Articles, Page 12 of 207

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12 Jul 12
Newspaper

UN Arms Treaty Possibly Affecting US Gun Owners

Not long after President Obama was elected, many Americans began a mad scramble to purchase firearms and ammunition with the expectation he was going to crack down hard on the gun control. Thus far, that particular lane of legislation has remained relatively quiet from the White House. An interesting political twist in the foreign policy arena may finally bring that flag to bear. The United Nations is hammering away at the Arms Trade Treaty, a measure designed on its face to control the availability of weapons to crime syndicates and terrorists. However, the small arms covered by the treaty and the notion of a global firearm registry extend bureaucratic implications towards private gun ownership in the United States (if ratified). There are further large scale implications as well in ratifying the treaty such that nation states would be in violation for providing arms and defenses to other countries or factions (such as Taiwan) faced with less than nobly intended foreign neighbors. But by and large, as the world’s preeminent clearinghouse for private firearm ownership, Americans are concerned with how foreign pressure may impact their present legal right to own – especially when Iran is given an important role in policing the practical application of the treaty.

09 Jul 12
Newspaper

God Particle Discovered

Physicists have been messing around with the standard model since the 1970s by slamming particles into one another to discern the basic building blocks of the universe. While the model described the particles quite well, there was no evidence beyond theoretical prediction about the bosons that influenced the forces between them. The Higgs Boson in particular was of interest to physicists and is often referred to as the God Particle for its theorized purpose in providing mass. This property is, of course, critical for allowing atoms to form and ultimately for “us” to exist, hence the name. The Higgs Boson was actually found in December of 2011 but to avoid an embarrassing declaration of science (faster than light neutrinos?), researchers held onto the news until a definitive five-sigma level of confidence was attained. The discovery was made possible by smashing particles repeatedly in the CERN supercollider revealing evidence of the Higgs Boson with a mass equaling 125 gigaelectron volts (GeV) — about 125 times the mass of a proton. Be prepared for the resurgence of the physics nerd as they steal the cash, chicks and cocaine from the more mainstream geeks and rappers, as according to Princeton physicists – “It’s a triumphant day for fundamental physics. Now some fun begins.”

02 Jul 12
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Music Purchase Log: 2012 Q2

Music I purchased in the second quarter of 2012:

  • Bear Vs Shark – Right Now, You’re in the Best of Hands
  • Beecher – Breaking the Fourth Wall
  • Bled, The – Heat Fetish
  • Bullets and Octane – In the Mouth of the Young – Some good tunes, but not enough of them. It’s almost like they’re forcing it to work.
  • Bush – Sea of Memories – Nice to see they’re back in action, but this is one I probably won’t return to often. Not that I regret getting it; my tastes have just moved on.
30 Jun 12
Cup

Dumbing down our education

Remember your grandparents saying ’He only had an 8th grade education"?

Well, this is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS – 1895
Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of ‘lie,’‘play,’ and ‘run.’

23 Jun 12
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Nerd Feast

Ideas Worth Spreading

Perhaps you-all have known about this for a long time, but I have just discovered a rich vein of stories that make you think, and help you with how to think.
It is an archive of presentations by academics on their research know as Ted Talks
I am constantly amazed by how entertaining and informative these highly intelligent people can be when discussing a subject that they love and have usually devoted many years to understanding.

There are now more than 1000 of these presentations in the Archive and my sampling indicates that they are all great. I particularly enjoy the way these presentations lack political or social bias in presenting subjects that are often highly controversial and divisive when discussed by us ordinary lay, non academics. Perhaps I perceive no bias because I already think in the same way as these people. I hope that is true, but I suspect not. I find it truly humbling to see highly articulate and educated men and women of all ages and racial groups offering such profound insight into things that are popular subjects in more mundane discussions with my friends. Collectively I think these talks are a great tribute to scientific method and the academic approach, and I wish that our national public policy debates could be conducted in this way.

20 Jun 12
Newspaper

Hacker Interacts with AntiVirus Researchers

The stereotypical hacker tends to lurk solo in the dark like a dirty mushroom. But a Chinese malware author broke the mold recently by interacting with AVG researchers. As the anti-virus reverse engineers were investigating a suspected piece of malware within a virtual machine, a window popped up on their system from the hacker. In Chinese, he basically interrogated them asking why they were poking around in his program – which of course was designed to steal screenshots and keystrokes of its victims playing Diablo III in hopes of hijacking their accounts.

20 Jun 12
Newspaper

Torvalds Calls Out Nvidia

Perhaps saying he “called out” Nvidia is being too nice as his exact quote was, NVIDIA, FUCK YOU. Apparently, Linus has been criticizing Nvidia and AMD lately for their poor support the open source development community. The entire matter apparently came to a head during a Q&A session [YouTube] where he proclaimed them the single worst company Linux developers ever had to deal with and concluded with his … less than positive salutation.

