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Elliot Page on Juno, Hollywood’s dark side and coming out twice
Sat, 10 Jun 2023 06:00:14 GMT
When the feelgood movie made him an Oscar-nominated star, the strain of hiding who he was almost forced him to quit acting. He explains how opening up about being gay, then trans, saved his life
Elliot Page’s memoir is called Pageboy. At its heart is the story of his transitioning from an Oscar-nominated actress, best known for the wonderful coming-of-age comedy drama Juno, to one of the world’s most high profile trans men. He writes, rather beautifully, about gender dysphoria, top surgery and finally finding himself. But the book is so much more than a tale of transition.
Pageboy is a modern-day Hollywood Babylon, written by a sensitive soul rather than a scandalmonger. Page depicts a film industry even more rancid than we may have suspected. This is a world where it’s not only the Harvey Weinsteins at the top of the pyramid who get to abuse the young and powerless – just about everybody seems to have a go. It’s a world where most people appear to be closeted in one way or another, a world where more acting is done off set than on.Continue reading...
No one wants to see the cast naked any more, so this TV follow-up shuns stripping for comic capers and cost-of-living tragedy. Even better, it actually gives plotlines to the female characters
Television shows that remake films tend to be exercises in pointless nostalgia. Do you remember the movies Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons and American Gigolo? Yes. Would you like to watch a weird cosplay version of them that goes on for 10 hours and confusingly reshuffles the plot? Um, not really. The Full Monty (from 14 June, Disney+) is the latest entrant in an already tired genre, but it has one up on most of the competition: all the core cast are in that sweet spot where they’re successful enough to be worth rehiring but not so famous they’ve turned the reboot down. That means there’s no need to rejig the story of redundant Sheffield steelworkers who, in 1997, found solace in hard times by forming a Chippendales-style male striptease troupe. We simply return to Sheffield 26 years later, to find the same characters, played by the same actors, living the same lives.
The film had it easy, plot-wise, in that it built towards that heartwarming climactic moment when a sextet of men showed the local community their penises. Those six appendages were the pegs on which were hung serious subtexts about the misery of life in a Thatcher-ravaged, deindustrialised northern England. A quarter of a century on, however, the prospect of the old boys windmilling their hosepipes in housewives’ faces would horrify everyone. So the new Full Monty is fully clothes-on.Continue reading...
Animation has come a long way since 1900, when J. Stuart Blackton created The Enchanted Drawing, the earliest known animated film. The 90-second movie was created using stop-motion techniques, as flat characters, props, and backgrounds were drawn on an easel or made from paper.
Most modern animators rely on computer graphics and visualization techniques to create popular movies and TV shows like Finding Dory, Toy Story, and Paw Patrol. In the 1960s and ’70s, computer science pioneers David Evans and IEEE Life Member Ivan E. Sutherland led the development of many of the technologies animators now use. Their groundbreaking research, conducted at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, and at their company, Evans and Sutherland, helped jump-start the computer graphics industry.
A ceremony was held at the university on 24 March to recognize the computer graphics and visualization techniques with an IEEE Milestone. The IEEE Utah Section sponsored the nomination.
Computer graphics began in the 1950s with interactive games and visualization tools designed by the U.S. military to develop technologies for aviation, radar, and rocketry.
Evans and Sutherland, then computer science professors at the University of Utah, wanted to expand on the use of such tools by finding a way for computers to simulate objects and environments. In 1968 they founded Evans and Sutherland, locating the E&S headquarters in the university’s research park.
Many of today’s computer graphics luminaries—including Pixar cofounder Edwin Catmull, Adobe cofounder John Warnock, and Netscape founder Jim Clark, who also founded Silicon Graphics—got their start in the industry as E&S employees or as doctoral students working on research at the company’s facilities.
IEEE Milestone Dedication: Utah Computer Graphics youtu.be
While at E&S, the employees and students made fundamental contributions to computer graphics processes, says IEEE Fellow Christopher Johnson, a University of Utah computer science professor.
“David Evans, Ivan Sutherland, and their students and colleagues helped change the world,” Johnson says.
“The period from 1968 through 1978 was an extraordinary time for computer graphics,” adds Brian Berg, IEEE Region 6 history chair. “There was a rare confluence of faculty, students, staff, facilities, and resources to support research into computer vision algorithms and hardware that produced remarkable developments in computer graphics and visualization techniques. This research was responsible for the birth of much of continuous-tone computer graphics as we know it today.” Continuous-tone computer graphics have a virtually unlimited range of color and shades of gray.
Evans began his career in 1955 at Bendix—an aviation electronics company in Avon, Ohio—as manager of a project that aimed to develop an early personal computer. He left to join the University of California, Berkeley, as chair of its computer science department. He also headed Berkeley’s research for the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Project Agency (now known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).
In 1963 Evans became a principal investigator for ARPA’s Project Genie. He helped develop hardware techniques that enabled commercial use of time-shared computer systems.
In 1965 the University of Utah hired him to establish its computer science department after receiving an ARPA grant of US $5 million to investigate how the emerging field of computer graphics could play a role in the country’s technological competitiveness, according to Computer Graphics and Computer Animation.
In 1968 Evans asked Sutherland, a former colleague at Berkeley who was then an associate professor of electrical engineering at Harvard, to join him at the University of Utah, luring him with the promise of starting a company together. Sutherland was already famous in computer graphics circles, having created Sketchpad, the first computer-aided design program, for his Ph.D. thesis in 1963 at MIT.
The two founded E&S almost as soon as Sutherland arrived, and they began working on computer-based simulation systems.
The duo in 1969 developed the line-drawing system displays LDS-1 and LDS-2, the first graphics devices with a processing unit. They then built the E&S Picture System—the next generation of LDS displays.
Those workstations, as they were called, came to be used by most computer-generated-imagery production companies through the 1980s.
E&S also developed computer-based simulation systems for military and commercial training, including the CT5 and CT6 flight simulators.
In addition to hiring employees, E&S welcomed computer science doctoral students from the university to work on their research projects at the company.
“Almost every influential person in the modern computer-graphics community either passed through the University of Utah or came into contact with it in some way,” Robert Rivlin wrote in his book, The Algorithmic Image: Graphic Visions of the Computer Age.
One of the doctoral students was Henri Gouraud, who in 1971 developed an algorithm to simulate the differing effects of light and color across the surface of an object. The Gouraud shading method is still used by creators of video games and cartoons.
In 1974 Edwin Catmull, then also a doctoral student at the university, developed the principle of texture mapping, a method for adding complexity to a computer-generated surface. Catmull went on to help found Pixar in 1986 with computer scientist Alvy Ray Smith, an IEEE member. For his work in the industry, Catmull received the 2006 IEEE John von Neumann Medal.
