What the Goracle Giveth the Messiah May Taketh Away
When Mother Jones and Jules Crittenden agree, isn’t that a sign of the apocalypse? Both take a hard look at the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, S.773 sponsored by Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). The bill addresses the need to protect vital networks from cyber attack, but it gives a lot of power to the executive branch — perhaps too much power. Mother Jones reports:
The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (PDF) gives the president the ability to “declare a cybersecurity emergency” and shut down or limit Internet traffic in any “critical” information network “in the interest of national security.” The bill does not define a critical information network or a cybersecurity emergency. That definition would be left to the president.
Conficker: No Skynet, No Firesale...
Not even a spot of simulated global thermonuclear war?
Heartache: Superwebified POTUS With 400K Twitter Followers and 6 Million Facebook Friends Not a Blog Reader
As he settles into his new job, Mr. Obama said he spent much of his time reading briefing books, but still tried to stay in touch by perusing newspapers and thumbing through weekly newsmagazines. But he said he did not watch much television, except basketball games.
Mr. Obama rode to the White House partly on his savvy use of new technology, and he has a staff-written blog on his presidential Web site. Even so, he said he did not find blogs to be reliable, citing the economy as one example.
“Part of the reason we don’t spend a lot of time looking at blogs,” he said, “is because if you haven’t looked at it very carefully, then you may be under the impression that somehow there’s a clean answer one way or another — well, you just nationalize all the banks, or you just leave them alone and they’ll be fine.”
A cynical sort might offer the alternate explanation that by confining oneself to entrenched print media outlets (safe from the corrupting influence of Rupert Murdoch and non-graduates of Columbia J-School who have the occasional audacity to crassly debunk credentialed media forgeries), one's able to avoid the pesky cognitive dissonance that stems from encountering a less strictly regimented range of opinions and analyses.
That's why I hate cynics.
Campaigning 101: How Not To Use The Internet
Screencap grabbed for posterity in case they ever notice this and fix it (which, for at least the last few hours, they haven't).
(HT: David All)
Google Portugal Gets Pushy
It seems far more likely that I've contracted a bit of (odd) malware than that Google's been hacked, but is anyone else experiencing this too?
Having Officially Smelt It, NASA Claims Martians Dealt It
Yes, first contact, it seems, consists of an interplanetary fart joke.
Best Technological Convergence Of the Millennium To-Date Finally Debuts
SlingBerry (Finally) Coming
Way back at CES 2008 in January, Sling Media showed off its TV service for Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, saying it would be available “sometime” in 2008. The EchoStar-owned company has finally set the release date: Dec. 30.
Life Imitating Art About Artificial Life That Imitates Eddie Furlong's Dorky Teenspeak
"By the time SkyNet became self aware it had spread into millions of computer servers all across the planet. Ordinary computers in office buildings, dorm rooms, everywhere. It was software, in Cyberspace. There was no system core. It could not be shut down."
And this is how it started.
The Pentagon has suffered from a cyber attack so alarming that it has taken the unprecedented step of banning the use of external hardware devices, such as flash drives and DVD's, FOX News has learned.
The attack came in the form of a global virus or worm that is spreading rapidly throughout a number of military networks.
"We have detected a global virus for which there has been alerts, and we have seen some of this on our networks," a Pentagon official told FOX News. "We are now taking steps to mitigate the virus."
(HT: Jawa Report)
The Palin E-mail Hack: The Inside Story
Michelle Malkin's got it.
(What a nifty prank. I'm sure the Secret Service is going to let the scamps off with a warning.)
Obama's Most Exquisitely Ironic Gaffe-Attack Yet
Since the day McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate, the Obama campaign has thrown its opponents into several briar patches - most notably, concerning inexperience and earmarks - inviting comparisons that Obama shouldn't want (and that the media has thus far been happy to ignore).
Today, Obama raised the art of unforced errors to new heights. After declaring boldly for the severalth time that he's taking the gloves off and rolling up his sleeves and [insert third butch metaphor here], the campaign released a terribly clever ad informing America that John McCain is old. The ad specifically scoffs that McCain "can't send an e-mail." What a dusty old buffoon!
There's only one problem with this line of attack. The fact that McCain (who does read political websites and blogs) can't send an e-mail has less to do with his lack of tech savvy than with his having endured years of beatings and torture.
McCain’s severe war injuries prevent him from combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes. Friends marvel at McCain’s encyclopedic knowledge of sports. He’s an avid fan - Ted Williams is his hero - but he can’t raise his arm above his shoulder to throw a baseball.
After Vietnam, McCain had Ann Lawrence, a physical therapist, help him regain flexibility in his leg, which had been frozen in an extended position by a shattered knee. It was the only way he could hope to resume his career as a Navy flier, but Lawrence said the treatment, taken twice a week for six months, was excruciatingly painful.
”He endured it, he wouldn’t settle for less,” said Lawrence, who rejoiced with McCain when he passed the Navy physical. ”I have never seen such toughness and resolve.”
By now, Obama must be getting used to his attacks backfiring. But the unprecedented reading on the ironicometer for this botched attacked stems from the ease with which Obama's hip, wired staffers and/or ad team could've discovered this information using the "information superhighway" (specifically, by making use of "search engine" technology to cull relevant information from the "world wide web").
The quote above is from a Boston Globe story from March 2000. If you run a simple Google News search for articles published before last year, using the terms "john mccain keyboard", this Forbes article from May 2000 shows up on the first page of results.
In certain ways, McCain was a natural Web candidate. Chairman of the Senate Telecommunications Subcommittee and regarded as the U.S. Senate's savviest technologist, McCain is an inveterate devotee of email. His nightly ritual is to read his email together with his wife, Cindy. The injuries he incurred as a Vietnam POW make it painful for McCain to type. Instead, he dictates responses that his wife types on a laptop. "She's a whiz on the keyboard, and I'm so laborious," McCain admits.
What percentage of 64-year-olds do you suppose were daily e-mail users back in 2000?
