Tyler Simko

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Tyler Simko

Quantumaniac is where it’s at - and by ‘it’ I mean awesome.

Hi! My name is Tyler Simko. Over here, I post a ton of astronomy / math / general science in an attempt to make your brain feel good. My aim is to be as informative as possible while posting fascinating things that hopefully enlighten us both to the mysteries of our truly wondrous universe(s?). Plus, how would you know if the blog exists or not unless you observe it?

Boom, just pulled the Schrödinger’s cat card. Now you have to check it out - trust me, it said so in an equation somewhere.

Please check out my web design company, O8 Labs, we build websites and mobile apps - let us build yours!

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The First Human Infected by a Computer Virus
Mark Gasson, senior research fellow at the University of Reading, was able to infect a tiny, radio frequency identification (RFID) chip with a virus before he placed it under the skin on his hand. He uses that chip to activate his cell phone, as well as open secure doors.Thanks to the computer chip, his cell phone knows when he’s using it, and when someone else is trying to operate the device. If someone else tries to use his phone (after, say, stealing it), that person is not able to use it. Only Gasson can.And instead of him swiping an ID card to enter his building, he just needs to wave his hand to gain entrance. The convenience of not taking out his ID and the safety of his phone come with a price, however.
He served as carrier, and was able to pass the virus on to an external computer. The virus was of Gasson’s own design and was not malicious. But he was able to show that computer viruses can move seamlessly between computers within and outside the body. And theoretically, if a person had several computers in his or her body, a computer virus could spread from one to another, infecting them all. 
Why would people have computers in their bodies? Researchers around the world are developing tiny electronics that can be ingested or embedded in people for health or even security reasons. Consider the camera pill, which records data from the intestines, bionic eyes, bionic limbs, implantable telescopes to improve vision, and more.
The kind of computer chip that Gasson installed in his body is not in wide use, so no need to worry as of yet. In fact, you have more reason to worry about bed bugs than computer bugs. But in the future, computers will get under our skin, and people will have to take precautions to spread digital infections. 

The First Human Infected by a Computer Virus

Mark Gasson, senior research fellow at the University of Reading, was able to infect a tiny, radio frequency identification (RFID) chip with a virus before he placed it under the skin on his hand. He uses that chip to activate his cell phone, as well as open secure doors.

Thanks to the computer chip, his cell phone knows when he’s using it, and when someone else is trying to operate the device. If someone else tries to use his phone (after, say, stealing it), that person is not able to use it. Only Gasson can.

And instead of him swiping an ID card to enter his building, he just needs to wave his hand to gain entrance. The convenience of not taking out his ID and the safety of his phone come with a price, however.

He served as carrier, and was able to pass the virus on to an external computer. The virus was of Gasson’s own design and was not malicious. But he was able to show that computer viruses can move seamlessly between computers within and outside the body. And theoretically, if a person had several computers in his or her body, a computer virus could spread from one to another, infecting them all. 

Why would people have computers in their bodies? Researchers around the world are developing tiny electronics that can be ingested or embedded in people for health or even security reasons. Consider the camera pill, which records data from the intestines, bionic eyesbionic limbsimplantable telescopes to improve vision, and more.

The kind of computer chip that Gasson installed in his body is not in wide use, so no need to worry as of yet. In fact, you have more reason to worry about bed bugs than computer bugs. But in the future, computers will get under our skin, and people will have to take precautions to spread digital infections. 

