It appears you are a virus

9 04 2008

News

We’re sorry…

… but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can’t process your request right now.

We’ll restore your access as quickly as possible, so try again soon. In the meantime, if you suspect that your computer or network has been infected, you might want to run a virus checker or spyware remover to make sure that your systems are free of viruses and other spurious software.

If you’re continually receiving this error, you may be able to resolve the problem by deleting your Google cookie and revisiting Google. For browser-specific instructions, please consult your browser’s online support center.

If your entire network is affected, more information is available in the Google Web Search Help Center.

We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope we’ll see you again on Google. [End of Message]

Everyone who uses the internet is familiar with the famous “403 Forbidden” displayed across various unavailable web pages. The message above has been added to the long list by Google in an effort to reduce site traffic. Obviously, any computer that appears to have a virus that attempts to use the search engine, a red flag goes up and the site blocks the computer.

However, this all brings up one very big question: When did viruses learn to read?

And furthermore, how does the virus react to the horrible discovery that its only purpose has been thwarted? Someone obviously created the virus in the first place to fulfill a specific task on the internet, so now, upon reading this message, how can they carry on like normal individuals.  Personally, I would be hopping mad if I was a virus and came across this page.

Plus, the message instructs the virus to try either destroying itself or deleting Google cookies.  I think the first option is out of the question, and the second is just another task that the poor viruses are probably not capable of handling.  I mean, unless the virus was specifically programmed to do so, deleting cookies is probably about as hard as trying to eat one.

Maybe they have viruses that read now, but I think Google is still overestimating their problem-solving skills by a few decades.  Being such a huge source of money, it seems ridiculous that Google would make such a blunder by targeting unknowing viruses.

Unless, of course, Google’s intention was to direct this message at users and not the viruses, but no… that wouldn’t make sense.  I would like to think that the quality of my searches is at least a little above a virus’s, and Google would be foolish to incense it’s users with millions of 403 forbidden pages.

If you would like an example, type forum topic into Google and go to the 19th page.  For the record, I believe there are many people with a great interest in the 181st through 190th sites exemplifying what it means to have a true “forum topic.”

On a last note, I like the ending message, “Hope we’ll see you again on Google.”  It has a very smiley-McDonald’s-cashier tone to it, and could potentially prevent some viruses from committing suicide after finding out their lives are worthless.  After all, they are the victims here.





Look before you hack

28 02 2008

NewsA new and horrible past time known as SWATting has recently increased in popularity. A step above normal prank calls, SWATting involves informing the police of a volatile hostage situation at random residences. As a result, hundreds of people have been confronted by SWAT teams charging into houses yelling and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

However, a recently arrested gang of SWATters has labeled a mastermind 17-year-old hacker as one of the co-conspirators. The catch: he’s blind. Often in the cases of people born without the ability to see, other senses become much more acute, and memory becomes much more important. As a result, Li’l Hacker, as he is popularly called, can identify types of computer modems on the phone by ear as well as dial-tones and other sounds, and has had a great interest in telecommunications for years. He also owns a screen reader, a newer technology spreading in popularity that can convert text into either braille or speech.

Reader

He also asserts that he was not involved with the calls. Li’l Hacker claims that he helped turn the men responsible in to the authorities and would never help them due to personal conflicts in the past. Friends of his family are worried, because he turns eighteen soon and could potentially be tried as an adult for the crimes. Personally I hope he gets off the hook. I do not see how a blind teenager still in school would ever make such a ridiculous choice unless he was somehow blackmailed, which is not yet out of the question.

I also fail to see how a blind teenager could be so adept at hacking, so there is plenty of potential for this case to only get weirder and more convoluted.





Sue the sun for global warming

27 02 2008

NewsThe native Alaskan village of Kivalina has slowly been eroding into the Chukchi Sea is recent decades. Formerly, the village was protected from storms by sea ice, but global warming and the melting of Arctic Ice has threatened their village’s existence. Though it could be considered a questionable choice to have located their village in between a lagoon, the Kivalina River, and the Chukchi Sea, they have have thrived mostly due to the hunting of salmon and other sea animals.

Kivalina
A retaining wall under construction can be seen clearly. Credit: Jim Kulas

The Kivalina Relocation Planning Committee (KRPC) was formed to address the problem and find solutions. However, estimates say that relocation could cost as much as $400,000,000. As a result, with the help of two non-profit legal firms and six law firms, they decided to sue just about as many power and oil companies as possible. The grounds on which they are basing the lawsuit, of course, is that the contribution to global warming by those companies are the greatest, and they, therefore, are most responsible for the demise of the village.

While it is fairly certain that they won’t win the lawsuit – unfortunately, there is still not enough evidence to suggest power and oil companies have directly caused arctic ice to melt – the plight of the Alaskans is sure to bring a considerable amount of attention to the future effects rising ocean waters could have. It’s extremely expensive for everyone involved.

I don’t want to suggest that the KRPC doesn’t deserve to get aid – on the contrary, I think they should receive a lot of help – but I daresay the success of this lawsuit in any way would spell disaster for the economy as we know it. Suing has already gotten out of control in this country, and the last thing we need is the ability to sue for climate change. If Florida loses a hundred yards off its beaches, the government should be the one obligated to help, not businesses that disputably have nothing to do with their plight.

