Gongol.com Archives: July 2009
Brian Gongol

July 23, 2009

Computers and the Internet Twitter's popularity makes it a bigger security target than ever
And, unfortunately, it's too young an organization to have the institutional discipline to know what to do to contain those problems preemptively. What will be especially interesting to watch is how long it takes for something else to eclipse Twitter as the premier "microblogging" service -- because Twitter won't stay on top forever. The concept of microblogging -- ultra-short updates of the user's preference, posted on the Internet -- is far too simple to be dominated exclusively by one service. What will also be interesting to monitor is whether Twitter is overtaken by an upstart competitor like ONMText or by an established Internet firm with a wider user base, like Microsoft or Google. One of Twitter's main security troubles is that its 140-character limit on user updates causes people to rely on URL-shortening services like TinyURL. The problem is that shortened URLs can mask a million nefarious sites behind an innocuous-looking address. With a shortened URL, the clicker really doesn't know where he or she will ultimately land. Useful for making updates short enough to meet the SMS/text-message limit of 140 characters...not so useful for encouraging user vigilance.

Health From skin cells into full-grown mice
Research from China and Japan appears to have produced fully-functioning mice from reprogrammed mouse skin cells. It's much bigger news than cloning: It's a suggestion that we may very well be able to reproduce our own organs from ordinary cells (like our own skin cells), given the right circumstances and an appropriately-applied chemical nudge or two. The news seems more important every time it's re-read; we could quite possibly be within striking distance of replacement organs and body parts, grown from ourselves. It's also just a little bit spooky, considering that most household dust is just old skin cells.

Health Applying air-traffic-control methods to emergency rooms improves patient treatment
Pilots and air-traffic controllers going through medical training in the military tested a hypothesis and found that patients get considerably better and more appropriate treatment when they are managed like airplanes being handled by ATC than when they're managed by conventional ER methods.

Weather and Disasters Total solar eclipse caught on satellite
The photograph is awesome, to a similar degree that the literal edition of the "Total Eclipse of the Heart" video is hilarious. But eclipses bring out some of humankind's inexplicable superstitions -- like burying disabled children up to their necks in mud in the hope that they'll be cured. The superstition looks ridiculous from the outside -- because it is -- though it should also cause us to examine our own superstitions. Some of those are pretty ridiculous, too.

Humor and Good News The most "disasteriffic" movie of all time
(Video) A spoof trailer for a not-so-spoof outbreak of disaster-porn films

Water News Recycling of a different sort

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