Links for 14th July 2009

Fresh from the clogged tubes of teh intarwubs…

  1. Arctic glacier to lose Manhattan-sized ‘tongue’

    "As with all glaciers that terminate over water, big chunks of ice regularly break off the Petermann ice tongue, a process which is normally compensated for by the snow that falls on the upper reaches of the glacier. But the sheer amount of ice that could break away in a single event is concerning the scientists – five billion tonnes of ice is equivalent to nearly half of the glacier's usual annual flow.

    The researchers are unsure what exactly is causing the break-up. A chunk of 1 million tonnes of ice broke off last year and there has been an acceleration in the flow of ice over the past few years. They think a number of factors are involved including warmer ocean currents that are melting the ice from below and warmer air temperatures that are melting it from above." So, yeah – we're pretty screwed, really.

    Tagged with: Arcticiceclimate-changeglobal-warmingglacierenvironment

  2. Gaze-tracking software offers new approach to computer security

    "Chameleon uses gaze-tracking software and camera equipment to track an authorized reader's eyes to show only that one person the correct text. After a 15-second calibration period in which the software essentially "learns" the viewer's gaze patterns, anyone looking over that user's shoulder sees dummy text that randomly and constantly changes.

    To tap the broader consumer market, Anderson built a more consumer-friendly version called PrivateEye, which can work with a simple Webcam. The software blurs a user's monitor when he or she turns away. It also detects other faces in the background, and a small video screen pops up to alert the user that someone is looking at the screen."

    Tagged with: softwaresecurityprivacycomputinggaze-trackingwebcamsecrecy

  3. Secure existing OpenSSH installation

    Does what it says on the tin.

    Tagged with: sshlinuxsysadminsecurity

  4. ‘Honest Joes’ and cheaters unmasked in brain scans

    "Honest players showed no increase in brain activity when they had a chance to cheat, suggesting that they didn't have to make a conscious effort to be honest. In contrast, dishonest players showed increased brain activity whenever they had a chance to cheat – even when they reported (presumably truthfully) that they had lost.

    In fact, Greene and Paxton found that they could predict each player's degree of cheating from their brain activity with remarkable accuracy. If the results of this lab experiment can be generalised to real-world situations – a big if, Greene points out – then brain scans could someday be used to measure, for example, a prospective employee's overall honesty." Hi-ho, determinism. But think for a moment – is the "honest Joe" guy actually the better employee? Isn't the guy who can see a loophole the sharper thinker? Does temptation to game the system equate to actually doing it at all times?

    Tagged with: neurosciencehonestycheatingdeterminismsciencebrainfMRI

  5. Grazing robot would run on biomass

    "The system would obtain energy by "engaging in biologically-inspired, organism-like, energy-harvesting behavior"–in other words, foraging and eating to keep itself going.

    It's a tall order. The robot will need to first identify a suitable biomass (wood, grass, paper, etc.) and avoid the indigestible (rocks, metal, or glass). It must spatially locate and manipulate the source; cut or shred to size, then use its robotic arm and "end effectors" to grab, lift and dump it into the furnace, where it will be ingested and converted to enough electrical energy to power the robots systems. This stage is taken care of by the Cyclone engine, a modern-day external combustion, steam engine that can run on virtually any fuel."

    Tagged with: militaryrobotbiofuelbiomassomnivorefuelgrazing

  6. As Space Station Nears Completion, It Faces End of Mission

    "After more than a decade of construction, it is nearing completion and finally has a full crew of six astronauts. The last components should be installed by the end of next year.

    And then?

    "In the first quarter of 2016, we'll prep and de-orbit the spacecraft," says NASA's space station program manager, Michael T. Suffredini.

    That's a polite way of saying that NASA will make the space station fall back into the atmosphere, where it will turn into a fireball and then crash into the Pacific Ocean. It'll be a controlled reentry, to ensure that it doesn't take out a major city. But it'll be destroyed as surely as a Lego palace obliterated by the sweeping arm of a suddenly bored kid." They should sell it off. Someone will buy it, for sure.

    Tagged with: ISSNASAspace-stationwhite-elephantmoney-sinkidiocy

Leave a Reply