Master Key Copying Revealed

“A security researcher has revealed a little-known vulnerability in many locks that lets a person create a copy of the master key for an entire building by starting with any key from that building.

The researcher, Matt Blaze of AT&T Labs-Research, found the vulnerability by applying his area of expertise — the security flaws that allow hackers to break into computer networks — to the real-world locks and keys that have been used for more than a century in office buildings, college campuses and some residential complexes.

The attack described by Mr. Blaze, which is known by some locksmiths, leaves no evidence of tampering. It can be used without resorting to removing the lock and taking it apart or other suspicious behavior that can give away ordinary lock pickers.

All that is needed, Mr. Blaze wrote, is access to a key and to the lock that it opens, as well as a small number of uncut key blanks and a tool to cut them to the proper shape. No special skills or tools are required; key-cutting machines costing hundreds of dollars apiece make the task easier, but the same results can be achieved with a simple metal file.” NY Times


Weighting Game

“A careful survey of medical literature reveals that the conventional wisdom about the health risks of fat is a grotesque distortion of a far more complicated story. Indeed, subject to exceptions for the most extreme cases, it’s not at all clear that being overweight is an independent health risk of any kind, let alone something that kills hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. While having a sedentary lifestyle or a lousy diet–both factors, of course, that can contribute to being overweight–do pose health risks, there’s virtually no evidence that being fat, in and of itself, is at all bad for you.” — Paul Campos, the New Republic [How much do you guess Paul Campos weighs? — FmH]

The Lost World of Lake Vida

“A lake hidden beneath 19 meters of ice has been found near the bottom of the world that might contain an ecosystem completely separate from our own. In a modern version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic book Lost World, scientists are now plotting a mission to drill down into the lake and take out a small part to see what’s there. Lake Vida, buried under Antarctic ice for over 2,500 years, is liquid only because of its high salt content. Previously, scientists drilled to within a few meters of the lake and indeed found frozen microbes. Their existence bolsters speculation that similar microorganisms could be found in frozen brine beneath the surface of Mars. If living organisms are found in Lake Vida, they may give an indication that life might even still exist under similar frozen ice-sheets, such as under the larger Lake Vostok, parts of Mars, and even moons of Jupiter such as Europa.” Astronomy Picture of the Day

Moving stadium dents team performance

If your favourite team is moving to a plush new sports stadium, prepare for disappointment. Making the switch can have a dramatic effect on a team’s performance, a new study has found.

“It’ll probably cost you a couple of points in a season, and in some sports, that’s the difference between winning and second place,” says Richard Pollard, a statistician at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California.

Pollard studied results of professional baseball, basketball and ice hockey games in the US between 1987 and 2000. He found that teams that moved stadiums lost on average 24 per cent of their home advantage – the tendency for teams to get better results when playing at their home ground. Other sports, like American football, are likely to be similarly affected, he says.’ New Scientist

"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." (Plato)

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And even participating is no hedge against it:

To Some in Europe, the Major Problem Is Bush the Cowboy:
“In Europe, it often seems that it is not only the wisdom of a war against Iraq that lies at the heart of trans-Atlantic differences, but the personal style of George W. Bush himself.” NY Times

Credibility Problem:
Paul Krugman: “The State of the Union address could restore the president’s political fortunes, if he isn’t held accountable for promises made last year.” NY Times op-ed

US to Make Iraq Intelligence Public:

“The Bush administration has assembled what it believes to be significant intelligence showing that Iraq has been actively moving and concealing banned weapons systems and related equipment from United Nations inspectors, according to informed sources.” Washington Post That should be intelligence in quotation marks, it is apparent. Of course, it is lost on no one that (a) the US pulls this cat out of the bag just as it becomes generally acknowledged that support for the war is flagging domestically as well as internationally, and (b) if it knew better than the UN arms inspectors anyway, why would we need inspections? Clearly, this is not going to be a ‘Just War’ as much as a ‘Just Because War’, as somebody put it.

So much for my daily spasm of scorn for Dubya. The man and his dysadministration are so easy to hate, doesn’t it seem, or is it just that my need is so great? [Am I going to get a visit from General Ashcroft’s men for this? FmH] It does seem that they are particularly bad at lying to the American public, so contemptuous of us, doesn’t it?

Users Uneasy on SBC Claim to Patent on Web Tool

“When British Telecom claimed in 2000 that it had patented the Web’s ubiquitous hyperlink, the Internet erupted in a fit of protest that lasted until the company lost its test infringement case against Prodigy Communications last summer.

