For more information, checkout Wired.com.
For more information, checkout Wired.com.
Throughout the past nine months, a new type of ransomware virus has infected hundreds of thousands of computers. This malware virus is usually referred to as cryptolocker and it prevents you from accessing any of your computer files until you pay a certain amount of money to the criminals (usually $300).
The name the virus is Cryptolocker and has proven multiple times that it is extremely difficult to terminate. Altogether, this virus is online robbery and people need to be informed about it in order to take precautionary measures and to avoid funding those behind the ransomware virus. This ransomware was thought to be ended by the FBI this past May, but it now appears that it was only an obstacle for cryptolocker which has kidnapped the files of approximately 400,000 people. The cryptolocker hackers decided to initiate the virus though a botnet, which is a huge network of hacked computers.
In order for the FBI to stop the spread of the virus they partnered with foreign law enforcement and private security to destroy communication between the specific botnet and the victims’ computers. After a few months they seized Cryptolocker’s servers. However, all this accomplished was stopping the current virus delivery method and shortly after they changed the virus code and found a new botnet. Even after the victims pay the money demanded by Cryptolocker they cannot receive the keys to unlock their files since there is no way to communicate with Cryptolocker’s network. Therefore, the files are permanently deleted and the victim loses three hundred dollars for nothing. There are also many copycats that are appearing all around the world, but their infection numbers are much lower than Cryptolocker. In conclusion, this new type of malware is proving to a worldwide issue and is very difficult to trace. It is important that people affiliate themselves with the term ransomware since it appears that it is not going away anytime soon.
Technology has amazing potential for its utility in the scientific fields. Advancements in computing have saved physicists hours of work calculating basic arithmetic while working with complex formulae. With the advancements in technology long hours compiling and plotting data from experiments are reduced to minutes and even seconds through graphing programs. Recently, technology has been used in the field of chemistry for virtual experiments and modeling.
At Princeton University, a research group used computer modeling to map water’s two sided behavior below its equilibrium freezing point. When frozen into a solid as ice, water is less dense that its liquid state. This is normally through the hydrogen bonds between water molecules that form them into a ring-based structure. The empty space of the rings adds to the ice’s volume, making it less dense and able to float on water. However, the research team discovered that at high pressure and very low temperature, water can coexist as two different states of liquid. The two liquid states have separate densities, so they separate and behave like vinegar and oil separating in a bottle.
The research project acts as evidence for what is called the “liquid-liquid transition” hypothesis. The hypothesis suggests two forms of water could offer the explanation of water’s high heat absorbance capacity and ability to be more compressible as it gets colder. As suggested by one of the researchers, Pablo Debenedetti, the dual nature of water can help to understand water behavior in a supercooled state in high-altitude clouds. He suggests the better understanding could improve weather and climate models in predicting meteorological patterns. The main issue with the research was trying to perform the experiment. The extreme pressure and temperature conditions made it very difficult without the necessary resources. Instead, the research group used supercomputers to simulate the behavior of water as they dropped the temperature. An infinite number of boxes each holding several hundred water molecules were created for the simulation. The computer tracked the virtual water’s behavior as the temperature dropped in the experiment. At about -45 degrees C and 2,400-times atmospheric pressure, the water molecules separated into two different densities and liquids, providing strong evidence for the liquid-liquid transition hypothesis.
The total work for the supercomputer took the equivalent of several human lifetimes had the experiment been processed using a common desktop computer. The greater understanding of supercooled water present in clouds could lead to better prevention of ice forming on airplane wings and create safer travel through cold climate cloud levels. The dual density characteristic is fascinating in itself, and the technology available saved the research team from expensive costs and thousands of processing hours.
Technology has been important to the advancing of society and ease of life. The advent of the computer brought with it the information age; the automated transfer of information has allowed news and opinions to travel across the world in a matter of minutes. The internet has created a global community through the exchange of information and recent advances have allowed for new ways to improve society. Today, new improvements are pioneered in chemical research for the improvement of green electronics.
Scientists at the Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois created computer memory from a sugar cube. The sugar cube is composed of a sugar-based metal-organic framework and infused with rubidium hydroxide. This composition allows the sugar cube to switch between high and low resistance states. The binary resistance settings make the sugar cube comparable to resistive random-access memory (RRAM) used in computers. RRAM is based on the binary state of the material. A component in the system is left in the “off” state represented as “0,” and the component enters the “on” state represented as “1” through electricity, which changes the chemical structure.
