November 21, 2012

McGuinty’s resignation sends Andrew Coyne into wrathful froth

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 18:51

A fascinating set of Twitter updates from Andrew Coyne this afternoon:

The Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness returns

Filed under: Humour, Media, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:21

Darren Barefoot has revived the Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness as a Pinterest site:

“Stop, criminal!”

Filed under: Law, Technology, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:46

Vague legal wording and fuzzy intent turn ordinary activities into crimes:

Are you reading this blog? If so, you are committing a crime under 18 USC 1030(a) (better known as the “Computer Fraud & Abuse Act” or “CFAA”). That’s because I did not explicitly authorize you to access this site, but you accessed it anyway. Your screen has a resolution of 1600×900. I know this, because (with malice aforethought) I clearly violated 18 USC 1030(a)(5)(A) by knowingly causing the transmission of JavaScript code to your browser to discover this information.

So we are all going to jail together.

That’s silly, you say, because that’s not what the law means. Well, how do you know what the law means? The law is so vague that it’s impossible to tell.

The CFAA was written in 1986. Back then, to access a computer, you had to have an explicit user account and password. It was therefore easy to tell whether access was authorized or not. But then the web happened, and we started accessing computers all over the world without explicit authorization.

So, without user accounts or other form of explicit authorization, how do we tell if access to a website is “authorized” or not?

Piltdown Man

Filed under: Britain, History, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:33

History Today tweeted that today is the anniversary of the exposure of the Piltdown Man hoax in 1953:

Once cited as the ‘missing link’ between man and beast and definitive proof of the theory of evolution, the Piltdown Man was exposed as a hoax in 1953. Eoanthropus Dawsoni was ‘excavated’ in 1912 by amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson from a shallow gravel pit in Piltdown, Sussex. Great excitement greeted his find, as at the time fewer than five human fossils had been discovered and most of those were incomplete, their dates uncertain and — almost worst of all at a time of intense imperial rivalry — they were foreign. France and Belgium had long boasted Neanderthal skeletons. Germany had Heidelburg Man. Now here, at last, was the first great British palaeoanthropological find. The Piltdown Man, as he was immediately dubbed, was the ‘first Englishman’ and he caused a world sensation.

[. . .]

As time passed and more evidence was disinterred, Piltdown Man became more and more of an anomaly, marginalised in evolutionary theory but remaining on the syllabus. Students were writing dissertations on Piltdown in the 1950s. Then in 1953, following a lecture on Piltdown at the British Museum, South African born Doctor Joseph S. Weiner had an epiphany on the train home to Oxford: Piltdown had to be a fraud.

With his friend and colleague Geoffrey Ainsworth Harrison, who is now the Professor of Biological Anthropology at Oxford, Weiner set about collecting as much evidence as he could before approaching the Head of the Anatomy Department at Oxford, Professor Wilfrid Edward Le Gros Clark. Using the latest scientific techniques, including fluorine measurement and radiocarbon dating, the team proved that the mandible of Eoanthropus Dawsoni had been deliberately stained with potassium bichromate and the teeth filed down. The jaw was later shown to have come from an orangutan.

Upgrading the Coyote

Filed under: Cancon, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:23

Strategy Page has a bit of Canadian content now and again:

Canada has ordered upgrades for another of its 66 LAV III wheeled armored vehicles. These 66 will be equipped for reconnaissance as was its predecessor the LAV II Coyote. This vehicle went to Afghanistan a decade ago and proved enormously useful by doing long range surveillance of Taliban and al Qaeda suspects. The Coyote reconnaissance system mounted on a wheeled armored vehicle. The recon gear consists of a nine meter (30 foot) telescoping mast that contains a Doppler radar, laser rangefinder, thermal imaging sensor and video camera. The mast mounted sensors can see clearly out to 15 kilometers and identify targets (day or night) for artillery or air attack. The radar can spot targets out to 24 kilometers, but can only distinguish vehicle types (wheeled, tracked) beginning at about 12 kilometers.

[. . .]

The Coyote was originally conceived as an inexpensive replacement for air reconnaissance. But the ability of a Coyote vehicle to stay in one place and carefully track movements over a wide area for days, or weeks proved very useful for intelligence work. Five years ago Canada began a $5 billion to upgrade and expand its fleet of LAV III wheeled armored vehicles. Over the last decade, Canada has replaced its 1980s era MOWAG and older LAV II vehicles with the locally built LAV IIIs. Canada donated many of the older wheeled armored vehicles (mostly 11 ton Grizzly personnel carriers) to nations performing peacekeeping duties.

Jonathan Rauch defends “Being Offensive”

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

“We can’t trust anybody in authority to make smart decisions for us about what’s the acceptable point of view.” So says author and Brookings Institution scholar Jonathan Rauch in FIRE’s video, “In Defense of Being Offensive.” Rauch presents a stirring and convincing defense of pluralism over what he calls “purism,” arguing that minorities benefit more under a society that values pluralism, including the right to offend others. Rauch concludes: “Is it a dangerous situation when someone can shut down the search for truth by saying ‘Oh, that offends me’? Absolutely.”

H/T to Virginia Postrel for the link.

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