MonthNovember 2009

Recession Sparks Global Shoplifting Spree

The global recession isn’t just making jobs scarce and tightening spending — it’s also turning more people into thieves. According to an annual survey released on Tuesday, incidents of shoplifting rose nearly 6% over the past year, representing nearly $115 billion in losses for businesses. One of the more surprising findings: a growing number of new shoplifters are outwardly reputable, middle-class people who are walking off with French cheeses, quality meats, cosmetics, mobile phones, clothing and other goodies that they feel they need to maintain a quality of life they can no longer afford. […]

Though Bamfield says theft by organized criminals for the purpose of resale remains the biggest segment of shoplifting, there’s been a noticeable increase in the number of middle-class people stuffing their pockets — people who are not “stealing necessities to keep themselves and their families alive,” he adds. Worse still, more than a few of these individuals regard this kind of stealing in the economic crisis as fully justified, as the researchers discovered through interviews with shoplifters and police.

“Though most thieves rationalize their acts, the current situation has many people feeling the entire system is broken, that politicians are too corrupt or inept to fix it, and that there’s nothing wrong with stealing from these big companies and fancy stores that — the thinking goes — are themselves making out like thieves,” Bamfield explains. “There’s a real perception among many new shoplifters that if you work hard, put money away and play the game, you’re asking for someone to come along and rip you off.”

Time: Recession Sparks Global Shoplifting Spree

(via Global Guerrillas)

Somali mobile phone firms thrive despite chaos

Somalia’s mobile phone business is booming despite the almost daily artillery fire that flies over expensive satellite dishes and the violence that has brought misery to the population of the Horn of Africa nation.

The three largest firms, Hormuud Telecom, Nation Link and Telecom Somalia, have a combined 1.8 million mobile users who enjoy some of the world’s cheapest calling rates, allowing them to stay in touch with their loved ones amidst the conflict. […]

With mobile phone use at about 18 percent of the population, Somalia lags its neighbour and east Africa’s largest economy Kenya, where it is above 40 percent, but it is ahead of several other poor African nations.

Reuters: Somali mobile phone firms thrive despite chaos

(via Global Guerillas)

Darpa: Freeze Soldiers to Save Injured Brains

darpa brain freeze

The Pentagon’s mad-science division has a new way to deal with the 70,000+ troops diagnosed with traumatic brain injury: Freeze ‘em.

Darpa, the military’s far-out research arm, is looking for research projects that would create a “therapeutic hypothermia device” to prevent traumatic brain injuries from causing permanent molecular damage to the brain. The idea is based on successful studies that used cortical cooling to treat survivors of strokes and cardiac arrest. According to Darpa’s solicitation, cooling down the brain after trauma can offer “dramatic neuroprotection” that will prevent long-term harm to cognition and motor skills.

So far, Darpa-funded studies suggest that traumatic brain injuries are caused by repeated exposure to blasts, specifically the “supersonic wave” of highly pressurized air they emit. Within a fraction of a second after impact, brain cells, tissues and blood vessels are stretched, torn and distorted. Over the hours, days and months that follow, altered brain processes create a snowball effect of damage — which is why symptoms often don’t show up until troops come home.

Danger Room: Darpa: Freeze Soldiers to Save Injured Brains

Update:Brain-Injured Athletes May Benefit from Hypothermia Research

Robin Hanson on how to be a better contrarian

Robin Hanson, quite the contrarian himself, offers contrarians some advice:

On average, contrarian views are less accurate than standard views. Honest contrarians should admit this, that neutral outsiders should assign most contrarian views a lower probability than standard views, though perhaps a high enough probability to warrant further investigation. […]

He goes on to list a few common but inadequate contrarian defenses and offers critiques of each:

1. They Laughed At Galileo Too
2. Standard Experts Are Biased
3. We’ve More Detail Than Critics
4. Few Who Study Us Disagree

Overcoming Bias: Contrarian Excuses

Cymatics Scientist Says Sound is a Bubble, Not a Wave


John Stuart Reid proposes that sound is not actually a wave, as has been thought for centuries, but a “bubble” and that this is what creates the amazing patterns we see captured with cymatics.
In his article, The Physics of Sound, Reid says that sound has previously been thought to travel as a wave because of the graphical, wave-based representation we have used to capture sound visibly in the past…

“The graphical representation of sound ‘waves’ in the past is why the term ’sound waves’ is used, causing the false impression that sound travels as a wave.”

