A whirlwind recap of the links that piled up in my blogfodder folder.

05 April 2008

Medical doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital have discovered that hydrogen sulfide gas can cause the metabolic processes of mammalian cells to drop drastically, thus approximating a state of suspended animation. By breathing a low concentration of the gas the heart rates of experimental animals plummeted rapidly without a corresponding drop in blood pressure or the need for refrigeration; moreover, the state appears to be reversible. This means that the organism requires less oxygen in the depressed state, which means that cells remain viable much longer. The surgical applications should be obvious.

The Internet Storm Center reported not too long ago that a new form of malware has been released on the Net. Rather than sending spam, or being used to packet storm networks into oblivion it it searches the machine it's infected for PGP keyrings, which are then transmitted overseas as well as installing a keylogger that could record the passphrase to unlock the private keys. Net result: An attacker could impersonate you by forging digital signatures and decrypting files and messages sent to the real owner of the keyrings. As cryptographers have known for years, if you can't attack the cryptosystem, attack the people using it because they're less resilient. At least the attack doesn't involve trips to Guantanamo Bay or having bits of your body struck with a telephone book.

Holy crap: Light-up mechanical wings as fashion accessory. Their price starts at $1kus, but when you factor in the facts that they're built out of laminated carbon fibre, extruded aluminum, and use compressed air to extend and retract the six foot wingspan (a small electric pump is used to recharge the compressed air reservoir) the cost makes sense.

Late last year I covered a series of police investigations about SWATting, a nasty prank pulled by modern phone phreaks in which telephone calls to local 911 are spoofed; the calls are generally about false crimes of a magnitude which requires the presence of a SWAT team, hence the name. Whenever someone gets SWATted it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that all hell will break loose at the house in question because SWAT teams give no quarter nor take one - that's their job. Not too long ago, however, one Randal Ellis of Mulkiteo, Washington plead guilty to computer access fraud, false imprisonment by violence (i.e., the SWAT team), falsely reporting a crime, and assault with a firearm due to taking part in SWATting. Ellis was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine in excess of $14kus.

Last and not least, dental science may have discovered a way to regenerate tooth enamel in humans, which would hopefully render fillings obsolete. Enamel and dentin are some of the strongest materials in the human body, which is also why they're the trickiest to work with. The structure of a tooth is far more complex than high school health class would have you believe: Enamel has a unique crystalline structure that makes it very hard, and dentin can be compared to a very dense, hard clay with fibers of collagen running through it. However, both are suceptible to weak acids, such as those secreted by the bacteria living in one's mouth as a byproduct of metabolism. Laboratory tests have been able to remineralize parts of teeth after they've been cleaned of bacteria and decay, but the process probably won't be practical for another decade or so. Still we (meaning, people with teeth as bad or worse than mine) can hope...