Heads Down December

Heads Down.jpeg

This was a funny photo I took on the Washington, D.C. Metro.


The guy in the center seems to be listening to some music, but everyone else is nodding off and has their heads down. 


End of the year, right before the holidays maybe people are a little burnt out and need to refresh their motivational juices. 


Anyway, this is not good for the “see something, say something” culture in the age of terrorism that we are living in–these folks are not seeing anything in this groggy state. 


To a heads up and brighter new year. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

You Mess At Your Own Risk

You Mess At Your Own Risk

This guy is obviously pretty serious about not messing with his car.

“Touch this car again. You are laser sighted. You will be shot in the face!!!”

I remember in NY, people messed with the cars all the time–nasty stuff like backing or plowing into your bumpers when trying to park, keying cars, slashing tires, knocking off the mirrors, egging the cars, and one guy I remember even had his car stolen and the couple actually had sex in his back seat!

The stupid steering wheels locks to the brakes were a joke for security, the noisy annoying car alarms were so routine no one looked or cared, and LoJack helps you find the clunker again although you may never want to drive it anyway after what the crooks would do to it.

Not sure this sign will help ward off all the crap that people do–somehow they always find another way to be jerks with someone else’s stuff.

Aside from James Bond’s car that would explode if you tried to mess with it, does anyone else have any good ideas for car protection? 😉

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Alert, Alert, And More Alerts

Alert, Alert, And More Alerts

No this is not an alert, but some strategic thinking about alerts.

As a kid, we get our first alerts usually from the fire alarm going off in school and practicing the buddy system and safely evacuating.

As adults, we are used to get so many types of alerts:

– Homeland Security threat alerts
– Breaking news alerts
– Emergency/Disaster alerts
– Severe weather alerts
– Smog alerts
– Transportation delay alerts
– Accident alerts
– Fraud alerts
– Economic and financial alerts
– Amber missing child alerts
– Internet security alerts
– Power loss alerts
– Home or business intruder alerts
– Fire alerts
– Carbon Monoxide alerts
– Medical/health alerts
– Chemical spill alerts
– Product safety or recall alerts
– Unsafe drinking water alerts
– Active shooter alerts
– Work closure alerts
– Parking garage alerts
– Dangerous marine life alerts
– Dangerous current or undertow alerts
– Air raid siren alerts
– Solar eclipse alerts
– Meteorite or falling space debris alerts
– Special sale or promotional event alerts

With the arrival of highly successful, mass social media applications like Twitter, we have alerts aggregated for us and listed chronologically as things are happening real-time.

The brilliance of the current Twitter-type alerting is that we can sign up to follow whatever alerts we are interested in and then have a streaming feed of them.

The alerts are short–up to 140 characters–so you can quickly see the essence of what is happening or ignore what is irrelevant to you.

When more space is needed to explain the details behind an alert, typically a (shortened) URL is included, which if you click on it takes you to a more in depth explanation of the event or item.

So alerts are a terrific balance between short, attention grabbing headlines and links to more detail, as needed.

What is also great about the current alerting mechanism is that you can provide concise alert information, including:

– Message source (for ensuring reliability)
– Guidance (for providing immediate instruction on response).
– Hazard (for specifying the type of incident)
– Location (for identifying geographic or mapping locality)
– Date/time (for implications as to its currency)
– Importance (for determining severity such as catastrophic, critical, etc.)

While we remain ever, hyper-vigilant, we need to be careful not to become anxiety-ridden, or at some point, simply learn to tune it all out, so we can actually live life and get stuff done.

It’s good to know what’s going on out there, but can too much information ever become a bad thing? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

With Surgical Precision

This is awesome–the iKnife (“Intelligent” knife) for cutting away cancer, can also detect the cancerous cells.

I had previously heard about dogs being able to sniff cancers such as lung, ovarian, and skin–but never a surgical knife doing this.

With the iKnife, a surgeon can use a electrosurgical knife to cut/burn away cancerous tissue, but even better yet, this knife sucks away the smoke containing the vaporized tissue to a mass spectrometer that analyzes the particles and is said to be 100% accurate (so far) in detecting cancerous tissue (from those that are normal).

This is critical because it can be life saving in guiding surgeons not to miss any of the cancer (and therefore also helps avoid repeat surgeries) as well as not removing unnecessary tissue that is not cancerous.

Dogs can help alert us to hidden cancers within and the iKnife can help remove them with greater precision and success.

Hopefully, with G-d’s help, one day we won’t need either anymore. 😉

A Shocking Bra To Stop Attackers

A Shocking Bra To Stop Attackers

In the medieval times, to help ensure fidelity of partners and protect against rape, they invented something called a chastity belt–I am sure you get it.

There is one for women and there is another one fitted for men.

Now in light of the horrible rape attacks in India, 3 female students in India’s SRM University have developed an anti-rape bra that literally shocks attackers.

The bra is called “SHE” (for Society Harnessing Equipment) and unlike the chastity belt of the olden-days, this bra according to Popular Science delivers 3,800 kv to attackers.

