Saturday, November 30, 2013
Graphene is the thinnest substance ever created, is as stiff as a diamond, and is hundreds of times stronger than steel. It is flexible, stretchable, and conducts electricity faster at room temperature than any other material. It can even convert light at any wavelength into a current. It has many potential applications such as faster computer chips, flexible touch-screens, and efficient solar cells. Graphene has one major flaw however; it is unsuitable for the binary on/off mechanisms that are fundamental for electronics. It is difficult to make in quantity as the single sheet of carbon atoms in a hexagonal honeycomb shape requires rigorous attention to detail else tears will occur.
The European Commission in Brussels approved a graphene flagship project in January which is a joint effort between industry and academia. Several researchers have expressed concern of the size of the project stating that it will inevitably be fettered by the bureaucracy of a venture of such magnitude. The flagship programme is divided into 16 separate work packages that are focused on developing technologies in separate application areas. Production of graphene using the surefire method (2010 Nobel Prize worthy) is far too slow and can cost over $1,000 per micrometre flake. Graphene has already seen applications such as enhancing tennis racket strength and in conductive circuits but this is in an impure, weaker form.
Graphene potentially can revolutionize the computer world with its clocked 400 gigahertz speeds, far more than comparable silicon devices. Europe has been the leader in academic research with scientists coming from many countries but Chinese, Japanese, South Korean, and American companies leading in development. The European Commission wants the flagship to be as inclusive as possible to ensure that the under-represented members can be a part of the action. The consequence is that existing research groups are barred from bidding for funds which greatly limits what already successful groups can achieve. Researchers prefer cohesive teams in which results can be shared among all members. When funds are split among multiple groups that each have their own agenda, progress is halted for the sake of fairness.
The way electronics are thought about will have to radically be changed in order to incorporate graphine into itself. The cost barrier definitely is slowing down development but techniques have risen to make production more affordable and with time and research I am sure that costs will decline. It will be interesting to see whether silicon valley opens up to the idea of being called graphene valley someday.
There are days where I can get as many as 25 "snapchats" or not even one. I find there are definitely different types of snapchat personalities as well. One of my friends ALWAYS sends a snapchat of a selfie with a caption (there is a red line under the word selfie and I believe it was just recognized as a word in the dictionary so I think this website should address that). I don't see her often, so I didn't care in the beginning. But let's get real ... I know what she looks like and I don't need a picture of her face every 3 hours of what she's doing at work. Another friend of mine always sends pictures of the children she babysits -- now I just have an unrealistic expectation of how cute and well-behaved children can be. Some people never send selfies and just send pictures of what they're currently doing, no matter how exciting or boring it can be. Regardless, it has become a very common way of communicating with each other outside of texting.
One of the most interesting things I find about Snapchat is the conversations I have with my friends about how they use it. A couple of my friends have said that if someone doesn't answer one of their snapchats, they personally feel a little embarrassed or offended and will send fewer snapchats to that person. However, in my opinion, what if I'm doing something that I don't find is worth taking a picture of? Because I'm definitely that person who doesn't answer all of the snapchats I receive. What if I'm in a situation where I can't take a picture? While I didn't ask my friends those questions I still thought it was an interesting way of thinking.
Another interesting part of Snapchat I recently came to notice is that she uses Snapchat as a way of communicating more than texting. My preferred mode of communication is in-person interaction, then maybe texting, and last of all, Snapchat. I'd rather have conversations with someone over texting, but she seems to do it in Snapchat. I understand if it's a great picture, by all means go ahead. But once all she was taking pictures of was the TV in front of her and was sending me 7-word captions (since that's about the limit). I was answering because we seemed to be having a conversation, but after I replied the second time I thought, "why can't we just text this?" It's happened quite a few times in the past week.
Anyway, I think it's an interesting thought of how Snapchat has changed the way we interact with each other. I believe it has made communication with pictures much more common and has added yet another dimension to the way we socialize with each other.
