Archive for the ‘Geekery’ Category

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What he said (14)

December 1, 2017

I found this very funny.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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Strange sights

September 17, 2017

“Postcards from Saturn” is an NPR video about discoveries made by the Cassini probe.


And “How Not to Land an Orbital Rocket Booster” is a short tutorial from SpaceX.

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Spam fail

February 4, 2017

Since I registered some new TLDs recently (without hiding my contact info), I’ve been getting e-mail and text spam from people eager to help me put them to work.

But I had to LOL when I got the message below. It’s like watching a sharp-shooting competition where the shooter can’t load the gun. Or watching a ballet where the danseuse can’t get her slippers on. Smoove is the very word.

So here’s One Way To Tell Your Spam Campaign For E-commerce Clients won’t be going well…

Hi,
<!–[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]–>
<!–[endif]–>
Hope you are doing well.

Apologized for cold outreach.

We are a Mobile App & Website Design/Development Company. We have delivered 100+ projects in last year and we have 40 designers & developers are working over projects. We provide below mentioned services according to your requirement.
<!–[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]–>
<!–[endif]–>

Our services are:-

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1. <!–[endif]–>Website Development (Custom Website Development, PHP Programming, eCommerce, Joomla, Word Press, Dot Net, PHP etc.)

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2. <!–[endif]–>Website designing (HTML designing, corporate website design, Logo Designing, Java, PSD to XHTML/HTML, etc)

<!–[if !supportLists]–>3. <!–[endif]–>Mobile Apps Development (iPhone / iPad application, Android, Blackberry, Windows)
<!–[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]–>
<!–[endif]–>

<!–[if !supportLists]–>4. <!–[endif]–>ORM (Negate the Negative, Regular Monitoring and Maintenance)
<!–[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]–>
<!–[endif]–>

<!–[if !supportLists]–>5. <!–[endif]–>Digital Marketing Services (SEO, SMO, SEM, Content Writing, Email Marketing etc.)

If interested please share your detailed requirement.

Please share your contact details so that we can have a quick 5 min call to get a better understanding.

I will be waiting for your response.

Check your message headers, dude.

"Content-Type: text/plain; charset=”iso-8859-1" is not the one you want.

You’re welcome. Write again after you finish Chapter 2.

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The engineering is settled (2)

January 17, 2017

Here’s an article from Manhattan Contrarian about the problems of making renewable energy financially feasible.

Or as I put it last April, the Engineering Is Settled.

A Dose Of Renewable Energy Realism

In the campaign to jettison fossil fuels as the main source of our energy and replace them with so-called “renewables,” a notable feature is the lack of discussion of the costs and practicalities of trying to make intermittent sources like wind and solar work to run a 24/7/365 electricity grid. Is there any problem here that deserves consideration? In Tuesday’s post I noted that in my home state of New York we are about to try to replace our big Indian Point nuclear power plant with mostly wind-generated power. Actually, we already have wind turbines with approximately the same “capacity” as Indian Point, but unfortunately over the course of a full year they only generate about one-quarter as much electricity as Indian Point. Still, can’t that problem be solved just by buying four times as many wind turbines? It may be a little pricey, but is there any reason why that won’t work?

In a publication called Energy Post on January 10, prominent German economist Heiner Flassbeck has a piece that addresses this question. The headline is “The End of the Energiewende?” Of course the problem is that the wind turbines don’t just run steadily and predictably at one-quarter of capacity; rather, they swing wildly and unpredictably back and forth between generating at near 100% of capacity and generating almost nothing. The “almost nothing” mode can persist for days or even weeks. In Germany under a program called Energiewende (“energy transition”), in effect since 2010, they have been pushing to raise the percentage of energy they obtain from wind and solar, and have gotten the percent of their electricity supply from those sources all the way up to 31%. But Flassbeck now looks at what just occurred during the month of December 2016:

This winter could go down in history as the event that proved the German energy transition to be unsubstantiated and incapable of becoming a success story. Electricity from wind and solar generation has been catastrophically low for several weeks. December brought new declines. A persistent winter high-pressure system with dense fog throughout Central Europe has been sufficient to unmask the fairy tale of a successful energy transition….