This is a quadruple whammy for Obama. The ad 1) is apparently wildly inaccurate, 2) makes Obama look like a jerk for needling McCain (if inadvertently) about his war injuries, 3) reminds people which of these two candidates is a hero, and 4) exposes the delicious tech-idiocy behind this initiative to demonstrate McCain's tech-idiocy.
Update: A fine idea from the comments:
Please, please run a response ad with Meg and Carli
Update: Obama's tech geniuses update the campaign website with a call to help "the victems" of Hurricane Ike. Spell check, champ. It's even older than the interweb.
GOP Convention: Breakfast With Google CEO Eric Schmidt
This morning, RedState hosted another bloggers' breakfast in St. Paul, this one featuring Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt. Schmidt spoke to a sometimes confrontational group of conservative bloggers about the company's position on net neutrality, censorship, and the perception of corporate political bias.
(I was seated right in front of Schmidt, so forgive the front-row-at-the-movies perspective of the video.)
Previously: GOP Convention: Breakfast With Fred Thompson
Nerdy Artist Mistakes Himself For Edgy Poet
American emigrant and Professor of Digital Arts Douglas Stanley has lent his artistic acumen and blistering political insight to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the video game Space Invaders.
In his own words (about himself):
The World Trade Center attacks mark a deep cut in our recent history that is still being processed. The French-American artist Douglas Edric Stanley has found an unusual – though obvious – metaphor with his work “Invaders!”, which is based on the 1978 arcade original. In his interactive large installation, the players must prevent the catastrophe by controlling the well- known cannon at the lower screen border with their bodies and firing it using arm movements. Like the original, this trial is ultimately unsuccessful, thus creating an articulated and critical commentary about the current war strategy. In this regard, Douglas Edric Stanley sees Space Invaders as “a social tale that can be related to historical tales without losing its poetic power” (D.E. Stanley).
Get over yourself, Doug.
Good News: Robots To Colonize Moon By End of Summer
In 2007, the Google Lunar X Prize offered $30 million to the first private sector team to land a robot on the moon. The 2014 deadline seemed ambitious, but not unreasonable.
But suddenly, the ARCA team (Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association) says they're ready to light their privately funded candle.
The robotic vehicle used by ARCA will be the European Lunar Lander (ELL), which is a rocket powered, pressure fed, restart-able cold rocket engine weighting 42 kg. Pressure-fed refers to the ability of this liquid-propellant rocket to force fuel into the combustion chamber under pressure.
The launch will be made from sea, and according to the plan, the STABILO booster rocket will be carried to an altitude of 18 km by a balloon. At this point the rocket's engines will be ignited and the ELL will be taken to space to an altitude of about 100km. Later, the rocket will dispatch from the space vehicle and will drop into the ocean. Then the ELL should soft land on the moon surface after 116 hours. The vehicle will then run some tests on its systems, make measurements, take pictures, and broadcast live video back to Earth.
(HT: Marginal Revolution)
So Begins the April Fools Hilarity
It's already April 1st down under, and Google Australia has ushered in this year's crop of online gags with the faux-launch of the stupendous gDay™ (with MATE™) Future Search.
Search tomorrow’s web, today!
Google Australia has introduced a new feature, enabling you to search content on the internet before it is created.
The core technology that powers gDay™ is MATE™ (Machine Automated Temporal Extrapolation).
Using MATE’s™ machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques developed in Google’s Sydney offices, we can construct elements of the future.
Google spiders crawl publicly available web information and our index of historic, cached web content. Using a mashup of numerous factors such as recurrence plots, fuzzy measure analysis, online betting odds and the weather forecast from the iGoogle weather gadget, we can create a sophisticated model of what the internet will look like 24 hours from now.
We can use this technique to predict almost anything on the web – tomorrow’s share price movements, sports results or news events. Plus, using language regression analysis, Google can even predict the actual wording of blogs and newspaper columns, 24 hours before they’re written!
Laments one beta user:
“This is old news. I read about this announcement yesterday on Google.”
Update: Speaking of TechCrunch, did you hear that Michael Arrington is suing Facebook for $25 million?
I'm already sick of April Fools Day.
Who Broke the Internet?
Yahoo works, as does Yahoo Finance, but not Yahoo Mail. Hot Air works, but it's slow and it's not loading correctly. Ameritrade also works, so if you want to dump some e-commerce stocks after hours, go nuts. Amazon and eBay are both still with us. Google-owned YouTube is responding and "transferring data", but the site isn't loading. Facebook seems to be working normally. Ditto for IMDb.
This blog is also not working (though happily Typepad is), so I can post, but you can't read. If you're reading this, the problem has presumably been solved.
Update: Scratch that. This blog is apparently working after all. So if you are reading this, let us know if you're encountering similar outages.
Update: Blackberry email is working again - might've been unrelated, but it was a first. I had three bars, but outgoing messages resulted in the menacing X, meaning transmission failed.
Update: I managed to get the Hot Air post to load. Allah (who's also in NYC) wonders if it's a New York-centric problem. And from the comments below, Sonny informs us he's not having these problems in California.
Anyway, as we apply the duct tape to the windows and prepare to spend the evening clutching shotguns in our rocking chairs, we may as well set about the speculation. Terrorists, hacker fire sale, the Goracle proving he can both giveth and taketh away, or Skynet becoming self-aware?
Update: Hot Air commenters have checked in from Kansas, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, reporting interweb normalcy. Situation here is unchanged. The outage is now about two hours old.
Update: Allah also wonders if it's an RCN problem. He and I are both suffering RCN subscribers and it wouldn't completely floor me to learn they're near the root of the problem. Still, the fact that I can access many of the working sites with no slowdown (and the non-working sites not at all) seems to suggest it's not an ISP issue.
Any NYC readers out there not using RCN who are able to access the problematic sites?
Update: From the comments, we've got a New Yorker not far away experiencing no issues. Situation here unchanged.
Update: 9:30 pm: everything suddenly all better.
