Catching thieves in California, Galileo satellites test Einstein, Russian space agency remodel, and 911 training for operators who can't read maps.
1. TO CATCH A THIEF
Arcadia, California USA
√ Porch package delivery bandits have met their match. Police northeast of Los Angeles partnered with citizens and local businesses to bait certain alluring packages with GPS tracking devices that notify police when they have been stolen. Police Sgt. Brett Bourgeous says they have arrested numerous suspects who fell for the decoys. Even some real stolen packages were recovered and returned to their intended recipients.
2. TESTING EINSTEIN
Germany, France, and MEO
√ German and French physicists are repurposing two Galileo satellites to test Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The European Space Agency’s Galileo V and VI satellites were launched into “very eccentric” orbits in 2014, due to a technical glitch. For the next year, researchers will see if rubidium atomic clocks on the satellites tick more slowly — in microseconds — the closer they are to Earth. This will test gravitational redshift or the gravitational time relation, a “very basic prediction of general relativity,” says Sven Hermann, an experimental physicist at the University of Bremen. Eccentric orbits and Einstein? Seems like a happy match.
√ President Vladimir Putin dissolved the Russian Federal Space Agency, effective January 1, after numerous scandals and mishandled launches. Its functions will merge with those of a state-owned, centrally managed company — United Rocket and Space Corporation established in 2013 — to create a “unified command structure and reduce redundant capabilities.” But the more things change, etc. The new all-in-one state corporation responsible for the whole space sector, soup to nuts, will still be known as Roscosmos.
4. 911 AND GPS
√ Where did that old mill used to be, anyway? Reliance on GPS is starting to cause worry among emergency dispatch agencies and their operators. With the new workforce unfamiliar with map-reading, and no long-term memory of landmarks due to satellite navigation, dispatchers can be at a loss to locate a frantic cell phone caller who is in a locally known but hard-to-map area — or if systems are down. Training is starting up in some areas to address the issue. In September of last year, the police commissioner in Staten Island ordered dispatchers to undergo retraining after a 911 caller claimed the operator she reached had no knowledge of the Staten Island Railway.
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