Doctoral student Bui Tuong Phong in 1973 devised Phong shading, a modeling method that reflects light so computer-generated graphics can look shiny and plasticlike.
“As a group, the University of Utah contributed more to the field of knowledge in computer graphics than any of its contemporaries,” Berg wrote in the Milestone proposal. “That fact is made most apparent both in the widespread use of the techniques developed and in the body of awards the innovations garnered.” The awards include several scientific and technical Oscars, an Emmy, and many IEEE medals.
Administered by the IEEE History Center and supported by donors, the Milestone program recognizes outstanding technical developments around the world.
The Milestone plaque displayed on a granite obelisk outside of the University of Utah’s Merrill engineering building reads:
In 1965 the University of Utah established a Center of Excellence for computer graphics research with Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) funding. In 1968 two professors founded the pioneering graphics hardware company Evans & Sutherland; by 1978, fundamental rendering and visualization techniques disclosed in doctoral dissertations included the Warnock algorithm, Gouraud shading, the Catmull-Rom spline, and the Blinn-Phong reflection model. Alumni-founded companies include Atari, Silicon Graphics, Adobe, Pixar, and Netscape.
A group of researchers from NASA, MIT, and other institutions have achieved the fastest space-to-ground laser-communication link yet, doubling the record they set last year. With data rates of 200 gigabits per second, a satellite could transmit more than 2 terabytes of data—roughly as much as 1,000 high-definition movies—in a single 5-minute pass over a ground station.
“The implications are far-reaching because, put simply, more data means more discoveries,” says Jason Mitchell, an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation program.
The new communications link was made possible with the TeraByte InfraRed Delivery (TBIRD) system orbiting about 530 kilometers above Earth’s surface. Launched into space last May, TBIRD achieved downlink rates of up to 100 Gb/s with a ground-based receiver in California by last June. This was 100 times as fast as the quickest Internet speeds in most cities, and more than 1,000 times as fast as radio links traditionally used for communications with satellites.
The fastest data networks on Earth typically rely on laser communications over fiber optics. However, a high-speed laser-based Internet does not exist yet for satellites. Instead, space agencies and commercial satellite operators most commonly use radio to communicate with objects in space. The infrared light that laser communications can employ has a much higher frequency than radio waves, enabling much higher data rates.
“There are satellites currently in orbit limited by the amount of data they are able to downlink, and this trend will only increase as more capable satellites are launched,” says Kat Riesing, an aerospace engineer and a staff member at MIT Lincoln Laboratory on the TBIRD team. “Even a hyperspectral imager—HISUI on the International Space Station—has to send data back to Earth via storage drives on cargo ships due to limitations on downlink rates. TBIRD is a big enabler for missions that collect important data on Earth’s climate and resources, as well as astrophysics applications such as black hole imaging.”
MIT Lincoln Laboratory conceived TBIRD in 2014 as a low-cost, high-speed way to access data on spacecraft. A key way it reduced expenses was by using commercial, off-the-shelf components originally developed for terrestrial use. These include high-rate optical modems developed for fiber telecommunications and high-speed large-volume storage to hold data, Riesing says.
Located onboard NASA’s Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator 3 (PTD-3) satellite, TBIRD was carried into orbit on SpaceX’s Transporter-5 rideshare mission from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on 25 May 2022. The PTD-3 satellite is a roughly 12-kilogram CubeSat about the size of two stacked cereal boxes, and its TBIRD payload is no larger than the average tissue box. “Industry’s drive to small, low-power, high-data-rate optical transceivers enabled us to achieve a compact form factor suitable even for small satellites,” Mitchell says.
“There are satellites currently in orbit limited by the amount of data they are able to downlink, and this trend will only increase as more-capable satellites are launched.” —Kat Riesing, aerospace engineer, MIT Lincoln Laboratory
The development of TBIRD faced a number of challenges. To start with, terrestrial components are not designed to survive the rigors of launching to and operating in space. For example, during a thermal test simulating the extreme temperatures the devices might face in space, the fibers in the optical signal amplifier melted.
The problem was that, when used as originally intended, the atmosphere could help cool the amplifier through convection. When tested in a vacuum, simulating space, the heat that the amplifier generated was trapped. To solve the issue, the researchers worked with the amplifier’s vendor to modify it so that it released heat through conduction instead.
In addition, laser beams from space to Earth can experience distortion from atmospheric effects and weather conditions. This can cause power loss, and in turn data loss, for the beams.
To compensate, the scientists developed their own version of automatic repeat request (ARQ), a protocol for controlling errors in data transmission over a communications link. In this arrangement, the ground terminal uses a low-rate uplink signal to let the satellite know that it has to retransmit any block of data, or frame, that has been lost or damaged. The new protocol lets the ground station tell the satellite which frames it received correctly, so the satellite knows which ones to retransmit and not waste time sending data it doesn’t have to.
Another challenge the scientists faced stemmed from how lasers form in much narrower beams than radio transmissions. For successful data transmission, these beams must be aimed precisely at their receivers. This is often accomplished by mounting the laser on a gimbal. Due to TBIRD’s small size, however, it instead maneuvers the CubeSat carrying it to point it at the ground, using any error signals it receives to correct the satellite’s orientation. This gimbal-less strategy also helped further shrink TBIRD, making it cheaper to launch.
TBIRD’s architecture can support multiple channels through wavelength separation to enable higher data rates, Riesing says. This is how TBIRD accomplished a 200-Gb/s downlink on 28 April—by using two 100-Gb/s channels, she explains. “This can scale further on a future mission if the link is designed to support it,” Riesing notes.
“Put simply, more data means more discoveries.” —Jason Mitchell, aerospace engineer, NASA
The research team’s next step is to explore where to apply this technology in upcoming missions. “This technology is particularly useful for science missions where collecting a lot of data can provide significant benefits,” Riesing says. “One mission concept that is enabled by this is the Event Horizon Explorer mission, which will extend the exciting work of the Event Horizon Telescope in imaging black holes with even higher resolution.”
The scientists also want to explore how to extend this technology to different scenarios, such as geostationary orbit, Riesing says. Moreover, Mitchell says, they are looking at ways to push TBIRD’s capabilities as far away as the moon, in order to support future missions there. The rates under consideration are in the 1- to 5-Gb/s range, which “may not seem like much of an improvement, but remember the moon is roughly 400,000 km away from Earth, which is quite a long distance to cover,” Mitchell says.
The new technology may also find use in high-speed atmospheric data links on the ground. “For example, from building to building, or across inhospitable terrain, such as from mountaintop to mountaintop, where the cost of laying fiber systems could be exorbitant,” Riesing says.
On a gin-clear December day, I’m sitting under the plexiglass bubble of a radically new kind of aircraft. It’s a little past noon at the Byron Airport in northern California; in the distance, a jagged line of wind turbines atop rolling hills marks the Altamont Pass, blades spinning lazily. Above me, a cloudless blue sky beckons.
