Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for January 23rd, 2009

Downadup worm now infects 1 in every 16 PCs, says Panda Security

Posted by Anonymous on January 23, 2009

Here is a removal tool from Symantec in case you are already infected. If you use Windows here is info on prevention that works: http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/techalerts/TA09-020A.html

http://www.innovations-report.de/bilder_neu/5009_virengalerie_illus_worm.jpgScans show 6% of PCs already hit with worm; figure may be as high as 30%
January 21, 2009 (Computerworld) The computer worm responsible for the biggest attack in years has infected at least one out of every 16 PCs worldwide, a security company said today, and it may have managed to compromise as many as nearly one in three.

According to Panda Security, almost 6% of the Windows systems scanned with its antivirus technology were found to be infected with “Downadup,” a worm that began aggressive attacks just over a week ago. Panda was one of the first security firms to sound an alarm over Downadup when it raised its security threat level on Jan. 12 as reports of attacks mounted.

… On a related note, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) today said that Microsoft‘s advice for disabling Windows’ “Autorun” feature is flawed and leaves users open to attack from the worm. – compworld

The worm that’s infected millions of Windows PCs is a “very well-engineered” piece of malware, according to one security expert. But researchers still have no clear idea what the hackers plan to do with the collection of computers they’ve compromised with “Downadup.”

“This is a very well-engineered piece of software,” said Alfred Huger, vice president of development at Symantec Corp.’s security response group. “It’s very well thought out. Whoever wrote it, it’s not their first time writing malware. It looks as if the author has had a great deal of experience writing software, and is fully versed in writing network-level code.”

Downadup, also called “Conficker,” has infected an estimated 6% of PCs worldwide. The worm spreads by exploiting a four-month-old vulnerability in Windows, by brute-force password attacks and by hitchhiking on USB devices like flash drives.

Huger was impressed by the technical chops of Downadup’s maker, or makers. “The worm itself is very complex,” he said. “At the byte level, it implements [things] in some novel ways.” Compared to most malware, which Huger said is “written off the cuff,” Downadup is downright elegant.

And effective. Most researchers, including those at Symantec, have said the worm is the most invasive seen in the last six years. “At a basic level, it tends to perform well, and that’s helped it spread,” said Huger.

But much more than hacker craft made Downadup a success, Huger maintained. Other elements, including timing, the countries at the top of the attack list and even software piracy rates contributed.

“They put this together in a very brief period of time,” Huger said, referring to the spotting of the worm’s first variant just three weeks after Microsoft issued an emergency patch.

via Researchers wait for Downadup worm’s second act.

Posted in Technology | Leave a Comment »

Suspected U.S. missile strike kills 10 in Pakistan

Posted by Anonymous on January 23, 2009

Suspected U.S. missile attacks kill 18 in PakistanIn the first such strikes since the inauguration of President Barack Obama, suspected U.S. missile barrages today killed at least 18 people in the lawless tribal region near the Afghan border, Pakistani officials said.

The two raids suggested that the new U.S. Pakistan protestadministration intends to press ahead with attacks against Islamic militants in the rural areas, even though the campaign has been politically costly to Pakistan’s Western-leaning civilian government. President Obama indicated during the campaign for the White House that he would continue to carry out strikes against “high-value” Al Qaeda and Taliban targets on Pakistani soil, particularly if the Pakistani military were unable or unwilling to act. That declaration ruffled some feathers in Pakistan, where the U.S. raids are extremely unpopular.Although Pakistani leaders have repeatedly lodged formal diplomatic objections to the American airstrikes, the government is widely believed to have given tacit permission to U.S. forces to carry out such raids — as long as they do not involve sending ground forces into Pakistani territory. …

'Reaper' moniker given to MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicleThe first of today’s attacks took place in the North Waziristan village of Zharki, with missiles striking at least two structures, according to security officials. A short time later, a separate strike was reported in South Waziristan. The American military in Afghanistan refused any comment on the raids, but U.S. forces are known to operate unmanned Predator drones from bases on the Afghan side of the border, together with newer Reaper aircraft.

