Category Archives: Sci-Tech

Was the Warrant Served in the iPhone Leak Case Valid?

Over the weekend, police seized computers belonging to Jason Chen, the Gizmodo/Gawker blogger who published details of Apple’s 4th generation iPhone on the Gizmodo site last week.  Gawker COO Gaby Darbyshire argues in a letter to the police (which I decline to link to, as I disapprove of Gizmodo’s behavior in this matter) that the search warrant is invalid, citing section 1524(g) of the California Penal code and section 1070 of the California Evidence code, which relate to the seizure of equipment in order to identify journalists’ sources. 

I’m no lawyer, but I wonder about Darbyshire interpretation of the law, here.  Gizmodo didn’t just get documents or information from a source, it bought the actual prototype.  That would seem to me to be a separate thing from the reporting.  Even if the police were prohibited from confiscating equipment to target the person who gave Gizmodo the phone, are they also prevented from seizing it not to identify the source but simply to, say, charge Chen or others within Gawker Media for buying lost property?  It seems a superior court judge doesn’t think so.  Any lawyers want to weigh in? 

Regardless of the answer, I have to say Gawker’s behavior during this entire affair has struck me as wildly incautious.  Even setting aside their purchase of the device itself, their very public tale of how the device came into their possession would seem certain to be evidence in any trial should they be prosecuted for buying it.  If their actions as they describe them were judged to constitute a crime, they have effectively implicated themselves.

UPDATE: this TechDirt post summarizes in a single sentence why, even if California law does protect Gawker here, I’m not convinced it should:

The shield law exists to protect unnamed sources, not to let journalists commit crimes (such as receiving stolen property) and then cover them up under the guise of their work.

Just so.

Dragon Hears the Truth

I am toying with writing up some impressions of the Apple iPad for the site here, and was dictating my notes into the Dragon speech recognition app on my iPhone. 

I said, “As someone with terrible vision, I appreciate the idea of being able to run my iPhone apps on a larger screen…"  

What Dragon heard was: "As someone with terrible visions, I appreciate…"

In retrospect, that version is better.  At least, it’s funnier.  “Ah!!  I see flames!  Terrible, terrible, flames!  And is that Steve Jobs, naked, bathed in blood, holding an iPad??  The horror!!!”

I’m Guessing This Was a Rhetorical Question…

Ann Althouse asks: “what’s more exciting about [today]: the State of the Unison Address or the unveiling, presumably, of the Apple Tablet”?

The (admittedly unscientific) results of her online poll are not a surprise.

IPCC Credibility Could Vanish By 2035

Maybe a lot sooner.  A brief review of some recent developments in climate science politics is in order:

  • In 2007, the UN IPCC’s fourth assessment report (AR4) published the statement that "Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world."  It predicted that all of the glaciers in the central and eastern Himalayas could vanish by 2035, and stated its confidence as "very likely"—meaning more than 90 percent certain.
  • In November a paper published by the Indian government said there are no signs of "abnormal" retreat in Himalayan glaciers, and accused the IPCC of being alarmist.
  • The IPCC’s chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, responded by denouncing the Indian government report as "voodoo science" lacking peer review.
  • Last week, it was revealed that the 2035 claim, based on a 2005 report by the World Wildlife Fund… was in turn based on two 1999 magazine interviews with glaciologist Syed Hasnain… who in turn now says they were based not on peer reviewed science but on “speculation.”
  • On Tuesday, the IPCC retracted the glacier claim, calling it a mistake.
  • On Saturday, Dr Murari Lal, who put the claim into the IPCC report to begin with, told the Daily Mail he was aware at the time that the statement did not rest on peer-reviewed scientific research, but included it to put political pressure on world leaders.  “It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.  It had importance for the region, so we thought we should put it in.”
  • Also yesterday, Pachauri admitted to four more mistakes in the glacier section of the AR4 report.  (Seriously, did anybody read this thing until just now?)
  • Today, the Daily Mail reports that yet another claim in the 4th assessment report—that the world had “suffered rapidly rising costs due to extreme weather-related events since the 1970s" was based on an unpublished paper that had not been peer reviewed.  That paper’s author later withdrew the claim because he felt the evidence was not strong enough, and he has now criticized the IPCC report for being "completely misleading."
  • Also today, the Sunday Times reported that Pachauri "used bogus claims that Himalayan glaciers were melting to win grants worth hundreds of thousands of pounds."  More than a half million US dollars, in fact.