Anyway, some of the somewhat preposterous theories they present on the show are actually pretty interesting. Whether it's weird heiroglyphics on the Pyramids of Giza depicting things in the sky or ancient drawings/documents with a diagram of an accurate electrical circuit, it always makes me think about ancient history. While I think about the possibility of ancient technology being lost in the past, I always hope there aren't (too many) people who actually believe that aliens were the cause of all of our history.
In our class earlier this week, the subject of our minds was brought up. The class was discussion that one change in evolution that made humans superior to all other animals in terms of consciousness, awareness, "being," morality, etc. While I was sitting in my seat, all I could think of is that Ancient Aliens would absolutely say aliens were the root of the cause. I'll conclude this short blog with something I found on the internet a while back:
Elementary School: Here's a basic understanding of history and how the world works.
High School: Actually, that's not quite right. Everything is actually a whole lot more complicated than that.
College: EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRRROOONNNNGGGG.
History Channel: Aliens
Sure, we may be giving more and more things to technology to do for us, and sure, technology may make life easier so we can focus on supposedly more important things in life, but the human factor will still play a role in anything involving technology, since we are the ones using it. We are the ones that decide if we use a certain protocol or not. We are the ones that can choose to be lazy-asses who don't know how to do anything and just let the technology do it for us. We are the ones that can use technology in the right way and benefit others or the wrong way and harm others. That's why we should constantly have to question the makers of new technology.
With any technology, we need to ask ourselves if it's really necessary to make--does the problem that the technology solves really that much of a problem? Or was it developed solely to encourage being lazy and to make money off of the fact that people have this desire to do less work? I know there's a bunch of people out there that think that they do too much and want to be able to do less, but maybe there's a reason why we should do the work rather than have technology do it for us. The iffy example I want to give pertains to what I might possibly tackle in my final paper, in that the internet has made it much easier to look up anything, so why bother with a college education when you can just search up the information you need? Why not just make searching for the information you need easier than actually learning material, which can take up a lot of time? For most people, they'll swat this question away because they're not concerned with actual learning--they just want what's necessary to get the job done.
That's why I feel like rather than just focus on making technology better, we should also find ways to make humans better. And by that I mean without having to use technology. Educate people so that they can make better decisions. Have them do the work and reinforce the information that they should know. Because everything pretty much comes down to the choices that we make, whether individually or as a group. And the more knowledgeable people are, the more informed their decisions will be, which will usually turn out to be a better choice to make.
That's one of the things I'm taking away from this class--that even with all these advances in technology and improvements to the human condition, we still need to strive to be better without the use of tools. That way, when we do have technology in the palms of our hands, we'll be better able to use it.
Carr only focused on this for a very short duration of the book, but I thought the subject was profound. He was emphasizing that as digital word processors became a normality, the writing and language skill of several people basically went out the window. While this may not be true for those who are in English-related majors, I feel that this is extremely true for the general population (or maybe this just seems exaggerated because I go to a tech-school where writing is not a priority).
Before there were programs like Microsoft Word, whenever someone wrote anything, they had to ensure perfection before it was printed. Printing was an incredible innovation in itself, but once something was printed and distributed, there was no going back and editing any mistakes. Therefore, writers had to edit and re-edit countless times to make sure their ideas were succinct and clear. Once word processors came out, writers were blessed with the convenience of being able to easily edit their works on the computer with a simple delete button, easily reprinting their work, or as the internet became a convenience, just go online and edit their online document.
The convenience of editing one's work led to people gradually becoming less diligent about their writing. People edited less, and in this huge domino-effect type scenario, people became less attuned to proper grammar and syntax. While some can disagree and say they used slang on AOL Instant Messenger since they were 10 years old and basically invented words, one can argue right back and say the adults of Facebook have no idea how to write. Yes, Facebook can be treated as a relaxed, social environment, but when everyone can see it including younger people, these writing habits become engrained in our minds. The end result is that no one knows proper grammatical rules -- I don't even know them. But I find it a shame when my mother, a teacher in an elementary school, comes home and says that her coworkers don't even differentiate between "good" and "well" properly in front of their students.