Interestingly, another commenter from Chicago who also suffers from RCN subscribership was having the same problems.
Update: From the comments, B Mitchell forwards a status update from RCN. A "fiber cut" in DC, "effecting (sic) backbone traffic. You may experience a lack of ability to reach some internet sites. All DC metro customers are expriencing a loss of long distance service and loss of internet services."
Objects On Your Desk Suddenly Rolling Eastward?
Complain to these people.
British scientists have simulated a black hole inside a fiber optic cable, making it possible to study what happens to light on the far side of an event horizon.
"If you've created an artificial event horizon inside an optical fiber," I wondered, "why isn't there an enormous gravitational pull that sucks in you and your lab and everything else in the world?"
"We actually made pairs of black-hole white-hole horizons (80 million per second). They exist only as long as our light pulses propagate through the fibre (about 10 nanoseconds) and they act only on light. In other words, they are completely harmless."
CQ and HA are two of the top 10 blogs in the TTLB ecosystem, so if Ed can manage to bring a significant portion of his readership over with him (via an interim period of cross-posting, a temporary re-opening of Hot Air community registration, and an eventual re-direct from the Captain's Quarters domain directly to Hot Air), the size and vibrancy of the site's community of bloggers, commenters, and readers ought to reach even higher. (Hot Air's founder and proprietress Michelle Malkin already holds the #1 spot in the ecosystem with her self-titled blog.)
As far as I know, this combination constitutes the largest merger (of sorts) of two existing blogs in the medium's brief history. If nothing else, it ought to be an interesting case study in blog economics. Congrats to both parties.
Great Shot Kid, That Was One In a Million
I know my learned co-blogger and resident satellite expert wasn't in favor of this move, but this is still very exciting in a knuckle-dragging, boom-stick wielding, big hairy American winning machine kind of way (i.e. the best way).
A U.S. Navy cruiser blasted a disabled spy satellite with a pinpoint missile strike that achieved the main mission of exploding a tank of toxic fuel 130 miles above the Pacific Ocean, defense officials said.
Destroying the satellite's onboard tank of about 1,000 pounds of hydrazine fuel was the primary goal, and a senior defense official close to the mission said Thursday that it appears the tank was destroyed, and the strike with a specially designed missile was a complete success.
One of the problems Gindu had with it was the possibility that we'd miss and look like chumps, so at least we're safe on that one. Another point he made, though, was that other countries that we chastise for carrying out unannounced (and therefore qualitatively different) and extremely messy anti-satellite tests would wax indignant. Which, of course, they are.
China called on the United States Thursday to provide information about its shooting down of a defunct US spy satellite and voiced caution about the potential international impact of the operation.
"China is continuing to closely follow the possible harm caused by the US action to outer space security and relevant countries," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said when asked for a reaction to the shootdown.
"China further requests that the US fulfil (sic) its international obligations in earnest and promptly provide to the international community the necessary information and relevant data... so that relevant countries can take precautions."
Imagine their reaction if we'd done nothing and some unsuspecting folks in China (or in similarly grousing Russia, the two of which combine to form 15% of the global land mass) wound up on the business end of a hydrazine rain shower.
Imagine their reaction if we'd done nothing and some unsuspecting folks in China (or in similarly grousing Russia, the two of which combine to form 15% of the global land mass) wound up on the business end of a hydrazine rain shower.
The Sky is Falling: Redux
In the past two days, news has emerged that the U.S. is likely going to attempt to shoot down its errant spy satellite. As a former Air Force satellite officer and Chief of Space Tactics, SF is more than qualified to opine on the events.
Before I delve into the details, allow me to be accountable for my previous assertions:
Assertion #1: The satellite does not likely contain hydrazine, the satellite's toxic fuel.
Reality: It subsequently came out that this satellite is the product of a National Reconnaissance Office, the nation's eyes and ears in space. Because of the secretive nature of the mission, it took a while for it to emerge that the satellite died as soon as it arrived on orbit. About 99% of satellites that reenter are out of fuel, although this is evidently an exception. Many sensitive components of a satellite are protected by significant amount of shielding, but satellite fuel is only protected by a thin casing. This makes it quite likely that the fuel tanks will crack and burn off the fuel before it reaches the ground. (Some have expressed concern that fuel is frozen and won't defrost before striking the surface. But the tank metallic casing is a fantastic conductor of heat, the sworn enemy of all things frozen.)
Assertion #2: No need to worry about this satellite landing on your head, the Earth is the big place.
Reality: To be determined. The Space Shuttle Columbia, which burned up upon reentry in 2003, weighed 36 times more than this satellite and was designed to reenter the atmosphere (increasing the chances of surface strikes). When Columbia broke up over Texas, no one was injured by debris and there were only a few reports of property damage, primarily runways. Satellites reenter all the time and no one is the wiser because there rarely traces of the events.
Assertion #3: Shooting down the satellite would be crazy.
Reality: Of course shooting down things in space is cool, but it's still a bad idea for two reasons: on-orbit debris and policy fallout.
Remember playing "Asteroids" on Atari? When you broke the big rocks up it became very difficult to avoid all the little pieces. That's when you had to thrust your virtual spaceship to dodge the dangerous debris.
Same concept applies here, and the U.S. and other countries have already had to dodge the wreckage created by China's satellite shootdown. Shooting down this U.S. satellite (and there are indications we're willing to try several times) risks creating more hazardous debris, which has to be dodged. Dodging debris takes fuel, and fuel is most frequent cause of satellite failure. Early satellite failure means the cost-benefit equation changes. Therefore, there's a good case that the cost of shooting this satellite down far exceeds the potential financial liability to the U.S. Government.
The policy implications are more worrisome though. The U.S. has sternly rebuked China over its anti-satellite test and has successfully convinced other nations to condemn China. Launching this test risks our moral "high ground" and, more tangibly, China's rapid backpedaling. Just this week China proposed a space weapons ban. The fact that we're seriously considering this doesn't help our credibility.