The aircraft, called BlackFly, is unlike anything else on the planet. Built by a Palo Alto, Calif., startup called Opener, it’s an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft with stubby wings fore and aft of the pilot, each with four motors and propellers. Visually, it’s as though an aerial speedster from a 1930s pulp sci-fi story has sprung from the page.
There are a couple of hundred startups designing or flying eVTOLs. But only a dozen or so are making tiny, technologically sophisticated machines whose primary purpose is to provide exhilarating but safe flying experiences to people after relatively minimal training. And in that group, Opener has jumped out to an early lead, having built dozens of aircraft at its facilities in Palo Alto and trained more than a score of people to fly them.
My own route to the cockpit of a BlackFly was relatively straightforward. I contacted the company’s CEO, Ken Karklin, in September 2022, pitched him on the idea of a story and video, and three months later I was flying one of his aircraft.
Well, sort of flying it. My brief flight was so highly automated that I was more passenger than pilot. Nevertheless, I spent about a day and a half before the flight being trained to fly the machine manually, so that I could take control if anything went wrong. For this training, I wore a virtual-reality headset and sat in a chair that tilted and gyrated to simulate flying maneuvers. To “fly” this simulation I manipulated a joystick that was identical to the one in the cockpit of a BlackFly. Opener’s chief operating officer, Kristina L. Menton, and engineer Wyatt Warner took turns patiently explaining the operations of the vehicle and giving me challenging tasks to complete, such as hovering and performing virtual landings in a vicious crosswind.
The BlackFly is entirely controlled by that joystick, which is equipped with a trigger and also topped by a thumb switch. To take off, I squeeze the trigger while simultaneously pushing forward on the switch. The machine leaps into the air with the sound of a million bees, and with a surge of giddy elation I am climbing skyward.
Much more so than an airplane or helicopter, the BlackFly taps into archetypal human yearnings for flight, the kind represented by magic carpets, the flying cars in “The Jetsons,” and even those Mountain Banshees in the movie “Avatar.” I’ve had several unusual experiences in aircraft, including flying on NASA’s zero-gravity-simulating “Vomit Comet,” and being whisked around in a BlackFly was definitely the most absorbing and delightful. Gazing out over the Altamont Pass from an altitude of about 60 meters, I had a feeling of joyous release—from Earth’s gravity and from earthly troubles.
For technical details about the BlackFly and to learn more about its origin, go here.
The BlackFly is also a likely harbinger of things to come. Most of the startups developing eVTOLs are building vehicles meant to carry several passengers on commercial runs of less than 50 kilometers. Although the plan is for these to be flown by pilots initially, most of the companies anticipate a day when the flights will be completely automated. So specialized aircraft such as the BlackFly—designed to be registered and operated as “ultralight” aircraft under aviation regulations—could provide mountains of invaluable data on highly and fully automated flying and perhaps even help familiarize people with the idea of flying without a pilot. Indeed, during my flight, dozens of sensors gathered gigabytes of data, to add to the large reservoir Opener has already collected during many hundreds of test flights so far.
As of late February 2023, Opener hadn’t yet announced a retail price or an official commercial release date for the aircraft, which has been under development and testing for more than a decade. I’ll be keeping an eye out for further news of the company. Long after my flight was over I was still savoring the experience, and hoping for another one.
Special thanks to IEEE.tv for collaborating on production of this video.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are the most popular digital assets today, capturing the attention of cryptocurrency investors, whales and people from around the world. People find it amazing that some users spend thousands or millions of dollars on a single NFT-based image of a monkey or other token, but you can simply take a screenshot for free. So here we share some freuently asked question about NFTs.
NFT stands for non-fungible token, which is a cryptographic token on a blockchain with unique identification codes that distinguish it from other tokens. NFTs are unique and not interchangeable, which means no two NFTs are the same. NFTs can be a unique artwork, GIF, Images, videos, Audio album. in-game items, collectibles etc.
A blockchain is a distributed digital ledger that allows for the secure storage of data. By recording any kind of information—such as bank account transactions, the ownership of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), or Decentralized Finance (DeFi) smart contracts—in one place, and distributing it to many different computers, blockchains ensure that data can’t be manipulated without everyone in the system being aware.
The value of an NFT comes from its ability to be traded freely and securely on the blockchain, which is not possible with other current digital ownership solutionsThe NFT points to its location on the blockchain, but doesn’t necessarily contain the digital property. For example, if you replace one bitcoin with another, you will still have the same thing. If you buy a non-fungible item, such as a movie ticket, it is impossible to replace it with any other movie ticket because each ticket is unique to a specific time and place.
One of the unique characteristics of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) is that they can be tokenised to create a digital certificate of ownership that can be bought, sold and traded on the blockchain.
As with crypto-currency, records of who owns what are stored on a ledger that is maintained by thousands of computers around the world. These records can’t be forged because the whole system operates on an open-source network.
NFTs also contain smart contracts—small computer programs that run on the blockchain—that give the artist, for example, a cut of any future sale of the token.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) aren't cryptocurrencies, but they do use blockchain technology. Many NFTs are based on Ethereum, where the blockchain serves as a ledger for all the transactions related to said NFT and the properties it represents.5) How to make an NFT?
Anyone can create an NFT. All you need is a digital wallet, some ethereum tokens and a connection to an NFT marketplace where you’ll be able to upload and sell your creations
When you purchase a stock in NFT, that purchase is recorded on the blockchain—the bitcoin ledger of transactions—and that entry acts as your proof of ownership.
The value of an NFT varies a lot based on the digital asset up for grabs. People use NFTs to trade and sell digital art, so when creating an NFT, you should consider the popularity of your digital artwork along with historical statistics.
In the year 2021, a digital artist called Pak created an artwork called The Merge. It was sold on the Nifty Gateway NFT market for $91.8 million.
Non-fungible tokens can be used in investment opportunities. One can purchase an NFT and resell it at a profit. Certain NFT marketplaces let sellers of NFTs keep a percentage of the profits from sales of the assets they create.
Many people want to buy NFTs because it lets them support the arts and own something cool from their favorite musicians, brands, and celebrities. NFTs also give artists an opportunity to program in continual royalties if someone buys their work. Galleries see this as a way to reach new buyers interested in art.
There are many places to buy digital assets, like opensea and their policies vary. On top shot, for instance, you sign up for a waitlist that can be thousands of people long. When a digital asset goes on sale, you are occasionally chosen to purchase it.
To mint an NFT token, you must pay some amount of gas fee to process the transaction on the Etherum blockchain, but you can mint your NFT on a different blockchain called Polygon to avoid paying gas fees. This option is available on OpenSea and this simply denotes that your NFT will only be able to trade using Polygon's blockchain and not Etherum's blockchain. Mintable allows you to mint NFTs for free without paying any gas fees.
