Everything we do is traceable – school is no different.
Students sometimes wonder – can they (the school administration) see what web pages I’m seeing?
The short answer is that yes, Penn Manor does watch what you do online. But it isn’t like Big Brother, more like a vigilant parent.
“I trust that the students will behave in a professional manner on the school computers,” said Technology Director Charlie Reisinger, “but sometimes they don’t and that is why we have the protocols that we do.”
Penn Manor has a variety of ways to track the web history of the users online, the primary one being the use of an agility filter.
An agility filter not only tracks an individual’s web history (and can see the pages being viewed), but also can learn from the user’s web habits.
For example, if a number of people in a class period were to search for the web game “MAX Dirt Bike 2” and play that game on the same site, then the filter flags it as a game site and therefore inappropriate for the settings that the school has set. If enough people go on that website, then the filter will notice this and block it so no more users can visit it.
The “BLOCKED” message is just a part of life for some students, but others see it only occasionally.
“I see it about one time for every six pages that I view,” said sophomore Chris Cuascut, “whenever I do research, I see it at least once.”
“I get it only once in a while,” said another student, “last year it only happened one time, when I was working on a school project.”
The teachers are supplied with special override codes so they can access Youtube or similar sites for educational reasons. Students are encouraged, however, to use other video sites like TeacherTube.com if they need to find a certain educational video. According to Reisinger, the general expectation is that students keep within the acceptable bounds and most do.
“But what inevitably happens is that someone goes on Youtube and watches music videos all day, which have nothing to do with school,” said Reisinger, “and that hogs bandwidth, slowing everyone else down.”
Which is the reason that the school has blockers. Instances of students actually searching for things like pornography or bomb making are very rare, but the danger is always there.
Another fact to consider is that game and video sites take up much more broadband than other, more educational websites. So when you complain about the computers being so slow, look around you. Chances are there’s someone playing Interactive Buddy.
Penn Manor High School’s internet comes from a combination of Comcast and an agreement with Millersville University.
Don’t worry about the school knowing your passwords, however. The software does not keep track of what you type, only what is on your screen.
That’s part of the reason that many websites replace the characters that you type into a password box with asterisks or small circles – so anyone who happens to be looking over your shoulder (or a system administrator) can’t get into your bank account.
There are other ways to find out a password – like a keylogger. A keylogger is a piece of software or hardware that logs the keystrokes a user is typing, so that a third party, like the CEO of a company, can keep track of what their employees are doing. Of course, there are darker aspects of this, like a hacker trying to obtain vital information like passwords or your social security number.
This is why it is unsafe for a user to use the same password for multiple websites – like using the same password for Facebook, Twitter, and your bank account. If an identity thief knows this one password, they can get into all of your accounts.
Even though students are not meant to be on any site that does not have to do with their education, the school has no interest in hacking their students’ Facebook or email accounts when they do visit those sites.
Websites that require a user to login like Facebook, Twitter, or even The Washington Post use something called cookies to keep track of the user’s name and password. When you check that little box that says “Remember me” or say “Yes” when your browser asks if you want it to remember your password, you are actually giving them permission to install a cookie on your computer that keeps track of that password.
Cookies are basically a tiny piece of text that holds a small amount of information, like your password or your site preferences. Many websites use them to gather information about their users to find out their likes and dislikes – and then put up advertising customized to that person’s needs. Contrary to popular belief, cookies cannot search your computer, only the web pages that you visit. The way you surf can often indicate facts about yourself – whether you’re male or female, a teen or middle aged, and even the area where you live. Most cookies are harmless, however.
Because of the type of filters used by Penn Manor, the staff cannot see your password, only the web page that you visit.
There aren’t people watching what you do every moment of the day – it’s the filter. The technology department neither has the time nor the resources to have someone monitoring the system twenty four hours a day, and so many new websites pop up every day that it would be impossible for them to look at every website out there on the Internet. When the filter picks up unauthorized activity, it sends a message to the system administrator – which could be Principal Phil Gale or Reisinger – and lets them deal with the student.
