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In the News 06.09.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 06.09.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 06.09.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 06.09.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

This Tiny Country Feeds the World

In a potato field near the Netherlands’ border with Belgium, Dutch farmer Jacob van den Borne is seated in the cabin of an immense harvester before an instrument panel worthy of the starship Enterprise.

From his perch 10 feet above the ground, he’s monitoring two drones—a driverless tractor roaming the fields and a quadcopter in the air—that provide detailed readings on soil chemistry, water content, nutrients, and growth, measuring the progress of every plant down to the individual potato. Van den Borne’s production numbers testify to the power of this “precision farming,” as it’s known. The global average yield of potatoes per acre is about nine tons. Van den Borne’s fields reliably produce more than 20.

Read the rest of this article at: National Geographic

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The Mystery of S., the Man with an Impossible Memory

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On an April afternoon in 1929, a timid-looking man with a broad face appeared at Moscow’s Academy of Communist Education and asked to see a memory specialist. The man, who would become known in the psychological literature as S., had been sent by his boss, a section editor at a Moscow newspaper where S. was a reporter. That morning, the editor had noticed that S. did not take any notes when the daily assignments were made. When he confronted S. about this, S. explained that he didn’t need to write anything down; he simply remembered. The editor picked up a newspaper and read at length from it, challenging S. to repeat everything back to him. When S. did so verbatim, the editor sent him to have his head examined.

The researcher who met with S. that day was twenty-seven-year-old Alexander Luria, whose fame as a founder of neuropsychology still lay before him. Luria began reeling off lists of random numbers and words and asking S. to repeat them, which he did, in ever-lengthening series. Even more remarkably, when Luria retested S. more than fifteen years later, he found those numbers and words still preserved in S.’s memory. “I simply had to admit that the capacity of his memory had no distinct limits,” Luria writes in his famous case study of S., “The Mind of a Mnemonist,” published in 1968 in both Russian and English. In the book, Luria describes how S., desperate to purge his mind of unwanted recollections, turned to writing down everything he wanted to forget on slips of paper, in the hope that he might somehow offload these memories. When this failed, he lit the slips of paper on fire and watched them burn to ash, also to no avail.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

Tuscany Tote in Midnight

Shop the Tuscany Tote in Midnight
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Inside an Epic Hotel Room Hacking Spree

Almost exactly five years after seeing the first demonstration of Cody Brocious’ Onity hacking tool, I meet Aaron Cashatt face to face in the fluorescent-lit, cafeteria-style visiting room of the Cibola Unit of the Yuma State Prison Complex. Under his orange jumpsuit he’s bulked up from prison-yard weightlifting and seems clear-eyed and sharp. Despite the prevalence of drugs inside the Arizona corrections system, he says he’s gone clean since he started his third prison term, and even quit smoking.

Cashatt pleaded guilty to three hotel burglaries, the few for which prosecutors had the most airtight evidence. He’s serving a nine-year sentence, but hopes to be out in seven and a half. When he’s released, he swears that he’s done with hotel intrusions. He feels, he says, a complicated mix of regret for his thievery, shame for the trauma he caused his victims, and pride for the epic cleverness of his heists. (“No one took the Onity thing as far as I did,” he muses at one point in our visit.) He hopes someday to find a job in the security industry, or perhaps even market his own invention, which he hopes to for preventing check fraud. “Maybe I can work for Kevin Mitnick or Frank Abagnale,” he suggests, naming the world’s most famous reformed hacker and con artist.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

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The Hidden Memories of Plants

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Monica Gagliano began to study plant behavior because she was tired of killing animals. Now an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Western Australia in Perth, when she was a student and postdoc, she had been offing her research subjects at the end of experiments, the standard protocol for many animals studies. If she was to work on plants, she could just sample a leaf or a piece of root. When she switched her professional allegiance to plants, though, she brought with her some ideas from the animal world and soon began exploring questions few plant specialists probe—the possibilities of plant behavior, learning, and memory.

“You start a project, and as you open up the box there are lots of other questions inside it, so then you follow the trail,” Gagliano says. “Sometimes if you track the trail, you end up in places like Pavlovian plants.”

In her first experiments with plant learning, Gagliano decided to test her new subjects the same way she would animals. She started with habituation, the simplest form of learning. If the plants encountered the same innocuous stimulus over and over again, would their response to it change?

Read the rest of this article at: Atlas Obscura

In the News 06.09.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Bitcoin’s Academic Pedigree

The concept of cryptocurrencies is built from forgotten ideas in research literature.

If you’ve read about bitcoin in the press and have some familiarity with academic research in the field of cryptography, you might reasonably come away with the following impression: Several decades’ worth of research on digital cash, beginning with David Chaum,10,12 did not lead to commercial success because it required a centralized, banklike server controlling the system, and no banks wanted to sign on. Along came bitcoin, a radically different proposal for a decentralized cryptocurrency that didn’t need the banks, and digital cash finally succeeded. Its inventor, the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, was an academic outsider, and bitcoin bears no resemblance to earlier academic proposals.

This article challenges that view by showing that nearly all of the technical components of bitcoin originated in the academic literature of the 1980s and ’90s (see figure 1). This is not to diminish Nakamoto’s achievement but to point out that he stood on the shoulders of giants. Indeed, by tracing the origins of the ideas in bitcoin, we can zero in on Nakamoto’s true leap of insight—the specific, complex way in which the underlying components are put together. This helps explain why bitcoin took so long to be invented. Readers already familiar with how bitcoin works may gain a deeper understanding from this historical presentation. (For an introduction, see Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologiesby Arvind Narayanan et al.36) Bitcoin’s intellectual history also serves as a case study demonstrating the relationships among academia, outside researchers, and practitioners, and offers lessons on how these groups can benefit from one another.

Read the rest of this article at: acmqueue

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @housesofldn; @_foodstories_; @damselindior

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