Articles, Page 9 of 213

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05 Jul 14
Newspaper

Illegal Uses of Private Drones

You’ve probably seen the video already from everyone sharing it on Facebook. But somebody flew a private drone through a Fourth of July fireworks display and captured some pretty awesome video inside the explosions. Of course, doing something like this is in violation of all kinds of safe operating practices and no doubt against the law. Uses like this are probably going to further limit and restrict private drone even more than the recent FAA rules that classify toy drones as illegal.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

01 Jul 14
Newspaper

Crimea as the Russian Texas

Reading some American history the other day, I was struck by how similar the story of how Texas came to be part of the USA in the 1840s was to how the Crimea came to be part of Russia this year.

Confident that I am not the first to see this I Googled Crimea as the Russian Texas and sure enough I found that link and the same idea being promoted by the Russians. How I love history when it contradicts our illusions about ourselves.

There are significant differences, the prime one being that the Russians living in the Crimea had been there for centuries, and so were not put there in order to assist the annexation by Russia. Indeed they went there first to kick out the Turks in 1774 and the Crimea remained an integral part of the Russian state until it was given to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (part of the USSR) by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954. The ethnic Russians living there had no need to change their loyalty or nationality throughout that process.
There is another interesting historical parallel with Nazi Germany.

22 Jun 14
Newspaper

IRS Shenanigans Continue

Regardless of who you are, nobody likes the IRS. A few years back, a brouhaha emerged about potentially targeted activities against a particular political leaning. Regardless of your side, either liberal or conservative, the subsequent shenanigans should make everyone mad. Really? Of the folks at the center of the investigation, none of the individuals can produce ANY of their emails especially from the specific window of time in question? Of course, it got better when the IRS claimed that coincidentally all of those hard drives were also recycled. None of their activities can be handwaved away as a simple mistake, the Federal Records Act of 1950 is more than 60 years old and federal employees are very aware of their requirement to maintain them.

22 Jun 14
Newspaper

Advisers to Iraq

Everyone’s favorite President for world peace, “not being Bush”, and whatnot is sending advisers to Iraq. Why? The group ISIL, (Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham or Levant), has been running rampant across Iraq sacking city after city on their movement towards Baghdad. Iraqi security forces have basically been either non-resistant or flat out surrendered without a fight to the ISIL forces. Even more depressing for the post-US force pullout is that ISIL has overrun several Iraqi military bases and gained control of American weapons, vehicles and munitions left for the Iraqis amongst other military grade facilities.

01 Jun 14
Newspaper

American POW Recovered

SGT Bowe Bergdahl, the American POW from Operation Enduring Freedom, has been freed after negotiations where he was traded for five prisoners out of Guantanamo. Although his recovery aligns with the military’s mantra to never leave a Soldier behind, the story of how he became a POW in the first place casts quite the controversy over his future.

09 May 14
Newspaper

Barefoot Running - Beneficial or Hype?

Running barefoot became more popular in western culture with the introduction of the “five finger” shoes from Vibram. The company recently lost a class-action lawsuit attesting their shoe’s campaign was based entirely upon false hype. A large part of the barefoot running movement was based on the idea that the human body evolved the way it did, running barefoot, and is therefore most adept at doing so. And, of course, the record breaking runners from Africa tend to run barefoot as well. But recent studies began to cast doubt on the idea showing that essentially people who haven’t been running that way, aren’t getting any benefit from doing the switch.

08 May 14
Newspaper

Russia Ramps Up Censorship and Speech Control

It always starts small and innocuous. Russia begins with a simple measure to ban profanity in media such as music, television and movies. Not too big a deal, but definitely a control mechanism nonetheless. Additionally, the country is going to initiate control measures over the Internet, starting specifically in the blogosphere by requiring real name registration presumably to enable future squashing of dissent. One of the country’s bloggers comments, “On the one hand, the Russian government says the Russian people are the best. On the other hand, it doesn’t trust the people.”

