For centuries, a rite of passage for French gourmets has been the eating of the Ortolan. These tiny birds—captured alive, force-fed, then drowned in Armagnac—were roasted whole and eaten that way, bones and all, while the diner draped his head with a linen napkin to preserve the precious aromas and, some believe, to hide from God.
- Cybercrime is not driven by the use of zero day flaws, but by the millions of people using the Internet with outdated software – It’s a simple fact that has so far contributed to the rise and rise of some of the most prolific botnets, and outdated flaws within popular applications remain the main vehicle for Zeus crimeware infections. Naturally, there are campaigns that exclusively rely on recently published flaws, but the window of opportunity offered by those would be closed sooner than the one of all the outdated applications running on the same PC, combined. It’s the cybercriminal’s mentality of traffic optimization for malicious purposes, (See example: Money Mule Recruitment Campaign Serving Adobe/Client-Side Exploits), that offers the highest probability of infection.
- Microsoft OS/software specific vulnerabilities are only a part of the drive-by exploits cocktail served by web malware exploitation kits – You would be surprised to know how many people are so obsessed with “Patch Tuesday” that they exclude the decent number of outdated browser plugins and third-party software installed on their PCs. The result? A false feeling of security, which combined with an outdated situational awareness on how modern web malware exploitation kits work, leads to a successful drive-by attack. It shouldn’t come to as a surprise that, not only did malicious PDF files comprise 80 percent of all exploits for 2009, but also, the use of Microsoft Office files for targeted attacks is declining. Two years ago, Microsoft in fact confirmed this trend – Microsoft: Third party apps killing our security.
Therefore, the increasing use of malicious PDFs can also be interpreted as the direct result of the millions of users using outdated and exploitable Adobe products, with the only preference a malicious attacker could have in this case remaining the incentive based on the 99% penetration of Adobe Flash on Internet-enabled PCs. But how is the possible that with such a high market share, ScanSafe’s report shows that Adobe Acrobat/Reader exploits grew while the use of Flash exploits declined?
A lot of what is frustrating and off-putting about science at first, including working in the research lab, is the same thing that’s frustrating and off-putting about math: to really enter the conversation you have to have the vocabulary, so there’s a lot of memorizing when you start. Which is just obnoxious. But it doesn’t take too long, and if you start interning in a lab early, then the memorizing feels justifiable and pertinent, even if you feel initially more frustrated at a) not knowing the information and b) not knowing how to apply it. If you don’t get into a lab, however, it’s just hard and pointlessly so (even though it isn’t).
(Virtually all fields have this learning curve, whether you realize it or not; one of Jake’s pet books is Daniel T. Willingham’s Why Don’t Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom, which describes how people move from no knowledge to shallow knowledge to deep knowledge. It’s bewildering and disorienting to start with no knowledge on a subject, but you have to endure and transcend that state if you’re going to move to deep knowledge. He says that he’s climbed that mountain with regard to writing, which makes writing way more rewarding than it used to be.)
Once you have the language and are able to think about, say, protein folding, the way you would a paragraph of prose, or the rhythm in a popular song, science takes on a whole new life, like Frankenstein’s Monster but without the self-loathing or murder. You start to think about what questions you can ask, what you can build, and what you can do—as opposed to what you can regurgitate. The questions you pose to people in your lab will lead to larger conversations. Feeling like an insider is nice, not only because it’s nice to belong, but because you’ll realize that even being a small part of the conversation means you’re still part of the larger discussion.
This is really important. Knowledge about a particular subject is mostly learning the vocabulary because this entails an understanding of how the major concepts in a subject link together.1 Jargon is unavoidable in most subjects because plain language is often too inefficient for communicating ideas. It is unfortunately a massive barrier that prevents laypeople from comprehending the ideas presented in new research – let alone understanding its implications – that can also alienate them in the same way that slang alienates people.2 These two factors, in addition to the media,3 is probably what leads to the entitlement and anti-intellectualism4 that fuels climate skepticism and the idea that autism is linked to a vaccine.