Don’t try and break through the school’s security, though. The software can pick up any unusual activity right away.
For example, there is The Onion Router, or Tor. Tor works by taking your browser’s request for a web page and routing it through other volunteer computers, encrypting it all the way until it finally comes out at the end computer, where it completes the request. Then the user sees the web page without any outside sources knowing what their IP address is or what they are viewing. This is great, in countries like China where the government tries to control what its users access.
But in Penn Manor? Bad idea.
As soon as you start encrypting your traffic and hiding your IP, the filter picks this up – and it would be hard not to, since instead of web addresses and the usual data it gets gobbledegook – and sends an alert to the admins.
“Using programs like Tor is very distinct,” said Reisinger, “And it’s a violation of the Internet use policy, which is a School Board Policy.
Using any type of service or program to bypass the security systems (or mess with the way that the system works in any way) on the school computers is a violation of the Internet policy, and punishments can vary upon the severity of the offense. And since the software can track who was on what computer when, there is no getting out of punishment.
However, if another person tampers with a computer while you are away from the keyboard without your knowledge or consent, it is appropriate to ask the administration to examine the security feed from that time and place.
“The student would lose their computer privileges for a specified period of time. In addition to this, students may receive Saturday School, be suspended, or be expelled depending upon the severity of their actions,” said Gale in an email.
Filtering the Internet has gotten questions from some in the past as to whether filtering violates the freedom of speech promised in the First Amendment.
“I don’t think it is (a violation of the First Amendment) as long as it’s their stuff,” said one Penn Manor student.
“It’s their Internet,” said another.
The computers do belong to the school, and they are school property – but the Internet does not belong to anyone, as governments have learned the hard way in the past. Despite this concern, Penn Manor has received no challenges for the right of free Internet.
Penn Manor students should remember one thing when using the laptops or other school computers: it isn’t your computer.
Because the computers are for schoolwork and anything else is just a waste of your time – and the school’s time.
Internet TV is slowly overpowering cable TV as more internet TV services are starting online. Services such as Hulu and Netflix, are gaining popularity. The Boxee box, the Roku and Google TV are some examples of the latest Internet TV and movie streaming devices.
Using Internet TV streams is just not being able to pause and rewind your shows. It also allows for the ability to pick and choose what to watch, regardless of specific channels. Some services even allow the user to find out more information about the episodes, air times, etc. via an interactive search. Google TV, available on the Logitech Revue is one of these devices with similar features.
Other media services such as Pandora Internet Radio and YouTube are available as streams to your TV. These web services allow us to listen to our favorite playlists or even watch our bookmarked videos.
According to USAToday, an estimated 16.5 million homes in the United States have a Internet TV streaming device. Out of that statistic, only two percent use it for streaming movies and TV shows.
Internet TV users have the benefit of not paying for cable or satellite television services. As the name implies, Internet TV uses your already existing broadband internet connection. Additional services such as Hulu Plus and Netflix offer minimal cost driven subscriptions. Others are offered when you buy your Internet TV box as free services.
Internet TV is changing how people are thinking about watching shows and movies. Instead of going out to the video rental store or to the movies, you can now watch your favorites in the comfort of your own home.
This is the first in an occasional series on Penn Manor alumni who lead interesting lives.
Protecting the oceans in some way, shape or form is one of Penn Manor’s alumni’s way of life.
Daniel Navin is a consultant working to develop new commercial coral mariculture techniques that can be carried out by coastal folk around Papua New Guinea (PNG) for the Papua New Guinea National Fisheries Authority.
Navin had always wanted to be a marine biologist and after graduating from Penn Manor High School in 2003, he attended Millersville University. Following his childhood dreams, Navin majored in biology with a concentration in marine biology.
“I knew I really wanted to protect the oceans in some way,” Navin said.
Throughout high school and college, Navin worked for That Fish Place in Centerville for seven years, familiarizing himself with a wide array of saltwater fish and coral. He worked in the fish room caring for the fish where he eventually became a supervisor.
