This college student has made $300,000 worth of frequent flyer miles for legally hacking United Airways

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UA hacker

In early 2015, Georgia Tech student Ryan Pickren made headlines when he was arrested on charges of hacking into the calendar system of rival school University of Georgia ahead of a big football game and added an entry saying "Get Ass Kicked By GT."

While he could have faced a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $50,000 fine, Pickren was allowed to complete a pretrial diversion program and the charges were dropped.

Since then, Pickren has turned his hacking progress into a lucrative side-career: He’s now the number 1 most successful contributor to United Airlines’ Bug Bounty Program, which rewards hackers with frequent flyer miles for finding security flaws in their website. 

"I first started working with United because I was about to leave the state for an internship and I wanted frequent flyer miles so I could see my girlfriend back in [Atlanta] on the weekends," Pickren tells Business Insider. "But I quickly realized how fun looking for bugs was so I just kept at it."

Companies like Apple and Google have similar programs, though they usually pay out in cash.

For Pickren’s success on the right side of the law, he says he’s been rewarded with 15 million United frequent flyer miles. With each frequent flyer mile valued at $0.02, that’s $300,000 worth of rewards. 

And he’s still at Georgia Tech, majoring in computer engineering.

Today, Pickren told us that he’s donated 5 million frequent flyer miles, the equivalent of $100,000, to his school. Those miles can be used by campus organizations, like Engineers without Borders, to do charity work.

The donation was born out of his love for Georgia Tech, he says.

"I love everything about the school, the faculty, professors, students, and facilities. I’m a die hard ramblin’ wreck," Pickren says.

SEE ALSO: This is everything Edward Snowden revealed in one year of unprecedented top-secret leaks

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NOW WATCH: This guy used a frequent-flyer loophole to take a $60,000 trip in a first-class suite on Emirates

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A Newly Explored Undersea Volcano Is Teeming With Alien Life Forms

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Gif by Gizmodo via Conservation International/YouTube

Earlier this month, a three-crew submarine dove to Cook seamount, a 13,000-foot-tall extinct volcano off the coast of Hawaii that had never been visited by humans. They discovered dazzling geologic features and a rich array of marine life—including a rare and adorably dopey octopus, and some beautiful purple corals that may be new species.

Seamounts, towering volcanoes submerged thousands of feet of below the surface, are considered undersea jungles, their nutrient-rich waters supporting a panoply of fish and marine invertebrates. They’re also some of the most poorly-explored habitats on the planet—of the estimated 10,000 peppering our oceans, humans have only visited a few dozen. That’s why, on September 6th, Conservation International led an expedition to Cook, whose summit lies 3,000 feet down in total darkness.

The trip did not disappoint.

Among the odd creatures found cooling their heels on the slopes of Cook’s dead caldera were two Dumbo octopuses, rare color-changing creatures that look like a bit like those iconic space whales of hippie lore. In the video above, one of these friendly aliens appears to be shedding its skin. The team also spotted the Pacific sleeper shark, a reclusive underwater giant that can grow up to 20 feet in length, and the purple chimaera, a “living fossil” that’s been haunting the deep ocean for hundreds of millions of years.

Finally, the crew managed to pluck a sample of a vibrant, deep sea coral that might be a new species.

A brittle star clings to a purple coral, one of two species discovered on Cook seamount that may be new to science. Image: Conservation International/photo by Kevin Connor
Acanthagorgia coral sample collected from Cook seamount on September 6, 2016, as seen under a microscope. It may represent a new species. Image: Conservation International/photo by Kevin Connor

Expeditions like this are a reminder that just because the deep ocean is far removed from our everyday experience, doesn’t mean it’s a lifeless wasteland. In fact, the more we learn about the strange biology of the abyssal world, the clearer it becomes that this is a unique part of our biosphere, as deserving of protection as any other.

[Associated Press]

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New To Camping? Rent A ‘Camp Kit’

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A California company rents ‘kits’ of gear to equip anyone for a weekend under the stars. Can a rental concept catch on nationwide?

camp kit rental

It’s no secret that some outdoor activities have hefty price tags. For many people it’s hard to afford all the equipment needed to camp or backpack, not to mention the logistics challenge of organizing it all.

San Francisco-based The Camp Kit rents “everything you need, from headlamps to tents to sporks to pillows.” All you bring is the food, drinks, and fuel, noted founder Megan Petruccelli.

How Does Camp Kit Work?

