Archive for the 'Science' Category


DHS testing “pre-crime” detection technology

The good folks at EPIC have used FOIA requests to get some sparse details on a Department of Homeland Security project to detect “mal-intent” via “non-invasive” biometric scanning.  This is very reminiscent of Minority Report minus the pre-cogs.  The DHS can’t even agree on whether PII (Personally Identifiable Information) will be stored in the system as they say it won’t but their own privacy assessment indicates it will.  I think based on what has leaked out about the backscatter x-ray machines we all know how trustworthy their assurance that it won’t is.

I thought the mention of ethnicity as a component in the algorithm was quite interesting as well, is it still racial profiling if it’s a machine instead of a live agent making that decision?  I think so, an obvious facet to challenge it on.  It’s no wonder they are so tight-lipped about it.

“That which grows in the shadows and withers in the light of day, does not belong on the vine.” – Unknown

Homeland Security moves forward with ‘pre-crime’ detection [CNET]


Biometrics: Dubious security

A very interesting article clearly laying out a viewpoint I have long held.  As we continue to rush blindly into security measures based on things we don’t really understand, often trashing personal rights and privacy in the process, we are actually setting ourselves up for failure.

Biometrics: The Difference Engine… []


Royal Society: 350 Years of Scientific Publishing

A new website by the Royal Society in Britain allows you to explore 350 years of scientific papers and accomplishments via an interactive timeline.  Even more interestingly, the actual papers are linked from the event details.  For example, you can read Benjamin Franklin’s letter regarding his famous kite experiment.

Being a “science guy” I think this site could definitely occupy some serious time on my part.  If you have any interest in science or history, you need to check it out.

Trailblazing [The Royal Society]


Cool stem cell breakthrough…

An interesting development in stem-cell research was just reported by Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine International. Scientists have had a couple methods in the past to convert a patient’s own cells to stem cells but the methods had unacceptable risks for mutations. The new method uses skin cells and a cell-penetrating peptide (protein.) This avoids the risks of using retroviruses or chemical washes. Currently it takes longer but they believe the process can be refined.

Avoiding the thorny ethical issues of embryonic stem cells means research can progress rapidly. Also, using one’s own cells reduces rejection issues. Great progress…

Stem cell breakthrough gets closer… [Yahoo]


The Civil Heretic

I just read a very interesting feature at the NYT on physicist/thinker Freeman Dyson.  We need smart contrarian thinking as a balance to any ideological position and Dyson is happy to contribute.

Link [New York Times]


No fixes for Shuttle Endeavour

NASA says that no fix is necessary for the shuttle based on their thermal studies. Despite objections from the JSC engineering team and Nobel Prize winning physicist Douglas Osheroff, the decision is apparently made. Osheroff was on the investigation board following the Columbia disaster four years ago.

The crew are putting on a brave face, astronauts Alvin Drew and Barbara Morgan both indicated their support for the decision. Of course Alvin is placing his trust in the engineering expertise of those on the ground and the engineers at JSC (Houston) wanted to do the repairs.

In any case, I renew by previous sentiment and wish the crew the best of luck and hope they will be home safe soon.

Update [8/21]: They’re home safe!


3D Projections with Laaaasers…

Very interesting work being done at AIST in Japan on real 3D images using laser-generated bits of plasma in the air.  When they get this scaled up to longer distances and good color range it will be very cool.  Of course, you just know that advertisers will be the first to implement it.

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Random opinions of a slightly jaded geek in Cincinnati, OH, US.

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