Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Easter Gator

Have I ever told you of the Easter Gator? In Florida, some years back, an Easter bunny was hiding eggs. A female alligator thought the bunny looked like a tasty treat and promptly devoured it. As punishment for eating this Easter Bunny, the powers responsible for such things cursed the unsuspecting gator with eternal life and a compulsion to hide eggs for the children each Easter.

This arrangement has not been without some drawbacks. The female alligator is extremely territorial when it comes to her eggs, and if she has reason to suspect that someone is trying to dig up her eggs, she will immediately go to the eggs' location and consume the egg hunter. This makes it very, very important for the parents of Florida children to distract the Easter Gator during an egg hunt. Children whose parents do not distract the Gator may be eaten.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Small Ocean Found Under East Asia

This is pretty cool. Apparently, scientists have found an ocean underneath China:
Scientists scanning the deep interior of Earth have found evidence of a vast water reservoir beneath eastern Asia that is at least the volume of the Arctic Ocean.

The discovery marks the first time such a large body of water has found in the planet’s deep mantle.



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Warming and Climate Change is Not Limited to Earth

What if humans aren't the cause of global warming? That is the question that the mainstream global warming movement has forbidden people to ask... which leads me to question their scientific ability. We are very concerned with identifying the man-made (it couldn't possibly be anything but, right?) causes of global warming and stop them. Well, that's fine and I'm all for it. There are cleaner ways to produce energy (nuclear power, solar, etc) that allow me to enjoy the benefits of living in an advanced electricity-driven civilization without having to breathe in noxious fumes.

I present you with this article from SPACE.com.

Scientists hypothesize that observed phenomena on Mars are the result of Martian global warming:
features at the south pole were observed to retreat by up to 10 feet (3 meters) from one Martian year to the next.

The odd shapes -- circular pits, ridges and mounds -- were first photographed in 1999. Since then, the features have eroded away by up to 50 percent.


The scientists caution that their data is not conclusive, but it does tend to make one speculate that there may be an outside cause of global warming on Earth--like the sun. If the sun were producing more heat due to its heightened activity, it would make sense that Earth, as well as other planets would get hotter. In the face of such a possibility, it is irresponsible to put all our resources into figuring out how to stop global warming when there is a likelihood that we have nothing to do with it. We have to consider the possibility that global warming is inevitable and that we should be using our technology to cope with it and figure out how to produce food in and protect people from severe conditions brought about by global climate change.

It is also noteworthy that Astronomers think that "Jupiter is in the midst of a global change that can modify temperatures by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit on different parts of the globe". I'm pretty sure humans couldn't be the cause of that. Unfortunately, there is not enough evidence in these matters to say that we are sure the solar system is experiencing a warming trend, but the fact is, we wouldn't be having this discussion if there weren't reliable data indicating that it might be happening. And if it is happening throughout the solar system, we need to drop this "we are causing global warming" mentality and start figuring out how we will cope with climate change, otherwise, a lot of people will die for no reason whatsoever.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Worrysome Advancements in RFID Technology

Kodak Files Patent For Edible RFID Tags
NewScientist.com has uncovered a recently filed patent application from camera and imaging technology giant Kodak that outlines a compelling new application of RFID: ingestible tags that act as monitors for health characteristics within the human body.
. . .
The patent notes that in addition to passive, active RFID technology could be used instead, depending on the application.

RFID 'Powder' - World's Smallest RFID Tag
These devices could also be used to identify and track people. For example, suppose you participated in some sort of protest or other organized activity. If police agencies sprinkled these tags around, every individual could be tracked and later identified at leisure, with powerful enough tag scanners.


So now they can make RFID tags smaller than ever before, but they can also make them edible. That's just great. Talk about illegal searches... they can put an active RFID tracker in your sandwich, and in a few days, there'll be no evidence of it.

For those of you who don't know what an RFID tag is, here is a concise definition from Wikipedia:
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is an automatic identification method, relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders. An RFID tag is an object that can be attached to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person for the purpose of identification using radio waves. Chip-based RFID tags contain silicon chips and antennae. Passive tags require no internal power source, whereas active tags require a power source.


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Monday, February 19, 2007

Using Pornography to Send People to Prison

If you don't like someone, you can send them to prison. It's easy. All you need is some digital pornography and the skills to to place them in your enemy's computer.

[Julie Amero] was convicted last month of exposing seventh-grade students to pornography on her classroom computer. She contended the images were inadvertently thrust onto the screen by pornographers' unseen spyware and adware programs.

