[S]cientists at the Riken-M.I.T. Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they have created a false memory in a mouse, providing detailed clues to how such memories may form in human brains.
Steve Ramirez, Xu Liu and other scientists, led by Susumu Tonegawa, reported Thursday in the journal Science that they caused mice to remember being shocked in one location, when in reality the electric shock was delivered in a completely different location.
It sounds like the first chapter of a dystopian novel. Why torture a fake confession out of a scapegoat when you can make him think he’s confessing truthfully?
Here’s hoping this research instead furthers the cause of all humankind. Yeah, right.
Have you ever felt as if time were speeding up as you get older? Richard A. Friedman has some good advice in the New York Times:
Don’t despair. I am happy to tell you that the apparent velocity of time is a big fat cognitive illusion and happy to say there may be a way to slow the velocity of our later lives. […] It’s simple: if you want time to slow down, become a student again. Learn something that requires sustained effort; do something novel. Put down the thriller when you’re sitting on the beach and break out a book on evolutionary theory or Spanish for beginners or a how-to book on something you’ve always wanted to do. Take a new route to work; vacation at an unknown spot. And take your sweet time about it.
The New York Times‘ Science page, as a method of demonstrating basic artificial intelligence (and also presumably in the spirit of pointless fun), has published a browser-based game of "Paper, Rock, Scissors" in which you try to best the AI program running on their server. Don’t say I never gave you a way to procrastinate.
The researchers quoted in this story on Discovery.com say that they can actually watch the progress of death as it spreads through the body of a dying worm. In addition, they suggest that the spreading chemical reaction they’ve witnessed might respond to chemical intervention in deaths not stemming directly from old age. They are, in a very real way, claiming that there might be a cure for death.
Billions of tonnes of the greenhouse gas methane are trapped just below the surface of the East Siberian Arctic shelf. Melting means the area is poised to deliver a giant gaseous belch at any moment—one that could bring global warming forward 35 years and cost the equivalent of almost a year’s global GDP.
It sounds more like a fart to me—the biggest, most expensive fart of all time. I make fart jokes because it hurts if I don’t.
I’m no music critic, despite a deeply critical streak. Let’s just say that I know what I hate, and what I hate is almost everything. It’s getting worse. Lately I find that a year or two will pass before I find something I really like. Sometimes I worry that my advanced age1 is tripping me up, and other times I settle on the idea that most cultural artifacts are simply not worth the amount of time that consuming them might require.
Squirrelwood is worth your time. The record bills itself—and others have billed it personally to me so, as well—as an instance of modern Prog Rock. There is most definitely to be found here the influence of 1970’s Prog, but it’s not a Prog which exists in the field of pastiche. There’s a very real earnestness. It’s bolstered by a breadth of influence and by a clear and communicative voice.
I’m a ripe old 36, as of this writing; that’s not too old by any really productive standard, but it’s positively ancient in practical terms. Old people tend to calcify, and their musical tastes tend to reflect what they were “into” when they were 25. ↩
The tweets look completely real, but SFGate discovered that while the Twitter users who are featured are real, their tweets are not. The users featured raving about TV commercials never said anything of the kind, and were unaware their profile pics and accounts were being presented in a post on Twitter’s blog sent out to hundreds of thousands via the @Twitterads Twitter account and retweeted to more than 1.5 million.
I previously would have thought that only Facebook could be this slimy. Go ahead, Twitter, start talking me out of using your service.
On Monday, the Washington Post published a story focusing on how massively the NSA has grown since the 9/11 attacks. Buried within it, there was a small but striking detail: By September 2004, the NSA had developed a technique that was dubbed “The Find” by special operations officers. The technique, the Post reports, was used in Iraq and “enabled the agency to find cellphones even when they were turned off.” This helped identify “thousands of new targets, including members of a burgeoning al-Qaeda-sponsored insurgency in Iraq,” according to members of the special operations unit interviewed by the Post.
The article goes on to speculate that perhaps these phones are being infected with malware, or maybe that the government injects tracking code into updates to a phone’s operating system. This whole thing just keeps getting creepier—who’d have thought that something like this could even be technically possible?
Mike Masnick, reporting for TechDirt (the entire post is worth a read):
This seems like a pretty big problem, given the rationale of the judge initially. Beyond that, just the basic chilling effects from finding out that a giant company could get access like this to so much metadata on a large list of its critics is fairly incredible. As the article notes, while subpoenas on people who aren’t actually parties to a lawsuit are “routine,” they’re not supposed to be mass fishing expeditions, which they appear to be in this case.
So, we have more than just the NSA to worry about now. I find it pretty insane that a judge would just hand this kind of personal data over to a corporation. Insanity seems to be the new norm.
A serious vulnerability on SIM cards used in some mobile phones has been found, exploiting the flaw an attacker could eavesdrop on phone conversations, could install malicious applications on the device or it could impersonalize handset’s owner. The discovery is very concerning, the vulnerability could compromise the security for 750 million mobile phones.
You can barely look around recently without encountering yet another potentially disatrous security breach which affects millions of unsuspecting people. As Moore’s Law leads to faster and faster computation—while our encryption methods seem to advance and propagate at a slower rate—breaches and catastrophes are only going to become more and more common1.
Nohl revealed that it is possible to exploit the vulnerability in less than two minutes using a common PC.
In the words of the great philosopher, “yikes!”
Get ready for a neverending stream of calls from your mother, your father, your aunt, your cousin, that one guy you used to work with who knows you’re some kind of geek or something, your neighbor’s friend, etc. ↩