217 Posts In Total

Why Do We Assume Extraterrestrials Might Want to Visit Us?

It is presumptuous to assume that we are worthy of special attention from advanced species in the Milky Way. We may be a phenomenon as uninteresting to them as ants are to us; after all, when we’re walking down the sidewalk we rarely if ever examine every ant along our path.

Our sun formed at the tail end of the star formation history of the universe. Most stars are billions of years older than ours. So much older, in fact that many sunlike stars have already consumed their nuclear fuel and cooled off to a compact Earth-size remnant known as a white dwarf. We also learned recently that of order half of all sunlike stars host an Earth-size planet in their habitable zone, allowing for liquid water and for the chemistry of life.

Avi Loeb

Double Blind Passwords (aka Horcruxing)

For all his faults, Voldemort did one good thing for us muggles. He gave us the concept of a horcrux. For the uninitiated, a horcrux is any object in which you store a piece of your soul, putting the proverbial eggs of your soul into different baskets, to gain quasi-immortality.

The basic idea: You split your password into 2 parts - one which is stored in the password manager, and the other which is stored in your head (aka horcrux).

Basically, at any given point in time, you and your password manager know only a piece of the password. It’s double-blind. In effect, just like You-Know-Who, you’re splitting your password (soul) into pieces and storing them in different places.

Phani Karan

The Russia Discourse is More Reckless and Dangerous Than Ever

But over the last four years, Americans, particularly those who feed on liberal media outlets, have been drowned in so much mythology about the U.S. and Russia that they have no capacity to critically assess the claims being made, and — just as they were led to believe about “Russia’s 2016 interference in Our Sacred Elections” — are easily convinced that what Russia did is some shocking and extreme crime the likes of which are rarely seen in international relations. In reality, their own government is the undisputed world champion in perpetrating these acts, and has been for years if not decades.

[…]

What we have here, yet again, is the classic operation of the intelligence community feeding serious accusations about a nuclear-armed power to an eagerly gullible corporate media, with the media mindlessly disseminating it without evidence, all toward ratcheting up tensions between these two nuclear-armed powers and fortifying a mythology of the U.S. as grand victim but never perpetrator.

Glenn Greenwald

Law Enforcement Is Accessing Locked Devices Quite Well, Thank You

But a new report shows the widespread use by law enforcement of tools that circumvent those technical barriers. The report from Upturn, a Washington, D.C.-based civil society organization, zeroes in on law enforcement use of mobile device forensic tools (MDFTs).

These hardware and software tools collect forensic data from mobile phones: the texts, emails, and photos stored on the phone; data regarding when the texts and emails were sent and where the photos were taken; the locations—if location tracking tools are turned on—where the phone and, presumably, the user have been; and when they were there.

According to the report, 2,000 of the United States’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies, including 50 of the nation’s largest police departments, either have purchased MDFTs or have access to these tools.

Susan Landau

Being Alone

This is the secret of loneliness.

And nobody talks about it—this mysterious, shadow of loneliness that lingers even when you’re “doing everything right.” The secret is that “everything” is not quite everything.

You can’t address your own experience of loneliness just by finding connection with the people around you. You need to find connection with yourself.

Sure. Connect with your neighbors, your friends, your communities. Go to that meetup. Volunteer. Have meaningful conversations. Find love. Do it all.

Ankit Shah

Quote of the Day

I once heard that Reddit was a free, anarchic and self-governed community that allowed for an open exchange of ideas.

When I came to Reddit, I found an authoritarian community heavily biased against any view apart from the vague liberal identitarianism that passes for establishment wisdom in the U.S. joined at the hip with an unspoken corporate agenda.

I encountered mobs of users who bristled at the faintest suggestion that the various hysterias gripping American politics had little basis in any discernable evidence. I encountered moderators who censored my modest and thoughtful posts for little reason other than that it contradicted their personal politics.

