Identity Theft Would Be An Understatement In This Case!

The United States has used the Social Security Number (SSN) to uniquely identify its citizens since 1936.

The most misused Social Security Number of all time began to occur in 1938 when wallet manufacturer EH Ferree started promoting its products by inserting a fake SSN card into the wallet. The braniacs in the company thought it would be cute to use the SSN of one of their secretaries on this fake card!

Her name was Hilda Whitcher, and to protect her, the wallet maker at least tried to ensure it was obviously a fake card by altering the card’s color, shrinking it in size by half and embossing the word ‘Specimen’ across its face. Yeah, great job at protection, right?

So the wallet goes on the shelves in Woolworth department stores across the country where many happy customers thought these cards were intended for use by the purchaser and adopted the SSN as their own. In 1943 its usage reached its peak when 5,755 people were using Hilda’s SSN.

To help stave off its use the government issued her a new SSN, voided her old number and started publicizing that it was incorrect to use it. However, as the years wound on, upwards of 40,000 people were still claiming her number as their own and in fact as late as 1972 (34 years later!) 12 people were found to still be using this number ‘issued by Woolworth’!

Although Hilda Whitcher found it to mostly be a nuisance, the FBI once showed up at her door inquiring about the widespread use of her SSN.

Refer to the Social Security History site for more interesting tidbits on this program.

Here’s A Link List

I’m lazy and tired tonight so i’m falling back on a link list.

No, not the data structure type, but just a list of links to interesting articles for the day. BTW, if you haven’t seen the Stanford Blinky Pointer animation that explains pointers, check it out, if nothing else you’ll enjoy the ‘magic wand of dereferencing’. Anyway, the wife kept me up most of the night and now I can hardly think straight, so before I hit the hay, here’s a few links to articles I found interesting today:

Medical Geek:

Vanderbilt University scientists say you’re brain isn’t wired to multi-task two decision making tasks simultaneously. You can thank the region of the brain for its ‘dual task interference’ phenomenon that postpones one cognitive task until another is completed. [Links to]

Just Geeky: informs us that while barnacles can slow down ships, which costs you and the transporter money, a graduate student from Cornell has a solution. It’s a polymer that can be sprayed to a surface exposed to water and will prevent growth or sundry creatures from attaching themselves. Other products were produced before to do this but proved so toxic to the environment they were banned. This one looks promising and the Brine Shrimp are simply raving about it.


From is an article on a new brake light system for cars. Some (or perhaps a lot) of rear end car collisions may be preventable using technology instead of keeping to the 2 second rule. During a braking scenario, drivers perceive the time separation between themselves and a vehicle they’re following based on the size of the image of the leading vehicle on the driver’s retina. They hypothesized that if it were possible to exaggerate how quickly the retinal image expanded, drivers might brake sooner in potential crash situations. A preliminary study using a driving simulator confirmed that they did. The next challenge was to find an application for this knowledge.

There solution is to make the brake lights *appear* to grow in size, fooling the brain since the retinal image increases in size. In tests, this got people to brake 100-300 msec sooner!

So does this mean the tailgaters can get closer now?

Just Geeky:

The folks at Evil Mad Scientists take you through the teardown process of a nixie tube. My gawd, it’s been about 15 years since I last played with electron tubes. They were so much easier to work with than software, it’s software that has added more gray to my head than even the wife.

Binary For Teh Win!

01001000 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111 00100000 01100110 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111 01110111 00100000 01100111 01100101 01100101 01101011 01110011 00100001 00100000 00100000 01001001 00100000 01110011 01100001 01110111 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01101010 01110101 01110011 01110100 00100000 01101000 01100001 01100100 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01110100 01100101 01100001 01110011 01100101 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01110111 01101001 01110100 01101000 00100000 01100100 01101001 01100111 01101001 01110100 01100001 01101100 00100000 01100111 01101111 01101111 01100100 01101110 01100101 01110011 01110011 00101110 00100000 00100000 01001001 00100000 01101011 01101110 01101111 01110111 00100000 01100001 01101100 01101100 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01100010 01101001 01101110 01100001 01110010 01111001 00100000 01100110 01110010 01100101 01100001 01101011 01110011 00100000 01100001 01110010 01100101 00100000 01100100 01110010 01101111 01101111 01101100 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01100010 01111001 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110111 00100000 00111010 00101001


Binary is our friend. 

