Weekend Thoughts - 10.10.15

Image  by  Wonderland , courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Image by Wonderland, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Happy Saturday y'all! Below, I have rounded up some things for you to think about this weekend:

1. After watching mycologist Paul Stamets' inspiring TED Talk presentation "6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save The World" seven years ago, I have been interested in the awesome powers of the humble mushroom, and impressed by Stamets' innovative mycelium-based techniques that clean up nuclear waste, fight pest invasions, and more. I found an article this week from Vice's Munchies that explores the new technological ability to create batteries out of portabello mushrooms that will be able to power mobile phones and electric cars. These batteries use the mushrooms in place of the synthetic graphite that usually acts as the anode component of a lithium-ion battery. The best news is that the combination of the naturally-high levels of porosity and concentration of potassium salt in the portabello leads to improved performance of the battery over time, as opposed to the way batteries typically run out of juice after a while.

2. From the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

"New law enforcement technologies are raising new questions about what civil rights abuses look like in the digital age. Historically, allegations of police misconduct were based on visible behavior: people generally know when they have been assaulted, detained unjustly, or had their property searched or seized without due process. Today, civil rights violations occur on computer screens, amplified by automated processes, or exacted invisibly and indiscriminately on large populations. These problems are exacerbated by a lack of transparency, with journalists and researchers unable to access records critical to an informed public debate.

That's where civilian oversight bodies may have a role."

With that in mind, EFF published a law enforcement technology primer for civilian oversight bodies. The primer focuses on new technologies that officers are using to spy on us, including IMSI catchers (i.e. Stingrays), automated license plate recognition, drones, and mobile biometrics. The document details methods that police are using to analyze and infiltrate online social networks, and explores emerging civil liberties issues, actions that oversight boards should take, and what questions they should ask regarding local law enforcement surveillance.

3. KrebsOnSecurity tackles the question, "What's in a boarding pass barcode?" The answer?: "A Lot". It turns out that the data stored inside a boarding pass barcode include your name, frequent flyer number, record locator, and other personally identifiable information. A nefarious person would be able to use the information to gain access to your entire account and view, change seats, and cancel future scheduled flights. I highly suggest reading the article linked above, but at any rate, your next used boarding pass should probably find its home in a document shredder rather than an airport waste bin.

4. Fans of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy may enjoy looking at the sketches that J.R.R. Tolkien used to build Middle-Earth. The accompanying article explains how Tolkien's process of drawing the story out was an important part of writing the books. Definitely worth a peek if you are a fan of his works.

5. I quite enjoyed this collection of Americans who purport to love English but have a very hard time expressing that in writing.

6. Bikram Choudhury, the millionaire (and accused serial rapist) who is best-known for making hot yoga popular in America, sued other hot yoga studios in 2003 for violating a copyright Choudhury claimed to hold regarding the sequence of poses in his class. The United States Federal Appeals Court for the 9th circuit has ruled that his copyright claim in invalid, making this classy Choudhury quote from earlier in the court proceeding even more hilarious: "I have balls like atom bombs, two of them, 100 megatons each. Nobody fucks with me." Sounds like the court system just did, buddy.

That's all for this week's edition of Weekend Thoughts. Until next week, keep thinking wilder.