This link roundup includes articles about drones, guns, biotechnology, movies, fonts, algorithmic trading as well as an excerpt from Evgeny Morozov latest book review where he shares his thoughts about TED conferences and publishing business (quite a colorful review, to say the least).

• • •

  • Ars Technica: “After pushing FAA to allow UAVs, Congress now has second thoughts on safety” by Sean Gallagher, July 22, 2012

    “Hacking a UAV by GPS spoofing is but one expression of a larger problem: insecure civil GPS technology has over the last two decades been absorbed deeply into critical systems within our national infrastructure,” Humphries told the subcommittee in his testimony. “Besides UAVs, civil GPS spoofing also presents a danger to manned aircraft, maritime craft, communications systems, banking and finance institutions, and the national power grid.”

    While the skills and equipment required to spoof GPS are not currently available to “the average person on the street, or even the average anonymous hacker,” Humphreys said, software-defined radio technology and “the availability of GPS signal simulators” are starting to put the capability within reach of “ordinary malefactors.” Humphries recommended that any unmanned aircraft over 18 pounds be required to be equipped with spoof-resistant GPS navigation technology, and that similar technology be required by DHS in timing systems that use GPS technology (like those used by cell phone towers and electrical grid systems).

  • The New York Times: “A Day Job Waiting for a Kill Shot a World Away” by Elisabeth Bumiller, July 29, 2012.

    Among the toughest psychological tasks is the close surveillance for aerial sniper missions, reminiscent of the East German Stasi officer absorbed by the people he spies on in the movie “The Lives of Others.” A drone pilot and his partner, a sensor operator who manipulates the aircraft’s camera, observe the habits of a militant as he plays with his children, talks to his wife and visits his neighbors. They then try to time their strike when, for example, his family is out at the market.

    Pilot drone

  • The Guardian: “The gun ownership and gun homicides murder map of the world” by Simon Roger, July 22, 2012.

    The key facts are:

    • The US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world – an average of 88 per 100 people. That puts it first in the world for gun ownership – and even the number two country, Yemen, has significantly fewer – 54.8 per 100 people
    • But the US does not have the worst firearm murder rate – that prize belongs to Honduras, El Salvador and Jamaica. In fact, the US is number 28, with a rate of 2.97 per 100,000 people
    • Puerto Rico tops the world’s table for firearms murders as a percentage of all homicides – 94.8%. It’s followed by Sierra Leone in Africa and Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean

    Data on Google Doc or get .CSV file.

    Map guns world

  • YouTube: “RUN. HIDE. FIGHT. Surviving an Active Shooter Event – English” uploaded on July 23, 2012. Produced by The City of Houston. Watch it below.

  • ExtremeTech: “The world’s first 3D-printed gun” by Sebastian Anthony, July 26, 2012.

    The lower receiver was created using a fairly old school Stratasys 3D printer, using a normal plastic resin. HaveBlue estimates that it cost around $30 of resin to create the lower receiver, but “Makerbots and the other low cost printers exploding onto the market would bring the cost down to perhaps $10.” Commercial, off-the-shelf assault rifle lower receivers are a lot more expensive. If you want to print your own AR-15 lower receiver, HaveBlue has uploaded the schematic to Thingiverse.

    Pistol 3D printer

  • Nature: “Artificial jellyfish built from rat cells” by Ed Yong, July 22, 2012.

    Bioengineers have made an artificial jellyfish using silicone and muscle cells from a rat’s heart. The synthetic creature, dubbed a medusoid, looks like a flower with eight petals. When placed in an electric field, it pulses and swims exactly like its living counterpart.

    “Morphologically, we’ve built a jellyfish. Functionally, we’ve built a jellyfish. Genetically, this thing is a rat,” says Kit Parker, a biophysicist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the work. The project is described today in Nature Biotechnology.

  • YouTube: “Apple – iPhone 4S – TV Ad – Busy Day” uploaded on July 23, 2012 by Apple. The advertisement features movie director Martin Scorsese interacting with Siri the “intelligent personal assistant” for the iPhone. While watching it, I couldn’t help but imagine the scene where Travis Bickle speak to himself in the mirror as if he was talking to Siri: “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talking… you talking to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to? Oh yeah? OK.”

  • The Telegraph: “Film-maker Chris Marker dies aged 91” July 30, 2012.

    Chris Marker, an influential French film-maker, writer and intellectual, has died at the age of 91. Marker collaborated with cinema greats including Akira Kurosawa, Costa-Gavras and Alain Resnais over the course of a career spanning six decades in which he made over 50 films, many of them inspired by his left-wing and anti-colonial politics. He was best-known for his 1962 short-film La Jetee (The Pier), a story of a survivor of a future war travelling back in time to relive his own death. The highly stylised film inspired Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys sufficiently for Marker to be credited as one of the writers on the 1995 feature.

    Marker Jetee

  • Fonts In Use:

    Fonts In Use is a public archive of typographic design indexed by typeface, format, and industry. We document and examine real-world typography with the goal of improving typographic literacy and appreciation.
    The first incarnation of the site launched in December 2010 as a Blog. The new version, launched in July 2012, introduces the Collection, a much larger database open to contributions from visitors.

    Anyone can create an account and submit some fonts, build a collection either of one’s own fonts or images of fonts found on the streets, on books cover, on posters, etc. A clever initiative.


  • Forbes: “Knight Capital’s Algorithmic Fiasco Won’t Be The Last of its Kind” by Christopher Steiner, August 2, 2012.

    It’s hardly surprising that, on Wednesday, a set of computer algorithms once again co-opted the stock market, making nonsensical trades that sent portfolios on an accidental dipsy-do. It is surprising, however, that the rogue program in this case belonged to Knight Capital, one of the most adept and experienced hands in this new world of algorithms that grapple for control of our money.

    The only good thing about this episode is that Knight can cover the losses related to these these trades, which are going to cost the firm $440 million. Knight’s program ran out of control for about 45 minutes — which means the company ultimately lost $10 million for each minute the new software was running. The real question is what happens when a smaller, less established firm does this kind of damage?

    SkyNet becoming self-aware and turning against us is fiction. Algorithmic trading going bersek because of “glitches” is real. And it’s not just a threat: it’s happening.

    Knight Capital

  • The New Republic: “The Naked and the TED” by Evgeny Morozov, August 2, 2012. A review of three e-book published by TED Books.

    I CAN SURMISE why the Khannas would have wanted to write this book, but it is not immediately obvious why TED Books would have wanted to publish it. I must disclose that I spoke at a TED Global Conference in Oxford in 2009, and I admit that my appearance there certainly helped to expose my argument to a much wider audience, for which I remain grateful. So I take no pleasure in declaring what has been obvious for some time: that TED is no longer a responsible curator of ideas “worth spreading.” Instead it has become something ludicrous, and a little sinister.

    Today TED is an insatiable kingpin of international meme laundering—a place where ideas, regardless of their quality, go to seek celebrity, to live in the form of videos, tweets, and now e-books. In the world of TED—or, to use their argot, in the TED “ecosystem”—books become talks, talks become memes, memes become projects, projects become talks, talks become books—and so it goes ad infinitum in the sizzling Stakhanovite cycle of memetics, until any shade of depth or nuance disappears into the virtual void. Richard Dawkins, the father of memetics, should be very proud. Perhaps he can explain how “ideas worth spreading” become “ideas no footnotes can support.”


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