Thursday, July 31, 2014

Whitehouse schools Inhofe on climate change

I always love when Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) delivers:

Why the Security of USB Is Fundamentally Broken

Why the Security of USB Is Fundamentally Broken "That’s the takeaway from findings security researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell plan to present next week, demonstrating a collection of proof-of-concept malicious software that highlights how the security of USB devices has long been fundamentally broken. The malware they created, called BadUSB, can be installed on a USB device to completely take over a PC, invisibly alter files installed from the memory stick, or even redirect the user’s internet traffic. Because BadUSB resides not in the flash memory storage of USB devices, but in the firmware that controls their basic functions, the attack code can remain hidden long after the contents of the device’s memory would appear to the average user to be deleted. And the two researchers say there’s no easy fix: The kind of compromise they’re demonstrating is nearly impossible to counter without banning the sharing of USB devices or filling your port with superglue."

So I doubt Firewire will make a huge comeback but I expect this means in 5-7 years time we'll all have new everything that uses a different connector.

Sharron Laverne Parrish Jr. Charged With Apple Credit Card Scam

Business Insider reports Sharron Laverne Parrish Jr. Charged With Apple Credit Card Scam

Here’s how it works: Parrish allegedly visited Apple Stores and tried to buy products with four different debit cards, which were all closed by his respective financial institutions. When his debit card was inevitably declined by the Apple Store, he would protest and offer to call his bank — except, he wasn’t really calling his bank. 

So, the complaint says, he would offer the Apple Store employees a fake authorization code with a certain number of digits, which is normally provided by credit card issuers to create a record of the credit or debit override. (Business Insider, like the Tampa Bay Times, refuses to publish the number of digits ‘so as not to inspire anyone.’)

But that’s the problem with this system: as long as the number of digits is correct, the override code itself doesn’t matter.

‘It does not actually matter what code the merchant types into the terminal,’ the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey said publicly after a similar case occurred there in February. ‘Any combination of digits will override the denial.’"

It boggles my mind that some bank set up a system where the override code itself is ignored and just the number of digits is what matters.

The US Attorney's Office - District of New Jersey writes:

Ordinarily, when a merchant swipes a credit or debit card, a computerized check is performed to determine whether the account associated with the card is valid. If the account is open and funds are available, the transaction goes through; if the account is closed or funds are unavailable, the transaction is denied. If the transaction is denied, a merchant has two choices: ask the customer for another card, or perform a “forced sale” using the declined card. During a typical forced sale, the merchant calls the card issuer (i.e., the customer’s bank or credit card company) and receives an authorization code. The merchant types the code into the credit card terminal and “forces” the transaction, essentially overriding the denial and allowing the sale to go through. At some later date, the merchant and the card issuer settle the outstanding charge.

But for technical reasons relating to the forced sale process, it does not actually matter what code the merchant types into the terminal. Any combination of digits will override the denial. So long as the customer provides a fake authorization code and convinces the merchant to enter it into the terminal, the transaction will go through. The merchant is unlikely to discover the fraud until days or weeks later.

How is that possible?

Does it matter what Congress intended?

Does it matter what Congress intended?:

The challengers have one really good piece of evidence: the “established by the State” language, read in isolation, does support the view that Congress meant to restrict tax credits to state exchanges.

Everything else, to my mind, cuts against them. Congress repeatedly used the “exchange established by the State” language as shorthand for “exchange.” Adopting the challengers’ interpretation would make a dog’s breakfast of other provisions of the statute. If Congress wanted to threaten the states to coerce them into establishing exchanges, wouldn’t it have made that threat clear? And if the governing assumption was that states would be happy to establish exchanges, why would Congress have bothered to make such a threat?

If you’re an intentionalist, you can add to this some straight-up legislative history—earlier versions of the health-care reform bill, the CBO score, the statements of members of Congress or their staff, even the recollections of journalists. Fairly read, I think that history confirms what the rest of the evidence already shows: that when Congress used the phrase “established by the State,” it didn’t mean to withhold tax credits from federal exchanges.

(Via The Incidental Economist)

Sahara Dust Produces Massive Bahama Carbon Sink

Sahara Dust Produces Massive Bahama Carbon Sink

This post was inspired by a terrific new and  important paper that speaks to the role of Saharan dust, the iron and other mineral micronutrients it carries to the ocean, and how this results in a new explanation of the power and potency of ocean photosynthesis in regulating global CO2. Once again we find that the living ocean is not merely a chemical test tube but rather a complex living ecology. But sometimes the chemistry shines through as well or I should say the bio-chemistry.