Once in college, Navin and a buddy from That Fish Place started a side business in his parent’s basement, farming live corals.
“We constructed a salt water pond, hooked up powerful filtration and lighting, and then began purchasing South Pacific stony coral colonies and farmed them in my basement pond,” Navin explained.
After these corals matured, they then sold back their “crop” to That Fish Place and various other walk-in clients.
While at Millersville, Navin was selected to be a member of a research team that was taken to the island of Roatan, off of Honduras, to do a study on the coral reef system down there. He and his team performed many belt transects which are used to investigate the distribution of organisms in relation to a certain area, using SCUBA, and analyzed the frequency of coral disease on the reef.
After Navin graduated college in 2008, he obtained an internship at the Bimimi Biological Field Station (shark lab) in South Bimini, Bahamas.
Navin said,”I got to spend a couple of months at this awesome field station capturing, tagging and performing behavioral trials on sharks. It was really fun!”
Navin was in the PA Army National Guard all throughout college and a few months after returning from the Bahamas, he was deployed to Iraq with the US Army for 10 months as an infantry sniper.
“Good times,” Navin recalled, “good times.”
Upon returning from Iraq in 2009, a week later, Navin was supposed to go to the Outer Banks in North Carolina but a big storm scratched those plans.
“So I reluctantly followed my friend to an aquarium trade show, called MACNA in Atlantic City, New Jersey. At the show, there was a booth for a newly developing aquarium industry located in PNG, which is in southeast Asia, north of Australia. I began talking with the people behind the booth and the next thing I knew, I was handing them my resume and scheduling an internship in PNG,” Navin said.
As an “after Iraq holiday,” Navin went to Australia with a few of his army comrades and after his trip there, he swung by PNG and volunteered for the SEASMART program for three weeks. At the end of the internship, they offered him a job and he has been there since .
SEASMART was a government funded program that has since been discontinued and he now works directly for the PNG National Fisheries Authority (NFA).
Navin’s job is to consult and assist the NFA with establishing ocean-based coral farms, or mariculture sites, at various locations around PNG.
“My job involves SCUBA diving, collecting portions of wild corals to serve as mariculture brood-stock, propagating coral colonies, and marketing the farmed corals to aquarium trade importers around the world, most of which are based in L.A.,” said Navin.
Navin’s job is very environmentally friendly. Farming coral, as well as sustainably collecting fish for the aquarium trade, places a direct cash incentive on coral reef conservation. The coastal people in PNG are less likely to blow up coral reefs with dynamite, stun fish with cyanide or pollute their waters if they are earning money off an income source that is 100 percent dependent on a healthy reef.
“Penn Manor definitely had an influence on shaping me into the person that I am today. I took many math and science courses, and the teachers who taught those courses inspired and prepared me me to pursue a science major in college,” Navin said. “Courses including oceanography with Mr. Bender and all of the biology, chemistry, math and physics courses that I took definitely had an impact, especially preparing me for college,” said Navin.
Navin also took a photography class, which he is using skills from today to do underwater photography, snapping pictures of him and others in action.
“I give a lot of credit to my teachers and friends who motivated me to join the military, which probably had the biggest influence of all on me. My experience in the army gave me skills that helped me excel in my job today (leadership, self-confidence, problem solving and field survival),” said Navin.
Navin’s biggest words of advice to all of whom are attending college is to get internships. He goes on to explain that a basic degree without practical field experience is not enough to get by these days.
“I probably would not have the job I have today if I didn’t have a resume full of field experience from my internships,” said Navin.
Navin has been in PNG for ten months and plans to stay there for another year yet if all goes accordingly. Navin has visited his family once for a couple of weeks since he’s started in PNG in July, and won’t again until about the same time this year.
Navin is not too sure on his plans for the future but will never step away from the fisheries field. Either way, it’s going to be the “life aquatic.”
“I have the best job in the world. Not only do I get paid to play in the ocean but I get to help very impoverished coastal people in PNG explore new income opportunities involving farming coral.”
