I've posted previously about Reuben Margolin's beautiful large kinetic wave sculptures. Inspired by Margolin's work, Dean O'Callaghan created this exquisite tabletop hand-crank automata mimicking the ripple effect of a droplet falling into water. (Thanks, Jean Hagan!)
I was digging through the stacks of used science fiction at San Francisco's Green Apple bookstore when I came across this absolute gem, H. Beam Piper's The Cosmic Computer. Falling into Piper's Terran Federation universe, The Cosmic Computer tells the story of life at the edges of mankind's crumbling galactic society.
Conn Maxwell is a smart kid who gets sent to Earth for some learning. His backwards home-world, Poictesme, is nothing but grapes, distilleries and a mountain of left over war surpluss from the last big one. Folks on Poictesme are hoping he comes back with knowledge of MERLIN, a legendary war computer they believe can kickstart their economy. In typical H. Beam Piper fashion, Conn uses the hunt for the computer to do the kickstarting for them, but the mystery of MERLIN still looms...
I love finding great, old books like this for $1 or $2 used. Having them on the shelf is really nice however, a great thing about H. Beam Piper's work is that you can usually find it legally free on the net.
Previously on Boing Boing:
Glenn sez, "An Irish programmer started with a club in Cork to teach (at no cost) kids aged 5 to 17 how to program. It was such a hit that it's expanded to hundred of cities across 27 countries. CoderDojo has a template that includes self-directed learning with mentors on tap to help out. The notion is to provide kids a productive outlet. Among its successes is an average participation split about halfway between girls and boys in most chapters."
At 17, Whelton could also have become a black-hat hacker. He had gained some notoriety for hacking the latest iPod Nano and came into contact with other hackers. “I fell into a few of the chatrooms and forums talking to people with botnets of over 20,000 computers,” says Whelton. “I almost went down a bad path.”
“Someone offered me $50 to create a fake PayPal login page which would send the name and password to them. I couldn’t bring myself to send it,” he says. “When you get into those circles nothing that you do in real life matters to your social status. Hacking or defacing stuff is what you do to build up a name, particularly when you have no other outlets.”
“The technology world is a bit crazy with vanity metrics,” says Whelton. “We are interested in impact metrics: kids that are doing interesting stuff, kids who are finding new solutions to problems. The kids who eventually come out will be kids who can program, but with a social conscience.”
Small Instruction Set [Ciara Byrne/Medium]
Matthew Ingram talks to Reddit GM Erik Martin about the site's plans to build out crowdsourced reporting features—and how it will guard them against misuse and chaos. Martin admitted the moderator system is flawed in some ways, or at least could be improved — by making it easier for users to switch from one sub-Reddit to another, for example — but he also argued that the democratic (some would anarchic) approach the site takes to virtually everything has positive impacts. Someone once asked who created a specific sub-Reddit, and Martin said he had to admit “I have no idea, someone just came along and did it… the fact that it even works at all, when you think about it, is just crazy. It shouldn’t work, but it does.”
Reddit's crowdsourced reporting threads are often the best places to find real-time aggregation of breaking news. But the screw-ups can't be dismissed glibly. If Reddit took a little more responsibility for the major subreddits (the ones that it promotes to the general public as central sections of the site, such as r/news) and applied a more policy-driven approach to how they're run, it would be much easier to communicate the implicit distinctions here between moderation and anarchy (i.e., journalism and histrionics).
Jason & Farah, cognitive science postdocs at Washington University, write, "We humans have always used our surroundings to extend our memory. But is the technology of today enhancing human memory, or replacing it? Help us do the research! We plan to gather survey data and run Internet-based psychology experiments to find out: How are people currently using technology for memory purposes? How well do people understand the technology and their reliance on it? Are there ways to improve the interplay between technology and human memory?"
We need the public to help enable this timely research! Any amount helps (yes even $1!), and backers will have exclusive access to our lab notes and data analyses as the research occurs. Turbo-bonus rewards for larger donations!
We're participating in the 4th SciFund Challenge, a crowd-funding event for scientific research.
Glyn sez, "UK Deputy PM Nick Clegg has commissioned a review into the new intrusive capabilities of British intelligence agencies and the legal framework in which they operate."
He warns: "It is not enough for the agencies to claim that they accurately interpret the correct balance between privacy and national security; they must be seen to do so, and that means strong, exacting third-party oversight."
