Sunday, November 30, 2014

bird bomb

NBC | KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan police said they are investigating how a wild bird came to bear an antenna, electronic devices and explosives. Police came across the strange sight around 8 a.m. in the northern Faryab province, a volatile region ravaged by Taliban violence. When police spotted the white bird — which isn't native to the area and appeared larger than an eagle — walking along a highway, they noticed it had an antenna and decided to shoot it, provincial police chief Maj. Gen. Abdul Nabi Ilham told NBC News on Saturday. The bird then exploded, he said, and "suspicious metal stuff" scattered around.


Erik Wernquist | Best viewed full-screen.

WANDERERS is a short science fiction film by Erik Wernquist (that´s me) - a digital artist and animator from Stockholm, Sweden.

The film is a vision of our humanity's future expansion into the Solar System. Although admittedly speculative, the visuals in the film are all based on scientific ideas and concepts of what our future in space might look like, if it ever happens. All the locations depicted in the film are digital recreations of actual places in the Solar System, built from real photos and map data where available. For those interested in learning more of the places featured in the film, I recommend turning to the gallery section.

The title WANDERERS refer partly to the original meaning of the word "planet". In ancient greek, the planets visible in the sky were collectively called "aster planetes" which means "wandering star". It also refers to ourselves; for hundreds of thousands of years - the wanderers of the Earth. In time I hope we take that leap off the ground and permanently become wanderers of the sky. Wanderers among the wanderers.
There is no apparent story - other than what you might imagine for yourself - and the idea is primarily to show a glimpse of the fantastic and beautiful nature that surrounds us on our neighboring worlds - and above all, how it might appear to us if we were there.

how english describes color vs. how chinese describes color...,

Here's a fascinating visualization created by Muyueh Lee that shows the differences between how the English language and Chinese language each describe colors.

triangulating the long arc of the inevitable endgame...,

oxfordjournals |  Western cultures encourage self-construals independent of social contexts whereas East Asian cultures foster interdependent self-construals that rely on how others perceive the self. How are culturally specific self-construals mediated by the human brain? Using functional MRI, we monitored neural responses from adults in East Asian (Chinese) and Western (Danish) cultural contexts during judgments of social, mental, and physical attributes of themselves and public figures to assess cultural influences on self-referential processing of personal attributes in different dimensions. We found that judgments of self vs. a public figure elicited greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in Danish than in Chinese participants regardless of attribute dimensions for judgments. However, self-judgments of social attributes induced greater activity in the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) in Chinese than in Danish participants. Moreover, the group difference in TPJ activity was mediated by a measure of a cultural value (i.e., interdependence of self-construal). Our findings suggest that individuals in different sociocultural contexts may learn and/or adopt distinct strategies for self-reflection by changing the weight of the mPFC and TPJ in the social brain network.

evolution of collaborative ability creates conditions for subsequent evolution

royalsocietypublishing |  Humans are unique both in their cognitive abilities and in the extent of cooperation in large groups of unrelated individuals. How our species evolved high intelligence in spite of various costs of having a large brain is perplexing. Equally puzzling is how our ancestors managed to overcome the collective action problem and evolve strong innate preferences for cooperative behaviour. Here, I theoretically study the evolution of social-cognitive competencies as driven by selection emerging from the need to produce public goods in games against nature or in direct competition with other groups. I use collaborative ability in collective actions as a proxy for social-cognitive competencies. My results suggest that collaborative ability is more likely to evolve first by between-group conflicts and then later be utilized and improved in games against nature. If collaborative abilities remain low, the species is predicted to become genetically dimorphic with a small proportion of individuals contributing to public goods and the rest free-riding. Evolution of collaborative ability creates conditions for the subsequent evolution of collaborative communication and cultural learning.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

negroes off your knees - on the current trajectory it's NOT going to get any better...,

physorg |  Last year, University of Pennsylvania researchers Alexander J. Stewart and Joshua B. Plotkin published a mathematical explanation for why cooperation and generosity have evolved in nature. Using the classical game theory match-up known as the Prisoner's Dilemma, they found that generous strategies were the only ones that could persist and succeed in a multi-player, iterated version of the game over the long term.