Normally RRAM components are made of silicon dioxide. The sugar cube component in contrast is simply sugar. The sugar RRAM contains a type of sugar called Y-cyclodextrin and rubidium ions as the makeup of the metal-organic framework. The framework itself is infused with rubidium hydroxide to enhance the conductivity and is placed between silver electrodes. Researchers then apply a large negative voltage across the system which oxidizes the right electrode. This leaves the system in the “1” state. The system is electronically read through applying a small positive voltage which generates current from left to right and oxidizes the left electrode. The system then gradually reverts to the “0” reading as the left electrode oxidizes. The sugar RRAM can be used at a cheaper and assuredly greener rate than commercial RRAMs although they naturally do not run as fast as commercial grade RRAM. The sugar-based computer memory still has its applications as Bartosz Grzybowski, one of the researchers of the project, suggests. As an example of unconventional applications for it he said, “We’re thinking along the lines of a biodegradable memory.” The opportunities this research could bring are certainly viable for the future of green electronics.
Submitted By: Dariush Forouzesh
Google I/O, Google’s answer to WWDC, was packed to the brim with interesting announcements as to Google’s plans for the year. The most interesting part of it though, by far, was the piece of Cardboard handed out to all attendees. This unassuming square of Cardboard came with instructions on how to fold it into a Virtual Reality Headset to be used with Android Smartphones.
With this low cost setup, Google is aiming to create a cheap Virtual Reality headset for consumers. All Virtual Reality headsets currently in development run on expensive hardware, which is why Google released theirs as a cardboard set alongside an open software kit. They are trying to allow people to start creating Virtual Reality software as simply as possible. By removing the barrier to entry that is usually associated with attempting to work on virtual reality headsets, Google is going to open up the field to as many people as possible, encouraging innovation and hopefully leading to interesting results.
For those of you interested in Coding for the Cardboard Project, full documentation can be found here. Google even gives instructions on how to build your own using a combination of parts you can find around the house and cheap pieces at a hardware store, which is more than likely how I will be spending my weekend.
Submitted By: Thomas Hatzopoulos
For those of you who don’t follow WWDC, Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, you missed the announcement of Swift, the new Programming Language being developed by Apple. Swift is Apple’s latest attempt to replace Objective C as the main language used to write their OSX and iOS apps. While Apple is pushing for Swift to replace Objective C in the code used to create their applications, Swift code can actually run alongside Objective C code. This should make the transition to Swift easier for current Apple developers.
Swift was built to operate as a more modern and accessible version of Objective C. The biggest upgrade from Objective C is the new automatic memory management system used by Swift. This new memory system replaces the garbage collection system of Objective C with an improved memory manager that uses reference counting. Reference counting for garbage collection means that all objects that are removed are done so in increments, which removes the long pauses needed for the large amounts of object removal done at once by Objective C’s garbage collection. The feature I am most excited about is the new Playground. The Playground is a new window that will be available in the next version of Xcode, where the code that you write is instantly compiled. For those programming apps, you can watch your code run and change in real time as you alter the code itself. You can run both sections of the code as well as the entirety of the code for your program within Playground. Playground is going to make troubleshooting, tweaking, and testing your code a whole lot easier once it becomes available.
Swift is going to ship with the next version of Xcode that is coming this fall, alongside Apple’s new operating system and iOS 8. If you are interested in learning more about Swift, Apple has released an iBook that is currently the only complete guide to the Swift Programming Language, which can be downloaded for free.
Submitted By: Thomas Hatzopouloz
Bitcoin stands poised to change the future of the financial markets forever. Originally designed as an online, untraceable currency, it has now skyrocketed in value. What was valued at mere pennies per Bitcoin is now over $1100 at the time of this rising. This is causing investors to come and take notice and may impact how we relate to money in the future.
Bitcoin is an anomaly. It’s a currency with no backer. An investment on nothing. A hedge against the real world. Compared to every other currency and investment opportunity there is, Bitcoin stands unique. While every other currency since the dawn of man has either been backed by its own weight in gold or the full faith of a government, Bitcoin is based on numbers. Huge blocks of numbers are decrypted by computers, and once you have decrypted that block, you have a Bitcoin. The strength of this encryption makes Bitcoin both impossible to counterfeit and impossible to track.
