Putting Faraday shielding fabric to the test.

Last year at Thotcon the presenters were given what were purported to be faraday shielded backpacks - backpacks manufactured with fabric woven out of very fine conductive wires that are said to reflect radio frequency signals inside and outside.  The idea is that if you have a cellphone and you put it inside the bag, you could be sure that the phone was not talking to any cell towers so it would be harder to track the person carrying the phone, as well as preventing any malware that may have been installed from phoning home.  So the reasoning goes, even if …

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Drug-resistent yeast, synthetic synapses on the nano scale, and memristor research.

For the last decade or so, bacteria that are immune to the effects of antibiotics have been a persistent and growing threat in medicine. Ultimately, the problem goes back to the antibiotic not being administered long enough to kill off the entire colony. The few survivors that managed to make it through the increasing toxicity of their environment because they either had a gene which rendered them immune (and the toxins released when the other bacteria died weren't enough to poison them) or assembled one and survived long enough to breed and pass the gene along to other bacteria. This …

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The history of software agents.

Building on top of my first post about software agents, I'd like to talk about the history of the technology in reasonable strokes. Not so broad that interesting details are lost (or misleading ones added) but not so narrow that we forget the forest while studying a single tree.

Anyway, software agents could be said to have their roots in UNIX daemons, dating back to the creation of UNIX at AT&T in the 1970's. On the big timesharing systems of the time, where multiple people could be logged into the same machine working simultaneously without stepping on one another …

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Hunt for the Higgs Boson not going well.

It seems that conflicting reports are making it difficult to determine if the Higgs-Boson has been found at last. The four experiments designed to find evidence of the existence of the Higgs boson and possibly solve the mystery of why baryonic matter has mass (an elementary and experimentally provable observation) are returning conflicting results. Two of the experiements in the United States have collected data suggesting that they may, in fact, have spotted the elusive and as-yet hypothetical particle. The other two... not so much.

I'm on crack.


Base image: Wikipedia
Trollface: OhInternet

Genetic origins of skin and lung cancer pinpointed.

It is common knowledge that many forms of cancer have environmental as well as genetic components: for skin cancer, overexposure to sunlight can trigger its development. Lung cancer, of course, is blamed on smoking for lengthy periods of time. However, sometimes the genetic component can express itself without external assistance. Thus, it is worth noting that the genetic mutations which cause these two afflictions have been pinpointed by geneticists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute of the United Kingdom. The errors are very specific and should be readily detectable with a genetic workup. Something which I find surprising is the …

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First solid-state quantum processor developed.

Quantum computing, thought by many to be the holy grail of information technology, is based upon one of the basic tenants of quantum mechanics: a particle, be it a photon, a hydrogen atom, or a molecule of water, exists in a multitude of states (location, spin, orientation, what have you) until you actually examine it, at which time the particle suddenly 'picks' a state and stays that way as long as you're watching.  At least that's the most commonly quoted interpretation of the math.  At Yale University a team of scientists has created the first purely electronic quantum processor and …

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OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator notes and roll-up post.

While reading the files in /usr/src/linux/Documentation/usb/ I got it in my head to see if anyone else had spent any time reverse engineering the OCZ NIA, or at least had figured out how to get output from it. I spent some time a couple of days ago playing with it on Windbringer (running Gentoo Linux and all I was able to determine in the short time I worked on it was that it successfully registers itself with the Linux kernel's USB subsystem as an USB Human Interface Device (heh). After collecting some information I put the …

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Not quite mind reading, not mind control the way people usually think of it, but significant nonetheless.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology biotech researchers have made progress on an area of prosthetics that most people don't think about because it's so obvious but is still very important nonetheless: The neural interface. Specifically, they've worked out an algorithm that converts patterns of chemoelectrical activity in the brain that signify intent of motion into commands for an external device. Current prosthetics aren't directly hooked into the central nervous system but the "network edge" of the peripheral nervous system via interface jacks connected to nerve endings. Let's be clear, interface jacks that accept only broad sorts of input, such …

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Genetically engineered 'queen' cancer cells.

Geneticists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new cell culturing medium that does something amazing: It allows human cells to transform into so-called 'queen' cancer cells, cancer cells that reproduce rapidly and produce mutants that become the actual tumours. Think of them as stem cells that specialize in producing cancers as we normally think of them. Not all malignant cells are capable of doing this, most just sit there and use up resources and oxygen and reproduce, but don't actually break off and spread to other parts of the body. This germ line of cells came about …

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Hacker researcher Bernhardt Lieberman has died.

About four years ago, a retired professor emeritus from the University of Pittsburgh named Bernhardt Lieberman was doing research on the hacker subculture. He interviewed a number of people in Pittsburgh (myself included at the time), and in 2004 attended the HOPE conference to interview another group of attendees about their lives, practices, education, and interests (computers and hacking aside).

I kept in touch with Bernhardt up until I left Pittsburgh in 2005, at which time I didn't have a net.connection for a couple of months. Life being what it is, I didn't actually get around to contacting him …

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