But now they've come out with a somewhat less rosy view of evolution. With a new analysis of the Prisoner's Dilemma played in a large, evolving population, they found that adding more flexibility to the game can allow selfish strategies to be more successful. The work paints a dimmer but likely more realistic view of how cooperation and selfishness balance one another in nature.
"It's a somewhat depressing evolutionary outcome, but it makes ," said Plotkin, a professor in Penn's Department of Biology in the School of Arts & Sciences, who coauthored the study with Stewart, a postdoctoral researcher in his lab. "We had a nice picture of how evolution can promote cooperation even amongst self-interested agents and indeed it sometimes can, but, when we allow mutations that change the nature of the game, there is a runaway evolutionary process, and suddenly defection becomes the more robust outcome."
Their study, which will appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examines the outcomes of the Prisoner's Dilemma, a scenario used in the field of to understand how individuals decide whether to cooperate or not. In the dilemma, if both players cooperate, they both receive a payoff. If one cooperates and the other does not, the cooperating player receives the smallest possible payoff, and the defecting player the largest. If both players do not cooperate, they both receive a payoff, but it is less than what they would gain if both had cooperated. In other words, it pays to cooperate, but it can pay even more to be selfish.

negroes off your knees - america has no operational collective emotional function of "guilt" or "shame"..., |  Shame has biological roots, possibly enhancing trust, favoring social cohesion. We studied bioeconomic aspects of shame and guilt using three approaches: 1—Anthropo-linguistic studies ofGuilt and Shame among the Yanomami, a culturally isolated traditional tribal society; 2—Estimates of the importance different languages assign to the concepts Shame, Guilt, Pain, Embarrassment, Fear and Trust, counting the number of synonyms listed by Google Translate; 3—Quantitative correlations between this linguistic data with socioeconomic indexes. Results showed that Yanomami is unique in having overlapping synonyms for Shame, Fear and Embarrassment. No language had overlapping synonyms for Shame andGuilt. Societies previously described as “GuiltSocieties” have more synonyms for Guilt than for Shame. A large majority of languages, including those from societies previously described as “Shame Societies”, have more words for Shame than for Guilt. The number of synonyms for Guilt and Shame strongly correlated with estimates of corruption, ease of doing business and governance, but not with levels of interpersonal trust. We propose that cultural evolution of shame has continued the work of biological evolution, but its adaptive advantageto society is still unclear. Results suggest that recent cultural evolution must be responsible for the relationship between the levels of corruption of a society and the number of synonyms for Guilt and Shame in its language. This opens a novel window for the study of complex interactions between biological and cultural evolution of cognition and emotions, which might help broaden our insight into bioeconomics.

from Black Power to "black lives matter"....,

Friday, November 28, 2014

a man who respects himself assiduously prepares to meet violence with ultra-violence - everything else is conversation....,

theatlantic |  Black people know what cannot be said. What clearly cannot be said is that the events of Ferguson do not begin with Michael Brown lying dead in the street, but with policies set forth by government at every level. What clearly cannot be said is that the people of Ferguson are regularly plundered, as their grandparents were plundered, and generally regarded as a slush-fund for the government that has pledged to protect them. What clearly cannot be said is the idea of superhuman black men who "bulk up" to run through bullets is not an invention of Darren Wilson, but a staple of American racism.

What clearly cannot be said is that American society's affection for nonviolence is notional. What cannot be said is that American society's admiration for Martin Luther King Jr. increases with distance, that the movement he led was bugged, smeared, harassed, and attacked by the same country that now celebrates him. King had the courage to condemn not merely the violence of blacks, nor the violence of the Klan, but the violence of the American state itself.

What clearly cannot be said is that violence and nonviolence are tools, and that violence—like nonviolence—sometimes works. "Property damage and looting impede social progress," Jonathan Chait wrote Tuesday. He delivered this sentence with unearned authority. Taken together, property damage and looting have been the most effective tools of social progress for white people in America. They describe everything from enslavement to Jim Crow laws to lynching to red-lining.

the great marijuana hoax

theatlantic |  How much there is to be revealed about marijuana in this decade in America for the general public! The actual experience of the smoked herb has been clouded by a fog of dirty language perpetrated by a crowd of fakers who have not had the experience and yet insist on downgrading it. The paradoxical key to this bizarre impasse of awareness is precisely that the marijuana consciousness is one that, ever so gently, shifts the center of attention fromhabitual shallow, purely verbal guidelines and repetitive secondhand ideological interpretations of experience tomore direct, slower, absorbing, occasionally microscopically minute engagement with sensing phenomena.

A few people don't like the experience and report back to the language world that it's a drag. But the vast majority all over the world who have smoked the several breaths necessary to feel the effect, adjust to the strangely familiar sensation of Time slow-down, and explore this new space thru natural curiosity, report that it's a useful area of mind-consciousness to be familiar with. Marijuana is a metaphysical herb less habituating than tobacco, whose smoke is no more disruptive than Insight.

This essay, conceived by a mature middle-aged gentleman, the holder at present of a Guggenheim Fellowship for creative writing, a traveler on many continents with experience of customs and modes of different cultures, is dedicated to those who have not smoked marijuana, who don't know exactly what it is but have been influenced by sloppy, or secondhand, or unscientific, or (as in the case of drug-control bureaucracies) definitely self-interested language used to describe the marijuana high pejoratively. I offer the pleasant suggestion that a negative approach to the whole issue (as presently obtains in what are aptly called square circles in the USA) is not necessarily the best, and that it is time to shift to a more positive attitude toward this specific experience.1 If one is not inclined to have the experience oneself, this is a free country and no one is obliged to have an experience merely because friends, family, or business acquaintances have had it and report themselves pleased. On the other hand, an equal respect and courtesy are required for the sensibilities of one's familiars for whom the experience has not been closed off by the door of Choice.