The willful ignorance that results from the lack of comprehension of how much a person doesn’t know and the emotional investment they make in their ideas prevents these people from acquiring the skills to assess their own beliefs simply because it’s emotionally painful.5 This is why I believe that it’s important to increase both the breadth of one’s knowledge as well as the depth required for financial sustenance. It’s also why I don’t particularly like it when people say ‘jack of all trades, master of none’: this implies that when I’m learning about a subject that comes under ‘breadth’, it’s displacing the time I spend learning about my field of specialisation.6 This isn’t necessarily true since I don’t spend the entirety of my waking hours learning.
An almost irrelevant comment on the aphorism ‘Knowledge is power’: No it’s not. Power usually means social or economic influence. Sure, you can acquire that influence with leveraged knowledge, but you can also acquire it by, say, being born in the right place at the right time. Let me propose an alternative: ‘Knowledge is perspective’. There are always things that people of a certain profession know that most people don’t, and it is attached to a certain way of looking at life – a perspective which involves focusing on certain aspects of the world we live in that all end up affecting the way we live. For example, immunology focuses on the microscopic immune system, which has effects that spill into macroscopic life, whereas macroeconomics focuses on the behaviour of national and global economies, with effects that again spill into everyday life. The idea that every field is reducible to maths might be true,7 but it’s a bit silly since there are important and relevant patterns that emerge with each level of magnification.8
If you’re logged into WordPress, I think that black bar at the top is going to make all the links for the notes hit one line too low.
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Nuclear energy is one of, if not, the safest sources of energy available.
As such, I hate the yellow media that essentially makes up stories to get more ratings, and misinforms the general populace.
Every time I meet someone, I have to spend at least 30 mins explaining that the knowledge I gained in five years of university study, far out weighs the intern who misquoted an official and filled the rest of the article with factless speculation
You know what would happen if we just took our waste from nuclear reactors and dumped it, unprotected, into the ocean in deep water? The answer is absolutely nothing because salt water is very good at disapating radiation. The ocean water and sea floor surrounding the Bikini Atoll 1 year following the underwater and above ground nuclear tests were completely clear of radiation. Now the Atoll itself was horribly contaminated and what did they do about that, they bulldozed the contaminated top soil into the ocean, again the radiation disapated very quickly and caused no damage.
The biggest risk in nuclear material storage comes from keeping. It on land. If we were smart we would put it in solid containers and drop it into the marianas and forget about it forever, absolutely no worry about damage, especially considering the very small amount of waste produced by breeder and TRISO reactors, which both reuse waste material and produce a tiny amount of unusable waste.
A person’s food preferences, like his or her personality, are formed during the first few years of life, through a process of socialization. Babies innately prefer sweet tastes and reject bitter ones; toddlers can learn to enjoy hot and spicy food, bland health food, or fast food, depending on what the people around them eat.
When I suggested that IFF’s policy of secrecy and discretion was out of step with our mass-marketing, brand-conscious, self-promoting age, and that the company should put its own logo on the countless products that bear its flavors, instead of allowing other companies to enjoy the consumer loyalty and affection inspired by those flavors, Grainger politely disagreed, assuring me that such a thing would never be done. In the absence of public credit or acclaim, the small and secretive fraternity of flavor chemists praise one another’s work. By analyzing the flavor formula of a product, Grainger can often tell which of his counterparts at a rival firm devised it. Whenever he walks down a supermarket aisle, he takes a quiet pleasure in seeing the well-known foods that contain his flavors.