Here is a chart from Flassbeck’s piece showing German electricity demand through the first half of the month of December, against the sources of the electricity that supplied that demand. Among the sources, solar, on-shore wind, and off-shore wind are broken out separately:

power-demand-germany-dec-2016

As you can see, at some times wind and solar sources supplied as much as half or more of the demand for electricity, but at other times they supplied almost nothing. Flassbeck: […]

I would dearly love to install solar panels and go off the grid. And I’ve been watching the prices and the expected equipment lifetimes for a couple of decades now to decide when it will make financial sense.

But the problem of storing the energy aside, there are periods of weather like our current one. Today was the sixth gloomy, sunless day in a row in Missouri. That’s not unusual in January or February in the center of the US; it’s more common than not, I believe.

On the other hand, if I still lived in Tucson I’d probably have done it by now. (Check your insolation.)

H.T. Jeff G

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You’re on your own. Act accordingly.

December 16, 2016

This post originally appeared October 5th, 2016. (My emphasis.)

surveillance, whistleblowing, and security engineering

[Update (12/14/16): Reuters has specified that the rootkit was implemented as a Linux kernel module. Wow.]

Yesterday morning, Reuters dropped a news story revealing that Yahoo installed a backdoor on their own infrastructure in 2015 in compliance with a secret order from either the FBI or the NSA. While we all know that the US government routinely asks tech companies for surveillance help, a couple aspects of the Yahoo story stand out:

1. The backdoor was installed in such a way that it was intercepting and querying all Yahoo Mail users’ emails, not just emails of investigation targets.

2. The program was implemented so carelessly that it could have allowed hackers to read all incoming Yahoo mail. Of course this also means FBI/NSA could have been reading all incoming Yahoo mail.

3. Yahoo execs deliberately bypassed review from the security team when installing the backdoor. In fact, when members of the security team found it within weeks of its installation, they immediately assumed it had been installed by malicious hackers, rather than Yahoo’s own mail team. (This says something about what the backdoor code may have looked like.)

4. Yahoo apparently made no effort to challenge this overly-broad surveillance order which needlessly put hundreds of millions of users at risk.

At the time this was happening, I was on the Yahoo Security team leading development on the End-to-End project. According to the Reuters report, the mail backdoor was installed at almost the exact same time that Alex Stamos and I announced the open-source launch of a Chrome extension for easy-to-use end-to-end encryption in Yahoo Mail at SXSW 2015. Ironically, if only we had been able to actually ship E2E, we would have given users a way to protect themselves from the exact backdoor scenario that they ended up in! […]

Most of all, keep pushing for end-to-end encryption.

H.T. Paul B

Since you can’t generally verify your e-mail provider’s security, you can’t trust their security. The only alternative is to provide your own security.

And the bigger lesson is that the U.S. government is relentless in its secret surveillance.

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Infinite loop

December 9, 2016

I found this pretty amusing.

Years ago, a partner of mine wrote a very simple BASIC program he called Kneel.

10 GOTO 10

He ran it on a client’s DEC VAX (with admin privilege) and it brought the machine to its figurative knees. In fact, the machine operators had to cycle power on the VAX to recover. That was sort of a big deal because it was a time-share system and all its users were locked out of the system until it had been restarted.

I’m guessing he was pretty bored that day.

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Radioactive diamond "batteries"

December 4, 2016

This is an unexpected twist on an old problem based on research done at the University of Bristol (in the UK).

Via NewAtlas

Naturally I have to wonder how scalable this technology is. How much energy can be extracted from one of these diamond generators at a steady rate. Are we talking microwatt-hours, milliwatt-hours, watt-hours, or kilowatt-hours?

And, second, I have to wonder how many’eternal batteries we want out in the wild. How would you ever disable one of these if that were necessary?


Update 12/18/16:

Here’s an AMA session at Reddit about these batteries.

We are physicists from the University of Bristol, ask us anything about our ‘Diamond Battery’ made from nuclear waste & can last for 5k years

H.T. Paul B

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Nice

November 21, 2016

Here’s a clip called Memories of Paintings from Thomas Blanchard. Full screen and high definition are recommended for this one.

The visual compositions have been created out of paint, oil, Oat milk and soap liquid.

If you’re interested in how this was done, see Making of ‘Memories of Paintings’

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It may be worse than Snowden said

October 5, 2016

Paul sends a link to this story from Reuters.