The black cloud of negative propaganda on marijuana emanates from one particular Source: the US Treas. Dept. Narcotics Bureau.2 If the tendency (a return to common sense) to leave the opiate problem with qualified M.D.'s prevails, the main function of this large Bureau will shift to the persecution of marijuana. Otherwise, the Bureau will have no function except as a minor tax office, for which it was originally purposed, under aegis of Secty. of Treasury. Following Parkinson's Law that a bureaucracy will attempt to find work for itself, or following a simpler line of thought, that the agents of this Bureau have a business interest in perpetuating the idea of a marijuana "menace" lest they lose their employment, it is not unreasonable to suppose that a great deal of the violence, hysteria & energy of the anti-marijuana language propaganda emanating from this source has as its motive a rather obnoxious self interest, all the more objectionable for its tone of moralistic evangelism. This hypocrisy is recognizable to anybody who has firsthand experience of the so-called narcotic; which, as the reader may have noticed, I have termed an herb, which it is -- a leaf or blossom -- in order to switch from negative terminology and inaccurate language.

A marvelous project for a sociologist, and one which I am sure will be in preparation before my generation grows old, will be a close examination of the actual history and tactics of the Narcotics Bureau and its former chief Power, Harry J. Anslinger, in planting the seed of the marijuana "menace" in the public mind and carefully nurturing its growth over the last few decades until the unsuspecting public was forced to accept an outright lie.3

I MUST begin by explaining something that I have already said in public for many years: that I occasionally use marijuana in preference to alcohol, and have for several decades. I say occasionally and mean it quite literally; I have spent about as many hours high as I have spent in movie theaters -- sometimes three hours a week, sometimes twelve or twenty or more, as at a film festival -- with about the same degree of alteration of my normal awareness.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

mistakes are anomalies, this isht here is the standard operating procedure...,

aljazeera |  Here is something else that is not really in dispute: all of these responding officers were too close. Much too close.

In defense of the cops in each of these shootings, you will hear pundits and police and even some of the offending officers tell you they had little time to react. They will say that it was a split-second decision on whether to shoot; that they had to react quickly or risk being hurt or killed themselves.
But the reason the cops felt this pressure, the reason they feared for their safety, be it from a toy gun, an unseen knife, or a fist full of cigarillos, is because they were too close to properly assess the situation or react in a more measured and considered manner.

This shouldn’t come as a revelation to those officers or outside observers. It has been documented in a number of reports over a number of years that police tactics when it comes to deescalating confrontations with scared, angry, threatening or mentally ill citizens — or not even “suspects,” just subjects — are desperately lacking. By those studies, the officers in the three incidents recounted here did pretty much everything wrong.

Add to that the documented bias in the way society perceives African American men (as dangerous, erratic, aggressive, super-human), and you have what has now been demonstrated to be a lethal mix.
But because these events are so documented and demonstrated, they should also be correctable. Surely, “start x kind of interaction y feet away” is not that hard to teach, especially when the benefits convey just as much to the officer as they do to any potential victim.

nothing enigmatic about what's been laid bare in misery...,

WaPo |  As a matter of maintaining calm and assuaging public concern about a criminal justice system that seems inevitably tilted in the direction of law enforcement and against young black men, an indictment and trial would, no doubt, have been the preferable outcome. A public trial would have offered more airing of the evidence, providing additional closure for society and confidence in the outcome of the case. 

At least in theory, anyway. Previous cases — recall the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin — and the facts in this one suggest an eventual jury verdict finding Wilson not guilty of any charges, a result that would have further inflamed those who see the system as irredeemably biased. 

Yet the decision before the grand jury involved a single incident, discrete facts about the encounter, and a criminal justice system properly focused not on the broader societal implications of the episode but on the two individuals involved, the shooter and the victim. 

County prosecutor Robert McCulloch’s news conference Monday night, with his complaints about “the 24-hour news cycle and its insatiable appetite for something, for anything to talk about,” was inappropriate, verging on embarrassing. 

