Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for November 24, 2019

10 months ago
5 Min Read
1047 Words

IEEE Spectrum's weekly selection of awesome robot videos; How to get started as a Bitcoin contributor; A proposal to use optical chips to reduce bitcoin's energy draw; Pennsylvania says state can't compel suspects to reveal passwords; and a Steem post describing how to search a sorted matrix using the "Go" programming language

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  1. Video Friday: Robotic Endoscope Travels Through the Colon - IEEE Spectrum's weekly selection of awesome robot videos includes: A colonoscopy robot from STORM Lab that can reduce pain, bleeding, and perforration, by guiding the sensor with a magnetic field instead of pushing it through the colon. This was the winner of Kuka's annual Innovation Award for 2019 ; Four other finalists from the same competition; aibo the robot dog needs to be "fed" now; Ebo, a play robot for our cats - available for $200 on kicstarter; A Q&A with AI graduate students and postdocs at MIT CSAIL; and more.

    Here is Ebo:

  • Op Ed: Want to Learn How to Contribute to Bitcoin? Try a ‘Good First Issue’ - (i) Get familiar with github; (ii) Find a good "first issue"; (iii) Ask for help. As of now, Bitcoin development is dependent on Microsoft-owned github, although discussions of moving are increasing as the platform increases its level of censorship. For now, though, github is the place to be. You'll also need to use git on the command line. A free tutorial can be found here. Some issues are tagged as good_first_issue in the code repository, and there's also the @GoodFirstIssues Twitter account. These have been identified as good ways for a person to learn their way around the code. They're not intended for novice coders, though. You'll probably need proficiency with python, C++, and github for most of them. The github issue discussion is a good place to seek help.

  • Can photonic chips save Bitcoin? - Falling bitcoin prices can make mining unprofitable, which can drive away miners. According to the article, this can create a sort of death spiral that represents an existential threat to Bitcoin. Additionally, it says that current power consumption for bitcoin mining is on par with the entire power usage of the country of Australia, which it suggests is unsustainable. So, Michael Dubrovsky and Bogdan Penkovsky have proposed the use of optical photon chips to reduce power consumption. To encourage the shift, the pair has created the HeavyHash, optical proof of work and published it to arXiv on November 12. The article points out, however, that the paper doesn't actually calculate the amount of power savings that may or may not occur, and that regional differences in power still matter, so the article concludes that, at best, "this form of energy-efficient computing merely postpones the inevitable."

  • Suspect can’t be compelled to reveal “64-character” password, court rules - The government tried to argue that the foregone conclusion exception applied. This is an exception to the prohibition against compulsory testimony on the grounds that the government already knew that evidence existed, and they knew where it was. The government also compared it to production of a physical key to unlock a safe, and a lower court agreed. The high court in Pennsylvania ruled, however, that producing a password requires verbal communication, so it's an act of testimony, not merely production of a physical object like a key. Here's a quote from the ruling: "Based upon these cases rendered by the United States Supreme Court regarding the scope of the Fifth Amendment, we conclude that compelling the disclosure of a password to a computer, that is, the act of production, is testimonial. Distilled to its essence, the revealing of a computer password is a verbal communication, not merely a physical act that would be nontestimonial in nature. There is no physical manifestation of a password, unlike a handwriting sample, blood draw, or a voice exemplar. As a passcode is necessarily memorized, one cannot reveal a passcode without revealing the contents of one’s mind."

  • STEEM How To Search A Sorted Matrix With Go - Using the "Go" programming language, @jrswab is learning to implement common programming algorithms. This post describes the algorithm to search a sorted matrix, and it also includes a link to see it in action on the "Go Playground" web site. In order to avoid a nested loop, the algorithm takes advantage of knowing that the array is sorted, and makes a clever tweak, starting at the last column of the first row and proceeding forward by rows until the item's value exceeds the target number, then backwards by columns until it matches or passes the target number, at which point the target is known to either found or missing. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been assigned to this post for @jrswab.)

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