I have another science story for you, but I promise this one is much more enjoyable than the one about the peanut butter. Travel with me now past Mars, past the asteroid belt, and straight into the heart of Jupiter’s mysterious Great Red Spot:
Scientists in Pasadena, Calif., came to the conclusion after re-creating the effects at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They were able to get a Spot-like red effect by directing ultraviolet light at ammonia and acetylene, gases that are both found on the planet.
Their new theory: “Most of the Great Red Spot is actually pretty bland in color, beneath the upper cloud layer of reddish material,” says a researcher.
“Under the reddish ‘sunburn’ the clouds are probably whitish or grayish.” So why is it confined to just one spot? “The Great Red Spot … reaches much higher altitudes than clouds elsewhere on Jupiter,” the expert notes.
The Spot is actually a storm with winds of up to hundreds of miles per hour, the Daily Mail reports. Wind in the area brings ammonia particles closer to the sun, and a vortex keeps them there, the researchers say.
We don’t know how many centuries — millennia? — old that storm is, but it has been fading in recent years. While an exact cause has yet to be determined, it probably has to do with evil carbon emissions here on Earth.
On an unrelated note, the asteroid belt needs a better name. I like “Solar Rhinestones.”
In late October South Korean intelligence reported that between May and September North Korea managed to distribute over 20,000 to South Korean smart phone users games containing spy software. The North Korean “spyware” was seeking information from banks as well as documents relating to reunification plans and defense matters. The spyware allowed the North Koreans to transfer data from the infected smart phone and secretly turn on the camera. The government reported that this effort has since been blocked. North Korea denied any involvement in this, as it usually does. But over the past few year the evidence has been piling up of increasing North Korean Internet based espionage via the Internet.
In late 2013 South Korea came up with a number (over $800 million) for the cost of dealing with North Korean cyber attacks since 2007.
Theft is the only way for thoroughly progressive governments like North Korea’s to stay in business. The trick is figuring out the best place to cut them off from their ill-gotten gains.
I’m not sure exactly how to lead you into this story, so without any further ado…
Diamonds are typically created more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) below Earth’s surface when temperatures over 2200 degrees Celsius (4000 degrees Fahrenheit) and pressure 1.3 million times greater than the atmosphere combine and crystallize carbon into the clear white stone we all know. Synthetic diamonds can replicate the process in a few short days, creating diamonds that are less politically-charged for use in jewelry, electronics, manufacturing, and more.
Dan Frost of Germany’s Bayerisches Geoinstitut has been creating diamonds out of a rather unlikely source of carbon: peanut butter.
Do you have any idea how many potential diamonds my kids have pooped in the last nine years?
I’d read that Col. John Nagl’s Knife Fights was coming out, but somehow missed its publication last month. Until just now that is, and its already on my Kindle.
If you haven’t read him, you’ve missed out on the future — and the now — of warfare.
Just get this already.
cross-posted from Vodkapundit
Most things are not public policy issues, yet get turned into such. Obama’s letter is purely about taking a thriving enterprise — our wild and wonderful Internet — and turning it into a public utility (the legalistic details behind the scenes involve a “reclassification” of up-until-now free Internet services as a public utility).
Google, Yahoo, and the world of media are synergistic with service providers, and each is moving into the other’s territory in ways that foretell that none will escape this new regulatory regime. ISPs will holler today, but they’d all best beware.
It is irksome when politicians take credit for the creations of others, and set “rules” for the future that assure political involvement in what should be liberalized, non-politicized industries.
Microsoft spent the ’90s being proud of the fact that they never “paid to play” with Washington — and got whacked with an antitrust suit from which the company never recovered.