But the prosecutor’s unusual move to release transcripts of grand jury testimony served as an important and welcome relief valve, adding evidence to a situation understandably overwhelmed by emotion.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

why I stay telling you cats this is school...,

zerohedge |  While the events down in Ferguson play out, back in Chicagoland, HeyJackass reports that the same old bullshit continues day in and day out with nary a peep. In the 107 days since officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18 year old Michael Brown – 12:03pm, Saturday, August 9th – the following stupidity has taken place in Chicago:
  • 155 homicides (74% black males)
  • 725 shot & wounded
  • Six (6) 18 year olds killed: Kawantis Montgomery, Kamaal Burton, Tony McIntos, Alexandra Burgos, Rayvon Little, Johnathan Cartwright
  • 59 18 year olds shot & wounded
  • 29 teenagers (13-19) killed
  • 244 teenagers (13-19) shot and wounded
  • 10 shot (5 killed) by the CPD
Brutal, yet incredibly asinine and absurd to say the least. Fist tap and A+ Big Don.

dr.sen. rand paul channeling dr.king schultz...,

Time |  We are witnessing a tragedy in Ferguson. This city in Missouri has become a focal point for so much. The President and the late Michael Brown’s family have called for peace. I join their calls for peaceful protest, but also reiterate their call to action — “channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change.”

In the search for culpability for the tragedy in Ferguson, I mostly blame politicians. Michael Brown’s death and the suffocation of Eric Garner in New York for selling untaxed cigarettes indicate something is wrong with criminal justice in America. The War on Drugs has created a culture of violence and put police in a nearly impossible situation.

In Ferguson, the precipitating crime was not drugs, but theft. But the War on Drugs has created a tension in some communities that too often results in tragedy. One need only witness the baby in Georgia, who had a concussive grenade explode in her face during a late-night, no-knock drug raid (in which no drugs were found) to understand the feelings of many minorities — the feeling that they are being unfairly targeted.

Three out of four people in jail for drugs are people of color. In the African American community, folks rightly ask why are our sons disproportionately incarcerated, killed, and maimed?

African Americans perceive as true that their kids are more likely to be killed. ProPublica examined 33 years of FBI data on police shootings, accounted for the racial make-up of the country, and determined that: “Young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater.”

Can some of the disparity be blamed on a higher rate of crime in the black community? Yes, but there is a gnawing feeling that simply being black in a high-crime area increases your risk for a deadly altercation with police.

Does bad behavior account for some of the interactions with law enforcement? Yes, but surely there must be ways that we can work to prevent the violence from escalating.

stephen, invite the overseer to the big house


politico |  Rep. Peter King has a suggestion for the White House in dealing with the latest developments in Ferguson — invite Officer Darren Wilson over.

“I think it would be very helpful if President Obama went and met with the police officer, or invited him to the White House and said, ‘You’ve gone through four months of smear and slander, and the least we can do is tell you that it’s unfortunate that it happened and thank you for doing your job,’” the New York Republican told Fox Business on Tuesday.

King’s comments come one day after the announcement was made that a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson for the Aug. 9 shooting and killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

“I thought it was terrible how, over the last four months, a narrative was put out there by our national leaders and by many in the media presuming that the police officer was guilty,” King said.
President Barack Obama addressed the nation shortly after the decision was handed down and urged protesters to show “care and restraint.”

King was not happy with Obama’s remarks, and said, “I wish he had said one good word about the police, one good word about Officer Wilson, who has gone through all this.”

stephen calls for the fair and uniform application of overseeing

msnbc | The anger behind those protests is "rooted in realities that have existed in this country for a long time," Obama said. But "burning buildings, torching cars, destroying property and putting people at risk — that's destructive, and there's no excuse for it. Those are criminal acts." 

Obama said it was important to support people who were seeking to change the system peacefully. To those protesters, he said: "I want all those folks to know their president is going to work with them. And "a lot of folks, I believe, in law enforcement and a lot of folks in city halls and in governor's offices across the country want to work with you." 

Saying it was work that had to be done "city by city, state by state, county by county," Obama said his administration would begin as early as next week to convene "regional meetings" of community, faith and civic leaders to "identify specific steps we can take to ensure law enforcment is fair and is being applied equally to everyone in this country."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

the overseer's a liar..., (aided and abetted at a systemic level)

root |  A review of the grand jury testimony of Ferguson, Mo., Police Officer Darren Wilson opens up a window allowing us to see the ways in which police testimony is treated in an investigation. In the case of the shooting death of Michael Brown, Wilson often gets favorable treatment even in several questionable and eyebrow-raising passages.  

If Brown’s family brings a civil lawsuit, it will be interesting to see what attorney Benjamin Crump can uncover in any cross-examination of Wilson.

During his testimony, Wilson received no tough questioning. And because the Ferguson police conveniently failed to take photographs of the crime scene or record measurements of distances regarding where Brown and Wilson were when Brown was shot, what we're left with are photos from bystanders from Aug. 9, the testimony of Brown's friend Dorian Johnson and Wilson's grand jury appearance.

There are (at least) five specific points Wilson makes that are highly questionable:

overseer wilson went from 0 to 187 in less than 90 seconds on a life "devoid of value"...,

slate |  After announcing that a grand jury had declined to indict officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch took the unusual step of publicly releasing the evidence that jurors reviewed. The transcripts include Wilson's own lengthy testimony about the fatal incident, key points of which are excerpted below.

