Monday, July 31, 2006

"Can you be compelled to give a password by the government?"

This has been an interesting discussion on the IPList. Here's one of the more detailed answers:
As a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, allow me to comment.

Information may be obtained by the government from a person in one of four ways: (1) it is voluntarily provided; (2) by regulation in a heavily regulated industry; (3) by subpoena; and (4) by a search and seizure warrant. We are concerned with number 3, the subpoena.

A person can refuse to produce incriminating information in response to a subpoena under the Fifth Amendment. Please note that the password is not protected. If it is written down somewhere, the document on which it is written is not protected by the privilege. The *act* of producing the document or the password itself *may* be privileged, if such an act is itself incriminating. For example, if the password was used in a crime, and the fact that you have the password in your possession tends to show that you participated or conspired in the crime, and then the Fifth Amendment privilege is applicable to protect you from implicating yourself in the crime. The Government *can* immunize you to the limited extent necessary to obtain the password - it cannot then use the fact that it got the password from you in order to prosecute you. This is known as "Doe" immunity, and there is an extensive line of cases that has developed in this area. Webster Hubbell, the former Associate Attorney General who was convicted of tax fraud by Ken Starr's IC Office, eventually had his conviction vacated because Starr's legal team failed to follow the rules when they obtained, from him (by subpoena), his tax records.

If the government is not investigating a crime, then it may use an administrative or civil subpoena to try and get the password. If the witness invokes the Fifth Amendment, then the government can immunize that person and compel production.

The second point, above, concerning a regulated industry, applies to such areas as Medicare and Medicaid, Government contractors for procurement matters, industrial health and safety mattes, environmental concerns, etc. The same analysis as above would apply.

Border searches are a different animal, since the government has the right to inspect items crossing the border without a warrant. However, if the password is in the traveler's head, then that is not an "item" that can be inspected at the border. The information on the laptop might very well be such an item, however, and if the only way to convince the government to allow you to cross the border is to show the border guards what is on the laptop, then the traveler might very well face the choice of turning on the laptop and opening files,, using the password, or not crossing the border. I do not believe that, even here, the traveler would have to produce the password itself.

Andrew Grosso, Esq.
Andrew Grosso & Associates
1250 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 200
Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 261-3593
Web Site:
When car thieves steal "unstealable cars" it can cause all sorts of problems for honest owners.
Numbers with names.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Writing on water.
Interplanetary exploration with balloons. (Via SciTechDaily.)
"Wine-tasting robot to spot fraudulent bottles"

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Self-healing spacesuits.
Newfound Blob is Biggest Thing in the Universe:
"An enormous amoeba-like structure 200 million light-years wide and made up of galaxies and large bubbles of gas is the largest known object in the universe, scientists say.

The galaxies and gas bubbles, called Lyman alpha blobs, are aligned along three curvy filaments that formed about 2 billion years after the universe exploded into existence after the theoretical Big Bang. The filaments were recently seen using the Subaru and Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Admin note: I just purchased a new Palm T|X to replace my dying Tungsten T. Hence, posting may be light for a couple of days, as I go through the inevitable Geek-With-A-New-Toy Distraction Syndrome.

(Fortunately, my wife Diana is very understanding about such things, being subject to the same ailment herself...)
"More and more obese people are unable to get full medical care because they are either too big to fit into scanners, or their fat is too dense for X-rays or sound waves to penetrate, radiologists reported Tuesday." (Via Solsberg.)
USB Hub of the day: I don't actually need one of these, but if I were in the market for a USB Hub that looked like a cheesy action movie self-destruct button, I'd definitely get this one. (Via BBspot.)
Beware of license plate tracking.
How a ballpoint pen saved the Apollo 11 space mission:
Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, and Buzz Aldrin, his fellow astronaut, accidentally snapped off the switch of a circuit breaker, and found they could not take off without it.

