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Reuters: A leading cryptographer unveiled a technology on Friday that he said could make it impossible for malicious hackers or government investigators to eavesdrop on Internet phone calls. PGP Inc. founder Phil Zimmermann said his new encryption software would for the first time make phone calls placed over the Internet private.

"To move all of our precious phone calls to the crime-ridden slum that is the Internet I think would be unwise without protecting them with encryption," he said in a presentation at the Defcon hackers' conference.

Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP, has exploded in popularity in recent years as a cheaper alternative to traditional phone service. But VOIP users are vulnerable to the security concerns that plague other Internet users, including eavesdroppers and attacks that can disrupt service. Click here to read the story.


Data courtesy of James Enck who blogs at EuroTelcoblog

New Scientist: A futuristic world, complete with autonomous household companions, android medics and even robot entertainers, will greet visitors to the Prototype Robot Exhibition in Japan from 9 June, 2005. The exhibition forms part of the World Expo 2005 in Aichi, Japan, which runs from 25 May to 25 September.

Several utility robots, including autonomous garbage collectors, vacuum cleaners and security guards, are already patrolling the wider Expo. But the Prototype Robot Exhibition gives academics and commercial researchers a chance to showcase a more distant vision of robot utopia. Click here to continue reading.

via Weird Events

public_key_cryptography_and_pgpGur Gryrtencu: Are you the sort of person who gets impatient when your PGP-encrypted e-mail takes more than 4 nanoseconds to cross the Atlantic?

Be glad you weren’t born in ancient Greece.

“The Greeks would shave a messenger’s head, write a secret message on his scalp, and let the hair grow back before sending him,” said Bryan Higgs, whose fascination with codes and history led him to this unusual tidbit. “It makes you think: ‘OK, time wasn’t quite as critical for them.’” [Source]

Slashdot: "Reuters is reporting that Sony has been granted 2 patents, both describing 'Method and system for generating sensory data onto the human neural cortex'. These are patents 6,729,337 and 6,536,440. The patents go on to 'describe a technique for aiming ultrasonic pulses at specific areas of the brain to induce sensory experiences such as smells, sounds and images'. The story was first broken by New Scientist magazine."

Hannibal @ Ars Technica writes:

Sony hasn't yet built a device that works based on the ideas presented in the patent, so this is all theoretical. In fact, according to the New Scientist, Sony hasn't even conducted any experiments to see if this works. <> At any rate, I expect that the budget for an a game that takes advantage of this technology, smells and all, will be more than the GDP of a decent-sized country. I'm sure at least one game company that I can think of will start taking preorders for such a game sometime next year.

rfidSan Francisco Chronicle: Angry parents, saying their children's privacy rights are being violated, have asked the board of the tiny Brittan School District to rescind a requirement that all students wear badges that monitor their whereabouts on campus using radio signals. Located between the massive silos of Sutter Rice Co. and the Sutter Buttes, this small town has 587 kindergarten through eighth-graders who are the first public school kids in the country to be tracked on campus by such a system, which is designed to ease attendance taking and increase campus security. ]Full Story[ || via Slashdot

cogvisNew Scientist: A computer that learns to play a 'scissors, paper, stone' by observing and mimicking human players could lead to machines that automatically learn how to spot an intruder or perform vital maintenance work, say UK researchers.

CogVis, developed by scientists at the University of Leeds in Yorkshire, UK, teaches itself how to play the children's game by searching for patterns in video and audio of human players and then building its own "hypotheses" about the game's rules.

In contrast to older artificial intelligence (AI) programs that mimic human behaviour using hard-coded rules, CogVis takes a more human approach, learning through observation and mimicry, the researchers say. Click here to continue reading. Discussion over at Slashdot.

visionThe Scotsman: THE footballers of tomorrow will have the midfield guile of Zinedine Zidane, the finishing ability of Andriy Shevchenko and the staying power of Roy Keane.

A Japanese consortium of robotics experts has thrown down the gauntlet to future players of the beautiful game by claiming their engineered humans will play mankind off the park within 45 years.

"By 2050, our aim is to beat the winners of football’s World Cup and we are very confident that we will be able to do that," said Shu Ishiguro, who heads Robot Laboratory in Osaka. "When we have accomplished that, we will have a society in which humans and artificial intelligence are completely in harmony."

Mr Ishiguro and his team are placing their faith in the offspring of VisiON. VisiON has already perfected the victory pose. Reminiscent of Eric Cantona in his pomp, it leans slightly to one side, hands on hips and with the ball - and the world - at its feet.

related items:
Why ever more women watch soccer games.

LiveScience: Finally. After many years of reading about the universal dictionary (Robert Heinlein), the city fathers (James Blish), the house records (Frank Herbert), and the hitchhiker's guide (Douglas Adams), to name just a few, Google has finally decided to put all there is of human knowledge online.

All right, not quite all of it. But Google is working with the University of Michigan, Harvard and several other libraries to put millions (that's millions!) of books online. Scanned, spidered, and ready to read. Google has already started scanning some books; full details on what the program will entail are not yet available. Let's face it; given their past history with new programs, Google will probably still have this in beta with a couple million books scanned.
"Even before we started Google, we dreamed of making the incredible breadth of information that librarians so lovingly organize searchable online," said Larry Page, Google co-founder and president of Products. "Today we're pleased to announce this program to digitize the collections of these amazing libraries so that every Google user can search them instantly.

"Our work with libraries further enhances the existing Google Print (TM) program, which enables users to find matches within the full text of books, while publishers and authors monetize that information," Page added. "Google's mission is to organize the world's information, and we're excited to be working with libraries to help make this mission a reality."
Google print lets you look at whole pages for free books and excerpts from copyrighted works. Revenue possibilities exist for ads delivered with content, buy-this-book links, and so forth. But I'm hoping that most of it will be free for the taking.

Read more at Google Print and Google Blog.

cover_descartesPhysicsWeb: A collaboration that involves physicists from six European countries and the US has been awarded part of the European Union's Descartes prize for research for their work on quantum cryptography. They share the €1m prize with life scientists studying mitochondrial DNA. The IST-QuComm collaboration is made up of research groups in Sweden, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria and the UK, plus a team at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US. Quantum cryptography allows two parties to share a secret "key" that could make communications between them much more secure than existing cryptographic techniques by encoding the key with single photons. Any attempts by a third party to eavesdrop on the communications can be readily detected. Quantum cryptography could have applications in electronic communications, e-banking and e-voting.

Progress in quantum cryptography and related areas - such as entanglement and teleportation - has been rapid in recent years. Last year, for instance, physicists at the University of Vienna succeeded in sending entangled photons 600 metres across the river Danube, while a group at the University of Geneva recently demonstrated quantum teleportation at telecom wavelengths through a 4-kilometre optical fibre cable. The IST-QuComm consortium also performed the first ever quantum cryptographic bank transfer over a 6-kilometre fibre link in Vienna this summer.

The prizes were awarded in Prague today by Janez Potocnik, EU commissioner for science and research.