But that has not stopped Prodigy’s parent company, SBC Communications, from asserting a patent claim on a Web navigation technique nearly as widely used. According to letters SBC sent out last week, the company believes that any Web site that has a menu that remains on the screen while a user clicks through the site may owe it royalties.” NY Times

The Wifely Duty

Marriage used to provide access to sex. Now it provides access to celibacy:

Marriage remains the most efficient engine of disenchantment yet invented. There is nothing like uninterrupted cohabitation and grinding responsibility to cast a clear, unforgiving light on the object of desire. Once children come along, it’s easy for parents to regard each other as co-presidents of an industrious little corporation. Certainly, all sound marriages benefit from sudden and unexpected infusions of good will—What luck! Here we are, so many years later and still as happy as ever! But the element that regularly restores a marriage to something with an aspect of romance rather than of collegiality is sex.

— Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic


OLED displays: fast, bright, thin, cheap to produce, low power consumption, too good to be true? Pocket PC Thoughts

the null device is really ‘on’ recently, with items about:

  • the torture cells developed by the Anarchists during the Spanish Civil War based on surrealistic art
  • speculation on why, noticing his broadband connection was slowing, a California netsurfer with “subversive and potentially un-American” reading habits who did a traceroute discovered all his traffic was routed through a US government machine in Virginia
  • Britain’s consideration of withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights
  • the scandal of the Bloggies and “the downsides of a reputation economy”
  • “Kudos to the first person to explain satisfactory why (it) is not terrorism” that the Pentagon battle plan for the Iraq war involves hitting it daily with more than the total number of Cruise missiles launched in the entire 1991 Gulf War “in order to demoralise the population”, targeting all regions.
  • ‘a useful list of smutty phrases in French (cut out and keep in wallet or purse)’ from Nerve
  • ‘a look at three films Hollywood wouldn’t dare make after 9/11: Dune, Starship Troopers and Fight Club

Flirting with disaster?

Brash and controversial, former US representative Cynthia McKinney could lead the Green Party to prominence in 2004… When the party’s presidential exploratory committee put out feelers to Greens around the country about whom they wanted to run for president, the number of recommendations McKinney received was second only to those for Ralph Nader, who ran for president on the Green Party ticket in 2000. McKinney, a former Democratic US representative from Georgia who lost to Judge Denise Majette in a primary challenge last August (Majette eventually defeated Republican Cynthia van Auken in the general election), has yet to change her party affiliation or indicate she’s willing to run as a Green. But the Greens want her. Her name was high on a list of potential candidates compiled by the national Green Party (other names included MSNBC talk-show host Phil Donahue, actress Susan Sarandon, and filmmaker Michael Moore). Boston Phoenix

Mystery illness tied to Sept. 11…

…but not to WTC:

Glenn Abatemarco got sick two weeks after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, and he has not fully recovered his ability to breathe normally.

That in itself is not unusual. A lot of people in Lower Manhattan who were exposed to the acrid dust and smoke from Ground Zero developed the persistent lung irritation known as World Trade Center Cough. But Abatemarco, 41, does not fit the pattern, and therein lies a medical mystery.

First, he lives in Brooklyn, miles from Ground Zero, and works in midtown Manhattan, where he is a vice president at a financial services company. He had no intense exposure to the dust cloud from the towers’ collapse and no chronic exposure afterward. But he got sick anyway, and he did not get well. The only explanation his doctors have been able to come up with — after three trips to the emergency room, a CT scan, a battery of allergy tests, dozens of days of lost work and a six-week exile in Arizona last fall to try a desert cure — is the date his symptoms began. Houston Chronicle

Is it just because I’m a mental health practitioner, or is it odd that the article doesn’t even mention the possibility that these ‘outliers’ have a psychosomatic ailment?

Annals of Depravity (cont’d.):

Brothers Copied Sopranos in Dismemberment, Police Say: “Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona… says Jason Bautista and his brother killed their mother then dismembered the body to disguise the slaying the way they saw it done on an episode of The Sopranos.” LA Times

Pretty stupid about it, though; their license plate number wa copied down by a security guard who scared them away from dropping their parcel, with a foot protruding, in a dumpster and who later came forward upon hearing of the discovery of the body dumped in a state forest.

Connect, They Say,

Only Connect “Network theory has become a bit of a fad,” Mr. Watts conceded after hanging up the phone. “I spend half my time telling people I think it’s relevant to a lot of problems people care about and half my time trying to tone down the hype.” NY Times