Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

This is a video that will haunt your nightmares:

Go to NPR‘s story on this for a narrated version of the video — and you’ll find that what you see is a bacterial colony developing extraordinary capacities for antibiotic resistance in a shockingly short time — two weeks, or a little less, to go from a naive, wild-type strain to varieties that can resist 1,000 times or more the dosage that killed almost all of the original microbes.

The video is part of the supporting material for a paper published this week in Science .  In a way, there’s nothing new, or rather, nothing surprising here.  Microbial resistance to antibiotics is a phenomenon as old as antibiotics themselves.  (See Alexander Fleming’s Nobel Prize speech, for example).

What’s revealed in this video — and the reseach behind it, of course — is the obvious.  We ain’t going to win any war with bacteria anytime soon.  But in this political season, I’d add another thought:

There are some things at stake in this election that matter rather more than whether one candidate used a not-according-to-Hoyle email server.  Among them are matters of life and death — and not just in the usual sense of decisions about national security or similar matters.  One party, one candidate takes science seriously right now.  The other doesn’t.  Vote like your — and your kids’ — lives depend on it.


Late Evening Open Thread: Duct Tape Roll Cage Testing Kangaroos!

Remember to wear your seat belts!

I didn’t realize the previously posted video was an advertisement (hadn’t watched it all the way through). Mea Culpa! Mea Culpa! So instead, here’s some kangaroos!!!!



Late Night Paranoia Open Thread

Something happening here… I have absolutely no idea how to judge to quality of the latest Alarming Security News, which is why I’m sharing it with you late-night/left-coast tech people. First story I ran across was in Mother Jones:

The NSA, responsible for intercepting communications around the world, appears to be the latest victim of hacking, at least indirectly, according to multiple news reports. A group calling itself the Shadow Brokers released a series of files on Saturday that contained the code behind some powerful hacking tools developed by an NSA-linked group. Those tools have been used to carry out cyberattacks on other governments and private corporations across the world over the last 20 years, according to Forbes.

The Shadow Brokers released a series of files that included installation files and descriptions of networks used for a number of different hacking tools that they claimed to have stolen from the Equation Group—the name security researchers gave to a group of hackers who deployed cyberweapons on behalf of the United States and other Western governments. This group was unmasked in early 2015 by Kapersky Labs, a Russian security research firm. The Equation Group is believed to have been affiliated with the NSA and other Western intelligence agencies, according to security researchers, and is perhaps the most wide-ranging and successful hacking group ever publicly discussed…

Then, in Gizmodo, “Yeah, The NSA Was Probably Hacked”:

Hacking group “The Shadow Brokers” made headlines Monday when it leaked files that supposedly belonged to “Equation Group,” which has widely been speculated to be an NSA hacking offshoot. When researchers from Kaspersky analyzed Equation Group, they found codenames also found in documents leaked by Snowden. The Shadow Brokers only released some of the files, which computer security experts have deemed as legitimate, and are asking for millions of dollars in bitcoins to release the rest. The files supposedly contain the frameworks for multiple NSA hacking tools.

According to Snowden, some NSA spies may have gotten lazy, and left their hacking tools on the malware staging server…

(Because the wetware is always the most unpredictable risk factor in any security project.)

And now, the NYTimes makes it ‘official’…

Most outside experts who examined the posts, by a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers, said they contained what appeared to be genuine samples of the code — though somewhat outdated — used in the production of the N.S.A.’s custom-built malware.
Read more

Monday Morning Open Thread: Geekbait!

I had no idea this movie was coming out, and now I cannot wait. Taraji P. Henson! Octavia Spencer! JANELLE MONAE!… and rocket ships.

Since the book it’s based on won’t be released till September, I may have to read Rise of the Rocket Girls while I’m waiting.

Apart from finding other reasons to grit through this election season, what’s on the agenda as we start the week?

Long Read: “‘Clock Boy’… can’t escape that moment”

Poor kid. I tell myself that many of us spent our adolescence waiting to escape the grip of our family’s dysfunctions, and mostly succeeded, or at least survived. From Jessica Contrera, in the Washington Post:

The news crew is here, but the famous boy is still asleep. He had just flown 22 hours, back to this squat stone house where he used to live when he was just a regular 14-year-old. His bright green go-kart is still out back. A year ago, he could have woken up and spent hours tinkering with its engine. He could have spent the day on his trampoline, or just watching funny YouTube videos on his phone.

Instead, he’s waking up to the sound of more reporters in the living room. Because he’s not Ahmed Mohamed, a regular 14-year-old. He’s “Clock Boy,” a viral sensation, the accidental embodiment of a national debate about Muslims being dangerous — or not. A black youth mistreated by overzealous cops — or an example of vigilance against potential terrorism…

The reporters are from Fox 4, a local TV channel. [Ahmed’s father] Mohamed invited them here, on Ahmed’s first day back in Texas after nine months in Qatar. They moved a month after Ahmed was arrested for possessing a homemade clock that his school deemed suspicious-looking. The move, it seemed, was an attempt to escape the spotlight, or at least the hate mail and death threats that came with it.

