The Cicada 3301 riddle

I only recently came across the Cicada 3301 mystery, and curiosity drove me to explore it further and share my findings. I must have lived in a cave for the last three years, because it appears that the group’s riddles became an Internet sensation as early as January 2012 up until 2014, after the last of the known cryptic puzzles was posted. For the benefit of my fellow cave dwellers, allow me to summarize: Cicada 3001 is an unidentified individual, or more likely group of individuals, which released cryptographic challenges online at the rate of one per year for the self-proclaimed purpose of sourcing “highly intelligent individuals” to join their ranks.
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NO PEK for you

Malaysian Airlines flight 370’s disappearance 12 days ago has captured public attention like few other aircraft accidents for several reasons; one is that, in an era where the NSA knows what, where and with who you’ve had lunch every day of last month, we just don’t expect a large commercial airliner to vanish without a trace. Another is that, in a uncharacteristic reversal of roles, the authorities are coming up with conspiracy-fueled murder-suicide theories devoid of motive while members of the public are coming up with simpler, more reasonable and at least equally plausible scenarios (e.g. a cockpit electrical fire) that would have made William of Ockham proud.

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A candle in the dark

The Voyagers from Penny Lane on Vimeo.

I came across this inspiring video and thought I would share it, along with some thoughts. The Voyager probes were launched into space in 1977, with the aim of reaching beyond our solar system (which they are doing just about now). They are both equipped with identical plate records, which contain diagrams of our collective knowledge, snapshots of our daily existences, and musical scores of our emotions. The idea came from great visionary Carl Sagan, also author of “The Demon-Haunted World, Science as a Candle in the Dark” which should really be mandatory reading. Continue reading “A candle in the dark”

Take back your online privacy

In light of Edward Snowden’s recent disclosure of the PRISM surveillance program, it is becoming increasingly clear that Western democratic governments are heading towards an increasing level of control over online traffic, at the expense of privacy. But the major threat to privacy is not there – it is in our own complacency and lack of technical ability to do anything about it. Here are four things you can and should do to improve your privacy online.

In light of Edward Snowden’s recent disclosure of the PRISM surveillance program, it is becoming clear that Western democratic governments are heading towards an ever-increasing level of control over online traffic, at the expense of privacy. Tools like deep-packet inspection (which allows advanced content monitoring and filtering), corporate willingness to give away customer data, and international agreements make it increasingly difficult to maintain a modicum of anonymity and confidentiality online. But the major threat to privacy is not there – it is in our own complacency and lack of technical ability to do anything about it. We readily disclose so much information online so carelessly, that, while it does not excuse the snooping behavior of the states and businesses, it certainly makes the job a lot easier for them. Here are four things you can and should do to improve your privacy online – and that does not include the obvious of securing your facebook profile!
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Tu quoque, mon

Facebook is an amazing source of inspiration. Some of my outer circle friends (i.e. those with whom I share less intellectual alignment – see my previous post on the boundary layer of IQ) provide a regular stream of content that makes me jump, wince, or generally want to carve out time to write a post about. Of course, I would not tell them, lest I lose them as facebook friends and my source of inspiration dries up.
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The boundary layer of IQ

In aerodynamics, the boundary layer is the layer of air just above the wing. The air that is in contact with the wing, counter-intuitively enough, remains pretty much immobile during flight; which means dust on the wing would not be swept away. The next layer up of air molecules has some velocity; the next layer up yet more velocity; and so forth, until the air molecules are far enough from the wing that they are not disrupted by the passage of the aircraft, and move backwards (in relative motion) at the air speed of the aircraft (in which case they are said to be part of the free air stream). While not trivial to describe, and governed by atrocious equations, the boundary layer is, in essence, a fairly straightforward concept best described by the diagram below (the length of the arrows indicates the speed of the air above the wing; the close the air is to the wing, the slower).
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Herbert Nitsch back from the underworld

Record holding freediver Herbert Nitsch gave his first interview 9 months after a decompression accident that almost killed him on June 6, 2012 in Santorini, Greece. Herbert was trying to surpass his own 2007 record of no-limit freediving to 214 meters by aiming to reach 240 meters (no-limit is one of the freediving disciplines and consists of using a weighted sled to descend very rapidly, and an inflatable device to ascend even more rapidly, allowing for much deeper dives in a short timeframe).
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