Links for 21st September 2009

Fresh from the clogged tubes of teh intarwubs…

  1. Us or Them in Afghanistan?

    "Their American trainers spoke of "upper body strength deficiency" and prescribed pushups because their trainees buckle under the backpacks filled with 50 pounds of equipment and ammo they are expected to carry. All this material must seem absurd to men whose fathers and brothers, wearing only the old cotton shirts and baggy pants of everyday life and carrying battered Russian Kalashnikov rifles, defeated the Red Army two decades ago. American trainers marvel that, freed from heavy equipment and uniforms, Afghan soldiers can run through the mountains all day — as the Taliban guerrillas in fact do with great effect — but the U.S. military is determined to train them for another style of war." Any idiot can see they can't win; the question is, why are they (and "we", for values of x where x self-identifies with the nation it pays tax to) *really* still there?

    Tagged with: AfghanistanwarterrorismtrainingmilitiamethodologyUSmilitary

  2. Terrorists’ Real Haven Isn’t on the Ground, It’s Online

    "The debate has largely overlooked a more basic question: How important to terrorist groups is any physical haven? More to the point: How much does a haven affect the danger of terrorist attacks against U.S. interests, especially the U.S. homeland? The answer to the second question is: not nearly as much as unstated assumptions underlying the current debate seem to suppose. When a group has a haven, it will use it for such purposes as basic training of recruits. But the operations most important to future terrorist attacks do not need such a home, and few recruits are required for even very deadly terrorism. Consider: The preparations most important to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks took place not in training camps in Afghanistan but, rather, in apartments in Germany, hotel rooms in Spain and flight schools in the United States."

    Tagged with: securityterrorismAfghanistanhavenswarfare4th-generationnetworkpolitics

  3. $6/Kg to orbit

    "Space is only a costly and dangerous destination if you insist on using 1960s technology to reach it. Once NASA–or more likely the private sector–finally abandons that route, what was impossible will become easy. –I only fear that the meme of space's inaccessibility will prevent us from ever building the launch infrastructure that will prove it wrong; at this point, the meme looks like it's turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy."

    Tagged with: spaceexplorationlaunchcostriskeconomicsNASAtechnologyinfrastructure

  4. Russian Billionaire Installs Anti-Photo Shield on Giant Yacht

    "It might not seem like somebody with such ostentatious tastes would crave privacy, but along with these expensive toys, Ambramovich has installed an anti-paparazzi “shield”. Lasers sweep the surroundings and when they detect a CCD, they fire a bolt of light right at the camera to obliterate any photograph. According to the Times, these don’t run all the time, so friends and guests should still be able to grab snaps. Instead, they will be activated when guards spot the scourge of professional photography, paparazzi, loitering nearby." I've got no tears for the papes, but that's a nasty bit of tech right there – where might your government like to install it, f'rinstance?

    Tagged with: technologyprivacylaserpaparazziphotographyshield

  5. Genetic seamstress uses molecular fingers to tweak DNA

    "… Carlos Barbas of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and his colleagues have taken viral enzymes called recombinases and attached these to zinc fingers, called ZFRs.

    While a ZFN is essentially just a pair of scissors, the recombinase in a ZFR both cuts and mends the break without resorting to unreliable enzymes.

    Unlike nucleases, recombinases cut a double-stranded piece of DNA and then wait around on the exposed ends. When the intended gene, which would have been inserted at the same time, comes along, the recombinase recognises it, and binds the DNA to the ends, repairing the break (see diagram). "The advantage of a site-specific recombinase is that the enzyme does everything," says Stark, who is also investigating the potential of ZFRs in genetic engineering."

    Tagged with: geneticsbiologyDNAadjustmentengineering

  6. Synthetic biology and evolution

    "No scientific achievement has promised so much, and none has come with greater risks or clearer possibilities for deliberate abuse. The benefits of new technologies—from genetically engineered food to the wonders of pharmaceuticals—often have been oversold. If the tools of synthetic biology succeed, though, they could turn specialized molecules into tiny, self-contained factories, creating cheap drugs, clean fuels, and new organisms to siphon carbon dioxide from the atmosphere."

    Tagged with: synthetic-biologyevolutionsingularityethicsgeneticsbiologytechnologyfuturism

  7. The City Is A Battlesuit For Surviving The Future

    A genuinely great post at io9; it's been a while.

    Tagged with: futurismsfcultureurbanismarchitecturepsychologycitiesarchigramcomics

  8. David Byrne’s Perfect City

    "A city can't be too small. Size guarantees anonymity—if you make an embarrassing mistake in a large city, and it's not on the cover of the Post, you can probably try again. The generous attitude towards failure that big cities afford is invaluable—it's how things get created. In a small town everyone knows about your failures, so you are more careful about what you might attempt." Maybe Velcro City has its upside after all… 😉

    Tagged with: urbanarchitecturesociologycultureplanningurbanism

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