And yet, Ahmed’s summer homecoming was heralded to reporters with a news release sent out by the family and its supporters: Clock Boy is back, and ready to be interviewed…

… His parents had a choice: deal with this quietly, or tell someone. Their son had been placed in handcuffs and interrogated, in a town known for its resentment of Muslims. So they called the media, and soon Ahmed was trending on Twitter, and everyone from Mark Zuckerberg to President Obama was sharing messages of support.

Two days after he was arrested, the charges were dropped.

“This is what happens when we (IPD) screw something up,” one Irving Police Department detective wrote in an email later uncovered as part of a public records request from Vice. “That thing didn’t even look like a bomb.”

And so came the next choice: Let this all die down, or seize the platform they’d been given and use it.

So they put Ahmed on “Good Morning America,” MSNBC and “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore.” He told reporters how kids in school called him ISIS Boy. Sympathetic crowdfunders raised $18,000 for his education. He visited the White House, the Google Science Fair and the president of his home country of Sudan (a wanted war criminal, but Mohamed said it would be rude not to accept the invitation)…

His dad tells him that this is God opening doors for him. Something bad happened, but God turned it to make it good. God chose him for this, so he can make the world a better place.

Only now, he feels safer on the other side of the world. As trolls tried to pick apart his story, someone posted the Mohameds’ home address on Twitter…
Read more

Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Bright Futures

Ladies & Gentlemen, Vice-President Joe “Rhymes with Bucket” Biden!

George Takei, Living National Treasure. Per the AP:

In an English-subtitled video that’s drawn more than 12 million views in less than two weeks online, the “Star Trek” actor compares Trump’s proposed deportation of undocumented Latino immigrants to the World War II internment of more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans, including Takei and his family.

“I’m addressing this to my Spanish-speaking fans and their friends,” he says in the four-minute video. “I want to give some personal, historical context on how Donald Trump’s words and plans can have very real and terrible consequences.”…

“It was my parents who heard the sounds we are hearing today from Donald Trump, the sweeping statements he makes characterizing and stereotyping a whole group of people,” Takei said in an interview. “My father lost his business and we lost our home and our freedom. With no charges, to be locked up, imprisoned.”…

Takei said he learned Spanish growing up with Mexican-American neighbors in East Los Angeles, a connection that he said makes Trump’s comments all the more difficult.

“It’s very personal to me,” said Takei, who in the video urges viewers to register to vote and to help defeat Trump in November.

And on a whole different plane, I am insanely jealous of the toys kids can get these days: mattell thingmaker 3d printer

Thingmaker™ 3D Printer is an easy-to-use, 3D printing system for the creative home! With the Thingmaker™ 3D Printer, you can easily make your designs come to life. It’s specifically engineered with ease-of-use and family-friendly features in mind…

Create your designs on your mobile device using the Thingmaker Design™ app (available for free in the Apple App store and Google Play, data rates may apply, smart device not included), or select files to download on the Thingmaker Central™ app or on You can even use your own 3D software. Then, easily export your designs to the Thingmaker™ 3D Printer and see them come to life…

Includes 1 3D Printer, 2 0.25kg PLA Filament Reels, 1 USB Thumb Drive with the Instruction Manual, 1 Quick Start Guide, 1 USB Cord, 1 External Power Supply, and 1 Print Removal Tool. Additional filament packs are also sold separately and available in 12 different colors: Red, Blue, Orange, Green, Pink, Yellow, Teal, Purple, Black, White, Gray, and Gold. Two filament reels (0.5kg) can create approximately 10 basic figures!

Back in the mid-1960s (ask your grandma), state-of-the-art technology toys were Easy-Bake Ovens and — for boys — “machines” where you squeezed packets of colored sugar and chemicals into molds to be extruded in the shapes of insects and race cars. Every society encourages its offspring to play-pretend their adult roles, and our adult roles were expected to be gender-coded into housekeeping (from name-brand packages, for modernity) or working the assembly line to extrude those name-brand products in factories (or, for the white-collar guys, in cubicles). It’s really very cheering that today’s kids — both genders, although I’m sure there will be pink & purple ‘princess’ versions available for the holiday shopping season — are being taught that as adults, they’ll be expected to use their brains and produce what’s in their imaginations. Even if this iteration happens to be an overpriced corporate branding exercise…

Apart from dreaming & working for a brighter future, what’s on the agenda for the day?

Sunday Evening Open Thread: Elsewhere in the Galaxy

Was never a true Marvel nerd (DC had the best feminist heroes back in the early 1970s), but I gotta admit this news thrilled my inner teenager:

… The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) announced Friday that Groot and Rocket the Raccoon will be featured on a mission patch that will represent all payloads that will head to the national laboratory on the International Space Station…

More details at the link. The movie sequel is due next May. We may even attend during the opening weekend, which almost never happens.

Apart from the early start to the Sandernista’s “fart-in”, what’s on the agenda as we wrap up the weekend?

via io9