Now it’s the internet’s turn.
image illustration via shutterstock / Photosani
Here’s Dingding Chen with a story I’d missed until just now:
Chinese President Xi Jinping just announced that China will establish a Silk Road fund with $40 billion to support infrastructure investments in countries involved in the “one belt, one road” plan. This new proposal is in addition to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) proposal that 21 countries have already joined. A critical element of such plans is to “break the connectivity bottleneck” in Asia and beyond, which has seriously hindered development in many developing countries. Presumably a large amount of funding will go to building roads, railways, and ports in these countries. Thus, many analysts (see for example here, here, and here) have labeled China’s new initiatives as a Chinese version of the Marshall Plan, indicating that China would use such initiatives to seek influence and even dominance in Asia.
To be sure, there are some seeming similarities between China’s “one belt, one road” initiative with the U.S. Marshall plan, with the main one being that both plans aim at exporting their country’s capital, technology, and capacity to others who need them badly.
Americans were once the masters of infrastructure. We took a mostly empty continent and in the space of 150 years or so, filled it up with people and cities and roads and bridges and dams and water works and everything. Today… not so much, as we saw this morning in my previous post.
China has been on a similar construction spree these last 25 years, and except for the rice paddies pretty much everything in the country is brand spankin’ new — including the famous ghost cities, because China has commies in charge of all the construction. The important thing isn’t that the construction make any sense or serve any purpose, but that it happens.
Now they’re taking those new construction skills abroad, in an attempt to build its own trade partners by building the infrastructure necessary for Third World countries to afford to buy more Chinese goods.
It’s a daring plan, but with the commies still in charge, they run the risk of spending billions developing ghost countries to match their ghost cities.
Saying it out loud makes it even cooler. Try it.
“We’re landing on a comet.”
A miniature spacecraft cast off from its mother ship Wednesday to start a lonely, nerve-wracking descent to the rugged terrain of a comet.
The European Space Agency’s washing-machine-sized spaceship, named Philae, detached from its carrier just after 3:30 a.m. ET. It faced a seven-hour trip to the comet’s boulder-strewn surface, with no way to steer or turn back.
If it touches down safely, Philae will enter the record books as the first craft to make a safe landing on a comet.
It took ten years to get there, and what we learn will make it all worthwhile — if they can stick the landing.
The lander touched down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at about 1605 GMT.
There were cheers and hugs at the control room in Darmstadt, Germany, after the signal was confirmed.
It was designed to shine a light on some of the mysteries of these icy relics from the formation of the Solar System.
The landing caps a 6.4 billion-kilometre journey that was begun a decade ago.
“This is a big step for human civilisation,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, the director-general of the European Space Agency (Esa).
When I was a kid and first fell in love with dinosaurs, they were lumbering, cold-blooded beasts who died of stupidity. So much of the past keeps changing:
Carrying around an exoskeleton of bony armor is hard work. But armored ankylosaurs figured out a way to shoulder the load and stay cool. These Cretaceous dinosaurs had “Krazy Straw” nasal passages that helped them air-condition their brains, according to a new study.
“These heads are just covered with bone they just look like rocks with eyes. And yet, when you look inside, they have these noses that go all over the place,” said Jason Bourke, a doctoral student at Ohio University who presented his findings on ankylosaurus noses Nov. 8 at the annual meeting of the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology in Berlin.
It gets better:
The airway discovery is interesting, Bourke said, because most modern mammals and birds have their own method for warming air headed to the lungs and for cooling exhaled air: They have respiratory turbinates, or blood-rich structures in the nasal cavity that warm and humidify the air coming in.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to show that an animal that doesn’t have these turbinates found another way around heating the air up or cooling it down, just by making the airway superlong and then curling it around,” Bourke said.
Duck-billed dinosaurs, or hadrosaurs, have similarly loopy noses, he said, which have been linked with helping the dinos create resonant bellows. It’s very likely that, in both hadrosaurs and ankylosaurs, the structures served a dual purpose: warming and cooling air, and amplifying sounds, Bourke said.
I’d like to see one of these skulls 3-D printed into the world’s biggest, loudest conch shell.
— Marc Leibowitz (@Marc_Leibowitz) November 10, 2014
There are a lot of ways to address sexual assault on college campuses. Warning students to watch the facial expressions they make isn’t one of them.
