ReHacked #179: Frank Drake has died, Germany pushes for ‘pay as you fly’ model, AI-Generated Bible Art and more

Writing is not the artifact of thinking, it’s the actual thinking process. --Herbert Lui

ReHacked #179: Frank Drake has died, Germany pushes for ‘pay as you fly’ model, AI-Generated Bible Art and more
Unprecedented flooding in Pakistan. (C) CNN

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The Forty-Year Programmer #career

Frank Drake, astronomer famed for contributions to SETI, has died | Ars Technica #promemoria

On Friday, the family of astronomer Frank Drake announced that he passed away peacefully at 92 in his California home, near the site of his final academic position at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Drake made a number of contributions to radio astronomy, including serving as director of the Arecibo radio telescope facility. But Drake is probably best known for an equation that bears his name and his subsequent involvement in SETI efforts. His equation was the first significant attempt to estimate the probability of intelligent extraterrestrial life.

Drake did his PhD in radio astronomy, and his academic career continued with astronomy as a focus. That eventually brought him to the Arecibo observatory. Drake was involved in the observatory's conversion from a military research site to a civilian, science-focused facility, and he later became its director.

Cops wanted to keep mass surveillance app secret; privacy advocates refused | Ars Technica #privacy

Much is known about how the federal government leverages location data by serving warrants to major tech companies like Google or Facebook to investigate crime in America. However, much less is known about how location data influences state and local law enforcement investigations. It turns out that's because many local police agencies intentionally avoid mentioning the under-the-radar tech they use—sometimes without warrants—to monitor private citizens.

As one Maryland-based sergeant wrote in a department email, touting the benefit of "no court paperwork" before purchasing the software, "The success lies in the secrecy."

This week, an investigation from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Associated Press—supported by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting—has made public what could be considered local police's best-kept secret. Their reporting revealed the potentially extreme extent of data surveillance of ordinary people being tracked and made vulnerable just for moving about small-town America.

Germany pushes for ‘pay as you fly’ model | Business Travel News Europe #economy

Following the cancellation of thousands of flights this summer, the German state of Lower Saxony, in the country’s north west, has called to abolish advance payment for flight bookings.

Instead the state’s transport minister Bernd Althusmann, earlier this month, renewed calls to introduce a ‘pay as you fly’ (PAYF) model, where payment for plane tickets is processed upon check-in.

The Federal Ministry for the Environment and Consumer Protection welcomed the initiative, which could be on the agenda at the next Federal Council meeting set for 16 September, according to a report by German business newspaper Handelsblatt.

Brain stimulation can improve the memory of older people | MIT Technology Review #health

The team recruited 60 volunteers, all between the ages of 65 and 88, who were divided into three groups. In a task, each person was read a list of 20 words and had to  recall them later. While they were performing this task, a third of the group had the prefrontal cortex of their brain modulated, and another third had their parietal lobes targeted. The remaining third wore a cap of electrodes but didn’t receive any stimulation.

Those who did receive brain stimulation did not feel anything dramatic, says Reinhart. “When the current is running, you feel like a mild tingling or itching or poking or warming sensation,” he says.

The 20-minute session was repeated for four consecutive days. Over those four days, people who received brain stimulation improved in their ability to remember words. There was no such improvement among those who weren’t stimulated.

And the type of memory improvement depended on which brain regions had been stimulated. Those who had the front of their brains stimulated were better at remembering the first words in the list, suggesting their long-term memory had improved. Those who had their parietal lobes stimulated saw improvements in their short-term memory.

AI-Generated Bible Art #art #ai

The Twitter Whistleblower Story Is Worse Than You Think #privacy #security

Why It’s Hard To Talk About the Twitter Security Story

The most obvious answer is that it’s tough for journalists to write about cybersecurity in ways that resonate with non-technical readers. Mudge’s allegation that over 30% of Twitter’s employee devices disabled automatic software and security updates is (or should be) horrifying to cybersecurity professionals. But that fact won’t hit nearly as hard if you’re a user who’s accustomed to clicking “remind me later” every time there’s an OS update. (And that “yawn” reaction is, of course, exactly why automatic updates are so important.)

But there’s a deeper reason why no one is treating Twitter’s security failures like a five-alarm fire: it’s because we don’t expect anything better. The general public has weathered years of stories about their personal data being mishandled by tech companies, and while it might be infuriating, there’s nothing they can do about it. (Technically, they could leave Twitter, but the platform has no meaningful competitors, and jumping ship means losing all the followers they spent years cultivating.)