Yahoo secretly scanned customer emails for U.S. intelligence

Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company complied with a classified U.S. government demand, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said three former employees and a fourth person apprised of the events.

Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to an intelligence agency’s request by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time.

It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified. […]

According to two of the former employees, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to obey the directive roiled some senior executives and led to the June 2015 departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now holds the top security job at Facebook Inc. […]

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IoT security

October 5, 2016

Heh… Pornhub on a refrigerator’s display at Home Depot (from John McAfee).

pornhub-frig

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The time and place for paper records

October 3, 2016

From MIT Technology Review. RTWT.

The Internet Is No Place for Elections

Despite what your local election officials may tell you, you can’t trust the Internet with your vote.

This election year we’ve seen foreign hackers infiltrate the Democratic National Committee’s e-mail system as well as voter databases in Arizona and Illinois. These attacks have reinforced what political scientists and technical experts alike have been saying for more than a decade: public elections should stay offline. It’s not yet feasible to build a secure and truly democratic Internet-connected voting system. […]

Nevertheless, 32 states and the District of Columbia allow at least some absentee voters (in most cases just voters who live overseas or serve in the military) to return their completed ballots using poorly secured e-mail, Internet-connected fax machines, or websites. In the most extreme example, all voters in Alaska are allowed to return their completed ballots over a supposedly secure website. And there is a danger that Internet voting could expand. Vendors like the Spanish company Scytl, which supplied Alaska’s system, and Southern California-based Everyone Counts keep marketing these systems to election boards against the advice of security experts. And they haven’t opened their systems to public security testing. […]

Even if the risk of cybercrime could be mitigated, building an online voting system that preserves the core components we expect from democratic elections would be technically complex. Today’s commercial systems do not achieve this; most of the states that offer ballot return via the Internet ask that voters first waive their right to a secret ballot. The key challenge is building an online system that generates some sort of credible evidence that proves the outcome “is what you say it is” during an audit, while maintaining voter privacy and the secret ballot, says Rivest. […]

In the 90s, when my business partner and I were trying to solve problems with telephone automation*, we kicked around the idea of voting by phone. After several goes at that idea, we concluded there was no practical way to (a) make it secure and (b) keep it secret. Not much as changed in the interval, despite different technologies.

*For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.

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What’s it worth to you?

September 19, 2016

Mark Perry at Carpe Diem has a good post about what I’ll call the Information Economy (for lack of a better term). He starts out writing about the different ways music has been delivered for sale and then moves on to the more general point of how information of all kinds gets delivered now.

I particularly liked the "What’s the internet worth to you?" question.

[t]he limitations of GDP accounting

Thanks to the advances in computer technologies, the Internet and smartphone apps, consumers are getting more and more services like GPS for free (or at a significantly reduced cost compared to the past) today and displacing services that used to get accounted for as market-based production (maps and road atlases). In past decades like the 1950s, maybe economic output measured by GDP was a pretty good measure of both economic performance and Americans’ economic well-being. In 2016, that may no longer be the case.

Finally, the video below captures the point I’m trying to make by asking people:

How much would someone have to pay you to give up the Internet for the rest of your life? Would a million dollars be enough? Twenty million? How about a billion dollars?

“When I ask my students this question, they say you couldn’t pay me enough,” says Professor Michael Cox, director of the O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business. The free market, says Cox, creates a huge gap between what consumers would be willing to pay for Internet access and how much it actually costs.
From the video: Since we’re getting something that we really value that is almost free, and wouldn’t give it up for even $1 million or more, “In some ways, maybe we’re all millionaires and billionaires, if we have something that’s worth that much to us… You might just be richer than you realize…”


Update/Related (HT: Joe Sullivan): From a July 2015 WSJ interview with Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist — “Silicon Valley Doesn’t Believe U.S. Productivity Is Down: Contrarian economists at Google and Stanford say the U.S. doesn’t have a productivity problem, it has a measurement problem”:

“There is a lack of appreciation for what’s happening in Silicon Valley,” says Hal Varian, “because we don’t have a good way to measure it.” One measurement problem is that a lot of what originates here is free or nearly free.

Take, for example, a recent walk Mr. Varian arranged with friends. To find each other in the sprawling park nearby, he and his pals used an app that tracked their location, allowing them to meet up quickly. The same tool can track the movement of workers in a warehouse, office or shopping mall. “Obviously that’s a productivity enhancement,” Mr. Varian says. “But I doubt that gets measured anywhere.”