In short the authors show that when Sahara dust arrives in the Bahamas cyano-bacteria, what we used to call blue-green algae, bloom. As they bloom their photosynthesis removes CO2 from the water making the pH locally rise, alleviating ocean acidification. That blooming rise of ocean pH to a slightly more alkaline state results in what the Bahamanian’s have long called  ‘Ocean Whitings’ where the ocean becomes white like milk.

The whiting of the ocean is the result of white calcium carbonate precipitating out of solution as a solid mineral which sinks to the sea floor and accumulates in massive amounts. On the sea bed it looks like tiny pellets. That’s because it’s been reprocessed by marine worms."

CIA improperly accessed Senate computers, agency finds

McClatchy reports WASHINGTON: CIA improperly accessed Senate computers, agency finds

CIA employees improperly accessed computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a report on the agency’s now defunct detention and interrogation program, an internal CIA investigation has determined.

Findings of the investigation by the CIA Inspector General’s Office ‘include a judgment that some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached between SSCI (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) and the CIA in 2009,’ CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said in a statement.

The statement represented an admission to charges by the panel’s chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the CIA intruded into the computers her staff used to compile the soon-to-be released report on the agency’s use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists in secret overseas prisons during the Bush administration."

I wonder what else they're doing?

The NSA's Patents, in One Searchable Database

The NSA's Patents, in One Searchable Database "Foreign Policy obtained the NSA's list of patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. You can download the entire list here or browse the patents by the dates they were filed. We've linked each one to the underlying documents, which include plain-language descriptions, the name of the particular inventor, and in some cases diagrams of the device."

Matt Novak describes 7 NSA Patents: Cyber Manholes, Super-Shredders and More.

Why As A Kansas Democrat, I Registered As A Republican

Aimee Patton wrote in Crooks and Liars: Why As A Kansas Democrat, I Registered As A Republican

Kansas holds Republican primaries in August. In the last general election in Kansas, 8 of the 40 seats in the Senate didn’t have a Democratic challenger. In the House, in 33 out of the 125 races Republicans ran unopposed. That means the election for those 33 seats was decided in the primaries in August.

After looking at the statistics, I did what I never thought I would be able to do. Hell froze over, and I registered as a Republican. I’ll admit, I had to take a deep breath as I clicked the mouse over the R box on the registration form. The thud I heard was my grandmother rolling over in her grave. Nobody in my family is a Republican. Sorry Grandma. Extreme times call for extreme measures. I was officially the first Republican in my family.

My strategy in Kansas is like many other voters – vote moderate over the extremist, then when it comes down to a moderate vs. a Democrat vote for the best candidate."

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

It's a Miracle WWI US Naval Destroyers Managed to Hit Anything at All

Gizmodo writes It's a Miracle WWI US Naval Destroyers Managed to Hit Anything at All

"The Mark 1 Fire Control Computer was a vital component of the navy's Mark 37 Gun Fire Control System and, for more than three decades served as the fleet's primary means of calculating shots at sea. While it was smaller than the earlier British design, the Mark 1 was still a hefty piece of equipment standing four feet tall and weighing more than 3000 pounds. And, given its importance, was similarly stored in the bowels of the vessel where it would be most defended against battle damage.

The Mark 1 is classified as an electromechanical analog computer—not quite digital yet but leagues beyond an abacus and slide rule. The gun director unit (an electronic device that served the same function as the earlier fire-control officer and rangetakers) topside would gather optical and radar telemetry information—known as Line of Sight (LOS) data. The director unit would then transmit the LOS data via a series of synchro motors down to the Mark 1 which would subsequently calculate out firing instructions and the necessary lead angles based on the two ships' movements through the wateras well as environmental factors like gravity and relative wind. This analyzed data, known as the line-of-fire (LOF) data, would then be transmmitted up to the gun batteries throughout the vessel to line up the next shot. And as soon as the first set of calculations were complete, the system effectively 'locked on' to a target and continually rain hot lead without the need to keep redoing the calculations."

Monday, July 28, 2014

John Oliver on Nuclear Weapons

I really like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Last night's story on nuclear weapons is a perfect example. I knew all these bits from various stories I've seen (and blogged about) but he puts it all together in context while being funny. The definition of satire.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Corporations are people. So what if people were corporations?

This is pretty entertaining: Corporations are people. So what if people were corporations? - The Washington Post "I spoke with a few legal and tax experts about what we humans stand to gain from my cutting-edge constitutional insight. Turns out corporations enjoy tons of rights and privileges that biological beings should be salivating over."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I'm Ira Glass, Host of This American Life, and This Is How I Work

I'm Ira Glass, Host of This American Life, and This Is How I Work

It's just what I expected. It's a little long, detailed, engaging and had a few nice recommendations (for speakers) that got me interested.

