Archive for Alan

Mysterious Void Discovered in Egypt’s Great Pyramid

Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza—one of the wonders of the ancient world, and a dazzling feat of architectural genius—contains a hidden void at least a hundred feet long, scientists announced on Thursday.

The space’s dimensions resemble those of the pyramid’s Grand Gallery, the 153-foot-long, 26-foot-tall corridor that leads to the burial chamber of Khufu, the pharaoh for whom the pyramid was built.

However, it remains unclear what lies within the space, what purpose it served, or if it’s one or multiple spaces.

The void is the first large inner structure discovered within the 4,500-year-old pyramid since the 1800s—a find made possible by recent advances in high-energy particle physics. The results were published in the journal Nature.

“This is definitely the discovery of the century,” says archaeologist and Egyptologist Yukinori Kawae, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. “There have been many hypotheses about the pyramid, but no one even imagined that such a big void is located above the Grand Gallery.”

Source: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/11/great-pyramid-giza-void-discovered-khufu-archaeology-science/

Charting Hacker Hangouts From BBS To Slack

Where have all the grey hat hacker forums gone?

Grey hats were always a valuable part of the hacker community. They may sometimes cross ethical lines, but unlike black hats they’re in it to learn, not to make money. A black hat might intend to steal credit cards and resell them online. A grey hat is just interested in smart new ways to gain network access.

Back in the day, before you could buy Hacking for Dummies at your local Indigo store, even basic hacking knowledge was a valuable commodity. There were places online, where grey hats would hang out and trade it. They were forums dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, where the more advanced would mentor newcomers in the finer arts of system manipulation. They were places like The Works BBS.

The Works was a bulletin board system that started purely as an exchange board for text files, but which eventually allowed tech enthusiasts to talk to each other. It was here that Chris Wysopal, SecTor speaker and co-founder of l0pht, met his crew.

“I met the soon to be l0pht people there and cDC [Cult of the Dead Cow] folks there. It was a real community.  It morphed into the 2600 meetup community where we would meet up once a month in Cambridge, then later Boston,” he says.

Early hacker BBSs had their faults. They only had so many connections, meaning that participants might find themselves dialing a telephone number several times as they competed for time on a host machine. Despite that, the BBS movement had its cultural advantages.

“The early hacking BBSs were more of a tight-knit community because they were area code-based,” says Wysopal. “It cost money to make long-distance calls, but most people had unlimited plans for local numbers. “Phreakers could call long distance for free, but they still would hang out at a local BBS with their community. People used to call their neck of hackerdom by the area code.  I was a 617er.  NYC folks were 212s.  A famous early band of hackers was the 414s.”

Brian Bourne, co-founder of SecTor, spent a lot of time on BBSs in the early days. They were often invitation-only, and were therefore a haven for grey hats eager to exchange ideas, he says. Then, there was Internet Relay Chat (IRC).

“Law enforcement had no idea what a BBS was, never mind IRC!  So even though IRC channels were a bit harder to police membership and keep unknown folks out, we would share ideas with impunity,” he says.

Full article at source: https://sector.ca/charting-hacker-hangouts-from-bbs-to-slack/

‘The nail in the coffin’: Russia’s top cyber-firm may have made a ‘catastrophic’ mistake

Investigators believe that software from Russia’s top cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Lab, was involved in a theft of top secret National Security Agency intelligence outlining how the US hacks its adversaries, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

And depending on what was stolen, the breach could spell catastrophe for the company.

According to the Journal, an NSA contractor stole and downloaded onto his personal computer highly classified details about how the US penetrates foreign computer networks and defends itself against cyberattacks. (The Washington Post reported the person was not a contractor, but an employee working for the NSA’s elite hacking division known as Tailored Access Operations.)

Russian hackers then stole that intelligence by exploiting the Kaspersky antivirus software the contractor had been running on his computer.

