Thursday, July 20, 2017

Correspondence: How interestingly it accumulates!

By Moristotle

You worked for IBM for 30 years, so you probably already know this? “To battle hackers, IBM wants to encrypt the world” [Brian Fung, Washington Post, July 17]. Excerpts:
IBM, the computing giant, wants to get rid of both. The company said Monday that it has achieved a breakthrough in security technology that will allow every business, from banks to retailers to travel-booking companies, to encrypt their customer data on a massive scale — turning most, if not all, of their digital information into gibberish that is illegible to thieves with its new mainframe.
    “The last generation of mainframes did encryption very well and very fast, but not in bulk,” Ross Mauri, general manager of IBM's mainframe business, said in an interview. Mauri estimates that only 4 percent of data stolen since 2013 was ever encrypted.
    As the number of data breaches affecting U.S. entities steadily grows — resulting in the leakage every year of millions of people's personal information — IBM argues that universal encryption could be the answer to what has become an epidemic of hacking....
    In its push to expand universal encryption, IBM is taking Apple’s side in the debate. “IBM fully supports the need for governments to protect their citizens from evolving threats,” the company said in a statement on the issue. “Weakening encryption technology, however, is not the answer. Encryption is simply too prevalent and necessary in modern society.” [read more]

Lightning and a rainbow

Maybe our inability to sleep late isn’t a medical condition: “Living Another Day, Thanks to Grandparents Who Couldn’t Sleep” [Aneri Pattani, NY Times, July 13]. Excerpt:
You may not look forward to sleeping less as you get older. But maybe it wouldn’t seem as bad if you knew it once played an important role in human survival.
    A new study, published Tuesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, suggests that the way sleep patterns change with age may be an evolutionary adaptation that helped our ancestors survive the night by ensuring one person in a community was awake at all times. The researchers called this phenomenon the “poorly sleeping grandparent hypothesis,” suggesting that an older member of a community who woke before dawn might have been crucial to spotting the threat of a hungry predator while younger people were still asleep. It may explain why people slept in mixed-age groups through much of human history.
    “We may be looking at just another reason why grandparents were critical in human evolution,” said Alyssa Crittenden, an author of the study and an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. [read more]

Unsuspected story, about how a criminal mastermind could “set the whole world’s system of mass into disarray”: “Scientists are about to change what a kilogram is. That’s massive.” [Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post s, July 5]. Excerpt:
Here’s the problem with the current standard kilogram: It’s losing weight. It now is ever-so-slightly lighter than the once-identical “witness” cylinders stored in labs around the world. Scientists don’t know whether the BIPM prototype is losing mass, perhaps because of loss of impurities in the metals, or if the witnesses are gaining mass by accumulating contaminants.
    Either way, the whole thing is a “huge inconvenience,” [Jon] Pratt [the chief of quantum measurement at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which oversees weights and measures in the United States] said. Several years ago, NIST had to reissue certificates for its kilograms because they were 45 micrograms off the French prototype — about the weight of an eyelash. This meant that companies that produce weights based on the NIST standards had to reissue their own weights, and they were not happy about it. Lawmakers were called. NIST was accused of being incompetent. In the end, it turned out that the problem stemmed from le grand K, not NIST.
    If that seems like a lot of uproar over an infinitesimal change in the mass of an object, consider this: The effectiveness of filters on diesel engines is determined by measuring the mass of the soot they capture — in micrograms. [read more]
Super pictures! “52 Places to Go in 2017” [NY Times, January 4].

Atacama Desert, Chile

Hamburg, Germany
[Read descriptions & see more pictures.]

Nolan’s new film opened recently, might be in a theater near you: “Christopher Nolan’s Latest Time-Bending Feat? ‘Dunkirk’” [Cara Buckley, NY Times, July 12]. Excerpt:
Mr. Nolan’s film is about the astounding rescue of 338,000 Allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk, France, in 1940. Hemmed in by German forces, the Allies were trapped as German aircraft strafed and bombed the sands, with the only way out across the English Channel. Shallow waters prevented British destroyers from coming close to the beaches, so the call went out to private boat owners in England to help ferry the soldiers to safety.
    A flotilla of hundreds of pleasure boats, barges, yachts, ferries and fishing boats set out, many piloted by civilians, and, under bombardment from the Luftwaffe, helped pull the rescue off. Had they not, the war could have taken a much different course. “If Britain had surrendered, it effectively would have left Europe Nazified,” said Joshua Levine, a historian and author who worked closely with Mr. Nolan on the script. “Barbarism and intolerance would have become the natural order of things.”
    The term “Dunkirk spirit” is carved into the British psyche and evokes people coming together in tough times. Yet as pivotal as the event itself was, it is often not well known in the United States, which did not enter the war until late 1941. Of the dozens of feature films made in recent decades about the war, none focused on Dunkirk (a British feature film about it was released in 1958)....
    Mr. Nolan did not want to make a typical war movie, and instead built it as a nail biter. To avoid alienating the audience, he also kept out nearly all traces of blood — “it’s not the button we wanted to push,” he said — landing a PG-13 rating even though, he said, the studio had given him the go-ahead to make an R-rated film. “We wanted an intensity not based on horror or gore. It’s an intensity based on rhythm, and accelerating tension, and overlapping suspense scenarios,” he said. “Dunkirk to me is one of the most suspenseful ticking-clock scenarios of all time.” [read more]

Cloud formation above Lake Michigan in Holland

Grateful for correspondence, Moristotle


  1. I'm looking forward to seeing Dunkirk. Glad to have you back, I was getting tired of seeing that [Unwanted President] every other day. (smile)

    1. And now we'll see how long I can do the Paris Journal every other day!