Yet that’s what students at Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah, New Jersey, were faced with during an hourlong presentation on alcohol use and sexual assault that focused heavily on what women could do to avoid being assaulted, according to the Ramapo News.
The presentation included tips from the school’s Substance Abuse & Violence Prevention coordinator Cory Rosenkranz, who advised students on how to dress, how much to drink and how to use body language that would lessen the chances of assault.
The author of this piece, Matt Connolly, adds:
The presentation’s focus on what the victim should be doing rather than what the perpetrator shouldn’t be doing — committing acts of sexual assault — drew criticism from students, faculty and alumni.
I am so, so tired of this tripe.
Listen to me closely now.
Men – Know – Not – To – Rape.
We know this already. It’s wrong. It’s bad. It’s rapey.
The problem isn’t that men are stupid, although you’d be hard-pressed to get a modern feminist to admit to that, because to do so in a meaningful way would shatter her precious little worldview.
The problem is that rapists don’t care that it’s wrong. Rapists aren’t ignorant; they’re bad. They’re evil. They’re rapists.
And there are damn few of them in the general male population.
So the solution isn’t to badger the overwhelming majority of men who are decent and good. The solution, as pictured above, is to be prepared for the few who are bad and evil and rapey.
But that would put a whole lot of modern feminists out of cushy “public service” jobs, and we can’t make them compete in the private marketplace against their more-able sisters and brothers, can we?
The policy, a summary of which is also posted online, ominously advises users to, “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”
“I do not doubt that this data is important to providing customized content and convenience, but it is also incredibly personal, constitutionally protected information that should not be for sale to advertisers and should require a warrant for law enforcement to access,” writes Price, adding that current privacy laws offer little protection against “third party” data.
You get the feeling Samsung needs to change this policy if the company wants to, you know, keep selling TVs?
Data thieves are everywhere:
A 23-year-old California woman claims she was arrested for suspected drunk driving and taken to jail in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Martinez. She allowed a California Highway Patrolman to access her iPhone, so he could retrieve the phone number of someone she needed to call. She allegedly gave him her passcode.
After she had been booked, she says, she noticed that certain of her private pictures — some featuring her in a state of undress — had been sent to a number she didn’t recognize. This number allegedly turned out to be that of the officer’s private cell phone.
Her lawyer, Rick Madsen, told ABC 7 News that his client believes up to six photos were sent from her cell phone to that of Officer Sean Harrington.
Then there’s this from another paper:
CHP Officer Sean Harrington, 35, of Martinez, also confessed to stealing explicit photos from the cellphone of a second Contra Costa County DUI suspect in August and forwarding those images to at least two CHP colleagues. The five-year CHP veteran called it a “game” among officers, according to an Oct. 14 search warrant affidavit.
I’ve read so many horror stories about CHP over the years, I’m inclined to believe the worst. But whether or not this story pans out, the lesson remains the same: Passcode-protect everything and never, ever give the authorities access to your cell phone without a court order.
And fight one of those like crazy, too.
The Quality of Life (QOL) Sensor sits by a user’s bedside and monitors body movements, heart rate and breathing via radio waves. The non-contact unit then sends the data it gathers to cloud-based servers for analysis. Users can then access results that show their sleep and fatigue levels.
The system will also automatically make recommendations such as getting more exercise or changing one’s diet. The information would be made available on “smart devices,” Nintendo said, without elaborating whether that would include smartphones. However, dedicated video game systems could also be used to improve users’ quality of life, it said.
Nintendo really blew it with the Wii U — so badly that it looks to me like it might be the company’s last living room console. So it makes sense that Nintendo would branch out into new markets. But until they reveal more about how QOL works and exactly what it does, and if they can beat a whole host of similar Android and iOS devices to market, it’s impossible to know if they have anything unique or timely to offer.
“You could tell straight away it wasn’t a real tiger,” says Andrew Holland, describing a video sent to him of a man in a tiger suit having sex with a woman. “Right from the word go, the tiger was talking.”
