The World Around You
Mountain Views News Saturday, November 6, 2010
13 THE WORLD AROUND YOU MountainViews-News Saturday, November 6, 2010 STUDY SAYS SOLAR SYSTEMS LIKE OURS MAY BE COMMON Nearly one in four stars like the Sun could have Earth-size planets, according to a University of California, Berkeley, study of nearby solar-mass stars. UC Berkeley astronomers Andrew Howard and Geoffrey Marcy chose 166 G and K stars within 80 light-years of Earth and observed them with the powerful Keck telescope for five years in order to determine the number, mass and orbital distance of any of the stars’ planets. The Sun is the best known of the G stars, which are yellow, while K-type dwarfs are slightly smaller, orange-red stars. The researchers found increasing numbers of smaller planets, down to the smallest size detectable today—planets called super-Earths, about three times the mass of Earth. “Of about 100 typical Sun-like stars, one or two have planets the size of Jupiter, roughly six have a planet the size of Neptune, and about 12 have super-Earths between three and 10 Earth masses,” said Howard, a research astronomer in UC Berkeley’s Department of Astronomy and at the Space Sciences Laboratory. “If we extrapolate down to Earth-size planets— between one-half and two times the mass of Earth—we predict that you’d find about 23 for every 100 stars.” “This is the first estimate based on actual measurements of the fraction of stars that have Earth-size planets,” said Marcy, UC Berkeley professor of astronomy. Previous studies have estimated the proportion of Jupiter and Saturn-size exoplanets, but never down to Neptunes and super-Earths, enabling an extrapolation to Earth-size planets. “What this means,” Howard added, “is that, as NASA develops new techniques over the next decade to find truly Earth-size planets, it won’t have to look too far.” Because the researchers detected only close-in planets, there could be even more Earth-size planets at greater distances, including within the habitable zone located at about the same distance as the Earth is from our Sun. The habitable, or “Goldilocks,” zone is the distance from a star neither two hot nor too cold to allow the presence of liquid water. The researchers’ results conflict with current models of planet formation and migration, Marcy noted. After their birth in a protoplanetary disk, planets had been thought to spiral inward because of interactions with the gas in the disk. Such models predict a “planet desert” in the inner region of solar systems. “Just where we see the most planets, models predict we would find no cacti at all,” Marcy said. “These results will transform astronomers’ views of how planets form.” Howard and Marcy report their results in the Oct. 29 issue of the journal Science. “One of astronomy’s goals is to find ‘eta-Earth,’ the fraction of Sun-like stars that have an Earth,” Howard said. “This is a first estimate, and the real number could be one in eight instead of one in four. But it’s not one in 100, which is glorious news.” Twelve possible planets also were detected, but they need further confirmation, Marcy said. If these candidate planets are included in the count, the team detected a total of 45 planets around 32 stars. You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@MtnViewsNews.com. Ask jai…… “How Strong Is Your Schmooze?” was the open invitation line for some of cyberspaces’ best hackers to test their Social Engineering skills at the “Capture The Flag” competition hosted at DEFCON 18 earlier this year. DEFCON bills itself as one of the longest- running and largest annual hacker conventions in the world. Due to the concentration of high-powered hacking intellect assembled at these get-togethers, there is plenty of attention paid to the displays, seminars, endorsements and pans coming from this gathering and this year was no exception. While the high-tech exploits and sophisticated techniques used by hackers to attain their ends are often the stuff that grabs headlines and comprises movie plots, it is most often the low-tech skillset that comprises what is known as Social Engineering that gets the ball rolling in network penetration efforts. Social Engineering is most simply the act or compounded acts of getting the user of a computer system to divulge information about that system or network to an unauthorized third party. The Social Engineering attack vector owes much of its success to the fact that, for any number or reasons, people don’t always do what is right or smart when it comes to the use of computers. SE attacks rely on human interaction exclusively. In the “Capture The Flag” competition hosted at DEFCON 18 each participant was assigned a target company and given the task of and given various assignments that consisted mainly of gathering as much data about the target company as possible in a given amount of time. The contestants’ main challenge was to wade through the many entry vectors available and secure the objective in as few hops as possible. This challenge was made all the more easier due to the innate human tendency to be helpful, especially if employed in a service capacity, when interacting with the public at the workplace. If the “tendency to be helpful” premise seems a bit far-fetched consider the fact that no employee wants to be fired in these tough economic times over something as trivial as being rude to a customer or higher-up for no good cause. The results of the contest were compiled in a report and analyzed. Probably the most alarming find was the fact that it didn’t take a