In a sign of simmering antigovernment and antiAmerican sentiment, hundreds of people staged a demonstration here today, demanding a severing of ties with the United States. …

via Pakistan: Suspected U.S. missile strike kills 10 in Pakistan – Los Angeles Times.

I hope the information about kids being killed is false. Sting said it, “Murder is the sport of the elected. You don’t need to raise a finger of your hand.” With all of our technology, we need more humane weapons. Put them to sleep with knock out gas, then put their bodies in balloons with robots and float them into prison. That way we don’t end up killing kids.

US Air Force unmanned predator aerial vehicle with a hellfire missile attachedPresident Obama ‘orders Pakistan drone attacks’
Missiles fired from suspected US drones killed at least 15 people inside Pakistan today, the first such strikes since Barack Obama became president and a clear sign that the controversial military policy begun by George W Bush has not changed.

Security officials said the strikes, which saw up to five missiles slam into houses in separate villages, killed seven “foreigners” – a term that usually means al-Qaeda – but locals also said that three children lost their lives.

Dozens of similar strikes since August on northwest Pakistan, a hotbed of Taleban and al-Qaeda militancy, have sparked angry government criticism of the US, which is targeting the area with missiles launched from unmanned CIA aircraft controlled from operation rooms inside the US. – timesonline

Posted in Politics, War | 1 Comment »

‘Flying Car’ Goes to Market

Posted by Anonymous on January 23, 2009

Illustration of Flying CarA Boston-area company plans to begin flight tests this year of a two-seater airplane that moonlights as a car.

The aptly named Transition takes a stab at bridging the gap between automobiles and airplanes. Some people call it a flying car. The company designing and selling the vehicle prefers the term “roadable aircraft.”

Either way, it boils down to this: You sit down behind the steering wheel, drive to the runway, unfold two wings and take off. You can fly 500 miles on a tank of gas — regular unleaded — and when you land, you simply fold up the wings and drive where you want to go. At the end of the day, you fly back, drive home and park inside your garage.

Terrafugia, of Woburn, Mass., is not the first firm to attempt what may be the ultimate hybrid. …

A company called Aerocar of Longview, Wash., debuted one of the first flying cars in 1949. The company built six prototypes, one of which is sitting in the EAA’s museum, but never went into production.

Terrafugia, founded in 2006 by a group of MIT students, has taken deposits for more than 40 Transitions and plans to begin deliveries in 2010, said Richard Gersh, vice president of business development.

The vehicles sell for $194,000.

Advances in materials and propulsion technologies are among the reasons why Terrafugia is in position for commercial success. But equally important, says Knapinski, is an easing of government regulations on private aircraft and pilot licensing….

via ‘Flying Car’ Goes to Market : Discovery News.

The next time you find yourself with a spare $200,000 …

Posted in Technology, Travel | Leave a Comment »

Nigerian police detain goat over armed robbery + Biological root of superstition

Posted by Anonymous on January 23, 2009

Police in Nigeria are holding a goat on suspicion of attempted armed robbery.

Vigilantes took the black and white beast to the police saying it was an armed robber who had used black magic to transform himself into a goat to escape arrest after trying to steal a Mazda 323.

“The group of vigilante men came to report that while they were on patrol they saw some hoodlums attempting to rob a car. They pursued them. However one of them escaped while the other turned into a goat,” Kwara state police spokesman Tunde Mohammed told Reuters by telephone.

“We cannot confirm the story, but the goat is in our custody. We cannot base our information on something mystical. It is something that has to be proved scientifically, that a human being turned into a goat,” he said.

Belief in witchcraft is widespread in parts of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. Residents came to the police station to see the goat, photographed in one national newspaper on its knees next to a pile of straw.

via Nigerian police detain goat over armed robbery – Yahoo! News.

Explanation, we evolved to be superstitious.

Superstitions often seem irrational, even stupid, but they a widespread and pervasive part of human life. Why is this?

