Cell phones the police can’t tap into

You can set up a passcode to protect the information on your cell phone.  But the manufacturers can still unlock that information if given a court order, giving police and other government agencies access to people’s private data.  But Apple has announced that the new operating system for iPhones, iOS 8, will not give the company access to passcode-protected phones, making it technologically impossible to comply with snooping requests.  Android is following suit.

What do you think of this?  Is it a commendable blow for personal privacy against government surveillance?  Or is it an abdication of responsibility to help authorities fight crime?

[Read more...]

Alibaba and the 40 Thieves

In China, pretty much everyone buys pretty much everything from the online site Alibaba.  Last week, the company came to the United States, getting listed on the New York Stock Exchange, where it raised over $21 billion, becoming the second-biggest IPO in history.  Alibaba has a market capitalization of nearly $220 billion, making it bigger than Facebook, eBay, Disney, and Amazon.  There are plans to open operations in the United States.

But there might be some dangers in investing in a company that is under the thumb of a government that does not believe in capitalism or private property. [Read more...]

What a comet looks like, up close

The European Space Agency spacecraft Rosetta has rendezvoused with Comet 67P, with plans to send a smaller craft to land on it November 11.  The project was launched back in 2004.  The comet is about 3×5 kilometers across (1.86×3 miles).  Go here for more information.  After the jump, photographs from the probe, showing what a comet looks like up close. [Read more...]

Back to school–I mean, “possibility space”!

Daniel J. Flynn has written a book entitled Blue Collar Intellectuals: When the Enlightened and the Everyman Elevated America.  He writes about a time when “intellectuals” spoke to “the common man,” and how many in the demographic of “common man” (and woman) distinguished themselves as “intellectuals” in their own right.  He writes about blue collar savants like Mortimer Adler, Milton Friedman, and Eric Hoffer.  All of this contrasts with the tendency today, in which “intellectuals” speak only to themselves in an arcane idiom that no one else can even understand, while the “common man” is content with mindless pop culture pablum.  And even intellectuals have become anti-intellectual.

But that’s not what I want to blog about.  An excerpt from his book published in the Intercollegiate Review includes a devastating send-up of the state of contemporary education.   I offer it to you as a “Back to School” present. [Read more...]

Reading on Kindle vs. reading on paper

The London Guardian reports on a study of reading on a Kindle as compared to reading a traditional book.   Readers of the paper version performed significantly better when it came to reconstructing the chronological order of incidents in the plot.  The story cites another study that found 10th graders had significantly higher comprehension rates when they read the paper version, as opposed to a digitalized text.

Read the findings after the jump.  I then give my experience (which is rather different from what the study finds) and ask about yours.

[Read more...]

The potato chip bag as microphone

Sounds are vibrations of the air that are picked up by vibrations of the eardrum.  Those vibrations of the air can cause other objects to vibrate.  Scientists at MIT have found a way to reconstruct what people have said from a video of the vibrations of a potato chip bag. [Read more...]


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