The Virus That Might Kill Your Computer on July 9th (And How to Stop It!)
It sounds like one of those annoying chain e-mails that show up from technically-challenged acquaintances: “The FBI Will Take Your Computer Offline July 9 If It Has A Virus! Visit This Site Immediately To Check!! Forward This To Everyone You Know!!!”
But the Federal Bureau of Investigation really has posted a warning on its site about the risk of “DNSChanger” malware, which really will result in your computer getting disconnected from the Web on July 9, if you don’t clean it up.
The story began last November when the Bureau announced it had busted a four-year-old Estonia-based conspiracy. The suspects had infected about 4 million computers — some 500,000 in the United States — with malware called DNSChanger (also referred to as Alureon) that diverted victims to scam sites.
This “rootkit” malware was usually delivered as a fake download for Windows or Mac OS X that then silently altered the Domain Name System (DNS) settings on computers and even some wireless routers. That’s about the most serious compromise an Internet-connected machine can suffer; when DNS stops correctly translating domain names like discovery.com to machine-readable Internet Protocol addresses like 63.240.215.85, you no longer know what sites you’re dealing with.
But once an infected machine had been cuffed to DNSChanger’s rogue servers, shutting it off would effectively unplug it from the Internet. To give unaware victims time to clean up their systems, the FBI secured a court order requiring the Internet Systems Consortium, a non-profit Net-architecture firm, to take over and sanitize those servers.
But all bad things must end; after one stay of execution, ISC is now set to turn off the DNSChanger servers on July 9. At that point, any infected machine will only be able to connect to numerical IP addresses, essentially, a rotary-dial version of the Internet.
Early advice on checking for a DNSChanger infection required a fair degree of technical skill, but now you just need to be able to read one line of text or know the difference between green and red. Visit www.dns-ok.us; if you see a green background to the image on that page and the words “DNS Resolution = GREEN,” you’re safe. (Your Internet provider may also offer a similar service; Comcast subscribers, for example, can check their computers at amibotted.comcast.net.)
If you see otherwise, you have a month and change to fix the problem. Since DNSChanger can disable security programs, you may not be able to do this the easy way, by clicking a “scan” button in your anti-virus app. You can try specialized DNSChanger-removal tools from such firms as SecureMac or run general-purpose anti-rootkit software like MalwareBytes’ Anti-Malware or Kaspersky Labs’ TDSSKiller.
The DNS Changer Working Group, created by Internet-security experts to help clean up the problem, has also set up a page with links to manual malware-cleanup instructions from Microsoft and others. In a worst-case scenario, you may need to reinstall your computer’s operating system and software from scratch, using either the discs that came with the computer or the recovery partition on its hard drive. 
But that still beats having a computer that can only navigate the Internet by numbers. So if you have friends or family members online who might not know to check for this problem, please forward this post to them. But hold the exclamation points.

The Virus That Might Kill Your Computer on July 9th (And How to Stop It!)

It sounds like one of those annoying chain e-mails that show up from technically-challenged acquaintances: “The FBI Will Take Your Computer Offline July 9 If It Has A Virus! Visit This Site Immediately To Check!! Forward This To Everyone You Know!!!”

But the Federal Bureau of Investigation really has posted a warning on its site about the risk of “DNSChanger” malware, which really will result in your computer getting disconnected from the Web on July 9, if you don’t clean it up.

The story began last November when the Bureau announced it had busted a four-year-old Estonia-based conspiracy. The suspects had infected about 4 million computers — some 500,000 in the United States — with malware called DNSChanger (also referred to as Alureon) that diverted victims to scam sites.

This “rootkit” malware was usually delivered as a fake download for Windows or Mac OS X that then silently altered the Domain Name System (DNS) settings on computers and even some wireless routers. That’s about the most serious compromise an Internet-connected machine can suffer; when DNS stops correctly translating domain names like discovery.com to machine-readable Internet Protocol addresses like 63.240.215.85, you no longer know what sites you’re dealing with.

But once an infected machine had been cuffed to DNSChanger’s rogue servers, shutting it off would effectively unplug it from the Internet. To give unaware victims time to clean up their systems, the FBI secured a court order requiring the Internet Systems Consortium, a non-profit Net-architecture firm, to take over and sanitize those servers.

But all bad things must end; after one stay of execution, ISC is now set to turn off the DNSChanger servers on July 9. At that point, any infected machine will only be able to connect to numerical IP addresses, essentially, a rotary-dial version of the Internet.

Early advice on checking for a DNSChanger infection required a fair degree of technical skill, but now you just need to be able to read one line of text or know the difference between green and red. Visit www.dns-ok.us; if you see a green background to the image on that page and the words “DNS Resolution = GREEN,” you’re safe. (Your Internet provider may also offer a similar service; Comcast subscribers, for example, can check their computers at amibotted.comcast.net.)

