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Friday, April 14, 2006

SCIFRI 2: Net neutrality

Posted by: Hammer / 10:51 AM

Welcome to SCIFRI 2. Lots of outlets talk about science on Fridays. Here, though, we get you all the really cool stuff.

The future of the Internet

MyDD reports on a bill before Congress:

You see, the right-wing movement has just turned its attention to the free nature of the Internet. No, this is no joke. There's a really nasty bill threading through Congress put out by telco-funded Joe Barton that will basically wreck the ability of ordinary people to use the Internet, making the web the province of large and well-capitalized companies. Barton's bill will allow telecom companies to charge people for putting up web sites, blogging, using VOIP services, IMing, or anything else. It will allow them to discriminate against certain types of content, and yes, that's an ominous and very bad step. Congressman Markey is working against it, and for the principle of 'net neutrality'.

Congressman Edward Markey argues:

Without a fight to save network neutrality all of these familiar and critical activities are threatened. The bill before this Congress will fundamentally alter the open nature of the Internet, and its impact will be felt by everyone who sends an email or visits a website or uses the Internet to make their voice heard. The time to change this provision is now, before it is too late.

Internet content providers have also weighed in (PDF):

To preserve this environment, we urge the Committee to include language that directly addresses broadband network operators’ ability to manipulate what consumers will see and do online. It is equally important to pass a bill that fleshes out these consumer freedoms via rules of the road that are both meaningful and readily enforceable.

The telephone and cable companies won the first round. Markey's Net Neutrality amendment was voted down 23-8. Go ahead and read the text of the amendment (PDF). Decide for yourself whether you want cable companies to be able to discriminate between and

Killing two lizards with one cougar

Warning: this solution might require bar-b-que sauce. Upscale Boca Grande, Fla. is overrun with iguanas:

"They eat your flowers and their feces is everywhere," she said, adding that she's killed dozens. "Some people toss them in the canal and the hermit crabs feed on them."

Oregon has a different problem:

Oregon wildlife officials are going to start hunting more cougars -- at least in areas where high densities of the big cats threaten people and livestock.

The cougars' numbers -- including in some areas inhabited by people -- have been increasing since 1994. Oregon voters approved a law that year prohibiting sport hunters from using dogs to track cougars -- widely considered the most effective means of killing the big cats.

Oregon has 2,100 extra cougars. Boca Grande has 12,000 extra iguanas. C'mon! Trap the cougars, release them in sunny Florida and the problem takes care of itself. What could possibly go wrong?

Firefox is out

Firefox was released today. Features include native support for Macs on Intel hardware, improved stability, and enhanced security.

Beware! Virus!

A computer virus is ready to explode on Windows and Linux machines!

Hackers have released a sample code for a virus that could infect both Linux and Windows PCs. The virus, which was given the double name Virus.Linux.Bi.a/Virus.Win32.Bi.a, was reported last week by security firm Kaspersky Lab. Security researchers worry that the malicious code may be part of a disturbing new trend of viruses that can run on Windows, as well as other operating systems that have been largely ignored by hackers.

"The virus is written in assembler and is relatively simple," Kaspersky wrote in a posting to the company's Web site.

Perhaps, Joe Barr notes the situation is not all that dire:

And finally, it's not a virus at all. It can't replicate itself, which is one thing that makes a piece of malware a virus.

A final note: lots of malware is written is high level languages like Visual Basic. Learning Visual Basic's syntax is no harder than learning pig Latin. This code was written in assembly language, which is like learning the dead Coptic language:

mov al, 061h

which means to move the hexadecimal value 61 (97 decimal) into the processor register with the name "al". The mnemonic "mov" is short for "move", and a comma-separated list of arguments or parameters follows it; this is a typical assembly language statement.

Got that? Good. Moving on.

Stem Cell Research

California handed out its first research grants on Monday:

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine awarded $12.1 million to 16 universities and nonprofit research outfits statewide. The grants will be used to train 169 scientists and students in stem cell science basics, including ethics courses.


The Nintendo Revolution is expected to launch with 20 titles including 6 or 7 from Nintendo itself. Among the titles expected at launch is "Tony Hawk: Downhill Jam. Ms. Hammer: prepare to be owned.

The basic system will ship with one or two controllers.

All the news that fits in Google's search algorithms

Google News is changing how headlines are being written:

One of the biggest areas of change is headline-writing. Normally, a headline writer tries to use some witty wordplay to attract readers: A literary or cinematic allusion, perhaps, or maybe a pun. But such nuances are totally lost on machines. A bot is trying to quickly figure out the content of an article, and wordplay just gets in the way. Though the article doesn't discuss it in this depth, this dilemma is known, in A.I. circles, as "the problem of synonymity": A machine doesn't know that when a copywriter pens the line "A horse of a different color", she's not talking about horses. The bot might accidentally slot that story into the sports section, even if the piece is actually about politics.

...The human readers of blogs are beginning to behave like bots, too: Quickly scanning for semantic meaning and ignoring everything else. So maybe optimizing for searchbots isn't a bad idea -- because you'll also optimize for humanbots.

I know 3WN readers don't behave like that. They long for and savor every word we post. They'd never skim or skip a post. Right?

Pyramid in Mexico

AP reported on April 6:

MEXICO CITY - Archeologists announced on Wednesday they have discovered a massive 6th-century Indian pyramid beneath a centuries-old Catholic religious site.

Built on a hillside by the mysterious Teotihuacan culture, the pyramid was abandoned almost 1,000 years before Christians began re-enacting the Crucifixion there in the 1800s.

Undoubtedly built by undocumented workers, too.

Global warming

Here's another story I missed last week. In late March, President Bush said:

THE PRESIDENT: Good. We -- first of all, there is -- the globe is warming. The fundamental debate: Is it manmade or natural. Put that aside. It is in our interests that we use technologies that will not only clean the air, but make us less dependent on oil. That's what I said in my State of the Union the other day. I said, look -- and I know it came as quite a shock to -- for people to hear a Texan stand up and say, we've got a national problem, we're addicted to oil. But I meant what I said.

Rick Piltz of Climate Science Watch says the President is misleading Americans:

That is a complete misrepresentation of the state of scientific understanding. There is no “fundamental debate” on whether global warming has a human influence. The general agreement among leading climate scientists is that the last 50 years of global warming is largely human-caused, and that greater warming and climate disruption is projected within the lifetimes of people who are living today. For the President to say there is a "fundamental debate" about that -- that’s misrepresenting the intelligence on an issue of tremendous importance to the future of this society, in order to conform the intelligence to a predetermined political position. And you’d think that, with all the billions we’ve spent on research, it would have caused the President to budge just a little bit in his understanding, or his representation, of this problem.


Florida actually already has cougars, tho they call them Florida Panthers. They are highly endangered and you can even get a special license plate (similar to Minnesota environmental plates) that raise funds for their conservation. I don't know how genetically different they are from cougars in the rest of the country but I'm guessing not very.

By Blogger Jambo, at 11:31 AM  

Then my plan makes even more sense. They are endangered in Florida and bountiful in Oregon. Let's balance them out and end the lizard scourge!

By Blogger Hammer, at 12:07 PM  

Hey good blog.

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By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:24 PM  

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