While I'd bet the Navy succeeds in its first shootdown attempt, what if our test fails? That could create doubt that our missile defenses aren't operationally effective. This could affect program funding and international agreements.
I have no qualms about fielding space weapons because eventually the domain will become weaponized (as has been the case with the sea and air). But this isn't the time to test these waters and technologies. The maximum damage potential from the reentering satellite is so infinitesimally small that it doesn't warrant this aggressive and counter-productive action.
RePet Becomes a Reality
Korean firm bids to clone dead pets
The world's first pet cloning service is to offer animal lovers the chance to recreate their dead companions, it was announced today.
A company spokeswoman said it was already working on its first order from an American who wanted a clone of her dead pit bull.
The client, Bernann McKunney, of California, was very attached to the pet because it had saved her life during an attack by another dog.
RNL Bio is charging customers $150,000 (£75,000) for the clones, which clients pay only after they receive their new pet.
The cloning is to be carried out by Seoul National University scientists led by Dr Lee Byeong-chun, a veterinary professor.
Prof Lee had worked with the disgraced stem cell scientist Dr Hwang Woo-suk, whose purported breakthroughs in the creation of human stem cells through cloning had been faked.
The team's success in cloning the world's first dog, Snuppy, in 2005, has been confirmed.
One Small Step For Stenonychosaurus, One Giant Leap For Cretaceous Kind
Did the Apollo astronauts fail to notice dinosaur landing crafts on the lunar surface? Were prehistoric beasts actually adept at mining and building radio telescopes? Did the already far-fetched raptor intelligence theory greatly underestimate the vast, space-faring intellects crammed into those walnut brains?
Maybe, according to clearly deranged NASA scientist Chris McKay.
This space business is more Gindu's bag, so maybe he'll chime in for us. What's your read - is it possible that Neil and Buzz and the rest of the gang failed to notice (what I imagine to be comically Flinstonian) lunar landers? Or did they just cover it up, so we wouldn't have to admit to Russia that what we'd just accomplished had been done tens of millions of years earlier by giant bird-lizards?
Spam. A Lot. Again.
On January 21st, I noted that that morning, I'd gotten hit with about 2,600 similar spam messages over the course of a couple hours. They'd come in an absolute torrent, and the flood had stopped as abruptly as it started.
Well, the phenomenon has returned (and it's still happening as I type), only in fortified, weaponized, Africanized form. They started at 11:46 am (per the time stamp on the first one to hit the spam box), and in the 11 minutes since, I've received nearly 3,000 messages - mostly in the guise of "Delivery Status Notification (Failure)" or "Returned mail: see transcript for details." About 50 have slipped past the spam filter, so if this goes on for a while (and assuming it's happening to other people), it could be a real mess.
Inside, they're unremarkable as far as spam goes - casinos and male enhancement products.
Anyone know what's happening? Should I abandon that Gmail account? Push the CPU out the window? Buy the enhancement products?
Previously: Spam. A Lot.
The Sky is Falling
I have been asked a lot lately about the satellite that threatens to kill us all. That's certainly an exaggeration but you couldn't tell from headlines such as "Disabled Spy Satellite Threatens Earth." Are we really at risk of going the way of the dinosaurs? Not quite.
The primary problem is that misinformation and media sensationalism are driving the story. For example:
The satellite, which no longer can be controlled, could contain hazardous materials
The spacecraft contains hydrazine - which is rocket fuel. Hydrazine, a colorless liquid with an ammonia-like odor, is a toxic chemical and can cause harm to anyone who contacts it.
While the spacecraft at one time likely contained hydrazine, the on-orbit fuel of choice, it is re-entering the atmosphere because it is out of the juice. No one will die from any "hazardous materials."
But what about it dropping on our heads? After all:
It is unknown where on the planet it might come down
Turns out the Earth is a pretty big place. While chucks of space stuff do occasionally reach the surface, no one has ever been killed from space debris.
That's the end of the sensationalism, eh?
[A spokesman for the National Security Council] would not comment on whether it is possible for the satellite to perhaps be shot down by a missile. He said it would be inappropriate to discuss any specifics at this time.
That's a great idea. I wish we had thought of the "missile solution." Nothing bad could ever come of doing something like that.
What bugs me about these articles is the blatant lack of research. It's nice to have one's profession make the news, but such blatant attempts to scare the public make me wish that satellites would soon retreat again to the quiet surroundings of space.
Undead Siege: PayPal HQ Bracing For Seething Horde Of Ron Paul Zombies
PayPal was a cool company, before it invited a swarm of enraged Paulnuts to savagely craniectomize all of its employees.
Paypal has suspended an account belonging to a Ron Paul supporters group resulting in the groups inability to pay for a recount in New Hampshire.
The Granny Warriors had fund raised the $55,600 required to be lodged with the New Hampshire Secretary of State yesterday but had their account suspended by Paypal at the last minute. The inability to access the funds resulted in a missed deadline and no GOP recount in New Hampshire.
Ron Paul support groups are urging Paul followers to contact Paypal directly to protest the decision.
We don’t have word from Paypal as to why they suspended the account, but what ever the reason we know they’ll regret it as their mail servers are inundated by a group of people who pursue their support of Paul with unprecedented zealotry.
Google Algorithm Edging Closer To Self-Awareness
Color me impressed. Even Google's throwaway novelties are getting alarmingly good at context-free information processing.
I was just strolling through the back alleys of Google Labs and came upon a gem of a new application called Google Sets (it may not be brand new, but it was the first time I'd seen it). The idea is simple: enter a list of a few things (as few as one) and Google will try to find you more things like the things you entered.
I tried entering paula jones, monica lewinsky, and gennifer flowers and promptly received a reasonably comprehensive catalog of the more renowned Clintonian paramours and pawees, including:
How about stephen glass and scott beauchamp? Amazing.
I can see myself spending a lot of time on this site.
Netscape Navigator (1994-2008)
Please observe a moment of silence for the Netscape browser. Netscape Navigator, the browser that launched the commercial Internet in October 1994, will die on February 1, 2008. AOL, which acquired Netscape in November 1998 for $4.2 billion, will announce today that they will discontinue development of the browser, currently on version 9.