The breach wasn’t discovered until spring 2016, according to the Journal and The Washington Post — nearly one year after the hackers are believed to have gained access to the intelligence.

Kaspersky has denied any involvement in the theft, and it is unclear whether the hackers stole code or documents from the contractor. The latter would prove far more damning for Kaspersky, experts say, especially as it stands accused by the US government of being a tool of the Kremlin.

“Ultimately, this will come down to what was stolen from the computer,” said David Kennedy, a former NSA intelligence analyst who founded the cybersecurity firm TrustedSec.

Source: http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/the-nail-in-the-coffin-russias-top-cyber-firm-may-have-made-a-catastrophic-mistake/ar-AAsZZZY

Mathematical secrets of ancient tablet unlocked after nearly a century of study

The tablet could have been used in surveying, and in calculating how to construct temples, palaces and pyramids.

At least 1,000 years before the Greek mathematician Pythagoras looked at a right angled triangle and worked out that the square of the longest side is always equal to the sum of the squares of the other two, an unknown Babylonian genius took a clay tablet and a reed pen and marked out not just the same theorem, but a series of trigonometry tables which scientists claim are more accurate than any available today.

The 3,700-year-old broken clay tablet survives in the collections of Columbia University, and scientists now believe they have cracked its secrets.

The team from the University of New South Wales in Sydney believe that the four columns and 15 rows of cuneiform – wedge shaped indentations made in the wet clay – represent the world’s oldest and most accurate working trigonometric table, a working tool which could have been used in surveying, and in calculating how to construct temples, palaces and pyramids.

The fabled sophistication of Babylonian architecture and engineering is borne out by excavation. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, believed by some archaeologists to have been a planted step pyramid with a complex artificial watering system, was written of by Greek historians as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Daniel Mansfield, of the university’s school of mathematics and statistics, described the tablet which may unlock some of their methods as “a fascinating mathematical work that demonstrates undoubted genius” – with potential modern application because the base 60 used in calculations by the Babylonians permitted many more accurate fractions than the contemporary base 10.

Read more: Mathematical secrets of ancient tablet unlocked after nearly a century of study

The Story of NESticle, the Ambitious Emulator That Redefined Retro Gaming

The product of a talented programmer who designed a hit shareware game while he was still in high school, NESticle was so good that everyone looked past the fact its name was basically a dick joke.

The second stage of the Nintendo Entertainment System’s long lifespan started in earnest on April 3, 1997.

By that time, Nintendo had already moved on to 3D gaming with Super Mario 64. But an army of game fans, largely teens and college students who had been young children when the NES first came out in the early 1980s, were setting the stage for its legacy.

One of those fans, a programmer from Kansas with an offbeat sense of humor and an unmissable skillset, released a PC emulator for the NES—a reverse-engineered software version of the hardware platform. Called “NESticle,” its Windows icon was, quite literally and indelicately, a pair of testicles.

NESticle, nonetheless, did something amazing: It allowed people to play old Nintendo games on cheap computers made by Packard Bell and other firms, and did so while introducing a number of fundamental new ways to appreciate those games. Divorced from Nintendo’s famously draconian licensing strategy, it introduced new ways of thinking about well-tread video games.

Would we have the retro-friendly gaming culture that we do today without its existence? Maybe, but it’s possible it might not be quite so vibrant.

This is the story of how NESticle helped turn retro gaming into a modern cultural force.

Icer Addis was named Wichita High School Southeast’s Class of 1994 most likely graduate to become a millionaire. He had shown some early signs of brilliance by making PC games with his friend Ethan Petty. By the time he graduated from high school, their company, Bloodlust Software, was riding a wave of success during the shareware era. Their first hit, Executioners, a crude-but-funny beat-’em-up game in the Final Fight mold, was full of visual jokes, some of them featuring Addis and Petty, the game’s visual artist.

read more: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/the-story-of-nesticle-the-ambitious-emulator-that-redefined-retro-gaming

Ancient stone carvings confirm how comet struck Earth in 10,950BC, sparking the rise of civilisations

Ancient stone carvings confirm that a comet struck the Earth around 11,000BC, a devastating event which wiped out woolly mammoths and sparked the rise of civilisations.

