Blog Archives

Are US antitrust regulators giving Silicon Valley’s ‘free’ apps a free pass?

Are US antitrust regulators giving Silicon Valley’s ‘free’ apps a free pass?

Judging by the political winds, Silicon Valley seems headed for a showdown with antitrust regulators. For the first time since 1988, the Democratic Party’s platform includes stronger antitrust enforcement, while leading liberals have singled out Google, Apple and Facebook for holding too much market power. Republicans considered (but ultimately rejected) inserting stronger antitrust language in […] … learn more→

What do aliens look like? The clue is in evolution

What do aliens look like? The clue is in evolution

Speculating about what aliens look like has kept children, film producers and scientists amused for decades. If they exist, will extra terrestrials turn out to look similar to us, or might they take a form beyond our wildest imaginings? The answer to this question really depends on how we think evolution works at the deepest […] … learn more→

We’ve been wrong about the origins of life for 90 years

We’ve been wrong about the origins of life for 90 years

For nearly nine decades, science’s favorite explanation for the origin of life has been the “primordial soup”. This is the idea that life began from a series of chemical reactions in a warm pond on Earth’s surface, triggered by an external energy source such as lightning strike or ultraviolet (UV) light. But recent research adds […] … learn more→

Two more easy statistical lies

Two more easy statistical lies

Last time around, I discussed the “go to” method for research nowadays, data mining. You simply take a large data set, and slice it into as many ways as needed until you get lucky. So many of today’s “hot” results come from this method, and the key to its success is a quirk in our […] … learn more→

Plate tectonics: new findings fill out the 50-year-old theory that explains Earth’s landmasses

Plate tectonics: new findings fill out the 50-year-old theory that explains Earth’s landmasses

Fifty years ago, there was a seismic shift away from the longstanding belief that Earth’s continents were permanently stationary. In 1966, J. Tuzo Wilson published Did the Atlantic Close and then Re-Open? in the journal Nature. The Canadian author introduced to the mainstream the idea that continents and oceans are in continuous motion over our […] … learn more→

Thorny technical questions remain for net neutrality

Thorny technical questions remain for net neutrality

Federal rules mandating network neutrality – the concept that all internet traffic should be treated equally – were upheld recently by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision was hailed as a win by civil-rights groups, entrepreneurs and tech giants like Google, as well as the Obama administration itself, which had proposed the rules […] … learn more→

The top six dinosaur myths and how we busted them

The top six dinosaur myths and how we busted them

When the first dinosaur bone was described in 1676, it was thought to come from an elephant or perhaps a giant. Over a century later, scientists realised such fossils came from a creature they named Megalosaurus, portrayed as a sort of stocky, overgrown lizard. Then, in 1842, leading anatomist Richard Owen recognised Megalosaurus as part […] … learn more→

Personal beliefs versus scientific innovation: getting past a flat Earth mentality

Personal beliefs versus scientific innovation: getting past a flat Earth mentality

The history of science is also a history of people resisting new discoveries that conflict with conventional wisdom. When Galileo promoted Copernicus’ theory that the Earth revolves around the sun – counter to church doctrine about the Earth being the center of the universe – he wound up condemned by the Roman Inquisition in 1633. […] … learn more→

Securing web browsing: protecting the Tor network

Securing web browsing: protecting the Tor network

There are more than 865 encryption tools in use worldwide, all addressing different aspects of a common problem. People want to protect information: hard drives from oppressive governments, physical location from stalkers, browsing history from overly curious corporations or phone conversations from nosy neighbors. They all rely on cryptography, a delicate craft that when done […] … learn more→

The San Andreas fault is about to crack – here’s what will happen when it does

The San Andreas fault is about to crack – here’s what will happen when it does

The director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, Thomas Jordan, made an announcement recently that would have sent a chill down the spine of every Californian: that the San Andreas fault appears to be in a critical state and as such, could generate a large earthquake imminently. Of course, the reiteration of the seismic hazard […] … learn more→