But her argument has made her a cause celebre among some technology experts, who say what happened to her could happen to anyone.

"I'm scared,"the 40-year-old Amero said. "I'm just beside myself over something I didn't do. "It all began in October 2004.

Amero was assigned to a class at Kelly Middle School in Norwich, a city of around 37,000 people about 40 miles east of Hartford. Amero says that before her class started, a teacher allowed her to e-mail her husband.

She says she used the computer and went to the bathroom, returning to find the permanent teacher gone and two students viewing a website on hair styles.

Amero says she chased the students away. But later, she says, pornographic images started popping up on the screen. Computer consultant Herb Horner, who testified for the defence, said, "It can happen to anybody."

"It's absolutely plausible,"Ari Schwartz, deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said of Amero's case. "It's a huge problem."


That she was convicted in spite of the fact that she might not have had anything to do with the pornography that was on her computer. Imagine if it was child pornography. The FBI doesn't care so much how it got on your computer as much as it cares that it's there at all. If you need to get rid of someone, all you need to do is make sure child pornography shows up on their hard drive and report them.

This is why you need good firewalls to keep hackers out of your machine.



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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Brain Scanners Predict Human Intentions

I saw this news story a few weeks ago, but never wrote anything about it. SFAM over at Cyberpunk Review was more responsive and did write a timely post about this new technology and it is worth a read.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have developed a brain scanner that can predict human actions before they take place.

The 'multivariate pattern recognition' technique uses a computer trained to recognise certain changes in brain activity associated with actions. It can predict intended actions before they occur with 70 per cent accuracy.

"In future it will be possible to read even abstract thoughts and intentions out of patients' brains," said the scanner's inventor Professor Dr John-Dylan Haynes.


The benefits of this technology include machines that can be directed by the human mind. I, being a paranoid threat-assessing sort, tend to be more aware of the detriments (not mentioned in the article).

For example, many people may have already noticed the growing prevalence of personality tests issued to job applicants by corporations. They want to know whether the person applying suited for the job. Unfortunately, people who don't like working for a boss, or don't like people will get screened out before the interview process. It seems to be getting harder to get a job unless one truly thinks a certain way, regardless of actual qualifications.

With technology like this, companies could actually see how their employees think and discriminate against them on that basis. It sounds harmless, but companies would be discriminating against people based on what they might do; not what they will do.

This was the sort of discrimination that was fought against during the Civil Rights movement. At that time, skin color was used as a grouping that could be used to predict behavior. This time it will be more insidious. There is no law keeping companies from discriminating on the basis of what a person thinks.

Typically, companies have only been able to let a non-conformist go if they were airing their opinions on company time and causing a disruption; so job-loss could be avoided by keeping one's mouth shut. Now, with new technology, it might not be enough to simply keep one's thoughts to one's self, because companies can screen out thoughts they don't like before the first interview.

Beyond that, imagine the applications for use by governments. If a domestic terrorist were defined as someone who opposed government policy, a lot of people could be detained on the grounds that their thought patterns fit the domestic terrorism profile (that is, if there weren't a successful Constitutional challenge to such a practice).

Welcome to the future.



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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Theoretical Troll

The name "theoretical troll" was used [in Shadowrun] to identify one of the inherent flaws in a previous edition release of the game. It referred to the fact that a player could select a Troll as a starting character and, through manipulation of rules, could make the equivalent of a walking, indestructible artillery platform, through various methods. Trolls were known for extremely high combat statistics (Body and Strength) which allowed players to abuse the system in ways it wasn't designed for.

Originally from Wikipedia - Shadowrun

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The above article was removed from Wikipedia on 2007 January 22 at 13:57 by an editor called Max Overload. I considered it to be the most humorous part of the article, so I am sad to see it disappear (especially at the hand of an editor who has made some controversial edits). Those of us who have played Shadowrun with Enkidu will recognize his troll character in that description, and that's why I have decided to preserve that part of the article here.



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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Popular Word of the Moment: Surge

Has anyone noticed the prevalence of the work surge in our news stories lately?

President Bush keeps talking about a troop surge. Sports teams are reported to surge ahead when they surpass the opposing team. Commodities prices surge up when there is a dramatic increase. Those are just a few examples. Anyone remember when the only surges were power surges?

I don't know about you, but the tendency of different branches of the media to parrot each other is disturbingly suggestive that not a lot of original thinking is going on.

Perhaps more disturbing, perhaps someone with the power to influence all major media outlets wants the word surge to be in our heads. If that's the case, we need to be asking why.



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