The leader in technology, Apple, changed the world with the introduction of the iPod in 2001. In 2006, they unveiled the iPhone and iPod touch.
iOS, the user-friendly operating system the iDevices are based on, is now influencing the way we use our computers. Ever since software version 2.0 came out, iOS included the App Store. The App Store is a place to download and install new applications for your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad.
Soon, the same App Store we have known for hand-held devices is coming to the Mac.
The current Mac operating system, Snow Leopard, will have support for the Mac App Store. Mac OS X Lion, the upcoming Mac OS, will include the App Store. Like the iOS App Store, it will be a repository for software and games.
The Mac App Store will have both paid and free apps available. The categories will include: education, games, graphics and design, productivity and lifestyle.
As a unified distribution center for applications, the Mac App Store will allow users to browse and select applications without having the hassle of going out and buying software on disks or performing various steps to download and license software from websites.
Apple also made the Mac App Store convenient for developers. Developers who sell applications through the store will be able to pick the price per app and receive 70% of each app sale. The Mac App Store will allow developers to update their apps and submit them directly to Apple, which allows users to easily update their Mac’s applications through the App Store.
On Jan. 6, the App Store will be open. Also, on Apple’s website, the “Downloads” section will be taken offline.
Ring, ring, ring… ring, ring, ring; that’s exactly what didn’t happen for some iPhone users whose alarms never spoke on the New Years.
Apple’s famous iPhone and iPod touch failed to wake up their users on the first day of 2011 that left many unsatisfied and asleep. The glitch was felt around the country and around the school.
Senior Alex Geli came face to face with the alarm glitch not only once but twice.
“I set my alarm (on the iPhone) on Sunday for 12 p.m. so I wouldn’t oversleep since I hardly got any sleep the previous two nights,” said Geli. “Instead of my alarm waking me up, I awoke by myself at 12:45 p.m. I was confused because my phone always wakes me up on time and couldn’t seem to figure out what the problem was.”
Apple told Engadget, “We’re aware of an issue related to non-repeating alarms set for January 1 or 2. Customers can set recurring alarms for those dates and all alarms will work properly beginning January 3,” the Apple spokesperson said.
On January 1, Apple realized that there had been a glitch with the alarms and noted that it would be fixed by Monday, January 3. But alarms remained incoherent for the fourth day in a row leaving users fuming.
On New Years day, people were late to work, missed important appointments and flights and overslept.
Many users say not only are their alarms not going off but also their calendar events would not sound.
For some reason, this iOS alarm glitch is not affecting everyone and many believe that the problem is within the software itself.
Apple issued a statement advising many of its phones would not work at the start of 2011 but the warning was, obviously, missed by thousands of customers all over the world. The glitch effected non-recurring iPhone alarms which stopped working for devices running iOS 4.02, 4.1, and 4.2.1.
This is not the first time Apple phone users encountered a problem. Back on October 31, the so-called “smart phone” failed to recognize the turning of the clock back one hour (Day-Light Savings).
Apple iPhones have had many problems ever since they were put on the shelves and have many questioning how smart they really are. With all of these malfunctions occurring, Apple is losing the interest of people wanting to buy their product and will have to win back their fans.
Here at Penn Manor, some students and faculty experienced this glitch at the best of worst times.
Technology coach Shawn Canady has a son in the Marine Corps who had to return to San Diego on Sunday.
“I set one alarm for 4 a.m. and my son, Scott Tison, set four alarms for 4 a.m to make it to the airport by 5:15 a.m,” recalled Canady. “The next day I awoke and something didn’t feel right. I looked at my clock in surprise and saw the numbers five three zero. We rushed to finish packing and got on our way to Harrisburg airport. We arrived to the airport at 6 a.m. to realize he missed the flight.”
Canady’s son got booked on the next flight but instead of flying to D.C. and then to L.A. with a one hour layover, Tison had to fly to Chicago and then L.A. with a 13 hour layover. Tison’s flight was to arrive at 3 p.m. on Sunday but never got to L.A. until 1 a.m. on Monday.
