Wednesday, June 26, 2013

National Security and Noise in the data

I was thinking about the problems with so much security data being electronic and the apparent ease of electronic file theft, and it made me think back to some studies of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942. After the fact, historians can go back and try to piece together info saying that the warnings/clues were there, but before the fact it's all very noisy. Hindsight enables us to see the important info. That same principle applied on 9-11. Even when you might have some clues about an attack that may be coming - it's very difficult to put all the pieces together in advance. It makes me think maybe one of the best things we could do with national security data (or for corporations - critical corporate data) is intentionally seed the data with all sorts of bad data - making it so noisy that the info would be very difficult to use by spies. In the case of an insider like Snowden, perhaps make it so that some folks working with the data may not know whether it's real or not - despite the layers of encryption. My guess is alot of this already happens - allowing spies to capture intentionally false designs and bad info but allowing them to think it may be real. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks some leaks of this nature are probably intentional just to see what happens.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Interesting Observation on gridlock and it's wider effects

I saw this article on congressional gridlock in the Washington Post Today. quote: "But much happens amidst congressional gridlock. It just happens in other, often less accountable, branches of government." It's an interesting perspective/observation: things keep happening even when there's gridlock, it's just that the people elected to legislate aren't making the decisions when they can't agree on anything. Other branches of the government keep doing what they do - like the Supreme Court or regulatory agencies - but these other branches can't do what congress can do to address issues - so the efforts are tangential and oblique. And often these other arms of government become the target of blame when congress itself has the ability to correct things if they were less gridlocked.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Social Breakdown and Overpopulation - a study with mice

I don't know how I ended up finding this - but here's an interesting study from 1978 that that creates a closed ecosystem of mice that removes most external threats and resource limits and studies what happens when overcrowding conditions develop. Here's the link to the paper: Death Squared by John B. Calhoun. The study documents the social breakdown of the mice, who eventually lose ability to properly socially interact and maintain their social structures. The entire group of mice was on the way to extinction when the study ended despite a top population of over 2000 mice from early in the study. The contrast of instinctual and learned behaviors are far fuzzier than I would've expected. At the end, even when removed from the crowded conditions remaining mice were socially unable to form a social order and/or reproduce. They had been biologically "broken" absent proper socialization throughout their lives.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Unexpected link between cicada and bird populations...

...and it's exactly opposite of what you'd think. I've seen birds feasting on cicadas during an outbreak here and assumed birds were thriving on cicada outbreaks - so many to eat they fill up before they can eat them all - but it turns out something else may be going on. During Cicada Boom, Birds Mysteriously Vanish one of the more interesting ideas I've read in a short while

Monday, June 17, 2013

Little Garden pictures

It's not quite Danny's garden... I noticed the rabbits had chewed up about 3 of my bean plants in the past couple of days - in the back right. None of the rest of the radishes is going to turn out - they weren't very good anyway. I'm going to put some onions out in the front - none of the first came up. Click the photos for bigger ones you can see better

Friday, June 7, 2013

The devil made me do it

Aggh. Hadn't heard of this. Toddler's Exorcism Death... And apparently there's a lengthy history of deaths of children during attempted exorcisms.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bernie Madoff has some ideas on how to clean up Wall Street

In this interview of Bernie Madoff he gives some advice to investors to protect your investments. Among the tips: indexing is probably best way to go Some other ideas: 1) SEC needs more investigative resources. He says they don't have resources to investigate people like him, and even then rarely have good talent to catch dedicated scammers like himself. 2) Quote of Madoff: "Brokerages and advisers should have independent custodians and the government should have forced me to have an independent custodian." 3) Hedge funds should be registered. 4) Accounting firms should audit each other's audits to verify they're done correctly. Quote: "a proper audit would uncover most of the fraud that exists — including my own fraud."