Coming Soon: The Al Qaeda YouTube Debate
This trend is catching on.
AL-QAEDA sympathisers have been asked to send in their questions for the terror network's second in command, which he will then answer in an online interview next month.
The bizarre stunt was announced in a new video posted on the internet in which al-Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahri, mocked today's British handover of security in southern Iraq to local forces as a sign that insurgents are gaining the upper hand.
The websites invited readers to send in questions during the next month for Zawahri to answer in an "open interview". How the interview would work was not immediately clear.
Apple Proves We're In the Matrix
I was convinced the first time I saw that uncanny geographic oddity from the New Jersey Turnpike, where the some mall signage reveals that the city of Elizabeth (located at Exit 13A) can be spelled with the characters "13A" wedged in the middle without looking odd.
But in case you needed further proof that your world was fashioned by a loathsome machine intelligence, the logo for the world's largest Apple Store picks out another preposterous coincidence.
Yes, "W14" is both the address (sort of) and a list of trains you really can take to get there (to 14th Street, anyway).
Then again, you can also get to 14th Street via the A, C ,E, L, N, Q, R, V, 2, 3, 5, or 6, several of which get you closer to the store...
Superman Forced Into Retirement
After 75 years, the man of steel no longer has a
public place to nude up.
Google Shares a Bargain At Any Price (Apparently)
David Gaffen at the WSJ MarketBeat Blog likens the ever-increasing Google price targets erupting from the analyst community to the battle for blade-count on disposable razors (i.e. more is better, even if it doesn't make any sense).
There was an article in the satirical newspaper The Onion a few years back, purportedly written by the head of a large razor manufacturer, who in response to the proliferation of four-blade razors, throws down the gauntlet and says “We’re doing five blades.”
(Parody wasn't immune to the effect either, as "Saturday Night Live" did The Onion nine better with the "Platinum Mach 14".)
That attitude seems to permeate the constant one-upsmanship among those analysts who cover Google. Today’s latest glove to the face comes from Credit Suisse analyst Heath Terry, who increases his target on the stock to $900 (from $800) a share, as he operates more or less on the assumption that Google will continue to capture more of the search space until it eats everything.
“We believe that search is a natural monopoly business and expect that over time Google will continue to gain share until they have effectively reached 100%,” he writes, noting that Google’s share of the search market has increased to about 63% from 57% at the beginning of the year. "We expect these share gains to accelerate as declining scale makes it more difficult for competitors to justify the technology investments needed to maintain search result quality."
At $650/share ($27 of which arrived today, thanks to Terry's new target), Google may have room left to run, but I'm not sure how eager I'd be to place a bet that presupposes permanent perfection, especially when 9 out of 10 analysts already have buy ratings on the stock.
If everyone quite vocally agrees we should be buying GOOG and we're already counting on everything going right forever, what catalysts remain to actually drive the shares higher?
I know, I know. The $1,000 price target.
Call it the massive fool theory.
Nice work, Badger State.
Researchers in Wisconsin and Japan have turned ordinary human skin cells into what are effectively human embryonic stem cells without using embryos or women's eggs -- the two hitherto essential ingredients that have embroiled the medically promising field in a long political and ethical debate.
The unencumbered ability to turn adult cells into embryonic ones capable of morphing into virtually every kind of cell or tissue, described in two scientific journal articles to be released today, has been the ultimate goal of researchers for years. In theory, it would allow people to grow personalized replacement parts for their bodies from a few of their own skin cells, while giving researchers a uniquely powerful means of understanding and treating diseases.
Until now only human egg cells and embryos, both difficult to obtain and laden with legal and ethical issues, had the mysterious power to turn ordinary cells into stem cells. And until this summer, the challenge of mimicking that process in the lab seemed almost insurmountable, leading many to wonder if stem cell research would ever wrest free of its political baggage.
Because the rejuvenated cells did not come from embryos and behave slightly differently than embryonic stem cells, Yamanaka named them "induced pluripotent stem cells," or "ips" cells (pluripotent means "able to become virtually every kind of cell").
Great news for humans. A mixed bag for politicians, with the stem cell wedge thus blunted.
Despite the excitement over the new work, experts predicted that the fight over embryonic stem cells will linger, since they remain the gold standard against which all alternatives will be compared.
TiVo May Not Judge You, But Your iPhone Does
If your iPhone could talk, what would it say about you? Would it perturb you if it turned out that late at night, it was quietly calling Cupertino to gab with Steve Jobs about the mundane details of your daily life?
It looks like Apple is tracking iPhone users data including IMEI number, IP address and stock quote preferences (amongst other things) through a hidden string in the Weather.app and Stocks.app iPhone applications.
From this information, Apple could build a profile on users. Where they travel, where they spend their free time, where they work, where they invest their money, what they browse, etc etc. Obviously most users would like to be able to control who has access to this information. If they connect this data with the credit card that you used to purchase the iPhone (remember, you can't use cash anymore), they could build an even bigger profile on you.
Whether or not the backlash from this will cause Apple to change its policy remains to be seen. However, there are alreadly lots of people deleting the Stocks.app and Weather.apps from their iPhones and donning their tinfoil hats.
"Time" Invention Of the Year: The Telephone
Er, a little late on this one, aren't we fellas? 130 years or so? Hoy hoy?
To be perfectly fair, they're talking about that new-fangly "iPhone", but is that really an "invention"? It's a gizmo, I'll give them that. A gadget, without question. A superb one, judging from the limited time I've spent futzing with them. (I've decided I'm going down with the Nextel ship, myself.)
But I'm not sure converging and improving things we've already got (and which are undergoing constant - if rarely as elegant - convergence and improvement), like phones, cameras, web browsers, media players, and wizbangy touch screens (about which editor Lev Grossman even offers "Apple didn't invent the touchscreen. Apple didn't even reinvent it") qualifies the iPhone as an invention at all, much less an invention of "of the year" proportions.
