A man arrested after masturbating in a public park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, told the court that he had gotten the idea after smoking marijuana.
Vojtech Kralik, 23, of the Czech Republic, was in court facing magistrates on a charge of indecent behavior. According to the police who collared him, he admitted what he had done during interviews, the Belfast Telegraph reports: "He stated that he had smoked cannabis earlier and simply acted on the idea when it came into his head," said one officer.
After his lawyer confirmed that he was not contesting the allegation, Kralik was released on bail pending a pre-sentencing report.
Entirely happy to use the word "chickenosaurus," NBC News reports that scientists are getting closer to creating a throwback creature by messing with avian DNA: "From a quantitative point of view, we're 50 percent there," a professor of paleontology told them.
The illustration is by Karl Tate of LiveScience.com
A new study from University College London argues that gender equality may have been the norm in the earliest days of human society. “There is still this wider perception that hunter-gatherers are more macho or male-dominated,” says Mark Dyble, the anthropologist who led the study. “We’d argue it was only with the emergence of agriculture, when people could start to accumulate resources, that inequality emerged.”
Scientists tracked genealogical data from contemporary hunter-gatherer societies in the Congo and the Philippines and then created a computer model to extrapolate back to the early days of humanity. They published their findings in the journal Science and The Guardian has a nice summary:
Dyble says the latest findings suggest that equality between the sexes may have been a survival advantage and played an important role in shaping human society and evolution. “Sexual equality is one of a important suite of changes to social organisation, including things like pair-bonding, our big, social brains, and language, that distinguishes humans,” he said. “It’s an important one that hasn’t really been highlighted before.”
The authors argue that sexual equality may have proved an evolutionary advantage for early human societies, as it would have fostered wider-ranging social networks and closer cooperation between unrelated individuals. “It gives you a far more expansive social network with a wider choice of mates, so inbreeding would be less of an issue,” said Dyble. “And you come into contact with more people and you can share innovations, which is something that humans do par excellence.”
Read more over at The Guardian.
In case you wanted to know what gets Fido’s heart racing, Nikon has a new camera that does just that.
In my latest Guardian Column If one thing gives me hope for the future, it’s the cause of internet freedom, I talk about the myth that technology activists are "techno-determinists" -- we fight not because we know we'll win, but because we believe there's a possibility that we might not lose.
The only reason to be a technology activist is if you don’t believe in determinism. An activist is someone who thinks that the future is up for grabs, and that what we do today can make tomorrow better. An activist is someone who thinks that without action, things will be worse. Activism is a synonym of indeterminacy, a belief that the future changes because people change it.
It’s true: technology activists view the world through the lens of technology. If the “sharing economy” has become a front for exploitative labour practices, tech activists might propose a collective bargaining app, a crowdsourced lobbying campaign, a networked co-op for workers whose cream is being skimmed by venture-backed corporations. These activities are technological, but they attack the problem as a market problem, a legal problem and a normative problem.
This isn’t “solutionism” – it’s activism. Technology makes it cheaper to try stuff than ever before. Activists can coordinate with one another and test a lot of tactics out to see how they work. When networked computers become a problem, we need to fix the problem – and it’s natural to start with the networked computers that are causing the problem. Not because everything looks like a nail to a person with a hammer – because you can’t solve a problem by ignoring its source.
Geeks can be wrong. Very wrong. I am often wrong. But technology will change the world in profound ways. It’s urgent that we get that change right, or things will go very wrong indeed. Those are two things that geeks have been right about all along.
(Image: HOPE, Diesel Demon, CC-BY)
Today has been quite a pleasant day and I don't know why I am so exhausted, except, well, cumulative effect.
The whole thing went pretty well as far as I could see: apart from a few few minor irks, my main plaint was nothing to do with the con as a con but the absences of so many I hoped to see on account of life-stuff, assorted.
I was having thoughts about institutions and organisations and causes and change and old guards and new guards and the situation where a one-time innovator and mover and shaker becomes ossified and a source of stasis, and this resonated with looking back over my work-life, and various conversations about different things, and that something's lost and something's gained with change and sometimes mourning is needed, but I am too tired for this to become coherent.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has released an al Qaeda job application form which they say they recovered from a thumb-drive captured during the raid on Osama Bin Laden's home in Pakistan.
