1. One thing that helps
We talk about how fast technology is progressing all the time in this newsletter. However, some things have been the same forever and surely we can do better. Like towels: seriously why are we drying ourselves with large pieces of cloth that take forever to dry. Or traffic lights: why do we sit there at a red when there are no other cars around? Also, why do we still have power lines ruining the views and causing hazards? We’ve been using wired transmission lines since the 19th century and finally, someone is making progress on wireless electricity.
New Zealand’s Powerco, an energy distributor, partnered with Emrod to put up a system of wireless electricity transmission. A transmitting antenna generates electricity in the same frequencies used in Bluetooth and WiFi and this power is then sent using collimated beams (beams that do not spread out as they travel). Think of it as an invisible power line. The fact that it is a targeted beam that doesn’t shed radiation, and doesn’t spread like a cell-phone antenna, is what they hope will help them avoid the controversy and conspiracy theories that have surrounded the 3G, 4G and 5G rollouts.
The obvious advantage of this weather-proof system is that it can deliver power through terrain where wired transmission may not be possible. Emrod also claims wireless electricity is doubly eco-friendly as it not only taps renewables in remote areas, but the system has a minimal physical footprint. There’s also a low-power laser that detects objects, say birds or helicopters, that may cross the beam. If detected, the system shuts off the beam to allow for their safe passage.
Now who has an idea to replace those ridiculous towels?
2. One to be wary of
At the start of 2021, it was discovered that zero-day vulnerabilities of Microsoft Exchange Server (used for emails) are being exploited by hackers. Since then, Microsoft has alerted companies and government agencies to patch up their systems to halt the attacks.
How serious were the hacks? Serious enough that by virtue of a court order, the FBI was granted permission to remotely access any computer to remove malignant web shells. A web shell is a piece of code used by hackers to gain remote access to, and execute code in, a server. The type of computers most affected were servers running Exchange to provide a local email service- so probably many small and medium size businesses.
While updates patch up the vulnerability, there are still some computers that have yet to apply the updates to remove the web shells. This is where the FBI stepped in. The court order authorized the FBI to “access” (I want to use the word hack but hey, it’s the FBI) such vulnerable computers with the goal of deleting such web shells. They are not allowed to seize or copy content or modify their systems and they have to get evidence to prove that their access was in accordance with the court order. Otherwise, it is just another hack.
So the takeaway? As always keep your system updated and patched. Especially if you don’t want the FBI knowing that you spend way too much time looking at cute cat memes.
3. One to amaze
Researchers from MIT just released music translated from spider webs. Listen:
To come up with this rather haunting piece, they used lasers to scan a spider web. After reconstructing the web in 3D, they assigned notes to different strands of web then used the spider web’s 3D structure to come up with a melody. The result is another proof that spiders have more than one way of spooking us.
While listening to spider Beethoven is cool, the researchers’ main purpose is to actually communicate with spiders using this technique. Project leader Markus Buehler says, “Now we’re trying to generate synthetic signals to basically speak the language of the spider. If we expose them to certain patterns of rhythms or vibrations, can we affect what they do, and can we begin to communicate with them? Those are really exciting ideas.”
What would you like to say to a spider?