That said, we may be foolish to expect more from the publication that so marvelously phoned in this year's superlative person contest.
Anyway, despite being months stale, even as a simple product review, the write-up is a borderline-worthwhile read. (Assuming you're in the mood to be lectured down to about technology.)
Google Getting Its Greasy Fingerprints All Over Its New Toy
Holiday logos. They're not just for parent companies anymore.
The G-Phone Cometh
Google is about 3 applications away from enabling us to live rich and fulfilling lives entirely from the couch.
Within the next two weeks, Google is expected to announce advanced software and services that would allow handset makers to bring Google-powered phones to market by the middle of next year, people familiar with the situation say. In recent months Google has approached several U.S. and foreign handset manufacturers about the idea of building phones tailored to Google software, with Taiwan's HTC Corp. and South Korea's LG Electronics Inc. mentioned in the industry as potential contenders.
The Google-powered phones are expected to wrap together several Google applications -- among them, its search engine, Google Maps, YouTube and Gmail email -- that have already made their way onto some mobile devices. The most radical element of the plan, though, is Google's push to make the phones' software "open" right down to the operating system, the layer that controls applications and interacts with the hardware. That means independent software developers would get access to the tools they need to build additional phone features.
Developers could, for instance, more easily create services that take advantage of users' Global Positioning System location, contact lists and Web-browsing habits. They also would be able to interact with Google Maps and other Google applications. The idea is that a range of new social networking, mapping and other services would emerge, just as they have on the open, mostly unfettered Web. Google, meanwhile, could gather user data to show targeted ads to cellphone users.
"The most likely scenario from a Google perspective is to build some, if you will, inspirational platform [applications]; but primarily focus on getting third parties to do it because that's where the innovation will come from," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt, speaking at the All Things Digital conference in May. He said that "the new model of these phones is going to be person-to-person" with people exchanging videos and other types of data.
Can Google ivDrip and Google ReliefTube be far behind? They could remotely analyze your waste waters to show you targeted ads for whatever supplements or remedies you might need...
Ron Paul Zombies and Spam Zombies Have Shared Lineage
In honor of the little spatter of angry Ron Paul boosterism triggered by yesterday's post, here's a press release from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with the results of some anti-spam research they aimed at Paul's online mob.
One of the candidates has a new spam campaign dedicated to proclaiming him victorious in the debate and extolling his virtues as the future president.
There is no reason to believe the current spam campaign is actually endorsed by Ron Paul or his official campaign engine, according to Gary Warner, UAB Director of Research in Computer Forensics,
Ron Paul is popular with the Internet and some of the recent Web polls that were taken down because of Ron Paul Spammers include:
The UAB researchers found that pro-Paul e-mails claiming to be from American voters actually hailed from further afield, sometimes from the land of the 419 scammer.
In the messages reviewed at UAB, emails were received from Brazil, El Salvador, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, and Nigeria already this morning. In each case it was clear that the computer sending the message did not belong to the person who was listed in the "From" address. Such as a Houston resident, whose email was sent from a computer in Italy, or a Silicon Valley computer worker, whose email was sent from Korea.
Immigration Reform School
Recent developments in Congress have made it very unlikely that the nation's immigration policies will be overhauled anytime soon. First, the Senate halted the ill advised Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (the DREAM Act). Then, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that the House of Representatives would soon begin to work a drastically reduced schedule. The Democratically controlled Congress has not only failed to pass the legislation it committed to a year ago, it hasn't passed the minimum bills need to operate the government.
Although an immigration policy solution is doubtful, this does necessarily prevent progress. Reducing the influx of illegal immigrants is one of the more challenging (and expensive) tasks, and curbing the demand for cheap labor is at the core of this problem. Since tough regulations on companies are on hold, I'm a big proponent of aggressively pursuing technology solutions in industries where manual labor is currently the predominate or desired mechanism. One example of such an application is machinery that can harvest crops currently dependent on handpicking.
So while it's hard to achieve political solutions, technology can help with the immigration problem. However, this tech-centric approach requires Congressional support. As a nation, we spend tens of billions trying to curb illegal immigration, spending a fraction of this amount to address the root of the problem is certainly appropriate. Since Congress still has not finalized the appropriation bill that would incorporate such a change, there is time to accommodate this approach.
Renaissance Dictator Acquires Another Skill
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il called himself an "Internet expert" during summit talks with South Korea's president this week, a news report said Friday.
The reclusive leader made the remark after South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun asked that South Korean companies operating at an industrial park in the North Korean city of Kaesong be allowed to use the Internet, Yonhap news agency reported, without citing any source.
"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired," Kim told Roh, according to Yonhap.
And you thought he was just the world's greatest golfer.
Of course it should come as no shock to learn of the man's internet expertise, being the ruler of such a wired country. Check out that tastefully brilliant hotspot of Pyongyang, basking in the glow of the several LEDs that adorn North Korea's modem. None of that flashy gaudiness of Seoul - or any of the countless tiny hamlets in South Korea that outshine Kim's capital city. Classy, subtle, understated. That's how the pros do technology.
Update: The Hammer weighs in on the competition, deems him a jive turkey.
Steve Jobs Is Trying To Kill You
Behold the Jesus Car. Certain to reunite you with your Maker ahead of schedule.
A Volkswagen spokesperson told German magazine Capital that an iCar may be on the way. Steve Jobs and VW Chairman Martin Winterkorn got together in California a few days ago to "plan an intensive co-operation with the building of vehicles." It might even be called an iCar.
...[I]f rumors from last month are true, we might see additional niceties on board, such as Wi-Fi and maybe even a Mac mini, totally driving drivers to distraction.
Awkwardly machine-translated from German, a Volkswagen spokesperson put it thus:
"The two enterprises hold conversations, which are, confirmed however still in an early stage" a Volkswagen speaker appropriate Capital information...
At the end the development of a "i-Car in such a way specified" could stand.
Hate Removing Your Shoes At the Airport? There's Hope.
