Author Archive | Brother Elias

The shameful secret behind the popularity of spy movies

It seems that some tend to attribute too much credit to the goings on of shadowy operations. No wonder when we consider the longevity of the spy fiction genre.

via The Week

Shape of Walther PPK

Shape of Walther PPK (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (GNU)

Moviegoers love spies. James Bond is probably the most successful franchise in history. And when you consider all the spinoffs, descendants, books, television shows, and media-spanning imitators, it’s probably fair to say that spying is one of the top two or three subjects of popular media in America, along with superheroes and light sabers.

Most spy fiction portrays spies as noble and almost superhumanly skilled, both physically and intellectually. James Bond is always a master at whatever the screenwriters can dream up, up to and including sword-fighting with a half-dozen different kinds of blades. Jason Bourne speaks a dozen languages, fights like an MMA specialist, drives like a rally car champion, and can break into CIA headquarters without even breathing hard.

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A Hacker Artist Sent the NSA an ‘Uncrackable’ Encrypted Mixtape

The audio cassette greatly increased the distr...

The audio cassette greatly increased the distribution of bootleg recordings in the 1980s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (GNU)

Math evens the playing field and assists in sticking it to the man.

via Motherboard

In late May, hacker artist David Huerta, co-organizer of Art Hack Day and Cryptoparty, sent the NSA one hell of a snail mail. Huerta built a DIY encrypted mixtape using an Arduino board and a transparent acrylic case, containing a “soundtrack for the modern surveillance state.” It’s a mixtape the NSA won’t be able to listen to because of the power of private key-based cryptography.

Originally, Huerta wanted to make a traditional mixtape and share it with friends and co-workers. But, without a cassette recorder, he didn’t get very far. That’s when his DIY hacker artist instincts kicked in, and he started building the encrypted mixtape at NYC Resistor.

“I made my own version of a mixtape with an Arduino and wave shield sandwiched in between two laser-etched pieces of transparent acrylic,” he wrote. “The use of a giant-ass Arduino and wave shield was chosen since the (shitty) 44KHz wave file format gave it roughly the same audio quality I figured a wiretapped AT&T phone conversation would have.”

Huerta settled on the transparent acrylic cassette casing as a symbolic gesture of transparency.

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Why libertarians must deny climate change, in one short take

Part of the frustration of dealing with certain curmudgeons, for me at least, is misunderstanding how they can deny something as plain as day. Perhaps you feel same, maybe this will shed some light on such, and allow you to move forward.  Mind you, this article is a couple of years old.

via The Guardian

Don't Forget To Pay The Ferryman

Don’t Forget To Pay The Ferryman (Photo credit: Cayusa) (CC)

In a simple and very short tract, Matt Bruenig presents a devastating challenge to those who call themselves libertarians, and explains why they have no choice but to deny climate change and other environmental problems.

Bruenig explains what is now the core argument used by conservatives and libertarians: the procedural justice account of property rights. In brief, this means that if the process by which property was acquired was just, those who have acquired it should be free to use it as they wish, without social restraints or obligations to other people.

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Stopping harmful climate change is surprisingly cheap

brass tacks

brass tacks (Photo credit: MicroAssist) (CC)

If some of us can get past distractions such as percentages of scientists, political theatrics, corporate think tanks, etc. We may be able to get down to brass tacks and talk about money.

via New Scientist

Saving our skins might be surprisingly cheap. To avoid dangerous climate change, the world needs to boost spending on green energy by $1 trillion a year. That sounds scarily large, but we could cover a lot of it using the subsidies currently handed to fossil fuels.

Governments have agreed to limit global warming to 2°C, because more than that may be impossible to adapt to. “We need to drastically transform our energy system,” says David McCollum of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria. “It is high time we thought about how much capital is needed.”

McCollum’s team plugged that gap by analysing six different models that combine data on greenhouse gas emissions, energy scenarios and investment costs.

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Looking For The Best Strategy? Ask A Chimp

English: Human and chimpanzee skull and brain

Human and chimpanzee skull and brain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Researchers at Caltech elucidate the superior short term memory of chimpanzees, amongst other things.

via EurekaAlert!

If you’re trying to outwit the competition, it might be better to have been born a chimpanzee, according to a study by researchers at Caltech, which found that chimps at the Kyoto University Primate Research Institute consistently outperform humans in simple contests drawn from game theory.

The study, led by Colin Camerer, Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Economics, and appearing on June 5 in the online publication Scientific Reports, involved a simple game of hide-and-seek that researchers call the Inspection Game. In the game, two players (either a pair of chimps or a pair of humans) are set up back to back, each facing a computer screen. To start the game, each player pushes a circle on the monitor and then selects one of two blue boxes on the left or right side of the screen.