So you may want to update your copy of the 4th AR to bring it up to date with recent developments.  Simply search and replace the phrases, "this is highly likely" or "this is more than 90 percent likely" with the phrase "this may be speculative nonsense, not science, and might even turn out to be a deliberate fraud calculated to apply political pressure or land a research grant." 

What’s important here isn’t the scope of the individual errors so far discovered.  It’s that these claims were deliberately included despite their lack of sound foundation for political reasons when they shouldn’t have been, extensively reported, and used to justify the diversion of huge sums of money to climate scientists.  Like the CRU data breach from late last year, this incident says a lot about the trustworthiness and integrity of the processes and institutions behind climate politics. 

Always remember that while the Earth might actually turn out to be warming due to human activity, the insistence of those who say it is can originate in political and financial interests instead of scientific ones.  To paraphrase Voltaire, if manmade global warming did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it.  Good science is skeptical.  Question everything.

Finally, Some Encouraging Climate News

It appears the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way may be consuming our galaxy more slowly than previously though:

Dubbed Sagittarius A* , the black hole is rather weak, due to its inability to successfully capture significant mass.  The black hole is bordered by dozens of young stars.  It pulls gas off these stars, but is only able to suck in a small percentage of this high velocity stream.

Past estimates put its consumption rate at a mere 1 percent of the gas it pulls away from the stars.  Now a new study, using data garnered from the NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, has determined that the black hole is likely eating far less than that figure even — new models indicate it to be consuming a mere 0.01 percent of the gas it sucks off.

Hell, Obamacare sucks more than that.  It appears the Democrats will indeed have time to spend us into crushing oblivious before we are drawn there by gravity.

Seattle’s Earthquake Potential: Bad News and Good News

The bad news is that Seattle may have a massive magnitude 9 megathrust earthquake to look forward to some time in the next few hundred years.  As awesome as the term “megathrust” is, I get the impression from reading this story that it’s a bad thing:

The fault along the central Washington coast, where the Pacific and Juan de Fuca plates are locked together most of the time but break apart from each other during a powerful megathrust earthquake, was believed to lie 80 miles or more from the Seattle area. But research has shown that the locked zone extends deeper and farther east than previously thought, bringing the edge of the rupture zone beneath the Olympic Mountains, perhaps 40 miles closer to the Seattle area. It is this locked area that can rupture to produce a megathrust earthquake that causes widespread heavy damage, comparable to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake or the great Alaska quake of 1964.

The good news is that two of the three people who post on this site don’t live in Seattle.

UTNE Reader’s 2009 Visionaries List

My friend Daniel Kish has been included in UTNE Reader’s 2009 list of 50 Visionaries that are Changing the World for his work on blindness and human echolocation through World Access for the Blind, the non-profit he founded nearly ten years ago.  I think Dan’s work to date is fantastic, and the recognition well-deserved.  (Disclosure: I work with WAFTB as a volunteer, and am a former board member.)

For more about echolocation, you can check him out in the video Seeing with Sound, part of the new Chicago Museum of Science and Industry exhibit, YOU! The Experience.

The “ClimateGate” Leak and the Suppression of Dissent

In a post here a couple of years ago, I said that regardless of whether anthropogenic (man-made) global warming (AGW) is occurring, the consensus on the subject exists in part because of a deliberate attempt to suppress contrary viewpoints.  Rip made a similar assertion a couple of months later, when he said, “I’m no global warming denier—I just think there is a lot of reasonable doubt.  And the politicization of the issue – complete with a campaign to stifle dissent – is appalling.”  Last week, there was a data breach at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) that seems to illustrate our point in a rather shocking way.

Continue reading

MS Office, Visio, Project Betas Now Available

For those who like living on the cutting edge of software (you mean there are there people not like that?) Office 2010 Beta is now available for download.  So are Visio 2010 Beta and Project 2010 Beta.  Spread the word!

I’ve been using the technical preview versions of the Office programs, and really like them, but it’s Project I’m excited about.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I have heard this will be a significant update.

If you’re wondering if your cat can get swine flu…

…it appears the answer is yes.