Not much though.
The good news: Shoe security science has finally given us a machine capable of scanning passengers' shoes even when occupied by feet.
The bad news: It doesn't work.
Airline passengers hoping to someday go through security without ever having to take their shoes off will have to wait: The nation's airport security chief says a new shoe-scanning machine needs improvement.
"It's not good enough for prime time," Transportation Security Administration (TSA) chief Kip Hawley said of the ShoeScanner, which scans footwear while worn.
Tests have revealed "security deficiencies" that prevent the machine from consistently finding weapons and bomb parts, Hawley said.
Screening officials were aware of some of the machine's potential problems when it was approved for the Orlando test, so the TSA quietly added some backup security measures, Hawley said. The extra measures are "labor-intensive" for screeners and make mass deployment of the ShoeScanner unrealistic, he said.
Study Confirms: You're a Chump
Survey says... willing.
The Sophos Facebook ID Probe involved creating a fabricated Facebook profile before sending out friend requests to individuals chosen at random from across the globe. To conduct the experiment, Sophos set up a profile page for 'Freddi Staur' (an anagram of 'ID Fraudster'), a small green plastic frog who divulged minimal personal information about himself. Sophos then sent out 200 friend requests to observe how many people would respond, and how much personal information could be gleaned from the respondents.
Sophos Facebook ID Probe findings:
- 87 of the 200 Facebook users contacted responded to Freddi, with 82 leaking personal information (41% of those approached)
- 72% of respondents divulged one or more email address
- 84% of respondents listed their full date of birth
- 87% of respondents provided details about their education or workplace
- 78% of respondents listed their current address or location
- 23% of respondents listed their current phone number
- 26% of respondents provided their instant messaging screenname
Jason Bateman Solves Energy Crisis
Goodbye, dependence on foreign oil. Hello, gasoline-synthesizing mutant germs.
With this holy grail tech as little as 3-5 years away, it's time to celebrate by hopping in your Hummer and doing a couple hours' worth of donuts in the parking lot.
LS9, a company based in San Carlos, CA, and founded by geneticist George Church, of Harvard Medical School, and plant biologist Chris Somerville, of Stanford University, had previously said that it was working on what it calls "renewable petroleum." But at a Society for Industrial Microbiology conference on Monday, the company began speaking more openly about what it has accomplished: it has genetically engineered various bacteria, including E. coli, to custom-produce hydrocarbon chains.
To do this, the company is employing tools from the field of synthetic biology to modify the genetic pathways that bacteria, plants, and animals use to make fatty acids, one of the main ways that organisms store energy. Fatty acids are chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms strung together in a particular arrangement, with a carboxylic acid group made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen attached at one end. Take away the acid, and you're left with a hydrocarbon that can be made into fuel.
Stephen del Cardayre, a biochemist and LS9's vice president for research and development, says the company can make hundreds of different hydrocarbon molecules. The process can yield crude oil without the contaminating sulfur that much petroleum out of the ground contains. The crude, in turn, would go to a standard refinery to be processed into automotive fuel, jet fuel, diesel fuel, or any other petroleum product that someone wanted to make.
Next year LS9 will build a pilot plant in California to test and perfect the process, and the company hopes to be selling improved biodiesel and providing synthetic biocrudes to refineries for further processing within three to five years.
Speaking of the implications of this on the "climate change" debate that you're beginning to mull over, how vehemently do you suppose the more vehement ecoists would oppose this technology, were it to come to fruition? In a land of cheap fuel aplenty, after all, the existing market-based incentive to conserve (to drive fuel-efficient cars, to carpool, not to do donuts in the parking lot) goes up in smoke. Sure, the geopolitical outlook may improve drastically, worldwide prosperity would accelerate, hundreds of millions of people would be lifted out of poverty, etc., but the allure of legislating a reversion toward a more eco-friendly, crisis-mode consumption level - say, via a crippling carbon tax - might be too great a temptation.
Laws of Physics Safe (For Now)
The latest word from those Irishmen looking to thwart conversation of energy via "time variant magneto-mechanical interactions" is that they've had to scrub the public launch of their free energy machine.
For the time being anyway.
Further to Steorn’s announcement yesterday (5th July) regarding the technical difficulties experienced during the installation of its “Orbo” technology at the Kinentica Museum in London, Steorn has decided to postpone the demonstration until further notice.
Sean McCarthy CEO stated that “technical problems arose during the installation of the demonstration unit in the display case on Wednesday evening. These problems were primarily due to excessive heat from the lighting in the main display area. Attempts to replace those parts affected by the heat led to further failures and as a result we have to postpone the public demonstration until a future date.”
He continued that “we apologise for the inconvenience caused to all the people who had made arrangements to visit the demonstration or were planning on viewing the demonstration online.”
Over the next few weeks the company will explore alternative dates for the public demonstration.
Shame, that. The dawn of free, clean energy would've been so nicely timed with tomorrow's globe-spanning, carbon-spewing, garbage-generating awareness fest.
Free Energy Set To Be Unveiled, Law Of Conservation Of Energy Set To Roll Eyes
Just because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office won't even entertain patent applications for perpetual motion devices without working models doesn't mean you need to be as cynical. Especially when Irish technology firm Steorn is just moments away from giving the world the biggest scientific razzle dazzle in history.
Oil-rich nations are advised to begin learning new marketable skills.
Orbo produces free, clean and constant energy - that is our claim. By free we mean that the energy produced is done so without recourse to external source. By clean we mean that during operation the technology produces no emissions. By constant we mean that with the exception of mechanical failure the technology will continue to operate indefinitely.
And by "produces", we mean "is, like every other device, fundamentally incapable of producing"...
The sum of these claims for our Orbo technology is a violation of the principle of conservation of energy, perhaps the most fundamental of scientific principles.
If I were trying to convince people I'd bottled the holiest of holy grails (can grails be bottled?), I think I'd leave off that last line. It seems like it risks calling attention to the project's inherent impossibility.
