Category Archives: Apocalypse

The Apocalypticon ~ Asteroid killers, aliens don’t care, NASA on ice, sinking a carrier, right-wing meme militias, VR holocaust and Olympian f-wit


NASA has been surveying our ice caps …

The ways large asteroids could kill us — Large asteroids definitely present one of the most colourful and chaotic possible apocalypses. Such an impact would cause quite a cinematic conclusion, combining a plague of wind, tsunamis, heat, and other terrors into a horrible death-fest.

Aliens don’t seem to really care about us — Well, nor do our ‘leaders’, but in the largest survey of its kind, astronomers scanned 5600 stars in search of these optical signals — and they found… absolutely nothing. Nada. Zilch. Here’s what that means to SETI and the ongoing hunt for alien intelligence.

NASA on the ice — Tama, a Getty photographer, spent a week last month with a NASA crew during Operation IceBridge, the agency’s campaign to measure changes in the planet’s ice sheets and glaciers. NASA spends 10 weeks each spring in the Arctic and six weeks each fall in the Antarctic when ice levels are the highest. The Arctic crew used a pair of laser altimeters to measure the elevation of the ice, and three radars to measure the snow (one of them can reach 300 feet down to bedrock). Last month, the NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced Arctic and Antarctic sea ice reached its lowest point ever in 38 years.

Sinking a US carrier — Sinking an aircraft carrier is difficult, but not impossible. The key is what it’s used for, and who it’s used against. But if you wanted to sink one, here’s what you’d have to do, and what you’d be up against.

Meme armies turning into militias — As political discourse in the US has become more polarized and contentious, so too has its symbology. Pepe the Frog and Expendables posters have given way to images of actual violence that political extremists spread and celebrate: 4chan, trading on a popular videogame meme, refers to Damigo as ‘The Falcon Punch at Berkeley.’ Much of it resembles military propaganda. The meme warriors, it seems, have become a militia.

The urgent power of remembering the holocaust in VR — Pinchas Gutter has returned to Majdanek at least a dozen times, but this trip is his final one to the onetime Nazi concentration camp. His first was one he was 11, when he was taken to Majdanek; now he’s 85 years old, and this is the last time he’ll come here to tell people what the Nazis did to his family. As he rides up to the shuttered camp in the backseat of a chauffeured sedan, he talks about why he’s told his story so many times. His trip to Majdanek, and the horrific experiences he recounts in the camp’s barracks and crematorium, are being preserved with virtual reality thanks to the USC Shoah Foundation.

Olympian f__kwit declares dystopian states like North Korea are the best at avoiding obesity … yes, thanks to mass starvation — James Cracknell is a British athlete and two-time gold medal Olympian. But now he has his sights set on politics. His pet issue? Tackling obesity. But wait until you hear what he believes are model countries for battling the obesity epidemic. [God help us.]

The Apocalypticon ~ Pruitt protection, outing inner racists, 1967 Nazis, MOAB, spork hide knife,


Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt needs protection, apparently — Pruitt wants to ensure the US doesn’t invest a single dollar in protecting humanity from climate change, nonetheless wants to use the agency’s limited funds to protect himself from other humans.
~ The EPA to become the PPA. 

AirBnB host thanks Trump for releasing her inner racist — Dyne Suh, a 25-year-old law student from Riverside, California, wanted to enjoy a relaxing Presidents’ Day weekend with her fiancé and a couple of friends in nearby Big Bear Lake. What she was not expecting was for her Airbnb host to abruptly cancel on her because of her race, which she then thanked Trump for.
~ Just as Hitler released people to enjoy their latent anti-semitism. 

1967 classroom experiment proved how easy it was for Americans to become Nazis — In 1967, Ron Jones, a 25-year-old social studies teacher in Palo Alto, California, set out to teach his 10th grade students about the events leading up to the Holocaust, but found that many of them couldn’t get over the question of how ordinary Germans had been coerced into complicity with the regime. So he decided the best way to teach students how easily people can be swayed by fearsome leaders or swept up by ideology was to demonstrate it. Which he did, in terrifyingly short order.
~ Which should really be no surprise now, right? And where are those students today?