…but that cymatics allows us to realize that the true form of sound is actually spherical, or bubble-like, in nature.

Journal of Cymatics: Cymatics Scientist Says Sound is a Bubble, Not a Wave

(Thanks Wes!)

Transborder Immigrant Tool Helps Mexicans Cross Over Safely


The hacker/performance art/activist organization Electronic Disturbance Theater has invented a new device, the Transborder Immigrant Tool:

We looked at the Motorola i455 cell phone, which is under $30, available even cheaper on eBay, and includes a free GPS applet. We were able to crack it and create a simple compasslike navigation system. We were also able to add other information, like where to find water left by the Border Angels, where to find Quaker help centers that will wrap your feet, how far you are from the highway—things to make the application really benefit individuals who are crossing the border.

Some background:

In the 80s I was a member of something called the Critical Art Ensemble. We wrote a series of books published in the 90s that speculated on what the future, and computers especially, might bring. Our core speculations were that we would see the emergence of three different arcs of capitalism in the 90s: digital capitalism, genetic capitalism or clone capitalism, and particle capitalism or nano-driven technology. We decided we would speculate not only on the artistic aspect of these emerging capitalisms but also on how we could intervene as artist-activists into each of these areas. We developed the idea of electronic civil disobedience as a way to mediate the emergence of digital capitalism. Some Critical Art Ensemble members have even been arrested for their work. One in particular, Steve Kurtz, was brought before a grand jury in 2004. Homeland Security considered his use of nonpathogenic bacteria in certain museum installations a bioterrorist threat.

Vice: Transborder Immigrant Tool Helps Mexicans Cross Over Safely

(Thanks Josh Ellis)

The Jobless Rate for People Like You

The New York Times has an interesting interactive infographic that let’s you select your race, gender, age, and level of education and see the jobless rate for your category.

For college educated white men between 25 and 44 (like me), the jobless rate is only 3.9%. College educated black men in the same age group, it’s 8.3%.

The Jobless Rate for People Like You

(via Flowing Data, recommended by Erik in the comments of this post)

Brazilian satellite hacking crackdown

Brazilian Federal Police swooped in on 39 suspects in six states in the largest crackdown to date on a growing problem here: illegal hijacking of U.S. military satellite transponders. […]

To use the satellite, pirates typically take an ordinary ham radio transmitter, which operates in the 144- to 148-MHZ range, and add a frequency doubler cobbled from coils and a varactor diode. That lets the radio stretch into the lower end of FLTSATCOM’s 292- to 317-MHz uplink range. All the gear can be bought near any truck stop for less than $500. Ads on specialized websites offer to perform the conversion for less than $100. Taught the ropes, even rough electricians can make Bolinha-ware.

“I saw it more than once in truck repair shops,” says amateur radio operator Adinei Brochi (PY2ADN) “Nearly illiterate men rigged a radio in less than one minute, rolling wire on a coil.”

Wired: The Great Brazilian Sat-Hack Crackdown

(via Global Guerrillas)

Get Ready for Printed Electronics

We were all quite impressed when the RepRap printer managed to reproduce itself some months ago. But in fact the reproduction was only of its structural members, whereas the metal bits and electronics were not actually reproduced. No worries, it will eventually happen. […]

Xerox has invented a new type of “Silver Ink”, purportedly for 2D inkjet-style printing. However, we suspect this might also be ideal for 3D printers.

Fabbaloo: Get Ready for Printed Electronics

(via Global Guerillas)

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