Daily Archives: February 13, 2012

Views from the Solar System (26)


                                                                                                                                        
SPACE WATCH

Pine Island Glacier
NASA – In mid-October 2011, NASA scientists working in Antarctica discovered a massive crack across the Pine Island Glacier, a major ice stream that drains the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Extending for 19 miles (30 kilometers), the crack was 260 feet (80 meters) wide and 195 feet (60 meters) deep. Eventually, the crack will extend all the way across the glacier, and calve a giant iceberg that will cover about 350 square miles (900 square kilometers). This image from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on NAS’s Terra spacecraft was acquired Nov. 13, 2011, and covers an area of 27 by 32 miles (44 by 52 kilometers), and is located near 74.9 degrees south latitude, 101.1 degrees west longitude Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

The mathematical equation that caused the banks to crash


BOOK REVIEW

The Black Swan, Author: Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

By Ian Stewart – It was the holy grail of investors. The Black-Scholes equation, brainchild of economists Fischer Black and Myron Scholes, provided a rational way to price a financial contract when it still had time to run. It was like buying or selling a bet on a horse, halfway through the race.

The equation itself wasn’t the real problem. It was useful, it was precise, and its limitations were clearly stated. It provided an industry-standard method to assess the likely value of a financial derivative.

The formula was fine if you used it sensibly and abandoned it when market conditions weren’t appropriate. The trouble was its potential for abuse. It allowed derivatives to become commodities that could be traded in their own right. The financial sector called it the Midas Formula and saw it as a recipe for making everything turn to gold. But the markets forgot how the story of King Midas ended. more> http://is.gd/WINJ6B

U.S. Cybersecurity Debate Risks Leaving Critical Infrastructure in the Dark


By Sean Lawson – I have noted previously that hypothetical, cyber-doom scenarios have become a staple of efforts to motivate a policy response to cyber threats. These scenarios often involve hypothetical cyber attacks upon critical infrastructure leading to mass casualties and widespread disruption of daily life. I have argued that such scenarios are not only unrealistic but that the war/disaster framing and the fear it instills encourages militarized policy responses. Thus, the most significant policy response we have seen today has been the creation of a military command, USCYBERCOM.

Then, there is a clear disconnect between the rhetoric used to motivate a policy response and actual diagnoses of the problem. In a previous post, I demonstrated that key cybersecurity policy documents and statements from top policy makers have consistently diagnosed cyber threats primarily in terms of theft of intellectual property and decreased economic competitiveness. more> http://is.gd/ZFXhJu

A Guide to the Digital Advertising Industry That’s Watching Your Every Click


BOOK REVIEW

The Daily You, Author: Joseph Turow.
Being Digital, Author: Nicholas Negroponte.

By Joseph Turow – At the start of the 21st century, the advertising industry is guiding one of history’s most massive stealth efforts in social profiling. At this point you may hardly notice the results of this trend. You may find you’re getting better or worse discounts on products than your friends. You may notice that some ads seem to follow you around the internet. Every once in a while a website may ask you if you like a particular ad you just received. Or perhaps your cell phone has told you that you will be rewarded if you eat in a nearby restaurant where, by the way, two of your friends are hanging out this very minute.

But look beneath the surface, and a different picture emerges. We’re at the start of a revolution in the ways marketers and media intrude in — and shape — our lives. Every day, most if not all Americans who use the internet, along with hundreds of millions of other users from all over the planet, are being quietly peeked at, poked, analyzed and tagged as they move through the online world. Governments undoubtedly conduct a good deal of snooping, more in some parts of the world than in others. But in North America, Europe, and many other places, companies that work for marketers have taken the lead in secretly slicing and dicing the actions and backgrounds of huge populations on a virtually minute-by-minute basis. Their goal is to find out how to activate individuals’ buying impulses so they can sell us stuff more efficiently than ever before. But their work has broader social and cultural consequences as well. It is destroying traditional publishing ethics by forcing media outlets to adapt their editorial content to advertisers’ public-relations needs and slice-and-dice demands. more> http://is.gd/AQDRuB

NASA unplugs last mainframe


By Michael Cooney/Layer 8 – “In my (NASA CIO Linda Cureton) first stint at NASA, I was at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center as a mainframe systems programmer when it was still cool. That IBM 360-95 was used to solve complex computational problems for space flight. Back then, I comfortably navigated the world of IBM 360 Assembler language and still remember the much-coveted “green card” that had all the pearls of information about machine code. Back then, real systems programmers did hexadecimal arithmetic – today, “there’s an app for it!”

“But all things must change. Today, they are the size of a refrigerator but in the old days, they were the size of a Cape Cod. Even though NASA has shut down its last one, there is still a requirement for mainframe capability in many other organizations.” more> http://is.gd/ifA5xC