Canady said, “We have come to depend on these smart phones a lot and when it doesn’t work, it can really throw you for a loop.”
Canady explained that this glitch only happened to non-reoccurring alarms and not ones set weekly or for weekdays.
By Jan. 3, Geli suspected his alarm on his iPhone was not working.
So Geli tried his alarm again on Monday to wake up for school and set two alarms, one at 6:30 and the other at 6:45.
Luckily, Geli set another non-iPhone alarm, the old-fashioned kind, and was not late for school.
“I have a smart phone, it’s supposed to work and when it doesn’t, I get very irritated,” he said. “I’m starting to doubt my iPhone.”
Just remember, smart may not always be what it sounds.
The first lunar eclipse to happen during the winter solstice in 372 years has come and passed.
While most Penn Manor students were asleep for the action, a few faced the cold December night to experience it.
“It was interesting because the eclipse hasn’t happened on the winter solstice for a couple hundred years,” said Jess Huber, a junior who woke up to watch the epic eclipse unfold. “I’ve never seen the moon look that kind of orange before.”
A lunar eclipse is when the moon passes through the shadow of the earth cast by the sun, which then blocks the light to the moon. This eclipse was momentous due to the fact that it hasn’t fallen on the longest night of the year, the winter solstice, since 1638.
Because the eclipse fell on the winter solstice, the moon appeared “very high in the night sky, as the solstice marks the time when Earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun,” a NASA spokesperson said.
This eclipse turned the moon a “blood red color for more than an hour” according to NASA.
The red appearance is due to the atmosphere acting like a filtered lens and bending the red sunlight into earth’s shadow scattering out blue light. This is also why sunrises and sunsets appear red or orange as reported by Kevin Kehoe of astronomy.com.
Although this was a special occasion, not too many Penn Manor students considered it an exciting experience.
Junior Christina Stoltzfus sacrificed her good night’s sleep to see the magnificent event.
“It was breathtaking as the shadow slowly moved across the moon’s surface,” explained Stoltzfus. “I wanted to watch this since it was the first winter solstice lunar eclipse to happen during our generation.”
Earth Science teacher, David Bender, warned his students of the cloudy conditions and that it would be difficult to see the colorful moon.
Regardless of the rarity of the lunar eclipse on the day of winter solstice, most students said they would rather sleep than watch the moon disappear into the shadows.
“I prefer to sleep and I had a math test the next day,” said senior, Kelly McHugh.
It’s alright if you missed this experience Penn Manor, it will take place again in another 84 years
Some have said that it’s the beginning of a cyber war. Others have simply called it Wikileaks.
The events surrounding Wikileaks and the media circus that followed have captured the attention of the world.
So much information and misinformation has been bandied around that it’s difficult to find the truth of the matter hidden in the hoopla.
“The government is just trying to control what information is getting out,” said a Penn Manor student, “I don’t think that this should be such a big deal that people are making it out to be.”
However, many students had no idea what the word “Wikileaks” even meant, “What’s a Wikileak?” asked one, “Is that a part of Wikipedia?”
First, let’s start at the beginning. Wikileaks was founded in 2006 by Julian Assange and stated it’s reason for being: to leak any and all abuses in power in government, including torture, unlawful detention, cults, corruption, and corporate transparency. Since then, it broke stories on gag orders in the press and massacres of civilians.
Assange, 39, was born in Australia. He began hacking at 16 and was a recreational hacker. After serving time in jail for breaking into a website, he was released on good behavior. It appeared that he had simply broken the website in question just because he could.
But that was 20 years ago. Assange no longer identifies himself as a hacker.
Wikileaks was the site which released the climate scientist’s emails showing how some of the scientists had falsified data to make the climate change argument seem more pronounced than it was.
In 2010, they began to release some of the 250,000 documents collected from United States diplomatic cables. Nine hundred of these documents were published in different world news sources before in collaboration with news outlets, but now the full set is available for users to download. Many of these documents were labeled classified or secret.
“He’s heroic,” said Penn Manor student Alex Mercer, “I think this is awesome.”
