Thursday, May 25, 2006

10,000 Things You May Not Care About

Found this list of "what's so special about this number?" when I stumbled upon

For all you DaVinci Code conspiracy theorists, a brief list of forty "Fibbonacci index: value" pairs are displayed below:
1: 1, 2: 1, 3: 2, 4: 3, 5: 5,
6: 8, 7: 13, 8: 21, 9: 34, 10: 55,
11: 89, 12: 144, 13: 233, 14: 377, 15: 610,
16: 987, 17: 1597, 18: 2584, 19: 4181, 20: 6765,
21: 10946, 22: 17711, 23: 28657, 24: 46368, 25: 75025,
26: 121393, 27: 196418, 28: 317811, 29: 514229, 30: 832040
31: 1346269, 32: 2178309, 33: 3524578, 34: 5702887, 35: 9227465
36: 14930352, 37: 24157817, 38: 39088169, 39: 63245986, 40: 102334155

"Fun" Fibbonacci tidbits observed in these first forty iterations:
  • number of instances where index=value [2: 1 and 5]
  • number of instances where index^2=value [2: 1 and 12]
  • order of magnitude indices [1, 7, 12, 17, 21, 26, 31, 36, 40, ...]
  • indicies for which value/index is a whole number [1, 5, 12, 24, 25, 36, ...]

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Monkey Love?

Today's widespread science news concerns a hypothesis that humans and chimpanzees not only share a common ancestor, but may have an overlapping history that involves a long period of "hybridization" prior to the evolutionary paths that lead to the current disparate species. The skeptical quote from the Harvard biological anthropologist, who is not associated with the study, is absolutely priceless:
"My problem is imagining what it would be like to have a bipedal hominid and a chimpanzee viewing each other as appropriate mates — not to put it too crudely."
(Although priceless, the sentiment in the quote is not really informative. For example, when dealing with genetic precursors to both species, can bipedalism be assumed to be a valid trait? Is it safe to assume that one of the hypothesized sub-species had a more pronounced posterior than the other? He could just as easily tried to imagine that a "medicinal herb" was used as some sort of proto-date-rape drug -- not to put it too crudely...)

Also from the "Monkey Love" department is an older article about Harry Harlow and his experiments with Rhesus monkeys. These experiments demonstrated that touch and physical intimacy are more important to a developing infant that mere nourishment. I, for one, wonder how the subject of an ongoing attempt by an MIT Media Lab professor to catalog the development of speech in his infant son (by building a giant electronic archive of almost every waking moment of his pre-verbal life) would feel about this. And we wonder why the former chief of the Media Lab is off advocating wind-up laptops...

*: Yes, I know that chimps are properly apes, and not monkeys. However, "ape love" just doesn't sound funny, does it?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Poignant Lessons

The framers of the principles of governance that ruled the United States before "the world changed" (*) would be very disappointed in the way that the current citizenry accepts trespasses upon their rights in the name of security. When "No Such Agency" is listening in on certain phone calls and tracking almost all of them, what has occurred is nothing more than an erosion of the right of the people to speak freely. Recent examples show that your government has databases that expose who you're talking to, what you're searching for online, and what books you are borrowing from the library. You are expected, however, to entrust them to use this information responsibly -- despite the fact that they won't tell you how they are actaully using it. "Because I said so," may occasionally be a valid response from parent to child, but it is never a valid response from government to a free people.

In the modern age, the fundamental rights of association, belief, and assembly -- whether stated explicitly or rendered implicit in the first, fifth, and fourteenth amendments -- must be understood to embody our new forms of communication. If we choose to assemble or speak via the internet or the telephone, these technologies serve simply as an enabler of speech. When choosing to take advantage of the tools of modern society to express our opinions and beliefs, we should feel neither more opressed nor less free than if we chose to assemble in the presence of the monuments to Lincoln and Washington and to profess our dissatisfaction "the old fashioned way."

However, we must clearly understanding that expressing an opinion via these tools is at once trivially easy and profoundly impotent. Merely expressing a belief in no way should be seen to constitute taking action to uphold or defend that belief. This is one of the principal failings of the citizenry today; we are collectively willing to complain, but reticent to act. I urge you to follow the advice of the framers; take a stand against those policies of, and individuals in, your government that are failing to defend your rights, your freedoms, and your beliefs. Never be afraid to stand against your government, and always question acts of your government which serve to stand against your constitutionally-defined rights or freedoms.

Benjamin Franklin:

"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."