Experts at the University of Edinburgh analysed mysterious symbols carved onto stone pillars at Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey, to find out if they could be linked to constellations.

The markings suggest that a swarm of comet fragments hit Earth at the exact same time that a mini-ice age struck, changing the entire course of human history.

Scientists have speculated for decades that a comet could be behind the sudden fall in temperature during a period known as the Younger Dryas. But recently the theory appeared to have been debunked by new dating of meteor craters in North America where the comet is thought to have struck.

However, when engineers studied animal carvings made on a pillar – known as the vulture stone – at Gobekli Tepe they discovered that the creatures were actually astronomical symbols which represented constellations and the comet.

The idea had been originally put forward by author Graham Hancock in his book Magicians of the Gods.

Source: Ancient stone carvings confirm how comet struck Earth in 10,950BC, sparking the rise of civilisations

New Evidence Links a 20-Year-Old Hack on the US Government to a Modern Attack Group

The artifacts they found on Hedges’ server provide an interesting look at the group’s early operations, showing how they improved their code and methods over time, if indeed they are the group now known as Turla.

“It’s almost like archaeology; you can see the evolution of tradecraft,” Rid told Motherboard. “There was a lot of handiwork involved. They didn’t really use automated command-and-control at the time; they actually had to log in and move data around [manually].”

The Moonlight Maze group stripped away components that didn’t work and combined tools that did to make them more potent. And unlike modern hacking operations that use a lot of automated scripts, the Moonlight Maze operators did everything in real time. They would log-in to Hedges’ server in the morning and manually set up tasks to tell their malware what to do, which got populated out to all the infected machines on DoD and government networks that they controlled.

“This is hacking in the 90s, so it looks very different from what we’re used to in modern operations,” Guerrero-Saade said.

Source: New Evidence Links a 20-Year-Old Hack on the US Government to a Modern Attack Group – Motherboard

Astronomers to peer into a black hole for first time with new Event Horizon Telescope

On April 5-14 2017, the team behind the Event Horizon Telescope hopes to test the fundamental theories of black-hole physics by attempting to take the first ever image of a black hole’s event horizon (the point at which theory predicts nothing can escape). By connecting a global array of radio telescopes together to form the equivalent of a giant Earth-sized telescope – using a technique known as Very Long Baseline Interferometry and Earth-aperture synthesis – scientists will peer into the heart of our Milky Way galaxy where a black hole that is 4m times more massive than our sun – Sagittarius A* – lurks.

Source: Astronomers to peer into a black hole for first time with new Event Horizon Telescope

US Navy test fires futuristic railgun

The US Navy has revealed a video of the first commissioning tests of a railgun, a futuristic weapon that many people hope could shift the balance of power in naval warfare away from aircraft carriers and back to surface warships.

The Navy has been pursuing the railgun for years, but the project has been hamstrung by the sheer amount of power required to make it work, measured in megajoules of electricity.

UK-based BAE Systems appears to have made an operational railgun, however, and test fired it at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia in November 2016. A short video of that test was made public by the Office of Naval Research on Tuesday.

The railgun is designed around the principle of launching a metal projectile using a series of magnetic coils, rather than chemical propellant. Because of this, it is also known as the coilgun or Gauss rifle, after the German mathematician credited with discovering the concept in the 19th century.

BAE Systems tested a 32-joule half-power prototype at Dahlgren in 2013. The full-power version was scheduled for testing in mid-2016 aboard the USNS Trenton, a Spearhead-class expeditionary transport, but the schedule was pushed back to mid-2017 without an explanation.

