Category Archives: Technology and Society

Fighting Fakes

Alan Boyle has a post on the current state of the art in detecting fauxtography. As the researcher notes, this will always be an arms race. With molecular manufacturing, it’s going to become possible to create copies of art that is indistinguishable from the original. I also think that it will mean an end to cash, because it won’t be possible to create uncounterfeitable currency.


Mystery Meat.

One technical challenge: Muscle tissue that has never been flexed is a gooey mass, unlike the grained texture of meat from an animal that once lived. The solution is to stretch the tissue mechanically, growing cells on a scaffold that expands and contracts. This would allow factories to tone the flaccid flesh with a controlled workout.

Tell Us How You Really Feel

I’m not sure–it’s kind of subtle, but I think that this is a guy who really hates Macs:

I hate Macs. I have always hated Macs. I hate people who use Macs. I even hate people who don’t use Macs but sometimes wish they did. Macs are glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults; computers for scaredy cats too nervous to learn how proper computers work; computers for people who earnestly believe in feng shui.

PCs are the ramshackle computers of the people. You can build your own from scratch, then customise it into oblivion. Sometimes you have to slap it to make it work properly, just like the Tardis (Doctor Who, incidentally, would definitely use a PC). PCs have charm; Macs ooze pretension. When I sit down to use a Mac, the first thing I think is, “I hate Macs”, and then I think, “Why has this rubbish aspirational ornament only got one mouse button?” Losing that second mouse button feels like losing a limb. If the ads were really honest, Webb would be standing there with one arm, struggling to open a packet of peanuts while Mitchell effortlessly tore his apart with both hands. But then, if the ads were really honest, Webb would be dressed in unbelievably po-faced avant-garde clothing with a gigantic glowing apple on his back. And instead of conducting a proper conversation, he would be repeatedly congratulating himself for looking so cool, and banging on about how he was going to use his new laptop to write a novel, without ever getting round to doing it, like a mediocre idiot.

Life Despiced

One can look at the radar for south Florida, and see that we’ve had our rain for the next few days.

As time goes on, uncertainty (at least about things amenable to modeling and based on solid laws of physics) is reduced yearly.

Economically, it’s a good thing to know that there’s no rain in the next few days. It makes it easier to plan irrigation, boat outings, etc. And that’s a good thing, and one not to want to end.

But still, there’s a nostalgia (at least for those, like many of my generation, who remember the uncertainty) of not knowing what was to come next. To anticipate the unanticipatible. While the gain is better than the loss, the loss remains.

Not A Dog

There’s an old saying that, on the Internet, no one can tell you’re a dog. It turns out that that’s probably not true. In fact, anonymity is going to be getting hard with this kind of analysis.

…differences remain in the way that people tap out their electronic secrets. Internet users have characteristic patterns of how they time their keystrokes, browse Web sites, and write messages for posting on online bulletin boards. Scientists are learning to use these typeprints, clickprints, and writeprints, respectively, as digital forms of fingerprints.

While the aims of this research are to strengthen password security, reduce online fraud, identify online pornographers, and catch terrorists, the technology is raising some troubling possibilities. “It’s a bit scary,” says Jaideep Srivastava, a Web researcher at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “The privacy implications are huge.”

[Via Geek Press]

Let Email Be Email

I’ve also noticed the huge increase in image spam for stock scams. The solution to this seems pretty simple to me. Just block any email with an image in it.

Sure, a lot of people who like to flood their friends’ mailboxes with pictures of cute puppies will whine, but is this really a critical need for email? Much of the evil of spam is enabled by the bloat that emails have become in recent years, with HTML and embedded graphics (just one more bit of proof that Microsoft is evil).

Just say no, mail servers, and go back to ascii. And for users, if you want to show someone a picture, send them a link, or attach it.

Molecular Machinery

Behold: molecules that can walk and deliver payloads in a straight line. This could lead to some interesting breakthroughs.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here are some interesting pictures of semi-conductor junctions and charge carriers, at the nano-scale:

“There’s no major surprises here,” says Andreas Heinrich of IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California. “But the fact that they are actually imaging the electric properties is a big step forward.” Surprises may show up when de-vices shrink below around 50 nanometers, Heinrich says, because dopant atoms will be so scarce that their individual positions may affect the de-vice’s function. Tomihiro Hashizume of Hitachi’s Advanced Research Laboratory in Hatoyama, Japan, says the ability to see precisely how charge carriers move “will be indispensable for the further progress of de-vice miniaturization.”

[Update a little after 11 Eastern]

A surgical microbot.

The scientists are designing the 250-micron de-vice to transmit images and deliver microscopic payloads to parts of the body outside the reach of existing catheter technology.

It will also perform minimally invasive microsurgeries, said James Friend of the Micro/Nanophysics Research Laboratory at Australia’s Monash University, who leads the team. The researchers hope the de-vice will reduce the risks normally associated with delicate surgical procedures.

The piezoelectric approach seems promising.

How much further behind will be nanobots?