Category: Geek

A surgical glue that shuts down bleeding wounds in 60 seconds

The ability of mussels to stubbornly bind themselves to underwater surfaces has intrigued scientists for years. If this ability could be recreated in the lab, it could lead to new adhesives for all kinds of applications. A team of Korean scientists has now developed a surgical glue inspired by these natural wonders that’s claimed to be cheaper, more reliable and incur less scarring than existing solutions.

In surgery, stitches and staples are very effective at binding body tissue together, but they can cause scarring and aren’t always appropriate when treating more sensitive flesh and organs. These drawbacks have motivated the development of adhesives that are strong enough to hold tissue together in wet environments, and do so without inciting adverse chemical reactions…

Scientists at Pohang University of Science and Technology have a…solution…inspired by intersections of amino acids called tyrosines that can be found in dragonfly wings and insect cuticles. These are created by exposure to visible light, a process that boosts both their strength and stickiness.

The team found that when they took mussel proteins chock-full of tyrosines and exposed them to blue visible light, the photochemical reaction saw them instantly pair up to form these tyrosine intersections. The result was a material with better structural stability and adhesive properties. They have dubbed it light-activated, mussel protein-based adhesive (LAMBA) and claim to have proven its superiority to existing surgical glues. In testing the glue in animals, the scientist say it was able to close bleeding wounds in less than 60 seconds and healed them without inflammation or scarring.

Sounds good to me. Can’t wait till there’s an over-the-counter version. Hopefully, affordable.

Security breach exposes spy software used around the world


One of Hacking Team’s happy spy customers

A dramatic breach at an Italian surveillance company has laid bare the details of government cyberattacks worldwide, putting intelligence chiefs in the hot seat from Cyprus to South Korea. The massive leak has already led to one spymaster’s resignation and pulled back the curtain on espionage in the iPhone age.

More than 1 million emails released online in the wake of the July 5 breach show that the Milan-based company Hacking Team sold its spy software to the FBI and to Russian intelligence. It also worked with authoritarian governments in the Middle East and pitched to police departments in the American suburbs. It even tried to sell to the Vatican — all while devising a malicious Bible app to infect religiously minded targets

Hacking Team’s spyware was used by a total of 97 intelligence or investigative agencies in 35 countries, according to South Korean National Intelligence Service chief Lee Byoung Ho, who briefed lawmakers Tuesday after it became clear his organization used the technology…

Bills from Hacking Team to Sudan’s intelligence service and a Russian arms conglomerate have critics — including a European parliamentarian — asking whether the company flouted international sanctions. A client list that includes Uzbekistan, Egypt and Azerbaijan has reinforced worries from groups such as Privacy International that the spyware is being used to silence dissidents. And ‘we-love-your-stuff’ emails from sheriffs, police and prosecutors across the United States suggest local law enforcement is eager to give the program a test drive.

Hacking Team’s spyware is called Remote Control System and is delivered to targets through a mix of malicious links, poisoned documents and pornography, the emails show. Booby-trapped programs could be tailored to targets of any persuasion. Some messages appear to show Hacking Team working on apps named “Quran” and “DailyBible.”

Once secretly installed, the spyware acts as a track-anything surveillance tool…

Mexico is a particularly aggressive user of the technology, according to a leaked client list. In Ecuador, evidence that Hacking Team’s spyware was used by the country’s SENAIN spy agency has caused an uproar.

Senior police and intelligence figures have been quizzed about Hacking Team by lawmakers in Italy and the Czech Republic. Revelations that the Cyprus Intelligence Service has been secretly using the spyware prompted the resignation of the agency’s boss, Andreas Pentaras, over the weekend.

What you will see and hear from our “fair and balanced” TV talking heads is more of the fear and trembling about foreign powers hacking our government, corporate barons and maybe your grocery list. You will not be reminded of everyone from our federal government – down through governors and state police – to your friendly neighborhood sheriff snooping through your email and cellphone calls.

That would be way too courageous.

Flash – Must – Die

Adobe Flash—that insecure, ubiquitous resource hog everyone hates to need—is under siege, again, and hopefully for the last time. The latest calls for its retirement come from some of the Internet’s most powerful players, but if the combined clattering of Facebook, Firefox, and a legion of unsatisfied users isn’t enough finally to put it in the ground, scroll down to see how to axe it from your devices yourself.

Why would you want to?

Because Flash is a closed, proprietary system on a web that deserves open standards. It’s a popular punching bag for hackers, which puts users at risk over and over again. And it’s a resource-heavy battery suck that at this point mostly finds its purchase in pop-up ads you didn’t want to see anyway.

Open or closed means little to me – other than so-called open is even easier to hack than a crappy, poorly-designed closed system like Flash. Nothing is hacked more often than Linux.

This week, in the wake of newly discovered vulnerabilities in Flash, Facebook security boss Alex Stamos called for a termination date for Flash, and late Monday night Mozilla disabled all current versions of the plug-in by default in its Firefox browser. Even Google is limiting Flash’s impact; last month, it announced that future versions of Chrome will “intelligently pause” Flash-based content that isn’t part of a website’s core experience (e.g. video ads).

That doesn’t mean this is the end … yet. Facebook still uses Flash to play video on some browsers, and Firefox reintroduced Flash support on Tuesday when a secure update arrived. The point is clear, though: Flash is officially more trouble than it’s worth. <a href="http://www.wired.com/2015/07/adobe-flash-player-die/'>Flash. Must. Die. | WIRED.”>And it has been for some time.

…Killing of Flash has been on-trend since being software non-grata on the original iPhone. Steve Jobs penned a famous open letter in April, 2010, explaining why he wouldn’t let Flash anywhere near Apple’s mobile products, highlighting concerns over openness, security, and its impact on battery life.