Mother of All Bombs — The US military dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal on Afghanistan. Nicknamed the Mother of All Bombs, reports indicate that it killed 36 ISIS fighters with no civilian casualties. The military has now released actual footage of the strike.
~ And the real lesson is ‘Look out Russia and North Korea, because we can do all this damage even without nukes’. 

Spork hides knife — A ‘tactical spork’ designed for camping has a hidden knife that uses the spork handle as a sheath, for just US$7.
~ Grab some for the apocalypse. 

How to remain outraged without losing your mind — Yes, this is a real concern.

The Apocalypticon ~ Surviving pandemic, hackers’ old doorway, Chumped, deaf, Norwegian doomsday vault, ancient cannibals


Let’s start with some advice — how to survive the next catastrophic pandemic. Experts say it’s not a matter of if, but when a global scale pandemic will wipe out millions of people. And we are grossly unprepared for the next major outbreak. But in the event of a devastating pandemic – whether it be triggered by a mutated strain of an existing virus or a bioengineered terror weapon – there are some practical things you can do, both before and during the outbreak, to increase your odds of survival.
~ Phew. But good luck finding space for all the supplies you’ll need. 

Russian hackers still using the same old route — About a year ago, the two-decade-old trail of a group of Russian hackers led Thomas Rid to a house in the quiet southern English village of Hartley Wintney. Rid, a cybersecurity-focused political science professor and historian, wrote a long-shot email to David Hedges, a 69-year-old retired IT consultant who lived there.
Rid wanted to know if Hedges might somehow still possess a very specific, very old chunk of data: the logs of a computer Hedges had used to run a website for one of his clients in 1998. He did, and researchers accordingly now say they’ve found a piece of vintage malicious code in that trove that survives today, as part of the arsenal of a modern-day team of Russian hackers, known as Turla, who are believed to have Kremlin ties.

Sorry, but we had to get to Chump sooner or later. Is he finally upsetting his alt-right bedrock? Despite plummeting approval ratings (recently down to 35%) and a GOP rapidly distancing itself from his unhinged policy proposals, Trump’s most ardent supporters remained steadfast buoyed by anonymous imageboards, Twitter eCelebrities, a healthy dose of faked fervour from botnets, and a dedicated subreddit which bans dissenting views. They spun positive narratives out of a cabinet which has habitually lied to the public, and a president who has followed through on none of his campaign promises.
But with the recent  airstrike on Assad’s forces in Syria, which some already speculate will lead to a full-scale war, even these zealots who believe they memed the man into the world’s most powerful office can’t find a speck of good news buried under the rubble.
~ It is bizarre – Trump cozied up to Russia while denying links, next minute he’s attacking the corrupt regime Russia has been propping up. Ouch, is this the end of the Putin/Trump bromance?

US 5-billion dollar agency can’t hire a deaf interpreter. That’s because despite being in charge of keeping an eye on the entire planet with the most advanced imaging technology in the world, and with an estimated annual budget of at least $5 billion, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has a position for a sign language interpreter but they’re not allowed to fill it because Donald Trump imposed a federal hiring freeze, arbitrarily leaving thousands of job vacancies across the US government.
~ Ah, that genius the alt right voted for, again. Let’s hope none of them are deaf. OK, I’ll leave that up to you. 

Just in time for doomsday, Norway’s ‘Doomsday Vault’ is getting an expansion. Officially known as the World Arctic Archive, the new vault opened this week and has already taken submissions from two countries. This time, instead of storing seeds that will survive the apocalypse, the vault is archiving data using specially developed film.

Ancient people didn’t eat other people for the calories. I’m not sure if this is good news or not, but a new, slightly morbid study based on the calorie counts of average humans suggests that man-eating was mostly ritualistic, not dietary, in nature among hominins including Homo erectus, H. antecessor, Neandertals, and early modern humans. On average, an adult male human contains 125,822 calories of fat and protein. When compared with other animals widely available to ancient man like mammoths (3,600,000 calories), wooly rhinoceroses (1,260,000 calories), and aurochs (979,200 calories), it hardly seems worthwhile to hunt hominins that are just as wily and dangerous as the hunters, the researchers conclude.
~ So maybe it was more like an ancient form of Scrabble: Hard Scrabble.