From the perspective of a computer scientist:
Even the tiniest things you do on a computer, the tiniest nudge of a mouse or a single key-press have so much computation involved (whether directly or indirectly) that it will make your head explode if you try to narrow it all down. As such, whenever I see coworkers at the office fanatically shake their mice and mash their keyboard when their outlook isn’t opening “fast enough” it makes me palmface. To give you an idea of what may be involved:
- You move the mouse a tiny bit
- The mouse senses movement via the laser/ball and sends the information to the USB port on your computer
- The USB controller processes the signal and sends a signal to the CPU to stop what it’s doing and process the USB data that just came in
- The computer saves all the things (ie. register data) it was currently doing in the CPU to return to after it has processed the data from the mouse
- The OS has to go through various levels of abstraction from generic USB drivers to specific drivers for your crazy 20-button world of warcraft gaming mouse to actually even know that the cursor on the screen is supposed to move at all
- The OS moves the cursor and then processes what should happen upon reaching its new position (i.e. have you hovered over a new window? should an action be taken?)
- etc. etc. etc. etc.
Note that this list is incredibly simplified and each of those steps involves quite an assload of computation in itself. Computers certainly don’t run on magic, but it is amazing how much processing they do and a lot of people take it for granted.
More like, just because you got your PhD doesn’t mean you’re particularly clever or knowledgeable in any area that’s slightly outside your area of expertise. It’s an endurance thing, not a talent thing. I had an advisor whose dissertation was essentially based on drunk people having lowered inhibitions. Very “duh” stuff. Also, the BPA thing is very much like the asbestos scare or DDT scare—it becomes politically powerful and the real science falls by the wayside. DDT killed birds, but it saved and continues to save human lives by reducing mosquito populations. Asbestos is safe in certain applications, and when using certain types of asbestos it’s no more dangerous than fiberglass (which is more dangerous than people think, but still legal). If the World Trade Center towers had been finished before the asbestos scare, they’d still be upright and 100s of thousands of people might still be alive. Aluminum doesn’t cause alzheimers, but people still say it does. Lactic acid doesn’t cause a muscle to be sore, but people still say it does. Etc. Scientists are still people.
One thing physics has taught me is that unless you have a heat pump or something all electric heating is the same efficiency: virtually all the electrical energy is converted directly to heat. This is true whether you’re talking a space heater or a computer or a guitar amplifier. It’s funny, someone was asking online about “efficient” space heaters – they don’t exist.
One of the fun projects microbiology students do is to swab and culture a common surface (desk, counter, doorknob, etc) and find all the fun growies that are around us all the time, and that we rub our hands on.
So your hands are teeming with random diseases from god knows where. Then you go to the bathroom and put these hands near your urethra (open mucus membrane) and anus.
Washing your hands after you go really is to protect other people from your germs. Washing your hands before you go protects you from other people’s germs.
American culture is organized primarily around three edicts. The first is, roughly, “Let me do it myself.” This sets Americans apart from the many European countries I’ve experienced in which people are generally quite happy to let the government take care of things. The French, for example, see the government as the rough embodiment of the collective French brain – of course it would know best, as its the Frenchest thing around.
Americans, in stark contrast, are far more likely to see the government as the enemy, infringing upon their autonomy. This leads to a great deal of misunderstanding, particularly from people who are used to seeing solutions flowing from a centralized authority. Americans, rather, would prefer to leave matters such as charitable giving in the hands of the individual.  In 1995 (the most recent year for which data are available), Americans gave, per capita, three and a half times as much to causes and charities as the French, seven times as much as the Germans, and 14 times as much as the Italians. Similarly, in 1998, Americans were 15 percent more likely to volunteer their time than the Dutch, 21 percent more likely than the Swiss, and 32 percent more likely than the Germans.. This alone, of course, does not mean that any one side of culture is more “compassionate” than the other – rather, that such compassion is filtered through different culture attitudes.
Another good example of that contrast occurred when Bill Gates and Warren Buffet received a remarkably chilly reception when they exhorted German ultra-wealthy to give more of their money away. The reaction, with some justification, was primarily one of “why should I give more money to do things that the state, funded by high tax rates, is expected to take care of?” You can come down on this one of two ways – one is that it’s more efficient to leave such things to an organized central body, another is that such a system distances and de-humanizes people in needy situations, and that more efficient solutions are arrived at through direct, hands-on involvement by a multitude of private citizens. Again, my intent is not so much to pick one side as to explain the rather more poorly understood American approach.