Author Christiaan

How to bluff a pride of lions out of their kill

Clip from the BBC’s Human Planet, Grass­land — Roots of Power

How to check if your iPhone data was leaked

Hackt­iv­ist group Anonym­ous are claim­ing they man­aged to hack into the laptop of FBI agent Super­vis­ory Spe­cial Agent Chris­topher Stangl and find that he was col­lect­ing people’s iPhone data, which the FBI has denied. How and if the FBI obtained this data is still unclear.

The Anti­Sec hack has leaked 1 mil­lion of 12 mil­lion UDIDs they say they’ve obtained.

UDIDs are import­ant because they’re unique to each iPhone and iPad and can be tied to per­sonal inform­a­tion that could poten­tially lead to iden­tity theft, such as user names, phone num­bers and addresses, friends lists, loc­a­tion, who you were chat­ting to, even the pos­sib­il­ity of tak­ing over Face­book and Twit­ter accounts.

To check if your UDID is one of those that has been leaked:

  1. Down­load Ad Hoc Helper to your iPhone and run it. Amongst other things this will show you the Unique Device Iden­ti­fier of your iOS device.
  2. Then go to lastpass.com/udid/ and put the first 5 or so char­ac­ters of your UDID in and it will tell you if yours is one of those which has been leaked.

Who would have thought?

Who would have thought when I wrote this that six years later a lead­ing con­tender for nom­inee as Repub­lican U.S. pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate would be arguing the same thing in his campaign.

He sums up the prob­lem with U.S. for­eign policy nicely: “We don’t mind our own business!”

Fun fact: U.S. mil­it­ary vet­er­ans have given more money to Ron Paul’s cam­paign than all the other cam­paigns put together.

Representative of the coming generation?

Richard Burn­ing:

I chat­ted with some of my kid’s friends — cur­rently @ uni­ver­sity — they paint a pic­ture of their gen­er­a­tion as being totally dis­trust­ful of gov­ern­ment, politi­cians, the media and the fin­an­cial sys­tem. They view com­pan­ies as only out to take as much money off them as pos­sible and they see those in power as cyn­ical, self-interested people who don’t have their best interests at heart.

Most don’t read a news­pa­per and get their news online from a wide range of sources — blog­gers, social media etc. Those who are on the escal­ator to a job and a career are pretty damning about youff cul­ture — the Chav gen­er­a­tion — of real­ity TV, obssessed with celebs and football.

They fully expect the fin­an­cial sys­tem to col­lapse sooner or later and seem to rel­ish this pos­sib­il­ity so that they can fun­da­ment­ally remould soci­ety when it does — more just, less pol­lut­ing, less viol­ent seems to be the aim.

Last-place aversion

The Eco­nom­ist:

A new NBER paper finds evid­ence for an even more intriguing and pro­voc­at­ive hypo­thesis. Its authors note that those near but not at the bot­tom of the income dis­tri­bu­tion are often deeply ambi­val­ent about greater redistribution.

Instead of oppos­ing redis­tri­bu­tion because people expect to make it to the top of the eco­nomic lad­der, the authors of the new paper argue that people don’t like to be at the bot­tom. One para­dox­ical con­sequence of this “last-place aver­sion” is that some poor people may be voci­fer­ously opposed to the kinds of policies that would actu­ally raise their own income a bit but that might also push those who are poorer than them into com­par­able or higher pos­i­tions. The authors ran a series of exper­i­ments where stu­dents were ran­domly allot­ted sums of money, sep­ar­ated by $1, and informed about the “income dis­tri­bu­tion” that res­ul­ted. They were then given another $2, which they could give either to the per­son dir­ectly above or below them in the distribution.

In keep­ing with the notion of “last-place aver­sion”, the people who were a spot away from the bot­tom were the most likely to give the money to the per­son above them: reward­ing the “rich” but ensur­ing that someone remained poorer than themselves.

Which might go some way toward explain­ing why some of the rel­at­ively poor in Amer­ica often oppose rais­ing taxes on the rich.

Mother Gaia

Mother Gaia, cartoon

Jason Burke’s Bin Laden obituary perpetuates myth that Taliban refused to hand Bin Laden over

Jason Burke’s Osama bin Laden obit­u­ary for The Guard­ian per­petu­ates the myth that the Taliban never offered to hand Bin Laden over:

Faced with an ulti­matum, the Taliban again refused to sur­render Bin Laden, who ini­tially denied involve­ment, and an American-led aer­ial bomb­ing cam­paign followed.

In fact the Taliban pub­licly offered in Octo­ber of 2001 to hand Osama bin Laden over to a third coun­try, provided the U.S. hal­ted the illegal bomb­ing of Afgh­anistan and pro­duced the neces­sary evid­ence about involve­ment of Bin Laden or any of his asso­ci­ates in the 11 Septem­ber attacks. Would they have gone through with the offer? We’ll never know because Bush rejec­ted it, put­ting an end to any pos­sib­il­ity of a poten­tially peace­ful, legal res­ol­u­tion to the events of 11 Septem­ber 2001, and opened up the way for the inva­sion and occu­pa­tion of Afgh­anistan and Iraq, along with the mil­lions who have lost their lives or had them des­troyed as a result.

Update: Jason Burke says he’ll cor­rect obit­u­ary.

The science of why we don’t believe science

Chris Mooney explains why facts and evid­ence rarely change the minds of people who have already formed a strong opin­ion: The Sci­ence of Why We Don’t Believe Sci­ence.

Fas­cin­at­ing and depress­ing. It doesn’t bode well for cli­mate change. It seems the only reli­able way to make pro­gress is to wait for those stand­ing in the way to die off. Which poses its own question.

If humans even­tu­ally elim­in­ate age­ing (highly likely) then this aspect of human psy­cho­logy—motiv­ated reas­on­ing—will turn out to be our Achilles’ heel. If we’re unable to rely on new gen­er­a­tions to pro­gress good ideas, drop bad ones and fix prob­lems then what will we rely on?

Strangler Fig bridges

Clip from the BBC’s Human Planet, Rivers — Friend and Foe.

Why we shouldn’t wear bicycle helmets

Mikael Colville-Andersen’s TED talk on why we shouldn’t wear bicycle hel­mets. Click through for the video.