The Apocalypticon ~ crowd killdozer, poison back, prep for space war, online self-defence, volcano no longer dormant


Crowd control ‘killdozer’ — Slovenian company Bozena has created an all-new RIOT system, a crowd-control killdozer for all your protest-suppressing needs. The vehicle’s shield has launching ports designed for guns or other projectile launchers and the trailer is capable of displacing the water/foam or its mixtures (available additives: pepper or painting substances) under the high pressure into the distance of several dozen meters. Yay.

Chumpian overturns pesticide ban  — Government scientists at the EPA concluded that a pesticide sprayed on crops was toxic. A few months later, Scott Pruitt comes into the agency as Trump’s appointee, looks at the agency’s petition to ban the substance, and denies it. He decided that, although the substance is proven to be poisonous, he’d rather keep spraying crops with it.
America, America …

The US ‘should’ prepare for a space war — Coz, well, why the hell not? Recently, two US military officials said that America should be getting ready for a war in space. Their advice was seemingly bolstered by a Hill article penned by two US national security experts this week, which reminded Americans that North Korea could in theory use a satellite weapon to send an electromagnetic pulse over the United States, triggering widespread blackouts and ultimately, societal collapse.
~ Should we be giving them credit for imagination?

Feeling assailed? You can defend yourself online — Congress has just dismantled a set of Obama-era internet privacy rules. In effect, the Republicans just gave big telecom companies unfettered access to people’s browsing history and will even let ISPs sell that data for profit. Here’s how to keep your data from snooping ISPs, and how not to protect your privacy online.

Volcano erupts after centuries of dormancy — Just in case this has all been too cheerful for all you Aucklanders, who famously live in a city dotted with dozens of inactive volcanoes, one in Russia just erupted after at least 250 years of not doing anything. Sorry.

The Apocalypticon ~ AI no threat, FBI and Russia, GIF assault, tech Phishing scams, US Army laser, post-apocalyptic meds


AI no job threat — The president’s top economic advisor just said he had no worries about robots putting people out of work. “In terms of artificial intelligence taking over the jobs, I think we’re so far away from that that it’s not even on my radar screen,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told an audience in Washington. “I think it’s 50 or 100 more years.”
~ Did he also say “I are an idiot”? Good to see the President is surrounding himself which such stellar brains, right? 

The FBI has been investigating Trump’s Russian ties since July — Nine months since the earliest of those hacker intrusions into the Democrat National Committee came to light, the FBI has confirmed it’s been investigating possible connections between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. Since July 2016.
~ No rush, then. 

Tweeted GIF ‘assault with a deadly weapon’ — A Texas grand jury charged a Maryland man with “aggravated assault with a deadly weapon” after authorities say he tweeted an animated flashing GIF designed to trigger Newsweek journalist Kurt Eichenwald’s epilepsy last year, “immediately” causing him to have a seizure.

 

Even tech nerds click on Phishing scams sometimes — The FBI suspects a phishing email is how the Russian hackers who were indicted this week got into Yahoo. Ditto for the breach of the Democratic National Committee, and the Sony Pictures hack. In fact, there’s currently a Gmail phishing scam going around that even super savvy techies are falling for.
You can increase your chances of avoiding phishing scams if you follow these three steps and, above all, remember that when it comes to your email you can’t really trust anything.

Only ending global warming will save the Great Barrier Reef — Research authored by 46 scientists and published in Nature raises serious questions about Australia’s long-term conservation plan for its famous reef, which invests heavily in lifting water quality but is silent on climate-change action.
“With rising temperatures due to global warming, it’s only a matter of time before we see more of these events. ”

US Army finally gets a laser — Lockheed is now preparing to ship a well-tested laser weapon system to the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed’s powerful directed energy laser is now sufficiently light-weight, low volume and reliable enough to be deployed on tactical vehicles for defensive applications on land, at sea and in the air…
~ Makes us all feel safe, right? 