seasoned or experienced hacker to make significant penetration into most of the companies targeted. With today’s social media saturated Internet environment, a great deal of information about the various companies targeted and their inner-workings are available through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Search and Google Street. Add Call Centers and Customer Service departments that are typically focused on customer satisfaction to the mix and there were ample resources available to gain valuable information about all of the companies targeted in this years competition. Any resistance encountered could easily be overcome by hanging up and calling back until a more compliant employee could be reached. No sensitive information was targeted during this competition but enough insight was gleaned to show the very real threat that SE attacks pose to corporate users. Companies in the age of the Internet would do well to ensure that all phases of their workforce that interface with the public are well- trained in keeping confidential information, confidential. Ask jai is a weekly column that will strive to honestly answer your job search questions relating to job searching techniques, networking skills, resume writing and interviewing. The employment situation is getting better, however, it is still a challenge finding were the jobs are located and how to get pass the “gate-keepers”. As an Executive Recruiter I was privy to working directly with Corporate Recruiters and understanding their process in selecting which candidates to interview and hire. I will candidly answer your questions, possibly bluntly answering you questions, but I will be totally honest. My objective is to help you achieve your employment goal. “How Strong Is Your Schmooze?” Q: I recently graduated with a M.B.A. with no experience as a supervisor or manager. I expected that I would find employment in management since I have a M.B.A. But, I am being told by employers that I have no supervisory experience. So how do I get management experience if no one will hire me? Aspiring Manager Dear Aspiring Manager: Most companies will not hire you, even with a Masters Degree, directly into a management position if you have not supervised or managed a staff. I would suggest that you apply for Management Trainee or Junior Management positions. You will find a lot of these positions posted with major corporations in various industries. These positions are fantastic because the company will train new graduates in their corporate culture, sales, marketing and management style. As a trainee this will give you time to learn about the company and them about you. When companies hire you into management trainee positions you are consider a corporate investment and they will usually assigned you a mentor to insure your success. The Trainee or Junior Management position is a great track to management level positions and typically very short, between 1-2 years after your start date. To apply for a Management Trainee or Junior Management position you should decide on what is your professional category (i.e., accounting, marketing, computer, etc.) and industry (i.e., medical, public relations, technology, education, etc.). Write a dynamic cover letter that clearly states: why you are writing to the company, your field of expertise, reason for choosing the industry, your goal and that your career path is senior management. Be sure to include what valuable skills and experience you would bring to their company. Next, write a great resume to include any accomplishments that exemplify any of your leadership or supervisor qualities. This can include any volunteer or community activities, part-time or internship experience. Starting salary ranges for Management Trainee positions are not going to be what you expect but future advancement or promotions will eventually result in financial reward. Q: I am trying to get a part-time job at a large retail store to supplement my income. Do I have to disclose that I have a Masters Degree? Need Extra Income Dear Need Extra Income: Yes. Retail stores usually will require you to complete and answer all questions on an application form. At the bottom of the Application form you will be ask to sign a statement and agreement that everything that you have written on the application form and the resume you have submitted is true to the best of your ability and that if anything is discover to be untrue that the company has the right to terminate your employment. Do not risk termination. I would suggest that you enclosed or attached a cover letter explaining why you are seeking a part-time position with the retail store. Do not disclose in the cover letter any personal reasons or details for seeking employment. Be sure to include the skill sets that you have to do the job. KATIE Tse ..........This and That LOS ANGELES – As temperatures cool down, Southern California Gas Co. (The Gas Company) is advising customers to inspect their home- heating appliances and perform any needed maintenance necessary to avoid any health or safety hazards. “Now is the right time to perform maintenance on your home-heating appliances to check that they can be operated safely and efficiently,” said Bret Lane, vice president of field services for The Gas Company. “Customers are beginning to turn on their furnaces for the first time in months. Heating appliances should be serviced annually to confirm that they are functioning properly. A licensed heating contractor, plumber or The Gas Company can provide this service for you.” Failure