And today, I encountered a “spez” fellow who assumed the power to intrude into my feed and announce from on high his noble quest to purge “hate” from Reddit. Everywhere dissenting views are being tarred with the label “hate.” Black people and various minorities are presented as helpless children who do not have the power or discernment to fight their own battles or to speak for themselves. The enlightened God Kings of Big Tech must make the world safe for their utopia (while keeping their neighborhoods in California and New York scrupulously clean of actual black people, and the poor, and the homeless).

Am I crazy to think that an opaque cabal of Big Tech insiders do not have the most noble of intentions? Am I impolite to point out the obvious political expediency of a crusade against “hate” when the fist of an authoritarian police state smashes into black, white, and brown alike? What a potent tool something like Reddit could be against the malevolence of the police and the intelligence apparatus; but no, “spez” must drive the deplorables out!

It’s a bit depressing that a site as once-respected as Reddit has so thoroughly come to resemble the smiley-face authoritarianism of modern liberal politics. Who is “spez” friends with? Do they rankle at those pesky dissenting views? Why won’t “spez” do something about that rabble?

/user/Butkantcant

The Basement Nightmares

Curious, heavy with dread, I decided to walk down to the basement. There I found the presence of an evil that was concentrated and coldly alien. It was not an animal hiding in the dark with red eyes and sharp teeth. It wasn’t satanic, or anything like the demon in the famous Amityville house. It was not one thing, nor was it many things. I could not see it. But it had a smell. The closer I got to it, the more musky and musty it became. The evil was by a few sacks of rotten potatoes, and beneath me, and behind me.

[…]

And this no-thing is the ultimate horror. I understood then what it is we fear most about death. It is the ultimate paradox. You can know death, but death can never know you. You can think about death, but death cannot think about life. What this means is: In death, you never existed at all. The nothing in death fuses with the nothing before life. And nothing becomes all there ever was. To exist is only to exist. To not exist is never to have existed.

Charles Mudede

My Brother's Passing, God, and the Origins of Life

In the normal universe, “to be” is annihilated by “not to be.” But for reasons that are still a mystery to even the deepest math of physics, a bit of matter in a billion or so is not obliterated, it has no antimatter partner. It becomes a drop of experience. But why is the universe not symmetrical, not a perfectly smooth spread of photons, the particles of light? What’s behind this break in symmetry? Why do some quarks (the stuff of particles in the nucleus of an atom) escape what’s called the “primordial annihilation”? This question was on Nelson’s mind for much of her life.

As for me? The mystery of cosmic asymmetry will always be the point at which an imaginary conversation with my brother about God would begin. We are on one of those docks on Lake Washington. The stars are in the sky. Bellevue shimmers in the distance and is reflected by the water. I turn to my brother and say: “I have never, ever said this to you before, but I will tonight. If there is a God, Kudzai, He can only be a break in symmetry. Not creation, but violation.”

Charles Mudede

Telegram and the Cypherpunk Rebellion Against the Libra Empire

And even with less users, Telegram has one major advantage: Most Facebook users wouldn’t know a Bitcoin from an Alf Pog while Telegram has a vibrant, technically savvy community, including most of the world’s crypto-faithful who host their user groups and do their day-to-day business there.
That means when TON drops a bunch of coins in its Telegram attached wallet, a bigger percentage of those users will know how to spend, save and send that money, while Facebook’s users will start ringing the support lines wondering how to reset the password on their private key.

Daniel Jeffries

Better Encrypted Group Chat

Broadly, an end-to-end encrypted messaging protocol is one that ensures that only the participants in a conversation, and no intermediate servers, routers, or relay systems, can read and write messages. An end-to-end encrypted group messaging protocol is one that ensures this for all participants in a conversation of three or more people.

End-to-end encrypted group messaging is a necessary problem to solve. Whether it be for limiting liability, providing verifiable client-side security, or removing a single point of failure, there are good reasons for a group messaging host to use an end-to-end encrypted protocol.

Michael Rosenberg