Assange was arrested in Great Britain recently when he walked into a police station after a warrant was released for his arrest in Sweden, where he is wanted on sexual molestation charges.
Initially, the authorities did not want to pursue his case, as the sex was consensual and the two women affected were only seeking compensation (he had sex with both of the women, but the condom was either not used or broke – which in Sweden can be considered a sexual offense). But after the cables were released, then he was suddenly an international fugitive.
The diplomatic cables were often embarrassing to the United States government, some with diplomats questioning world leaders’ right to rule. Naturally, politicians wanted Assange’s head.
The effect of the documents? Sarah Palin called for Julian Assange to be hanged for treason, although Assange is an Australian. She has been quoted saying, “He’s no journalist – he’s an anti-American operative with blood on his hands.
“I think the man is a high tech terrorist. He’s done an enormous damage to our country, and I think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said GOP Minority leader Mitch McConnell, “And if that becomes a problem, we need to change that law.”
Assange is not, by most strict definitions, a terrorist, since a terrorist is someone who seeks to inspire fear and terror into the populace. Assange has stated numerous times that the goal of Wikileaks is to provide a transparent insight into government.
The leaks also have been said to endanger troop safety. The newest cables were from February this year. Many of them date from as early as December 1966.
“It’s a national security risk,” said student Vaughn Stetler, “I have nothing wrong with Assange himself, but his website should be shut down. Some clarity is good in government, but leaking secret documents isn’t good.”
The military has now banned using thumb drives, CDs, and DVDs on the Department of Defense’s network, SIPRNET – which stands for Secret Internet Protocol Router Network. The penalty for violating this order? Court martial.
The military is pursuing the prosecution of army corporal Bradly Manning, who is the man taking the blame for leaking the documents. Manning downloaded the documents onto a recordable CD, and gave them to Wikileaks.
Lady Gaga had a role to play, too. According to MSNBC, Manning also “listened and lip-synced to Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in american (sic) history.”
There is at least one irony in the situation: the federal government just released a press statement announcing the 2011 World Press Freedom Day.
Another thing is that Wikileaks is a media outlet, whether cable news likes it or not. The message that seems to be sent out to other world leaders is that this is how the United States deals with journalists sending out things that they do not agree with.
Early in November, the cyber war began.
First, Wikileaks was bombarded with a series of attacks against it’s website, taking the official wikileaks.org site down within days. It struggled to survive, until finally going to its mirror sites. Wikileaks has over 1300 identical sites listed on its website, each one based in different locations around the globe.
The site refused to die. Then Pay Pal pulled its services from the website. That was the last straw for the internet hackers.
On Wednesday, December 8 the credit card provider Visa’s website went down under a flurry of Direct Denial of Service – or DDoS – attacks. DDoS attacks are relatively simple; send small packets of data to the website in question. With enough computers doing this, it will overload the computer’s ability to process all the data and will shut down the site.
Eight hours earlier, Mastercard had fallen. The culprits? The internet collective Anonymous.
Anonymous has been reported by major news media as many things from internet vigilantes to a group of sinister hackers. The truth is that they are none and all of these.
Anonymous is said to have originated on the image board 4chan, where a user can post anonymously. With that kind of freedom, anything and everything can be posted. That means the 4chan is a breeding ground for memes (cultural trends spread from the internet). Over 9000? That came from 4chan, along with Leroy Jenkins, the phrase Om Nom Nom and LOLcats.
Anonymous sprung from this, when many users came together with a common goal – to take down the Church of Scientology. In what is called Project Chanology, Anon has promised to destroy Scientology and discredit all of their members. The mission to “save the internet” is called Operation Payback or CableGate. They have so far succeeded several times in knocking down the Church’s website.
Anon has been known to hack into people’s accounts and post online, just for fun. They flood online children’s games and post intentionally offensive messages in a practice known as trolling. They also believe that the internet is an almost sacred place and to violate free speech by jailing Assange is grounds to fight back. A common misconception about them is that there is a leader, which is false. The fact that the collective consciousness of the web can work single mindfully toward a common goal might be cause for enemies of Wikileaks to start getting nervous.
