* Posts by Writebaby

26 posts • joined 15 Jan 2008

Ancient revellers came to party... and build Stonehenge - boffins


Let's Party

So basically they all got really drunk one night and someone said, "I have got a good idea!"

MPs obsess about expenses, ignore data security


over 71 and the issue is?

Assuming the gentleman is using his senior citizen's card, his first class ticket will be cheaper than standard class. He is a bit unfair to say that people in standard class don't want to work - some of us do. But he is spot on about the difficulties of doing so.

UK universities being broken by border control measures

Big Brother

Doing a Phd?

You are going to be in serious trouble. Getting your professor to turn up reliably 10 times during the year is an event with a probability tending to zero.

Bishop Hill: Gonzo science and the Hockey Stick


Getting even more amusing

By all means. Do you have a Scrabble board handy? I always like getting triple word scores.

Anyhow, science is marred by the fact it is done by humans. Ditto for any other human activity. I am not defending it. Nor am I trying to undermine it. I am just reporting it. However, politics and science make for a particularly poor mix.


That's really funny

You clearly didn't read my post at all. Utopian. Nah, basically, I said that scientists are just as human and fallible and full of cr*p as everyone else. If you can follow the science (and a first year course in statistics with some physics and software engineering) then bully for you. But what is really irritating are individuals who more or less state "I am not a scientist" (as though this was an ad for household cleaning products) or worse "I am a humanities graduate" but "these skeptics (or for that matter pro climate change scientists) are talking B*shit and killing the planet/humanities future". (delete as appropriate)

Oh, forgot to add, I am also a humanities graduate, so I know just how good a preparation for understanding climate science, doing a degree in history is i.e. probably has a negative effect. But if you want to understand politics, it is quite good and what is very clear is that climate science is heavily politicized. When views on a scientific subject neatly break down into opposing camps on the right and left , then you know with greater than 95% confidence that both sides are talking 50% cr*p and the only difficulty is deciding which bits form part of their 50 %.


How science really works?

I am a baby scientist i.e. I am part way through a PhD in applied mathematics and computer science. But if you will permit an infant's mewling, science is not a pure and noble pursuit unsullied by self interest, it is a very human endeavour infused with all the glory and devilry of any other human effort. Mistakes are made, fashions are followed, prejudices are pandered to, backs are scratched, funds are given (by opposing sides) for finding the 'right' answer, genius occurs, backbreaking drudgery happens. Nothing you do or say will change that. The truth will eventually out.

Scientists who are currently pro anthropogenic climate change being a serious danger to the world's ecology (remember all scientists believe in climate change just debate the origins and their relative strengths and their impacts) have made some very careless mistakes both in how they derived and how they have presented their evidence and theories and opened a clear gap for APG climate skeptics (also scientists) to crawl all over them. I think they will be less careless in future and this will be to everyone's benefit. I also notice some skeptics have begun a rapprochement with their colleagues. i.e.. trying to be positive in their criticisms rather than saying bah! humbug all the time. This is also a good thing.

For everyone else, unless you can follow the science, sorry, your opinion isn't worth a damn!

Google (Voice) solves universal translation soonish


American accents -- not quite, Cap'n

In fact, as anyone well knows, when faced with a computer and a microphone, all geeks revert to speaking with a fake Scottish accent which owes its origins to Star Trek's original engineering genius Scotty. After a few hours of working with voice recognition software using this accent, the computer is effectively disabled for anyone who is unable to adopt this grizzled asperic tone. It is the earliest known form of a DOS attack on a voice recognition system. I personally originated this attack about 13 years ago when the first Apples came out with any sort of decent voice recognition. Although I am sure many others simultaneously created the same problem.

Royal Society: Schools should show creationism 'respect'

Paris Hilton

@elfatblobs pathetic mathematician buddy

It is a complete misunderstanding of evolution to say that it randomly occurred. Evolution is not a stochastic process as such.

Examined in the laboratory the primordial model of the life conditions on earth demonstrates a remarkable consistency in coming up with lifelike characteristics in very short order i.e. primitive alkalines and amino acids. In probability terms therefore, given the right conditions, P(life or at least lifelikeness) \approx 1.

Given that the university is on the large side and hence in probability terms has a strong chance of producing life favorable conditions, we could also argue that this probability is approximately 1.