The answer is no. Non-Fungible Tokens are minted on the blockchain using cryptocurrencies such as Etherum, Solana, Polygon, and so on. Once a Non-Fungible Token is minted, the transaction is recorded on the blockchain and the contract or license is awarded to whoever has that Non-Fungible Token in their wallet.
You can sell your work and creations by attaching a license to it on the blockchain, where its ownership can be transferred. This lets you get exposure without losing full ownership of your work. Some of the most successful projects include Cryptopunks, Bored Ape Yatch Club NFTs, SandBox, World of Women and so on. These NFT projects have gained popularity globally and are owned by celebrities and other successful entrepreneurs. Owning one of these NFTs gives you an automatic ticket to exclusive business meetings and life-changing connections.
That’s a wrap. Hope you guys found this article enlightening. I just answer some question with my limited knowledge about NFTs. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comment section below. Also I have a question for you, Is bitcoin an NFTs? let me know in The comment section below
A retreat deep in an ancient Wiltshire forest offers jiu-jitsu, wild swimming and an emotional detox among like-minded strangers
I was an hour late by the time my car careened down a bumpy country lane into the ecovillage that would be my home for the weekend. The Easter getaway had turned my three-hour drive into five, rain lashing the windows throughout, and I arrived for my first wellness retreat about as far from zen as you could get.
One of the founders, the 29-year-old spiritual guru Josh Bolding, floats across the car park and greets me with a hug. I’d have preferred a beer, but I go with the man-hug. There is no time for small talk: I’m the last to arrive and he whisks me into the practice room, a wooden hut on stilts, where the other guests are settling into the first session on yin yoga and breathwork.Continue reading...
Australian-trained sprinter is squeezing in a run before Royal Ascot and may struggle against specialists at this trip
Most horses with targets at Royal Ascot later this month will be ticking over until the meeting opens on 20 June, but Australian-trained sprinter The Astrologist thrives on racing and will have a late prep for the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes in the John of Gaunt Stakes at Haydock on Saturday.
Troy Corstens, who trains The Astrologist with his father, Leon, felt that the seven-year-old was short of fitness after an eight-week break when he finished down the field on his British debut in the Duke Of York Stakes last month.Continue reading...
Readers say they’d love to ditch their cars as Stuart Jeffries has, but it’s not easy in rural areas
Stuart Jeffries’ recognition that he shares the privilege of Londoners when it comes to public transport (I ditched my car – and improved my fitness, sleep and bank balance, 7 June) reminds us that this is a massive component of regional inequality that challenges the levelling-up waffle.
I gave up the car in November 2022, and I too am privileged – but in a completely different way. I know how to get the best out of a failing public transport system better than most people in West Yorkshire. I have studied bus and train timetables since childhood, I have done service on a transport authority and I have honed my limited IT skills to track wayward buses and trains. The latter is necessary because timetables often morph into fairytales.Continue reading...
A new wave of sex toys is designed to combine orgasmic joy with relief from dryness, tension and pain
At first glance, it could be mistaken for a chunky bracelet or hi-tech fitness tracker. But the vibrations delivered by this device will not alert you to a new message or that you have hit your daily step goal. Neither are they strictly intended for your wrist.
Welcome to the future of vibrators, designed not only for sexual pleasure, but to tackle medical problems such as vaginal dryness, or a painful and inflamed prostate gland in men.Continue reading...
Britain’s health is a national scandal, not just because of the state of the NHS, but because the government refuses to take action on our diets
In April 1994, the CEOs of the US’s seven biggest tobacco companies swore on oath before a Senate committee that nicotine was “not addictive”. At the time it was estimated that 3,000 American children were being induced by said companies to start smoking every day.
Last Monday, the BBC’s Panorama programme came close to repeating that scene with Britain’s food manufacturers. The products at issue are ultra-processed foods (UPF). Their makers’ denial of the harm these products may cause is as adamant as those tobacco execs’ once was, and the consequences could be equally lethal.
Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnistContinue reading...
Having served a 22-month ban for failing a drugs test, the sprinter wants to make up for lost time after making a low-key return
Hidden in plain sight among the teenagers and pensioners who have paid their £14 entry fee to compete at the Lee Valley Sprint Night is a Team GB star who has not stepped onto the track since failing a drugs test at the Tokyo Olympics; a contrite athlete seeking a new beginning.
Cheered on by his close friend Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake – one of the British quartet who lost their Olympic 4x100 metres silver medal because of his actions – CJ Ujah does what for so long had been commonplace: he wins a race. Two, in fact.Continue reading...
A growing number of countries are preparing to shift from using the U.S. dollar in trade, which could undermine the greenback’s global supremacy.
The post Monetary Blowback: How U.S. Wars, Sanctions, and Hegemony Are Threatening the Dollar’s Reserve Currency Dominance appeared first on The Intercept.
The author and radio presenter on Ibiza 1990, the bad boys of Brexit and his infamous Strictly paso doble
Born in Northampton, the Rev Richard Coles, 61, was in 1980s pop duo the Communards, whose hits include Don’t Leave Me This Way. He went on to study theology at King’s College London and was ordained as an Anglican clergyman in 2005. From 2011 to 2023, he co‑presented Saturday Live on BBC Radio 4. His books include The Madness of Grief about the loss of his partner, David, in 2019. His second novel, A Death in the Parish, has just been published. Last year, he retired from his Northamptonshire parish and now lives in Sussex.
When were you happiest?
Technically, Ibiza 1990, because of the amount of ecstasy I’d taken.
Rufo’s Documentary Foundation received an influx of untraceable money in 2021, as his national profile grew.
The post Funded by Dark Money, Chris Rufo’s Nonprofit Stokes the Far Right’s Culture War appeared first on The Intercept.
Mo-Shing Chen, a world-renowned power engineering educator and researcher, died on 1 May at the age of 91.
The IEEE Fellow was a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington for more than 40 years. He founded the university’s Energy Systems Research Center in 1968 and served as its director until he retired in 2003.
Chen created UTA’s first Ph.D. program in electrical engineering in 1969, and it quickly became one of the nation’s largest and top-rated graduate programs in power systems engineering.
Chen’s research included the modeling of electrical loads, the effect of voltage control in energy savings, real-time testing to improve power system efficiency, computer representation of cogeneration systems, reducing efficiency losses in transmission lines, and voltage stability.
Through his work, he solved complex problems engineers were facing with power networks, from small, rural electric cooperatives to ones that serve large metropolitan areas including New York City’s Consolidated Edison Co.
He taught his students not only how to solve such problems but also how to identify and understand what caused the troubles.
