Monday, March 30, 2009

Researchers Uncover Vast Cyber Spy System

The group of Toronto researchers (pictured above) uncovered a spy system that has infected "1,295 computers in 103 countries, including many belonging to embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices, as well as the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London and New York."
The operation, which largely originates from China, is advanced enough to turn on an infected computer's camera and microphone and then send data back to the host (full story at nytimes).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

12 Million Node Botnet Triggers 'Disaster' Speculation

NYtimes on the Conficker Botnet:

Given the sophisticated nature of the worm, the question remains: What is the purpose of Conficker, which could possibly become the world’s most powerful parallel computer on April 1? That is when the worm will generate 50,000 domain names and systematically try to communicate with each one. The authors then only need to register one of the domain names in order to take control of the millions of zombie computers that have been created.

And Wired...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Federal Agency Fights Sophisticated Computer Worm

Apparently, there is a behind-the-scenes struggle raging between the government experts at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (which definately sounds like a crazy sci-fi organization) and the alliance known as the Conficker Cabal (ditto). The Cabal, according to this article, has created a program that has infected millions of computers with software code that is intended to lash together the infected machines it controls into a powerful computer known as a botnet.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Brain-Training Video Games Under Fire

From the Guardian's Science section
: People who spend money on "brain trainers" to keep their minds agile may get the same results by simply doing a crossword or surfing the internet, according to research published today.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy 20th Internet!

As seed magazine reports, 20 years ago this month, "Tim Berners-Lee submitted a curious paper to his boss: a proposal to use hypertext to connect text files on individual computers. The goal was to form an information network with links by which people could easily navigate between multiple digital documents. 'Vague but exciting,' the manager, Mike Sendall, wrote on the margins of the paper upon first reading it, but granted Berners-Lee his support to continue exploring."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Jaguar Fast On Roadrunner's Tail, Both Smash Petaflop Barrier

I love that IBM named its newest supercomputer "Roadrunner" (mentioned in a July post). I also like how the good people at Cray have airbrushed a sweet design down the side of their massive Jaguar computing system. In November both the Roadrunner and Jaguar smashed the petaflop barrier (1,000,000,000,000,000 calculations every second) with Roadrunner clocking in just faster than Jaguar (1.105 vs. 1.059 quadrillion calculations per second). Researchers are excited about the accomplishment, saying that these supercomputers are literally creating an opportunity for simulation as a third branch of science. The power of these computers to simulate nature simply can't be ignored they say, and the scientific method must be revised to grant simulation a more important role.
On another note, according to the Wired article, Raymond Kurzweil believes the human brain has a power of 10 petaflops. By Kurzweil's reckoning, we should equal the human brain's calculating power in less than 7 years.

Friday, March 13, 2009

When Will We Meet C-3P0 And Will He Be Linked To His Buddies?

In the same way some people ask, "where are the flying cars we all expected to have by now," asks, "where the hell are the walking, talking, thinking robots that we imagined filling our future?"

Dvice goes on to interview James Kuffner, a specialist in the field of motion planning and professor at Carnegie Mellon' robotics institute. He says that for him and his team, "The goal is for a robot to be able to search back through its memory and know what it's learned and what the robots before have learned and continue to pass on that searchable database onto the next robot, so that it keeps learning."

A robot that can learn from the mistakes of its peers!? It's an interesting idea–a robot intranet that links similar, learning bots in a sort of collective consciousness. It's not unlike the idea of putting the internet into the hands (or eyes via contact lenses...or brains even) of every human. With the advent of the smartphone we catch glimpses of the sort of connectivity and the potential to learn from the vast store of history's lessons, the challenge is figuring out how to efficiently search the MASSIVE amount of information.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Teen Males And Fish: A Winning Combination

A new study coming out of Sweden titled, "Fish intake of Swedish male adolescents is a predictor of cognitive performance,"  tracks participants from age 15 to 18 and finds that the more fish eaten, the higher the scores on verbal, visuospatial, and overall intelligence tests.  You may be wondering, "Will fish sticks do the trick, or do you have to eat high quality salmon?"  The researchers plan to follow up by with studies to answer this very question.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Robot Roundup

Check out the Boston Globe's 'Big Picture Blog' for great images and descriptions of 32 cutting edge robots from around the world.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Neuroengineering Holds Potential For New Age Of Enlightenment

"Metaphorically, the neuroengineering approach brings the study of the brain into the Age of Enlightenment. By isolating, then testing and altering individual parts of the neural system, we can, for the first time, truly understand what those components do. Ultimately, we can enhance an individual function while leaving the rest of the system untouched. It's the same transition that let us move from alchemy to atomic physics."

Read the 2 part (1, 2) report at wired.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Vampires And Immortality

Vampires are back: From the hit novel Twilight, to the award winning HBO series True Blood, to the accidental Swedish hit, Let The Right One In.

These mythical creatures help us contemplate immortality. Wikipedia briefly discussing vampire immortality, saying of vampire tales: “Much is made of the price of eternal life, namely the incessant need for blood of former equals.” But there is another price to eternal life. Vampires must continually watch the ones they love die (see Let The Right One In). The lifespan discrepancy between immortals and mortals is problematic for romance (this problem is especially pronounced in recent vampire tales, where the vampires, rather than appearing as strange, pale, vaguely bat-like creatures, look identical to–although usually more attractive than–the average human). For any sort of companionship it seems we must live forever together or die together. This is a problem explored (not with vampires but with AI cyborgs) in TransBeMan. It's something we can't help contemplate as finite creatures endowed with the ability to comprehend the infinite.