This impossibility and anonymity have made Bitcoin prominent in illegal activities for the past several years. The Silk Road, a major drug/arms/hit website on the Deep Web, operated entirely in Bitcoin. You may have heard in the news several months ago about the site finally being shut down. The fact that a site so flagrantly illegal operating for so long and only one person being caught using it shows the strength of the anonymity of Bitcoin.
While it is interesting thinking about the potential nefarious uses of Bitcoin, the real interesting aspect of Bitcoin is its impact on real financial markets. This currency, backed by no one and supported only on its intrinsic value, has already made and lost fortunes. Back earlier in the year, the value of gold dropped off 20%. This was entirely because of a crash in Bitcoin pricing. Now international organizations are looking into Bitcoin. With the huge variance in pricing from day to day, a market is now emerging for the major investors to make money. This will ultimately squeeze out the people who Bitcoin was originally designed for: you and me. So where will Bitcoin go? No one really knows, but it will be a wild ride wherever it do go
Submitted By: Nick Mahan
“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”
In the last couple years, people around the world have seen advancements that we would have never even imagined. From snail mail to email and face-to-face talks to face time from across the globe, the world today has evolved into a technological hub that is constantly advancing. From a biological standpoint many of the laboratory processes and experiments would not be able to go on had it not been for the advancement in biotechnology.
First off, the study of miniscule molecular structures would not be able to happen without the invention of the Electron Microscope in the early 1930’s. While that may be an old feat the contemporary electron microscopes can magnify up to 2,000,000 times their ancestral counterparts. Next, the invention of controlled apparatuses allows for experimenting with and manufacturing of items, solutions, and medicines alike that aren’t very simple to make. Many organic chemical solutions and compounds are difficult to create due to their unstable intermediates or necessity for a controlled environment. Certain apparatuses and machines have been built and installed with a programmed control that will make sure the process occurs efficiently and as quickly as possible. Another instance of advancement helping society occurs with biotech dealing with agrarian culture. While some see that genetically modified fruits and vegetables as a dangerous thing what many don’t realize is these fruits and vegetables are modified in order to gain the best out of them. These genetic modifications allow the plants to be planted in different climates and environments which allow us to help alleviate the international problems of both hunger and poverty. In the end, the biotechnological advancements that occur are vast and various. However without these biotech advancements the field of biology and the extent of our study of humanity as well as the animal kingdom would not be as far or as advanced as it is.
Submitted By: Hamza El-Natour
My life is every moment of my life. It is not a culmination of the past -Hugh Leonard
When you look at your family what do you see? What I see is a collection of people and my grandparents are the most diverse ad they’re from all over the world. I see my parents, who if not for my brother and myself, would not have any connection. I look at my brother and me. I can see how similar but how different we are. He has green eyes while I have brown. We both are tall. We look alike but there are pieces of us that we can pick out of our parents that are not in ourselves. This all comes from traits, but this information is not what we all care about.
23 and Me is a way to get your genetic information for as low as 100 dollars with a saliva test kit. Less than a decade ago we’re still sequencing the human genome. Now we can sequence our genome and find out what is in our genome, our origination and why we are prone to getting illness and disease.
Accessing my genetic information is on my bucket list of things to do before I die. I have always speculated what I could be based on my ancestry and where I may have originated. The best thing about 23 and Me is how they not only look at your mother’s side of your history but also your father’s side. The amount of information you can gain is immense. Prior to the government providing the company with grant money the service cost $1,000 rather than $100. Additionally, with this new development came other one.
The FDA has now made 23 and Me suspend health-related genetic tests. By limiting our information on what we can get will ultimately limit our ways of knowing about ourselves. We will not know if we have certain genetic information leading to disease and death. When you go to the doctor you are able to get genetic tests which show health-related genetic information. If you have this test done once and the results come back you are not able to do it again. With 23 and Me you are able to get tested repeatedly. Your genetic information gets mutated and it can change the likelihood of getting a particular disease. Information is powerful and with the information you can live your life to the best.
With all this in mind, I’d say getting genetically tested is something I want to get done. I am worried if I wait any longer the FDA will shut it down. In my case I will get my genetic test done and I will do it again when I am able to get my health related information.
Submitted By: Shannon McGuire
It always seems impossible until its done – Nelson Mandela