Born in the village of Wuxing in China, Chen and his family moved to Taiwan in 1949 when he was a teenager. After Chen earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1954 from National Taiwan University in Taipei, he joined the Taiwan Power Co. as a power engineer in Wulai. There he became fascinated by difficult, real-world problems of power systems, such as frequent blackouts and sudden spikes of electric loads.
Deciding he wanted to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering, Chen moved to the United States to do so at the University of Texas at Austin under the mentorship of Edith Clarke, an EE professor there. She had invented an early graphing calculator and worked on the design and construction of hydroelectric power systems including the Hoover Dam, located on the Nevada-Arizona border.
Clarke and Chen had lively discussions about their work, and they had mutual respect for one another. He studied under Clarke until she retired in 1957.
Chen earned his master’s degree in 1958 and his Ph.D. in 1962.
He joined UTA—then known as Arlington State College—in 1962 as an assistant professor of electrical engineering.
As a professor, Chen observed that electrical engineering programs at universities around the country were not meeting the needs of industry, so he founded UTA’s Power Systems Research Center. It was later renamed the Energy Systems Research Center.
He gained global recognition in the power industry through his intensive, two-week continuing-education course, Modeling and Analysis of Modern Power Systems, which he began teaching in 1967. Attendees learned how to design, operate, and stabilize systems. The course became the power industry’s hub for continuing education, attended by 1,500 participants from academia and industry. The attendees came from more than 750 universities and companies worldwide. Chen also traveled to more than 40 companies and universities to teach the course.
He mentored UTA’s first Ph.D. graduate, Howard Daniels, who became an IEEE life member and vice president of a multinational power company based in Switzerland. Chen went on to mentor more than 300 graduate students.
Chen this year was awarded one of UTA’s first College of Engineering Legacy Awards. The honor is designed to recognize a faculty member’s career-long performance and dedication to the university.
In 1968 he founded the Transmission and Substation Design and Operation Symposium. The event, still held today, serves as a forum for utility companies, engineers, contractors, and consultants to present and discuss trends and challenges.
He also created a distinguished-lecturer series at UTA and invited students, faculty, and industry engineers to campus to listen to speeches by power systems engineers including IEEE Fellow Charles Concordia and IEEE Life Fellow W.F. Tinney.
Chen said he was always cognizant that the primary purpose of a university was education, so before making any decision, he asked himself, “How will my students benefit?”
By the mid-1970s, the U.S. National Science Foundation consistently ranked UTA as one of the top power engineering programs in the country.
Chen said he believed any faculty member could teach top students, who generally need little help. A professor’s real service to society, he said, was turning average students into top-quality graduates who could compete with anyone.
Part of that process was recruiting, motivating, and mentoring students. Chen insisted that his graduate students have an office near his so he could be readily available for discussions.
Chen’s contagious enthusiasm and thorough understanding of power systems— along with a knack for communicating difficult concepts clearly, simply, and humorously—made him a popular professor. In 1976 he received the first Edison Electric Institute Power Engineering Educator Award. More than 50 of Chen’s students and colleagues endorsed him for the honor.
Chen founded the university’s first international visiting-scholars program in 1968. Through the program, more than 50 power systems researchers have spent a year at UTA, teaching and conducting research. Participants have come from China, Israel, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Macedonia, Spain, and Russia.
Chen was the principal investigator for more than 40 research projects at the Energy Systems Research Center. Many of them were supported by Consolidated Edison (ConEd) of New York and the Electric Power Research Institute, in Washington, D.C.
One of his first research projects involved creating a computer representation of an operational power system with Daniels. Running a computer was expensive in the late 1960s, and Chen and Daniels’ research helped decrease data acquisition costs from between US $10,000 and $20,000 to only 1 cent.
With that project, Chen quickly demonstrated his research value to the power industry.
In the first project Chen led for ConEd, he and his team created a computer representation of New York City’s underground electric power system. It was one of Chen’s favorite projects, he said, and he enjoyed looking back at his experiences with it.
“Before this study, computers were used to represent balanced systems, not unbalanced underground systems,” he once told me. “New York City is fundamentally a distribution system, not a transmission system. ConEd had paid $2 million to a different, very famous university to do this study, but it couldn’t deliver the results after two years. We bid $250,000 and delivered the results in nine months.”
ConEd’s CEO at the time said, “We asked for a Ford, and you delivered a Cadillac.” It was the beginning of a nearly 30-year relationship between Chen and the utility company.
Chen and his colleagues designed and built a small supervisory control and data acquisition system in the mid-1980s for a group of power companies in Texas. Such systems gather and analyze real-time data from power systems to monitor and control their equipment. Chen’s invention proved valuable when he and his team were modeling electric loads for analyzing power system stability, resulting in the reduction of blackouts.
He published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers, most of them in IEEE Transactions on Power Systems.
His awards included the 1984 IEEE Centennial Medal, an honorary professorship by eight universities in China and Taiwan, and an honorary EE doctorate in 1997 from the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, in Mexico.
He was a member of the Texas Society of Professional Engineers, the American Society of Engineering Education, IEEE–Eta Kappa Nu, Tau Beta Pi, the New York Academy of Sciences, and Sigma Xi.
The fight could influence whether Georgia stays blue in 2024’s Senate and presidential races.
The post No One Believes in Cop City. So Why Did Atlanta’s City Council Fund It? appeared first on The Intercept.
The definition conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism. A new report details how it’s been used to justify punitive action against Palestine advocates in Europe.
The post Biden Embraces Antisemitism Definition That Has Upended Free Speech in Europe appeared first on The Intercept.
First-year college students are understandably frustrated when they can’t get into popular upper-level electives. But they usually just gripe. Paras Jha was an exception. Enraged that upper-class students were given priority to enroll in a computer-science elective at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Paras decided to crash the registration website so that no one could enroll.
On Wednesday night, 19 November 2014, at 10:00 p.m. EST—as the registration period for first-year students in spring courses had just opened—Paras launched his first distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. He had assembled an army of some 40,000 bots, primarily in Eastern Europe and China, and unleashed them on the Rutgers central authentication server. The botnet sent thousands of fraudulent requests to authenticate, overloading the server. Paras’s classmates could not get through to register.
The next semester Paras tried again. On 4 March 2015, he sent an email to the campus newspaper, The Daily Targum: “A while back you had an article that talked about the DDoS attacks on Rutgers. I’m the one who attacked the network.… I will be attacking the network once again at 8:15 pm EST.” Paras followed through on his threat, knocking the Rutgers network offline at precisely 8:15 p.m.
On 27 March, Paras unleashed another assault on Rutgers. This attack lasted four days and brought campus life to a standstill. Fifty thousand students, faculty, and staff had no computer access from campus.