Barcode Scanning For The Masses

AURA: Advanced User Resource Annotation. Their motto appears to be ‘Annotate the Planet’.

It’s a Microsoft Research prototype feature designed for Windows Mobile devices to resolve barcodes for the purposes of description lookup (what is the item), actioning (what to do with the item), and batch uploading (how to persist items on a web site). These 3 types of item resolution are collectively called Resolution Services. MSR has a developer doc here (word format) that defines the resolver schema and explains how to implement the resolver service.

A.U.R.A. requires close, focused pictures of barcodes to convert the image into a decoded string. Many Windows Mobile devices have cameras that cannot focus at the close distances required by A.U.R.A. To work around this you can apply an A.U.R.A. Lens Kit to your phone and MSR will send a lens kit to anyone who sends a self-addressed stamped envelope to:

Project A.U.R.A. Lens Kit Request
Microsoft Research, Community Technologies Group
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052
United States of America

For more details:

Inner Life Of A Cell

I actually caught this a few weeks ago, and lost track of it until last night.  This is a fantastic and educational view to the internal workings of a single cell.  Running at about eight minutes, the animation will be sure to spur your imagination and keep you mesmerized, as it did me when I first watched it.  Even my 12yr old son sat fixed on this (and he’s a perpetual busybody).  If only there were more interesting movies like this available back when I was in school, I just might have gotten better grades in biology 😉

Cell Stuff

Created by XVIVO, a scientific animation company near Hartford, CT, the animation illustrates unseen molecular mechanisms and the ones they trigger, specifically how white blood cells sense and respond to their surroundings and external stimuli.   Now there’s a mouthful!

EDIT:  Haha!  Even writers have brainfarts.  I forgot to add the link to the animation after writing about it 🙂  It just goes to show that we’re human here at Geeknews!  Stab here for the animation.

How Bad Is It, Doc?

Zephyr Tech is a NZ based company that specializes in ‘Smart Fabric Technology’. They combine patented Smart Fabric sensor technology with novel algorithms and system design. Flexible and formable sensors detect and measure displacement, distance, force and pressure, strain, impact events and bio data.
Their latest product ‘Impact SF‘ holds promise for soldiers in the battlefield, or rather it will greatly assist the battlefield medics. Impact SF is a new solution for measuring impact – from slow collisions to ballistic impact. Using sensors and wireless connectivity, Impact SF is robust enough to withstand extreme environments.

Graphical diagnostic tools quantify an impact’s severity, direction and type, providing instant status updates and allowing evidence-based trauma diagnosis. Information is available in real time or can be stored for later use.

Impact SF Capabilities:

  • Measures position of impact and energy
  • Allows quantitative analysis of an impact’s severity, type and direction
  • Enables blunt force human trauma diagnosis
  • No restrictions to wearer of Impact SF garment
  • Technology can be integrated into existing composite structures
  • Real time and trend analysis via graphical display
  • Wireless connectivity to other user interfaces

You can read their brochure (pdf) for a few more details and pretty pictures.

[Found via DefenseTech]

I Hate Macs

From The Guardian we have the commentary ‘I hate Macs‘.

Here’s just an excerpt, the volume of comments at the bottom are not surprising:

I hate Macs. I have always hated Macs. I hate people who use Macs. I even hate people who don’t use Macs but sometimes wish they did. Macs are glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults; computers for scaredy cats too nervous to learn how proper computers work; computers for people who earnestly believe in feng shui.

