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Comment There is a way, kind of: PIR (Score 2, Informative) 266

There is a cryptography technique called Public Information Retrieval which allows you to do just that: Send an encrypted query to a server, let it perform some operations on your behalf, and send you an encrypted query result. The server neither knows the contents of the encrypted data, nor the content of the query, but you have your result nonetheless.

The intuition is that there exists a sort of "black-box" operation which some cryptographic techniques can use. For example, if I have two encrypted bits a and b (where I can't tell what a and b actually are), I can still perform the operation a xor b. The result is encrypted, and I don't know the actual operands or the result, but I know that what came out is indeed the encryption of the xor of the encrypted bits. Such cryptosystems are forms of "Homomorphic Encryption".

Using this, we can then give the server a search term thus encrypted and, using the black-box opertaion, have it do some set of operations which will reveal the result. The server will execute the exact same set of operations independent of the search term, so it knows nothing (and needs to know nothing) of the search term contents. Of course, this implies that the server has to operate on every element of the encrypted data to do its job, but that's the fundamental tradeoff. If you're willing to accept that, and the additional computational overhead, you can design such a system.

Comment Re:Free Competition in Currency Act of 2007 (Score 1) 469

Your first point is spot-on: Everything has only as much value as someone else is willing to give it. US dollars have their value because someone is willing to have them instead of whatever product or service they're providing in the meantime. In this sense, gold has no more or less intrinsic value as any monetary system anywhere.

There is, however, one way to universally devalue any resource, and that is simply to either make or discover more of it. Regardless of its initial value, making more of something simply makes it easier to come by, which in turn ends up making it worth less by those who trade it.

The problem here is ultimately one of control. It's true, on a gold standard, we have no control over the supply of gold, although we do know there is only so much in the entire world. Any discovery of a brand new set of veins would cause fluctuations, possibly significant ones, and they would be at somewhat random intervals. Someone (or rather, a number of people) control the US dollar, since they are able to determine how much to print and how to distribute it. Of course with this come all the problems of a manipulable resource. By printing arbitrary amounts of money, the controllers of the US dollar can implicitly tax everyone who deals in that currency by printing a lot more money, thus watering down what is already out there. This is one example of many which a controller of a currency can do to manipulate its value.

Really the question boils down to this: Which is better, a currency that cannot be controlled, or one which is controlled by people we cannot necessarily trust? I have my opinion, and I'm sure you have yours, but in either case, this is the question you must ask.

Finally, I must disagree in part with your final comment. You would be right in recent years that there would still be inflation, since a great deal of that was due to loans being made by reserve banks, which increases the perceived amount of money in the world, and thus reduces its value. However, this inflation trend is continuing in the wake of people defaulting on loans. Each default should cause the perceived amount of money to shrink, ultimately causing each individual dollar to be worth more. However, this isn't the case right now. Inflation is high, and apparently still increasing. I can't help but think that this is, in part, because more money is actually being printed in order to help the banks in the reserve system. But whatever the reason, a gold backed currency (if actually backed) would help prevent the current stagflation which is occurring right now.


If IP Is Property, Where Is the Property Tax? 691

nweaver writes "In a response to the LA Times editorial on copyright which we discussed a week ago, the paper published a response arguing: 'If Intellectual Property is actually property, why isn't it covered by a property tax?' If copyright maintenance involved paying a fee and registration, this would keep Mickey Mouse safely protected by copyright, while ensuring that works that are no longer economically relevant to the copyright holder pass into the public domain, where the residual social value can serve the real purpose of copyright: to enhance the progress of science and useful arts. Disclaimer: the author is my father."

Robot Composed of "Catoms" Can Assume Any Form 168

philetus writes "An article in New Scientist describes a robotic system composed of swarms of electromagnetic modules capable of assuming almost any form that is being developed by the Claytronics Group at Carnegie Mellon. 'The grand goal is to create swarms of microscopic robots capable of morphing into virtually any form by clinging together. Seth Goldstein, who leads the research project at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, in the US, admits this is still a distant prospect. However, his team is using simulations to develop control strategies for futuristic shape-shifting, or "claytronic", robots, which they are testing on small groups of more primitive, pocket-sized machines.'"

BioShock Receives Record-Breaking 12 AIAS Nominations 65

dampeal writes "The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences today announced the nominees for the 11th annual Interactive Achievement Awards. The nominations for the peer-based awards have been dominated by two blockbuster first-person shooter games, BioShock (2K Games) and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Activision) by receiving an astounding 10+ nominations from industry leaders and members of the interactive entertainment software business. In addition, finalists in close lead with top nominations include: The Orange Box (Electronic Arts and Valve Software), Rock Band (MTV Games) and Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo of America), all up for the Overall Game of the Year Award."