On 29 April, Paras posted a message on Pastebin, a website popular with hackers for sending anonymous messages. “The Rutgers IT department is a joke,” he taunted. “This is the third time I have launched DDoS attacks against Rutgers, and every single time, the Rutgers infrastructure crumpled like a tin can under the heel of my boot.”
Paras was furious that Rutgers chose Incapsula, a small cybersecurity firm based in Massachusetts, as its DDoS-mitigation provider. He claimed that Rutgers chose the cheapest company. “Just to show you the poor quality of Incapsula’s network, I have gone ahead and decimated the Rutgers network (and parts of Incapsula), in the hopes that you will pick another provider that knows what they are doing.”
Paras’s fourth attack on the Rutgers network, taking place during finals, caused chaos and panic on campus. Paras reveled in his ability to shut down a major state university, but his ultimate objective was to force it to abandon Incapsula. Paras had started his own DDoS-mitigation service, ProTraf Solutions, and wanted Rutgers to pick ProTraf over Incapsula. And he wasn’t going to stop attacking his school until it switched.
Paras Jha was born and raised in Fanwood, a leafy suburb in central New Jersey. When Paras was in the third grade, a teacher recommended that he be evaluated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but his parents didn’t follow through.
As Paras progressed through elementary school, his struggles increased. Because he was so obviously intelligent, his teachers and parents attributed his lackluster performance to laziness and apathy. His perplexed parents pushed him even harder.
Paras sought refuge in computers. He taught himself how to code when he was 12 and was hooked. His parents happily indulged this passion, buying him a computer and providing him with unrestricted Internet access. But their indulgence led Paras to isolate himself further, as he spent all his time coding, gaming, and hanging out with his online friends.
Paras was particularly drawn to the online game Minecraft. In ninth grade, he graduated from playing Minecraft to hosting servers. It was in hosting game servers that he first encountered DDoS attacks.
Minecraft server administrators often hire DDoS services to knock rivals offline. As Paras learned more sophisticated DDoS attacks, he also studied DDoS defense. As he became proficient in mitigating attacks on Minecraft servers, he decided to create ProTraf Solutions.
Paras’s obsession with Minecraft attacks and defense, compounded by his untreated ADHD, led to an even greater retreat from family and school. His poor academic performance in high school frustrated and depressed him. His only solace was Japanese anime and the admiration he gained from the online community of Minecraft DDoS experts.
Paras’s struggles deteriorated into paralysis when he enrolled in Rutgers, studying for a B.S. in computer science. Without his mother’s help, he was unable to regulate the normal demands of living on his own. He could not manage his sleep, schedule, or study. Paras was also acutely lonely. So he immersed himself in hacking.
Paras and two hacker friends, Josiah White and Dalton Norman, decided to go after the kings of DDoS—a gang known as VDoS. The gang had been providing these services to the world for four years, which is an eternity in cybercrime. The decision to fight experienced cybercriminals may seem brave, but the trio were actually older than their rivals. The VDoS gang members had been only 14 years old when they started to offer DDoS services from Israel in 2012. These 19-year-old American teenagers would be going to battle against two 18-year-old Israeli teenagers. The war between the two teenage gangs would not only change the nature of malware. Their struggle for dominance in cyberspace would create a doomsday machine.
The Mirai botnet, with all its devastating potential, was not the product of an organized-crime or nation-state hacking group—it was put together by three teenage boys. They rented out their botnet to paying customers to do mischief with and used it to attack chosen targets of their own. But the full extent of the danger became apparent only later, after this team made the source code for their malware public. Then others used it to do greater harm: crashing Germany’s largest Internet service provider; attacking Dyn’s Domain Name System servers, making the Internet unusable for millions; and taking down all of Liberia’s Internet—to name a few examples.
The Mirai botnet exploited vulnerable Internet of Things devices, such as Web-connected video cameras, ones that supported Telnet, an outdated system for logging in remotely. Owners of these devices rarely updated their passwords, so they could be easily guessed using a strategy called a dictionary attack.
The first step in assembling a botnet was to scan random IP addresses looking for vulnerable IoT devices, ones whose passwords could be guessed. Once identified, the addresses of these devices were passed to a “loader,” which would put the malware on the vulnerable device. Infected devices located all over the world could then be used for distributed denial-of-service attacks, orchestrated by a command-and-control (C2) server. When not attacking a target, these bots would be enlisted to scan for more vulnerable devices to infect.
Botnet malware is useful for financially motivated crime because botmasters can tell the bots in their thrall to implant malware on vulnerable machines, send phishing emails, or engage in click fraud, in which botnets profit by directing bots to click pay-per-click ads. Botnets are also great DDoS weapons because they can be trained on a target and barrage it from all directions. One day in February 2000, for example, the hacker MafiaBoy knocked out Fifa.com, Amazon.com, Dell, E-Trade, eBay, CNN, as well as Yahoo, at the time the largest search engine on the Internet.
After taking so many major websites offline, MafiaBoy was deemed a national -security threat. President Clinton ordered a national manhunt to find him. In April 2000, MafiaBoy was arrested and charged, and in January 2001 he pled guilty to 58 charges of denial-of-service attacks. Law enforcement did not reveal MafiaBoy’s real name, as this national-security threat was 15 years old.
Both MafiaBoy and the VDoS crew were adolescent boys who crashed servers. But whereas MafiaBoy did it for the sport, VDoS did it for the money. Indeed, these teenage Israeli kids were pioneering tech entrepreneurs. They helped launch a new form of cybercrime: DDoS as a service. With it, anyone could now hack with the click of a button, no technical knowledge needed.
It might be surprising that DDoS providers could advertise openly on the Web. After all, DDoSing another website is illegal everywhere. To get around this, these “booter services” have long argued they perform a legitimate function: providing those who set up Web pages a means to stress test websites.
In theory, such services do play an important function. But only in theory. As a booter-service provider admitted to University of Cambridge researchers, “We do try to market these services towards a more legitimate user base, but we know where the money comes from.”
Paras dropped out of Rutgers in his sophomore year and, with his father’s encouragement, spent the next year focused on building ProTraf Solutions, his DDoS-mitigation business. And just like a mafia don running a protection racket, he had to make that protection needed. After launching four DDoS attacks his freshman year, he attacked Rutgers yet again in September 2015, still hoping that his former school would give up on Incapsula. Rutgers refused to budge.
ProTraf Solutions was failing, and Paras needed cash. In May 2016, Paras reached out to Josiah White. Like Paras, Josiah frequented Hack Forums. When he was 15, he developed major portions of Qbot, a botnet worm that at its height in 2014 had enslaved half a million computers. Now 18, Josiah switched sides and worked with his friend Paras at ProTraf doing DDoS mitigation.
