Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

George Clooney has a clear take on what’s at stake with The Interview

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The terrorists win pretty easily these days. George Clooney has an interview that is well worth reading. He’s thoughtful, and he has good insights.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2014 at 2:40 pm

Why businesses hate drones

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Businesses really like to keep their environmental degradations (for which they have no intention of paying) a secret, since otherwise they would have to acknowledge responsibility for what they’ve done. It’s the same imperative to secrecy that drives criminal enterprises, corruption in politics, CIA criminal behavior, police misconduct, and so on: if the offense is kept secret, then the offender cannot be held to account. (And in fact, we’re seeing more and more of society becoming secret—a very bad sign.)

This interesting article by Brian Merchant in Motherboard shows how people are using drones to look at what industrial farms do:

Since 2012, Mark Devries has been ​flying drones over A​merica’s largest factory farms. In just-released aerial footage, he reveals the sheer size of the massive, toxic, feces-filled “lagoons” that they create.

Those lagoons you’re looking at belong to Smithfield Foods, which bills itself as is “the largest pork producer and processor in the United States.” They are often hundreds of feet long, and are fetid cesspools of waste—they are the result of pig excrement being sprayed out of the compounds where the animals are packed in like dirt-encrusted, antibiotics-loaded sardines.

“These factory farms make it exceedingly difficult to see the giant, open-air cesspools of toxic waste on their property,” Devries tells me in an email. “They are surrounded by trees, and often barbed-wire fences. With drones, I can bypass the trees and barbed wire, and see close-up what is being hidden.”

What he did end up seeing repulsed him, he said.

“Even though I knew what to expect in the abstract, I was shocked by the sheer size of these open-air pits of toxic waste—they can stretch on for the surface area of several football fields.

​Factory farms are quickly becoming one of the hardest places to photograph in the nation. The sprawling operations—which cram an enormous number of pigs, chickens, and cows into cramped quarters for harvesting—have responded to animal rights critics by pushing for state-level “ag-gag” bills that prevent journalists and activists from photographing their grounds.

It’s brazen, patently absurd, and one of the most egregious free speech violations that hardly anyone is talking about. Devries took care not to film any farms in states that have ag-gag bills, but hopes his footage will offer viewers an idea of the practices of operations of those that do.

“I was also particularly struck by how close they are to the houses of neighbors, who are forced to deal with the dangerous chemicals and stench in their own homes.”

The segment is part of Devries’ full-length documentary Speciesism​learn m​ore about the film here.

Needless to say, big agriculture is lobbying aggressively to make it illegal to take pictures and videos what they are doing because they understand that if people know what they are doing, they’ll have to stop  doing it. And there’s money to be made, so who cares about the environment?

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2014 at 9:24 am

A Copper Bedrail Could Cut Back On Infections For Hospital Patients

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Hannah Block reports for NPR:

Checking into a hospital can boost your chances of infection. That’s a disturbing paradox of modern medical care.

And it doesn’t matter where in the world you’re hospitalized. From the finest to the most rudimentary medical facilities, patients are vulnerable to new infections that have nothing to do with their original medical problem. These are referred to as healthcare-acquired infections, healthcare-associated infections or hospital-acquired infections. Many of them, like pneumonia or methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus (MRSA), can be deadly.

The World Health Organization estimates that “each year, hundreds of millions of patients around the world are affected” by healthcare-acquired infections. In the United States, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in the Health and Human Services Department estimates that 1 in 25 inpatients has a hospital-related infection. In developing countries, estimates run higher.

Hospital bed safety railings are a major source of these infections. That’s what Constanza Correa, 33, and her colleagues have found in their research in Santiago, Chile. They’ve taken on the problem by replacing them, since 2013, with railings made of copper, an anti-microbial element.

Copper definitely wipes out microbes. “Bacteria, yeasts and viruses are rapidly killed on metallic copper surfaces, and the term “contact killing” has been coined for this process,” wrote the authors of an article on copper in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. That knowledge has been around a very long time. The journal article cites an Egyptian medical text, written around 2600-2000 B.C., that cites the use of copper to sterilize chest wounds and drinking water.

Correa’s startup, Copper BioHealth, has not yet assessed the railings’ impact in Chilean hospitals. But a study of the effects of copper-alloy surfaces in U.S. hospitals’ intensive care units, published last year in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, showed promising results: Their presence reduced the number of healthcare-acquired infections from 8.1 percent in regular rooms to 3.4 percent in the copper rooms.

Correa spoke with Goats and Soda a few hours before she presented her work at a Latin America innovation conference earlier this month, hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C.

You have a simple strategy to combat hospital-associated infections. Tell me what it involves. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2014 at 10:37 am

A new weapon for US police to use against citizens

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“The right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” is collapsing fast: police now have their hands on a device that can cause serious harm without leaving any marks. That’s a big advantage over (say) beating protesters with batons or shooting tear-gas canisters at people (since tear gas shows up in video and photos). It’s a sound cannon that seriously damages hearing, but there’s nothing to photograph. Great, eh? The next step toward a police state.