Don't Fly Drones Here

Don't fly drones here "Unmanned drones like quadcopters and fixed-wing aircraft are at the center of new airspace regulations by the FAA. While the FAA deliberates on rules and regulations, states, cities and other national organizations have implemented their own no-fly zones. To help people find safe places to fly, we’ve mapped established no-fly areas where drones are not permitted around all major airports, military bases, and national parks across the country. All the no-fly area data we collected to make these maps is now open data under CC-0."

Screen Shot 2014 07 24 at 4 01 23 PM 500

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Janet Yellen Shows Foolishness of GOP Monetary Policy at Hearing

Danny Vinik explains in The New Republic Janet Yellen Shows Foolishness of GOP Monetary Policy at Hearing. "At a House Financial Services Committee hearing last Thursday, Fed Chair Janet Yellen and a Republican Congressman had a testy exchange that shows just how uninformed and dangerous GOP monetary policy can be."

The secret of Minecraft

I've never played or quite understood Minecraft. Robin Sloan explains The secret of Minecraft and now I have more of a clue. I think he takes it a bit too far, but secret lore is definitely an appealing thing.

Microsoft will merge separate versions of Windows into one unified operating system

The Verge reports Microsoft will merge separate versions of Windows into one unified operating system. This sounds like something an engineer would want, but my Apple ecosystem experience tells me that apps on different platforms (touch screen vs mouse, little screen big screen) are more different than you'd expect. I want a small text editor for notes on my phone, not Word. It important to share the data and some of the code but not the user interface (which is a lot of the code). We'll see how it works for Microsoft.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Today was one of Obamacare’s craziest days ever. What now?

The Washington Post's WonkBlog says Today was one of Obamacare’s craziest days ever. What now? "The federal appeals court in the District of Columbia ruled 2-1 this morning that the Affordable Care Act doesn't authorize the federal government to provide subsidies to low- and middle-income Americans to buy insurance in the 36 states where the federal government set up exchanges to sell health-care coverage. Just two hours later, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in a similar case unanimously found just the opposite — that the IRS correctly interpreted the text of the ACA when it issued a rule allowing all public exchanges, regardless of who set them up, to provide insurance subsides."

And also, Here’s what Obamacare’s authors said they actually meant.

Update: Nina Totenberg explains, Obama's Health Care Law Has A Confusing Day In Court. "So, with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals taking one view, and the 4th Circuit taking a contrary view, what happens now? The Obama administration plans to ask the full 11-judge D.C. court to review the case in that circuit. At the same time, the anti-Obamacare forces who lost in the 4th Circuit plan to appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court."

100 Best Sci-Fi Movies Ever Made

Time Out Film lists 100 best sci-fi movies ever made. "Leading sci-fi experts, filmmakers, science fiction writers, film critics and scientists pick the best sci-fi movies ever made." (an easier to see list is here.

I've seen all but the following eight. I disagree with the ranking of many of the films.

  1. Red (1994)
  2. 2010 (1984)
  3. The Damned (1963)
  4. Things to Come (1936)
  5. World on a Wire (1973)
  6. The American Astronaut (2001)
  7. Quatermass and the Pit (1968)
  8. Stalker (1979)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Laurent Durieux Movie Posters

Laurent Durieux has some great tribute movie posters including this one for Hitchcock's Rear Window.


Creating Chord Intelligence

SuperMegaUltraGroovy is company that makes Capo software for Mac and iOS to help musicians learn new songs.

"We just shipped Capo touch and Capo 3.1 last week—on the same day!—and a large part of the time on this project was spent building Chord Intelligence. I feel that the name is fitting; Chord Intelligence is trained from a collection of music and applies its knowledge to what it hears in an audio recording. You read that correctly: Capo’s new chord detection engine is trained, and it does indeed learn."

Chord Intelligence is a fairly technical article describing the challenges of creating this software. Nice read.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Photos of the Week: 7/12-7/18

In Focus' Photos of the Week: 7/12-7/18 are stunning.

"This has been a very eventful week. This edition features images from Ukraine, Israel, and Gaza, as well as other events large and small around the world. From Germany's victory in the World Cup, to Manhattanhenge, the Supermoon, Bastille Day, and much more. [40 photos]"

List of airliner shootdown incidents

Wikipedia of course has a List of airliner shootdown incidents.

Verizon’s Accidental Mea Culpa

ISP Level 3's blog Beyond Bandwidth explains Verizon’s Accidental Mea Culpa.