The hacker’s command-and-control (C2) server orchestrates the actions of many geographically distributed bots (computers under its control). Those computers, which could be IoT devices like IP cameras, can be directed to overwhelm the victim’s servers with unwanted traffic, making them unable to respond to legitimate requests. IEEE Spectrum
But Josiah soon returned to hacking and started working with Paras to take the Qbot malware, improve it, and build a bigger, more powerful DDoS botnet. Paras and Josiah then partnered with 19-year-old Dalton Norman. The trio turned into a well-oiled team: Dalton found the vulnerabilities; Josiah updated the botnet malware to exploit these vulnerabilities; and Paras wrote the C2—software for the command-and-control server—for controlling the botnet.
But the trio had competition. Two other DDoS gangs—Lizard Squad and VDoS—decided to band together to build a giant botnet. The collaboration, known as PoodleCorp, was successful. The amount of traffic that could be unleashed on a target from PoodleCorp’s botnet hit a record value of 400 gigabits per second, almost four times the rate that any previous botnet had achieved. They used their new weapon to attack banks in Brazil, U.S. government sites, and Minecraft servers. They achieved this firepower by hijacking 1,300 Web-connected cameras. Web cameras tend to have powerful processors and good connectivity, and they are rarely patched. So a botnet that harnesses video has enormous cannons at its disposal.
While PoodleCorp was on the rise, Paras, Josiah, and Dalton worked on a new weapon. By the beginning of August 2016, the trio had completed the first version of their botnet malware. Paras called the new code Mirai, after the anime series Mirai Nikki.
When Mirai was released, it spread like wildfire. In its first 20 hours, it infected 65,000 devices, doubling in size every 76 minutes. And Mirai had an unwitting ally in the botnet war then raging.
Up in Anchorage, Alaska, the FBI cyber unit was building a case against VDoS. The FBI was unaware of Mirai or its war with VDoS. The agents did not regularly read online boards such as Hack Forums. They did not know that the target of their investigation was being decimated. The FBI also did not realize that Mirai was ready to step into the void.
The head investigator in Anchorage was Special Agent Elliott Peterson. A former U.S. Marine, Peterson is a calm and self-assured agent with a buzz cut of red hair. At the age of 33, Peterson had returned to his native state of Alaska to prosecute cybercrime.
On 8 September 2016, the FBI’s Anchorage and New Haven cyber units teamed up and served a search warrant in Connecticut on the member of PoodleCorp who ran the C2 that controlled all its botnets. On the same day, the Israeli police arrested the VDoS founders in Israel. Suddenly, PoodleCorp was no more.
The Mirai group waited a couple of days to assess the battlefield. As far as they could tell, they were the only botnet left standing. And they were ready to use their new power. Mirai won the war because Israeli and American law enforcement arrested the masterminds behind PoodleCorp. But Mirai would have triumphed anyway, as it was ruthlessly efficient in taking control of Internet of Things devices and excluding competing malware.
A few weeks after the arrests of those behind VDoS, Special Agent Peterson found his next target: the Mirai botnet. In the Mirai case, we do not know the exact steps that Peterson’s team took in their investigation: Court orders in this case are currently “under seal,” meaning that the court deems them secret. But from public reporting, we know that Peterson’s team got its break in the usual way—from a Mirai victim: Brian Krebs, a cybersecurity reporter whose blog was DDoSed by the Mirai botnet on 25 September.
The FBI uncovered the IP address of the C2 and loading servers but did not know who had opened the accounts. Peterson’s team likely subpoenaed the hosting companies to learn the names, emails, cellphones, and payment methods of the account holders. With this information, it would seek court orders and then search warrants to acquire the content of the conspirators’ conversations.
Still, the hunt for the authors of the Mirai malware must have been a difficult one, given how clever these hackers were. For example, to evade detection Josiah didn’t just use a VPN. He hacked the home computer of a teenage boy in France and used his computer as the “exit node.” The orders for the botnet, therefore, came from this computer. Unfortunately for the owner, he was a big fan of Japanese anime and thus fit the profile of the hacker. The FBI and the French police discovered their mistake after they raided the boy’s house.
After wielding its power for two months, Paras dumped nearly the complete source code for Mirai on Hack Forums. “I made my money, there’s lots of eyes looking at IOT now, so it’s time to GTFO [Get The F*** Out],” Paras wrote. With that code dump, Paras had enabled anyone to build their own Mirai. And they did.
Dumping code is reckless, but not unusual. If the police find source code on a hacker’s devices, they can claim that they “downloaded it from the Internet.” Paras’s irresponsible disclosure was part of a false-flag operation meant to throw off the FBI, which had been gathering evidence indicating Paras’s involvement in Mirai and had contacted him to ask questions. Though he gave the agent a fabricated story, getting a text from the FBI probably terrified him.
Mirai had captured the attention of the cybersecurity community and of law enforcement. But not until after Mirai’s source code dropped would it capture the attention of the entire United States. The first attack after the dump was on 21 October, on Dyn, a company based in Manchester, N.H., that provides Domain Name System (DNS) resolution services for much of the East Coast of the United States.
It began at 7:07 a.m. EST with a series of 25-second attacks, thought to be tests of the botnet and Dyn’s infrastructure. Then came the sustained assaults: of one hour, and then five hours. Interestingly, Dyn was not the only target. Sony’s PlayStation video infrastructure was also hit. Because the torrents were so immense, many other websites were affected. Domains such as cnn.com, facebook.com, and nytimes.com wouldn’t work. For the vast majority of these users, the Internet became unusable. At 7:00 p.m., another 10-hour salvo hit Dyn and PlayStation.
Further investigations confirmed the point of the attack. Along with Dyn and PlayStation traffic, the botnet targeted Xbox Live and Nuclear Fallout game-hosting servers. Nation-states were not aiming to hack the upcoming U.S. elections. Someone was trying to boot players off their game servers. Once again—just like MafiaBoy, VDoS, Paras, Dalton, and Josiah—the attacker was a teenage boy, this time a 15-year-old in Northern Ireland named Aaron Sterritt.
Meanwhile, the Mirai trio left the DDoS business, just as Paras said. But Paras and Dalton did not give up on cybercrime. They just took up click fraud.
Click fraud was more lucrative than running a booter service. While Mirai was no longer as big as it had been, the botnet could nevertheless generate significant advertising revenue. Paras and Dalton earned as much money in one month from click fraud as they ever made with DDoS. By January 2017, they had earned over US $180,000, as opposed to a mere $14,000 from DDoSing.
Had Paras and his friends simply shut down their booter service and moved on to click fraud, the world would likely have forgotten about them. But by releasing the Mirai code, Paras created imitators. Dyn was the first major copycat attack, but many others followed. And due to the enormous damage these imitators wrought, law enforcement was intensely interested in the Mirai authors.
