Monday, 27 January 2014

Tony’s Newsround

The Internet of Things
One of the most extra ordinary stories which appears to be true is mentioned in the Independent
"A report published last week claimed that a 100,000-strong botnet included 'at least one refrigerator'…This is the claim from California-based security researchers Proofpoint, who announced in a recent report that they had discovered a new type of botnet that included "multi-media centers, televisions and at least one refrigerator."
Smart devices have a processor and software built in to accomplish more tasks than the old fashioned electrical devices did, and allow linkages on wifi systems so that they can be operated remotely or send out messages to you. In early January, there was a demonstration of this cutting edge technology:
"At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, manufacturers demonstrated a range of previously mundane but now smart, web-connected products destined to become part of daily domestic existence, from kitchen appliances to baby monitors to sports equipment."
"Smart refrigerators will let you know when the milk is on the turn, or when you need to buy more ketchup. Smart toilets will monitor the frequency and consistency of your bowel movements, and tell you whether you ought to book an appointment with a dietician – or worse, a clinician. Meanwhile, the microprocessor manufacturer Intel last week unveiled a circuit board named Edison, so small that it can be sewn into clothing, ensuring that you will never wear odd socks to work again." (2)
The worry is that such devices can be hacked. While it is uncertain whether the report of the refridgerator was accurate or not, there have been certain hacks of these intelligent devices:
"Last year, for instance, a family in Houston, Texas found that a hacker had exploited security failings in its hi-tech baby monitor, made by the Chinese firm Foscam, to log in and begin verbally abusing the family's two-year-old, telling her she was a "little slut". Researchers recently uncovered similar vulnerabilities in a smart toilet, which can be controlled via Bluetooth using an Android smartphone app. According to the report by security firm Trustwave, hackers could cause the Inax Satis automatic toilet "to unexpectedly open/close the lid [or] activate bidet or air-dry functions, causing discomfort or distress to the user"." (2)
Quite why one wants to automate a toilet is beyond my comprehension, but I suppose for some people, the need to have a gadget to show off to visitors is just too good to be true. I don't think I will get a small toilet any time soon!
Hamish McGlacier
Some amazing evidence has turned up recently to show that Scotland may have had a glacier up until the 1700s, which is well within recorded history:
"Dundee University geographer Dr Martin Kirkbride said a glacier may have survived in the Cairngorms as recently as the 18th Century. Using a technique called cosmogenic 10Be dating, Dr Kirkbride showed that a small glacier in a Cairngorms corrie piled up granite boulders to form moraine ridges within the past few centuries, during the period of cool climate known as the Little Ice Age." (3)
And this tallies with the records that survive from that time:

"There are some anecdotal reports from that time of snow covering some of the mountain tops year-round. What we have now is the scientific evidence that there was indeed a glacier." (3)
Between 1650 and 1790, Scotland, along with much of Europe, was suffering from what has been termed "The Little Ice Age".The period from 1695 to 1702 was particularly bad in Scotland, with major crop failures; it is called the "Seven Ill Years".
The recent extreme weather, and the severe cold in winters, do raise the question of whether glaciers could form again in the Highlands.
Watch the Skies!
There is a new supernova, which has just appeared, and was spotted by undergraduates during a telescope class at the University of London Observatory:
"An exploding star has been spotted in the night sky - the closest supernova to Earth that has been seen in decades. The dramatic event happened 12 million light years away in Messier 82 - known as the cigar galaxy for its shape."
"One minute we're eating pizza then five minutes later we've helped to discover a supernova. I couldn't believe it," said student Tom Wright. "It reminds me why I got interested in astronomy in the first place." (4)
It may even be bright enough to see with binoculars:
"Scientists says it could grow even brighter over the coming weeks, before fading away. If this happens, astronomers in the northern hemisphere may be able to spot it with binoculars, by looking between the Great Bear and the Little Bear." (4)
"A supernova is, for all intents and purposes, a star that has suddenly burst apart. The greater part of the star's mass is converted instantly into radiant energy and the resultant explosion can be equal to the light of 100 billion normal stars." (5)
For those without telescopes, there is a short webcast (with introduction) at:

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