Post apocalyptic antimicrobial resistance — When the bacteria found on the walls of Lechuguilla were analyzed, many of the microbes were determined not only to have resistance to natural antibiotics like penicillin, but also to synthetic antibiotics that did not exist on earth until the second half of the twentieth century. As infectious disease specialist Brad Spellberg put it in the New England Journal of Medicine, “These results underscore a critical reality: antibiotic resistance already exists, widely disseminated in nature, to drugs we have not yet invented.”
~ So that’s good news, for a change. 

The Apocalypticon ~ Nuclear GIFs, leaker spills, subverting the wall, Twitter swastika hacks, protection and ‘flipping’ states



Trump said he wants a new nuclear arms race —
 And with more nuclear weapons in the world, there’s bound to be an accident sooner or later. At least that’s what the experts keep telling us. And when we inevitably descend into nuclear war, you don’t want to be caught without the proper GIFs. But don’t worry, Gizmodo has got you covered.

Leaker spills on Trump and Obama — John Kiriakou has beef with President Trump, and with former President Obama as well. So how does the intelligence community’s current predicament, from the Vault 7 dump to WikiLeaks generally to their fraught relationship with President Trump, look to a guy like Kiriakou? Basically, a mess. One that could nudge the Trump administration’s “deep state” paranoias closer to reality.

Subverting the Mexican border wall — In his forthcoming book, Borderwall as Architecture (US$30) Rael explores how architects can undermine the wall not just structurally, but conceptually. Today, the wall symbolizes xenophobia and fear. Designs that promote social, economic, and ecological development on both sides of the border could rewrite that narrative. “We can smuggle in design,” he says.

Twitter accounts hacked to spew Swastikas — A swath of Twitter accounts with large followings, including Duke University, BBC North America, Forbes, and Amnesty International, tweeted out the same message, in Turkish, that included a swastika and hashtags that translate to ‘Nazi Germany, Nazi Holland.’ Twitter said “We quickly located the source which was limited to a third party app. We removed its permissions immediately. No additional accounts are impacted,” a spokesperson for the social media company said in a statement.

It’s a scary fact of digital life that there are a lot of ways your PC can be exposed — Maybe you’ve been hacked by a state agent, or cracked by weird Nazi trolls. Fortunately you’re not powerless, and there are lots of ways to fight back. You don’t need to be a hacker, cracker, or computer savant to protect your laptop.

But there’s hope: a startup in the US has already affected change in areas deemed ‘flippable‘ from Republican to Democrat. And you may not really need security on your devices anymore if you follow this other guide.

The Apocalypticon ~ Year Zero, Gadgetation, Intellipedia, leaker seekers, panic button for immigrants


The bombe, developed and designed by Alan Turing, was an electromechanical device used by British cryptologists to decipher German Enigma-encrypted secret messages during World War II

WikiLeaks unleashed a cache of thousands of files it calls Year Zero — This is part one of the release associated with Vault 7. Since there are over 8000 pages in this release, it will take some time for journalists to comb through the release but The Independent has highlighted six of the “biggest secrets and pieces of information yet to emerge from the huge dump” in their report.
~ ‘The huge dump’ indeed.

Gadgetation — Here’s a look at all the devices spies have used to tap into voice, mail, phone, radio, morse, electronic messages, and other signals. (And of course, the Orange Git also randomly accused Obama of wiretapping his campaign, probably to deflect accusations of Trump’s involvement with Russian hackers.)
~ OK, I should probably stop making up words. 

Intellipedia — When General Dale Meyerrose worked as the Associate Director of National Intelligence, he was tasked with figuring out how to get 16 different spy agencies, all accustomed to decades of siloed secrecy, to talk to each other. In the end, one of his most lasting accomplishments was championing a small grassroots effort led by young analysts that resulted in what would become ‘Intellipedia‘.
~ And hey, someone else made up that word. 