Given lifelikeness, we actually only need replication and mutation to make the next steps. Since we are dealing with very primitive forms of lifelikeness, it is trival to see that they could all differ slightly from each other, a little more amino here, a little more alkaline there. Spread out across large parts of a planet we see that there is a high probability of something getting jumpstarted by way of replication and in fact, we could also say that the first mutation was replication. And actually in chemical terms replication isn't all that hard, especially in the presence of (wait for it) carbon. P(carbon based life forms) \approx 1.

Once you have survival, mutation and replication you have evolution with p =1. However, is complexity inevitable or can evolution go into 'reverse gear' so to speak (as it does in the film Evolution)?

My response is evolution can go into reverse gear - it's called extinction. Extinction occurs due to a failure to adapt to survive to breed. Hence adaptability is the premier prize in the evolution game. The more adaptable you are the better you survive full stop. Adaptability suggests complexity i.e. the ability to bring to bear either physically or mentally a range of different strategies. What are the odds Polar bears don't go extinct but adapt big time (e.g. migrate to New York and learn to drive taxis)?

btw with p \approx 1, human beings will in future create virtual worlds to explore the human condition. So likely is this that in fact, with p \approx 1, we are already living in such a world.

Explains a lot really! We are all just 'living in a overcomplicated version of Warhammer or Sin City or the Sims.

Paris...because she is the only real thing in a virtual world

Paris Hilton

Children should not be taught nonsense?

This seems a sensible proposition until you come across examples such as Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, estwhile bottom of the gardeners, witches, monsters...

... the fact is human beings and not just children are natural magical thinkers (magical thinking is a fundamental belief that a) the universe should revolve around me, why else is it here? and b) I can control the universe although I sometimes have to do bizarre rituals in order to establish that control) and as real scientific thought takes considerable effort with little or no emotional impact, it is generally rejected.

It is much easier to do something wrong but which appears to deal with the situation and how I feel about it than to do something right. Magical thinking is a way of dealing with stress, not just sorting out stressful situations. But it helps e.g. to misquote (in all likelihood) Cromwell 'Say your prayers and keep your powder dry' i.e. carry out a stress relieving ritual and simultaneously do what you really need to do.

So, bizarrely, it is easier to believe that the world was made in 7 days (try it for a few days) than that it took 15.4 billion years to come about. It also relieves stress because it allows human beings to wrap the universe around them like a baby blanket. it's small enough to think about therefore it is small enough to be controlled.

Should creationism be taught in classrooms. Yes, but not as a serious contender, but as an example of the contrast between scientific thinking and magical thinking.

Paris... because she makes me think magical thoughts and go through bizarre rituals.

PA Consulting begs for mercy after data loss axing

Paris Hilton

Universal Encryption

The time has come the walrus said --

Cos people are too dumb --

To encrypt the whole human world

As a rule of thumb (drives).


There was a young man from Japan,

Whose rhymes never would scan,

When asked why,

He could only reply

It's because I try and get as many words into the last line as I possibly can.


Paris...just because!

Midwife's lost diary sparks mums and baby alert

Paris Hilton

The real problem

The real problem is that she now has to restore all the appointments etc that she was due to make. I don't envy her the task of going through all that paper work and if the NHS is not willing to supply suitably encrypted water-proof electronic hand held devices with centralised backup servers combined with a DR option and business continuity plan so that health professionals can keep their appointments, I don't know what the world is coming too.

Paris because she is a babe!

Europe drafts law to disconnect suspected filesharers

Paris Hilton


Not to put too fine a point on it, but instead of cutting off the Internet with all the consequences, why not simply prevent the individual from using any P2P protocols for a year and/or blacklist known sites?

A year without YouTube - aw, poor diddums!

Paris ... just because, alright!

Are the ice caps melting?

Paris Hilton

Global Warming is a Good Thing

Consider the following localised example of hot

Dutch government gags Oyster researchers

Paris Hilton


Sorry, real world, universities usually only get to publish freely because they don't publish stuff that obviously treads on other people's toes. The professor in charge should have known better than to devise a real world attack on a real world system. Also, a bad idea to invent an attack without also devising a workable solution.