Aldrin then jammed a ballpoint pen into the hole where the switch had been, allowing the astronauts' lunar module Eagle to leave the surface of the Moon.
(Via Gravity Lens.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"The law of unintended consequences is taking a chomp out of grocery chain profits as more stores transition from human clerks to self-service checkout technology, thus reducing the time shoppers spend in line and under the temptation of impulse items." (Via /.)
Some materials become colder when exposed to laser light.
The US Marine Corp is look for a few good MySpace buddies.
Medical invention of the day: Roboscallop drug delivery device.
A device that mimics a sea scallop -- propelling itself by alternately sucking and blowing -- could one day carry drugs to hard-to-reach parts of the human body.

"Our motor has no moving parts and can be powered remotely with no connecting wires," says Claus-Dieter Ohl, a physicist at the University of Twente in the Netherlands who led the team that built the device.

The so-called "roboscallop" consists of a tube a few millimetres long and about 750 microns in diameter that is closed at one end and contains a bubble of air. Submerging the tube in fluid and bombarding it with sound waves causes the bubble to expand and contract, alternately sucking and blowing liquid from one end of the tube. The process generates thrust because fluid enters the tube from a wide angle but is expelled as a narrow jet.

"It's how a scallop moves," explains team member Rory Dijkink. "When you watch our device, it looks as if it is making two steps forward and one step back."
"Robotic Surgeon Attacks Moving Tumors":
The surgeon, known as CyberKnife to its human colleagues, is a robot. Already deft at attacking brain tumors, CyberKnife received a computer software upgrade to more efficiently target constantly moving lung tumors.

CyberKnife was developed to pinpoint tumors and blast them from every angle with radiation, the goal being to confine the attack to cancerous tissue only.

If all goes well, after several treatments the tumor shrinks and disappears as if it were surgically removed, yet healthy tissues that might be damaged even by the nimble hands of a skilled human surgeon are spared.

Brain tumors provide a nice steady target, but a cancerous growth in the respiratory system, which can move up to 2 inches back and forth as a person breathes, present more of a challenge -- even to CyberKnife.

Now, Cihat Ozhasoglu of the University of Pittsburgh and colleagues have developed Synchrony, an add-on program for CyberKnife that allows it to follow the tumor to within a few hundredths of an inch as it moves.

As the CyberKnife trains its intense X-ray beam on the tumor, another weaker X-ray source takes real-time pictures of the patient's torso. Synchrony records the tumor's movements and tells CyberKnife when and where to direct the therapeutic beam.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Video of the day: Samurai sword vs. 9mm bullet.

See what happens when a 9mm bullet is fired at the edge of a samurai sword. And that's not even a Hattori Hanzo blade... (Via Cynical-C.)
Life imitates art for the good guys:
With Australian outback hero Crocodile Dundee as her inspiration, an 80-year-old British pensioner foiled a knife-wielding burglar with an even bigger blade of her own.

When woken by a masked man holding a knife, Winifred Whelan screamed and ran downstairs to the kitchen.

Grabbing a giant carving knife, she told the startled intruder "You call that a knife? This is a knife" in an echo of the famous scene in the Crocodile Dundee film when actor Paul Hogan confronted a New York mugger.

As she took on the intruder, her husband grappled with his accomplice.
(Via Volokh.)
Sex in space update from Rand Simberg at the space conference. Here's one related article. And a second one.
The computer game FreeCell is being used to diagnose early Alzheimer's disease.
WiFi hotspot spoofing is frighteningly easy. Don't fall victim to these techniques. (Via Solsberg.)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Invention of the day: High-performance battery-powered sports car. Only $80k! (Via Howard Roerig.)
Casino hacking.
Random boarding of airplane passengers may be surprisingly efficient.
More on the neuroscience behind the phenomenon of deja vu?
Tasteless medical slang. For obvious reasons, most of these terms are not used in front of patients, but only in the staff room.