Even while I write passionately about this issue, in the back of my mind I'm wondering (and I'm sure other people would too), what does it matter? As technology becomes more streamlined and the importance of grammar seems to be less and less important, is it really that bad that few people know these things? I'm not really sure, but after thinking about this I think I'm just old fashioned.
To quickly summarize: Elysium is this satellite-type place just outside of Earth. Those who are wealthy enough to live on Elysium do so, and the rest of the seemingly corrupt society resides back on Earth. They often show the poor gazing up at Elysium, just like we look at the moon, wishing they can go there. Back on Earth, people are struggling to find work since robots and technology have taken over almost every aspect of life. Money is scarce (the movie has a scene where little boys are fighting over a $5.00 coin). The rulers of Elysium, however, are these pretentious looking people who have no regard for any of the poor people who try to hijack spaceships to get to Elysium -- they just shoot down the spaceships because they don't want their home to be full of people that have less than they do.
I thought this concept brought up an interesting concept that we had not discussed too much in class. How would technology affect the classes in our society? Would they further the gap or somehow make it closer? This movie portrays the scenario with the former. In the movie, Elysium, the lower and upper class are as polarized as it gets.
I think that when/if technology begins to take over more human jobs, the gap between classes will also increase. There are certain people in the world that are born into insane amounts of wealth and keep it within the family. They are prepared their entire life to take over the same career paths their parents have -- ones that bring in a lot of money. As a senior looking for a job, I'm already seeing this in my town. All of the people my age who have parents working on Wall Street are getting jobs on Wall Street, one of the most highly lucrative and competitive places to work. If technology ever took over the human role in even more workplaces, the middle/working class would struggle since they always have had to work hard for their money, possibly even combine with the lower class, and the upper class would prevail.
While this thought is certainly depressing, I'm hoping it's a worst-case scenario option. I think before new technology becomes regulated in human life, there will be a lot of ethical discussions that need to happen. Even as engineers, we theoretically have a code of ethics to follow -- I know as a Biomedical Engineer I take that very seriously considering I hope we do not all become robots.
Elysium wasn't one of the greatest movies I had ever seen, but in terms of science-fiction I think it was a really interesting concept to entertain in regards to the hardcore societal affects technology could have.
Earlier this week Newegg lost a patent lawsuit. Newegg was being sued by TQP for infringing on their patent. The patent they were infringing on was using SSL and RC4 as the cipher suite. This is a big deal because the patent holder does not hold the patent to SSL or to RC4, only to using the two together.
When a server operator is setting up a web server, and they want to use SSL to secure the connection to the client they have to choose which ciphers are allowed. Some of the other choices available are AES, 3DES, RC4, and Camellia. Using RC4 is less computationally intensive than the other options. This means that it is often used with servers on older machines. The combination of SSL and RC4 is used by a lot of companies and private individuals.
SSL was first developed by Netscape, and RC4 was developed by RSA security. Since SSL was meant to be public it's easy to see how one would use that. RC4 was reverse engineered, or leaked by a member of the cypherpunks mailing list. Since these two technologies separately are completely free and unencumbered software. The option to use the two together is actually an option on some graphical interfaces for web servers.
How could a company own the patent to using the two together? They simply should not be able to. By giving TQP this power, TQP will have the ability to sue millions of companies for 'using' their patent.