The Portuguese Can No Longer Afford To Live in Portugal (Or Even Survive) | by Araci Almeida | The Portuguese | Aug, 2022 | Medium #society #economy

In “Visão” you could read “the crazy prices of small houses” with figures that I would never have thought I would see in my country, with flats with just two bedrooms going for more than half a million euros in the centers of Lisbon or Oporto. A figure that no Portuguese middle-class would ever be able to afford in this life.

The same magazine's subtitle said that “between 2010 and 2022, housing prices in Portugal will rise 70%”. It’s not just a small increase — prices have practically doubled and, as such, have become inconceivable to a Portuguese person.

‘Look closely and there’s a tear in Armstrong’s eye’: the Apollo space missions as you’ve never seen them before | Space | The Guardian #history #space #engineering

Nasa’s original moon mission photographs, kept locked in a freezer in Houston, are some of the most vital artefacts of human endeavour. Now, they have been remastered for a new century. Introduction by Tim Peake. Photographs restored by Andy Saunders

Pakistan flood created a 100km-wide lake, satellite images show - CNN #nature

In a interview with CNN Tuesday, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said he had visited Sindh and seen first-hand how the flooding had displaced entire villages and towns.

"There is barely any dry land that we can find. The scale of this tragedy ... 33 million people, that's more than the population of Sri Lanka or Australia," he said.

"And while we understand that the new reality of climate change means more extreme weather, or monsoons, more extreme heat waves like we saw earlier this year, the scale of the current flood is of apocalyptic proportions. We certainly hope it's not a new climate reality."

US asked British spy agency to stop Guardian publishing Snowden revelations | NSA | The Guardian #politics #privacy

The US National Security Agency (NSA) tried to persuade its British counterpart to stop the Guardian publishing revelations about secret mass data collection from the NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, according to a new book.

Sir Iain Lobban, the head of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), was reportedly called with the request in the early hours of 6 June 2013 but rebuffed the suggestion that his agency should act as a censor on behalf of its US partner in electronic spying.

Beat That Wall | Extensions HUB #internet #software #copyrights

This extension loads a cached version of the page from Google cache and most of the time this removes the paywall.

Some articles that rank better on Google are protected by paywalls. I think we all agree that paywalls are annoying.

Just click the extension button and the page will reload without the paywall

Don’t think to write, write to think - Herbert Lui #productivity

This is one of the lessons that every writer comes to appreciate: writing is thinking. Writing is not the artifact of thinking, it’s the actual thinking process. There’s no shortage of great quotes on this topic, the implications are less clear:

Writing is the planning process and the final product: You don’t design a final piece of writing the same way you might design a computer on paper. No writing emerges complete; everything has a starting point, and it’s usually a really crummy first draft. (It might also appear as an interview, a note, etc.)

Eastern European Guide to Writing Reference Letters #career

The sudden silencing of Guantanamo's artists - BBC News #society #politics #art

Until the end of 2017, Guantanamo detainees were allowed to take their art with them when they were released, or give it to their lawyers to take out.

The artists could bring their work to meetings with their lawyers, who would submit it along with their meeting notes to a team which vetted it for classified material or national security issues.

Artwork deemed sensitive - paintings depicting torture, for example, or hunger strikes - was not allowed out, but otherwise the work was given back to the lawyers to take away.

Then in late 2017, under the Trump administration, it became clear that art was no longer being allowed out. Like lots of things in the world of Guantanamo, there was no official notification to the lawyers, no memo. Artwork was all of a sudden simply bounced back from the vetting team to the detainees.

This Teenager Invented a Low-Cost Tool to Spot Elephant Poachers in Real Time | Innovation| Smithsonian Magazine #nature

Drones are currently used to detect and capture images of poachers, and they aren’t that accurate, the teenager explains. But after watching videos of elephants and humans, she saw how the two differed vastly in the way they move—their speed, their turning patterns and other motions.

“I realized that we could use this disparity between these two movement patterns in order to actually increase the detection accuracy of potential poachers,” she says.

