Thursday, September 12th, 2013


Giving the Finger

Soon, new iPhone owners will be able to use a fingerprint to access a phone or buy something on iTunes. Apple's introduction of this fingerprint technology adds a nice layer of security and a bit of convenience for those whose fingers are too tired to type in a four-digit password. But soon, we will be interacting with a lot more devices that have no screens, and biometrics will be the logical way to secure our data. Companies have already developed ways to identify you, from your fingerprints to your heartbeat. And while these methods certainly seem more effective than simple (and often easy-to-hack) passwords, it's a little worrisome that we'll essentially be sharing even more personal data, right down to our person. In order to give us the promise of more security, companies will want to know even more about us. It feels like we've passed a point of no return. So much about us is stored in the cloud (our finances, our communication, our social lives) that we can't turn back. The only way to protect what you've shared so far is to share some more. Protect your data with a password. Protect the password with some secret, personal questions. Protect all of that with your fingerprint or your heartbeat. Before long, you'll have to give a DNA swab to access a collection photos you took yourself. It's a trend worth watching. The last decade was about sharing. The next decade will be about protecting.


That Which Does Not Kill Us…

Most of things that killed us back in 1900 don't even crack to the top ten causes of death today. We live way longer and die of a completely different set of ailments associated with that extended life. Now we're using advances in drugs and science to stave off the effects of those diseases. In the latest in her interesting series on longevity, Slate's Laura Helmuth looks at one of the hottest debates in science: Just how long can people live?


Vladamir Putin: Man of … Words?

Vladamir Putin, known as the Internet's man of action, has apparently become a man of words. His op-ed published by the NYT attempts to school Americans on Syria, chemical weapons, and themselves. "It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation."

+ Does this really look like a guy who doesn't consider himself to be exceptional?

+ Gary Kasparov blasted the NYT and Putin in a series of Tweets: "I hope Putin has taken adequate protections. Now that he is a Russian journalist his life may be in grave danger!"

+ In his editorial, Putin insisted that the chemical weapons were used by the opposition, not the Assad government. According to FP, the UN is about to report some very different findings.

+ Meanwhile, WaPo reports that the CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria.


Just Say Water

Beginning today, the White House will launch a pro water drinking program. The idea is to get us to drink more water, starting with one cup a day. But wait, do we really have a drinking problem?


Let Them Eat Allergens

Given all the allergies and food warnings I see listed on elementary school bulletin boards, sometimes it seems like water is the only safe snack to send to school. Now the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology is suggesting that the way to deal with all these modern food allergies is to expose kids to the offending foods even earlier. But the debate in this topic is far from settled.


Magic the Scholarship

My seven year-old son just started playing a fantasy card trading game called Magic: The Gathering. It never occurred to me that playing that game could eventually help pay his college tuition. A program started by Jon Finkel (a hedge fund partner, and more importantly, a legend in the large and growing of Magic community) gives scholarships to students who are avid Magic players. According to Finkel: "There was just nothing enjoyable or fun about high school, so I got my mental stimulation elsewhere. I would play Magic until midnight and never do my homework." From the NYT: Tuition Aid From a Zombie Elf. The scholarships only amount to about $5000 a year. So my wife and I are urging my son to stay focused on trying to earn a full ride playing Zelda.


Baggage Claims

Do you have a reason to be afraid of turbulence? According to author, blogger, and pilot Patrick Smith, the answer is no. "A plane cannot be flipped upside-down, thrown into a tailspin or otherwise flung from the sky by even the mightiest gust or air pocket. Conditions might be annoying and uncomfortable, but the plane is not going to crash." Then why am I still afraid? Here are some other answers to your questions about the many mysteries of air travel.

+ Ever wonder how much money the airlines are squeezing us for with all those extras? In 2012, it came to about $27 billion.


Undercover Fans

In an effort to reduce the number of drunk losers who ruin football games for everyone else, security personnel at Seattle's CenturyLink Field will go undercover and dress as 49er fans during Sunday night's game between San Francisco and the Seahawks. Fans who just can't handle seeing someone wearing the jersey of the opposing team without becoming unruly will be removed from the stadium. And they won't be able to come back until they complete a four-hour online course. In other news: Go Niners.


Shabbat Shalom

"We are closing 7:30 on the dot and we will reopen saturday 8:15 so if u need anything you have 45mins to get what you want." That was just one of texts revealed in an NYPD investigation called Only After Sundown in which they nabbed some Brooklyn drug dealers. They may have disappointed their bubbies by selling heroin and cocaine, but at least they always closed on Shabbat.


The Bottom of the News

No one seems to be willing to say whether this story had a happy ending or resulted in a croak, but I'm sure it's going viral as a cautionary tale in the frog world. What happens when a frog takes a rest next to a launching spacecraft? This....

+ Mental Floss: 11 common words with very specific meanings on food labels.

+ Congress has finally figured out a way to improve favorability numbers: Get out of town.

+ The British Science Association has given the Blobfish the title of the world's ugliest animal. I don't know. After a few beers, it doesn't look half bad.