Unfortunately for Andrew, a 51-year-old bus driver from Wrexham, North Wales, police and prosecutors didn’t pick up on this subtle clue. Instead, they claimed the video was of a woman having sex with a real tiger (again, it was not a real tiger; it was a human man dressed as a tiger) and charged Andrew with possession of extreme pornography.
As he was the first person to fall foul of this offense under the recently amended Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, prosecutors were determined to make an example of him. That, coupled with the fact that “MAN FOUND WITH TIGER PORN” is a very clickable headline, effectively meant Andrew’s life was ruined from the second he was taken into custody.
He pleaded innocence, telling police, “It was a joke; my mate sent it to me. It’s not a real tiger—real tigers don’t say, ‘That was grrrreat.’”
Andrew has faced two sets of charges, “lost his job, suffered a heart attack, and, after being branded a pedophile, been physically assaulted several times.”
These are Heinlein’s Crazy Years; we just live in them.
Las Vegas resident Damien D. Robins, who was being held in Henderson Detention Center, is facing six counts of attempted murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon. Police said the attacks occurred in the span of an hour in Boulder City and Henderson.
None of the injuries were considered life-threatening, police said.
The spree started about 8 p.m. when Robins attacked a woman in a car with a hammer in a convenience store parking lot in Boulder City. Police said he later attacked two older people at an auto parts store parking lot.
Robins ran a driver off the road on U.S. Highway 93 and then struck the driver several times with the hammer, police said. He drove off and did the same thing to another driver, they said.
You know you’re not supposed to do that, right?
It seems so simple: Plug your credit card information into your smartphone, which anonymizes your data, then uses your thumbprint and a “tap” at the register to authorize retail purchases. This should be win-win-win. You get added security and convenience, retailers get simplified payments, and banks get extra protection from fraud.
So why did drug store giants CVS and Rite Aid block Apple Pay (along with Google Wallet and Softcard) over the weekend? Here’s the story:
Objections to Apple Pay aren’t actually about convenience, reliability, or security—they are about a burgeoning war between a consortium of merchants, led by Walmart (WMT), and the credit card companies. Rite Aid, CVS, Walmart, Best Buy (BBY), and about 50 other retailers have been working on their own mobile payments system, called CurrentC. Unlike Apple Pay, which works in conjunction with Visa (V), MasterCard (MA), and American Express (AXP), CurrentC cuts out the credit card networks altogether. The benefit to the merchants is clear: They would save the swipe fees they now pay to the credit card companies, which average about 2 percent of the cost of transactions.
I feel for the CurrentC coalition on this one, since that 2% which is currently going to the giant ATM-issuing banks could easily double some of their retail profit margins. Retailing is a tough business even in the best of times, and these are certainly not the best of times.
Apple had this to say:
The feedback we are getting from customers and retailers about Apple Pay is overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. We are working to get as many merchants as possible to support this convenient, secure and private payment option for consumers. Many retailers have already seen the benefits and are delighting their customers at over 220,000 locations.
Somebody was going to put all the pieces of smartphone payments together. Google has been trying valiantly, but Android fragmentation hasn’t helped them, nor has Android’s main customer base of owners who use their Android smartphones merely as really nice feature phones — they just aren’t the vanguard users to establish new technology. Apple probably has a better shot at this, with a generally tech-savvier user base and with all those credit card companies on board, too.
The CurrentC coalition has… well, let’s just say I follow this stuff for a living, and this is only the second or third time I’ve read anything about CurrentC. And this time, they’re making what looks like a desperation play of blocking the competition, without having their own system ready to go as a real competitor. In fact, CurrentC looks like it’s too convoluted to ever catch on.
Coming on the 50th anniversary of Bewitched‘s debut, the new version is a reimagining of the original series two generations later. It centers on Daphne — Samantha’s granddaughter and Tabitha’s daughter — a single twenty-something witch, who has always used her magical powers to conjure herself the perfect life. But she soon realizes that the one thing she cannot conjure and control is the one thing she wants most – real love.