"His explanation for Netflix’s on-screen congestion messages contains a nice little diagram. The diagram shows a lovely uncongested Verizon network, conveniently color-coded in green. It shows a network that has lots of unused capacity at the most busy time of the day. Think about that for a moment: Lots of unused capacity. So point number one is that Verizon has freely admitted that is has the ability to deliver lots of Netflix streams to broadband customers requesting them, at no extra cost. But, for some reason, Verizon has decided that it prefers not to deliver these streams, even though its subscribers have paid it to do so."

I have to say, I haven't seen many problems using Netflix over my FiOS connection.

7 predicted Obamacare disasters that never happened

Sarah Kliff at Vox writes 7 predicted Obamacare disasters that never happened

"These days, Obamacare seems to be working reasonably well. More Americans have health insurance now than did a year ago.  People who bought Obamacare say they're generally pretty happy with their health insurance plans and that they can mostly get a doctor appointment within two weeks. Looking back at expectations set  last fall and this spring shows how terribly pundits and politicians expected Obamacare to go — and how much of the predicted disaster never actually happened."

Anyone admit they were wrong?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Get HBO With Minimal Cable by Ordering From Your ISP's "Secret" Menu

Get HBO With Minimal Cable by Ordering From Your ISP's "Secret" Menu "HBO shows are hugely popular. Cable, less so. It's been a dream to get HBO without a cable subscription for a long time. While that reality still isn't fully realized, you can still get HBO GO with almost no bundled TV packages. If you know what to ask for, that is."

I would think the fact that these plans are "secret" violates some regulation?

With transplanted arms and Army grit, a quadruple amputee soldiers on

The Washington Post tells this amazing story, With transplanted arms and Army grit, a quadruple amputee soldiers on.

"It has been 18 months since Marrocco, 27, of Staten Island, underwent a rare double arm transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He had lost both legs and parts of both arms to a makeshift bomb in Iraq on Easter 2009. At the time of his injury, he was the first service member from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive the loss of four limbs. He then became the first service member to receive a double arm transplant and still is one of only seven people in the United States who have successfully undergone the procedure."

Want to Listen to Spy Broadcasts? Here’s How

The War is Boring Blog on Medium wrote Want to Listen to Spy Broadcasts? Here’s How

These are the numbers stations—a radio station on shortwave that broadcasts some sort of repetitive noise followed by strings of numbers. Amateur tech geeks first identified the stations after World War II. No one is sure what their purpose is.

That hasn’t stopped anyone from speculating. The most popular theory is that the broadcasts are used to transmit coded messages to spies and the military. Shortwave is easy to broadcast globally, hard to trace and free of commercial traffic.

Spies or military personnel tune into the frequency at an appointed time and use a one-time pad to decrypt the message. The spy then destroys the pad and goes about their mission. Anyone else listening hears a random string of numbers with no context.

Listening to numbers stations was once the hobby of a small margin of the population. Only those with shortwave radios and patience to tune them reaped the benefits of the strange broadcasts.

Now—thanks to the Internet—anyone can listen."

Earth's Magnetic Field Flip Could Happen Sooner Than Expected

Scientific American reports Earth's Magnetic Field Flip Could Happen Sooner Than Expected "The scientists who conducted the study are still unsure why the magnetic field is weakening, but one likely reason is that Earth's magnetic poles are getting ready to flip, said Rune Floberghagen, the ESA's Swarm mission manager. In fact, the data suggest magnetic north is moving toward Siberia."

"Scientists already know that magnetic north shifts. Once every few hundred thousand years the magnetic poles flip so that a compass would point south instead of north. While changes in magnetic field strength are part of this normal flipping cycle, data from Swarm have shown the field is starting to weaken faster than in the past. Previously, researchers estimated the field was weakening about 5 percent per century, but the new data revealed the field is actually weakening at 5 percent per decade, or 10 times faster than thought. As such, rather than the full flip occurring in about 2,000 years, as was predicted, the new data suggest it could happen sooner."

"Still, there is no evidence that a weakened magnetic field would result in a doomsday for Earth. During past polarity flips there were no mass extinctions or evidence of radiation damage. Researchers think power grids and communication systems would be most at risk.

Earth's magnetic field acts like a giant invisible bubble that shields the planet from the dangerous cosmic radiation spewing from the sun in the form of solar winds. The field exists because Earth has a giant ball of iron at its core surrounded by an outer layer of molten metal. Changes in the core's temperature and Earth's rotation boil and swirl the liquid metal around in the outer core, creating magnetic field lines."