Head to thecampkit.com, pick out your kit, and place an order. Boxes of gear ships to your front door. Go on your adventure, and then ship everything back with a prepaid label. Pretty simple.

What’s In A Camp Kit?

Well, a lot. The 2-Person Backpacking kit, as one example, includes a tent, two sleeping bags, pads, camp pillows, stove, pot, cups and bowls, silverware, headlamps, and a water filter. Brands like Deuter, Cascade Designs, YETI, Ursack, Nemo, make up the kits.


They’ve designed car camping and backpacking kits for 1-2 people, with enough supplies for single day adventures to weeklong epics. You can also shop a la carte or design custom kits for extended timeframes.

Coming soon is a kit made for thru-hikers on long backpacking routes like the Pacific Crest Trail

How Much Does It Cost?

Kits start at $99 (1-3 day rentals) and top out at $299 (6-7 day rentals). A la carte shopping is reasonably priced at $25 or less. Custom timeframes are quoted.

Extras

The Camp Kit model is a great for gear-vetting. Ever wondered how a night’s sleep would feel in a hammock? Want to try that new Black Diamond headlamp? What about that neato, cutting-edge water filter? With The Camp Kit, test new gear before making your purchase.

camp kit

Petruccelli and co-founder Kayla Ravenscraft launched The Camp Kit this past January and it primarily serves the Bay Area.

But, Petruccelli says they are happy to ship anywhere on the West Coast and will ship further away under some circumstances.

An idea that came from a casual conversation about the need for more people to enjoy the outdoors has grown into a successful business start-up.

“We did not anticipate this kind of traction so quickly,” Petrucelli says. “We are excited we can help people have new experiences, to help get people outside safely, comfortably, and prepared, with quality gear.”

The post New To Camping? Rent A ‘Camp Kit’ appeared first on GearJunkie.

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The Best Astronomy Images of 2016 Are Truly Out of This World

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Binary Haze by Ainsley Bennett, winner of the Skyscapes category.

The winners of the annual Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year have been announced. From eerie eclipses through to battered lunar landscapes, these images are an absolute treat.

The Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year is run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich. Now in its eighth year, the competition received an unprecedented 4,500 entries from over 80 countries. Here are the winning images, along with the runner’s up, for each category.


Overall Winner: Baily’s Beads, Yu Jun

China’s Yu Jun captured the “Baily’s Beads” effect during the total solar eclipse of March 9, 2016, as seen from Luwuk, Indonesia. As the Moon passes in front of the sun, its surface allows beads of sunlight to escape in some places and not in others. Yun captured the different beads of sunlight that leak from behind the Moon throughout the eclipse and stacked them on top of one another to create this unusual pic.


Winner of Aurorae: Twilight Aurora, György Soponyai

A stunning Aurora Borealis as seen above the Adventtoppen Mountain in Norway.


Winner of Galaxies: M94: Deep Space Halo, Nicolas Outters

Messier 94, or M94, is a distant spiral galaxy lying approximately 16 million lightyears away from our planet. The shimmering pinks of the inner ring show the hectic star forming activity leading to the term “starburst ring.” Photographer Nicolas Outters also captured the often unseen galactic halo of M94 made up of stars, hot gases and dark matter.


Winner of Our Moon: From Maurolycus to Moretus, Jordi Delpeix Borrell

An incredibly close-up view of the battered lunar landscape littered with craters forged by impacts from meteors and asteroids.


Winner of Planets, Comets & Asteroids: Serene Saturn, Damian Peach

This stunning photograph depicts Saturn’s famed rings in great detail with striking contrast between each of them. Storms are visible across the face of the planet, as well as the astronomical mystery that is the hexagon at Saturn’s north pole.


Winner of Skyscapes: Binary Haze, Ainsley Bennett

A misty morning on the Isle of Wight is the setting for this image resembling an eerie scene from a science fiction film. The obscuring weather actually accentuated the brightness of Venus and the crescent Moon and transformed them to appear as glowing orbs floating over the countryside.


Wiiner of Stars & Nebulae: The Rainbow Star, Steve Brown

Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky, and it’s often seen shining as a white star. But it’s also known to flash with hues of numerous colors, the result of turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere. Photographer Steve Brown had been searching for the best way to display these colors in an image, and he finally hit upon the idea of videoing the star, then picking out the frames with the most striking colors to showcase the chameleon-like quality of the star.