Throughout, Wilson dwells on how he was frightened by Brown's size—the 18-year-old was 6-foot-4 and nearly 300 pounds—and aggression. At one point, Wilson says that Brown's facial expression made him look "like a demon." At another, he explains that he felt like "a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan" as he struggled with Brown through the window of his police vehicle. Wilson himself is also about 6-foot-4.

Wilson begins by describing how he first spotted Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson.

indict a ham sandwich | A St. Louis County grand jury on Monday decided not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police Officer Darren Wilson in the August killing of teenager Michael Brown. The decision wasn’t a surprise — leaks from the grand jury had led most observers to conclude an indictment was unlikely — but it was unusual. Grand juries nearly always decide to indict.
Or at least, they nearly always do so in cases that don’t involve police officers.
Former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” The data suggests he was barely exaggerating: According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them.

embarrassing multi-level incompetence, or, conspicuously orchestrated peasant stampede?

WaPo |  In the three months since Brown’s killing we have come to learn that collective failures of leadership are just the tip of the iceberg of problems in Ferguson. My colleague Radley Balko reported extensively on how municipalities in St. Louis County, Mo., profit from poverty. “If you were tasked with designing a regional system of government guaranteed to produce racial conflict, anger, and resentment,” he wrote, “you’d be hard pressed to do better than St. Louis County.” The inherent mistrust of police, the grand jury process and the motives of elected and law enforcement officials that we have seen from blacks in Ferguson can be traced back to the Balko’s observation.

Monday, November 24, 2014

let's play nsa!

motherboard.vice |  Prior to the release of the ANT catalog, the last time the public had ever heard anything about retro-reflection technology being used in a surveillance device was in 1960. And the technology became such a sensation that it earned one of the most iconic nicknames of the Cold War.
On August 4, 1945, as World War II was winding down and new tensions with the Soviets were starting to wind up, Russian schoolchildren paid a visit to the American Ambassador in Moscow and bestowed upon him a token of good will: a Great Seal of the United States. The Ambassador hung it in his residential study.

There it hung until one day in 1952, when a British radio technician in Moscow, listening in on Russian air traffic, discovered something unexpected on one frequency: the sound of the British ambassador, loud and clear, along with other American-accented conversations. Thus began one of many exhaustive tear-downs of the embassy. They were looking to find a listening device—and they did, along with a new frontier of spying. The culprit was the Great Seal.

Inside the Americans and British found a tiny device the likes of which they’d never seen. So alien was the Great Seal Bug that the only appropriate name for it seemed to be “The Thing,” after the character in the Addams Family (which was then still just a New Yorker cartoon). It was a retroreflector.

“The Thing,” turned out to have been invented by the legendary Russian engineer Lev Sergeyevich Termen, or Leon Theremin, who may be most famous as the father of the spooky radio-based instrument named after him, but is also considered a pioneer of RFID technology.

But perhaps surprisingly, despite all the public interest in the revelation, “The Thing” did not seem to herald more “things.” In the history of espionage technology, it was a great story, but ultimately a footnote. As far as the public knew, after its fantastical discovery there were fifty-three years of radio silence, so to speak.

“In hindsight,” Ossmann said, “it’s obvious that these types of attacks are practical and employed. For someone who knows a little bit about electronics and a little bit about security, RF retroreflectors should be completely unsurprising. However, I couldn't find anyone who had published any research on the subject at all. That was astonishing."

(This is where things get a bit complicated again; it's worth it, but if you simply can't deal with the details, take my word for it, and skip down to the next section.)  Fist tap Arnach.

babes in toyland where cost is not an issue...,

spiegel |  When it comes to modern firewalls for corporate computer networks, the world's second largest network equipment manufacturer doesn't skimp on praising its own work. According to Juniper Networks' online PR copy, the company's products are "ideal" for protecting large companies and computing centers from unwanted access from outside. They claim the performance of the company's special computers is "unmatched" and their firewalls are the "best-in-class." Despite these assurances, though, there is one attacker none of these products can fend off -- the United States' National Security Agency

Specialists at the intelligence organization succeeded years ago in penetrating the company's digital firewalls. A document viewed by SPIEGEL resembling a product catalog reveals that an NSA division called ANT has burrowed its way into nearly all the security architecture made by the major players in the industry -- including American global market leader Cisco and its Chinese competitor Huawei, but also producers of mass-market goods, such as US computer-maker Dell. 

A 50-Page Catalog
These NSA agents, who specialize in secret back doors, are able to keep an eye on all levels of our digital lives -- from computing centers to individual computers, and from laptops to mobile phones. For nearly every lock, ANT seems to have a key in its toolbox. And no matter what walls companies erect, the NSA's specialists seem already to have gotten past them. 