Popular Mechanics has speculated that the railgun might end up being installed on board one of the three ships in the Zumwalt class, the experimental super-destroyer with a power plant strong enough to operate the weapon. The recently commissioned USS Zumwalt has been experiencing difficulties with its 155mm Advanced Gun Systems, designed around the projectiles that cost around $800,000 apiece.

Source: https://www.rt.com/usa/381901-navy-railgun-dahlgren-test/

 

North Korea sabre-rattling, again

In a remarkable statement last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that “the political and diplomatic efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to the point of denuclearization have failed.” Shortly afterward, in response to joint military exercises being conducted by the United States and South Korea, the North Korean government held a news conference and declared that “the situation is already on the brink of nuclear war.”

The threat of nuclear war, mostly background noise for the past 25 years, is alarming. But given the uniqueness of North Korea’s position in the world, it’s worth wondering how concerned we should actually be.

To answer that question, we need to first identify the “we” we’re talking about. If that “we” includes South Koreans, the answer is: Quite a bit.

The South Korea problem

The North Korean capital, Pyongyang, is about 120 miles from the South Korean capital, Seoul, home to 10 million people. That’s within easy striking range of North Korea’s existing arsenal of missiles, which is a key reason that the United States recently began deploying a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, in South Korea, aimed at intercepting an incoming attack. Whether those missiles could carry an atomic or hydrogen bomb is another question, one we’ll get to in a moment.

Of course, the proximity of North and South Korea means that there is a large risk from conventional weapons, as well. There are artillery already at the North Korean border that could strike Seoul, although it’s not clear how much damage would result.

The threat of a missile hitting the U.S.

If the “we” is the “we” most likely to read this article — residents of the United States — the calculus is a bit different.

Excluding American forces in South Korea (about 25,000 of them), the greatest threat faced by the United States is of nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Raising three questions: Does it have nuclear weapons? Are those weapons small enough to fit on a missile? And does North Korea have a missile that could reach the United States?

The answer to the first question is yes, the North Koreans have repeatedly tested some form of nuclear device. In September, North Korea tested a bomb with an estimated yield of 10 to 20 kilotons — about the yield of the bomb that struck Hiroshima during World War II. That can do a lot of damage, but it pales in comparison with the sort of warhead currently in U.S. or Russian arsenals.

At the time of that test, the North Koreans also claimed to have developed a weapon small enough to fit onto a missile, though this can be hard to verify. In February, the country released a photo showing a relatively small bomb that expert analysis figured might yield 20 kilotons and could be small enough to fit on a missile — if the photo actually depicted a working device.

The broader question, and the most easily verified, is whether any North Korean missiles could reach the United States. North Korea unquestionably has missiles capable of traveling long distances, and in February 2016, it launched a satellite into space. (That satellite wasn’t deployed properly and soon began to tumble uncontrollably in orbit, suggesting that North Korea’s capabilities were not yet refined.)

To strike the United States, though, the country would need a missile that could travel for thousands of miles, requiring a very specific type of missile.

The Federation of American Scientists catalogues the missiles that North Korea has in its arsenal and those it hopes to add. To strike Alaska, it would need a long-range ICBM that could travel 7,000 kilometers, or about 4,300 miles. To hit the continental United States, it would need a full-range ICBM, which can range from 8,000 to 12,000 kilometers, or 5,000 to about 7,500 miles. The missiles that are under development in North Korea are of the Taepodong-2 variety. If launched from the Sohae launching station in the northwest corner of the country, nearly all of the United States would conceivably be within range, with the exception of southern Florida.

On Saturday, North Korea announced that it had tested a rocket engine of “historic significance” — perhaps a liquid-fueled rocket that could serve as the second-stage of a full-range ICBM.

But there’s no indication at this point that North Korea has such a device prepared — much less a missile that could reliably deliver a nuclear weapon at that distance with accuracy. While North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said last year that his regime had “entered the final stage of preparation for the test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile,” there are a lot of parts that need to work together flawlessly to be effective: the stages of the missile, the bomb itself.

