Saudi women crossing borders sends automatic text messages to the men who are in charge – WTF?

A discovery that Saudi male guardians are automatically getting text messages about cross-border movements of female dependants has caused a Twitter uproar.

“Hello Taliban, herewith some tips from the Saudi e-government!” read one post, while another suggested microchips.

Attention was drawn to the system when a man travelling with his wife got an alert as they left Riyadh airport.

Saudi women are denied the right to travel without their guardian’s consent and are also banned from driving.

Saudi men earlier had the option of requesting alert messages about their dependants’ cross-border movement, but it appears that since last week such notifications are being sent automatically…

Another tweet read: “If I need an SMS to let me know my wife is leaving Saudi Arabia, then I’m either married to the wrong woman or need a psychiatrist.”

The text alerts are part of an electronic passport system launched by the Saudi authorities last year.

The government argues that e-passports make it easier for citizens to deal with their travel arrangements “without having to visit the passport office”.

Perish the thought that Saudi bureaucrats – and all other protectors of patent leather monarchies – could countenance a woman traveling of her own volition, making her own decisions, regardless of rationales conjured up to sooth those who care little of women’s civil rights, civil liberties.

The earthquake rose

When a magnitude 6.8 earthquake shook Olympia, Wash., in 2001, shopowner Jason Ward discovered that a sand-tracing pendulum had recorded the vibrations in the image above.

Seismologists say that the “flower” at the center reflects the higher-frequency waves that arrived first; the outer, larger-amplitude oscillations record the lower-frequency waves that arrived later.

“You never think about an earthquake as being artistic — it’s violent and destructive,” Norman MacLeod, president of Gaelic Wolf Consulting in Port Townsend, told ABC News. “But in the middle of all that chaos, this fine, delicate artwork was created.”

Thanks, Ursarodinia

EyeSee mannequins designed to gather intelligence on shoppers

Do you ever get the creep feeling that store mannequins are … watching you? Well, that feeling may now be justified. Italian display form company Almax has recently introduced its EyeSee line of mannequins, that are equipped with cameras and microprocessors in their heads.

The idea behind the mannequins is that they could be located in storefront windows or specific areas of the store, where they would gather demographic data on the customers. Using facial recognition software, they can reportedly determine things such as a person’s age range, gender and race. The mannequins will also keep track of the number of people to pass through a certain area within a given amount of time, and how much time each person spends there.

Almax suggests that store owners could then use that data to develop targeted marketing strategies, to place salespeople in the parts of the store with the highest traffic, to see what times of day are busiest (and with what sort of customers), and to gauge the effectiveness of window displays or the popularity of displayed items.

Needless to say, privacy concerns are definitely an issue. According to the company, all the data is processed within the mannequins, so no outside computers are involved, and nothing is transmitted. Nonetheless, that doesn’t change the fact that the mannequins would actually be watching you – and scrutinizing you.

Will there be anyone working in the store, the chain of stores, with the courage to blow the whistle after the FBI or some inquisitive arm of the government delivers an executive order ordering the mannequin snoops to be hooked up to NSA supercomputers?

After all, that individual would be breaking one of the legal pillars holding up the Department of Homeland Security. You do not have the right to challenge or even speak publicly about being asked to spy for the government.

Why Republican anti-science and superstition will never replace science in the real world

Earlier this week, GQ magazine published an interview with Senator Marco Rubio, whom many consider a contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, in which Mr. Rubio was asked how old the earth is. After declaring “I’m not a scientist, man,” the senator went into desperate evasive action, ending with the declaration that “it’s one of the great mysteries.”

It’s funny stuff, and conservatives would like us to forget about it as soon as possible. Hey, they say, he was just pandering to likely voters in the 2016 Republican primaries — a claim that for some reason is supposed to comfort us.

But we shouldn’t let go that easily. Reading Mr. Rubio’s interview is like driving through a deeply eroded canyon; all at once, you can clearly see what lies below the superficial landscape. Like striated rock beds that speak of deep time, his inability to acknowledge scientific evidence speaks of the anti-rational mind-set that has taken over his political party.

By the way, that question didn’t come out of the blue. As speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Mr. Rubio provided powerful aid to creationists trying to water down science education. In one interview, he compared the teaching of evolution to Communist indoctrination tactics — although he graciously added that “I’m not equating the evolution people with Fidel Castro.” Gee, thanks…

What accounts for this pattern of denial? Earlier this year, the science writer Chris Mooney published “The Republican Brain,” which was not, as you might think, a partisan screed. It was, instead, a survey of the now-extensive research linking political views to personality types. As Mr. Mooney showed, modern American conservatism is highly correlated with authoritarian inclinations — and authoritarians are strongly inclined to reject any evidence contradicting their prior beliefs. Today’s Republicans cocoon themselves in an alternate reality defined by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, and only on rare occasions — like on election night — encounter any hint that what they believe might not be true.

And, no, it’s not symmetric. Liberals, being human, often give in to wishful thinking — but not in the same systematic, all-encompassing way.

Coming back to the age of the earth: Does it matter? No, says Mr. Rubio, pronouncing it “a dispute amongst theologians” — what about the geologists? — that has “has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States.” But he couldn’t be more wrong.

We are, after all, living in an era when science plays a crucial economic role. How are we going to search effectively for natural resources if schools trying to teach modern geology must give equal time to claims that the world is only 6.000 years old? How are we going to stay competitive in biotechnology if biology classes avoid any material that might offend creationists?

So, if hard, predictive, verifiable evidence produces a set of conclusions contradictory to Republican ideology – obviously the evidence is false, the methods of measuring data and results are incorrect.

The sun must rise in the West the next time Republicans control both Congress and the White House – and we will continue along the same unchanging path that guided the Roman Empire into the back pages of history books. Interesting to read about; but, failed nonetheless.