to perform annual maintenance on gas appliances may result in exposure to carbon monoxide, which can cause nausea, drowsiness, flu-like symptoms, and even death. Since home heating typically accounts for more than half of the monthly winter gas bill, the best way to keep bills lower is to get gas appliances serviced, Lane said. The Gas Company offers customers the following tips to promote the safe and efficient operation of their natural gas furnace: Have gas furnaces checked at least once a year by a licensed heating contractor, plumber or The Gas Company. Vacuum and clean regularly in and around the furnace, particularly around the burner compartment to prevent a build-up of dust and lint. Never store items in, on or around the appliance that can obstruct airflow. Most forced-air units have a filter that cleans the air before heating and circulating it throughout the home. The filter should be checked monthly for lint build-up during periods of furnace use and cleaned or replaced, if necessary. When installing a new or cleaned filter, be sure to re-install the front panel door of the furnace properly so it fits snugly. Never operate the furnace without the front-panel door properly in place because doing so may create the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Check the appearance of the flame. If the flame is yellow, large and unsteady, the furnace needs to be inspected immediately by a licensed heating contractor, plumber or The Gas Company to have the condition corrected. For more information on furnace safety or to schedule a service appointment, please visit The Gas Company’s website at www.socalgas.com. Southern California Gas Co. has been delivering clean, safe and reliable natural gas to its customers for more than 140 years. It is the nation’s largest natural gas distribution utility, providing safe and reliable energy to 20.5 million consumers through 5.7 million meters in more than 500 communities. The company’s service territory encompasses approximately 20,000 square miles in diverse terrain throughout Central and Southern California, from Visalia to the Mexican border. The Gas Company is a regulated subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE). Sempra Energy, based in San Diego, is a Fortune 500 energy services holding company. To learn more, go to www.socalgas.com. FUND RAISER Cooler Weather Means It’s Time For A Furnace Check, Says The Gas Company Tis the season of nippy air and the infestation of gift catalogs which multiply daily in mailboxes across the land. Like mold, you think you’ve cleaned it out, but as soon as you turn around it’s sprouted up again. Everything from cheese and sausage baskets to monogrammed dog pillows, they’re all laid out across glossy pages that are lucky if they see the light of my kitchen before taking a dive into the trash. When I have nothing better to do, I sometimes get a kick out of looking at all the ridiculous or purely useless items being sold in the name of holiday festivity. It’s easy to scoff at electric carol- singing stockings in the privacy of your home. But we all know the dread feeling of entrapment when a coworker corners us in the break room with a catalog from their children’s school. Most of them are nice, and correctly interpret hints like, “Hmm, all my friends hate to cook, so I can’t think of anyone to give a Santa casserole dish to.” Occasionally there’ll be a pushy one who asks not if you want to contribute to Johnny’s school, but whether you want the reindeer potpourri holder or the Frosty the Snowman cookie jar. Of course, parents of girl scouts are the exception to my overall attitude toward fundraisers. I seek them out. “Yes, please put me down for two boxes of the Samoas and Tagalongs –that’s two boxes each.” When I was in grade school I wondered why anyone would want to buy chocolate called “Hell & Grace.” I also remember flim- flam fundraiser folks coming to my school and inciting us little tykes to go out and hawk magazine subscriptions in order to earn a successive collection of cotton ball characters (I kid you not!). After we had amassed a large enough cotton ball army, our class would earn the ultimate prize --an ice cream party –Ooh! These people used blatant tricks to brainwash our young, impressionable minds. They stretched out a string of 25 dollar bills taped side to side across the auditorium to illustrate how much money we could earn selling $75 worth of orders to our unsuspecting relatives and neighbors. Another mean-spirited ploy was when they brought what looked like a plastic elevator booth and filled it with dollar bills. They then got some poor soul who had sold a sufficient number of subscriptions and put him in there for one minute while they blew the bills around with a high-powered fan. The victim was literally “grasping for the wind.” Needless to say, I became cynical of school fundraisers at a young age. These days, my husband buys frozen cookie dough and lava cake mixes to support our nephew’s school. I must admit those cookies saved me once when I needed to bring something for a potluck at work. They were already shaped into uniform discs, so all I did was slide them onto a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven for 10 minutes. Brainless baking –I love it! At least that’s more useful than an eight-piece set of nutcracker napkin rings. And I think my nephew’s labors are going toward a camping trip to Catalina --a heck of a lot better than a cotton ball collection. By the way, can I interest you in some lava cake mix? It’s for a good cause!