“We are the clear logic used to unveil wrongdoing. The general public, clouded by misleading information mostly by the media with a political agenda, fails to see and understand this wrongdoing. Because of this, those who do the wrongdoing escape unpunished. Anonymous is here to ensure punishment does not go unserved to those who deserve it,” said a supporter of Anon in a Wired.com article.
“Anonymous is great,” said senior Ben Clark, “I wholly support Assange.”
Over the weekend, several identical flash animation websites popped up over the web – each one containing a button and a slider. All a user had to do was select the number of requests per second, and press the button. The program would then use the user’s browser to make request after request per second – DDoS made easy.
Twitter and the social network Facebook have deleted several accounts that have said that they either support Anonymous or post the dates of the attack and the sites to be attacked. The organizing websites that directed traffic were hit repeatedly by DDoS attacks.
Several members of Anonymous have been arrested in conjunction with the DDoS attacks. DDoS is illegal in the United States.
Wikileaks continues to exist on one of its 1300 mirror sites, as the original site has long ago been wiped from the servers of the Internet by self labeled “patriotic hackers.”
After a week long barrage of attacks, Anonymous has a new strategy: instead of trying to take down those who are hurting Wikileaks, now they will attempt to spread the posts far and wide. These include posting videos to Youtube with misleading tags like “Bieber” or “Tea Party,” and sifting through the documents and posting summaries of the content online.
Operation: Payback is now Operation: Leakspin.
They might have a good strategy. During the time Wikileaks was offline, it was incredibly difficult for a user to access the documents and decide for themselves whether or not it was such a big deal. Now with the documents being distributed through the 1300 mirror sites, and the help of Anonymous, it might become very easy indeed to view the documents.
On December 14th, a British judge released Assange on bail until his hearing. He still maintained that he is right in releasing the United States documents. The guidelines of his bail are strict. He has to live in his London home until his hearing, in a sort of modified house arrest.
“My convictions are unfaltering. I remain true to the ideals I have expressed. This circumstance shall not shake them,” said Assange.
“The fact that everyone is making such a huge deal out of this is very silly,” said Clark, “The documents basically embarrassed the government, and that’s it.”
“He’s lucky,” said Mercer, “He isn’t under house arrest, he’s under mansion arrest.”
He also made known his disdain for the companies who have made moves to cut him off from funding, “We now know that Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and others are instruments of U.S. foreign policy. It’s not something we knew before.”
The story of Wikileaks, whether or not it turns out to decide the fate of free speech or the web, will be one that will continue to fascinate and intrigue.
We didn’t find the little green men. We made them.
NASA had scheduled a press conference recently, with a panel of scientists with specialties in exobiology and weird life forms. This garnered high expectations from science buffs, and even some of the general public had to get excited. This was, indeed, a big deal.
Now, that cat’s out of the bag. Revealed was the news that researchers had created a bacteria that was arsenic based, scraped from the bottom on California’s Mono Lake and fed a diet of the poisonous arsenic.
“Bacteria that live on arsenic? Awesome,” said one student.
This announcement was met with high enthusiasm from the scientific community – but was a letdown for the people expecting aliens.
Here’s the how behind the science: Every living thing, from the tiniest protozoa to the giant blue whale, has DNA. DNA, or Deoxyribonucleic Acid, contains the instructions for all of the body’s functions, and is the reason that organisms, including humans, survive. The shape of DNA looks like a twisted ladder. The rungs are made of amino acids, and the sides of the ladder are made of phosphorus bonded to some sugars.
Generally it’s accepted that life has some basic building blocks: carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, hydrogen, and phosphorus. When scientists look for planets that might be able to evolve alien life, that’s what they look for.
What did the scientists do? They scraped the bottom of Mono Lake for the bacteria GFAJ-1, and started to wean it off it’s diet of phosphorus – and then replace it with arsenic. Arsenic is an element known to be toxic to life, even though it’s right below phosphorus in the periodic table. So you wouldn’t expect it to work, right? Wrong. Not only did the bacteria thrive under the arsenic diet, their DNA became altered to incorporate it. The arsenic replaced some of the phosphorus in the sides of the DNA ladder.
