A reason to stay up

At the Christian Science Monitor, scientists are using tonight's eclipse to get a better idea of how light from an earthlike planet (like Earth!) would look to spectrum analysts (like us!). 
Lunar eclipse tonight: How it helps the search for extraterrestrial life
Over the past two years, two teams of astronomers have been using this effect to figure out what Earth might look like as a distant, extrasolar planet orbiting another star. By analyzing the light reflected off the moon during a lunar eclipse – light that has passed through Earth's atmosphere – they have detected gases in the atmosphere that indicate the presence of organic life on the planet.
If the teams' baby steps are any indication, the techniques they are developing may be able to detect evidence of organic life imprinted in an extrasolar planet's atmosphere – at least for rocky, Earth-mass planets orbiting stars relatively close to the sun – using large Earthbound telescopes.
"It's an exciting experiment – one of the few I've seen that I wish I'd thought of myself," says Sara Seager [well lah dee dah! -J], a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies exoplanets and their atmospheres and who was not involved in either project.
"The Earth is our best laboratory; it's the only planet we know of with life," she says. "So we really want to understand what Earth would look like as an exoplanet far away."
Less seriously, I'd also like to point another possibility that served as a premise of a recent Iain Banks novel: Aliens might come to earth to see the eclipse. 

One of earth's unusual features (we think) is the relative size of and distance to our moon. It is astronomically unlikely to have a huge moon perfectly positioned so that it has the same apparent size in the two-dimensional sky. Other planets don't have moons that can create total solar eclipses, where the corona of the sun shines around the edge of the moon.

So if there were any reason for aliens to come to earth (and let's face it, they aren't interested in Dancing with the Stars) would be to see such an unusual natural wonder. 

Although this is just a lunar eclipse, it's still a sight. So look around. If you see some not-quite-right-looking folks staring at the sky, introduce yourself. You might make some new alien friends. 


For our 2300th post, allow me to introduce

... the future. Holy shit!

I've got this in my pocket right now, and it works as advertised.


Go now and ponder

"Yet the Journal neglected a more important point: There's nothing forcing Apple to manufacture the iPhone abroad. The ADBI researchers estimate that Apple's gross profit margin on iPhones in 2009 was a whopping 64 percent. This leads them to conclude that "profit maximization behavior," and not competition, is what's driving Apple to China. In other words, Apple would rather make a little bit more money than employ more Americans."

via MoJo


How to start a movement and influence people

Over at Neal's Fireside chat, we have this excerpt from John Michael Greer:

The most common source of trouble when a social movement succeeds in entering the collective conversation of politics is the lack of any constructive plan... [upon gaining] access to the halls of power, [the movement] lowers its sights to target only that set of goals it can reach consensus on, and thinks it can get from whichever subset of the political class is currently in charge.
That’s a fatal mistake, in two mutually reinforcing ways. First, it allows the... political class that’s currently in charge to turn the movement into a wholly owned subsidiary, by giving just enough scraps to the movement to keep it hankering for more, while dangling the whole package just out of reach before the movement’s eager eyes.
That’s how the Democrats turned the environmental movement (among others) into one of their captive constituencies, for example, and it’s also how the Republicans turned gun owners (among others) into one of their captive constituencies – and you’ll notice that neither movement, nor any of the other movements thus co-opted, have ever managed to get more than a few token scraps of its shopping list out of the process.
The second difficulty is the natural result of the first. Once a movement is turned into a wholly owned subsidiary of one end of the political class, it can count on losing any chance of getting anything once the other end of the political class gets into power, as will inevitably happen.
The result is an elegant good cop-bad cop routine; each party can reliably panic its captive constituencies every four years by saying, in effect, “Well, granted, we haven’t done a thing for you in years, but think of how much worse it will be if those awful (fill in the blank)s get into power!” 
Those who swallow this line can count on watching their movement sink into a kind of political zombiehood in which, whatever its official goals, the only real function remaining to it is to get out the vote for one or the other set of mutually interchangeable candidates come Election Day.
Combine these two difficulties and you get the graveyard that’s swallowed most movements for change in America in the last half century.
I think this nails the examples of movements that are cited, but what about movements that are more successful and less successful? To wit,

  • Equal rights for African Americans (starting with ending slavery under the Republicans and ending (for the sake of discussion) with the Civil Rights acts passed by Democrats)
  • Equal rights for women
  • Equal rights for homosexuals
  • Social justice for the poor
  • The anti-war movement (w/r/t Iraq and Afghanistan)

In different ways for each, the proposed explanation doesn't add up.


If their general demeanor to date wasn't enough to make you hate the Gawker empire, now there's this.

They thumbed their nose at the hacking community, and got hacked. They didn't realize they got hacked for a month, despite some pretty clear warning signs. And when they found out, they didn't worry about it, because it seemed like only their users, "the peasants" were affected. Classy.

