Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Follow up ... the sequel

Last week (Follow (and foul) up), I took a second (or third, or maybe fourth) look at some hot issues of the day: Internet governance. American dependence on an increasingly aggressive Russia for civilian spaceflight -- and even launchers for military missions. The XPocalypse.

Today's post, although continuing a follow-up theme, is less connected with the mainstream news -- if no less consequential.

They're everywhere ...
In February, as part of "That does not compute," I wrote about the Internet of Things (IoT). Often, I write about hacking and computer-security issues. Just so you know: it's not only me concerned about the confluence of IoT and (in)security. A couple of choice quotes from Information Week's recent article, "Internet of Thingbots: The New Security Worry."
The IoT consisted of 20 billion devices in 2013 and will have 32 billion by 2020, according to the research firm IDC. The boom in IoT-enabled gadgets and sensors is a boon for hackers, whose device-focused attacks are starting to make headlines.
The race to push connected devices out the door isn't helping, either. "The big problem we're seeing these days is, in so many cases, people are rushing to get products out, and they're not putting the time and effort into really securing these devices up front," Morrison said. "It's not like we don't know how to do it; it's just that we're not doing it."
And many will be mobile
"Thingbots?" you ask. They may be closer than you think -- and not only Roombas scooting about to vacuum your floors (and terrorize your pets). Here's a video (courtesy of IEEE Spectrum) to make the case: "Watch SRI's Nimble Microrobots Cooperate to Build Structures." As in: 
 ... swarms of magnetically actuated microrobots that can work together to build macro-scale structures.
Not the kind of creatures you would want hacked.

(Not yet sold that the IoT is nigh? Internet-equipment giant Cisco is convinced -- and they're putting up real money to prove it. See "Cisco Drops $150M In Investment Funding For Internet Of Things Startups.")

Waaaay back, in my first year of blogging (2008 for those of you keeping score), I posted in "LHC and FUD" about ridiculous fears that the quest at the Large Hadron Collider for the (then) elusive Higgs boson would bring global suicide by black hole. In a 2009 follow-up, "And we're still here!" the subject line said it all. But for those who would welcome reassurance, Livescience reported just a couple of weeks ago that, "Earth Is Safe: No Black Holes Spun Out of Atom Smasher, Yet." (For the myriad of reasons why it wouldn't matter if the LHC had produced quantum black holes, read the full article.)

Astronomy and quantum mechanics having been topics in more posts than I care (or you would want me) to mention, I find fascinating, from Physicsworld, that "Quantum telescope could make giant mirrors obsolete." Consider that:
Quantum mechanics, rather than a huge telescope, could be the best route to high-resolution space images, according to new research carried out in the UK. If confirmed, a telescope of any size could resolve ever-smaller features of the night sky, allowing astronomers to discover exoplanets and other distant objects much more easily than is currently possible. 
If this tech happens, it won't be next week or next year.

Artist conception
Regardless, I'm not going far out on a limb to predict that astronomy will continue to surprise us. As in, from Sci-News, "WISE 0855-0714: Astronomer Discovers Fourth-Closest Star System" (WISE being NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer). Apart from the unexpected discovery of such a near neighbor -- it's scarcely seven light-years from  Earth -- the new object is "the coldest brown dwarf yet seen in the known Universe." (If it is a brown dwarf, rather than a free-floating onetime planet. That case for a specific classification is not ironclad.)

Till next time ...

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