The independent review, to be led by the intelligence and military thinktank the Royal United Services Institute, will look at the proportionality of the data gathered for surveillance purposes and the legal framework in which this happens.
The review, to be chaired by Rusi's director general, Michael Clarke, is in part modelled on the work commissioned in January by Obama from John Podesta, Bill Clinton's former chief of staff, into big data and privacy. Clegg says the aim of the review, due to report after the general election, will be to bring the issue into the mainstream of public debate, noting the "quality of the debate in the US provides an unflattering contrast to the muted debate on this side of the Atlantic".
Nick Clegg orders review into data gathering by spy agencies [Patrick Wintour/The Guardian]
Patrick Rock, a Thatcherite who served as special advisor to UK Prime Minister David Cameron and played an influential role in the Prime Minister's national Internet censorship plan, has been arrested for possession of images depicting the sexual abuse of children. The National Crime Agency is conducting forensic analysis of the computer networks at the Prime Minister's office/residence, Number 10 Downing Street.
The Prime Minister brought him into Downing Street in 2011 to work in the Number 10 policy unit. He took responsibility for home affairs issues and was among officials who were involved in drawing up controls against internet images of child abuse.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “On the evening of February 12, Downing Street was first made aware of a potential offence relating to child abuse imagery. It was immediately referred to the National Crime Agency.
'The Prime Minister was immediately informed and kept updated throughout. Patrick Rock was arrested at his home in the early hours of February 13, a few hours after Downing Street had reported the matter.
'Subsequently, we arranged for officers to come into No 10 and have access to all IT systems and offices they considered relevant.
Senior Tory adviser Patrick Rock arrested on child pornography allegations [Nigel Morris/The Independent]
(via Super Punch)
Here's a reading (MP3) of my latest Locus column, Cold Equations and Moral Hazard which considers the way that science fiction can manipulate our ideas about the technical necessity for human misery, and how that narrative can be hijacked for self-serving ends.
Apparently, editor John W. Campbell sent back three rewrites in which the pilot figured out how to save the girl. He was adamant that the universe must punish the girl.
The universe wasn’t punishing the girl, though. Godwin was – and so was Barton (albeit reluctantly).
The parameters of ‘‘The Cold Equations’’ are not the inescapable laws of physics. Zoom out beyond the page’s edges and you’ll find the author’s hands carefully arranging the scenery so that the plague, the world, the fuel, the girl and the pilot are all poised to inevitably lead to her execution. The author, not the girl, decided that there was no autopilot that could land the ship without the pilot. The author decided that the plague was fatal to all concerned, and that the vaccine needed to be delivered within a timeframe that could only be attained through the execution of the stowaway.
It is, then, a contrivance. A circumstance engineered for a justifiable murder. An elaborate shell game that makes the poor pilot – and the company he serves – into victims every bit as much as the dead girl is a victim, forced by circumstance and girlish naïveté to stain their souls with murder.
Moral hazard is the economist’s term for a rule that encourages people to behave badly. For example, a rule that says that you’re not liable for your factory’s pollution if you don’t know about it encourages factory owners to totally ignore their effluent pipes – it turns willful ignorance into a profitable strategy.
Mastering by John Taylor Williams: email@example.com
John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."
Maciej Cegłowski's Webstock 2014 talk is called OUR COMRADE THE ELECTRON, and it's an inspired rant about the relationship of technology to power and coercion. It asserts that the decentralizing of power attended by the growth of technology in the 1990s was a blip, and that the trend of technology will be to further centralization.
I disagree. I think that Cegłowski has conflated "technology" with "technology under neoliberalism" -- that the concentration of technology since the 1990s coincides with the creation of like the WTO and the abolition of things like the Glass–Steagall Act, and the overall concentration of wealth and power into fewer hands. Technology is related to centralized power, but it is not entirely the cause of it -- rather it is in a feedback loop with it, and the two fuel each other.
For me, the interesting question isn't "does technology centralize or doesn't it?" We've seen technology do both. For me, the interesting question is, "How can we make technology into a force for decentralization?"
There's a long-held view of the world that breaks it into "artsies and techies" -- the two cultures. From where I sit, though, the two cultures are "people who believe in finance" and "people who think finance is a corrupt and corrupting force in the world." All the interesting nerds I know make art, and all the interesting artists I know nerd out on technology. But the one thing that seems to separate us into two camps is whether we think the world of finance is a giant con game or a legit enterprise.