45 Years Ago We Landed Men on the Moon

My earliest memory is watching the moon landing. We watched in my sister's room, as she had the newest (B&W) TV in the house. As of today I have 45 years of memories as In Focus shows 45 Years Ago We Landed Men on the Moon

"Tomorrow will mark the 45th anniversary of the July 16, 1969 launch of Apollo 11, the NASA mission that first landed human beings on the Moon. Years of effort, dangerous experiments, and bold missions led up to the Moon landing, an event watched on live television by millions around the world. Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin 'Buzz' E. Aldrin left the Earth on a Wednesday, landed on the Moon on that Sunday, spent a bit more than two hours walking on its surface, deploying experiments and collecting samples, then splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean the following Thursday, after 8 days off-planet. Collected here are 45 images of that historic mission, a 'giant leap for mankind,' 45 years ago. [45 photos]"

Lots of a famous pictures you know, and many I didn't.

Celebrating 50 Years of American Doctor Who

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

This Could Be Apple’s Biggest Innovation Since the iPhone

Time writes about the future of digital wallets, This Could Be Apple’s Biggest Innovation Since the iPhone.

That “it” refers to virtual wallets – smartphone apps meant to replace the need for credit cards and cash. Virtual wallets have been a drop-dead obvious idea since at least 2011, when Google launched its much heralded Google Wallet for Android, i.e. “tomorrow’s billfold.” Three years – and nearly half a billion dollars in investment later – the Google Wallet has been largely ignored by consumers. Meanwhile, competitors like Square and its Square Wallet app have also officially thrown in the towel.

Rather than play along with Google Wallet, many carriers have blocked access [to the secure chip that stores credit card info on the phones] and started competing offerings themselves (like Isis, the virtual wallet from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon). The result: fragmentation of the nascent wallet market and huge headaches for Google. “With Google Wallet, we had one point of failure,” explained Jonathan Wall, the project’s founding engineer, “the carriers [used] the necessity of hardware to really block the product.”

Indeed, Apple seems to have all its ducks in a row for a headlong plunge into the virtual wallet space: hundreds of millions of users’ credit card numbers on file; a device people carry with them at all times to hold these numbers; and even a fingerprint system to authenticate transactions (ensuring that stolen iPhones, for instance, can’t be used for payments). “Apple is absolutely the sleeping giant in the payments world,” explains Forrester Research’s Denee Carrington. “They have the capability; they just haven’t tied it all together.”

iBeacon is the other piece that Apple is rolling out. See Apple Patent Reveals Secure iWallet System with iBeacon and Apple's first iBeacon hardware revealed in FCC application. Rather than say Apple "just [hasn't] tied it all together" I'd say the other companies haven't tied it all together and Apple is doing so slowly and deliberately.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hulk vs. James Bond: Staring into the Id of a Boner Incarnate

I enjoy reading Film Critic Hulk articles, though they are too long and the ALL CAPS is very annoying to read. He's starting a series of posts on the James Bond films. It's 73,000 words long. Dive in if you will.



Nine things everyone should know how to do with a spreadsheet

Macworld has a nice article, Nine things everyone should know how to do with a spreadsheet. I learned a few things, like #8. They show examples for MS Excel, iWork Numbers and Google Sheets.

  • 5 contains a mistake. Numbers does indeed allow you to name ranges. In particular it does it automatically for whole columns or rows based on the header name. Also, one of the things I really like about Numbers is that each sheet is just a canvas and you put tables and charts (and potentially other objects) on it. This makes much more sense to me than embedding a chart in a table as Excel does. It also means that Tables can have names that formulas can reference. (I did learn that Excel allows you to name ranges).

Gaza, in numbers

This chart in The Economist shows Gaza, in numbers


Friday, July 11, 2014

Recently revived ISEE-3 probe can’t fire engines, can’t change orbit

Ars reports Recently revived ISEE-3 probe can’t fire engines, can’t change orbit "Not every space story can have a Hollywood ending, and unfortunately it’s looking like the situation with the newly resurrected ISEE-3 space probe is going to have a bittersweet conclusion. The International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 satellite has been dormant since 1998, but a crowdfunded group of 'citizen scientists' were given permission by NASA to assume control of the spacecraft and see about bringing it into a closer orbit. The group, called the ISEE-3 Reboot Project, has been posting periodic updates on its blog, but the latest news isn’t good at all—ISEE-3’s thrusters aren’t operating as expected."

Top 10 Most Effective Editing Moments of All Time

Cinefix presents the Top 10 Most Effective Editing Moments of All Time "Skilled editing is as effective in the creation of a good film as a writer, director, or performer. Though often overlooked, editing brings shots together to make a whole greater than the sum of its parts. These ten movies are a fantastic illustration of just how important editing can be. "

All ten are great. Their number one pick would be lower on my list.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Rocket Launch, East Coast, Sat 1:14pm

ISS Commercial Resupply Services Mission (Orb-2) "The launch of Antares for the Orb-2 Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station is scheduled for Saturday, July 12 at 1:14 p.m. EDT. Rollout of the Antares rocket to its launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport occurred early this morning."


