Preview the rise of killer robots

The Munich Security Conference is an annual catalogue of horrors. But the most ominous discussion this past weekend wasn’t about Islamic State terrorism but a new generation of weapons — such as killer robots and malignly programmed “smart” appliances that could be deployed in future conflicts.

Behind the main events at the annual discussion of foreign and defense policy here was a topic described in one late-night session as “The Future of Warfare: Race with the Machines.” The premise was that we are at the dawn of an era of conflict in which all wars will be, to some extent, cyberwars, and new weapons will combine radical advances in hardware, software and even biology…

Guests at a “Cyber Dinner” hosted here by the Atlantic Council considered the dawning world of killer appliances. In the coming Internet of Things (IoT), speakers noted, there will soon be more than 30 billion smart chips embedded in cars, elevators, refrigerators, thermostats and medical devices. These pervasive, connected systems may well have poor security and be easily hackable.

The big worry in the future, argued several tech experts at the dinner, may not be data privacy — forget about that — but data security. “You can know my blood type, but don’t change it,” one speaker explained. Hackers may be able to alter data in financial markets, hospitals and electrical grids — paralyzing normal economic and social activity…

From Obama’s favorite Himmlerite, James Clapper:

❝ “In the future, intelligence services might use the IoT for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials,” Clapper told Congress. And he warned in his testimony that as artificial intelligence is built into weapons, they will be “susceptible to a range of disruptive and deceptive tactics that might be difficult to anticipate or quickly understand.”

The chuckle, of course, is that Clapper is either talking about what is on his implementation schedule – or already has in the wild.

If Trump wins — Cape Breton awaits


Click to enlargecaperphotos.com

A Donald Trump presidency in the United States is starting to look like a very real possibility…But those who fear that situation needn’t worry — you have somewhere to run, and it’s one of Canada’s most beautiful hidden gems.

A website called “Cape Breton if Donald Trump Wins” was launched Monday, pitching the lovely Nova Scotian island as a place of refuge, should Trump take the White House.

The site shows gorgeous pictures of life on Cape Breton Island as it encourages Americans to move there.

“Don’t wait until Donald Trump is elected president to find somewhere else to live,” it reads.

“Start now, that way, on election day, you just hop on a bus to start your new life in Cape Breton, where women can get abortions, Muslim people can roam freely, and the only ‘walls’ are holding up the roofs of our extremely affordable houses.”

The site was created by DJ Rob Calabrese, who works at 101.9 The Giant in Sydney, N.S…Calabrese said it’s just a personal project he created in anticipation of a mass American exodus…

While the site carries a link to Destination Cape Breton, it’s not affiliated with the travel body.

It’s simply a project by a Cape Bretoner who wants people to know what his home has to offer.

A worthwhile suggestion for anyone thinking of moving to the Great White North. The Maritimes are my favorite provinces – not least of which because that’s where the Canadian/Scots half of my kin come from.

Cape Breton is lovely as is all of Nova Scotia. My kin live just a touch West on PEI. But, I can report the fishing is great pretty much anywhere you might settle in the Maritimes.

Thanks, Corn

X-Ray research on fried potatoes to make them tastier


Tamara Evans

When I’m waiting for my dinner to finish cooking, I can’t say I often think about how the way I fry it is changing the food’s microstructure. But after sifting through a paper recently published in the Journal of Food Science that explores the microstructure of “fried potato disks”, I might just.

The study was conducted by Tanjila Alam and Pawan S. Takhar from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In it, they cut russet potatoes into tiny 45-millimeter diameter, 1.65-millimeter thick disks and then deep fried them in soybean oil. So, think of them as little crispy potato chips for science. The potato samples were fried in 190 degrees Celsius oil for 0, 20, 40, 60, or 80 seconds.

After that, the fried potatoes were subjected to X-ray micro-computed tomography, which creates a micro 3D image of the sample without destroying it. The idea here, is to see how frying the potato affects its porosity, the twistiness (“tortuosity”) of the paths connecting the pores, and how much oil the chip takes in, which eventually could help us make better fried foods…

In this study, the researchers found that the longer the potato was fried, the more the pore size and number of pores increased, which helped the potatoes to take on more oil. The chips that were fried for longer also had less twisty pathways between pores, which corresponds to having better oil uptake.

Scientists aren’t just interested in fried potatoes, the paper notes. In 2011, researchers put chicken nuggets to a similar test, dying the oil blue and using a confocal microscope to trace oil and pore distribution through the deep fried delicacy. Yum!

Too bad the study only addresses one of America’s favorite food groups – fat. They left out sugar, salt and crap beer.

Obama proves that Hope doesn’t include Trust

An Obama administration working group has explored four possible approaches tech companies might use that would allow law enforcement to unlock encrypted communications — access that some tech firms say their systems are not set up to provide.

The group concluded that the solutions were “technically feasible,” but all had drawbacks as well.

The approaches were analyzed as part of a months-long government discussion about how to deal with the growing use of encryption in which no one but the user can see the information. Law enforcement officials have argued that armed with a warrant they should be able to obtain communications, such as e-mails and text messages, from companies in terrorism and criminal cases.

Senior officials do not intend to advance the solutions as “administration proposals” — or even want them shared outside the government, according to a draft memo obtained by The Washington Post.

Why? — They’re afraid Americans still believe our government should protect our privacy.

“Rather than sparking more discussion, government-proposed technical approaches would almost certainly be perceived as proposals to introduce ‘backdoors’ or vulnerabilities in technology products and services and increase tensions rather [than] build cooperation,” the memo said.

…National Security Council spokesman Mark Stroh stated in an e-mail that “these proposals are not being pursued.”

And we’re supposed to believe him…after the Obama White House spent a month trying to figure out how to get away with achieving these proposals.

Instead of offering technical solutions, the working group drew up a set of principles to guide engagement with the private sector. They include: no bulk collection of information and no “golden keys” for the government to gain access to data.

All of which were suggested by assorted government experts in the Obama administration.

All four approaches amount to what most cryptography experts call a “backdoor” because they would require developers to alter their systems by adding a surreptitious mechanism for accessing encrypted content, according to Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology…

Technologists have said such approaches weaken the security of encryption by adding layers of complexity that might hide bugs and creating new potential targets for hackers.

In general, creating an “aftermarket solution” instead of designing a solution into the platform from the start “brings in additional vulnerabilities” that could be exploited, the law enforcement official acknowledged.

These are some of the reasons why federal officials say they want the companies themselves to craft solutions based on their own systems.

A number of encryption solutions are built by groups of open-source developers, who make the software available for free on the Internet. The open-source nature of the code makes it harder to hide a backdoor. And because the developers are often dispersed among different countries and volunteers who are not working for any company, it is impractical for law enforcement to serve an order on one that’s enforceable on all.

“These challenges mean that inaccessible encryption will always be available to malicious actors,” the memo said…And to individuals who still think their privacy trumps a government run to satisfy police above all else..

#standwithapple

Nature strikes back at urbanization

A postmaster seems dumbfounded in a 911 call he made to get help for a New Jersey letter carrier who was trapped inside his truck by several wild turkeys.

The incident played out Tuesday in Hillsdale, New Jersey. The audio was released Wednesday.

The postmaster initially tells police “you’re not going to believe this” before providing details about the attack, noting similar events have happened before. The police officer who took the call sounds equally amazed.

Authorities say about seven turkeys accosted the letter carrier, but he wasn’t injured.

Two officers scared off the turkeys so the letter carrier could continue his route.

Wild turkeys can be pretty scary. Too bad Ben Franklin didn’t win his campaign to make them the national bird. More character than most of their peers.