The Universe is incredibly regular. The variation of the cosmos' temperature across the entire sky is tiny: a few millionths of a degree, no matter which direction you look. Yet the same light from the very early cosmos that reveals the Universe's evenness also tells astronomers a great deal about the conditions that gave rise to irregularities like stars, galaxies, and (incidentally) us.
That light is the cosmic microwave background, and it provides some of the best knowledge we have about the structure, content, and history of the Universe. But it also contains a few mysteries: on very large scales, the cosmos seems to have a certain lopsidedness. That slight asymmetry is reflected in temperature fluctuations much larger than any galaxy, aligned on the sky in a pattern facetiously dubbed "the axis of evil.”
The lopsidedness is real, but cosmologists are divided over whether it reveals anything meaningful about the fundamental laws of physics. The fluctuations are sufficiently small that they could arise from random chance. We have just one observable Universe, but nobody sensible believes we can see all of it. With a sufficiently large cosmos beyond the reach of our telescopes, the rest of the Universe may balance the oddity that we can see, making it a minor, local variation.
Following the MtGox Bitcoin exchange losing millions to a hack and filing for bankruptcy, anonymous attackers took over the personal blog and reddit account of MtGox CEO Mark Karpeles on Sunday. After seizing control, the hackers posted (Pastebin) a message to the two spaces detailing their findings and the reasoning behind the attack.
"It’s time that MTGOX got the bitcoin communities [sic] wrath instead of Bitcoin Community getting Goxed," the message reads. "This release would have been sooner, but in spirit of responsible disclosure and making sure all of ducks were in a row, it took a few days longer than would have liked to verify the data... Included in this download you will find relevant database dumps, csv exports, specialized tools, and some highlighted summaries compiled from data. Keeping in line with fucking Gox alone, no user database dumps have been included."
Forbes reports the 716 megabyte file placed on Karpeles' site included items like his home address, CV, and an Excel spreadsheet that seems to document more than a million trades. But the most interesting piece of information shared is a summary of 18 different currency balances—with 951,116 bitcoins listed. In light of the 850,000 bitcoins supposedly lost in the recent attack, the hackers concluded this figure demonstrates fraud. The footnote reads, "That fat fuck has been lying!!"
|Specs at a glance: Mophie Space Pack|
|Storage||16 or 32GB integrated NAND|
|Ports||MicroUSB 2.0 for charging|
|Size||5.66" 2.57" x 0.63" (143.76 x 65.28 x 16mm)|
|Weight||2.80 oz (79.38g)|
|Starting Price||$149.95 for 16GB, $179.95 for 32GB|
|Compatibility||iPhone 5 and 5S only. Not compatible with fifth-gen iPod touch or iPhone 5C.|
I bought one of Mophie's external battery packs not long after we reviewed one in mid-2012, and since then it's become one of my favorite travel companions. My phone is in near-constant use while I'm traveling for work, whether I'm transmitting communications to the Ars Orbiting HQ, tethering my computer to my phone, or shooting some quick on-the-fly video or pictures without digging out my DSLR.
The upside to an external battery pack is that I can plug pretty much anything into it, from an iPhone to an Android tablet to a Chromebook 11. The bad thing is that you have to remember to have it on you, and you also need to carry around the necessary cables at all times. That's where Mophie's Space Pack comes in—it's a revised version of the company's Juice Pack battery cases with a twist. In addition to a 1,700mAh battery, it includes either 16GB or 32GB of storage that you can use to augment your iPhone's internal storage. It's not for everyone, but for some iPhone 5 and 5S users among you, it just might be able to kill three birds with one stone.
The case itself is very similar to Mophie's existing Juice Pack Plus or Juice Pack Air, the largest and second-largest battery cases the company sells. Its 1,700mAh battery is identical to the Air, and they share roughly equal physical dimensions and weight (the Space Pack is very slightly larger and heavier, but it's hard to tell the difference). It comes apart in two pieces that slide onto the phone and interlock. The bottom of the case has a male Lightning connector that goes into the phone, but you charge the case itself with the same micro USB port that you might find in an Android or Windows phone or tablet.
This week, Ars launched its own cryptocurrency. We told you how we did it, why we did it, and how you could get in on the action. (We even told you about some of the gory behind-the-scenes technical details!)