I should know, I got told off for even contemplating researching a topic that would be ultimately unpublishable - real world! The same subject could however be studied in abstract quite freely.

He would have been better directing his students to build an abstract model and a lab simulation, demonstrating the attack and also one or more solutions, and making the implications known to those who needed. In private, of course, he could offer a real world demo and solution and make his coterie a bit of dosh in the process. But you can't real world expect to be allowed or praised for publicly a) humiliating and b) threatening or even appearing to threaten a commercial company with a system that has a security flaw, particularly if a big government contract is riding on it.

Paris, because even she was realistic enough to know that you can't ultimately stop publication of results, but you can make money from it.

Think tank slams paedophile paranoia culture


@@paranoia country

No, dress as 'decidedly camp' then you can come back with accusations of homophobia.

Mine's the one with the Frankie Howard wig

Paris Hilton

It's the bureaucracy

I think the problem with applying for a job to work with kids, or e.g. starting a sports club such as a martial arts club (which I have done in the past) is the amount of bureaucracy and the cost involved, not the belief that anyone is under suspicion. You have to get at least two adults through CRB. It takes a lot of time and money and there are a lot of other complex rules to follow, enought to put anyone off.

I am not sure how much bureaucracy is needed. Common sense combined with a willingness to confront any suspicious action or even suspicious traits is sufficient. For example, it was well known to all the adults in my local town that one of the school teachers was on some level a kiddy fiddler, but no one actually went down the line of confronting him until about 20 years after I left the school. However, everyone warned the children not to be alone with him at any time. I think this was wrongful inaction to some extent (the warnings were not specific enough e.g) , but otoh no amount of bureaucracy would have sorted the problem as no criminal record or specific allegations existed.

Informal interactions with kids are possibly a more difficult area but it's quite easy to signal a 'harmless' intention by simply making good use of personal body space i.e. interact with a child at a suitable distance .eg. about 5 foot to indicate lack of suspicious intention.

NOte, self defence tip, 5 - 8 foot is a good distance to interact with anyone to avoid conflict and help de-escalate the situation - should, for example, someone decide to confront you over an interaction with a child. It takes you out of immediate strike range, including knives, gives you room for any escape manouvres and also actually works to calm the person down because you are not perceived to be 'in their face'. It also helps telegraph any intention to attack i.e. at 5-8 ft the person has to make a strong deliberate effort to reach you which gives you time to respond. Also don't try logic in these situations, the person is emotionally high and needs to come down before they will listen to reason. Just ask them repeatedly (using different phrases) if they are calm, or ready to talk and meanwhile maintain the distance. If it's not working, run and put as many obstacles between you and them as possible.

Liked the camera one. Technically, the police officer also destroyed the evidence that you were 'wrongfully' using surveillance techniques to gather evidence. otoh maybe he or she thought that discretion was the better part of valour and that you were going to get your @$$ kicked if you insisted on pursuing the case - which would mean even more forms to fill out! I know I'd chicken out of that one for that reason. Why didn't you just shout or swear (from a suitable distance) at the kids, hopefully causing them to run and minimizing the damage? by taking a picture you were clearly signalling you were going to call the police and just inviting further hostility. Paris, because even she isn't as thick as you are.

Culture of insecurity blamed for HMRC data loss

Paris Hilton

Culture to Blame

No, it means that everybody is to blame and that no-one from the top down in government understands or takes information security seriously or, if they do, they are largely or completely ignored or even stamped on from above.

Paris - because even she knows more about information security than the whole of government put together.

Malware not man blamed in child abuse download case

Paris Hilton

Far too much excitement for one day

I noticed that one assumption here is the guy was some dumb@$$ who clicked on everything in site, visited P2P sites etc. Haven't you read the latest articles on driveby downloads? It's not just the bad boy sites which are hacked with malware anymore, a lot of innocent sites are too......

... sorry just got interrupted by some Quicktime software wanting to automatically download on my PC. I am sure the GUI looked different last time they did this. Oh well, it must be alright, I've heard of them...

.... so point is, anyone could be caught by this stuff and btw no firewall or antivirus will guarantee its stoppage.

So the real problem is employer education as to what does and does not constitute valid computer evidence.

France gets closer to 'three strikes' downloader web ban

Gates Horns

What about the kids?