Using a mathematical model, we investigated whether superstitious behaviours are a predicted product of evolution by natural selection.

The results are clear: superstitions are a part of adaptive behaviour in all organisms as they attempt to make sense of an uncertain world. Humans are heavily affected by culture as well as evolution.

Nevertheless, our analysis suggests that cultural effects are shaped by an evolved tendency to readily associate events, so readily that individuals often make superstitious mistakes. … – medicalnews

One interpretation is that evolution, ironically, created religion.

Posted in Strange | Leave a Comment »

Gold Can Get Harder, Not Softer, When Heated To High Temperatures

Posted by Anonymous on January 23, 2009

Common sense tells us that when you heat something up it gets softer, but a team of researchers, led by University of Toronto chemistry and physics professor R.J. Dwayne Miller, has demonstrated the exact opposite. Their findings will be published online in the journal Science on January 22.

“It is counter-intuitive but the gold got harder instead of softer,” says Miller. Can you imagine a blacksmith heating up gold to pound it thinner, only to find it got harder? But we heated the gold at terrific heating rates – greater than 1 billion million degrees per second – that approach the temperature of the interior of stars.”

The gold was heated at rates too fast for the electrons absorbing the light energy to collide with surrounding atoms and lose energy,” he explains. “This means the electrons are on average further away from the atomic nucleus and there is less screening of the positive nuclear charge by these heated electrons. The bonds between atoms actually got stronger.

“A gold crystal consists of gold ions and weakly bound electrons which screen the repulsive forces between the ions,” explains lead author Ralph Ernstorfer, a former postdoctoral research fellow with Prof. Miller, who is now at the Max-Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching and the TU Munich, Germany. As a result, there are attractive forces between ions. In contrast to many other materials, heating the electrons in gold with an ultrashort laser pulse makes the forces between the ions stronger, resulting in a harder lattice with an increased melting point.

“The effect of bond hardening in gold has been theoretically predicted. Now we have actually observed it for the first time,” says Ernstorfer.

via Gold Can Get Harder, Not Softer, When Heated To High Temperatures.

What would a large gold crystal look like?

Posted in Physics | Leave a Comment »

Wife murdered for Facebook status

Posted by Anonymous on January 23, 2009

Edward Richardson Sarah RichardsonA man murdered his estranged wife after becoming “enraged” when she changed her marital status on Facebook to “single”.

Edward Richardson, 41, of Mayfield Road, Biddulph, was found guilty of stabbing Sarah Richardson to death.

He killed the 26-year-old hairdresser at her parents’ home in Brown Lees, Staffordshire, on 12 May, 2008, Stafford Crown Court heard.

Richardson tried to kill himself after the attack and was sentenced to life with a minimum of 17 years in prison.

Fiona Cortese, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Richardson became enraged when Sarah changed her marital status on Facebook to single and decided to go and see her as she was not responding to his messages.

via BBC NEWS | UK | England | Staffordshire | Wife murdered for Facebook status.

So sick and sad. A female friend of mine told me a boyfriend made a big deal over her Facebook status.

Posted in Popular Culture, Strange, Technology | 2 Comments »

‘Warrior Gene’ Predicts Aggressive Behavior After Provocation

Posted by Anonymous on January 23, 2009

Individuals with the so-called “warrior gene” display higher levels of aggression in response to provocation, according to new research co-authored by Rose McDermott, professor of political science at Brown University. In the experiment, which is the first to examine a behavioral measure of aggression in response to provocation, subjects were asked to cause physical pain to an opponent they believed had taken money from them by administering varying amounts of hot sauce.The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Monoamine oxidase A is an enzyme that breaks down important neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. The enzyme is regulated by monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA). Humans have various forms of the gene, resulting in different levels of enzymatic activity. People with the low-activity form (MAOA-L) produce less of the enzyme, while the high-activity form (MAOA-H) produces more of the enzyme.

