Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Naked Scientist: An earthlike planet found! (Planet X revealed)

Looks like I'm returning to one my deepest roots. It has been ages since I last listened to a podcast, mostly due to time constraints, so today I thought, why not? I of course selected the best science podcast out there in the void of the world wide web: The Naked Scientist. The intrigue that captivates me during such a broadcast is astounding. The questions asked, by what I can only assume are vivid fans of the show, are quite frankly deep and outstanding as always.

The first topic that was discussed was about something that I did not expect to hear about for another couple hundred years. A planet not too far way (about 40 light years) has been analyzed to contain a viable atmosphere, optimum water levels and potentially similar life to our own. Such a discovery nearly threw me off my chair.

This Planet X as scientists call the model Earth was detected by observation of the nearby star which emits vast quantities of light. A small irregularity first suggested that a planet exists in that particular solar system. The gravitational tug of the planet from its star is also a sign of its existence. It's about 20 times the radius of earth and does not spin on its axis. This means that one side of the globe will be in sunlight all the time while the other in complete darkness. However there will be areas adequate for living quite comfortably with a nice climate and liquid water on the surface.

If we send a vessel equipped for the journey at this instant in time, it will take a long time to reach it but the rewards for our future generations will be great. It is said that there may many more planets like ours in the Milky Way just waiting to be discovered. About 20 % of all solar systems contain such a planet in its orbit.

From now on I have resolved to listen to these podcasts every week. The website also contains various transcripts of their most famous articles so I would suggest visiting it (http://www.thenakedscientists.com/
My voyage to Poland will be on the 27th of December. I will be there for a week, a change of setting will do me good. Hopefully the European airports will be blizzard-free and open for business.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wired.com: Military Bans Disks, Threatens Courts-Martial to Stop New Leaks

The military has taken action. Relating to the Wikileaks incident, the Pentagon itself has now banned any sort of removable media to be attached to computers connected with the SIPRNET (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network). This of course comes as a shock to no one. Whenever an attack is made a retaliation occurs. Military tactics 101. After the admittance of Pfc. Manning to the US supreme court last November, the military has been hard at work improving their security protocols regarding transferring confidential data. Pfc. Bradley Manning says he downloaded hundreds of thousands of files from SIPRNET to a CD marked “Lady Gaga” before giving the files to WikiLeaks.

Such a ban was attempted once before in 2008 when a computer worm infected the whole military network: hundreds and thousands of computers were out of action for many personnel. The ban was lifted this February after the final cleanups were complete. That is when Manning started to transmit file dumps to Wikileaks. The Pentagon has also disabled the ability of classified computers to copy data to external drives as well as creating a special HBSS (Host Based Security System) designed for the exact purpose of detecting such leaks.

Julian Assange - founder of Wikileaks
 These measures will make life harder for the soldiers struggling in the field. Most of the times, transferring data between machines via pen drives was a much easier and faster process. Internet connection is not always readily available, no backups can be made and this means loss of time for operatives. In the long run lives could be lost.

Although I applaud Wikileak's efforts at making many classified documents, that disclose valuable information about governments (conspiracy theories must be booming right now) readily available, I have to question the motives. Is Wikileaks just one journalist (Julian Assange) or a whole organization? How can we absolutely trust every single document if all media is supposedly at some level corrupt? But most importantly how can we trust soldiers in the field anymore after the Manning situation? Some secrets should never be told


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wired.com: WikiLeaks Attacks Reveal Surprising, Avoidable Vulnerabilities

Due to all the commotion surrounding it I decided to finally visit the Wikileaks website on Friday the 3rd of December. As it turned out it was down due to a new DoS attack apparently aimed at the DNS provider, EveryDNS. Of course that did not stop me from looking at the cache that Google keeps of all sites available through their search engine.

It seems that after publishing a new document surrounding diplomatic cables between embassies around the world, somebody or probably some government decided that this was too much. Of course to hack the website was not too complicated. Wikileaks used a free DNS provider which is extremely unstable and it resulted in a crash of many servers holding key information that the site supported. After this short-lived incident Wikileaks switched to Amazon’s EC2 cloud-based data-storage service that almost immediately booted the server due to violation of its terms and conditions. It would seem as if the site could not catch a break until the very morning of this day when it suddenly reappeared as if nothing happened.

It would seem they did this through a series of donations obtained as leverage from their twitter account.

"Rather than tweeting the IP addresses of WikiLeaks hosts, which would allow visitors to continue to reach the site uninterrupted, WikiLeaks initially used the outage to encourage donations, tweeting instead: “WikiLeaks.org domain killed by US everydns.net after claimed mass attacks KEEP US STRONG https://donations.datacell.com/”

Normally I would applaud their defiance against the government but using such weak website protections would seem as if they wanted to just to get their donations. There is no proof in my claim but its an awful set of coincidences. It also seems that Wikileaks got their hands on some very sensitive information that the government does not want anybody to know. The site itself is nothing to be proud of since there about 200 thousand documents and no summary for any of them. I don't think everyone is going to go through them just for some conspiracy stories.

Whatever its purpose one thing is certain. WIkileaks has decided to defy order and put forth freedom of speech in a new way. And this is something to be proud of and benefit from. I also urge all of you to check out the wired.com websites since it has enormous amounts of news both scientific and not.