Over the course of two years, Puri created ElSa (short for elephant savior), a low-cost prototype of a machine-learning-driven software that analyzes movement patterns in thermal infrared videos of humans and elephants. Puri says the software is four times more accurate than existing state-of-the-art detection methods. It also eliminates the need for expensive high-resolution thermal cameras, which can cost in the thousands, she says. ElSa uses a $250 FLIR ONE Pro thermal camera with 206x156 pixel resolution that plugs into an off-the-shelf iPhone 6. The camera and iPhone are then attached to a drone, and the system produces real-time inferences as it flies over parks as to whether objects below are human or elephant.

The silent majority #society

In software development, the silent majority are the engineers who write the code, debug the programs, and solve the complex issues behind the scenes. They do not participate in controversial discussions about Visual Basic or Pascal — they just do their work in those languages without even knowing that there’s so much controversy surrounding their language of choice.

Without this silent majority, many projects would, in fact, grind to a halt. It is often their quiet diligence that keeps a project on track and prevents it from falling apart.

There also seems to be an assumption on HN/Reddit that vocal activity on the internet, in any form — be that videos, blogging, podcasts, etc. — is proportional to activity behind the screen. If you’re constantly seeing stuff about crypto, then you’re probably scrolling Twitter, but if you leave that bubble and go outside — most people don’t care.

Google cracks down on VPN based adblockers - Press / Blog - Blokada Community #privacy #internet

One of the main policy changes concerns the VPN Service which will take effect on November 1, 2022: Google claims to be cracking down on apps that are using the VPN service to track user data or rerouting user traffic to earn money through ads. However, these policy changes also apply to apps that use the service to filter traffic locally on the device. Apps such as Blokada v5 and Duck Duck Go. Specifically the policy does not allow for “Manipulating ads that can impact apps monetization”.

The Big [Censored] Theory #society #freespeech #censorship

This change can be traced to a sudden political decision in 2014. According to the state-owned media outlet Xinhua, streaming platforms received a private notification from regulators to remind them of one key rule:

“imported American and British TV shows must be ‘reviewed and approved by officials before streaming to the public.’”

Shortly thereafter, The Big Bang Theory was among a handful of imported shows pulled from Chinese websites. Audiences were only left with a black screen and a line: “video has been removed due to policy reasons.”

When these shows resurfaced, they were full of these weird jumps, signaling that scenes were removed during censorship because someone somewhere thought it would be inappropriate or illegal to stream such content.

Why are D-sharp and E-flat considered to be two different notes | The Ethan Hein Blog #music #science

This confusion applies to all of the black keys, but in this post I’ll be talking about the one between D and E. You could think of it as a raised D, in which case it’s called D-sharp. You could also think of it as a lowered E, in which case it’s called E-flat. Guitars don’t have black and white keys, so when I was a feral self-taught musician, I just thought of that note as the eleventh fret on the E string/the sixth fret on the A string/the first fret on the D string/etc. I pretty much always called it E-flat, regardless of context. I have since learned to use the correct name depending on context, but it still feels arbitrary sometimes, especially outside of diatonicism. If you are in B major, the note is supposed to be called D-sharp, and if you are in B-flat major, the note is supposed to be called E-flat. But what if you’re in A blues? How are you supposed to spell it then? And what difference does it really make anyway?

The usual answer is that you are only supposed to use each letter name once in any given scale. All major scales are considered to be based on C major, and you are supposed to preserve the white keys’ names, modified by accidentals as needed. If you are writing the B major scale, you are supposed to spell it like so: B, C-sharp, D-sharp, E, F-sharp, G-sharp, A-sharp. If you were to instead spell it B, D-flat, E-flat, E, G-flat, A-flat, B-flat, it would sound exactly the same, but you would definitely lose points on your music theory exam.

I was on TikTok for 30 days: it is manipulative, addictive, and harmful to privacy #internet #privacy #socialnetworks

Whether you like it or not, TikTok’s numbers are impressive. It has over 1 billion monthly active users. It was downloaded 3 billion times worldwide and it is so far the most downloaded app this year. The average user opens TikTok 8 times per day. Globally, children spend an average of 75 minutes per day on TikTok, making it the social media platform they are using the most.

With these astounding numbers, TikTok must have something special, right? Well it has. It uses manipulative user experience (UX) design to keep users glued to it. It is built to trigger compulsive use, especially in more impressionable audiences such as teenagers. It is also harmful to privacy. I used TikTok for 30 days and, in this edition of the newsletter, I will explain why and how it is manipulative, addictive and has negative effects on users’ privacy.

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