Reader's Corner for August 2013

August 31, 2013

The Enlightenment sages who wrote the First Amendment into the US Constitution in 1791 created the most secure legal foundation for a real democracy in history thus far. By refusing to grant...

From 1980 to 2007, the number of prisoners held in the United States quadrupled to 2.3 million, with an additional 5 million on probation or parole. What Ayn Rand once called the “freest, noblest country in the history of the world” is now the most incarcerated,and the second-most incarcerated count...

"After asking around, and performing some calculations, the Justice Department came up with a new number: 216,000. That’s 216,000 victims, not instances. These victims are often assaulted multiple times over the course of the year. The Justice Department now seems to be saying that prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women."

This is from 2012, but wow.

Jeff Moser on software development

This is cool.

Daniel Taylor didn't commit murder — and the author, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, proved it in The Chicago Tribune. But it took the justice system more than a decade to catch up.

"A check showed that, in fact, Daniel had been arrested for fighting in a park that night at about 6:45 p.m., and jail records showed he was released about 10 p.m. and the murders occurred at 8:43 p.m."

But he went to jail for 20 years.

August 18, 2013

There's a classic adventure game called Paranoia which is set in an extremely repressive Utopian futuristic world run by The Computer, who is Your Friend. Looking at a recent LawMeme posting and related discussion, it occurred to me that the concept of colour-coded security clearances in Paranoia p...

The biggest video game franchise in the world almost never happened. We jump back in time 20 years to unearth the true story of the first FIFA

"For this first game EA had to go without [licensing]. And so the dev team decided to put themselves in the game. Matt Webster went upfront for England. Joey Della-Savia was in the Italian squad. Assistant producer Marc Aubanel became a striker for French team."

Why did the heirs to one of the largest fortunes in America grow up horribly neglected and abused?

People want things to be cheaper and easier and faster than they are. That doesn't seem very extraordinary, does it? I mean, it's not really news. In fact, the opposite would be news--if people wan...

These articles [about developer shortages] are greatly amusing to me, partly because I have this romantic notion of characterizing my fruitless search for a $1.50 car as a “car shortage” and being called for comment by NYT reporters.

Walter Keller had nearly lost his battle with leukemia when he went to Penn's Carl June and his group of researchers for a radical new cancer treatment. What happened next may change medicine forever.

August 17, 2013

From buildings to bike lanes to painting over Broadway, how the city changed in 12 years of Bloomberg.

All I can say is: wow.

August 16, 2013

The federal government has made it easier than ever to borrow money for higher education - saddling a generation with crushing debts and inflating a bubble that could bring down the economy

"We're doing the worst thing people can do: lying to our young. Nobody, not even this president, who was swept to victory in large part by the raw enthusiasm of college kids, has the stones to tell the truth: that a lot of them will end up being pawns in a predatory con game designed to extract the equivalent of home-mortgage commitment from 17-year-olds dreaming of impossible careers as nautical archaeologists or orchestra conductors."

August 12, 2013

Hyperloop Alpha Coming Soon

$20 for a 35 minute trip from SF to LA.

Hats off to Elon Musk once again.

August 11, 2013

Demonizing processed food may be dooming many to obesity and disease. Could embracing the drive-thru make us all healthier?

August 10, 2013

Our latest podcast is called “Should Tipping Be Banned?” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

"Because Lynn has largely built his career around tipping, it came as a bit of a surprise when Stephen Dubner asked him what he would change about the practice:

LYNN: You know, I think I would outlaw it."

August 9, 2013

Are you having trouble writing tech-savvy dialogue for your latest screenplay? Worry not! at the press of a button, we'll provide you with the highest quality, Hollywood-grade technical jargon! Repeat as necessary to generate pages upon pages of techno-babble for the nerdy characters in your script:

"Backing up the bus won't do anything, we need to synthesize the wireless SSL circuit!"

BUGGER The recent revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden were fascinating. But they - and all the reactions to them - had one enormous assumption at their heart. That the spies know what they are doing. But when you look at the history of MI5 the astonishing thing is they never seem to kno...

This was so long that even I almost gave up, but man is it amazing.