That said, during World War II, the Japanese launched balloon-based bombs that they hoped would reach the U.S. mainland. Some did, killing six people in Oregon. Point being that even if there are low odds of a lot of things working perfectly, sometimes they can. In 2015, Adm. Bill Gortney told reporters that it was not likely that North Korea could strike the United States but that it was “prudent” to assume that it might be able to.

Source: What to worry about when you worry about North Korea – The Washington Post

The US Military Will Usher in a Widespread Use of Laser Weapons in the 2020s

Lasers have been a mainstay of sci-fi battles for decades. But making them practical for the battlefield has proven difficult. Now, private contractors and government agencies have developed weapons systems that are making science fiction a reality. This was made evident when Lockheed Martin and the US Army recently announced, a successful test of a 60-kilowatt (kW) laser. This one was twice as powerful as one they assessed in 2015.

The weapon itself is a combined fiber laser, which means it doesn’t actually fire one but two lasers condensed into one beam, making it stronger. It uses fiber optics bundled together where each contributes energy to the beam, making the process scalable. The particular laser tested however was “diffraction-limited,” meaning it was close to the place where the beam could no longer be concentrated on a fixed point.

Most military lasers today are too big and need too much power. New designs are blowing these models away. Getty Images.

The beam is actually invisible and as with most lasers, silent. Not only that, it’s proved extremely accurate and efficient. 43% of the overall power goes to the laser, allowing the rest to go to the truck. Robert Afzal is a senior fellow for laser and sensor systems at Lockheed Martin. He told The Washington Post, “We’re really at the dawn of an era of the utility of laser weapons.”

The system will soon be delivered to the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (USASMDC/ARSTRAT), in Huntsville, Alabama, where it will undergo further testing. Initially, the system reached 58 kW, a record. But Lockheed officials assured it will produce a 60 kW beam by the time it’s ready, sometime in the next few months.

SMDC spokesman John Cummings said, “Our ultimate goal is to have a 100kW laser on a vehicle.” He added, “We have to take baby steps to get there.” Besides trucks, such lasers could be mounted on planes, helicopters, and ships.

The US Air Force and DARPA are even working on laser shielding. That’s right. Force fields.

Source: The US Military Will Usher in a Widespread Use of Laser Weapons in the 2020s | Big Think

Dogma/Belief

(This was written in 2013 on another blog and just rediscovered again.)

One of the most enlightening stories ever told was the one about the three blind men who examined the elephant—one feeling the tail and saying, “An elephant is like a rope”; another feeling the leg and saying, “It is like a tree,” while the third felt the trunk and said, “It is like a large snake.”

Many people with two good eyes are blinder than the blind. They come upon a religion or science and grasp a portion of it without making a complete circuit of study and inspection. If it is the tail of it they chance to grasp, that becomes for them the only part that is worth grasping, and neither flood nor fire can make them let go and move to examine the leg or the trunk. None are so blind as those who refuse to see.

A matter of supreme importance in learning to know ourselves is to try to open the eyes of the mind to examine our convictions. We must learn whether or not these stubborn ideas are something which we have grasped blindly and at random before a complete examination was made of the matter involved.

I’ve come to the point where I no longer carry beliefs or speak in certainties. I only have suspicions and curiosities. I travel every avenue and explore every path. A multifaceted mindset as open as an inquisitive child’s imagination. I am not ashamed or afraid to say “I do not know.” To have the mysterious unknown fill me with its infinite and timeless wisdom.

Massive Ancient Statue Discovered Submerged In Mud In Cairo

Archaeologists suspect that the damaged statue, more than 25 feet tall, depicts Ramses II — aka Ozymandias. One of English literature’s most famous poems describes a broken, forgotten statue of him.

Source: Massive Ancient Statue Discovered Submerged In Mud In Cairo : The Two-Way : NPR