More blockbuster NSA revelations

Today comes a story about a talk that privacy advocate Jacob Appelbaum gave at a conference where he says that the NSA has the ability to tap into everyone’s iPhones.

Independent journalist and security expert Jacob Appelbaum on Monday told a hacker conference in Germany that theNSA could turn iPhones into eavesdropping tools and use radar wave devices to harvest electronic information from computers, even if they weren’t online.

Appelbaum told hundreds of computer experts gathered at Hamburg’s Chaos Communications Conference that his revelations about the NSA’s capabilities “are even worse than your worst nightmares.”

“What I am going to show you today is wrist-slittingly depressing,” he said. [Read more…]

The real difference between polygamy and bigamy

Bigamy, the act of one person getting formally married with a civil marriage license to two different people, is a crime in the US and most countries. I had always thought that polygamy was the same act carried out with three or more people. No doubt I had been swayed by the parallel with mathematics where the prefix ‘bi-‘ signaled two and ‘poly-‘ signaled an indeterminate number that was more than two. [Read more…]

How nice behavior evolved

RadioLab had a good program this week on altruism and how nice behavior could emerge out of natural selection. The first part dealt with the tragic story of George Price, the eccentric but brilliant scientist who developed an equation that showed why someone might sacrifice their life for another. But he personally could not deal with the conclusion that all altruism was not a freely chosen act. [Read more…]

The importance of the status quo in legal proceedings

Newton’s first law of motion, that an object will continue in its current state of motion unless acted upon by an external force, can be used as a metaphor about how changing the status quo is harder than maintaining it. It seems to apply in law too, where the status quo carries with it a weight that puts a heavier burden on those trying to change it than those trying to maintain it. This was manifest in the case involving Utah’s same-sex marriage. [Read more…]