Ramblings & ephemera

Social software: 5 properties & 3 dynamics

From danah boyd’s “Social Media is Here to Stay… Now What?” at the Microsoft Research Tech Fest, Redmond, Washington (danah: 26 February 2009): Certain properties are core to social media in a combination that alters how people engage with one another. I want to discuss five properties of social media and three dynamics. These are […]

The future of security

From Bruce Schneier’s “Security in Ten Years” (Crypto-Gram: 15 December 2007): Bruce Schneier: … The nature of the attacks will be different: the targets, tactics and results. Security is both a trade-off and an arms race, a balance between attacker and defender, and changes in technology upset that balance. Technology might make one particular tactic […]

A one-way ticket to crazyville

Image by rsgranne via Flickr Image by rsgranne via Flickr Image by rsgranne via Flickr From Dave Alan’s “Interview with Alex Christopher” (Leading Edge Research Group: 1 June 1996): Legend: DA [Dave Alan, Host] AC: [Alex Christopher] C: [Caller] … (Note: according to former British Intelligence agent Dr. John Coleman, the London-based Wicca Mason lodges […]

A Russian man with perfect memory

From Jonah Lehrer’s “Hell is a Perfect Memory” (The Frontal Cortex: 2 December 2008): This isn’t the first case report of a person with perfect memory. In the masterful The Mind of A Mnemonist, the Soviet neurologist A.R. Luria documented the story of a Russian newspaper reporter, D.C. Shereshevskii, who was incapable of forgetting. For […]

A woman who never forgets anything

From Samiha Shafy’s “An Infinite Loop in the Brain” (Der Spiegel: 21 November 2008): Price can rattle off, without hesitation, what she saw and heard on almost any given date. She remembers many early childhood experiences and most of the days between the ages of 9 and 15. After that, there are virtually no gaps […]

Luddites and e-books

From Clay Shirky’s “The Siren Song of Luddism” (Britannica Blog: 19 June 2007): …any technology that fixes a problem … threatens the people who profit from the previous inefficiency. However, Gorman omits mentioning the Luddite response: an attempt to halt the spread of mechanical looms which, though beneficial to the general populace, threatened the livelihoods […]

Matching voters with their votes, thanks to voting machines

From Declan McCullagh’s “E-voting predicament: Not-so-secret ballots” (CNET News: 20 August 2007): Two Ohio activists have discovered that e-voting machines made by Election Systems and Software and used across the country produce time-stamped paper trails that permit the reconstruction of an election’s results — including allowing voter names to be matched to their actual votes. […]

10,000 hours to reach expertise

From Malcolm Gladwell’s “A gift or hard graft?” (The Guardian: 15 November 2008): This idea – that excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice – surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 […]

Spimes, objects trackable in space and time

From Bruce Sterling’s “Viridian Note 00459: Emerging Technology 2006” (The Viridian Design Movement: March 2006): When it comes to remote technical eventualities, you don’t want to freeze the language too early. Instead, you need some empirical evidence on the ground, some working prototypes, something commercial, governmental, academic or military…. Otherwise you are trying to freeze […]

It takes 10 years to develop expertise

From Peter Norvig’s “Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years” (2001): Researchers ([John R. Hayes, Complete Problem Solver (Lawrence Erlbaum) 1989.], [Benjamin Bloom (ed.), Developing Talent in Young People (Ballantine) 1985.]) have shown it takes about ten years to develop expertise in any of a wide variety of areas, including chess playing, music composition, painting, piano […]

The birth of Geology & gradualism as a paradigm shift from catastrophism

From Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Imagining Abrupt Climate Change : Terraforming Earth” (Amazon Shorts: 31 July 2005): This view, by the way, was in keeping with a larger and older paradigm called gradualism, the result of a dramatic and controversial paradigm shift of its own from the nineteenth century, one that is still a contested part […]

Why did it take so long for blogging to take off?

From Paul Graham’s “Hiring is Obsolete” (May 2005): Have you ever noticed that when animals are let out of cages, they don’t always realize at first that the door’s open? Often they have to be poked with a stick to get them out. Something similar happened with blogs. People could have been publishing online in […]

Cracking a wireless network in 3 minutes

From Feds Hack Wireless Network in 3 Minutes (Slashdot: 5 April 2005): At a recent ISSA (Information Systems Security Association) meeting in Los Angeles, a team of FBI agents demonstrated current WEP-cracking techniques and broke a 128 bit WEP key in about three minutes.

The math behind Flash Worms

From Stuart Staniford, David Moore, Vern Paxson, & Nicholas Weaver’s “The Top Speed of Flash Worms” [PDF] (29 October 2004): Flash worms follow a precomputed spread tree using prior knowledge of all systems vulnerable to the worm’s exploit. In previous work we suggested that a flash worm could saturate one million vulnerable hosts on the […]

An overview of Flash Worms

From Stuart Staniford, Gary Grim, & Roelof Jonkman’s “Flash Worms: Thirty Seconds to Infect the Internet” (Silicon Defense: 16 August 2001): In a recent very ingenious analysis, Nick Weaver at UC Berkeley proposed the possibility of a Warhol Worm that could spread across the Internet and infect all vulnerable servers in less than 15 minutes […]

Library book returned 92 years late

From AP’s “Borrowed books returned to museum — 92 years later” (CNN: 6 November 2000): The Field Museum of Natural History recently returned 10 volumes to the American Museum of Natural History in New York — 92 years late. It seems a researcher from the New York museum took the books with him when he […]

Your job? Waiting in line for others.

From Brian Montopoli’s “The Queue Crew: Waiting in line for a living” (Legal Affairs: January/February 2004): ON CAPITOL HILL, a placeholder is someone paid by the hour to wait in line. When legislative committees hold hearings, they reserve seats for Congressional staffers, for the press, and for the general public. The general-public seats are the […]

The 80/20 rule

From F. John Reh’s “How the 80/20 rule can help you be more effective” (About.com): In 1906, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto created a mathematical formula to describe the unequal distribution of wealth in his country, observing that twenty percent of the people owned eighty percent of the wealth. In the late 1940s, Dr. Joseph M. […]

The difficulties in establishing time of death

From Jessica Sachs’s “Expiration Date” (Legal Affairs: March/April 2004): More than two centuries of earnest scientific research have tried to forge better clocks based on rigor, algor, and livor mortis – the progressive phenomena of postmortem muscle stiffening, body cooling, and blood pooling. But instead of honing time-of-death estimates, this research has revealed their vagaries. […]

Windows Metafile vulnerability

From Noam Eppel’s “Security Absurdity: The Complete, Unquestionable, And Total Failure of Information Security“: On Dec. 27, 2005 a Windows Metafile (.WMF) flaw was discovered affecting fully patched versions of XP and Windows 2003 Web Server. Simply by viewing an image on a web site or in an email or sent via instant messenger, code […]