The response was great—in fact, the number of miners has nearly doubled in just a few days. With all that action, we wanted to know what crazy hardware you’ve devoted to mining something that can, at best, buy you a silly digital hat. We asked and, as expected, the Ars community came through in spades.
To start, the most clever hardware rig was no hardware at all. Urethramancer announced: “My crazy setup was, in the end, begging. Best ARS/s rate ever. Got my hat by mining at first, before it slowed down a bunch, then got the name all shiny from a donation. Gave away the rest. I'm out of the game!”
Researchers at MIT are analyzing animated GIFs in an attempt to catalog what they believe to be a unique, Internet-based emotional vocabulary.
An animated GIF—these days often presented in the form of a "reaction GIF"—can make us laugh, but it can also help convey various other complex emotions, including anger, contempt, guilt, or even empathy in an environment that is frequently dominated by text. The advantage of communicating with GIFs, claim the authors of this research, is they can quickly and easily add context in a subtle way that text or emoticons cannot.
The project, called GIFGIF, was created by Travis Rich and Kevin Hu, research students at MIT's Media Lab working across a mix of fields including data science, who hope to capture this specific kind of vocabulary using quantitative methods (i.e., you). Their ultimate goal is to create a tool that lets people explore the world of GIFs by the emotions they evoke, rather than by manually entered tags. The best part? The quantitative nature of the research means you no longer have to feel guilty for looking at funny GIFs all day.
On Friday, Glenn Greenwald's new website The Intercept published a number of internal NSA documents that didn't necessarily reveal any great state secrets, but instead cast some light on the NSA's office culture. Those documents, leaked by former security contractor Edward Snowden, were actually from an advice column series, written by a 20-year veteran of NSA management under the pen name “Zelda.”
The “Ask Zelda” column was circulated on the NSA's intranet and it offered lighthearted advice on how to deal with any number of interpersonal office situations. But as Intercept writer Peter Maass writes, the column featured one response in particular from September 2011 which might resonate with civil liberties advocates. In it, an NSA employee is concerned that his or her manager is listening in on the conversations of his employees to stay apprised of all the office gossip. The manager even designates “snitches” to fill him in on what employees are talking about, but the aim of his snooping is nebulous.
”Needless to say, this creates a certain amount of tension between team members who normally would get along well, and adds stress in an already stressful atmosphere,” writes the NSA employee, “There is also an unspoken belief that [the manager] will move people to different desks to break up what he perceives as people becoming too 'chummy.'”
Earlier this week, The Linux Foundation announced that it would be working with edX, a non-profit online learning site governed by Harvard and MIT, to make its “Introduction to Linux” course free and open to all.
The Linux Foundation has long offered a wide variety of training courses through its website, but those can generally cost upwards of $2,000. This introductory class, which usually costs $2,400, will be the first from the Linux Foundation to run as a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). There is no limit on enrollment through edX's platform.
The course will be held this summer, although an official start date has not been posted yet. Jennifer Cloer, Director of Communications for the Linux Foundation, said that over 2,500 people signed up for the course within the first 24 hours of it being posted. There are no prerequisites, and a note on the course's information page says that most users will find the course takes between 40 and 60 hours to complete.
Leaks of upcoming versions of Microsoft's software are nothing new, but it's a little surprising when the source is Microsoft itself. The Spring update to Windows 8.1, known as Update 1, was briefly available from Windows Update earlier this week.
The update wasn't a free-for-all. To get Windows Update to install it, you had to create a special (undocumented, secret) registry key to indicate that you were in a particular testing group; only then were the updates displayed and downloadable.
After news of this spread, Microsoft removed the hefty—700MB—update from its servers, but not before it had spread across all manner of file-sharing sites.
Twitter's first annual financial results were revealed on Thursday. Buried deep in the document is the price it paid IBM after it was confronted with a patent infringement threat by Big Blue: $36 million. Bloomberg was first to highlight the price tag.
IBM sent a letter to Twitter in November saying it was infringing at least three IBM patents. That resulted in a negotiation that ended up with Twitter getting a license to IBM's patents, acquiring about 900 of them for itself, and (we now know) paying $36 million.
The patent exchange was spun in positive terms, as something that would boost Twitter's intellectual property portfolio to help it defend itself from other threats against competitors. The exchange does do that, but this "deal" wouldn't have happened but at the end of IBM's massive patent gun, which was pointed at Twitter right before its IPO.