The bacteria were also fed a glucose mixture to use synthesize as ATP – or energy. There was some phosphorus present, but the paper published by the researchers has stated that it wouldn’t have been enough for the bacteria to survive off of.
That means that these little guys are arsenic based.
“There’s this sense of surprise – it’s so unusual that it could change the way we think of everything,” scientist (and science guy) Bill Nye said in a MSNBC television segment, “See, one of the big ideas these days in astrobiology that there could have been what people like to call a second genesis…maybe life arose in multiple ways here on earth, and we’ve never gone looking in the right places and asking the right questions to discover them.”
Oh, if only Arthur C. Clarke was still alive to see this. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey (look it up, kids – it’s a sci-fi classic) envisioned life of Saturn’s moons might be silicon based, living in the seas of Europa and in the clouds of the great planet itself.
The real excitement of all this isn’t the bacteria themselves, but of the implications for life on other planets. Up until now, when scientists looked for planets that could support life, they examine whether or not those key elements could exist on the planet. Now we may have to reexamine our viewpoints of what life really is.
Before now, we had always assumed that life needed these key elements to survive. We were wrong.
But why should we care?
“So what?” said another student.
This discovery changes everything in the way we look for life, and how we think of life. This might cause scientists to think just a little bit harder at what they consider “alive”. There are characteristics that life has to have, according to the definition of life. Most of them are standard, like the organism needs to eat and give off waste, and needs to grow – but the key to life is that it had the essential elements, including phosphorus. Now we need to re examine what life is, and change where we look for those “little green men”.
That is, if the results are legitimate.
This announcement has also met some criticism from the scientific community, however. NASA has been accused of putting big hype on a not so big achievement, to get more funding for their programs. Several scientists also question the conclusions that the researchers made about the results obtained – including the claim that the arsenic was present, but not replacing the phosphorus.
Bacteria had been known before to be able to survive in extreme conditions, and there are some bacteria that can live in high arsenic environments.
“I don’t know whether the authors are just bad scientists or whether they’re unscrupulously pushing NASA’s ‘There’s life in outer space!’ agenda,” wrote University of British Columbia Prof. Rosie Redfield, “Basically, it doesn’t present any convincing evidence that arsenic has been incorporated into DNA (or any other biological molecule).”
Redfield critiqued the paper in a blog post that caused some to question the legitimacy of the findings, causing a major debate about the techniques used in the study. The researchers, meanwhile, maintain that their findings and their techniques were valid and precise.
This year’s only total lunar eclipse is going to be visible in North and Central America early Tuesday morning.
The moon is illuminated at night by the light of the sun, but during a lunar eclipse the full moon passes through the Earth’s shadow which prevents sunlight from hitting the moon to light it up. A small amount of sunlight will still manage to sneak past the shadow and give the moon an eerie appearance high in the sky.
This year, scientists are predicting that the moon will be a more unique reddish brown color instead of the normal orange-yellow glow.
This change is being attributed to the various volcanic eruptions around the world and the large amount of dust and pollution that has been added to the atmosphere in the past year.
From beginning to end, the whole event will last an expected 3 1/2 hours. Once the moon is completely engulfed by the shadows at 2:41 a.m., the darkness will last about 72 minutes with the best time to view the change of the sky being at 3:17 a.m. This is when the moon will be the most extravagant shades of red and copper throughout the entire night according to NASA.
This lunar eclipse is set to fall on the day of the winter solstice, December 21, the time of the year when the earth’s axis is tilted farthest from the sun. This occurrence is extremely rare, happening only once since “Year 1… and that is 1638 DEC 21,” Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory stated on NASA’s website.
Don’t miss this once-a-year happening in the sky, Penn Manor. Set your alarm clocks for 3:17 and take advantage of the first lunar eclipse falling on the day of winter solstice in 372 years.