Journalists should now be encrypting everything The Antihuman Donald Trump (or ‘Orange Hitler’, if you prefer) publicly called for a Justice Department investigation into Whitehouse leaks to the media, warning, “We’re gonna find the leakers. They are going to pay a big price.” There are ominous signs the President is following up on his threat, including Sean Spicer’s surprise search of White House staffers’ devices, looking for apps that people could use to secretly reach reporters or social media. Naturally, news of the search was immediately leaked to reporters.
~ Gonna. Sigh.

The Dark Web is disappearing — Tor remains something of an internet boogeyman, a misunderstood service most people think is only useful for hiring hitmen or buying drugs using cryptocurrencies, but many Tor sites (called onions) lie somewhere between tame and useless. New research suggests what the few extant onions that remain are headed towards extinction. But the Feds would rather drop a child porn case than give up a Tor exploit.
~ Tor blimey. 

Panic button for worried immigrants — Worried by Trump’s racists rants against immigrants, Natalia Margolis, an engineer for the digital agency Huge, went to a meet-up group for women and Latinos in tech that focused on civic action. There she met Adrian Reyna, whose parents are both undocumented. The whole family now lives in fear they could face deportation. “There’s never going to be a panic button for when ICE comes to the door,” Reyna lamented at the meet up.
Margolis thought maybe there could be, so she took the idea back to her team at Huge, which happened to be hosting a hackathon focused on solving big social issues. Just 24 hours later, Notifica, an app debuting this week at South by Southwest, was up and running. The app allows people to select contacts they would want to notify in case of emergency and pre-load personalized messages to each recipient. It launches soon.
~ In your face, Trumplerites! (Damn, I did it again.)

 

The Apocalypticon ~ Standing up to Trump, hiding and how, Counter Abuse, mass spying, Twitter twits


Trump and the rise of bigots all over the world has led to so much doom news in tech circles, I thought I’d collate it sometimes … enjoy! Or at least shudder.

Trump tweeted that Swedes were being massacred ...
Trump tweeted that Swedes were being massacred …

Scientists are standing up to Trump because they’ve always stood up to bullshit — There’s a pervasive idea that science is somehow exempt from the ugly political world in which the rest of us wallow. But even a perfunctory look at the history of American science shows that this hasn’t always been the case, and the circumstances that pushed scientists into the public sphere in the past aren’t that different from those scientists are facing today.

Hiding from the law is pretty much impossible — A new TV series has got people talking about the incredible depth of surveillance now available to law enforcers – and, presumably, to clever hackers.

How to delete your online presence — This may be a great time to completely eradicate yourself from social media. All of these online services let you scrub out your accounts if you want a cleaner, leaner life online. Even better, plenty of them let you export your data for safekeeping before you do. So you can always remember that time The Rock answered your desperate tweets or your roommate plastered your Facebook wall with photos of your dog.
Here’s how you can delete, and back up, accounts from most major social media services.

Google offshoot Jigsaw and Google’s Counter Abuse Technology Team — This group recently publicly released code for anti-harassment tools that have been honed for more than a year so they can hopefully be implemented around the web. Military bases could use smart city technology to improve their safety and security. And former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter gave WIRED a glimpse of the future of warfare.

Mass surveillance isn’t working — The track record of the collection programs Edward Snowden revealed provides little evidence that massive surveillance will help us identify future terrorist attacks or mitigate these new risks. American spies’ allegiance to massive surveillance is based on faith, not track record. The Boston Marathon bombing in April of 2013 illustrates how broad proactive surveillance is no panacea against attacks. The NSA was conducting its massive spying at the time, and the attacks happened anyway.

Trump hate tweets — The US ‘president’ sank Boeing shares with a single tweet and dissed Nordstrom for dropping his daughter’s brand, inspiring a Nordstrom boycott. Cozy up too closely to the commander-in-chief, on the other hand, and you might find your company facing a stinging backlash from the majority of Americans who oppose him (just ask Uber CEO Travis Kalanick).
And just in case you didn’t think all this Twitter crap was really crazy