Women can activate the bra when they feel unsafe and it is pressure sensitive and is calibrated to be able to differentiate say a hug from something more violent.

The woman is insulated from getting shocked by a polymer lining on the inside.

The bra is also being outfitted so the pressure sensor sends a Bluetooth signal to your smartphone to send text message alerts to family or friends and the police with your GPS location.

I want to end with a quote from one of the students as to their inspiration for this innovative anti-rape bra:

“Studying in a convent girls school, we were always taught to be good to everyone and bear a cheerful smile. After stepping into the real, cruel world, we realized that our smile could not last for long as the threat to our purity and integrity always lingered on…Hence, we have initiated the idea of self-defense, which protect the women from domestic, social and workplace harassment.”

While I hope these students don’t believe that everyone in the world is cruel, I applaud these young women for doing something positive to help protect women worldwide.

I don’t know how practical this anti-rape bra will end up being (i.e. wearing something that produces a dangerous shock), this is a good step in thinking about how to make women less of a target and increase the risk to any would-be attacker. 😉

(Source Photo: adapted from here with attribution to Nicolas Sanguinetti)

When Aliens Come Calling

Alien

This is an out-of-this-world topic that I don’t think I have written about before…ALIENS–no seriously!

MSNBC ran an interview with Seth Shostak, the chairman of the International Academy of Astronautics’ SETI Permanent Study Group (27 June 2012).

SETI is the well-known orgnaization that conducts the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence–they employ 150 scientists, educators and support staff, and their projects have been sponsored by NASA, Department of Energy, U.S. Geological Survey, and many technology companies like HP, Sun, and more.

At SETI, they monitor radio transmissions and telescope observations for signals that “cannot be ascribed to noise.”

According to Shostak, he believes that we will detect alien signals by between 2025 and 2030, although he acknowledges that searching for alien life in the cosmos in like looking for a needle in a haystack, and it “never occurs when you expect them.”

However with advances in technology (specifically computer processing), we will get closer to be able to monitor “all-sky, all the time, all frequencies,” rather than searching a specific star system, for a specific time, at specific frequencies.

The really interesting question posed though is what happens if we actually detect an alien signal?

Apparently, most of the planning, according to Shostak is for the initial protocols for alerting everyone and even then “it takes something on the order of five days” to assess whether it is real or not.

The big concern is that “nobody is in charge” for handling such a global…no, intergalactic event.

And, he says “I don’t think there’s any large-scale effort to prepare humanity.”

Maybe, it’s that we don’t believe or want to believe that this eventuality will ever really occur.

Perhaps, it’s too frightening to think of ourselves as the native Americans being invaded by colonials with superior technology and firepower.

Yet according to a National Geographic survey, more than a third (36%) of people surveyed think aliens exist. And how many more people are afraid to admit it?

Aliens could be a good thing–coming here benevolently to share with us or they could act alien and try to take from us. From our own Earthly experiences, it seems the latter is far more likely.

We have a lot of fingers and weapons pointed at each other all time, I wonder whether we need to spend more time and effort thinking, planning, and preparing for something much more scary and threatening than each other.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chris at Oblong Pictures)

Biosecurity–Where Every Moment Counts

Bioterror

A biological attack on the United States is a most frightening prospect and one that could present an existential threat to us.

Just the very mention of bio-warfare agents such as anthrax, ebola, smallpox, bubonic plague, and others are enough to provoke sheer terror in most people.

BioWatch is a program managed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to monitor for a biological attack.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek (21 June 2012) bio-surveillance is currently conducted in 30 metropolitan areas around the country using 600 air filters to detect pathogens, where samples are collected daily and taken to labs for analysis in what amounts to a 36 hour turnaround to determine if there is a hazard.

A new technology made by Positive ID or Northrop Grumman collects samples four times a day and analyzes it on the spot for bateria, viruses, and toxins, and sends the results to officials by secure network in as little as two hours.

The shorter time to detection will give more time to save lives by getting drugs and vaccines to the field sooner and prevent the spread from person to person.

DHS wants to deploy 2,500 of these new sensors and the bio-attack alert system at a cost of approximately $5.7 billion, if Congress approves.

If this bio-sensing system proves out functionally, then the price tag seems well worth it.

Bioweapons like cyber-attacks can cause widespread panic as well as disruption to our everyday way of life, however a bio-attack has the added feature of making people symptomatic and infecting them with deadly and painful illnesses.

Cyber attacks can infiltrate and take out our critical infrastructure, but biological attacks can directly destroy our physical bodies and the population itself.

A bio-attack and a cyber-attack together could devastate us by attacking us while at the same time inhibiting our ability to deliver medication and quarantine those that are ill and so on.

In addition to grossly improving on our cyber defensive (and offensive) capabilities, we must do everything we can to enhance our biosecurity–this mean upgrading our preparedness for bio-terrorism and bio-warfare using the latest technologies available to sniff out and identify a bio attack and alert us so we can respond timely, while we still can.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to U.S. Department of Defense)