Thursday, July 19, 2012
Bulletins from the Transparency Front
1) Toronto researcher Steve Mann, who was one of the earliest pioneers of wearable computing and augmented reality (AR), and who co-coined the term “sousveillance,” was physically assaulted by employees of a Paris McDonald’s restaurant during a recent family vacation, for the crime of wearing AR visual aids akin to Google’s Project Glass. We are indeed in an era of rough transition.
2) CBS tours the newly opened Nazi archives on the Holocaust which have been (unbelievably) closed until now. Now, miles and miles of documents constitute a stunning blow to the denialist cult. Well... one of the denialist cults. The drought destroying crops all over the world may budge a few climate denialists. But then, there are still some who deny tobacco is anything but good for you.
3) More on those terahertz laser scanners that do chemical spectroscopy on materials and vapors around you, without exposing you to ionizing X-Rays or (disturbingly) ever letting you know you are being scanned. This is not an imaging device, but a tool for reading absorbance spectra at the high microwave, low infrared range. “This kind of picosecond laser reads the environment in real-time. That gunpowder residue on your hand from hunting the other day, cannabis smoke particles in your hair, or even a bit of (explosive-boosting) nitrate fertilizer stuck to your shoe could trigger this scanner.
Will that cause an entirely new set of headaches for airline passengers?” But get used to the new world. And push for the ability to look back. To get this for ourselves.
4) This month, if everything goes according to schedule, your Internet Service Provider may begin monitoring your account, just to make sure you aren't doing anything wrong with it -- like sharing copyrighted movie or music files. Violations may result in an escalating scale from warnings to termination of service.
5) The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) secretly spied on E-mails of its own scientists - who were filing whistle blower complaints. Disturbing? Yes, but my perspective is unusual. I see it as a case of everything working as it should. Looking back at power worked. This time.
6) A report from Wired: Saying it wanted to help to protect dissidents who appear in videos shared on YouTube, Google launched a tool Wednesday that can blur their faces in footage uploaded to its servers. Now mind you, this is a stopgap measure. As more cameras swarm, the bad news is that this won't work for long. The good news? If we all can use those cams, then lying - even by the mighty - will get a lot harder. And abusing witnesses won't be a workable option anymore.
=== Politics redux (get used to it) ===
Somewhat turgid, overblown and self-righteous, an article by Sara Robinson on AlterNet nevertheless takes a look at the present Culture War that’s tearing America apart and calls it what it is. What I have long realized that it is. Nothing less than Phase Three of the American Civil War.
In fact, I would couch things slightly less radically than Robinson does in: "Conservative Southern Values Revived: How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America: America didn't used to be run like an old Southern slave plantation, but we're headed that way now. How did that happen?"
Nevertheless, let’s be plain, her essential point about the divide between two styles of American aristocracy, one represented by Gates and Buffett and the other by those wanting an old fashioned feudalism to return, is the core conflict tearing the United States apart at present.
Moreover, this phase of the Civil War must end the way the others did --
-- by the blue Union being awakened, roused perhaps by polemical exaggerations like Robinson’s. Into realizing What Fox has accomplished -- what southern yellow papers did at the command of slave-holding elites in 1860 -- destroying any hope of negotiation.
All that is left is for Blue America to win. Simply - and for the sake of freedom and progress and the Great Experiment - win.
=== Some (mostly) science miscellany ===
A fascinating breakthrough in producing graphene transistors. Will this result in computers based on graphene rather than silicon chips?
artificial cerebellum” that controls a robotic arm with human-like precision.
The University of Nottingham has begun the search for a new class of injectable materials that will stimulate stem cells to regenerate damaged tissue in degenerative and age-related disorders of the bone, muscle and heart. This is part of a huge new development in rediscovering the regenerative capability most mammals appear to have abandoned millions of years ago.
For more see Juan Enriquez's TED talk...
The first artificial molecules whose chirality (handedness) can be rapidly switched from a right-handed to a left-handed orientation with a beam of terahertz light has been developed by a multi-institutional team including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). This development holds potentially important possibilities for uses of terahertz technologies across a wide range of fields, including reduced energy use.