Alex Pasternack writes at Motherboard:

An LRAD is a long-range acoustic device, a powerful portable speaker designed to scare people away with sound, and it’s becoming increasingly popular among police departments. It is often described by critics as a sound cannon, offering a user “the ability to issue clear, authoritative verbal commands, followed with powerful deterrent tones.”

One popular device, the LRAD-100X, was used in Ferguson, and on two days last week, it was used to warn off demonstrators in New York City protesting the death of Eric Garner. According to its manufacturer, the LRAD offers police “near instantaneous escalation across the force protection spectrum” to “shape the behavior of potential threats.”

What would that sound like?

Unlike a conventional speaker, which uses electromagnetism vibrates a diaphragm to amplify sound, the LRAD uses piezoelectric transducers to concentrate and direct acoustic energy. Inner and outer transducers bend and vibrate to create sound waves that are not completely in phase with each other. This creates sound waves that cancel out those in the outermost edges of the beam. It also creates a sound that is “flatter” than usual, with minimal dispersion as it propagates. The LRAD’s sound waves also interact with the air in ways that create additional frequencies within the wave, thus amplifying the sound and pitch. This allows for voice commands—pre-recorded and played off its built-in MP3 player, or spoken by an officer into a microphone—at a volume meant to be intelligible 600 meters away.

The machine’s “alert mode” is its deterrent feature. Imagine pressing your head against the hood of a car while its alarm is going off. Permanent hearing loss begins with a sustained sound that’s louder than 90 ​dB SPL—for example, a subway train 200 feet away—but you won’t start to feel immediate pain until 120 decibels, about the loudness of a shotgun blast. At 160 dB—a little less loud than a rocket launch—your eardrum will burst.

The tones of the LRAD can reach as high as 152 decibels—20 to 30 dB louder than a bullhorn—which can easily cause permanent can easily cause hearing damage. It’s a siren that makes the adjective “earsplitting” much less of a metaphor.

What it feels like

During protests last week in midtown Manhattan, an LRAD siren sent people running.

“In person, at first I thought it was just a high pitched really loud car alarm,” Anika Edrei, a photojournalist who was documenting the Eric Garner protests, told me. In the early morning hours on December 5th, Edrei said she was just ten meters away from an LRAD device when the NYPD switched on its alarm function. “It was really loud—I could hear it through my fingers.”

Edrei said that protesters were already dispersing down the block, on 58th Street, when something smashed against the ground. “The police took that as a violent threat,” she said. That’s when the siren went off.

Afterwards, “for the first week, I had a migraine, and just a lot of facial pressure,” she said. “Since the LRAD incident, I’ve been pretty freaked out about going back,” she added. “I’m worried about what damage it caused and it could cause if I went out there again.”

“It feels like your eardrums are beating out of your head,” photojournalist Shay Horse, who was also nearby, told ​VICE News. “It makes the side of your body that you’ve been hit on feel numb and that your sinuses are inflamed. I felt like I had blood coming out of my orifices. I heard the ringing for about a week.”

The NYPD also used the siren function the night before. A spokesman for the Police Department ​​told the Times that the device had only been used to advise people of illegal conduct, and that officers are trained to control intensity of sound, duration and distance. “On December 4th all of these factors were controlled at levels that are not considered dangerous or harmful,” the spokesman said. . .

Continue reading.

I certainly do not trust the police for one minute to use the device to minimize damage to those subjected to the device. Look at how they use Tasers: repeatedly tasing victims, sometimes to death. Sooner or later—probably sooner—a cop is going to crank one of these up and many will suffer injury. But with the injuries not visible, and with the use of the device offering nothing that plays on TV, the police will (again) escape accountability.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2014 at 10:05 am

Pretty cool: A Clear Plastic Tablet for Prisoners

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For those who see prison as punishment, the tablet will have little appeal. For those who recognize that most in prisons will be returning to the general population, it seems a good idea to help with rehabilitation (if that’s possible) and also to ease their transition back into civilian life. We do want former prisoners able to easily find a place in civilian life, don’t we? The alternative is not good for anyone.

Here’s the article on the tablet, which I think is quite cool.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2014 at 2:03 pm

Posted in Law, Technology

Just say no to digital hoarding

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Interesting article, and I plead guilty to digital hording. The reason, I think, is that deleting stuff requires a decision, but letting it stay on the computer does not (though it does mean buying a bigger hard drive from time to time: I have half a terabyte on my current computer. That’s an awful lot of digital junk.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2014 at 1:13 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Dreaming the Internet

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Yesterday evening I commented to The Wife, as we sat transfixed at our respective computers, that the Internet seemed like an incredibly good (and inexhaustible) magazine: I can easily find intriguing articles, one after the other, and I find myself reading for hours.

She thereupon told me a recurring dream she had some decades ago. It was always a dream of traveling or being in a strange setting, and in the dream she discovers a magazine rack (in a train station, for example), but the magazines are enormous—the size of newspapers or even larger—and they consisted only of excellent articles: no filler. Everything in them was interesting, and the photos actually moved.

I’m struck by the similarity to the Internet: lots of interesting articles (and you can skip over those not of interest quickly), videos readily available, and the “games” section offers lots of games, both solitary and puzzles, as well as games play against human and computer opponents.

Clairvoyance? or coincidence?

Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2014 at 9:44 am

Posted in Technology


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