Articles, Page 7 of 215
At DEFCON 23, security researcher Chris Domas unveiled the movfuscator. Essentially, Chris built off the work of Stephen Dolan’s proof that the x86 instruction
mov is Turing Complete. When a machine is defined as Turing Complete, in colloquial programming terms it simply means that it can simulate all general computing tasks. Thus, in declaring
mov as Turing Complete, Stephen says that an entire program can be written with nothing but combinations of that one instruction. Chris in turn built the movfuscator to take a binary as its input and output a new binary composed of nothing but
mov instructions. Certainly, any reverse engineer opening a binary of nothing but an endless list of
mov will quickly hate their life.
The OmniNerd “good idea fairy” is flapping its wings and sprinkling some dust trying to figure out ways to save humanity from the Great Purge. Let’s begin with this statement: our ability to have a functional time machine or cross-temporal-messaging device is no longer limited by today’s technology. As a matter of fact, researchers may have already demonstrated the necessary technology exists through existing and on-going quantum entanglement experiments. What tools are already at our disposal:
- The Air Force has already demonstrated an ability to use photon entanglement to take a picture of something that is not physically present.
- Scientists have already figured out ways of encoding increased amounts of information onto single photons.
Getting into space is expensive and demanding. Scientists have researched alternatives to rocket boosters for decades as means of mitigating cost, danger, and the barriers to entry. One of the more peculiar concepts is known as the space elevator which varies in idea from being a staging point to putting an object fully into orbit. Thoth Technology of Toronto was just granted a patent for a new space elevator design using kevlar composites and helium filled tubes to support a 12 mile, free-standing elevator. The goal behind the elevator is to enable cheaper launches from a higher altitude or to simply scale the elevator all the way out to 200km.
Before the information age, the best way to store data for perpetuity was in books. Perhaps that’s still true as many current digital mediums still do not last for more than a handful of years. Right now, scientists are looking at leveraging sequences within DNA for archival storage based on the notion they can last for thousands of years. DNA is estimated to be capable of storing 300,000 TB of encoded data. Current experiments have successfully “saved” 83 KB of information and recovered it without error.
Two women are set to make history on Friday as they become the first females to graduate US Army Ranger School. They began the three phases in April 2015 with 19 women and 381 men whereupon the herd began thinning out due to recycles and course drops. By the time the class completed the swamp phase, only two women and ninety-four men remained. Only about 45% of students that begin Ranger School actually make it graduation. Throughout their attendance, military forums exploded with controversy about whether standards were loosened, whether women should even be there, and what their role was afterwards. Currently, the Pentagon still has restrictions on women applying to the 75th Ranger Regiment and there are no published plans for further women to attend the course following this integration test.
Why are you a picky eater? Some of the reasons may include conditioning but there is a genetic portion as well. There’s a gene that regulates how bitter certain foods taste and this is often the cue by which picky eaters shun a food. That gene, amongst other factors, is TAS2R38 and it triggers from glucosinolates in plants. Some theorize it existed to keep humans from killing themselves eating poisonous things in our more primitive days.
We’ve all come to expect that Global Warming is a thing and many people have embraced it for the awesome experience that it will bring – endless bikini pool parties.
But what about when nature’s pendulum swings back the other direction and as per usual, overpowers all of mankind’s tiny inputs? Scientists are considering the prolonged lack of solar activity in cycle 24 to be indicative of a significant solar minimum. The last time the sun was so inactive was a period lasting for nearly 70 years known as a Little Ice Age (the Maunder Minimum and Dalton Minimum). It will be interesting nonetheless given modern equipment and sensors to really see how anomalous solar activity affects the Earth’s climate.
Arguments go back and forth in American society about torture as an interrogative method – even here on OmniNerd (2009, 2012). However, simply acknowledging that torture methods are not necessarily effective does not address the challenge – how does one extract information from a suspect “that knows”? Psychologists are now pushing the Cognitive Interview which studies are showing can extract up to 80% more information. The method is also credited with effectively countering deception as well because over the course of time, lies are shallower and less detailed than the truth and trained interrogators are taught to tell the difference. Sometimes it does make one wonder, however, what methods are really used as the fear of torture and getting caught can still be quite the psychological deterrent.
The Department of Energy offers a portion of its massive, 20+ petaflop supercomputer Titan up to the public for scientific research. Recently, GE engineers updated an older code base for simulating how a water droplet freezes to make use of Titan’s mammoth array of NVidia GPUs to nearly quintuple the simulation’s performance. Of course the purpose wasn’t to merely run the simulation faster, it was to run a deeper simulation increasing the model to one million water molecules in order to study how the droplet freezes. As a result of the research, scientists can develop better anti-icing materials for things like wind turbines in the arctic or off-shore drilling rigs. A time lapse video of the droplet’s freezing can be viewed here: https://www.olcf.ornl.gov/2013/10/25/titan-propels-ge-wind-turbine-research-into-new-territory/
It’s hard these days to not be aware of the e-mail handling accusations against the former Secretary of State. Claims have gone back and forth about never handling classified information, how does one conduct state business without anything being classified, that multiple email accounts were too difficult, that coincidentally everything about topic A, B, or C was deleted, etc. etc. Of course there are ironic things such as the State Department cable issued by Clinton advising personnel about the security threats of using private, personal email accounts. A fairly decent timeline of the shenanigans was compiled by the Washington Post. The latest development finds there were Top Secret emails on her server after all, to include details of drone use.
Kaspersky Labs, the well known Russian anti-virus security research and anti-virus company recently dropped a bombshell of a report onto the community. Equation Group : Questions and Answers (pdf) details an advanced persistent threat (APT) unlike anything seen before. Kaspersky even goes as far as alluding to a relationship between previously discovered malware – Stuxnet – based on correlated techniques and infrastructure. Too bad the US already admitted to being behind Stuxnet. The most amazing part of the malware, aside from lasting more than a decade undetected, was revealed to be an ability to infect hard drive firmware – basically allowing the APT to recover itself even if the drive is completely formatted with a freshly installed operating system. There’s basically no way to know if the hard drive is compromised, a struggle that is baffling security admins everywhere.
I’ve been chatting with my colleagues about how this process works for awhile and how it ought to be relatively easy to corrupt. For starters, think of the gas-point programs that many supermarkets offer. You buy at their supermarket where every spent dollar equals a point and then 100 points saves you 10¢. You show up at the gas station and swipe this card and without interaction from the station owner, the pump automatically lowers the price per gallon. At first, one would think this only works because each station has explicitly configured their pumps to work with only certain programs – which makes sense – but how technical are all of these station owners? This process needs to be dirt simple and largely self configuring.
So, I’m working on a sci-fi adventure story in the vein of Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Therefore, I’m not going to get too crazy with the hard-core science of super-realistic space travel (like, if you’ve read the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons you know what I mean.) But I also don’t want my pulled-out-of-my-ass made-up technology to be so stupid that it pulls people with a better-than-passing knowledge of physics out of the story. So I submit to you, dear science nerds, a bit of my BS tech for your consideration.
Amongst other things – does anybody else find it particularly wrong for the government to be able to tax your prior year’s return? After all, that return is based on an overpayment of taxes to the government for that year’s income. It is not “new income”, it’s simply “already taxed income that has nothing to do with the current year”. Hence, it just seems like a double tax.