This, at least, is the impression gained from flipping through the 50-page document. The list reads like a mail-order catalog, one from which other NSA employees can order technologies from the ANT division for tapping their targets' data. The catalog even lists the prices for these electronic break-in tools, with costs ranging from free to $250,000.

gen. michael hayden brought the elite hacknological bacon home to the usaf...,

spiegel |  The NSA's TAO hacking unit is considered to be the intelligence agency's top secret weapon. It maintains its own covert network, infiltrates computers around the world and even intercepts shipping deliveries to plant back doors in electronics ordered by those it is targeting.

It was thanks to the garage door opener episode that Texans learned just how far the NSA's work had encroached upon their daily lives. For quite some time now, the intelligence agency has maintained a branch with around 2,000 employees at Lackland Air Force Base, also in San Antonio. In 2005, the agency took over a former Sony computer chip plant in the western part of the city. A brisk pace of construction commenced inside this enormous compound. The acquisition of the former chip factory at Sony Place was part of a massive expansion the agency began after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

On-Call Digital Plumbers
One of the two main buildings at the former plant has since housed a sophisticated NSA unit, one that has benefited the most from this expansion and has grown the fastest in recent years -- the Office of Tailored Access Operations, or TAO. This is the NSA's top operative unit -- something like a squad of plumbers that can be called in when normal access to a target is blocked.

According to internal NSA documents viewed by SPIEGEL, these on-call digital plumbers are involved in many sensitive operations conducted by American intelligence agencies. TAO's area of operations ranges from counterterrorism to cyber attacks to traditional espionage. The documents reveal just how diversified the tools at TAO's disposal have become -- and also how it exploits the technical weaknesses of the IT industry, from Microsoft to Cisco and Huawei, to carry out its discreet and efficient attacks.

The unit is "akin to the wunderkind of the US intelligence community," says Matthew Aid, a historian who specializes in the history of the NSA. "Getting the ungettable" is the NSA's own description of its duties. "It is not about the quantity produced but the quality of intelligence that is important," one former TAO chief wrote, describing her work in a document. The paper seen by SPIEGEL quotes the former unit head stating that TAO has contributed "some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen." The unit, it goes on, has "access to our very hardest targets."

A Unit Born of the Internet
Defining the future of her unit at the time, she wrote that TAO "needs to continue to grow and must lay the foundation for integrated Computer Network Operations," and that it must "support Computer Network Attacks as an integrated part of military operations." To succeed in this, she wrote, TAO would have to acquire "pervasive, persistent access on the global network." An internal description of TAO's responsibilities makes clear that aggressive attacks are an explicit part of the unit's tasks. In other words, the NSA's hackers have been given a government mandate for their work. During the middle part of the last decade, the special unit succeeded in gaining access to 258 targets in 89 countries -- nearly everywhere in the world. In 2010, it conducted 279 operations worldwide.

Indeed, TAO specialists have directly accessed the protected networks of democratically elected leaders of countries. They infiltrated networks of European telecommunications companies and gained access to and read mails sent over Blackberry's BES email servers, which until then were believed to be securely encrypted. Achieving this last goal required a "sustained TAO operation," one document states.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

aggregate intelligence

radiolab |   What happens when there is no leader? Starlings, bees, and ants manage just fine. In fact, they form staggeringly complicated societies -- all without a Toscanini to conduct them into harmony. This hour of Radiolab, we ask how this happens.

We gaze down at the bottom-up logic of cities, Google, and even our very own brains with fire-flyologists, ant experts, neurologists, a mathematician, and an economist.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Órale buybull buddies - use culo-calming ointment if you go and see this movie...,

quantum solution to the arrow of time dilemma?

physorg |  Entropy can decrease, according to a new proposal - but the process would destroy any evidence of its existence, and erase any memory an observer might have of it. It sounds like the plot to a weird sci-fi movie, but the idea has recently been suggested by theoretical physicist Lorenzo Maccone, currently a visiting scientist at MIT, in an attempt to solve a longstanding paradox in physics.
The laws of physics, which describe everything from electricity to moving objects to energy conservation, are time-invariant. That is, the laws still hold if time is reversed. However, this time reversal symmetry is in direct contrast with everyday phenomena, where it’s obvious that time moves forward and not backward. For example, when milk is spilt, it can’t flow back up into the glass, and when pots are broken, their pieces can’t shatter back together. This irreversibility is formalized through the second law of thermodynamics, which says that entropy always increases or stays the same, but never decreases.

This contrast has created a reversibility paradox, also called Loschmidt’s paradox, which scientists have been trying to understand since Johann Loschmidt began considering the problem in 1876. Scientists have proposed many solutions to the conundrum, from trying to embed irreversibility in physical laws to postulating low-entropy initial states.