After collecting information tying Paras, Josiah, and Dalton to Mirai, the FBI quietly brought each up to Alaska. Peterson’s team showed the suspects its evidence and gave them the chance to cooperate. Given that the evidence was irrefutable, each folded.
Paras Jha was indicted twice, once in New Jersey for his attack on Rutgers, and once in Alaska for Mirai. Both indictments carried the same charge—one violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Paras faced up to 10 years in federal prison for his actions. Josiah and Dalton were only indicted in Alaska and so faced 5 years in prison.
The trio pled guilty. At the sentencing hearing held on 18 September 2018, in Anchorage, each of the defendants expressed remorse for his actions. Josiah White’s lawyer conveyed his client’s realization that Mirai was “a tremendous lapse in judgment.”
Unlike Josiah, Paras spoke directly to Judge Timothy Burgess in the courtroom. Paras began by accepting full responsibility for his actions and expressed his deep regret for the trouble he’d caused his family. He also apologized for the harm he’d caused businesses and, in particular, Rutgers, the faculty, and his fellow students.
The Department of Justice made the unusual decision not to ask for jail time. In its sentencing memo, the government noted “the divide between [the defendants’] online personas, where they were significant, well-known, and malicious actors in the DDoS criminal milieu and their comparatively mundane ‘real lives’ where they present as socially immature young men living with their parents in relative obscurity.” It recommended five years of probation and 2,500 hours of community service.
The government had one more request —for that community service “to include continued work with the FBI on cybercrime and cybersecurity matters.” Even before sentencing, Paras, Josiah, and Dalton had logged close to 1,000 hours helping the FBI hunt and shut down Mirai copycats. They contributed to more than a dozen law enforcement and research efforts. In one instance, the trio assisted in stopping a nation-state hacking group. They also helped the FBI prevent DDoS attacks aimed at disrupting Christmas-holiday shopping. Judge Burgess accepted the government’s recommendation, and the trio escaped jail time.
The most poignant moments in the hearing were Paras’s and Dalton’s singling out for praise the very person who caught them. “Two years ago, when I first met Special Agent Elliott Peterson,” Paras told the court, “I was an arrogant fool believing that somehow I was untouchable. When I met him in person for the second time, he told me something I will never forget: ‘You’re in a hole right now. It’s time you stop digging.’ ” Paras finished his remarks by thanking “my family, my friends, and Agent Peterson for helping me through this.”
This article appears in the June 2023 print issue as “Patch Me if You Can.”
Many teenagers take a job at a restaurant or retail store, but Megan Dion got a head start on her engineering career. At 16, she landed a part-time position at FXB, a mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering company in Chadds Ford, Pa., where she helped create and optimize project designs.
She continued to work at the company during her first year as an undergraduate at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, N.J., where she is studying electrical engineering with a concentration in power engineering. Now a junior, Dion is part of the five-year Stevens cooperative education program, which allows her to rotate three full-time work placements during the second quarter of the school year through August. She returns to school full time in September with a more impressive résumé.
For her academic achievements, Dion received an IEEE Power & Energy Society scholarship and an IEEE PES Anne-Marie Sahazizian scholarship this year. The PES Scholarship Plus Initiative rewards undergraduates who one day are likely to build green technologies and change the way we generate and utilize power. Dion received US $2,000 from each scholarship toward her education.
She says she’s looking forward to networking with other scholarship recipients and IEEE members.
“Learning from other people’s stories and seeing myself in them and where my career could be in 10 or 15 years” motivates her, she says.
Dion’s early exposure to engineering came from her father, who owned a commercial electrical construction business for 20 years, and sparked her interest in the field. He would bring her along to meetings and teach her about the construction industry.
Then she was able to gain on-the-job experience at FXB, where she quickly absorbed what she observed around her.
“I would carry around a notebook everywhere I went, and I took notes on everything,” she says. “My team knew they never would have to explain something to me twice.”
“If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it the best I can.”
She gained the trust of her colleagues, and they asked her to continue working with them while she attended college. She accepted the offer and supported a critical project at the firm: designing an underground power distribution and conduit system in the U.S. Virgin Islands to replace overhead power lines. The underground system could minimize power loss after hurricanes.
Skilled in AutoCAD software, she contributed to the electrical design. Dion worked directly with the senior electrical designer and the president of the company, and she helped deliver status updates. The experience, she says, solidified her decision to become a power engineer.
After completing her stint at FXB, she entered her first work placement through Stevens, which brought her to the Long Island Rail Road, in New York, through HNTB, an infrastructure design company in Kansas City, Mo. She completed an eight-month assignment at the LIRR, assisting the traction power and communications team in DC electrical system design for a major capacity improvement project for commuters in the New York metropolitan area.
Working on a railroad job was out of her comfort zone, she says, but she was up for the challenge.
“In my first meeting with the firm, I was in shock,” she says. “I was looking at train tracks and had to ask someone on the team to walk me through everything I needed to know, down to the basics.”
Dion describes how they spent two hours going through each type of drawing produced, including third-rail sectionalizing, negative-return diagrams, and conduit routing. Each sheet included 15 to 30 meters of a 3.2-kilometer section of track.
What Dion has appreciated most about the work placement program, she says, is learning about niche areas within power and electric engineering.
She’s now at her second placement, at structural engineering company Thornton Tomasetti in New York City, where she is diving into forensic engineering. The role interests her because of its focus on investigating what went wrong when an engineering project failed.
“My dad taught me to be 1 percent better each day.”
“It’s a career path I had never known about before,” she says. Thornton Tomasetti investigates when something goes awry during the construction process, determines who is likely at fault, and provides expert testimony in court.
Dion joined IEEE in 2020 to build her engineering network. She is preparing to graduate from Stevens next year, and then plans to pursue a master’s degree in electrical engineering while working full time.
To round out her experience and expertise in power and energy, Dion is taking business courses. She figures she might one day follow in her father’s entrepreneurial path.
“My dad is my biggest supporter as well as my biggest challenger,” she says. “He will always ask me ‘Why?’ to challenge my thinking and help me be the best I can be. He’s taught me to be 1 percent better each day.” She adds that she can go to him whenever she has an engineering question, pulling from his decades of experience in the industry.
Because of her background—growing up around the electrical industry—she has been less intimidated when she is the only woman in a meeting, she says. She finds that being a woman in a male-dominated industry is an opportunity, she says, adding that there is a lot of support and camaraderie among women in the field.
While excelling academically, she is also a starter on the varsity volleyball team at Stevens. She has played the sport since she was in the seventh grade. Her athletic background has taught her important skills, she says, including how to lead by example and the importance of ensuring the entire team is supported and working well together.
Dion’s competitive nature won’t allow her to hold herself back: “If I’m going to do something,” she says, “I’m going to do it the best I can.”
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