(There is a supposedly true story of a physician who used the term "TTFO" in a patient's chart, which stands for "Told To F*** Off". When the patient later sued, the judge asked the doctor what the abbreviation stood for, and the doctor was quick-witted enough to answer, "To Take Fluids Orally".)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

ScrappleFace has the scoop on the new Microsoft MP3 player:
Apple Computer executives scrambled yesterday to put the best spin on devastating news that arch rival Microsoft will soon launch a competitor to the iPod, tentatively dubbed Windows ME2Pod.

While Apple's iconic mp3 player currently owns a 77 percent share of the market for such devices, industry experts with contractual obligations to Microsoft warned that the Windows ME2Pod could quickly become the dominant player.

"It's a category killer," said one unnamed source who lives in Redmond, Washington, and has seen preliminary sketches of the product on an in-house blog.

In addition to the hardware, Microsoft also plans to launch a challenge to Apple's wildly successful iTunes music service.

Unlike iTunes, which allows customers to select and download their favorite music, the new Windows VistaTunes application will automatically download songs to the user's computer based on "a robust algorithm that determines not just what the customer might like, but what he should be listening to," according to the source.

Each morning, the VistaTunes customer will find new music has appeared on his PC and been sent via Bluetooth to his ME2Pod. At that point, the user simply reboots both machines and enjoys the music.

Microsoft refused to comment on the report, but confirmed that if such a product were under development, it could be released "sometime in late 2007, early 2008 or perhaps June 2010."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Gregg Favalora tells us how to find copies of some of the information sound out on the Voyager spacecraft's "Golden Record".
Seth Shostak asks, "Is SETI Barking up the Wrong Tree?" Phil Bowermaster has his own theories as to why the aliens aren't answering us.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Quantum repeaters.
Top 10 Ways To Motivate Geeks. (Via BBspot.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Global warming is being blamed for all sorts of stuff.
Why a daily cup of coffee is good for you. Just remember that basic rule of medicine - if one X is good for you, then 10 times X must be 10 times as good! (Via SciTechDaily.)
Unexpected answers to math problems. (Via Fark.)
Australian authorities have found that one of their most effective weapons to use in dispersing crowds of late-night revelers is the music of Barry Manilow:
"Barry's our secret weapon," Rockdale Deputy Mayor Bill Saravinovski told The Daily Telegraph newspaper, four weeks after the start of the effort. "It seems to be working."

But some people living near the park are less than enthralled. They say the barrage of "Copacabana,""Could It Be Magic" and "Que Sera Sera," blasting from 9 p.m. to midnight every Friday, Saturday and Sunday is driving them crazy.

"I don't know how I will cope," said Moya Dunn, describing how the songs have invaded her house. "I just can't sleep when it's on, and to think there's going to be another six months of this"...

"The initial reaction was that they found it irritating," Saravinovski said. "I'm not disputing what the residents are saying. I can't swallow some of the tracks like 'Mandy.'

Monday, July 17, 2006

Coffee shop Wi-Fi wars.
"Who writes better crossword puzzles, humans or computers?"
Video of the day: Human Space Invaders. (Via GMSV.)
All married men should learn from this mistake by Alex Tabarrok:
My wife is going away for a couple of weeks and the kids are at camp. "Won't you be lonely?," she asked, "The house will be so quiet." Before I could properly think it through I replied, "Oh no, I'll enjoy the peace and quiet." I could tell immediately that this was not the right answer.
Nice review of invisibility shield technology.
"Bacteria made to sprout conducting nanowires"
Invention of the day: Chocolate that won't melt in the heat.
Why pebbles are pebble-shaped.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Star Trek crop circle maze. (Via Boing Boing.)

Friday, July 14, 2006

"Kitlers" are cats that look like Hitler, like this one. Our cat Elliot looks at most like a hemi-Hitler. (Via Found On The Web.)
Top 10 Signs That The Singularity Has Arrived. (Via Instapundit.)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Marines in space!
"The Cult of Leia's Metal Bikini"
"Solve Sudoku (Without even thinking!)". This method works for easier puzzles. (Via Waxy.)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

"Magnetic memory" chip
"How To Head Butt Like a Pro"
"30 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do on the Internet". (Via BBspot.)
Personal submarine.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Aluminum foam.
"Why Knuckles Crack and Joints Creak"
BMW has invented an automatic parking system:
The luxury carmaker's parking-assist technology will park your car for you as you stand outside and watch, according to BMW during the demo of a working prototype at its Munich headquarters this week.