Hmmm.... and how do you explain to the home office that your teenager has just got you cut off from the Internet for illegal downloading... and no ISP will ever reconnect you again


Breach disclosure laws have 'no effect' on identity theft

Black Helicopters


How are these countermeasures a) illegal and b) effective?

Countermeasures from a consumer pov are procedural ie.

a. check your bank and credit card transactions carefully and

b. check your credit status on a regular basis and instantly query any services/accounts not requested by yourself

Geeks and their technical countermeasures - this is the real world, not the matrix!!!!


Car theft and ID Theft

For an article on identity theft for the US, I once did my own brief survey of information on crime rates on a state by state in the US and there was a significant correlation with the % of car theft, basically, it seems, for the same reasons i.e. the younger richer generation had more and better cars and therefore was more likely to be a victim of car theft, ditto credit cards and bank accounts. The correlation also carried across the growth rates.

To carry thorugh the analogy, being informed of data breaches probably has the same effect as a notice saying, "Be aware, car thieves are working in your area".

Moreover, there is a failure to distinguish identity theft and credit card fraud i.e. there is a difference between someone knowing a set of plausible (not necessarily completely accurate) biographical details about you in order to establish an identity to use to set up fraudulent accounts and someone having a genuine knowledge of your bank or credit card details and carrying out fraudulent transactions on your account.

The real prevention against ID theft is some kind of two factor/two channel authentication on setting up any account or loan i.e. you are registered with an independent company to whom you pay some kind of fee to maintain a check on your credit records on your behalf and they have carried out (in so far as they can) a set of strong identity checks on you and given you in return something like an RSA token and a pin. Then whenever you set up a loan etc you give the name of the company and your customer ID. The credit checking company checks back with you and you give the pin and one time code from the smart token to validate you did indeed take out the loan etc for that amount. While not unspoofable, it is enough to raise the level of difficulty to make most id thieves start to look elsewhere.

P.S the words "self selecting sample" instantly say "bad science" - I should know, if I gave my PhD supervisor a self selected sample he would send round gentlemen of Sicilian extraction to explain why this is a bad idea - although apparently the Russians will do a bargain basement job of this

Trend, Sophos and McAfee flunk Vista SP1 anti-virus tests


At least, Vista Informs Us

What is really interesting to me is that recently my Vista Home Edition has started telling me that I am not virus protected even though I use one of the above products and it works fine.

Honesty is always to be welcomed,


Sociologists: Studying engineering turns you into a terrorist



I have been a liberal arts student (Modern and Economic History if you must know). I am now a computer scientist and (very poor) mathematician. Death to all sociologists ...!


Reg readers bring down HMRC website


Deadline, Smedline

I submitted mine at the end of April 2007 with no problems registering, submitting etc whatsoever. In fact, it was eerily fast, a bit like the Internet equivalent of being in an empty street after midnight when there is absolutely no one there !!!

What is the problem with you guys? can't count? still doing your accounting by quill pen instead of .ods spreadsheet? Maybe your online banking system is down so you can't do bank recs

Critics split over DDoS attacks on Scientology


Cult or Church?

CoS is nothing. I know of one cult where virginal women are made to marry the cult leader even though he died and spend their lives in seclusion and poverty dressed in the mediaeval equivalent of the current Islam full body cover veil.

This cult btw has millions of followers and includes an erstwhile Prime Minister of GB among its adherents. It also retains millions of dollars in assets which it has taken from its followers over many centuries under false pretences i.e. give us money and you will be saved.

I could go on but you get the picture.

It also started out as massively unpopular but once it gained political power it became respectable and squashed all further political, religious and social opposition ruthlessly

Brighton professor bans Google


Yes and No

I am doing a doctorate in information security and while web resources are sometimes a useful starting place - especially when looking for bad boys code :-) - it is not a reliable resource for references. On average, any page on the web lasts around 6 months at most so any references you make to a web page could be out of date fairly rapidly. This is particularly true of Wikipedia entries and Google searches.

So a ban is correct when expecting final work to be handed in. But this doesn't prevent starting with a Web based resource just to get your head around the basics of a subject. However, Wikipedia is down the bottom of the list. Try Citeseer or Mathsworld or some of the online libraries instead.


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