In ‘sexting’ case Manassas City police want to photograph teen in sexually explicit manner, lawyers say

The Washington Post reported this Kafkaesque story yesterday, In ‘sexting’ case Manassas City police want to photograph teen in sexually explicit manner "A Manassas City teenager accused of ‘sexting’ a video to his girlfriend is now facing a search warrant in which Manassas City police and Prince William County prosecutors want to take a photo of his erect penis, possibly forcing the teen to become erect by taking him to a hospital and giving him an injection, the teen’s lawyers said. A Prince William County judge allowed the 17-year-old to leave the area without the warrant being served or the pictures being taken — yet.

The teen is facing two felony charges, for possession of child pornography and manufacturing child pornography, which could lead not only to incarceration until he’s 21, but inclusion on the state sex offender data base for, possibly, the rest of his life. David Culver of NBC Washington first reported the story and interviewed the teen’s guardian, his aunt, who was shocked at the lengths Prince William authorities were willing to go to make a sexting case in juvenile court."

There have been some updates, but as near as I can tell (I had to look up the phrase "nolle prosequi" which was misspelled) it's just been statements and noise and nothing substantive.

Update: Police drop plans to photograph teen’s erection in sexting case

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Senator Patrick Leahy and Batman

The Boston Globe has a story that seems like a fabrication of Stephen Glass, Senator Pat Leahy: Living in a fantasy world "Leahy, 74, the longest-serving senator, lays claim to one the most fanciful hobbies in Washington: He has been quietly co-writing Batman comic books and anthologies, as well as taking bit parts and voiceover roles in Caped Crusader films and cartoons — including a turn as a 19th-century frontier politician."

“I helped write this,” Leahy boasted in an interview in his office, referring to the land mine comic. “I’ve also written the foreward to one of their anthologies. I’ve been in four Batman movies. I’ve done voiceovers. I’ve made a huge amount of money on it. Sometimes I kind of gawk when I see the size of the checks, but I committed to [donate it to the library] years ago.”

Kentucky State Senator on Global Warming: 'the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here'

Kentucky Senator on Global Warming: 'There Are No Coal Mines on Mars'

"Republican state Sen. Brandon Smith had this to say about global warming last Thursday during a hearing convened by the Kentucky Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Environment: 'I don't want to get into the debate about climate change. But I will just simply point out that I think that in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars, there's no factories on Mars that I'm aware of. So I think what we're looking at is something much greater than what we're going to do.'"

Where do they find these people and how do they stay so ignorant?

Apparently there's also this: "Buried in the bluster were some actual data: Namely, a presentation by the state’s assistant secretary for Climate Policy that Kentucky will almost entirely be powered by natural gas in the year 2050."

Buzz Aldrin AMA

Buzz Aldren did an AMA on reddit yesterday that's a lot of fun. I am Buzz Aldrin, engineer, American astronaut, and the second person to walk on the moon during the Apollo 11 moon landing. AMA!.

Q: What's the most frightening moment that you have ever experienced in space?

A: I believe it was after leaving the surface of the moon and completing a successful rendezvous with Mike Collins in the command module, as we approached connecting / docking, the procedures in the checklist said one thing, and I thought maybe doing it a slightly different way, rolling and pitching instead of something else, and I thought that was better on the spur of the moment! It turns out that it was not a good thing to do, because it caused the platform to become locked, and we were not able to use the primary thrusters, the primary guidance, to control the spacecraft, to its final few feet to dock and join the other spacecraft. That was my mistake. I suggested to my commander that we do it differently, and it was his mistake to assume that i knew what I was talking about. So we both made mistakes - brought about by me! We recovered successfully on the "abort guidance" system.

Here's a cleaned up version.

Meanwhile, we have more evidence that Voyager 1 has left the solar system. Sun Sends More 'Tsunami Waves' to Voyager 1

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Smallpox discovered sitting in Maryland storage room

You never know what you'll discover when you move. Smallpox discovered sitting in Maryland storage room

"Today in smallpox, apparently: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday that employees at the National Institutes of Health found some vials containing smallpox sitting in a laboratory storage room in Bethesda. These vials were labeled ‘variola,’ which the CDC calls ‘the severe and most common form of smallpox.’

The vials were discovered last week in an unused part of a storage room inside a laboratory operated by the Food and Drug Administration, the CDC said in a news release. They were found by employees preparing to move the lab, which has been operated by the FDA since 1972, over to the main FDA campus."

Largest-ever study of same-sex couples' kids finds they're better off than other children

Vox says Largest-ever study of same-sex couples' kids finds they're better off than other children. Another thing conservatives were wrong about. Of course there are caveats but this was an interesting rationale (that I've read previously, I think in a long Atlantic article).

