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Current Topic: Science

Acoustic Cryptanalysis
Topic: Science 8:38 pm EDT, May 10, 2004

A powerful method for extracting information from supposedly secure systems is side-channel attacks: cryptanalytic techniques that rely on information unintentionally leaked by computing devices. Most side-channel attack research has focused on electromagnetic emanations (TEMPEST), power consumption and, recently, diffuse visible light from CRT displays. The oldest eavesdropping channel, namely acoustic emanations, has received little attention. Our preliminary analysis of acoustic emanations from personal computers shows them to be a surprisingly rich source of information on CPU activity.

Not only is this interesting, but it also gives me a good reason for using my IBM Thinkpad as a mobile development platform. According to this, they do not give away much information that can be gathered using these techniques.

Acoustic Cryptanalysis

(Amazon) The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson
Topic: Science 3:23 pm EST, Mar 26, 2004

This is another book I'm in the process of reading. I've become interested in language lately. This too, I should have more to say about when I'm done.

Description from School Library Journal:
Bryson traces the English language from the Neanderthal man of 30,000 years ago to the present. Interestingly, he contrasts the language as it developed simultaneously in various locations. He also presents examples of the evolution of words and their spellings. The book is well researched and informative; the thorough index will aid novices in the exploration of the language.

(Amazon) The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson

Mars Rover Landing Pan | 'Empty Nest' Photo | 1440x900
Topic: Science 7:18 pm EST, Jan 22, 2004

This is a backdrop made from the high-resolution press image of the rover looking back at the landing pad, sized to fit widescreen 17" LCD monitors.

UPDATE: URL fixed..

Mars Rover Landing Pan | 'Empty Nest' Photo | 1440x900

Wired News: Predicting the Next Big One
Topic: Science 10:26 pm EST, Jan  9, 2004

] Seismologists may soon have the ability to predict
] earthquakes several months in advance, say a team
] of researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles.

They predicted the recent Central California and Japan shakers. They have not analyzed data on Bam (yet).

] Although the group prefers not to announce predictions
] to the public for fear of causing panic and economic
] damage, UCLA did reveal in a press release Tuesday that
] the team is now watching for a possible 6.4 magnitude
] quake in a sparsely populated area south of the Mojave
] Desert sometime before Sept. 5.

Wired News: Predicting the Next Big One

How to build a breeder reactor
Topic: Science 4:27 pm EST, Jan  6, 2004

This article tells the story of David Hahn, who in 1995 built a breeder reactor in his backyard shed.

This is really an amazing story.

How to build a breeder reactor - Crimes against Nature
Topic: Science 2:28 pm EST, Jan  6, 2004

This is a lengthy article out of Rolling Stone about the "environmental crimes" of the Bush Administration (and in general the whole Heritage neoconservative cabal). If you are looking for something to get your blood pressure up, this will do it.

There are a few points in this article I thought may have been overstated a bit.. For instance, forest thinning is a _GOOD IDEA_ under certain circumstances. Really! Especially in forests close to populated areas. Its a really good example of how environmental issues can get really cloudy. There is a place were these things are good (or at least not bad) for the overall health of the forrest, but there are also cases where its just a way to guild logging activity. There isn't really a way to make it a clear cut thing. Now, are Bush's thinning plans actually in the "good idea" category, or were they language games played to get some more logging? I have no idea. Ok, so I'm predisposed to think that these Bush plans are probably environment killers, but I also have not seen the forests effected or talked to anyone in the know about the issue.

That being stated, this article contains a lot of good information.. Just read between the lines. The environment is a topic that we all should be much better educated about, however as a whole we really don't have much of a clue because every study or suggested action is always seen thru some politically shaded lens. Read enough of these articles and you will surely have two things going on: You will be an environmentalist (fine) & You will be completely clueless and confused every time any kind of environmental legislation comes up (not-fine).. Which one of these do you think the current administration was more interested making you? - Crimes against Nature

Spaceflight Now | Spirit Mission Status Center
Topic: Science 1:19 am EST, Jan  4, 2004

] 0452 GMT (11:52 p.m. EST)
] SPIRIT IS ALIVE ON MARS! A "very strong signal" is now
] being received from the Spirit rover from the Gusev
] Crater on the surface of the Red Planet!

Excellent! Go NASA!

It will be a few days before the rover comes out. All the hardware in question is designed to be operational for 90 days. Hopefully everything is in good working order and it came to a rest somewhere interesting.

] 0603 GMT (1:03 a.m. EST)
] Peter Theisinger, the Mars Exploration Rover project
] manager, says there is a "good" chance that we will
] get the first pictures from Spirit tonight.
] "I would stick around if I were you," he just told a
] press conference at JPL.

Very cool!

Spaceflight Now | Spirit Mission Status Center

Look! It's the largest prime number!
Topic: Science 2:35 pm EST, Dec 11, 2003

6,320,430 decimal digits. Enjoy!!

] 2^20996011 - 1 is prime
] 6.3 million digit prime number discovered 17 November 2003
] by Michael Shafer, George Woltman, Scott Kurowski, et al
] The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search

Look! It's the largest prime number!

Journal of Memetics- Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
Topic: Science 11:16 am EST, Dec  4, 2003

A goldmine of memetic discussion published on the internet with no subscription fee. Just click on "index of all issues". The advisory board contains the memetic heavyweights Susan Blackmore, Gary Cziko, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Liane Gabora, and David Hull.

Journal of Memetics- Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission

Bush's Advisers on Biotechnology Express Concern on Its Use
Topic: Science 3:23 pm EDT, Oct 19, 2003

] Laying a broad basis for possible future prescriptions, the
] President's Council on Bioethics yesterday issued an
] analysis of how biotechnology could lead toward
] unintended and destructive ends.

Comments on the matter from Decius:

I must express some suspicion of this given that we already understand what the administration's perspective of this is. Is this a search for answers, or a hammer looking for a nail?

Some of the NYT's quotes reveal a mixed bag:

For example, this makes sense to me:
"By medicalizing key elements of our life through biotechnical interventions," the report says, "we may weaken our sense of responsibility and agency."

We already do this in many different ways.

On the other hand, I cannot imagine a more foolish luddism then this statement:

It concludes that "the human body and mind, highly complex and delicately balanced as a result of eons of gradual and exacting evolution, are almost certainly at risk from any ill-considered attempt at `improvement.' "

While the wording here is carefully chosen, the message is clear. Obviously there are risks. Everything has risks. It is important to understand risks and avoid them. But by waxing about the perfection of the human being and placing the word improvement in quotes, the author is not really referring to risk management. He stops short of arguing that all activity in this space would be counterproductive only because he can't prove that. He is saying that biotechnology is bad.

What this perspective ignores is that every single technological development in the history of man, from the first wooden spear to the space shuttle, has been an attempt to escape the boundaries of what nature has given us. That is, in fact, fundamentally what makes us human and what differs us from most other animals. We invent technologies which help us adapt to environmental pressures that other species cannot adapt to because they adapt at random and without will.

To claim that we have no reason to continue to expand the boundaries of our capabilities is the same sort of narcissistic bullshit that lead Fukuyama, who made large contributions to this paper, to conclude that we are at the end of political history. This perspective is absolutely ignorant of human nature.

Bush's Advisers on Biotechnology Express Concern on Its Use

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