Several studies have found a correlation between the low-activity form of MAOA and aggression in observational and survey-based studies. Only about a third of people in Western populations have the low-activity form of MAOA. By comparison, low-activity MAOA has been reported to be much more frequent (approaching two-thirds of people) in some populations that had a history of warfare. This led to a controversy over MAOA being dubbed the “warrior gene.”

The PNAS paper is the first experimental test of whether MAOA-L individuals display higher levels of actual behavioral aggression in response to provocation

… The results support previous research suggesting that MAOA influences aggressive behavior, with potentially important implications for interpersonal aggression, violence, political decision-making, and crime.

via ‘Warrior Gene’ Predicts Aggressive Behavior After Provocation.

I know some people with that gene.

Posted in Biology, Mind | Leave a Comment »

Mysterious Rumble Vexes Sequoyah County – Local News Story – KHBS NW Arkansas

Posted by Anonymous on January 23, 2009

The Sequoyah County Sheriff’s Office has been flooded with over a hundred calls since Tuesday. Residents from Tenkiller Lake to Roland have described hearing a mysterious blasting sound followed by a slight vibration everyday at noon.

They also said the vibration is causing the windows and pictures to shake. Ron Lockhart, the Sequoyah County Sheriff, said the department has checked with every mining company in the county but none have reported any blasting.

The sheriff’s department has also looked into the possibility of earthquakes or tremors. The U.S. Geological Survey has reported activity in Sequoyah County but does not believe it to be seismic.

via Mysterious Rumble Vexes Sequoyah County – Local News Story – KHBS NW Arkansas.

What’s your guess? Broken water pipe? Giant burrowing worm? Nuclear subterrene? Demons?

Posted in Earth, Strange | 1 Comment »

New Species of Climbing Fish from Remote Venezuela Shakes the Catfish Family Tree

Posted by Anonymous on January 23, 2009

A new species of fish from tropical South America is confirming suspected roots to the loricariid catfish family tree. Lithogenes wahari shares traits with two different families of fish: the bony armor that protects its head and tail, and a grasping pelvic fin that allows it to climb vertical surfaces.

The discovery of both of these characteristics in Lithogenes suggests to ichthyologists Scott Schaefer of the American Museum of Natural History and Francisco Provenzano of the Universidad Central de Venezuela that the common ancestor of the Loricariidae and Astroblepidae probably could grasp and climb rocks with its tail and mouth.

The unusual catfish caught the team’s attention twenty years ago in Caracas. An anthropologist working in the remote state of Amazonas collected samples of local foods and brought them to the Instituto de Zoologíca for identification.

“The fish was so strange in morphology that it did not fit into any taxonomic category that we were aware of,” recalls Schaefer, a curator in the Division of Vertebrate Zoology at the Museum.

via Fish Out Of Water: New Species of Climbing Fish from Remote Venezuela Shakes the Catfish Family Tree.

It would be stranger if they used their clasping pelvic fins to climb trees and if they then lept back into the water in large groups while croaking, “Snorp!”

Posted in Biology | Leave a Comment »

Dog-gone-it! Man Loses Dog, River Swallows Car

Posted by Anonymous on January 23, 2009

A man driven to find his lost dog also lost his car after he drove onto the frozen Black River in St. Clair County, locked himself out of the idling vehicle, then watched as heat from the 1994 Buick’s exhaust pipe melted the ice beneath it.

WPHM-AM, the Detroit Free Press and the Times Herald in Port Huron reported that a police dive team were expected Wednesday to help pull the car from the frigid river off Port Huron Township, about 55 miles northeast of Detroit.

The newspapers said the Buick was a loaner while the man’s vehicle is being repaired at a collision shop.

via Dog-gone-it! Man Loses Dog, River Swallows Car, Dog-gone-it! Mich. Man Searches For Lost Dog On Frozen River, Then Melting River Swallows Car – CBS News.

I hope he writes a Country song about it and gets rich and famous. He needs a break.

Posted in Strange | Leave a Comment »


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