycott SeaWorld” before police removed her from the route. At the park itself, a number of high-profile musicians such as the Barenaked Ladies and Willie Nelson have canceled shows in light of the film.

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