Consider the efficiency of hailing a taxi with an app on your mobile phone, or finding someone who will meet you at the airport and rent your car while you’re away, a new service in San Francisco. Add in online tools that instantly translate conversations or help locate organ donors—the list goes on and on.

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Pure geekery

August 20, 2016

I had an e-mail recently from my alma mater and it mentioned Bill Hammack, who makes videos uing the handle EngineerGuy. (Check his site.)

Mr. Hammack made a series of videos about Albert Michelson’s Harmonic Analyzer, which was a mechanical computer for doing Fourier analysis. Here’s the first of four clips describing how the Analyzer worked and how to operate it.

There’s a book about the machine if you’re interested. And it’s also available in PDF at no cost.

Machines like this have always amazed me when I think of the mechanical creativity their designers showed. Nowadays you can do Fourier analysis with MS Excel but not that long ago (100+ years) just performing the calculations was such a tedious, error-prone task that people invented purpose-built machines to do it.


But the icing on the cake was that I came across Hammack’s video adaptation of one of my favorites, Faraday’s lectures on The Chemical History of a Candle.

Here’s the first of five videos (not counting Hammack’s introductory clip).

As with Michelson’s Harmonic Analyzer, Hammack and his collaborators wrote a book about this too (also available for free in PDF).

Or if you prefer the old school, here are Faraday’s lectures in PDF.

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Dark humor

July 17, 2016

Positively dystopian – from McSweeney’s. RTWT.

CIA MEMO RE: POKÉMON GO.

TO: execstaff@cia.gov
FROM: Office of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
RE: Great Work On Pokémon Go

CONFIDENTIAL

I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate everyone on the extremely successful rollout of Operation Pokémon GO to Raise Public Morale. I know we had to hustle to speed up this launch by several weeks from its scheduled release on September 10th but it seems to have paid off. More people have downloaded this game in the last 72 hours than have voted in every Democratic primary combined.

It seemed crazy when we floated this idea last year, between Mass Shootings #188 and #189: could “augmented reality” really distract people from regular, awful reality? We took a bold gamble that it would, and it paid off!

Thank you for giving the American public something to engage with mindlessly after two Black men and five police officers were shot in cold blood within three days. It seemed, for a fraught 48 hours, like Americans would have to engage with the news, and as past history evidences, that’s not great for us. Luckily, we can leave that discussion to the talking heads; good, ordinary Americans can find solace in locating Jigglypuffs in public spaces.

In an unprecedented threat, it seemed even Twitter and Snapchat were getting away from us: a huge number of users were seriously grappling with police brutality and racial politics. Were it not for the power of ’90s nostalgia and dynamic animation, this may have been a turning point for these platforms. I am incredibly moved to see Twitter repopulated with hilarious photos of Pokémon in inopportune places, like a frying pan. […]

H.T. Paul B

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The future’s so bright…

July 15, 2016

dont-pokemon

Via Instapundit. ‘Heh’, as he likes to say.

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Are you fated to read this?

July 11, 2016

Several weeks ago, I came across this article at The Atlantic.

There’s No Such Thing as Free Will
But we’re better off believing in it anyway.

"Another report about fMRI," I thought and, sure enough, that’s what it turned out to be. I assumed it would be another exercise in jumping to a conclusion. But see for yourself.

What really piqued my interest was this paragraph from that article:

In another study, for instance, Vohs and colleagues measured the extent to which a group of day laborers believed in free will, then examined their performance on the job by looking at their supervisor’s ratings. Those who believed more strongly that they were in control of their own actions showed up on time for work more frequently and were rated by supervisors as more capable. In fact, belief in free will turned out to be a better predictor of job performance than established measures such as self-professed work ethic.

I’m not sure why the author (or the researchers) think this demonstrates that free will is illusory. I’d say it shows the contrary. Want to be well-regarded at work? Get yer ass outta bed and get ‘er done, son. And who cares how belief in free will correlates to belief in "self-professed work ethic"? Those could be two facets of the same character trait, IMO.

I’ve always had some fundamental problems with reports that fMRI studies show that free will doesn’t exist based on the timing of events in the brain.