Winner of Young Photogapher (Under 15): Lunar Reversal, Brendan Devine

A truly innovative, high-contrast image of the Moon that’s been inverted to bring out the intricate details of the rugged, lunar landscape that we often miss in more traditional shots of our natural satellite.


Winner of Best Newcomer: Large Magellanic Cloud, Carlos Fairbairn

A gorgeous images of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxy and close neighbor, the Large Magellanic Cloud.


Winner of Robotic Scope: Iridis, Robert Smith

This composite image compares the slitless spectroscopy of two planetary nebulae—the Cat’s Eye Nebula at the top, and the Ring Nebula below.


Runner Up, Our Sun: Sun Flower Corona, Catalin Beldea and Alson Wong

A composite of 12 images taken during the total solar eclipse on March 9, 2016 from Tidore Island in Eastern Indonesia.


Runner Up, Aurorae: Black and White Aurora, Kolbein Svensson

An unconventional view of the aurora, simply in black and white. The removal of the vivid colors so commonly associated with the Northern Lights brings out the fluidity of the aurora and the stark contrast it forms against the night sky.


Runner Up, Galaxies: Towards the Small Magellanic Cloud, Ignacio Diaz Bobillo

The Small Magellanic Cloud is seen on the left hand side of the image in a flurry of blues and pinks that illustrate the several hundred million stars contained within the dwarf galaxy. The globular cluster, 47 Tucanae, is seen glowing a vibrant orange, in the upper right corner of the photograph.


Runner Up, Our Moon: Rise Lunation, Katherine Young

This shot of the moon, captured at 98 percent illumination, looks like it comes from a Pink Floyd album cover.


Runner Up, Planets, Comets & Asteroids: Comet Catalina, Gerald Rhemann

Comet Catalina leaves a dust trail in its wake. A second tail of ionized gas emanates from its luminous blue coma, fades into the darkness.


Runner Up, Skyscape: Silent Waves of the Sky: Noctilucent Clouds, Mikko Silvola

A close up view of of noctilucent clouds formed in the skies over Finland. Also known as night clouds, they’re composed of crystals of water ice and are the highest clouds in Earth’s atmosphere, but they can only be viewed when the sun is below the horizon but they are still in the sunlight.


Runner Up, Stars & Nebulae: Perseus Molecular Cloud, Pavel Pech

The Perseus Molecular Cloud lies 600 light years from our planet, and it’s home to a large number of deep sky objects, the most famous of which is NGC1333 in the top right part of the image, radiating a vivid blue.


Runner Up, Young Photographer: What the City Does Not Show You, Jasmin Villalobos

A man stands on a hill on Canyon Lake, Arizona, silhouetted against a night sky that fades from the moody, blue light pollution seen on the right hand side to the darkness that hangs over the desert.

[Royal Museums Greenwich]

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Bear Grylls Reveals The Insane Level Of Security Needed For ‘Running Wild’ Episode With Barack Obama

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A few months ago, Bear Grylls took President Barack Obama out into the Alaskan wilderness on his show Running Wild to ROUGH IT. Or, more accurately, try to make it look like they were roughing it. We all know he’s the fucking president and his life is precious, so Grylls obviously had to take it easy on him. You don’t want to be the guy who accidentally killed Barry O for TV ratings. Unless it’s sweeps week. Then you do what you gotta do. (KIDDING!!!)

Anyway… Grylls recently went on The Jonathan Ross Show and revealed some truths behind that episode of Running Wild. We all know the President is going to have a cavalcade of agents following his every move and to make sure he is safe. However, what I didn’t know is that they brought along a big black box that they would stuff the president in and would be used to carry Barry to safety (by helicopter) should anything go wrong.

‘They had this big black box if anything went wrong he gets in that and has all the nuclear codes, a big hook on the top for a helicopter, it’s a container (and they take him away).

‘We had like 60 Secret Service, snipers in the mountains. I’m not joking, we had the whole four helicopters in the air, it was a crazy whole machine to watch.

They actually put special presidential loos every kilometre. Of course none of them got used… I think he actually went in the bushes at one point.

Pissing in the bushes is one thing. It’s what guys do. But only an insane person shits in the woods if a bathroom is nearby. And you can bet if Barry had to shit, he was was going in that bathroom. In fact, I’d think less of him if he willingly skipped the bathroom and did it in the woods for the sake of authenticity. If I were Grylls, and Obama tried to shit in the woods, I’d look at him and be like, “Bro, we pretended that the salmon was left on a river bank by a Bear, there’s an ocean of snipers in these woods, and you have a fucking BLACK BOX…just shit in the port-a-potty, ya weirdo.”