In the 90's, it looked like the Internet might be an exception, that it could be a decentralizing, democratizing force. No one controlled it, no one designed it, it was just kind of assembling itself in an appealing, anarchic way. The companies that first tried to centralize the Internet, like AOL and Microsoft, failed risibly. And open source looked ready to slay any dragon.
But those days are gone. We've centralized the bejesus out of the Internet now. There's one search engine (plus the one no one uses), one social network (plus the one no one uses), one Twitter. We use one ad network, one analytics suite. Anywhere you look online, one or two giant American companies utterly dominate the field.
And there's the cloud. What a brilliant name! The cloud is the future of online computing, a friendly, fluffy abstraction that we will all ascend into, swaddled in light. But really the cloud is just a large mess of servers somewhere, the property of one American company (plus the clouds no one uses).
Orwell imagined a world with a telescreen in every room, always on, always connected, always monitored. An Xbox One vision of dystopia.
But we've done him one better. Nearly everyone here carries in their pocket a tracking device that knows where you are, who you talk to, what you look at, all these intimate details of your life, and sedulously reports them to private servers where the data is stored in perpetuity.
danah boyd has posted a free PDF of the full text of her must-read book It's Complicated, the best book about young people and the Internet I've read to date. boyd hopes you'll enjoy the book and then support her and her publisher by buying a copy, sending a signal "that this book is important, that the message in the book is valuable."
The bestseller aspect of this is the part that I struggle with the most. I don’t actually care whether or not my book _sells_ a lot; I care whether or not it’s _read_ a lot. But there’s no bestread-ed list (except maybe Goodreads). And while many books that are widely sold aren’t widely read, most books that are widely read are widely sold. My desire to be widely read is why I wanted to make the book freely available from the getgo. I get that not everyone can afford to buy the book. I get that it’s not available in certain countries. I get that people want to check it out first. I get that we haven’t figured out how to implement ‘grep’ in physical books. So I really truly get the importance of making the book accessible.
But what I started to realize is that when people purchase the book, they signal to outside folks that the book is important. This is one of the reasons that I asked people who value this book to buy it. For them or for others. I love it when people buy the book and give it away to a poor grad student, struggling parent, or library. I don’t know if I’ll make any bestseller list, but the reason I decided to try is because sales rankings – especially in the first few weeks of a book’s life – really do help attract more attention which is key to getting the word out. And so I’ve begged and groveled, asking people to buy my book even though it makes me feel squeamish, solely because I know that the message that I want to offer is important. So, to be honest, if you are going to buy the book at some point, I’d really really appreciate it if you’d buy a copy. And sooner rather than later. Your purchasing decisions help me signal to the powers that be that this book is important, that the message in the book is valuable.
That said, if you don’t have the resources or simply don’t want to, don’t buy it. I’m cool with that. I’m beyond delighted to give the book away for free to anyone who wants to read it, assign it in their classes, or otherwise engage with it. If you choose to download it, thank you! I’m glad you find it valuable!
If you feel like giving back, I have a request. Please help support all of the invisible people and organizations that helped get word of my book out there. I realize that there are folks out there who want to “support the author,” but my ask of you is to help me support the whole ecosystem that made this possible.
Exactly what it sounds like: 46 calories per 200ml.
Trend Micro’s security analysts have recently discovered that images of sunsets (and some cats) being shared on the Internet are carrying malware that can hack into bank accounts and begin drawing funds.
The ZBOT malware, detected as TSPY_ZBOT.TFZAH, downloads a JPEG file into the affected system without the user’s knowledge. The user does not even see this particular image, but if someone did happen to see it it would look like an ordinary photo. We encountered an image of a sunset, but other security researchers reported encountering a cat image. (This particular photo appears to have been lifted from popular photo-sharing sites, as it appears in these sites if you search for sunset.)
Using steganography, a list of banks and financial institutions that will be monitored is hidden inside the image. The list includes institutions from across the globe, particularly in Europe and the Middle East. Once the user visits any of the listed sites, the malware will proceed to steal information such as user credentials.
Christopher Budd, Trend Micro’s Global Threat Communications Manager, says, "If you receive an email with a colorful rainbow or cute kitty, don’t open it unless it is from a known party."