ReHacked #70: Why printers add secret tracking dots, SpaceX installed 29 Raptor engines on a Super Heavy, Why Extraterrestrial Life May Not Seem Entirely Alien and more

The bottom line — why animals do the things that they do, why they are the things that they are — is because of evolution. A.Kershenbaum

ReHacked #70: Why printers add secret tracking dots, SpaceX installed 29 Raptor engines on a Super Heavy, Why Extraterrestrial Life May Not Seem Entirely Alien and more
Image of 29 Raptor rocket engines installed on a Super Heavy booster.

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Why printers add secret tracking dots - BBC Future #privacy #longread

On 3 June 2017, FBI agents arrived at the house of government contractor Reality Leigh Winner in Augusta, Georgia. They had spent the last two days investigating a top secret classified document that had allegedly been leaked to the press. In order to track down Winner, agents claim they had carefully studied copies of the document provided by online news site The Intercept and noticed creases suggesting that the pages had been printed and “hand-carried out of a secured space”.

In an affidavit, the FBI alleges that Winner admitted printing the National Security Agency (NSA) report and sending it to The Intercept. Shortly after a story about the leak was published, charges against Winner were made public.

SpaceX installed 29 Raptor engines on a Super Heavy rocket last night | Ars Technica #technology #space

Sometimes it is difficult to write objectively about the rate at which SpaceX makes progress. The advancements we're seeing at the company's Starbase site in South Texas are unprecedented.

Like, seriously unprecedented.

On Sunday, SpaceX finished stacking what it is calling "Booster 4," the first of its Super Heavy rocket boosters expected to take flight. This is a massive, single-core rocket that is approximately 70 meters tall, with a diameter of 9 meters. It has a thrust approximately double that of the Saturn V rocket that launched NASA astronauts to the Moon.

Winnebiko - Nomadic Research Labs #computing #history

The technomadic story begins at a time of primitive computer and communications technologies. Cellular phones did not yet exist, online services cost a few dollars an hour for cumbersome text-only services, and people were debating whether one could actually work at home instead of the office.

Why Extraterrestrial Life May Not Seem Entirely Alien | Quanta Magazine #nature #science #longread

“The bottom line — why animals do the things that they do, why they are the things that they are — is because of evolution,” said Kershenbaum, a lecturer and director of studies in the natural sciences at the university’s Girton College. He argues that evolution is a universal law of nature, like gravity — and that studies of plants and animals here can therefore tell us something useful about potential inhabitants of worlds far beyond Earth. He finds evidence for this in the process of evolutionary convergence, in which unrelated lineages of organisms evolve similar features as adaptations to similar environmental challenges. It’s an argument he presents in detail in his new book, The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy: What Animals on Earth Reveal About Aliens — and Ourselves, which draws on comparisons of animals’ physical adaptations as well as his own research (and that of others) into animal communications.

Leap seconds: Causing Bugs Even When They Don't Happen - Bert Hubert's writings #programming #time

Leap seconds are controversial things. Since the Earth does not rotate at a steady rate, over time the Earth could get ahead or behind “atomic time”. Whatever solution you propose for this, someone is going to be unhappy.

I take no position on what the best thing to do is here, except that one day I would like to do the math on the “great leap second gyroscopes” that we could mount near the poles to steady the Earth’s rotation, so we can stop talking about this. We may occasionally have to desaturate these gyroscopes with huge rockets also.

Python developers are being targeted with malicious packages on PyPI #security

Software package repositories are becoming a popular target for supply chain attacks. Recently, there has been news about malware attacks on popular repositories like npm, PyPI, and RubyGems. Developers are blindly trusting repositories and installing packages from these sources, assuming they are secure. Sometimes malware packages are allowed to be uploaded to the package repository, giving malicious actors the opportunity to use repositories to distribute viruses and launch successful attacks on both developer and CI/CD machines in the pipeline.

As part of an ongoing effort by the JFrog security research team (formerly Vdoo) to automatically identify malicious packages, we are now reporting several Python packages hosted on PyPI as malicious. We have alerted PyPI about the existence of the malicious packages which promptly removed them. Based on data from, we estimate the malicious packages were downloaded about 30,000 times. We currently don’t have data about the actual impact caused by the use of these malicious packages.

Use Spreadsheets Everywhere! - Simple Thread #computing #software

Spreadsheets, they’re everywhere. Following closely behind email and word processor documents, spreadsheets are possibly the most ubiquitous tool for knowledge workers.

From simple lists to complex financial modeling, spreadsheets are the backbone of how modern business gets done. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Spreadsheets, in the form of VisiCalc, helped kick off the desktop computing revolution.

This Can't Go On #economy #history #longread #podcast

Summary of this piece:
  • We're used to the world economy growing a few percent per year. This has been the case for many generations.
  • However, this is a very unusual situation. Zooming out to all of history, we see that growth has been accelerating; that it's near its historical high point; and that it's faster than it can be for all that much longer (there aren't enough atoms in the galaxy to sustain this rate of growth for even another 10,000 years).
  • The world can't just keep growing at this rate indefinitely. We should be ready for other possibilities: stagnation (growth slows or ends), explosion (growth accelerates even more, before hitting its limits), and collapse (some disaster levels the economy).
The times we live in are unusual and unstable. We shouldn't be surprised if something wacky happens, like an explosion in economic and scientific progress, leading to technological maturity. In fact, such an explosion would arguably be right on trend.

Facebook Disables Accounts Of Researchers Looking At Political Ads #censorship #internet #socialnetworks

The social media giant announced in a blog post on Wednesday that it had banned the accounts, apps, and pages related to the NYU Ad Observatory, a project by Cybersecurity of Democracy. The ban is the latest in a long-running feud Facebook has had with the academics.

To aid in their research, the group created a browser plug-in called Ad Observer, which collects data on the political ads users see and why they were targeted for the ad.

China Says It's Closing in on Thorium Nuclear Reactor - IEEE Spectrum #technology

There is no denying the need for nuclear power in a world that hungers for clean, carbon-free energy. At the same time, there's a need for safer technologies that bear less proliferation risk. Molten salt nuclear reactors (MSRs) fit the bill—and, according to at least one source, China may be well on their way to developing MSR technology.

Government researchers there unveiled a design for a commercial molten salt reactor (MSR) that uses thorium as fuel, the South China Morning Post reported recently. A prototype reactor, the paper said, should be ready this month for tests starting in September. Construction of the first commercial reactor being built in the Gansu province should be complete, they noted, by 2030.

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