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Comment A more useful petition (Score 1) 189

It probably felt good to work out some anger by writing this petition, but it was obvious from the start that the administration would not answer it meaningfully. A more useful petition, that might have some hope of answer, would demand that the government articulate its position on the proportionality of the charges laid in the case, the validity of prosecuting when the victims don't want to, and the appropriateness of using inflated charges to extract plea bargains.

Comment Dangerous round things (Score 1) 383

So, CPSC has decided to ban the sale of small round things due to their capacity to harm children. I'm so glad that they'll finally be putting a stop to all those injuries caused when children get their hands on adult toys. Oh, wait, they're only banning *magnetic* bullets?

Comment Neutrino-based Internet? (Score 1) 98

Given their fine control over the neutrino pulses, it sounds like the they should be able to modulate the stream---e.g., change the interval between pulses---to transmit a signal. This would give speed-of-light, noise free communication in a straight line through the earth (reducing the latency for US-australia communication by a factor of pi). It's a bit expensive for general use, but would be an amazing science-fiction level achievement.

Comment Why Telex is Safer than Proxies (Score 1) 92

I don't think Telex is the right approach, but it offers one important benefit over the proxy approach: deniability. It may be true that regimes don't block all proxies. But if they decide to check up on you, they can see that you are using one of the censorship evasion proxies and punish you. With Telex, it appears that you are communicating with a legitimate web site; the only way to know otherwise is to crack the encryption and see that there's a message intended for Telex.

Getting help from ISPs isn't the only way to accomplish that. For example, if you could convince major players on the internet to run Telex-like systems _on their own machines_, then a user would have deniability because they could claim they were using the legitimate services on those machines. E.g. this might be a nice thing to put Google's 900,000 servers to work on, and would be a nice payback for last year's China hacking scandal.. Or something that all American universities could do in the name of free speech. The obvious way to block such a system would be to block the hosting site, but that may force the censor to cut off access to useful material (e.g. the teaching content on American university sites).

But it doesn't stop there; a censor could set up an SSL proxy and force all https traffic through it, which would allow them to decrypt any communication and look for suspicious side-requests. That's why we built a system a few years ago that disguises the subversive request in plain sight as a sequence of standard web browsing requests (and hides the response in images), without relying on SSL at all.

Submission + - Tracking you using your public transit farecard (

Karger writes: Back when they started introducing electronic fare cards for public transportation, some privacy advocates expressed concern about big brother tracking you through them (Richard Stallman encourages people to swap them around to defeat tracking). Most of us probably thought they were being paranoid. Here's a case where that's just what happened. Arguably in a good cause this time, but obviously the same technique can be used for evil.

Comment He's half right: we're teaching the wrong math. (Score 1) 1153

Ramanathan is right and wrong. Wrong that we don't need to teach math; right that we're teaching the wrong kind. Calculus, and even trigonometry, are powerful mathematical frameworks that few people will ever use. On the other hand, logical, statistical, and economical reasoning are essential to daily life. Euclidean geometry is a beautiful way to teach logical reasoning, but most schools get caught up in the geometry and fail to recognize the value of teaching people to reason logically _in general_. A course on "statistical fallacies in the newspapers" would be way more valuable than a course on differentiation and integration (and the source material is limitless). Nowadays, given the prevalence on computation in everyone's life, a course on basic programming would also be of greater general value than the math we teach now.

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