08 May 14
Question

Monica Lewinsky Emerges

Almost two decades ago, the Monica Lewinsky / Bill Clinton affair was the big news in the United States leading up to a presidential impeachment. Obviously politics and society have changed significantly since then. So when Monica re-emerged in a recent Vanity Fair article talking about the incident from long ago, it makes one wonder a few things …

  • Coincidentally timed to weaken a Clinton 2016 campaign?
  • Looking to self promote?
  • Does America care about this sort of thing anymore?
07 May 14
Question

Vitamin Supplements?

Do you take vitamin supplements?

There are certainly all kinds of vitamins and minerals the body needs, there’s no doubting that. But the doubting camps have been beating this drum for years – 2013 and 2011 were the most recent occurrences. I myself hadn’t really noticed until last year’s news recurrence, but it did make me wonder what the OmniNerds thought on the matter.

07 May 14
Question

Autonomous Vehicle Ethics

I came across an article on Wired today that I found somewhat interesting regarding ethics and autonomous vehicles. Essentially, if an autonomous vehicle determines that a crash is unavoidable … how should it be programmed to handle the situation? This one is somewhat akin an earlier OmniNerd discussion including the Trolly Problem. The difference, however, is that decision is made on the fly by a subjective human whereas an autonomous vehicle will be following a deterministic set of rules that basically determines who is least valuable. Does that qualify as pre-meditated murder? Would programmers be liable?

06 May 14
Newspaper

Epic Violin Battles of History - Stradivaris vs Modern

When it comes to violins and aficionados, the Stradivaris instruments are considered the de facto standard for exquisite sound. Or are they? A study involving professional violinists allowed each to play on twelve different instruments that included a collection of new and old – with five Stradivaris mixed in. The musicians were blindfolded and permitted to use each violin for an hour in a concert hall. In the end, although the sample size was small, the results favored the newer, modern violins over the classic Stradivaris.

05 May 14
Newspaper

HipHop Vocabulary versus Shakespeare

One metric used to justify Shakespeare’s work as literary genius is the unique (not volume) word count. One, apparently bored, coder [Matt Daniels] decided to put rap and hip hop artists against Shakespeare by using song lyrics. Stereotypically, rap and hip hop music don’t exactly make one think “genius” or “literary mastermind.” For scaling purpose, Daniels ran word analysis against Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Macbeth, As You Like It, Winter’s Tale, and Troilus and Cressida whereupon he compared it to the gamut of various music artist’s songs. While Shakespeare does thoroughly trounce most of his competition, there were plenty of artists that, using the unique word count metric, best him mightily.

24 Apr 14
Newspaper

Limitations on Longevity

How old can human beings really get? Discounting the ridiculous math of the Old Testament, the current human limit is about 122 years old. One old woman that lived to 110 donated her body to science so that her longevity could be studied. Researchers determined that it may be our stem cells that limit how long we could live as there are only a finite supply of them and over time, as they stop regenerating, so too do the body’s repairs. They believe humans begin life with about 20,000 blood stem cells and it was found in her body, at the time of death, she was literally down to 2. The researchers found their approach unique to looking at somatic mutation (non-cancerous) and believe the discovery may imply that an injection of fresh stem cells could prolong and rejuvenate our bodies.

11 Apr 14
Newspaper

Assassins Not So Sexy

Assassins are typically glamorized by movies and television. But sometimes the reality is just plain lame. The recent apprehension of a Baltimore contract killer through an FBI sting has revealed the more mundane side of the murder business. First shattered illusion – weapons transferred in an old shoebox instead of specialized tools in a quality Pelican cases. Second shattered illusion – it only costs $5K and leveraging Baltimore’s poor arrest record instead of the profitable depiction of killing someone to cover expenses, getaways, etc. Third shattered illusion – they lack professionalism as the killers talk like (quote TFA):

16 Mar 14
Cup

MH370

Pirates!

I believe that Somali pirates (or their associates) tried to steal that Malaysian airliner. This would be a logical extension of their business development plan that I have been expecting to hear about for some time.

Think about it. Why should aircraft be an exempt target for them. They are a valuable and vulnerable asset, and full of affluent hostages.

Those Pirates have got away with worse crimes, and they are game as hell. Flying, navigating and landing a big jet is beyond their competence but not their ambition. So they lost it in the ocean.

Look for it in the Gulf of Bengal, en-route to Somalia

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