Maccone’s idea, published in a recent issue of , is a completely new approach to the paradox, based on the assumption that is valid at all scales. He theoretically shows that entropy can both increase and decrease, but that it must always increase for phenomena that leave a trail of information behind. Entropy can decrease for certain phenomena (when correlated with an observer), but these phenomena won’t leave any information of their having happened. For these situations, it’s like the phenomena never happened at all, since they leave no evidence. As Maccone explains, the second law of thermodynamics is then reduced to a mere tautology: physics cannot study processes where entropy has decreased, due to a complete absence of information. The solution allows for time-reversible phenomena to exist (in agreement with the laws of physics), but not be observable (in agreement with the second law of thermodynamics).

In his study, Maccone presents two thought experiments to illustrate this idea, followed by an analytical derivation. He describes two situations where entropy decreases and all records of it are permanently erased. In both scenarios, the entropy in the systems first increases and then decreases, but the decrease is accompanied by an erasure of any memory of its occurrence. The key to entropy decrease in the first place is a correlation between the observer and the phenomenon in question. As Maccone explains, when an interaction occurs between an observer and an observed phenomenon that decreases the entropy of the correlated observer-observed system, the interaction must also reduce their quantum mutual information. When this information is destroyed, the observer’s memory is destroyed along with it.

the arrow of time

informationphilosopher |  The laws of nature, except the second law of thermodynamics, are symmetric in time. Reversing the time in the dynamical equations of motion simply describes everything going backwards. The second law is different. Entropy must never decrease in time. 

Many natural processes are apparently irreversible. Irreversibility is intimately connected to the direction of time. Identifying the physical reasons for the observed irreversibility, the origin of irreversibility, would contribute greatly to understanding the apparent asymmetry of nature in time, despite nature's perfect symmetry in space. 

In 1927, Arthur Stanley Eddington coined the term "Arrow of Time" in his book The Nature of the Physical World. He connected "Time's Arrow" to the one-way direction of increasing entropy required by the second law of thermodynamics. This is now known as the "thermodynamic arrow."
In his later work, Eddington identified a "cosmological arrow," the direction in which the universe is expanding, as shown by Edwin Hubble about the time Eddington first defined the thermodynamic arrow.
There are now at least five other proposed arrows of time (discussed below). We can ask whether one arrow is a "master arrow" that all the others are following, or perhaps time itself is just a given property of nature that is otherwise irreducible to something more basic, as is space. 

Given the four-dimensional space-time picture of special relativity, and given that the laws of nature are symmetric in space, we may expect the laws to be invariant under a change in time direction. The laws do not depend on position in space or direction, they are invariant under translations and rotations, space is assumed uniform and isotropic. But time is not just another spatial dimension. It enters into calculations of event separations as an imaginary term (multiplied by the square root of minus 1). Nevertheless, all the dynamical laws of motion are symmetric under time reversal. 

So the basic problem is - how can macroscopic irreversibility result from microscopic processes that are fundamentally reversible? 

Friday, November 21, 2014

struggley looking the wrong way for the "infinitely great and "incorporeal" intelligence"...,

NYTimes |  Bloggers have noticed the religious symbols in the movie. There are those 12 apostles, and there’s a Noah’s ark. There is a fallen angel named Dr. Mann who turns satanic in an inverse Garden of Eden. The space project is named Lazarus. The heroine saves the world at age 33. There’s an infinitely greater and incorporeal intelligence offering merciful salvation.

But this isn’t an explicitly religious movie. “Interstellar” is important because amid all the culture wars between science and faith and science and the humanities, the movie illustrates the real symbiosis between these realms.

More, it shows how modern science is influencing culture. People have always bent their worldviews around the latest scientific advances. After Newton, philosophers conceived a clockwork universe. Individuals were seen as cogs in a big machine and could be slotted into vast bureaucratic systems.

But in the era of quantum entanglement and relativity, everything looks emergent and interconnected. Life looks less like a machine and more like endlessly complex patterns of waves and particles. Vast social engineering projects look less promising, because of the complexity, but webs of loving and meaningful relationships can do amazing good.

As the poet Christian Wiman wrote in his masterpiece, “My Bright Abyss,” “If quantum entanglement is true, if related particles react in similar or opposite ways even when separated by tremendous distances, then it is obvious that the whole world is alive and communicating in ways we do not fully understand. And we are part of that life, part of that communication. ...”