I’ve never studied neuroscience. But I have debugged any number of race conditions in software. My take-away from those is that it’s usually very difficult to tell what’s cause and what’s effect until you’ve solved the problem completely: that is, until you can describe all the states and their interactions in sufficient detail to prove your point. Just modeling those things can be a difficult first step.

I was pretty sure (and still am) that the fMRI guys couldn’t do that for human brains.

But back to the news… Last week, I came across this article at The Register (a U.K.-based geek site).

fMRI bugs could upend years of research
This is what your brain looks like on bad data

A whole pile of “this is how your brain looks like” fMRI-based science has been potentially invalidated because someone finally got around to checking the data.

The problem is simple: to get from a high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging scan of the brain to a scientific conclusion, the brain is divided into tiny “voxels”. Software, rather than humans, then scans the voxels looking for clusters.

When you see a claim that “scientists know when you’re about to move an arm: these images prove it”, they’re interpreting what they’re told by the statistical software.

Now, boffins from Sweden and the UK have cast doubt on the quality of the science, because of problems with the statistical software: it produces way too many false positives. […]

"Oh ho," I thought. "Let’s google this one more time…" And that search turned up this very interesting article.

Neuroscience and Free Will Are Rethinking Their Divorce

Back in the 1980s, the American scientist Benjamin Libet made a surprising discovery that appeared to rock the foundations of what it means to be human. He recorded people’s brain waves as they made spontaneous finger movements while looking at a clock, with the participants telling researchers the time at which they decided to waggle their fingers. Libet’s revolutionary finding was that the timing of these conscious decisions was consistently preceded by several hundred milliseconds of background preparatory brain activity (known technically as “the readiness potential”).

The implication was that the decision to move was made nonconsciously, and that the subjective feeling of having made this decision is tagged on afterward. In other words, the results implied that free will as we know it is an illusion — after all, how can our conscious decisions be truly free if they come after the brain has already started preparing for them? […]

It’s all science. And science is rarely as "settled" as non-technical people think it should be.

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Happy Independence Day

July 4, 2016

NASA’s Juno Probe Just Made It Safely Into Jupiter’s Orbit

AT 11:54 PM Eastern tonight, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California erupted into cheers. No ooohs and aaaahs at fireworks displays here: The team of engineers had just received confirmation that their intrepid space probe, Juno, has successfully made its way into Jupiter’s orbit.

That maneuver, a 35-minute burn that began at 11:18 pm Eastern tonight, was the culmination of a five-year journey through space and many more years of work from the JPL team.

Juno has been whizzing toward Jupiter since it left Earth on August 5, 2011. And these 35 minutes have always been the 35 most perilous moments since launch. Juno had to turn on its engines precisely 2,609 miles away from Jupiter to get into position. If it didn’t slow down enough, the probe would go right past Jupiter, missing its target. At just the right speed, it would sync up with Jupiter’s gravity. […]

To make this even more of a nail-biter, signals from Jupiter take almost 49 minutes to reach Earth. That means by the time NASA got the signal that Juno had started slowing down, the probe had already slowed down enough to enter Jupiter’s orbit. If something went wrong, there’s no remote fix — and no way to know until after it’s all over. […]

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Traffic’s a gas

May 21, 2016

The physics of traffic – that is, trying to model and understand how cars interact on the road – is an idea that’s occurred to me several times but I’ve never pursued it. My offhand thoughts always tend to comparisons of cars on a highway to molecules in a pipe. Under what conditions does traffic flow change phase from a gas/liquid to a solid: a traffic jam?

I’ve often wondered if the people who design roads have ever studied these topics. Has anyone done any experiments on this? Has anyone "ground-truthed" any theories for smooth traffic flow? Or do road designers just use rules-of-thumb for planning new highways (as I suspect from seeing the results)?

So this video from The Mathematical Society of Traffic Flow naturally piqued my interest. Since it’s hosted by Nagoya University in Japan, I assume the authors are associated with the school.

I’ve often wondered how much difference it makes to traffic flow whether drivers regulate their speed using their brakes to ‘actively slow’ as opposed to using their throttles (accelerators) to ‘passively slow’ by coasting.

Coasting to slow down is something a lot of American drivers just don’t seem to get. Their feet are always on one pedal or the other – or sometimes both, as my mother used to do. But they rarely drive with a foot on neither pedal.