People need to realize that they can’t sue the world for their every misfortune. When everyone’s just trying to survive, sometimes people get stepped on unintentionally. That’s no reason to make others’ lives more difficult just for the sake of your own.





In search of lost time

20 02 2008

NewsAs internationally tuned atomic clocks become the universal norm, people are unintentionally losing something: time. Ever since the introduction of atomic clocks in the 1950s, the world has been faced with a problem of synchronicity. As it turns out, atomic clocks cannot accurately predict the length of a day on Earth. This is because the Earth’s rotation and revolution are always going through minute changes.

Clock

Not many people realize that the second is slowly getting longer. As we sit watching clocks during class, it definitely seems like time is slowing down, but we always assume that it will start going normal speed again as soon as we stop watching. The second is getting longer because the old system of time measurement was based on fractions of the Earth’s rate of rotation. As it turns out, the Earth’s rotation is slowing down, so the days are getting longer and our trusty time measurements are constantly changing as well. Even more troubling is the fact that the rate of change is not constant or predictable, so scientists are always kept on their toes to keep the world’s time in sync.

As a result, all units of time were frozen in the 1980s. To make up for the lost time, scientists introduced leap seconds, which can be added whenever it is deemed appropriate. The last leap second was added in 2005 unbeknownst to billions of people. Technically, it is erroneous to suggest the leap second was added in 2005. The leap second occurred between 23:59:60 on December 31st, 2005 and 00:00:00 on January 1st, 2006. For all intents and purposes, it did not exist at all.

I have lost nine seconds of my life so far. They happened when I wasn’t paying attention, and I feel a great loss knowing I can never have them back.





You can’t buy love, but you can sell it

30 01 2008

NewsAn extremely disturbing case of attempted murder in London was unveiled to the public recently. A 28-year-old homemaker plotted, with the help of friends and neighbors, to poison her husband on their anniversary. The poison of choice: anti-freeze. What could drive someone to even dream of such a barbaric act? Money, of course.

The wife had built up considerable debt, unbeknownst to her husband, and planned to use the payout from her deceased husband’s employer to help pay it off. The notion that a woman could “sell” her husband’s life is beyond comprehension in this day and age, especially in a city like London. The consideration that people knew she was going to follow through with the plan and didn’t consider stopping her is equally difficult to believe. One step backward for the human race, I’d say.

Her husband miraculously survived the poisoning, but it’s too soon to say whether or not he will wish he had died. He is presently deaf and blind with permanent kidney damage and an unknown amount brain damage. May God help him make it through this horrific ordeal.





First our clothes, then our minds

24 01 2008

NewsThe Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) has released information on new clothing selection tools in development for business use. Essentially, shoppers at clothing stores will get the chance to enter a room with multiple cameras and screens displaying pictures of customer wearing multiple outfits. However, they will not be alone in that room. There will also be computer assistance, which makes suggestions to the customer based on popular styles and other recommended selections within the story. It “improves [a shopper’s] confidence in the decision-making process and improves their shopping experience,” says Wei Zhang, a student at Oregon State University.

Fitting Room

People may not feel confident, but at least their clothes are a reflection of decisions they made themselves. How far is too far? Will anyone say ‘no’ when future technology analyzes people’s tastes in food and decides for them what they would like to eat? I think the most human part of us all is our ability to make decisions, to know what we like and dislike. Every time we allow others to make decisions for us, we forfeit a piece of our identity.

There is also potential for abuse here. No store that I have seen actively advertises its least fashionable, out-of-style clothing. And last time I checked, it is normally the least fashionable, out-of-style clothing that costs less. I worry these computers and social networks will pressure people into buyinh things they don’t need and paying more just to fit in. Does our society really need to obsess more about appearance? Do the stores really need another little boost control over what we buy?

I recognize that a lot of good could come out of technology like this. I am just wary of our society’s many attempts at pressuring us this way or that. I prefer live my own life, thank you.

News Link





Mighty morphing parasites wreaking havoc

18 01 2008

NewsGod has just unveiled His latest cruel and unforgiving smiting technique to the world. Far away in Central and South America, the black ant community has made the unfortunate discovery that its brothers and sisters are turning into fruit. Or at least it appears that way, and the birds preying on them don’t seem to notice the difference.

The cause is a tiny parasitic nematode (more commonly known as a roundworm) that has found refuge inside the ants’ bodies. In a twist of fate, the the ants black exoskeleton becomes increasingly translucent revealing the red and shiny layer beneath, almost perfectly mimicking the red berries found in their natural habitat. What the black ants might have done to deserve such a bitter fate remains undetermined. Regardless, no one can deny the parasites’ antics are disturbingly human-like in their mercilessness.

antberry

Perhaps even more disturbing and more noticeably human than their desire to live at the expense of others is the complexity of the parasites’ overall plan. After causing the ants to morph into a berry delights that are eating by birds, their eggs proceed through the birds digestive system unharmed and back out into the unknowing world freshly fertilized and ready to attack when an unsuspecting ant victim comes too near. We must remind ourselves how small these creatures are and how very limited their perception of their environment is. It is borderline inspirational that such simple organisms can contrive in such sadistic ways. It almost makes us question whether other intelligent life already exists in our universe, and we’re simply overlooking it because it’s on our own planet.