I suspect “Interstellar” will leave many people with a radical openness to strange truth just below and above the realm of the everyday. That makes it something of a cultural event.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

is "second-order science" any kind of science at all?

constructivism |   Context: The journal Constructivist Foundations celebrates ten years of publishing articles on constructivist approaches, in particular radical constructivism. Problem: In order to preserve the sustainability of radical constructivism and regain its appeal to new generations of researchers, we set up a new course of action for and with the radical constructivist community to study its innovative potential. This new avenue is “second-order science.” Method: We specify two motivations of second-order science, i.e., the inclusion of the observer, and self-reflexivity that allows second-order science to operate on the products of normal or first-order science. Also, we present a short overview of the contributions that we have collected for this inaugural issue on second-order science. Results: These six initial contributions demonstrate the potential of the new set of approaches to second-order science across several disciplines. Implications: Second-order science is believed to be a cogent concept in the evolution of science, leading to a new wave of innovations, novel experiments and a much closer relationship with current research in the cognitive neurosciences in particular, and with evolutionary and complexity theories in general.

wikipedia |  One version of social constructivism contends that categories of knowledge and reality are actively created by social relationships and interactions. These interactions also alter the way in which scientific episteme is organized.

Social activity presupposes human beings inhabiting shared forms of life, and in the case of social construction, utilizing semiotic resources (meaning making and meaning signifying) with reference to social structures and institutions. Several traditions use the term Social Constructivism: psychology (after Lev Vygotsky), sociology (after Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, themselves influenced by Alfred Schütz), sociology of knowledge (David Bloor), sociology of mathematics (Sal Restivo), philosophy of mathematics (Paul Ernest). Ludwig Wittgenstein's later philosophy can be seen as a foundation for Social Constructivism, with its key theoretical concepts of language games embedded in forms of life.

Constructivism in philosophy of science
Thomas Kuhn argued that changes in scientists' views of reality not only contain subjective elements, but result from group dynamics, "revolutions" in scientific practice and changes in "paradigms".[3] As an example, Kuhn suggested that the Sun-centric Copernican "revolution" replaced the Earth-centric views of Ptolemy not because of empirical failures, but because of a new "paradigm" that exerted control over what scientists felt to be the more fruitful way to pursue their goals.
"But paradigm debates are not really about relative problem-solving ability, though for good reasons they are usually couched in those terms. Instead, the issue is which paradigm should in future guide research on problems many of which neither competitor can yet claim to resolve completely. [A decision is called for] and in the circumstances that decision must be based less on past achievement than on future promise."
—Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions . p. 157
The view of reality as accessible only through models was called model-dependent realism by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow.[4] While not rejecting the idea of "reality-as-it-is-in-itself", model-dependent realism suggests that we cannot know "reality-as-it-is-in-itself", but only an approximation of it provided by the intermediary of models.[5] These models evolve over time as guided by scientific inspiration and experiment.

In the field of the social sciences, constructivism as an epistemology urges that researchers reflect upon the paradigms that may be underpinning their research, and in the light of this that they become more open to consider other ways of interpreting any results of the research. Furthermore, the focus is on presenting results as negotiable constructs rather than as models that aim to "represent" social realities more or less accurately. Norma Romm in her book Accountability in Social Research (2001) argues that social researchers can earn trust from participants and wider audiences insofar as they adopt this orientation and invite inputs from others regarding their inquiry practices and the results thereof.

the latent nature of global information warfare

springer |  Let us return to the nature of information warfare. In the past, war has always and only been real, in the system + model sense, like the bed in which you sleep and the apple you eat. The hard facts of war were inevitably accompanied by their informational shadows: the human shouting, the smell of horses, the sounds of trumpets in battles, the rhythm of machineguns, the pitched whistles of bombs falling from the sky, the smell of napalm, the marks left by the tanks’ tracks. For a short time, in the eighties, passive mass media and digital consumerism made us mistakenly think that war could be experienced by the public as virtual: a televised or computerized game, involving only representations to which nothing corresponded, like shadows without objects, simulacra in Baudrillard’s terminology. Thus, in 1991,4 Baudrillard argued in The Gulf War Did Not Take Place that the hi-tech fighting on the American side during the first Gulf War had transformed a conflict into propaganda and mass-mediated experience. The analysis was correct both in perceiving a difference and in identifying that difference in the decoupling between the system and the model. But it was wrong in selecting models as the new battlefields. Global information warfare is not virtual. It is mostly latent, that is, it is in the world but not experienced as part of the world. It is a war without shadows. You cannot see it, and cannot hear it, it silently happens everyday, can hit anyone anywhere, and we can all be its unaware victims. Take for instance distributed denial-of-service attacks. According to Arbor Networks, more than 2,000 of DDoS occur worldwide every day.5 Their number is increasing and more and more countries are involved that are not officially at war with each other. Similar attacks are very cheap. According to TrendMicro Research a week-long DDoS attack, capable of taking a small organization offline, can cost as little as $150 in the underground market. This is just an example. Conflicts in the infosphere—not just DDoS attacks, but also trade wars, currency wars, patent wars, marketing wars, and other silent forms of informational battles to win hearts, minds, and wallets—are increasingly neither real nor virtual, but latent to most of their victims. They are nonetheless dangerous and wasteful. They require special interfaces to be perceived. They will require a special sensitivity to be eradicated.