More than five years later, the case against Flash remains largely unchanged—and the security problem is the most immediate and important. After all, the newly discovered critical vulnerability that led Mozilla to quarantine Firefox from Flash was the third problem of its kind discovered this week thanks to a data breach of controversial digital surveillance firm Hacking Team…

However actively Adobe has been working on Flash Player security, it doesn’t seem to be enough. This week’s mistrials are but the latest in a string of security lapses that have plagued Flash for years. Exploit kits—packets of code that take advantage of these sorts of vulnerabilities in your browser to push malware or ransomware—have used Flash to futz with countless sites. So-called zero-day vulnerabilities (a security hole that hackers find before the software company does) are found on Flash with such regularity they almost feel like a feature.

The good news is, you don’t have to wait for Adobe to pull the plug. You can do it yourself.

RTFA for instructions re most browsers.

I stopped concerning myself when iOS stopped running it in any of Apple’s mobile devices. The pressures exerted by Steve Jobs at the time pushed Google into speeding up their pace of adopting html5 everywhere – especially at YouTube. If you show up at YouTube without Flash installed, the site automatically switches into an html5 version of whichever video you’re looking for.

If I run into a site that refuses to run anything other than Flash – most often, the BBC, nowadays – I don’t run their videos. No need to tempt some script kiddie.

Robot powered by exploding farts

Harvard uni boffins have 3D printed a robot with a soft butt able to belch hot gases, thus unleashing a remorseless and invincible-ish hopping trouser-cough machine…

The new design offers a fresh solution to the engineering challenge that the Harvard Gazette claims “has plagued soft robotics: the integration of rigid and soft materials.”

“The vision for the field of soft robotics is to create robots that are entirely soft,” said senior author Robert J. Wood. “But for practical reasons, our soft robots typically have some rigid components — things like batteries and control electronics. This robot is a demonstration of a method to integrate the rigid components with the body of the soft robot through a gradient of material properties, eliminating an abrupt hard-to-soft transition that is often a failure point.”…

To initiate movement, the robot inflates its pneumatic legs to tilt its body in the direction it wants to go. Then butane and oxygen are mixed and ignited, exploding the robot into the air.

Perhaps we could design something like this on a smaller scale to hunt grasshoppers. Or something like that.

The exquisite role of dark matter


Click to reach Priyamvada Natarajan’s essay and video

It is definitely the golden age in cosmology because of this unique confluence of ideas and instruments. We live in a very peculiar universe—one that is dominated by dark matter and dark energy—the true nature of both of these remains elusive. Dark matter does not emit radiation in any wavelength and its presence is inferred by its gravitational influence on the motions of stars and gas in its vicinity. Dark Energy, discovered in 1998, meanwhile is believed to be powering the accelerated expansion of the universe. Despite not knowing what the dark matter particle is or what dark energy really is, we still have a very successful theory of how galaxies form and evolve in a universe with these mysterious and invisible dominant components.

Technology has made possible the testing of our cosmological theories at a level that was unprecedented before. All of these experiments have delivered very exciting results, even if they’re null results. For example, the LHC, with the discovery of the Higgs, has given us a lot more comfort in the standard model. The Planck and WMAP satellites probing the leftover hiss from the Big Bang—the cosmic microwave background radiation—have shown us that our theoretical understanding of how the early fluctuations in the universe grew and formed the late universe that we see is pretty secure. Our current theory, despite the embarrassing gap of not knowing the true nature of dark matter or dark energy, has been tested to a pretty high degree of precision.

It’s also consequential that the dark matter direct detection experiments have not found anything. That’s interesting too, because that’s telling us that all these experiments are reaching the limits of their sensitivity, what they were planned for, and they’re still not finding anything. This suggests paradoxically that while the overall theory might be consistent with observational data, something is still fundamentally off and possibly awry in our understanding.

The challenge in the next decade is to figure out which old pieces don’t fit. Is there a pattern that emerges that would tell us, is it a fundamentally new theory of gravity that’s needed, or is it a complete rethink of some aspects of particle physics that are needed? Those are the big open questions.

PRIYAMVADA NATARAJAN is a professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Physics at Yale University, whose research is focused on exotica in the universe—dark matter, dark energy, and black holes.

Click here to get to her essay + a half-hour video.

Lucky iron fish fights anemia

In Cambodia, a considerable proportion of the population is iron deficient. This preventable condition can lead to anemia, weakness, impaired cognitive ability, compromised physical development in children, and increased risk of illness. It can even lead to death.

But one little fish can change all that.

The Solution – fashion the small piece of iron into the shape of a fish, a cultural symbol of hope and good fortune in Cambodia.

One Lucky Iron Fish can provide an entire family with up to 75% of their daily iron intake for up to 5 years. All you have to do is cook with it.

It’s a simple, affordable, and effective solution anyone can use.

After just 9 months of using the Lucky Iron Fish every day, we saw a 50% decrease in the incidence of clinical iron deficiency anemia, and an increase in users’ iron levels. And people are feeling the difference. That’s why the Lucky Iron Fish has become an integral part of their lives.

And this is just the beginning…

Visit the LuckyIronFish website. Check out the various levels of support you’re able to provide to the project. They’re moving out to other cultures with iron deficiency anemia – ready and willing to appreciate the value of the Lucky Iron Fish.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Beat Instagram and Facebook’s female nipple ban? Use male nipples!

subversive anatomy

Social media has spoken, and nipples aren’t OK. At least, not if they’re a woman’s. This was the motivation behind artist Micol Hebron’s nipple template designed to cover images of women’s nipples with a man’s, thus making them social media “appropriate”.

It’s all about equality.