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 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.