"The recent revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden were fascinating. But they - and all the reactions to them - had one enormous assumption at their heart.

That the spies know what they are doing."

August 8, 2013

Billy Dillon was about to sign a contract with the Detroit Tigers -- then he was wrongly convicted of murder and spent the next 27 years of his life in maximum security prison. Now he's free, and looking for his mission.

So why, then? Why did they go after Billy Dillon? Their own selfishness? Just to make themselves look good and keep their jobs?

"Not even that," Dillon says. "It was society's selfishness. They wanted a killer. They wanted the people they hired to do anything to get him."

Rob Malda, the founder of Slashdot and now an employee at WaPo Labs, weighs in on the future of news and why nerds distrust authority.

August 7, 2013

Computational Investing, Part I is a free online class taught by Dr. Tucker Balch of Georgia Institute of Technology

For all the memons out there

Integrity. It’s a quality every man worth his salt aspires to. It encompasses many of the best and most admirable traits in a man: honesty, uprightness, t

"What this means is that if you want to maintain your integrity, the best thing you can do is to never take that first dishonest step. No matter how small and inconsequential a choice may seem at the time, it may start you down a path that tarnishes your moral compass, leads you to commit more serious misdeeds, and causes you to compromise your fundamental principles."

Definitely looking forward to the next few parts in the series.

In July 2012, responding to allegations that the video-chat service Skype -- owned by Microsoft -- was changing its protocols to make it possible for the government to eavesdrop on users, Corporate Vice President Mark Gillett took to the company's blog to deny it.

"Since the Snowden documents became public, I have been receiving e-mails from people seeking advice on whom to trust. As a security and privacy expert, I'm expected to know which companies protect their users' privacy and which encryption programs the NSA can't break. The truth is, I have no idea. No one outside the classified government world does. I tell people that they have no choice but to decide whom they trust and to then trust them as a matter of faith. It's a lousy answer, but until our government starts down the path of regaining our trust, it's the only thing we can do."

August 6, 2013

A visual display of the data being uploaded every second.

Gives some perspective.

August 5, 2013

The basic principle behind asset forfeiture is appealing. It enables authorities to confiscate cash or property obtained through illicit means, and, in many states, funnel the proceeds directly into the fight against crime. But the system has also given rise to corruption and violations of civil lib...

Really long, equally horrifying.

"It involved, in Guillory’s analysis, “a government entity that enjoys the benefit of most doubts, and a D.A. who enjoyed the most gold-plated kind of immunity there is: absolute prosecutorial immunity.” That was why, he thinks, authorities in Tenaha had managed to keep their dirty work largely obscured from public view—“shitting in high cotton,” he calls it."

The world's first lab-grown burger was cooked and eaten at a news conference in London on Monday.

Man eats burger. News at 11.

On a more serious note, this is pretty cool.

In this article I present in which way scanners / copiers of the Xerox WorkCentre Line randomly alter written numbers in pages that are scanned. This is not an OCR problem (as we switched off OCR on purpose), it is a lot worse – patches of the pixel data are randomly replaced in a very subtle and da...


August 4, 2013

A talk at Black Hat USA 2013 discussing recent advances in academic research that imperils two critical algorithms upon which Internet trust rests: RSA and Diff

Apart from this article, I also gave a talk at OHM2013 about this subject. As soon as the video recordings made at that time are available, I'll link there.

Root-kit in the hard-disk itself, so it stays on after a reinstall. Pretty cool stuff.

August 2, 2013

With Sergey Aleynikov in prison for lifting computer code from Goldman Sachs, Michael Lewis convenes a private “jury” to determine what he actually did wrong.

Really long, really interesting read.

August 1, 2013

Your standard iPhone camera app is actually pretty slow, taking just three to six photos per second at 8 megapixels each. But with SnappyCam 3.0 you can shoot 20 full-resolution photos per second thanks to a breakthrough in discrete cosine transform JPG science by its inventor. 20 frames per secon..

This is cool, though "thanks to a breakthrough in discrete cosine transform JPG science by its inventor." does indicate how good the reporting is.