All you do is press down on a remote-control button and your Beamer parks itself.
(Link includes a video.) The system is nice, but I'd love to see a more advanced version that can handle parallel parking in a tight space.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

iPod user struck by lightning:
Jason Bunch was listening to Metallica on his iPod while mowing the lawn outside his Castle Rock [suburb of Denver CO] home Sunday afternoon when lightning hit him...

Next thing he knew, he was in his bed, bleeding from his ears and vomiting. He was barefoot and had taken off his burned T-shirt and gym shorts. He doesn't know how he got back in the house...

His face, chest, hands and right leg have freckle-size welts on them as if buckshot had come from inside his body out.

The wounds follow the line of his iPod, from his ears down his right side to his hip, where he was carrying the device. The iPod has a hole in the back, and the earbuds dissolved into green threads...

Bunch and his mother believe the iPod acted as an antenna, drawing the lightning to him. There were tall pine trees nearby that didn't get hit.

But lightning and weather experts say that's probably not the case.

"There is no scientific evidence to show that lightning is 'attracted' to items like an iPod. However, if someone wearing earbuds is struck, current may travel along the wires into the ears," said Gregory Stewart of the Denver-based Lightning Reference Center...
The Register points out,
The teenager would probably have been caught by lightning anyway, but it's possible the iPod earphone cables may have saved his life, directing the current quickly away from his chest and, crucially, his heart. Not that anyone should rely on any music player to protect them from storm injuries -- it's best to keep out of the weather.
"Why business executives love to quote Chinese proverbs".
People ask the strangest questions. (Most of these are satire or jokes.)
"When the rubber meets the road, where does it go?"

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Walter Mossberg has written a pretty good digital music primer.
Invention of the day: The magnetic floating bed. (Via BBspot.)
Interesting overview of "junk DNA".

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"The return of nuclear fusion?" (Via ALDaily.)
"Does anyone get rich on eBay?"

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"The Strange Stuff Inside Fireworks". Some of the materials include "Vaseline, food preservatives, paper and the chemical in rat poison".

Monday, July 03, 2006

US Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) explains how the internet works:
There's one company now you can sign up and you can get a movie delivered to your house daily by delivery service. Okay. And currently it comes to your house, it gets put in the mail box when you get home and you change your order but you pay for that, right.

But this service isn't going to go through the interent and what you do is you just go to a place on the internet and you order your movie and guess what you can order ten of them delivered to you and the delivery charge is free.

Ten of them streaming across that internet and what happens to your own personal internet?

I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?

Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially.

So you want to talk about the consumer? Let's talk about you and me. We use this internet to communicate and we aren't using it for commercial purposes.

We aren't earning anything by going on that internet. Now I'm not saying you have to or you want to discrimnate against those people [...]

The regulatory approach is wrong. Your approach is regulatory in the sense that it says "No one can charge anyone for massively invading this world of the internet". No, I'm not finished. I want people to understand my position, I'm not going to take a lot of time. [?]

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck.

It's a series of tubes.

And if you don't understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

Now we have a separate Department of Defense internet now, did you know that?

Do you know why?

Because they have to have theirs delivered immediately. They can't afford getting delayed by other people.


Now I think these people are arguing whether they should be able to dump all that stuff on the internet ought to consider if they should develop a system themselves.

Maybe there is a place for a commercial net but it's not using what consumers use every day.

It's not using the messaging service that is essential to small businesses, to our operation of families.

The whole concept is that we should not go into this until someone shows that there is something that has been done that really is a viloation of net neutraility that hits you and me.
Ok, I'm very scared now... (Via Instapundit.)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Even a photograph of eyes looking at you may make you more honest.