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Though it's still difficult for people dealing with online harassment to get help from police, there is one kind of online troll that the police aren't ignoring anymore. These are swatters, people who call in SWAT teams on their targets for the lulz. A newly-arrested swatter, Brandon Wilson, is facing five years in prison.
Brandon Wilson, AKA Famed God, was arrested last week in Las Vegas in connection with a swatting last year in Illinois. Wilson pretended to be reporting a murder in order to get the local SWAT team to bust into the house of his victim. Wilson now faces extradition and — according to Ars Technica — charges that include "computer tampering, intimidation, and identity theft."
The message that law enforcement is sending now is clear. Swatting will no longer be tolerated as "online pranking," but instead treated like the criminal act it so obviously is. When SWAT teams break into a home, they can cause property damage and lives are at risk. And yet it remains a popular prank among gamers and hacking scenesters. A gamer who goes by Koopatroopa787 was swatted last week, and he later explained on YouTube why the experience was terrifying as well as intensely dangerous:
I had police point a gun at my little brothers because of you. They could have been shot, they could have died. Because you chose to swat my stream. I don't give a shit about what you have against me, or what I did to you. For that I am at a loss for words. Your gripe is with me. But do not involve my family in this. They don't deserve it.
We may have reached a tipping point in the debates over online trolling. Prosecuting swatters could be the first step in a greater acceptance that online threats should no longer be treated like jokes and pranks.
Perhaps the best cleaning motivation I've ever seen, and fortunately the lyrics are not McDonald's-specific. Using the trademark white glove to check for dust was a nice touch.
McDonalds "Clean it" training video featuring a fake Michael Jackson via Reddit
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Being an astronomer working at the Very Large Telescope is probably one of the best jobs in the world. Just look at the view this office has. It's full of stars!
The VLT is a giant telescope operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) on Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The office in this image is next to the VLT control room. That black object outside the window is part of the control building, where you can admire our galaxy in its ethereal beauty.
As the ESO explains, astronomers at the VLT are careful to shield artificial light that might leak out into the night from their offices:
In this image, the dark lanes of the Milky Way are visible, dense clouds of dust and gas that block out the light from background stars. The varying colours of the surrounding visible stars result from their different ages and temperatures — young, hot stars are very blue-white in colour, whilst the older, cooler generation appear more orange or red.
For the astronomers, a sight like this means that good data is on the way due to the lack of polluting moonlight. In order to help keep the sky as dark as possible, any lights within rooms not currently in use inside the control building are turned off and blackout blinds are put over the windows. Astronomers walk outside only with the aid of torchlight, preferably with a red filter so as to preserve their night vision — important if you want to gaze at the wonders above without the aid of a telescope.
Most of us consider ourselves lucky if we get natural light in our offices. For these astronomers, it's all about finding perfect darkness. [ESO/Yuri Beletsky (LCO)]
Pixomondo is one of the digital imaging companies working on Game of Thrones' stunning visual effects. Among other things, they are responsible for bringing Khaleesi's terrifying dragons to life. Here's how they do it.