If you see otherwise, you have a month and change to fix the problem. Since DNSChanger can disable security programs, you may not be able to do this the easy way, by clicking a “scan” button in your anti-virus app. You can try specialized DNSChanger-removal tools from such firms as SecureMac or run general-purpose anti-rootkit software like MalwareBytes’ Anti-Malware or Kaspersky Labs’ TDSSKiller.

The DNS Changer Working Group, created by Internet-security experts to help clean up the problem, has also set up a page with links to manual malware-cleanup instructions from Microsoft and others. In a worst-case scenario, you may need to reinstall your computer’s operating system and software from scratch, using either the discs that came with the computer or the recovery partition on its hard drive. 

But that still beats having a computer that can only navigate the Internet by numbers. So if you have friends or family members online who might not know to check for this problem, please forward this post to them. But hold the exclamation points.

Need a New Password? It Might Just Be Your Brain
When it comes to high-tech passwords, there are fingerprint scanners for computers and facial recognition programs for closed-circuit cameras, and retinal scans are a mainstay of the movies.
Now researchers are looking beyond those technologies to using brain scans and heartbeats to identify people in ways that can’t be faked.
"There will come a time when a lot of current input devices won’t be necessary," said Ken Revette, a professor of computer science at the British University in Egypt. Revette recently founded the Journal of Cognitive Biometrics to feature research in the developing field of high-tech identification systems.
If people are going to have “Minority Report” computers, then something beyond a keyboard for a password will be needed.
For example, one could use reactions to an image as a password. Navin Cota of the Mind Research Network in New Mexico and Ramaswami Palaniappan of the University of Wolverhampton in the U.K. are working on using signals in the brain that mark attention.
In their experiment they asked subjects to count the number of times a letter appears on a screen. Each time a subject found the letter, their brains flashed a certain signal to the electroencephalogram. This signal, which is a change in the electrical potential measured by the EEG, is the same whenever someone is looking for a certain stimulus.
Cota said this means it’s possible to build a two-level password system using images. Imagine, he said, choosing two pictures, one of a landmark, say Big Ben, and the other of a relative, one’s mother, for instance.
To authenticate, one would choose the picture of Big Ben presented out of a set. Then one would see another set of pictures, showing Mom.
The reaction of the brain when looking at the correct picture is different from someone who doesn’t know which one they are looking for. The change in the electric potential of the brain will only happen in both cases for the “right” person.
The system is secure because only the person who chooses the images knows which ones they picked, and even if someone were to get it right randomly, the reactions in the brain would look wrong.
Cota noted that the big challenge is picking up the signal without requiring a cap — EEGs require contact with the scalp. But if that problem can be solved then it could be used in conjunction with other methods, even ordinary passwords.
Another area is using heartbeats. A person’s heartbeat generally looks similar between one beat and the next. But there is a small difference: on an electrocardiogram (or EKG) there are two “humps” on a heartbeat. The first on the graph looks tall and thin, and the second is shorter and some distance away.
That distance seems to be different with each individual and doesn’t change, said John Irvine, an engineer at Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass., who co-authored the study. That means even if ones heartbeat is elevated, the shape of the heartbeat looks the same.
So far, he and his co-author, Steve Israel, principal scientist at Integrity Applications, have only looked at about 200 people. So it isn’t clear yet that it would hold up over millions, but it does look promising.
The big challenge in this method is picking up the signal from any distance away. A good measure of heartbeats is usually taken with a sensor in contact with a patient’s chest — a stethoscope, for example, or electrocardiogram. But an acceptable signal could be picked up from a palm reader or even a fingerprint scanner, as long as it gets a pulse.
"That’s really an engineering problem," Irvine said, "Though it’s a really challenging one."
Revett noted that there is a lot of work with typing rhythms as well. “We challenge a subject with up to 50 visual stimuli,” he said. “At the same time we gather typing rhythms.”
Those rhythms reveal who is typing, and are exceedingly difficult to spoof because they differ in subtle ways between people.
And it isn’t all just for passwords. Irvine said if individual heartbeats can identify people, then emergency workers could call up medical records even when a patient is unconscious.
Meanwhile, Revett said there are applications for the EEG reading in gaming. A gaming system keyed into a person’s heartbeat could monitor and respond to a quickening — or slowing in their pulse.