"Study author Simon Crouch told ABC News in Australia that previous research suggests same-sex parents don't feel pressured into gendered roles, which lets them more freely adapt to the needs of the family. "So what this means is that people take on roles that are suited to their skill sets rather than falling into those gender stereotypes, which is mum staying home and looking after the kids and dad going out to earn money," Crouch said. "What this leads to is a more harmonious family unit and therefore feeding on to better health and well-being.""

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Rise of Thin, Mini and Insert Skimmers

I didn't really know about these devices used to steal your ATM card info from the ATM. The Rise of Thin, Mini and Insert Skimmers "Like most electronic gadgets these days, ATM skimmers are getting smaller and thinner, with extended battery life. Here’s a look at several miniaturized fraud devices that were pulled from compromised cash machines at various ATMs in Europe so far this year."

Why Classic Rock Isn’t What It Used To Be

So now FiveThirtyEight is applying data analysis to Classic Rock, Why Classic Rock Isn’t What It Used To Be They also came up with a list of The Biggest One-Hit Wonders of Classic Rock.

Conservative Delusions About Inflation

Krugman goes on like an old record, Conservative Delusions About Inflation "In fact, hardly any of the people who predicted runaway inflation have acknowledged that they were wrong, and that the error suggests something amiss with their approach. Some have offered lame excuses; some, following in the footsteps of climate-change deniers, have gone down the conspiracy-theory rabbit hole, claiming that we really do have soaring inflation, but the government is lying about the numbers (and by the way, we’re not talking about random bloggers or something; we’re talking about famous Harvard professors). Mainly, though, the currency-debasement crowd just keeps repeating the same lines, ignoring its utter failure in prognostication."

"Well, it turns out that money is indeed a kind of theological issue. Many on the right are hostile to any kind of government activism, seeing it as the thin edge of the wedge — if you concede that the Fed can sometimes help the economy by creating “fiat money,” the next thing you know liberals will confiscate your wealth and give it to the 47 percent. Also, let’s not forget that quite a few influential conservatives, including Mr. Ryan, draw their inspiration from Ayn Rand novels in which the gold standard takes on essentially sacred status."

Vox does too, 8 reasons to ignore the latest round of inflation hysteria, with graphs and stuff.


"It's a sign of how weird America's priorities have become that Torsten Slock of Deutsche Bank actually presented the chart above as evidence that wage demands are getting out of control. The red line shows actual wages. It says that since 1986 the five worst years for wage growth were 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 and that 2014 is set to be the sixth-worst. The blue line shown an indicator of wage pressures, and it shows that pressure has risen from its weakest reading ever all the way back up to a level that we previously only saw at the low-points of business cycles. If you think that Ronald Reagan's second term, and every single year of the Bush, Clinton, and W. Bush administrations featured out-of-control wage inflation, then you should worry about wage inflation today. But not otherwise."

36-Year-Old NASA Probe's Engines Successfully Fired Up by Private Team

The ISEE-3 is still going strong.

36-Year-Old NASA Probe's Engines Successfully Fired Up by Private Team

"NASA's International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 probe (ISEE-3), which the agency retired in 1997, performed the maneuver in preparation for a larger trajectory correction next week. The spacecraft hadn't fired its engines since 1987, ISEE-3 Reboot Project team members said.

It took several attempts and days to perform the roll maneuver because ISEE-3 was not responding to test commands. But this time, controllers got in touch. They increased the roll rate from 19.16 revolutions per minute to 19.76 RPM, putting it within mission specifications for trajectory corrections."

Sunday, July 06, 2014

In NSA-intercepted data, those not targeted far outnumber the foreigners who are

The Washington Post reports In NSA-intercepted data, those not targeted far outnumber the foreigners who are

"Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post.

Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or ‘minimized,’ more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents."

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

BNP Paribas Guilty Plea Is Latest Big Settlement to Bolster New York State’s Fiscal Position

BNP Paribas Guilty Plea Is Latest Big Settlement to Bolster New York State’s Fiscal Position "This week, the French bank BNP Paribas agreed to plead guilty to federal and state criminal charges and will pay an $8.9 billion penalty, which will be split between the federal and state governments. The fee is a record sum for a bank accused of doing business with countries that face United States sanctions."

Matt Tahibbi notes, no one is going to jail.