Watch the whole episode here…

[H/T Metro]

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16 books that will change the way you understand human behavior

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Man Laying Down on Bench ReadingFlickr / Ed Yourdon

Human beings are pretty vain creatures, so what could be more interesting than a book about ourselves?

We asked Lynn Lobash, manager of the Reader Services department at the New York Public Library, to recommend the books on human behavior that she considers required reading. We also selected a few of our favorites to add.

Here are 16 of the most compelling reads.

“Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges” by Amy Cuddy

Known for her mega-successful TED talk on power posing, Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy argues in “Presence” that behavior can influence our thoughts. 

If we want to be more present in the room, be it with a boss or a spouse, we should look to make ourselves more expansive and maybe even stand like Wonder Woman for a few minutes.

Buy the book here »

“The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg

Instead of relying on our fickle willpower to reach goals, Charles Duhigg suggests we embrace the science of habit formation. 

He presents examples from the NFL, Procter & Gamble boardrooms, and the civil rights movement that illustrate a key insight: Our habits define us, but it’s ultimately up to us to control how and when those habits get formed.

Buy the book here »

“Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age” by Sherry Turkle

Texting is taking over our lives, and Sherry Turkle presents strong evidence that it’s destroying our abilities to empathize with others and think creatively.

Not only are we torpedoing our relationships with others, but Turkle says we’re ruining our abilities to be alone with our thoughts — to just be. Simply talking may be the most humanizing thing we can do.

Buy the book here »

“The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch” by Jonathan Gottschall

The science and history of violence is on full display as Gottschall recounts his training as a mixed-martial arts fighter and investigates why fighting is such a popular spectator sport.

We learn about the so-called “monkey dance” that occurs when humans want to minimize risk and social disorder but seek to establish hierarchies — all while Gottschall gets thrown around the ring, just for our entertainment.

Buy the book here »

“The Road to Character” by David Brooks

In “The Road to Character,” Brooks tries to reconcile the external pressures that define success with internal markers of success, a distinction he draws as “résumé virtues” versus “eulogy virtues.” 

Is a fulfilling life one of moral integrity, financial might, or a mix of both?

Buy the book here »

“Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown

Bogged down by endless amounts of stuff, life can be hard to declutter. “Essentialism” seeks to help people understand what aspects of their lives are marked by excess, whether it’s their workload or walk-in closet.

Readers are asked to confront head-on what it is they really need to live a better life.

Buy the book here »

“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo

Cleaning consultant Marie Kondo believes tidying up isn’t just a weekend ritual; if done right, it could be a life-changing experience.

Kondo’s system helps you categorize the things in your home to determine what can go and what should stay. For example, if items don’t “spark joy” the second you grab ahold of them, it’s best to part ways.

Buy the book here »

“The Art of Thinking Clearly” by Rolf Dobelli

We humans fall victim to cognitive errors every day: biases, fallacies, and other illogical forms of thinking. 

Rolf Dobelli guides readers through these destructive thought patterns so they can identify them when they pop up. The book makes the case that thinking should be intentional, not reactionary.

Buy the book here »

“Drunk Tank Pink” by Adam Alter

Our world is far more influential than we give it credit for.

We may think we behave in certain ways because of some larger free will, but Adam Alter argues seemingly inane things — like the color of a prison cell wall — can push our decision making process in unforeseen directions. 

Buy the book here »

“Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain

“Quiet” makes the compelling case that the Western world over-values extroverts when a great deal of research says introverts also have a wealth of virtues to offer.

Cain reassures her quieter readers that their preference for intimate conversation and crossword puzzles is totally normal. There really is value in speaking softly and carrying a big stick.

Buy the book here »

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

World-famous behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman has found there are two general modes of thinking, a fast mode and slow mode.

We often make our decisions based on the error-prone fast mode, which relies on pre-held assumptions about what’s right. But sometimes it’s only by slowing down that we can realize our judgments are actually quite flawed.

Buy the book here »

“Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel H. Pink

According to Dan Pink, there are three big things that motivate people: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. 

If we’re expected to excel in our jobs or relationships, we need to feel like we can act alone, work toward improving ourselves at the task, and move toward a bigger meaning outside the task itself.

Pink’s book totally rethinks the old carrot-and-stick approach to motivation.

Buy the book here »

“Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior” by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman

We can have all the facts in front of us and still make the wrong choice.