Forbes does a very nice sum up slash take down, and says,
And when they have finished hiring a real security person and drafting an incident response plan, they can create a password composition and management policy, a policy on not writing passwords in chat logs, a patch management policy, and maybe for kicks a policy against bad mouthing their own users internally, users that they themselves put in harm’s way.



Leave the wiki out of the wikileaks [Updated]

Yglesias says,
I have mixed feelings about a lot of different aspects of this, but there are two key points. One is that the leaker here (presumably Bradley Manning, but that’s not yet been proven in a court of law) has broken the law and needs to be punished. The other is that the ability to republish leaked secrets is integral to the operation of a free press. Creating a new standard of harassing not leakers, but the publishers of leaks, is a very dangerous precedent whose implications go far beyond whatever you may think of the particular circumstances.
I think this is actually pretty well understood. Nobody's proposed any new legislation. The Department of Justice hasn't unveiled any actual charges against Assange or Wikileaks. And while it's very unseemly to see a United States Senator throwing his weight around to get Amazon, Twitter, etc. to drop Wikileaks, at the same time he is not getting the same info pulled from the New York Times.

So everyone instead wants to make this a story about the person of Julian Assange, or the technology of the Internet. (Verbally) attacking Assange is fine, but mostly irrelevant.

And over on the technological side, it's amazing how few people get it. I understand that most of the people I listen to on NPR or whose words I read in the paper are over 50, and probably do not think about the internet as much as I do. But take Josh Marshall, a youngish guy whose whole enterprise is built on the web. He writes:
Let's say that the Wikileaks cables hadn't been State Department cables but rather the final tracks of Lady Gaga's next album or perhaps each episode of next season's Mad Men? How long do you think they would have stayed online?
Say what? There's no difference. That content would have stayed online forever, as the wikileaks will. To miss this important point is to completely misunderstand the current state of the internet.

Wikileaks is alive and well. You can go there, you can donate to them if you so choose, and the "poison pill" insurance file is sitting on many servers around the world, waiting for you to pull it down to your hard drive.

So Joe Leiberman gets to look like a national-security tough guy by bullying Amazon. And it's distressing that Amazon, Twitter, Paypal, etc. have caved. But, in strictly technological terms, it doesn't matter. 

"You can't stop the internet, bitches." -Monkey

Updated Monday @ 10:30. This from the Guardian
Attempts to railroad WikiLeaks off the net quickly failed. Removing its hosting servers has increased WikiLeaks' ability to stay online. More than 1,300 volunteer "mirror" sites, including the French newspaper Libération, have already surfaced to store the classified cables. Within days the WikiLeaks web content had spread across so many enclaves of the internet it was immune to attack by any single legal authority. In some respects, WikiLeaks has never been safer or as aggressively defended.


Check what China is up to

There's some hot shit in this wikileaked cables!
Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak ... was designed to be a controlled nuclear fusion tokamark reactor with superconductive toroidal and poloidal field magnets and a D-shaped cross-section. One of the experimental goals of this device was to prove that a nuclear fusion reaction can be sustained indefinitely, at high enough temperatures, to produce energy in a cost-effective way. In 2009, IIP successfully maintained a 10 million degree Celsius plasma nuclear fusion reaction for 400 seconds. IIP also successfully maintained a 100 million degree Celsius plasma nuclear fusion reaction for 60 seconds. ...
The Chinese Academy of Science ... has developed a biometrics device that uses a person’s pace to identify them.  The device measure weight and two-dimensional sheer forces applied by a person’s foot during walking to create a uniquely identifiable biometrics profile. The device can be covertly installed in a floor and is able to collect ... biometrics data on individuals covertly without their knowledge. When questioned about the device’s potential applications, IIM officials stated the device was being used by “secret” customers and was not available on the commercial market. ...
Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Science at the Microscale (HFNL). HFNL has 95 faculty members and roughly 400 graduate students. HFNL research focuses on quantum communication, nanoscience, superconductors, spintronics, and cognitive sciences. In the area of quantum communication, HFNL was conducting research in quantum teleportation and free space quantum cryptography that scientists hope will result in “totally secure” communications. USTC also oversees China’s “Program 178,” although they did not describe the nature of this program. (COMMENT: A cursory walk through their labs seemed to indicate they had already succeeded in single-particle quantum teleportation and are now trying to conduct dual-particle quantum teleportation. END COMMENT)

via wikileaks | img


Can anyone explain how this happens?

In what amounts to an epic constitutionality #fail, Senate Democrats may have blown their chances to see their food safety bill signed into law.
The U.S. constitution requires that any revenue-raising bill must originate in the House of Representatives. To honor this provision, the Senate often finds a discarded old House bill, strips it bare, and uses it as a "shell" and passes it back to the House.
They somehow forgot to do that this time.
According to Hoyer, this has happened multiple times this Congress, causing severe legislative angina.


A game for you to play

Loondon. It's not hard, just point and click. Because politics is really depressing today.

eXTReMe Tracker