Green Light for Human/Animal Hybrids 292

Henneshoe writes "BBC News is reporting that two research facilities have been given the green light to create part human, part animal embryos. According the the report, 'Scientists want to create hybrid embryos by merging human cells with animal eggs in a bid to extract stem cells. The embryos would then be destroyed within 14 days.' The decision to allow the embryos was made after research showed that people in large are OK with the idea."

Submission + - Final Fantasy VII: Voices of the Lifestream (

djpretzel writes: "Today OverClocked ReMix released its ninth album, Final Fantasy VII: Voices of the Lifestream. The album, made by fans for fans, honors the recent 10-year anniversary of the Square Enix PlayStation video game Final Fantasy VII with 45 arrangements of composer Nobuo Uematsu's original score. Available for free download at, Voices of the Lifestream is not affiliated with or endorsed by Square Enix. More than 40 artists from the OverClocked ReMix community contributed more than three hours of music to the album, with interpretations covering a variety of genres and styles from jazz to electronica to rock to symphonic."

Researchers Building Computers That Run on Light 133

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers in England are attempting to build a desktop computer that runs on light rather than electronics. A $1.6 million research project starting in June at the University of Bath is focused on developing attosecond technology, which refers to continuously emitting light pulses that last just a billion-billionth of a second."

Is Computer Programming a Good Job for Retirees? 147

braindrainbahrain asks: "Ask Slashdot has been rife with career advice lately, so maybe I can get some too. I hit a milestone recently, the big five oh, and the realization of retirement is starting to settle in. The trouble is, I don't want to sit around, play golf, or even travel that much. I work in a technical field, but I have always enjoyed programming. Indeed, I do it as a hobby. I wonder what you readers would think about programming as a post retirement job. It seems well suited for a retiree, one could do contract work for a few months of the year, in some cases work from home even. By way of background, I have worked in hardware engineering for a very long time, and have pursued graduate study almost regularly (two Masters degrees so far). Should I begin preparing for a post-retirement career in computer science?"
PC Games (Games)

Submission + - Ebay halts sale of virtual goods

An anonymous reader writes: Markeedragon reports that ebay is halting the sale of virtual items from online games such as Ultima Online and World Of Warcraft. I'm not sure why they would do something like that as it has to account for a significant amount of their income.
First Person Shooters (Games)

Submission + - War Rock: A Shooter Laying Waste to Big Budgets

BizInside writes: "Though developers and players alike lament the rise of game development costs, one firm is actually using the trend to their advantage by releasing an online first-person shooter called War Rock that is completely free to play. Call it Battlefield light, or America's Army minus boot camp. Interesting thing is, the game plans to make money through a voluntary pay subscription plan and microtransactions, both of which give players access to some neat perks. Amped News takes a critical eye towards K2 Network's bizarre business model and chats with War Rock producer Matt Norton about what makes the game so significant."
PlayStation (Games)

Submission + - All PSP firmwares now hackable!

An anonymous reader writes: "Just a little while back, Fanjita wrote a small article on the people with non-homebrew-able PSPs should do. Waiting for an exploit was the only sensible thing to do in my opinion. And boy! people didn't have to wait very long; the Noobz team has just come out with a new exploit which works on all firmwares upto v 3.03 , which is all the Sony has been able to come up with."

Sony beaten again. Is it time to stop adding security updates with every firmware?
It's funny.  Laugh.

Submission + - South Park World of Warcraft Becomes Reality

Anonymous Coward writes: "At least on the Dunemaul World of Warcraft server, the new character, Highlord Kruul, introduced by the patch on Tuesday (January 9, 2007) attacked Ironforge early in the morning on Wednesday (January 10, 2007). No one was prepared for him. No character could defeat him. Several raid groups were formed, but none could bring him down. You can't get in or out. He was there nearly all day long. This is a hilarious video, showing the ground piled with skeletons and it also shows dozens of characters getting killed. Check it out here. If only we had the Sword of a Thousand Truths (guess we'll just have to wait for the expansion)."

Pyramid Stones Were Poured, Not Quarried 445

brian0918 writes "Times Online is reporting that French and American researchers have discovered that the stones on the higher levels of the great pyramids of Egypt were built with concrete. From the article: 'Until recently it was hard for geologists to distinguish between natural limestone and the kind that would have been made by reconstituting liquefied lime.' They found 'traces of a rapid chemical reaction which did not allow natural crystallization. The reaction would be inexplicable if the stones were quarried, but perfectly comprehensible if one accepts that they were cast like concrete.'"

Windows Vista RC1 Impresses Critics 632

bradley fellows writes "Early feedback from testers already using Windows Vista RC1 (Release Candidate 1) report that the OS is more stable than expected, which bodes well for Microsoft's plan to have Vista out according to its current schedule." Mind you, "expected" is relative given how many users regard their frequent crashes as normal operation for a PC.

If in any problem you find yourself doing an immense amount of work, the answer can be obtained by simple inspection.