Something strange going on?

Most media reported the attack on the internet backbone of a couple of weeks back and I’ve been digging around to see what else is going on. There are some startling stats — albeit from internet security companies. London-based computer security firm mi2g says that October has already qualified as the worst month for overt digital attacks since records began in 1995, with an estimated 16,559 attacks carried out. Compare this to the whole of the first quarter of this year when there were 6,937 and you get the feeling something strange might be going on (source: The Washington Post).

In terms of what’s been done to sure up the internet since the DNS attack, EWeek reports:

“In the wake of last week’s unprecedented DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack against all 13 of the Internet’s root-name servers, the U.S. Government and ICANN, one of the Internet’s main governing bodies, are considering changes to help protect the DNS system against future attacks. The most immediate and significant changes will likely come from the ICANN, which is holding a meeting this week in Shanghai, China. The body, which is ultimately responsible for maintaining the root servers that contain the master list of Internet domains, will hear recommendations from its Security and Stability Advisory Committee on securing the edge of the Domain Name System network.”

Charging gadgets

Wired reports on developments at Splashpower, a company based in Cambridge, which is developing wireless chargers for multiple gizmos. Basically you just place you mobile phone, PDA etc on a pad and they’re all magically (!) charged without the need for carrying around all those annoying cables and transformers.

I’ve always wondered why we charge devices that require such a low voltage using the normal household supply. Why not use lower voltage renewably powered chargers that don’t require bulky (and inefficient) transformers? And why do all companies insist on using a different adapter for chargers? Surely a standard for portable, personal gadgets would be possible and prevent us from needing a new charger every time we buy a new toy. Rant over. Let me know what you think.

A New Kind of Science

Stephen Wolfram’s epic 1000+ page book, A New Kind of Science, is keeping me occupied at the moment. Certainly an interesting read and quite extraordinary in what it sets out to achieve. The opening gives you some idea: “Three centuries ago science was transformed by the dramatic new idea that rules based on mathematical equations could be used to describe the natural world. My purpose in this book is to initiate another such transformation, and to introduce a new kind of science that is based on the much more general types of rules that can be embodied in simple computer programs.”

What I find fascinating is Wolfram’s discussion of the way he wrote the book, which bubbles to the surface every now and then. There’s a good article in Wired magazine by Steven Levy called “the Man who cracked the code to everything…” which follows the story of the ten years that it’s taken Wolfram to write the book. He worked almost nocturnally, seldom straying into the “real” world, experimenting on “cellula automata” — essentially simple programs. Levy reports that one friend, described Wolfram thus, “He reminds me of the noblemen who worked in science during the 1800s — they did it for the love of it.”

Anyway, I won’t spoil the book for you, but take a look. I think it may be the most significant scientific book to have been published in my lifetime.

For Steven Levy’s Wired article click here
For Wolfram’s New Kind of Science site click here

Jonronson.com

Just come across ‘the official Jon Ronson site’ which is well worth a look. Jon Ronson is a journalist based in the UK who I first became a fan of through his ‘human zoo’ columns which used to feature in the Guardian’s Weekend Magazine. He’s now quite well known for his TV documentaries following some of the strangest individuals you’re ever likely to see — from Iain Paisley through to David Icke via Jonathon King. His book Them is deservedley a best seller and thoroughly recommended.

jonronson.com

Big, big plans for very small things

Here’s a piece written for Green Futures magazine on the questions we need to ask about the social and environmental impacts of nanotechnology.

“Think small, think very small. The science of the moment is nanotechnology; the manipulation of matter at a molecular scale. Derived from the greek for midget, the prefix ‘nano’ means 109 or a billionth part. So, your average human hair is a whopping 200,000 nanometers across, with an atom clocking in at just one-third of a nanometer.

What’s new is that scientists now know how to pick atoms up one by one and put them where they want. This has startling implications for all of us since, if you believe the hype, nanotechnology is the answer to our sustainability prayers. Just for starters, it will pull the economy out of the tech downturn, and go on to end pollution, illness and poverty…”

You can see the full article on the Green Futures website here (subscription required) or download the pdf here (120k).