12 Jun 12
Newspaper

Advanced Crypto Present in Flame

Everybody in the security world these days is talking about Flame, the monstrously fat piece of malware found all throughout the Middle East (centered around the remarkably uninfected Israel). For those unaware, Flame weighs in at over 20 megabytes and is composed of numerous functional modules giving it all sorts of capabilities like listening through microphones, activating video, bluesnarfing, etc. None of that was particularly impressive and its sheer size and presence of human readable strings screamed of amateurish development. What did pique researcher’s interest was a unique adaptation of cryptographic hash collisions in order to fool Windows operating systems into trusting a fraudulent windows update server. Researchers are claiming Flame was clearly associated with world class mathematicians in order to rapidly produce MD5 collisions for use. The malware itself is already beginning to shutdown across the world but the code is already under scrutiny. Too bad the White House leaked they were behind Stuxnet and Duqu because reverse engineers are already finding shared code from zero-day exploits within Flame found only in those tools.

04 Jun 12
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US Admits to Cyber Attack Against Iran

As per usual, “anonymous” officials have made public particularly damning statements about the United States’ and Israel’s involvement in the cyber attacks against the Iranian nuclear program . Reverse engineers around the globe have speculated about the involvement of the two nations in both Stuxnet and Duqu, but there has never been any proof positive towards either other than coincidental political goals. New York Times’ article Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran basically lays out an affirmation the program began under the Bush Administration but was continued and ramped up under the Obama Administration as an alternative solution to derailing the Iranian nuclear weapons program in lieu of a pre-emptive military strike by the Israelis. Considering the stance America recently took on what it considers acts of war in the cyber domain, it’s particularly disturbing the officials would admit to performing those very acts against an adversary. Naturally, the “anonymous” officials won’t face a lifetime in prison for such a breach of national security, a punishment reserved for everyone else (such as Bradley Manning).

28 May 12
Newspaper

Zombie Attack

Zombie attacks don’t really happen, right? Well, in Florida just the other day a policeman shot to death a naked man eating the face off his victim on an offramp. As if that weren’t odd enough, he actually had to shoot the naked man several times because he kept feeding despite the gunshot wounds.

25 May 12
Cup

Failing Government

I note that there is a poll coming up in the pipeline asking who can save the USA. So there is an assumption that the country is failing to hold itself together.
There are many signs that something serious is wrong, but is it a fair assessment that a saviour is needed?
It may be informative to look at another place where the system is really failing and there is no one to save it.

I wonder how informed the nerds are of major events happening in an inconsequential little nation a long way from the USA.

Is anyone here aware of the Constitutional Crisis currently under way in Papua New Guinea? At present the country has two prime ministers and two Police Chiefs, all fighting each other, and the Chief Justice was arrested yesterday.

25 May 12
Question

FaceBook's Botched IPO

It’s been a week since FaceBook’s IPO and nobody is happy. The first issue was obviously the NASDAQ failure to open on time and properly handle the trades. FaceBook itself is facing a class action lawsuit over alleged insider trading (really? already?) with high value customers having a priority on purchases. Lastly, the investors themselves are angered over the significant drop in price since the IPO as poor media coverage and public relations have soured everyone on FaceBook’s commitment to shareholders.

13 May 12
Newspaper

Google Drive

Google Drive went live less than a month ago after years of speculation. There are a bunch of nifty features, but they won’t seem very significant to Google Docs who have been using them for awhile. But in order to benefit from Google Drive, a user must install Google’s software to synchronize local files with their cloud storage.

That said, WTF does the client software need to eat up 52MB of RAM to just sit there? For that matter, DropBox uses a mere 22MB of RAM to perform the same task. That’s still pretty bloated for the job but is more than 50% smaller than Google’s software.

12 May 12
Newspaper

Congressional Leadership as Citizens of Foreign Lands?

Congressional representative Michele Bachman was recently granted a Switzerland citizenship. She calls the matter a non-story … but is it? Is it not disturbing that political leaders of the United States could theoretically have legal duties or binding interests to foreign lands? It is especially disturbing considering that upon becoming a congressional representative that a full clearance is granted (to anything and all compartments). When a large matter of national security falls into the “NOFORN” category, what kind of precedent is she setting for maintaining classified information? (Not that congress isn’t the source of nearly all leaks …)

12 May 12
Newspaper

Breastfeeding

Until the early 20th century, human babies survived on breastmilk (it may have been from a wet nurse, but it was still breastmilk). With the invention of baby formula, mothers in America largely trended away from breastfeeding relying instead upon the derived product to handle their baby’s nutritional needs. Around the 70s, the trend slowly began to reverse itself back to actual breastfeeding. Oddly enough, the social norm had changed definitively such that a woman breastfeeding her baby became something she did entirely privately, as if Americans couldn’t handle the image. The trend seems to have shifted yet again, with helicopter parents growing truly extreme in recent years. The latest Time magazine feature story (subscription required) highlights that not only has breastfeeding made a return, but mothers are continuing the process as their children grow through the toddler years.

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