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Chicago Just Convicted A Thief Using Facial Recognition Technology

Now that the general public knows that they are being watched, may as well reinforce that with confirmation. No need to worry, right? You’ve done nothing wrong.

English: Different Types of Cctv Cameras

Different Types of Cctv Cameras (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

via Vocativ

For years, we’ve been hearing about how facial recognition software will help solve crime.

Privacy concerns aside, this is the idea: If a criminal is caught committing an offense on surveillance footage, the technology could theoretically scan the person’s face and produce a positive ID based on mug shots or DMV photos.

The problem is, the software kind of sucks, partially because surveillance footage is so grainy. This was one of the many subplots that unfolded in the wake of the Boston marathon bombing.

But the technology is getting smarter.

In Chicago, the tech was used—for the first time in the city’s history—to find a crook and lock him up in prison.

Pierre D. Martin, 35, was a small-time criminal with a long rap sheet, and his mug shot appeared in the police system.

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Anyone Can Change the World: The Animated Wisdom of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Jody Williams

Do you feel passionate about something? Do you want to create change? Do something about it.

via Open Culture

Here’s a little animation for those times when the unlikelihood of winning public recognition for your work has you dejected to the point of inaction.

Children are repeatedly told that they can change the world, and, in my experience, most of them seem to believe that this is true.

How is it, then, that so many adults are paralyzed by feelings of powerlessness? Did something happen in middle school, or are the problems of the world so immense? (Both, probably.) Why bother, right?

Activist Jody Williams may have won a Nobel Prize, but she’s also a fan of starting small.

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Militiamen And Oath Keepers Drew Weapons, Threatened To Kill Each Other

I imagine this sideshow is getting tougher to defend as the days go by, beyond Bundy’s ignorant racist screed. What is your input, disinfonauts?

English: Three wingnuts

Three wingnuts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

via Crooks and Liars

The situation at the Bundy Ranch, where armed militiamen and “Patriots” are camped out, has deteriorated so badly that competing factions apparently drew weapons on one another during heated arguments.

The right-wing media tried to sell Americans on the idea that the antigovernment “Patriots” and militiamen who gathered to block the roundup of Cliven Bundy’s illegally grazing cattle in Nevada were well-meaning lovers of liberty. However, Bundy’s most ardent defenders have revealed themselves to be a volatile collection of hotheaded, paranoid men (and a few women) with big egos and even bigger guns.

The situation at the Bundy ranch, where armed militiamen and “Patriots” are camped out, has deteriorated so badly that competing factions apparently drew weapons on one another during heated arguments.

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The Cambridge Spies

During the Cold War, four affluent men, and at least a possible other (John Cairncross) were recruited by the KGB. They spied for decades and none were caught. One, a cousin of the queen was suspected and interrogated, but treated with kid gloves. Later known as the Cambridge Five. Here is their tale.

English: A USSR stamp, Soviet spies: Kim Philb...

A USSR stamp, Soviet spies: Kim Philby, 1990. Русский: Марка СССР из выпуска «Советские разведчики»: Ким Филби (1990, Рис. Б. Илюхина, ЦФА №6266). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

via Crime Library

The dark, windowless room in KGB Headquarters held nothing more than a chair, rows and rows of file cabinets, and a long table. If the room had had a window, in the near distance the walls of the Kremlin could have been seen, ablaze with lights. The newly appointed officer sat at the table while a filing clerk piled file upon file upon it. As he went through the dossiers, the KGB official was astonished.

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AFA: Shops who display ‘We Don’t Discriminate’ stickers are bullying Christians

Those poor Christians are contriving experiencing persecution, again.

The Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

via Pink News

The American Family Association has claimed that by pledging not to discriminate against their customers, Mississippi businesses are ‘bullying’ Christians.

The campaign was born after the state’s Governor, Phil Bryant, signed a ‘religious freedom’ law, protecting businesses who discriminate against gay customers.

The bill prevents authorities from placing a “burden on a person’s right to the exercise of religion”.

Equality Mississippi says in two weeks it has distributed over 500 of the stickers, which state: “We don’t discriminate – If you’re buying, we’re selling!”

AFA spokesman Buddy Smith said: “If you do that, you are agreeing with these businesses that Christians no longer have the freedom to live out the dictates of their Christian faith and conscience.

“It’s not really a buying campaign, but it’s a bully campaign, and it’s being carried out by radical homosexual activists who intend to trample the freedom of Christians to live according to the dictates of scripture.

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