Thomas Jefferson:
"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground."
"Though [the people] may acquiesce, they cannot approve what they do not understand."
"Lethargy [is] the forerunner of death to the public liberty."
"No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority."
"[The] liberty of speaking and writing... guards our other liberties."
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
"Were we to give up half our territory rather than engage in a just war to preserve it, we should not keep the other half long." [Note: Substitute "liberty" for "territory," and the sentiment remains the same...]

(*): The world didn't change on September 11, 2001. The world has always been a place where the irrational actions of the few can have a dramatic impact on the many; a place where misguided beliefs lead to conflict, strife, war, and death. History clearly demonstrates that as a species, we are somehow unable to "just get along." Too many individuals blind their rationality and follow leaders that act in ways that are detrimental to mankind. Human history is filled with such leaders, who have emerged from all sources of human power and influence, including: military, political, religious, industrial, and financial.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

RFID Ignition For Thieves

Turns out that most of the keyless ignition systems (often found in high-dollar cars, such as Mercedes-Benz [Keyless Go] and Lexus [SmartAccess]) use a really basic 40-bit encryption key(*). This means they can generally be hacked in minutes or less by a modern laptop and a motivated individual with an RFID reader. A little bit of knowledge of a car's particular system, and the ability to come into close-enough proximity with the "key fob" without being detected, can make the hack even easier. So -- do you trust Mercedes' statement in the Edmunds article that "It's nearly impossible to unlock the steering column or start the engine without the owner's remote unit," or do you believe that it's a little too easy to clone said remote unit...

*: A 40-bit key is equivalent to the original WEP standard for Wi-Fi, and we have countless examples of how lazy implementation of code rolling made that easily hackable...

Random Things

Neon Genesis: Evangelion article -- links to brief episode synopses, too

The FreeSound Project -- a Creative Commons library with plenty of noise(s), and some signal

An Aussie tax break the "W" regime would not approve of -- hint: business expenses for "oldest profession"

Florida high schools to require "majors" -- makes me glad I graduated so long ago

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Word of the [Arbitrary Time Period]

(derivation: Greek, καθολικόν - "katholikon")
[see also: catholic(2) and it's treatment of the Greek καθολικός - "katholikos"]

Traffic Suck? It's Your Fault!

Live Science's Mystery Monday column gives a cursory explanation of why your greedy attitude and sloth-like reflexes are the root cause of traffic jams. The same site also has an article that cites research which demonstrates that high speed limits don't hike the death toll.

If cruising highways is too "blasé" for you, then turn to PopSci. They can show you how to play pedestrian pinball with your Jaguar (arguably, this technology would take the fun out of Carmageddon), or can get you in a Star Trek mood with their Warp Drive overview.

Hmmm, I seem to have combined a Star Trek reference, a reference to a virtual automotive anger outlet, and talk about traffic into the same post. Somewhere deep in the subconscious, this must mean that I'm still baffled by my two pet-peeves of long-distance driving, which I have named Klingons and
  • In this context, a Klingon is defined as a driver who has absolutely no idea how fast they want to go. As they approach from behind at great speed, Klingons will latch onto the rear bumper of any vehicle and remain there until either A.) another vehicle passes at a higher velocity (and is latched onto) or B.) the driver of the latched-onto vehicle confuses the Klingon into acquiring a new target. Anecdotally, it would appear that Klingons are genetically predisposed to automotive myopia; they are uncapable of focusing on any object more distant than the nearest bumper. Further research may be required, but I would advocate mandatory installation of "corrective" windshields which (when activated at highway speeds) make objects appear much closer than they are.
  • An L.L.P. is a left-lane parker. These pathetic creatures feel entitled to cruise at whatever darn speed they desire -- in the left lane. If they were consistently among the fastest travellers on the road, that would be one thing. L.L.P.'s have been routinely observed to ignore signs that clearly state "left lane for passing only," and generally move slower than the previaling flow of traffic, while simultaneously tending to position their vehicle in the most disruptive of possible physical locations with respect to the flow of surrounding traffic. Often, the L.L.P. is suffering from an acute and chronic case of rectal-cranial proximity dysfunction (RCPD). One notable sign of RCPD is constantly variable velocity that can appear chaotic and non-linear from a reference frame outside of their vehicle. (This, and other symptoms -- you'll know them when you see them -- are greatly exacerbated by the presence of a cell phone). The cure for L.L.P.'s is more complicated. First, they should have a protective Faraday cage installed in their vehicle (eliminating the utility of the cell phone). If this is not an adequate cure, then some more radical intervention may be required...