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An astronaut may have committed identity theft on the ISS, NASA is investigating
The alleged identity theft may be the first space crime.
- NASA astronaut Anne McClain was accused by her ex-wife for identity theft.
- The alleged crime was committed on the International Space Station from a NASA computer.
- Current legal channels exist to solve this dispute, but more heinous or international space crimes are going to be harder to reconcile.
It looks like the long arm of the law stretches as far as space. Astronaut Anne McClain, 40, has became the first person to ever be investigated for a crime that's alleged to have taken place in space.
McClain is a NASA astronaut, the allegations against were put forth by her ex-wife Summer Worden, who accused her of identity theft because she accessed her bank account on a NASA computer. It's claimed that the crime, according to Worden, was committed while McClain was on a six-month mission on the International Space Station.
While this crime might seem inane compared to something like murder, it's opened up a lot of intrigue into the realm of space law. As more countries and private companies start sending people to space — the inevitability of future space crimes (people are people, even in space) is almost guaranteed.
First space crime
Image source: NASA
Worden originally filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. According to The New York Times, investigators are already looking into the situation. The accuser believes that McClain accessed Worden's bank account while using NASA technology, McClain acknowledges that she accessed the account, but denies any unlawful intent. She claims that she was just managing the couple's finances.
McClain was reportedly interviewed by NASA Inspector General investigators recently.
Meanwhile, NASA has spoken publicly to praise McClain's professional career, but declined to comment on the allegations. According to a statement sent to Space.com, NASA representatives stated:
"Lt. Col. Anne McClain has an accomplished military career, flew combat missions in Iraq, and is one of NASA's top astronauts. She did a great job on her most recent NASA mission aboard the International Space Station. Like with all NASA employees, NASA does not comment on personal or personnel matters."
While they may not be commenting on the matter publicly, the issue is being held by American authorities. Since the legal dispute is between two American citizens, this case ostensibly falls under U.S. jurisdiction. The situation would have been more complicated had it occurred with an international astronaut in space.
This said, though this case may be cut and dry, in a sense, future space crimes might be a little murkier.
Space law precedence
Currently, there is no detailed framework for international space law nor is there anyway to handle criminal disputes that arise on commercial space vessels. It gets even less defined when it comes to disputes between individuals from separate countries.
Our only outer space presence comes from the International Space Station, which is currently governed under an international treaty called the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on Space Station Cooperation.
It stipulates that in the area of criminal jurisdiction, each country on the ISS or involved with it has criminal jurisdiction over their own people in space, as long as there isn't a conflict between someone from another country. Pertaining to our first space crime, both McClain and Worden are US citizens, which clears up any potential legal issues that could stem from this being in space.
"Canada, the European Partner States, Japan, Russia, and the United States may exercise criminal jurisdiction over personnel in or on any flight element who are their respective nationals."
In other areas of space, the law isn't as clear. Currently space is governed by five major international treaties, colloquially known as: the Outer Space Treaty, Moon Agreement, Registration Convention, Rescue Agreement, and the Liability Convention.
The protocol for an incident on a commercial space station between two differing nationals isn't really covered by any of these treaties. The Outer Space Treaty, an agreement that was made over 50 years ago between 109 governments, doesn't have anything to say regarding this topic.
Except that jurisdiction and control over any commercial companies or private entities emanating from the government of origin is that government's responsibility.
The United States may be able to use a special provision of US Code known as "special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States," which covers how to handle criminal disputes outside of any country's jurisdiction. However, this law does not cover all types of crimes.
More comprehensive international codes and legislation will need to be drafted and thought up as space becomes increasingly more populated.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think.
Women today are founding more businesses than ever. In 2018, they made up 40% of new entrepreneurs, yet in that same year, they received just 2.2% of all venture capital investment. The playing field is off-balance. So what can women do?
In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
Parental anxieties stem from the complex relationship between technology, child development, and the internet's trove of unseemly content.