When you find yourself in a group of cars that doesn’t drive that way – in a group that coasts to slow down – then traffic seems to flow much more smoothly. But that observation may be due to traffic density: maybe people are more likely to use their brakes in denser traffic.

In the U.S. this problem’s worse because there’s very little lane discipline on the freeways, in contrast to British motorways or German autobahns. This is despite the fact that it’s a law in most of the states that drivers should keep right unless passing. It’s not unusual to find people in the left-most lane doing the speed limit. Technically, that’s legal1 but it completely defeats the self-organizing design feature of a freeway.

The first time I drove on an English motorway, I thought I’d died and gone to Drivers’ Heaven. On the other hand, the result of typical lane usage in these parts is that you’ll find all five lanes of a freeway coming to a complete halt with no apparent reason before resuming speed again. It’s just like the video except five lanes wide. How in the world does that happen?

Sometimes that pattern repeats, giving you the feeling that you’re in a kind of "traffic accordian." Stop, speed up, slow down, stop, speed up, slow down, stop, et cetera ad nauseum.

It makes me think we’re all just lemmings on the pavement.

1Except in California AFAIK.

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First thing we do, let’s kill all the mosquitoes

May 13, 2016

The lawyers will have to wait.

Let’s Kill All the Mosquitoes
Now is the time to wipe the disease-carrying critters off the face of the Earth.

“The level of alarm is extremely high,” said the head of the World Health Organization on Thursday, describing the spread of Zika virus around the world. As well it should be: The disease, which seems likely to be causing birth defects, could affect millions of people in several dozen countries. And the virus may be on its way into the U.S. As of Friday morning, no fewer than five New York residents have been diagnosed as Zika positive. […]

Consider the statistics: Mosquito-borne diseases kill hundreds of thousands of people every year. Malaria alone claims the lives of 6 million people per decade, mostly small children. The economic costs are similarly staggering, likely in the tens of billions of dollars every year. […]

You might’ve thought that news about the Zika outbreak would have convinced humanity to crush the mosquito. But all we keep hearing are proposals to take the battle to the virus, not its host. We’re told that scientists must work hard to find a new vaccine, as if that would be the best solution to the problem. The hunt for a Zika cure could take a decade—and in the meantime we’re left to wait and watch swarms of evil on the wing, mating in midair, and landing on our shores. An enemy has made its way to the nation’s borders. Now is not the time for soft responses.

It’s time to kill all the mosquitoes. It’s time for mass mosquito-cide. […]

As the article mentions later, there are plans for a trial in Florida of genetically modified mosquitoes that will interrupt wild mosquitoes’ breeding cycle. Evidently, the approach has been tried successfully in other locations.

Tell the FDA What You Fear More: Zika, or GMO Mosquitoes?

What are you more afraid of, the Zika virus, or genetically engineered bugs being released in the wild?

If you feel strongly about this issue, you have until midnight Friday to make your opinion known as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers whether to approve an effort to kill the disease-carrying mosquitoes by releasing genetically engineered bugs in Florida.

The biotech firm Oxitec plans to release non-biting male mosquitoes that have been modified to produce offspring that don’t survive after mating with wild females. Researchers believe that within a few generations, this should sharply reduce the mosquito population.

Scientists have weighed in on both sides in the nearly 1,300 comments viewable online so far. Fear is also a common theme, but there’s a split over what people find more frightening: genetic engineering, or birth defects linked to Zika. […]

I don’t know what the downsides to wiping out skeeters might be, but offhand it sounds like a great idea. And (as the first article mentioned), it worked for the screwworm fly.

In fact, there was a spooky sci-fi story in the late 70s titled The Screwfly Solution. It was made into an episode of Masters of Horror (a show I’ve never watched).

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Aircraft pron

April 30, 2016

Here’s a nice picture of Solar Impulse 2 during its flight between Honolulu, Hawaii and Mountain View, California. The flight is part of its circumnavigation of the globe.

solar-impulse-2

This appeared, with 5 other pix, at Popular Science.

The thing that struck me in the article, though, was that this flight took 62.5 hours. If you look up the distance between Hawaii and California, you get (roughly) 2500 miles. That would make the average speed during the flight about 40 MPH.

What type of craft can stay aloft at that slow speed? Was there a continual headwind that added to its airspeed? Or do its long wings just provide incredible lift?

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