Links for 9th June 2009

Fresh from the clogged tubes of teh intarwubs…

  1. Junk food gives crow chicks a weight problem

    "According to Bowman, it makes sense that adult birds would opt for easily available, less nutritious, food for themselves, but he finds it puzzling that they would offer the junk food to their offspring. "If bad food makes nestlings worse off, why do parents do it?" he asks.

    Bowman thinks that it's an "evolutionary mistake," that crows evolved to be opportunistic feeders, which helps them in natural environments, but may be detrimental as humans continue to urbanise the rural landscape."

    Tagged with: sciencefooddietjunk-foodsuburbiaanimalsbirdsscavenging

  2. Bullion and Bandits: The Improbable Rise and Fall of E-Gold

    "Cynics might have considered him just another internet hustler looking to strike it rich, but those who knew him say he was a true believer. “He truly thinks that having a gold-backed currency is what’s needed in the world,” says James Clement, a libertarian attorney who met Jackson in 2003. “I don’t think anyone would have stuck with it … other than that he thinks it’s extremely important and somebody has to do this.”

    Jackson drew his inspiration from economist Vera Smith’s influential 1936 treatise The Rationale of Central Banking and the Free Bank Alternative, which challenged the tenets of banking. “She wrote in the depths of the Depression, and poses some of the most compelling questions about central banking systems,” Jackson says. “Central banks should attenuate monetary disorder and prevent fluctuations, but ironically they sometimes amplify it.”"

    Tagged with: businesseconomicsinternetbankingmoneyfinancelibertarianism

  3. Oil rigs are ‘vulnerable to hacking’

    "The world's oilrigs are vulnerable to hacking because their security is inadequate, according to SINTEF, an independent research organisation in Scandinavia.

    While oil companies have made huge improvements in offshore safety and environmental protection, their efforts to secure important data have been poor, the SINTEF team says.

    The group says that the current "integrated operations" model, which uses onshore workers to control processes carried out on the platform via networked PCs, leaves communications open to attack." Diddle the telemetry so everything looks normal, climb on board and set up shop. Pirate nations ahoy!

    Tagged with: oil-righackingcontrolsecuritypiracyseasteading


    " About two-thirds of the 59 high-poverty schools in the Sparks program — which pays seventh-graders up to $500 and fourth-graders as much as $250 for their performance on a total of 10 assessments — improved their scores since last year's state tests by margins above the citywide average.

    The gains at some schools approached 40 percentage points. " Very interesting, though not at all surprising. Sorry re: all-caps header; that's the way it came.

    Tagged with: schooleducationrewardstudyresultsgradesimprovement

  5. Universal ‘Rubik’s Cube’ Could Become Pentagon Shapeshifter

    "One day, that could lead to “morphing aircraft and ground vehicles, uniforms that can alter themselves to be comfortable in any climate, and ’soft’ robots that flow like mercury through small openings to enter caves and bunker complexes.” A soldier could even reach into a can of unformed goop, and order up a custom-made tool or a “universal spare part.”

    One team from Harvard is working on a kind of “generalized Rubik’s Cube” that can fold into all kinds of shapes. Another is trying to order large strands of synthetic DNA to bind together in a “molecular Velcro.” An MIT group is building “self-folding origami” machines that “use specialized sheets of material with built-in actuators and data. These machines use cutting-edge mathematical theorems to fold themselves into virtually any three-dimensional object.”"

    Tagged with: sciencetechnologymilitarymaterialsprogrammablematterorigamiinnovation

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