Monthly Archives: February 2015

Getting up the mountain safely

Some of you were probably skiing a few weeks ago. Hopefully nothing bad happened like the cables of the skilift failing.

Those cables are actually rather prone to failure but luckily the cables are designed to withstand a lot and there are easy methods to check the cables and replace them if necessary, before any real dangerous situations occur.

First lets go over the different ways the cables can fail. The most obvious one is of course broken wires, which happens rather frequently, but because the rope actually is made from several smaller ropes twisted together as you can see in figure 1

broken rope element
Figure 1: Rope with broken wires

Other possibilities include but are not limited to:  birdcage (the outer layers of the rope becoming longer than the inner ones, as seen in figure 2), loose wires, loop formations, nodes which can be seen in figure 3 and many others Continue reading Getting up the mountain safely

Imaging systems and your privacy.

Part 2: Seeing your thoughts.

Upon researching the previous privacy blog i stumbled upon some other stuff too.

For instance, have you at any point ever wondered why that police helicopter just kept going in circles above your neighborhood? Well, as it turns out they found out a rather clever trick to discover possible illegal  marijuana plantations.

Using heat camera’s they scan entire neighborhoods for unusual heat signatures, weed plantations are easy to spot as they usually clearly stand out on the special footage.

article-2461412-18C0914600000578-186_634x356Or as in the picture on the left, the plantation in this flat was just literally glowing with an absurd amount heat. (Corresponding article here.)

It’s another method to see whats going on inside people’s private property. But unlike the technology used in the first blog I personally don’t feel this one really invades privacy as it doesn’t pierce trough the surface of your home… What’s your opinion on this method?

On a way different level they are experimenting with stuff you can only dream of:
Looking into someone’s brain !

In the following Youtube clip researchers show video fragments to  test subjects while extracting brain activity data using fMRI. Subsequently they use this data to re-create the original footage by matching the original data with a huge database of random video’s (youtube clips). Sort of like how you can now use Google images by uploading a picture yourself and getting the same or similar pictures as a search result.

The footage in the red square is the original, shown to the test subject.
The footage in the green squares is the reconstructed video (3 different iterations are shown), which is composed by averaging out the video’s from the blue squares, which are possible matches.

Obviously the resulting  footage is currently relatively raw and inaccurate. The Youtube video above stems from 2011, but if you look at a video from only a year prior, you can see they have made huge advancements already.

If they ever get this right, they might be able to ‘fully’ visualize a persons thoughts and dreams.

So obviously this technology can go many ways. Both bad and good, obviously by the title of this blog i’m hinting towards possible privacy abuse when used against someones will. But it’s easy to see it has many possible positive applications too.

What do you see for the future of this technique? If it reaches it’s full potential, and provides a pretty clear image, will it mostly be used for evil or good?

Say now for instance, should the law be allowed to use this on key witnesses ?
Could it be used as a lie detector on inmates? What in the case of people who ended up in a coma or vegetative state.
Should the family be allowed to hook them up on such a machine, just to see what’s still going on in there?

I know it’s very hypothetical  and personal, it also covers a fairly ‘general’ side of privacy, but I’d still like your opinion…

Read the abstract and full text of the related research paper here:
http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822%2811%2900937-7#Summary

NDT and art.

This is a short intermezzo blog, as always people seem to find a bridge in between technology and art. Well actually, to be honest, it’s not hard to imagine X-ray NDT technology being used for art, as it is just a special kind of photography after all.

The following TED talks is a video about Nick Veasey, who has devoted his life to creating awesome X-ray pictures of interesting situations and objects.

What surprised me is the amount of work that goes into creating these pictures. For instance, i wasn’t aware that for an X-ray of a ‘mini’ you’d have to disassemble the entire car and take pictures of every individual component ,only to reassemble the whole later…  I also feel slightly cheated about the fact that most of the ‘people’ you see are actually just skeletons.

Nevertheless, awesome stuff to look at. If you had access to his installation for a day, what would you scan?

I figure i’d scan a magic 8-ball, always wondered what goes on in there.

magic-8-ball-shirt

Imaging systems and your privacy.

Part 1: Seeing trough walls.

Up to now we’ve mostly talked about beneficial uses of ‘see trough’ technology where subjects are usually made aware of the fact that they are being examined. However, it’s not hard to become a little paranoid and assume that these technologies could be used in ways that border what is ethically correct.

The first thing you might start thinking about when discussing privacy are the controversial ‘full body scanners’ that airports are deploying within their security protocols. But even in these instances the passenger is usually made aware of the fact that they are about to be scanned with the choice to opt out and cancel their trip if they don’t wish to be exposed in this way. In the following blogs I’d like to talk about instances where people don’t know they’re being monitored.

JX425CXRecently there has been uproar in the USA, federal officials have been using hand held radars that can ‘see’ trough walls and allow them to detect if people are present in a building and whether or not they are moving. The image on the left shows you what device I’m talking about. The Youtube video below briefly discusses what all the commotion is about.

Further reading and watching of media coverage on the topic if you’re interested:
Article: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/01/19/police-radar-see-through-walls/22007615/
Video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wufayfLYHuI

The major issue is that people feel this breaches constitutional privacy laws because officers currently don’t need warrants or any other kind of approval to use these devices. Also, some think it could do a lot of damage were it to fall in the wrong hands. All in all you might say that this stuff isn’t really that intrusive as the only feedback they’re getting are some LED’s and a numeric display with distance information.

However more advanced tech is getting available. Years ago I saw this research video from MIT which features a complex system that provides a more visual representation of what’s going on behind thick concrete walls:

(Corresponding article for your interest: http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2011/ll-seeing-through-walls-1018 )

As you can see their system already started to provide more of a visual experience of what’s going on inside, be it very vague and undefined. And you might say their huge construction isn’t that subtle but for thinner ‘urban’ walls lighter systems do exist today, as shown in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bt3ecnqdUCo

Still, it doesn’t exactly reveal you at your worst, eating two full bags of Dorito’s with salsa sauce spilled all over your smelly 2-week-old sweatshirt while watching Sturm der Liebe or whatever.

However, this technology is fairly young, and will probably get way more refined in the future and might actually start showing details. What’s your take on this? Do you think they might reach the point of making walls nearly transparent?

And is it a handy tool to neutralize possible hostage situations and dangerous criminals that have barricaded themselves. Or is it another tool to violate your privacy on a non digital level, what if burglars get a hold if it? Or that crazy ex that won’t let go? Provide me on your take on the subject in the comments below.