The Afternoon Constellation - A-Train

The Afternoon Constellation - A-Train "NASA and its international partners operate several Earth-observing satellites that closely follow one after another along the same orbital ‘track.’ This coordinated group of satellites, constituting a significant subset of NASA’s current operating major satellite missions, is called the Afternoon Constellation, or the A-Train, for short. The satellites are in a polar orbit, crossing the equator northbound at about 1:30 p.m. local time, within seconds to minutes of each other. This allows near-simultaneous observations of a wide variety of parameters to aid the scientific community in advancing our knowledge of Earth-system science and applying this knowledge for the benefit of society. Five satellites currently fly in the A-Train: GCOM-W1, Aqua, CALIPSO, CloudSat, and Aura. On November 16, 2011, PARASOL was lowered to 9.5 km under the A-Train and on December 18, 2013 PARASOL ceased operation, fully exiting the A-Train. OCO-2 is scheduled to join the configuration in 2014."

A Train2013 Web sm

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Fluid Experiments Support Deterministic “Pilot-Wave” Quantum Theory

Fluid Experiments Support Deterministic “Pilot-Wave” Quantum Theory describes how some recent fluid experiments have revived interest in an old alternative to Quantum Theory.

The idea that pilot waves might explain the peculiarities of particles dates back to the early days of quantum mechanics. The French physicist Louis de Broglie presented the earliest version of pilot-wave theory at the 1927 Solvay Conference in Brussels, a famous gathering of the founders of the field. As de Broglie explained that day to Bohr, Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg and two dozen other celebrated physicists, pilot-wave theory made all the same predictions as the probabilistic formulation of quantum mechanics (which wouldn’t be referred to as the “Copenhagen” interpretation until the 1950s), but without the ghostliness or mysterious collapse.

There is a secret ingredient in your burgers: wood pulp

Devin Cohen writes in Quartz There is a secret ingredient in your burgers: wood pulp

"The emulsion-stabilizing, cling-improving, anti-caking substance operates under multiple aliases, ranging from powdered cellulose to cellulose powder to methylcellulose to cellulose gum. The entrance of this non-absorbable fiber into fast food ingredients has been stealthy, yet widespread: The compound can now be found in buns, cheeses, sauces, cakes, shakes, rolls, fries, onion rings, smoothies, meats—basically everything.

The cost effectiveness of this filler has pushed many chains to use progressively less chicken in their ‘chicken’ and cream in their ‘ice cream.’ McDonald’s ranks highest on the list with cellulose integrated into 14 of their menu items including their renowned fish fillets, chicken strips and biscuits, with Burger King ranking second on the list with 13 menu items  containing cellulose. Moreover, many cellulose-laden ingredients (such as honey mustard, bbq sauce, and cheese blends) can be found in multiple items throughout the menu making the filler difficult to avoid.

All of these cellulose-based ingredients are non-digestible wood pulp possessing no nutritional value. Though some studies suggest that microcrystalline cellulose may have adverse effects on cholesterol, the FDA has approved powdered cellulose for human consumption in moderate doses."

An Even More Nuanced Breakdown of the Supreme Court

I'm reading a lot of the recent Supreme Court decisions, but for now the NY Times shows An Even More Nuanced Breakdown of the Supreme Court "In the accompanying chart, the distance between a pair of justices represents roughly how often they disagreed this term. It’s impossible to get all 36 of the distances exactly right — you’d need more than four dimensions to do that — so we’ve also included curvy lines showing the exact distance between some of the pairs. The justices are placed so all 36 lines are as straight as possible. This includes the lines connecting the liberal and conservative wings, which we haven’t shown."


The Economics of the Economics of the Great Recession

CEPR calls out most economists and a recent one in particular Robert Samuelson Wants People to Be Unemployed: The Economics of the Economics of the Great Recession

50 ways that MIT has transformed computing

50 ways that MIT has transformed computing: CSAIL celebrates 50 years of computer science with MAC50 symposium. Nice list of interesting technologies.

It's Really Hard to Be a Good Guy With a Gun

It's Really Hard to Be a Good Guy With a Gun

"The cultural effect of all these laws is to encourage a kind of hypervigilance that's simultaneously paranoid and arrogant. It encourages armed citizens to seek confrontations and escalate them, confident that they can end them definitively. That hypervigilance looks at my questions and scenarios and doubts and says, like a drill instructor in a true army of one: 'Then don't carry a gun, you equivocating pussy. Leave the defending to us real men.'

Fine. I leave it to you, the hypervigilant. Even though the statistics show mass shootings are on the rise, and not one has been stopped by armed good guys—armed civilian good guys. In fact, they've been shot more often than they've shot the baddies. Which is natural, since assault weapons are on the rise, and it's hard to conceal a weapon that can outshoot someone with a Bushmaster. I leave it to you, because I still puzzle in my mind over all the tactical difficulties posed by someone in civilian clothes carrying a gun during a shooting. (How do you telegraph your goodness to the cops and bystanders?)"