Enough reboots and re-imaginings and re-dos already.
There’s (almost) an app for that:
I’ve seen the future and it is math less and it is awesome and it is this PhotoMath app that solves math problems just by pointing your phone’s camera at them. It’s like a cross between a text reading camera, a supremely sophisticated calculator and well, the future. Point and solve and never do math again.
Apple’s results conference call on Monday revealed another record-breaking quarter with record-breaking iPhone and Mac sales, but iPad sales were down for the third straight quarter, and down Q2Q from a a year ago. Steve Jobs famously predicted that PCs were like trucks, tablets were like cars, and most people really only needed a car. Pros, he said, would keep using trucks for the heavy lifting, but the PC era was supposed to be over.
Microsoft can’t get anywhere with the Surface, and judging by app sales and web usage stats, the vast majority of el cheapo Android tablets go unused and unloved.
So is the tablet era over before it ever began?
Hard to say. iPad still generates huge profits, back to third behind Mac sales, with tens of millions sold each year. And the company is now taking a radical (for Apple) approach to the tablet market.
Previously, Apple sold only the new model of the full-size iPad, plus last year’s model at a discount and at a single memory tier. They then added the iPad mini to the lineup. A year later when the new iPad mini was introduced, the old model continued to sell, again at a discount and again at a single memory tier. That reduced shopping confusion for consumers and helped Apple keep their SKU count low. (“Steve hates SKUs,” I once joked.) Under the Old Regime, tablet prices started at $299 for last year’s iPad mini with minimal memory, and topped out at $929 for a maxed-out 128GB iPad Air.
Now things have changed. A lot.
The two-year-old original iPad mini is still for sale, now with two memory tiers to choose from, with the starting price reduced even further. Last year’s mini (with Retina Display) is also still on sale, at the usual $100 discount, and also with two memory tiers. The new iPad mini is at the usual price, and with the usual three memory tiers — but the top two tiers offer twice as much memory as before.
The iPad Air has gotten a similar treatment. Last year’s model? Two tiers, $100 off. This year’s model? Three tiers, with the top two tiers offering twice as much memory as before.
That’s a lot more choice than Apple usually offers in its consumer range.
The buy-in price for an iPad is now just $249 for a 16GB iPad mini. That’s $50 less than Apple has ever charged to let you into their ecosystem. But the top-end price for a new-generation 128GB iPad Air has dropped from $929 to $829. The product range has expanded from four two five, but the pricing scheme has both dropped and compressed. So prices are down, value is up, and the product range has increased. As a shareholder, I’m also pleased that Apple has managed to do all that in a way which should protect its enviable profit margins.
Is it enough to boost sales again, or at least forestall further declines?
That’s the Big Unanswerable, but Apple’s new strategy shows they are nowhere close to giving up on the product category they redefined from Microsoft’s original vision of “Windows-with-a-stylus” to “the touch computer for anybody.”
Daily Mail reports that the image above is our best estimate of the true appearance of King Tut:
In the flesh, King Tut had buck teeth, a club foot and girlish hips, according to the most detailed examination ever of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh’s remains.
And rather than being a boy king with a love of chariot racing, Tut relied on walking sticks to get around during his rule in the 14th century BC, researchers said.
A ‘virtual autopsy’, composed of more than 2,000 computer scans, was carried out in tandem with a genetic analysis of Tutankhamun’s family, which supports evidence that his parents were brother and sister.
The scientists believe that this left him with physical impairments triggered by hormonal imbalances. And his family history could also have led to his premature death in his late teens.
On the plus side, he had a condo made of stone-a.
Is China attempting to phish iCloud users’ passwords? And note that I said “China,” as in the government, and not “Chinese hackers.” That’s what GreatFire claims:
According to the report, the government is using the institutional firewall to redirect traffic directed at iCloud.com to a fake page that resembles the iCloud.com interface almost perfectly.
Like other phishing attacks, this page is pretending to be Apple’s portal but instead intercepts entered usernames and passwords for other means. Although some browsers in China are set up to warn users about these kind of man-in-the-middle attacks, many don’t and (assumedly) many citizens disregard the warnings as the site appears quite genuine otherwise.