PCs are the ramshackle computers of the people. You can build your own from scratch, then customise it into oblivion. Sometimes you have to slap it to make it work properly, just like the Tardis (Doctor Who, incidentally, would definitely use a PC). PCs have charm; Macs ooze pretension. When I sit down to use a Mac, the first thing I think is, “I hate Macs”, and then I think, “Why has this rubbish aspirational ornament only got one mouse button?”

Mousy Progression

It’s been nearly 50 years since the first prototype mouse was introduced for computer use. I can’t thank mouse designers enough….with all the gaming I do on a daily basis, I wear out mice on a regular basis, having to replace them at least once a year. My current favorite? A Logitech 518 Gaming Mouse. (Which I need to replace soon, due to extreme BF2142 play)

Lots of Mice

Well, mice design has evolved in several different directions since they became popular…..some designed specifically for CAD design, some for gaming, and then there’s trackballs *ick*. So take a gander here for Wired’s photo blog of the evolution of the mouse. It’s very interesting!

Here’s a question for you. I need to replace my mouse (above linked) soon – any suggestions? I’m in a toss up between, the Logitech G7 Cordless Laser Gaming Mouse, the Microsoft Habu and the Razer DeathAdder. Now, I’m leaning more towards the Logitech, since I’ve had more experience with their line, but I’m interested in your opinions!

Crazy Reflective Table

Russian born Arik Levy, an accomplished artist, has created a new series of furnature/art decor.  These pieces are polished metal and very reflective of its immediate enviroment.  Because of the unusual angles on the edges, these pieces provide you with a unique view of room it’s placed in.

Rock Table 

I find these very cool!  Imagine if you placed one of these in a sitting room, and painted each wall a different color, or placed different objects around your room?  The visual effects would be amazing!

The History and Logic Behind Minesweeper

I’m still on vacation for a few more days, so here’s another short and sweet article on Minesweeper, who knew there was so much to reveal in its history and development of the game we love for a quick and dirty fix.

The closest ancestor to Minesweeper is probably Gregory Yob’s Hunt the Wumpus. Although it used an unorthodox grid (the original game used the vertices of a dodecahedron, and a later version used Möbius strips and other unlikely patterns), the Wumpus evolved from its predecessors in many other ways.

The Minesweeper that we all know and love was created by Robert Donner and Curt Johnson while they were working at Microsoft. It was first released as part of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack for Windows in 1990, but in 1992, it replaced Reversi as a pack-in game for Windows 3.1. Minesweeper became a Microsoft staple, and from 3.1 to 95 to XP and beyond, millions upon milions of people across the world turned to Minesweeper when the random chance of Klondike Solitaire became overwhelming.

Humanscale’s Freedom Chair

I’ve posted in the past about a few differnt types of chairs (Supervillian Chair, AK-47 Chair, etc.), now comes the Freedom Chair, created with your custom dynamic body posture in mind.  Humanscale has engineered numerous office and home products which they feel will maximize your effenciency and potential.  The Freedom Chair includes a counterbalance system that adjusts itself like scales to the sitter’s weight as he or she reclines, eliminating the need for recline controls.

Freedom Chair 

The Freedom Chair is designed to provide maximum ergonomic benefit to the sitter with the minimum number of controls. Adjust the fit once, then forget about it. The chair starts at $898 at Design Within Reach.

Wake Up And Diffuse This Bomb

This alarm clock available from GeekStuff4u puts you under pressure to wake you up. It’s called ‘DangerBomb Clock’ (comes from Japan).

The deal is that in order to turn it off you have to disarm the ‘bomb’ by pulling one of the wires, forcing you to do some thinking. Each morning a random color is chosen and indicated by the associated LED, pull the correct wire and the bomb is safe. Miss it and I guess you get what you deserved, a nice loud explosion perhaps?
Dangerbomb clock