David Kirkpatrick

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas to everyone …

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:36 am

… and I hope your holiday season is safe and fun. And maybe even filled with a little bit of snow.

File:Christmas Ornament.jpg

(photo credit: Essjay, via Wikimedia Commons)

December 18, 2010

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell enters the dustbin of history

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:34 pm

And couldn’t come any sooner. We need willing and able soldiers of any stripe, and anyone who thinks the sexual orientation  of any one soldier is going to affect the performance of any other soldier ought to check in with the many, many militaries around the world that allow openly homosexual soldiers serve and ask them how that exercise is going (hint: pretty damn good.)

Here’s my favorite quote on the topic from a special operations soldier:

We have a gay guy [in the unit]. He’s big, he’s mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay.

(Hat tip on the quote: the Daily Dish)

Science magazine’s breakthroughs of 2010

Number one is the first quantum machine.

From the link:

Physicists Andrew Cleland and John Martinis from the University of California at Santa Barbara and their colleagues designed the machine—a tiny metal paddle of semiconductor, visible to the naked eye—and coaxed it into dancing with a quantum groove. First, they cooled the paddle until it reached its “ground state,” or the lowest energy state permitted by the laws of quantum mechanics (a goal long-sought by). Then they raised the widget’s energy by a single quantum to produce a purely quantum-mechanical state of motion. They even managed to put the gadget in both states at once, so that it literally vibrated a little and a lot at the same time—a bizarre phenomenon allowed by the weird rules of quantum mechanics.

and its publisher, AAAS, the nonprofit science society, have recognized this first quantum machine as the 2010 Breakthrough of the Year. They have also compiled nine other important scientific accomplishments from this past year into a top ten list, appearing in a special news feature in the journal’s 17 December 2010 issue. Additionally, Science news writers and editors have chosen to spotlight 10 “Insights of the Decade” that have transformed the landscape of science in the 21st Century.

“This year’s Breakthrough of the Year represents the first time that scientists have demonstrated quantum effects in the motion of a human-made object,” said Adrian Cho, a news writer for Science. “On a conceptual level that’s cool because it extends quantum mechanics into a whole new realm. On a practical level, it opens up a variety of possibilities ranging from new experiments that meld quantum control over light, electrical currents and motion to, perhaps someday, tests of the bounds of quantum mechanics and our sense of reality.”

 

December 17, 2010

The perfect t-shirt …

Filed under: et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:56 am

… for anyone who’s sick of social media.

From the link:

In case others don’t understand the essence of MySpace, Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare, make perfectly clear the commonalities of these social sites with this T-shirt.
$15.95; www.despair.com

 

December 4, 2010

History sniffing, one more online privacy issue

I have to admit I had never heard of history sniffing before reading this story. Makes me doubly glad I use Chrome for my browser.

From the link:

The Web surfing history saved in your Web browser can be accessed without your permission. JavaScript code deployed by real websites and online advertising providers use browser vulnerabilities to determine which sites you have and have not visited, according to new research from computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego.

The researchers documented  code secretly collecting browsing histories of  through “history sniffing” and sending that information across the network. While history sniffing and its potential implications for privacy violation have been discussed and demonstrated, the new work provides the first empirical analysis of history sniffing on the real Web.

“Nobody knew if anyone on the Internet was using history sniffing to get at users’ private browsing history. What we were able to show is that the answer is yes,” said UC San Diego  science professor Hovav Shacham.
The  from the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering presented this work in October at the 2010 ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS 2010) in a paper entitled, “An Empirical Study of Privacy-Violating Information Flows in JavaScript Web Applications”.

History Sniffing

History sniffing takes place without your knowledge or permission and relies on the fact that browsers display links to sites you’ve visited differently than ones you haven’t: by default, visited links are purple, unvisited links blue. History sniffing JavaScript code running on a Web page checks to see if your browser displays links to specific URLs as blue or purple.

History sniffing can be used by website owners to learn which competitor sites visitors have or have not been to. History sniffing can also be deployed by advertising companies looking to build user profiles, or by online criminals collecting information for future phishing attacks. Learning what banking site you visit, for example, suggests which fake banking page to serve up during a phishing attack aimed at collecting your bank account login information.


Electronic cigarettes are bad for you?

Don’t smoke ’em myself and have no plans to ever start, but these alternatives to actually burning tobacco have the anti-tobacco forces up in arms. Just check out the “results” of this University of California, Riverside, study that declares them possibly dangerous. Of course this non-study will get lots of ink about how bad electronic cigarettes are, even though the actual results say nothing of the sort.

Typical move from anti-tobacco forces. Long on overwrought hype and short on non-statistically skewed clinical results. It really is amazing how many citizens in the “land of the free” want to have control over what their fellow citizens consume, who they marry and where they worship (for those with that inclination.)

From the link:

Talbot, a professor of cell biology and neuroscience, was joined in the study by Anna Trtchounian, the first author of the research paper. Together, they examined the design, accuracy and clarity of labeling, nicotine content, leakiness, defective parts, disposal, errors in filling orders, instruction manual quality and advertizing for the following brands of e-cigarettes: NJOY, Liberty Stix, Crown Seven (Hydro), Smoking Everywhere (Gold and Platinum) and VapCigs.

Their main observations are that:

  • Batteries, atomizers, cartridges, cartridge wrappers, packs and instruction manuals lack important information regarding e-cigarette content, use and essential warnings;
  • E-cigarette cartridges leak, which could expose nicotine, an addictive and dangerous chemical, to children, adults, pets and the environment;
  • Currently, there are no methods for proper disposal of e-cigarettes products and accessories, including cartridges, which could result in contamination from discarded cartridges entering water sources and soil, and adversely impacting the environment; and
  • The manufacture, quality control, sales, and advertisement of e-cigarettes are unregulated.

“More research on e-cigarettes is crucially needed to protect the health of e-cigarette users and even those who do not use e-cigarettes,” said Kamlesh Asotra, a research administrator at UC TRDRP. “Contrary to the claims of the manufacturers and marketers of e-cigarettes being ‘safe,’ in fact, virtually nothing is known about the toxicity of the vapors generated by these e-cigarettes. Until we know any thing about the potential health risks of the toxins generated upon heating the nicotine-containing content of the e-cigarette cartridges, the ‘safety’ claims of the manufactureres are dubious at best.

Okay, doesn’t sound too convincing there. And I encourage more research because if electronic cigarettes pose specific health risks, consumers of the product should know about them to make informed decisions on what they are putting into their bodies.

Now here’s the title from the linked PhysOrg piece, “Electronic cigarettes are unsafe and pose health risks, new study finds.” Does that match the studies results to your mind. Certainly not mine. Note the first observation — the products lack package labeling. Stop the presses!

Who funded this bit of research, “The study was funded by a grant to Talbot from the University of California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP).”

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