The application warns applicants to keep their answers secret from one another and reassures them that only "concerned individuals" will be able to see the completed form. Many of the questions relate to family life, education, and religious piety ("How much of the holy Qur’an have you memorized? Did you study Shari'a? Who was your instructor?"). It also asks applicants to choose between science and literature as a "favorite material" and specifically asks about technical expertise in chemistry or communications. Finally, it asks who should be contacted in the event that the applicant "becomes a martyr."
Instructions to Applicants [DNI] [PDF]
Al Qaeda’s Job Application Form: Do You Want to Be a Suicide Bomber? [Lee Ferran, James Gordon Meek and Ely Brown/ABC]
So I was reading a Harry Potter fic, and something occurred to me which never had before. And it’s a question about mail. Because the wizarding world is the opposite of the muggle world, in that they have instantaneous physical transportation (floo, apparition, portkey) but not instantaneous text-based communication (letters carried by owl).
What happens if an owl is bringing you a letter from London and you are, say, in Scotland, at Hogwarts, and the owl is almost there, and then you floo/apparate/portkey somewhere else. Say, London.Does the owl know and turn around mid-flight? Would the owl then become very bad-tempered from the extra distance you made them fly?
And in memory of:
Cecil "Snouty" Clapman
Sergeant-at-Arms John Keel
The game-plan for future Roombas may fit them with cameras that send images of your home to a remote service that identifies obstacles and lets the little robots clean around them -- what could possibly go wrong?
Roombas will be equipped with standard cameras. They will use standardized operating systems -- probably a stripped down GNU/Linux or BSD variant. Their network and USB firmware will come from the same factories that produce the components in your laptop. They will connect to the same home router that your phone and computers and set-top boxes use. The images will encrypted with the same crypto that everyone else uses. The servers that receive those images will be regulated by the same laws that regulate the servers that store instant messages, emails, and social media postings.
Each one of those components is under assault today.
The FBI and David Cameron have vowed to ban strong crypto. GCHQ and the NSA sabotage cryptographic protocols by sneaking saboteurs into standards bodies and using them to argue for the deliberate weakening of random number generators.
The Snooper's Charter will require service operators to retain the images they receive, and grant warrantless acess to law enforcement, government officials, and any crook or tabloid reporter who can bribe, trick or coerce a cop or a babu into leaking the password.
Roombas are pretty useful devices. I own two of them. They do have real trouble with obstacles, though. Putting a camera on them so that they can use the smarts of the network to navigate our homes and offices is a plausible solution to this problem.
But a camera-equipped networked robot that free-ranges around your home is a fucking disaster if it isn't secure. It's a gift to everyone who wants to use cameras to attack you, from voyeur sextortionist creeps to burglars to foreign spies and dirty cops.
Irobot is the first major company to propose using roving cameras to solve an appliance problem, but they won't be the last. Your home of the future will be stuffed full of cameras, some of which will be able to see through your clothes and your walls. Those Internet of Things videos where people dressed like extras from Tron use gestures to control their homes? Those are depicting houses where every square inch is under video surveillance.
Cybersecurity starts with defense. We can't make back doors that only good guys can walk through. Our spies and spooks and militaries can't make us secure by eroding our security. If we backdoor these things to help SWAT teams executing no-knock warrants, we'll leave them open to revenge-porn scum, the Syrian military, and corporate espionage contractors, too.
Roombas already can detect and avoid objects, but recognizing exactly what those objects are is a different beast entirely. By streaming video from its cameras to a cloud-based object-classification system, it can tell whether the object in front of it is a bookcase or a TV stand, label it accordingly on a map, and share that detailed plan with next-generation home-infrastructure systems.
The camera system wouldn’t be the only modification necessary for the Roomba to create maps of your home. Because iRobot’s map-making system uses the cloud to analyze, recognize, and label objects, connectivity would need to be built into the robot itself or its charging dock.
“It’s a camera and cloud-based AI engine where we trained it on faucets by going on the Web, downloading pictures of faucets, and using neural network learning on what makes a faucet,” Angle explains. “I think it’s pretty cool that it can actually differentiate dishwashers from ovens because ovens have windows in the door and dishwashers don’t.”
The Next Roomba May Recognize All Your Crap [Tim Moynihan/Wired]