If true, the implications for Apple vis-a-vis Chinese relations are huge.
To say the least. I can think of any number of reasons why a Chinese citizen would want to keep the content of his texts and the history of his browsing safe from Beijing’s prying eyes.
How, The Atlantic asks, did Stalin become Stalin?
The article’s subhead reveals what even amateur students of history have long known. It reads, “Russian archives reveal that he was no madman, but a very smart and implacably rational ideologue.”
Anne Applebaum has done a job here which I can only describe as “typically damn good,” as I’ve long been a fan of her work. It’s good stuff; read it.
The only thing I could possibly add is my own wonderment that anyone still has any wonderment about supposed “madmen” achieving murderous pinnacles of power. Of course Stalin was an “implacably rational ideologue.” So was his stepfather, Lenin. So was their German cousin, Hitler. And their southeast Asian protege, Pol Pot. And Stalin’s peninsular nephew, Kim-il Sung.
I could go on, but I trust you got the idea years before I started typing these words.
Demented madmen rarely — ever? — achieve heights of power. We might call them, the Stalins and the Lenins and the Hitlers, “demented.” We might wish they were madman.
But no. They were implacably rational. They were ideologues. And they had the tools of all-powerful states at their disposal.
And that is why our Founders saw fit to cobble the State, so that implacably rational ideologues might never grab ahold of all-powerful levers.
Here it is: John Siracusa’s bathysphere-deep review of OS X Yosemite. For rabid Mac lovers, skip my mini review and delve into all 25 pages of his. As always, he’s amazing.
My initial impression is twofold, the new features and the new look. Everything feels snappier, or at least as snappy as before. The new “Handoff” feature, allowing me to pick up my work seamlessly as I move from Mac to iPhone to iPad and back throughout the day — this is Mac crack, is what it is. The Spotlight search tool is now out of its upper-right-corner ghetto and is a fully-integrated experience. Moving search to front-and-center is long overdo, but it was worth the wait. I can’t say more yet, because I haven’t really had a chance to dig into Yosemite yet. For that stuff, go see Siracusa.
I love the new look, other than a few minor quibbles. That new Share button for instance looks just as ill-conceived and badly-proportioned in iOS as it has for the last year in OSX. Feh. And the Safari menu bar… it’s cohesive, but the Extensions buttons should be slightly smaller than the URL bar, for differentiation and ease of navigation. I’m also no fan of truncated URLs in the URL bar, but that’s the direction every major browser is taking. It doesn’t make much difference to people who just browse, but for those of us who live and work and practically breathe in our web browsers, it hides information we need to see at a glance. We can only hope it’s a short-lived trend.
Calendar got whacked, repeatedly, by the same Ugly Stick they used on the iOS version. There’s nothing wrong with the function, and there’s plenty right, too. But it’s just so eye-bleeding ugly that this might be when I finally upgrade to the much-beloved Fantastical.
And that’s about it for complaints.
My worries about transporting the iOS7/8 look to OS X were ill-founded. What could often seem busy and crowded on my tiny iPhone screen looks big, bold, clean, and most of all fresh on a 24″ screen. I get the feeling that the new look was designed with desktop screens and with the bigger iPhone 6-series screens in mind.
The new dock and its app icons are so clear and easy to read, that I was able to comfortably shrink it to a significant degree on my 24″ desktop display, freeing up valuable real estate. The same was not true on the 13″ display on my laptop.
I plan on writing up my industry-wide observations about the do’s and don’ts of translucencies at a later date.
Quibbles and minor complaint aside though, in the end I have to tell you that the new bells & whistles, and the low, low price of $0 make Yosemite an irresistible upgrade.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go ring my new bells and blow my new whistles a bit more.
UPDATE: Digging through Safari’s settings, I discovered you can force it to reveal full URLs in the URL bar. That removes my only functional complaint about the new version of the browser.