I'm writing a Java implementation of a card game, so I created a special type of Collection I'm calling a Zone. All modification methods of Java's Collection are unsupported, but there's a method in the Zone API,
move(Zone, Card), which moves a Card from the given Zone to itself (accomplished by package-private techniques). This way, I can ensure that no cards are taken out of a zone and simply vanish; they can only be moved to another zone.
Two years ago, a giant sinkhole swallowed trees whole in a Louisiana bayou. This year, Nasa says it could have predicted it.
It might sound like too little too late, but with five-to-ten times more sinkholes occurring in this country because of the wet weather this year, any potential tool for mapping precarious landmasses will be most welcome.
The sinkhole Nasa is basing its study on, near Bayou Corne, was a monster measuring 10.1 hectares. It was 229m (751ft) deep by the time it ceased swallowing everything in sight. In a paper published in the journal Geology, Cathleen Jones and Ron Blom, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, have shown how radar data captured by Nasa's Uninhabited Airborne Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) between 2011 and 2012 could have been used to predict the natural catastrophe.
Spiritual groups that hope to attract your interest may exhort you to “Be a part of something bigger than yourself!” But James Lovelock would tell you that you can already check that off your to-do list.
In the early 1970s, Lovelock—with the help of Lynn Margulis—developed the Gaia Hypothesis, which views the Earth and its ecosystems as resembling a sort of superorganism. Lovelock was working for NASA at the time, developing instruments that would aid the Viking landers in looking for signs of life on Mars, so he was thinking about how life interacts with its environment on a planetary scale. And Margulis was famed for her ideas about symbiosis.
This intellectual background led to the idea that organisms are not just passive inhabitants riding a big rock that determined whether they lived or died. Organisms were active participants in the molding of their environment, tweaking and improving conditions as part of a massive, self-regulating system.
Last month, in a filing with the notoriously secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the United States said that it wants to keep existing records beyond the existing five-year limit due to the handful of lawsuits challenging the National Security Agency’s bulk metadata collection program.
But on Friday, in a win for civil liberties advocates, a FISC judge denied (PDF) that motion.
Judge Reggie Walton writes:
Andreas Antonopoulos, a well-known figure in the Bitcoin community and the Chief Security Officer of Blockchain.info, has decided to raise money (in bitcoins, naturally) to give to Dorian S. Nakamoto, who Newsweek claims invented Bitcoin, although Nakamoto vigorously denies it himself.
On Thursday, Newsweek published its bombshell story, reporting that the Southern California man is the famed Satoshi Nakamoto, the elusive inventor of Bitcoin. But later that day, the Associated Press scored an exclusive interview with Dorian Nakamoto, who denied any and all connection to Bitcoin, saying that he had never heard of the cryptocurrency until a few weeks ago. (Newsweek continues to stand by its reporting.)
Personal Audio LLC has recently become one of the more well-known "patent trolls" due to its broad claims to owning basic podcasting technology. The company has filed lawsuits in East Texas, claiming that its patents on "episodic content" technology, which stem from founder Jim Logan's failed "Magazines on Tape" business, entitle it to royalties from podcasters large and small.
That got the company special attention from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which crowdfunded a challenge to the Personal Audio patents. EFF asked donors to help raise $30,000 to file an "inter partes review" at the US Patent and Trademark Office. That goal was quickly surpassed, and EFF ultimately received about $80,000 from more than 1,300 donors upset about the "podcasting patent."
In January, Personal Audio sent a subpoena to EFF, demanding the full list of donor names. It believes some of those names are connected to companies it has sued in Texas. Those include NBC, CBS, and Fox, as well as the HowStuffWorks podcast (Discovery Channel), Ace Broadcasting (which produces Adam Carolla's podcast), and a smaller Internet radio company called TogiNet.
Next week, the European Parliament will consider an unlikely, last-ditch effort to grant Edward Snowden protection against criminal prosecution and/or extradition to the United States.
The first amendment (PDF) to Resolution A7-0139 would “call on the EU Member States to drop criminal charges, if any, against Edward Snowden and to grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as a whistleblower and international human rights defender.”
This amendment was previously rejected by the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs (LIBE) in February, but it will be brought back before the entire parliament at its upcoming March 12 session in Strasbourg.