To salve your battered sense of reason, Steorn offers some techy razzmatazz which might keep you from spitting out the hook.
Orbo is based upon the principle of time variant magneto-mechanical interactions. The core output from our Orbo technology is mechanical. This mechanical energy can be converted into electrical energy using standard generator technology either by integrating such technology directly with Orbo or by connecting the mechanical output from Orbo to the generation technology. The efficiency of such mechanical/electrical conversions is highly dependent on the components used and is also a function of size.
Orbo technology is subject to continuous development. This development is focused on improving the manufacturability of the technology, production costs and power density. Orbo was initially developed as using stop-start mechanisms (with a power density of 0.5 Watts per cm3), Steorn is currently finalizing the development of constant motion systems and a significant improvement in power density is anticipated.
Orbo was slated to put on its first public demonstration yesterday, at the Kinetica Museum in East London, but "slight technical difficulties" forced a one-day postponement. Steorn's website still claims today is the day, so sit back and brace yourself for a guilt-free summer driving season, a sharp fall-off in the Goracle's relevance, and boundless prosperity for all mankind. Sadly, the technological singularity should follow soon thereafter, so you'll also want to embrace for some manner of world-ending apocalypse.
Check out the Free Energy Tracker blog for the latest updates. Or just appeal to that battered sense of reason and predict how this plays out.
Update: The Orbo demonstration is incurring some fresh delays, which is flat out flabbergasting.
We are experiencing some technical difficulties with the demo unit in London. Our initial assessment indicates that this is probably due to the intense heat from the camera lighting. We have commenced a technical assessment and will provide an update later today. As a consequence, Kinetica will not be open to the public today (5th July). We apologise for this delay and appreciate your patience.
Still, as tantalizing prologue, you can watch nothing happening on any of four live Kinetica webcams, complete with a snazzy, animated wireframe fly-through. Just like hackers always have on their screens in real Hollywood movies!
With the cancer-pimping well presumably having run dry, the E'wards campaign is trying something newer fangled in an attempt to top off the candidate's coffers ahead of the looming 2nd quarter campaign finance deadline.
Just 10 days to go until the end of the second quarter and for the men and woman who want to be president that means just one thing: time to step up the fund-raising.
To help boost his total, former Democratic Sen. John Edwards [sic] of North Carolina tonight is planning a novel appeal for money: text-messaging. Around 7 p.m. tonight, about 13,600 people who’ve signed up to receive text messages from his campaign will get a personal appeal for a little donation.
Texting for dollars may seem like a clever way to wring incremental lucre from that younger generation, but in order to offset any convenience or techno-novelty, the campaign has built in a series of lower-tech obstacles to thwart any marginally interested supporters. Step 2...
Supporters who reply to Edwards’s text message will receive a voicemail on their cell phones, in which he asks them to consider donating to his campaign.
In the message, Edwards says: “I’m calling to remind you that with just over a week before the end of the quarter the time to act is now. I’m not asking you to help us out-raise everyone else. I’m only asking you for what we need to get our message of real change out to voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other key states nationwide.”
Marks who hangs in there this long get to advance to Step 3...
Anyone who decides to take him up on the offer will be directed to a volunteer phone bank, which will be staffed from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. EDT.
Or Step 3A...
Those who don’t respond before 10 p.m. will be directed to the campaign’s Web site, where the big blue “CONTRIBUTE” link is hard to miss.
Anyone who endures this much hassle to make a contribution (round trip texting, followed by round trip phone calls, followed by possible website referral) without bailing out due to boredom, frustration, or a creeping suspicion that they're being scammed, should be placed immediately on the campaign's list of highest priority fanatical supporters.
Not to be outdone, the Obama campaign is reportedly preparing to kick off a tech-savvy fundraising blitz of its own. Details are sketchy, but from what we hear, registered Obama supporters will receive an e-mail (possibly marked "Urgent") some time tomorrow, which begins as follows:
I am writing to you in strictest confidence and with greatest respect regarding a discreet financial matter of utmost urgency. I am the auditor for the estate of the late Ambassador to Nigeria, whose abandoned overseas assets in the Foreign Remittance Department of the Bank of Hong Kong total US$25 MILLION...
VIP supporters will receive additional e-mails, informing them that their PayPal accounts may have been compromised and that their e-mail addresses have won prizes in an online sweepstakes.
Previously: John E'wards Transmutes Into Healing Evangelist
The Taxman Charmeth
This just in: you like to pay taxes. You just don't like to admit it.
It seems 19 Oregonian co-eds got excited about giving up some of their research fees in the name of taxation. And why is that scientifically interesting? Because their excitement was measured in a super-sciency way.
Bill Harbaugh at the University of Oregon in Eugene, US, and colleagues gave 19 female university students $100, and told them some of this money would have to go towards taxes.
As the participants viewed the tax scenarios, their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Surprisingly, whenever the students read the taxation scenarios, scientists saw a spike in activity within two of the brain's reward centres – the nucleus accumbens and caudate nucleus.
Yes, well, to borrow from another Professor, something involving that many big words could easily destabilize fiscal policy as we know it.
Oregon's taxpayers must be doubly enraptured that they got to pay for that study.
(HT: Hot Air)
Google Sees You When You're Sleeping (And Maps You)
Except for the fact that 2nd Avenue doesn't slope so dramatically as to want to pitch taxis into the East River, this Google Maps street level view is an impressive representation of the corner I live on. I can almost make out the wording on the awning to John's Restaurant. (Note to travelers: John's is sub-par, but if you make a left here, you're just steps away from a very solid new Italian joint.)
So just how up-to-date are these street-level pictures, you ask? Well, judging by the state of Ground Zero, not so very updated. I haven't been down for a few months, but unless they've re-dug up Greenwich Street and supplanted the t-shirt and knick knack stands in favor of dilapidated scaffolding, these shots are at least a few years old.
Just how long has Google been stockpiling these images?
Human Enslavement Watch
Allah has the terrifying, tennis ball-grasping answer.