Vim, short for vi improved, is an improved version of the classic text editor vi (go figure). Classically a modal editor, vim works in modes. When vim starts up, you start off in normal mode, which means that you can't just start typing. Now I'm sure you're thinking "what the heck is this boomshocky? why the flip can't I just type the shtuff I want to?" (edited for G rating). The answer is simple, vim allows you to navigate and manipulate text files right off the bat. Once you learn the dialect associated with vim, hopping around your text document in normal mode becomes less of a combination of shortcuts and more of a language. The best part is, all of this is available from the home row. With the proper acclimation period, a good touch typist can become more efficient with vim than they would be with a regular IDE. Now that we've gotten the awkward introduction out of the way, let's tackle some of the deeper questions associated with using vim before I allow you to touch my baby. You're almost definitely thinking, "why would I learn this antiquated method of editing if I'm already as addicted to IDEs as Ewan McGregor was to heroin in that one movie?" The answer is multifold. For one, you won't always have access to a GUI when editing code. You can't always expect to be able to edit from the comfort of your own rig. Sometimes you have to SSH into a machine to do some work. Another point is that you can really be more efficient with vim. Think about all the scrolling and clicking you'd have to do to navigate to a particular line in eclipse or a similar IDE. In vim you'd just type the ":" character and the line number. BOOM! You're at the line you wanted to be at. Another benefit of learning vim is that it's mostly POSIX compliant. Any concepts you learn to become a better vimmer basically carry over to linux operations. For instance, using a regular expression search in vim requires you to know POSIX regular expressions. Knowing vim makes you a better computer scientist.
Overall, what I'm trying to say is that every computer scientist should at least know how to use vim. It's not perfect, considering that it's really only a text editor and lacks functionality in terms of syntax highlighting and autocompletion without plugins, but I find it better for my needs than emacs. So, I'll generalize: vim is better than emacs. Prove me wrong in the comments.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Many people believe that there exist a way to make a computer or electrical device unhackable, but in reality what cyber security does is slow down a hacker through the creation of a large complicated math problem. Since, the algorithms that are used to encrypt systems are technically complex math problems, if a person has a computer do the calculations eventually it will find the solution to pass through the security system. Even though there does exist certain types of cryptography techniques such as One Time Pad and MD5 encryptions, usually the systems used by the public are not this secured and would not take as much computer power to decrypt them.
There are two major things currently being researched that can completely cripple current cyber security. The first is one of the six unsolved mathematics problems, known as P versus NP. The idea behind P versus NP is that if a computer can verify that a problem has a solution then it should also be able to find the solution just as fast as it verified it. Since all encryptions are already known to have solutions this means that a computer that is able to verify that a certain encryption algorithm has a solution, it would also be able to crack that solution with no problem. The only thing that a P versus NP computer would be able to do is find the solution to the encryption algorithm, a hacker would still have to write a code that can apply the solution and get into the system. Whoever is able to solve P versus NP would be able to earn one million dollars, but in reality who would sell an undetectable hacking software.
Something else that would easily be able to overcome current security is quantum computers. Most security systems are technically meant to slowdown or make it difficult for a hacker to get into a system, quantum computers would easily be able to get around most security systems since quantum computers would be working on a level way above those that are silicon based. One of the main goals of quantum computers is to make a system that is extremely efficient and extremely fast when compared to the technology we have today. A hacker with a quantum computer would easily be able to run the calculations and software needed to hack systems that even have state of the art security systems.
Many people believe that certain operating systems are unhackable, but in reality that is a lie, since hackers target the systems that are more widely used by the general public such as Windows and Mac. But there does exist one way to make a system almost unhackable. For a computer to be almost unhackable a person would have to get a new computer and make sure to always have the internet disconnected at all times, it might even be better to take out the network chip. By not connecting to the internet a user would not be able to download viruses and malicious software to their systems. All updates would have to come from a USB that the user knows where it has been connected and have gotten the updates from official websites. The only way that a computer like this could be hacked is if a hacker physically accesses the computer but without the internet the files on the computer would be safe. Other than this all electrical systems would be hacked no matter what type of security has been placed to prevent it.
In closing I have to say that I do not always practice what I am preaching here. I often send people dumb Snapchats, and use my phone to escape awkwardness. It is just interesting to think about how phones have affected the way we look at the world around us.
Did you guys know you can change the color of the words in your blog posts?