In 2011, Raphael Pirker used a RiteWing Zephyr II remote-controlled flying wing to record aerial video of a hospital campus for use in a television advertisement. That act resulted in the Federal Aviation Administration issuing a fine to Pirker of $10,000 for that commercial use of an unmanned aircraft. But now an administrative judge with the National Transportation Safety Board has struck down that fine, contending that FAA regulations can’t be applied to the styrofoam drone Pirker flew.
Pirker, an Austrian who lives in Hong Kong, is also known as “Trappy” of Team BlackSheep, a company that specializes in creating “first-person view” aerial video with remote-controlled aircraft. In November of 2010, he posted a video filmed from a drone flying over New York City—including a close buzz of the Statue of Liberty. Law enforcement did not interfere with Pirker, and he even gave the New York Police Department and the National Parks Service a shout-out for “staying friendly, professional, and positive.” But the FAA was not amused.
The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), which lobbies for "model aviators" and acts as a liaison to the FAA for them, was also taken aback by how close Pirker’s remote aircraft—flown in first-person view mode from a distance—came to buildings, ships, bridges, and a national landmark. In a statement for the AMA, spokesperson Rich Hanson said, “The nature of the flight was outside the realm of recreational aeromodeling activity as defined by the AMA Safety Code and posed a significant threat to people and property.”
It's been months now since Battlefield 4 launched to widespread server problems, and developer DICE is still publicly addressing the netcode issues plaguing the game (though, to be fair, many of the worst failures have already been fixed). Don't worry, though—publisher EA seems relatively confident that the continued issues with the game's online experience haven't damaged the Battlefield brand as a whole.
Gamespot caught statements from EA CFO Blake Jorgensen at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference earlier this week, where the executive expressed confidence that players aren't holding the game's initial online troubles against the Battlefield brand itself.
"We haven't seen any damage," Jorgensen said, regarding the franchise's image. "Clearly we're very focused on protecting that brand... We've also tried to provide extra content to the consumers to make sure they keep coming back and playing the game, and we're finding that it's working very well. I don't see that there's a damage issue. I think for us it's making sure that we're providing great gameplay for the consumer and we'll continue to do that."
The scourge of the remote access trojan (RAT)—those predatory apps that use Web microphones and cameras to surreptitiously spy on victims—has formally entered the Android arena. Not only have researchers found a covert RAT briefly available for download in the official Google Play store, they have also detected a full-featured toolkit for sale in underground forums that could make it easy for other peeping Toms to do the same thing.
The specific RAT in Google Play was disguised as a legitimate app called Parental Control, according to Marc Rogers, principal security researcher at Lookout Mobile, a provider of antimalware software for Android phones. He doesn't know exactly how long it was available on Google servers, but he believes it wasn't long. It was downloaded 10 to 50 times.
The Parental Control trojan was built using Dendroid, a newly discovered software development tool that sells for about $300. Dendroid provides an impressive suite of features, including all the tools to build the command and control infrastructure to control RATted phones and receive audio and video captured from their mics and cameras. Dendroid also allows attackers to intercept, block, or send SMS text messages on compromised phones; download stored pictures and browser histories; and open a dialogue box that asks for passwords. It includes "binder" functions that allow the malicious code to be attached, or bound, into otherwise useful or innocuous apps.
Tennessee is one of 20 states that have restrictions on municipal broadband networks, enacted to protect private Internet service providers from competition.Now, though, there are four bills in the Tennessee House and Senate that would "un-do some of the restrictions previous legies put in place several years ago," broadband industry analyst Craig Settles wrote yesterday.
"This kind of reversal is practically unheard of," he wrote. "What’s more surprising? Republicans lawmakers, typically the party that leads the charge against public-owned networks, are taking the lead on many of these bills in Tennessee!"
ISPs aren't happy about this, naturally. "We are particularly concerned about four bills that have been introduced this session," Tennessee Telecommunications Associations chief Levoy Knowles said in an announcement. The TTA claimed to be presenting "concerns of rural consumers" but are more worried about the potential of losing customers. "These bills would allow municipalities to expand beyond their current footprint and offer broadband in our service areas. If this were to happen, municipalities could cherry-pick our more populated areas, leaving the more remote, rural consumers to bear the high cost of delivering broadband to these less populated regions," Knowles said.