Whether it’s faulty logic or emotionally-driven decisions, Ori and Rom Brafman find a host of moments in daily life that leave people in a state where they’re drawn to act against their own interests.

That applies to how the NBA selects future players, how hiring managers select candidates, and how the Supreme Court weighs the most important cases the country will ever see.

Buy the book here »

“Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely

Duke University behavioral economist Dan Ariely reviews some of his most illuminating experiments, which reveal why we make certain decisions and how our feelings are shaped by them.

Ariely has found, among many other things, that humans are predictably fooled by the concept of “free” stuff, that people frequently overpay, and that procrastination is common in some contexts but not others. “Predictably Irrational” is a guidebook for avoiding land mines in everyday life.

Buy the book here »

“The Invisible Gorilla” by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

Even when humans try their best to focus, they inevitably still end up averting their gaze from something else. In “The Invisible Gorilla,” Chabris and Simons reveal just how often inattention gets the best of us.

They explain how police officers can pass by obvious cases of assault without noticing, Hollywood films can be rife with editing mistakes, and rare, childhood diseases can suddenly make a comeback.

Buy the book here »

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This new procedure could solve the most annoying problem with growing old

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A new FDA-approved eye procedure called the “Raindrop Near Vision Inlay” can improve blurry vision that comes with age. The implant is designed and tested by Revision Optics. However, always consult an ophthalmologist before undergoing any eye procedure.

Produced by Gene Kim. Original reporting by Jessica Orwig.

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This Chart Of The 15 Deadliest Animals In The World Will Make Your Skin Crawl In Fear

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Snake Attack

Shutterstock / mrjo

The numbers are in, and the World Health Organization (WHO) have named the 15 deadliest animals on planet earth. In a blog post (from a year or two ago) on his site GatesNotes.com, Bill Gates (yes, that Bill Gates) went into detail about just how much of a threat the #1 species on this list is and how we as a society need to be doing A LOT more to stop these hundreds of thousands of deaths from happening:

via GatesNotes.com:

What makes mosquitoes so dangerous? Despite their innocuous-sounding name—Spanish for “little fly”—they carry devastating diseases. The worst is malaria, which kills more than 600,000 people every year; another 200 million cases incapacitate people for days at a time. It threatens half of the world’s population and causes billions of dollars in lost productivity annually. Other mosquito-borne diseases include dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis.
There are more than 2,500 species of mosquito, and mosquitoes are found in every region of the world except Antarctica. During the peak breeding seasons, they outnumber every other animal on Earth, except termites and ants. They were responsible for tens of thousands of deaths during the construction of the Panama Canal. And they affect population patterns on a grand scale: In many malarial zones, the disease drives people inland and away from the coast, where the climate is more welcoming to mosquitoes.
Considering their impact, you might expect mosquitoes to get more attention than they do. Sharks kill fewer than a dozen people every year and in the U.S. they get a week dedicated to them on TV every year. Mosquitoes kill 50,000 times as many people, but if there’s a TV channel that features Mosquito Week, I haven’t heard about it.

On Labor Day last week I woke up at 4am to drive 2.5hrs south, into the heart of Florida’s Everglades National Park, where I went fishing from ~6:50am to 3pm. It was my first time fishing in The Everglades and going into the trip everyone I knew told me I should expect to be devoured alive by mosquitoes (aka ‘black birds’), and it freaked me the fuck out. My buddies had me so rattled I went out and bought a bug spray with 40% Deet which ultimately ended up causing me to get sunburned to all hell because the insect repellant acted as a chemical magnifier in that unforgiving Florida sun and I cooked like a piece of bacon…not to mention I didn’t see A SINGLE GODDAMN MOSQUITO all day because the wind was blowing and the bugs were M.I.A.

Still, the fear of mosquito-borne diseases is something many Americans only see on TV but for me, living in Florida, this is something I’m thinking about almost every day. It’s pretty awesome that someone like Bill Gates is throwing his mighty influence and fortune into combatting the spread of mosquito-borne disease, and if the only contribution I can provide to his cause is this blog post then so be it, I’ll do my tiny part.

For what it’s worth, if any of you out there are wondering just why in the shit I’m blogging something from 2014 I’ll go ahead and be honest with you: I was nearly done with this article before I realized it was from 2014, and I liked it enough to finish it up and share it with you bros because this is news that still needs to be shared.

…For more on the dangers posed by mosquitoes you can click on over to GatesNotes.com!!!…

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