Need a New Password? It Might Just Be Your Brain

When it comes to high-tech passwords, there are fingerprint scanners for computers and facial recognition programs for closed-circuit cameras, and retinal scans are a mainstay of the movies.

Now researchers are looking beyond those technologies to using brain scans and heartbeats to identify people in ways that can’t be faked.

"There will come a time when a lot of current input devices won’t be necessary," said Ken Revette, a professor of computer science at the British University in Egypt. Revette recently founded the Journal of Cognitive Biometrics to feature research in the developing field of high-tech identification systems.

If people are going to have “Minority Report” computers, then something beyond a keyboard for a password will be needed.

For example, one could use reactions to an image as a password. Navin Cota of the Mind Research Network in New Mexico and Ramaswami Palaniappan of the University of Wolverhampton in the U.K. are working on using signals in the brain that mark attention.

In their experiment they asked subjects to count the number of times a letter appears on a screen. Each time a subject found the letter, their brains flashed a certain signal to the electroencephalogram. This signal, which is a change in the electrical potential measured by the EEG, is the same whenever someone is looking for a certain stimulus.

Cota said this means it’s possible to build a two-level password system using images. Imagine, he said, choosing two pictures, one of a landmark, say Big Ben, and the other of a relative, one’s mother, for instance.

To authenticate, one would choose the picture of Big Ben presented out of a set. Then one would see another set of pictures, showing Mom.

The reaction of the brain when looking at the correct picture is different from someone who doesn’t know which one they are looking for. The change in the electric potential of the brain will only happen in both cases for the “right” person.

The system is secure because only the person who chooses the images knows which ones they picked, and even if someone were to get it right randomly, the reactions in the brain would look wrong.

Cota noted that the big challenge is picking up the signal without requiring a cap — EEGs require contact with the scalp. But if that problem can be solved then it could be used in conjunction with other methods, even ordinary passwords.

Another area is using heartbeats. A person’s heartbeat generally looks similar between one beat and the next. But there is a small difference: on an electrocardiogram (or EKG) there are two “humps” on a heartbeat. The first on the graph looks tall and thin, and the second is shorter and some distance away.

That distance seems to be different with each individual and doesn’t change, said John Irvine, an engineer at Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass., who co-authored the study. That means even if ones heartbeat is elevated, the shape of the heartbeat looks the same.

So far, he and his co-author, Steve Israel, principal scientist at Integrity Applications, have only looked at about 200 people. So it isn’t clear yet that it would hold up over millions, but it does look promising.

The big challenge in this method is picking up the signal from any distance away. A good measure of heartbeats is usually taken with a sensor in contact with a patient’s chest — a stethoscope, for example, or electrocardiogram. But an acceptable signal could be picked up from a palm reader or even a fingerprint scanner, as long as it gets a pulse.

"That’s really an engineering problem," Irvine said, "Though it’s a really challenging one."

Revett noted that there is a lot of work with typing rhythms as well. “We challenge a subject with up to 50 visual stimuli,” he said. “At the same time we gather typing rhythms.”

Those rhythms reveal who is typing, and are exceedingly difficult to spoof because they differ in subtle ways between people.

And it isn’t all just for passwords. Irvine said if individual heartbeats can identify people, then emergency workers could call up medical records even when a patient is unconscious.

Meanwhile, Revett said there are applications for the EEG reading in gaming. A gaming system keyed into a person’s heartbeat could monitor and respond to a quickening — or slowing in their pulse.

(Source: news.discovery.com)

Not a Physics post, but nonetheless - RIP Steve Jobs. He was the very definition of a revolutionary - a true genius of our time. I have three products of his mind within my reach; he will be missed. 

Not a Physics post, but nonetheless - RIP Steve Jobs. He was the very definition of a revolutionary - a true genius of our time. I have three products of his mind within my reach; he will be missed.