New Reddit AMA App: Learn From The Best

The popular news-aggregate website Reddit is known for offering a diverse array of topics to discuss and information to obtain.  Now, one of their most interesting and engaging features, Ask Me Anything (AMA), has been released in app form.

The premise of AMA is simple:  celebrities and important people of all ilk are invited to answer questions from the website's 3 million-odd usual users, who are identified only by their chosen username.  Other visitors, or "lurkers", are free to watch the dialogue unfold, but can only ask or respond to material by creating a username.  As for the subjects of these discussions, Reddit has hosted everyone from astronauts to video game developers, musicians to politicians.

According to the app download site, users can search past AMAs, stay informed on new ones, contribute material when an "ACTIVE" icon alerts as to a fresh installation, and of course use the site's standard upvote and downvote buttons to promote or disparage content.

So if you've ever wanted to know something seriously special about a celebrity, or tell an author how much their work meant to you, or just ask an important person you find interesting what their favorite type of snack food is, now the power is in the palm of your hand.  Use it wisely...the downvote brigades can be merciless.

Caution:  may be ridiculously addictive.

Fake Cellphone Towers Care About You And Just Want To Listen

It's one thing to steal American's private information and listen in on their phone calls, it's another thing to be completely overt about it.  Now, even the theft of our privacy is no longer being conducted privately.  This now seems to be the society we're allowing ourselves to be a part of.  A recent discovery of seventeen fake cellphone towers has brought no answers as to their use, but raise some serious questions.

The cellphone towers, all of which are located near military bases, were discovered using an ESD Cryptophone 500, manned by Les Goldsmith, the CEO of the ESD organization.  ESD, based out of Las Vegas, provides defense and law enforcement technology, but still can't explain what the towers are there for.  Rather than augmenting cell signals, they appear to be doing little more than bypassing encryption to read texts and listen to calls.

Originally reported in Popular Science and cited by, the troubling locations and seemingly-insidious intent of the towers are pervasive. As Goldsmith explained, "Interceptor use in the U.S. is much higher than people had anticipated. One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found eight different interceptors on that trip. We even found one at South Point Casino in Las Vegas.”

Goldsmith went on to speculate on which military (ours or another) could possibly be using the towers for surveillance.  Another idea involved escalation of the "Stringray" surveillance systems that the police departments of some large cities have put in place for observation.  It remains a sad but true fact that the NSA would not need the towers, and could simply hijack information from the cell service provider. The only hint the average citizen may have that the secret towers are operating in their area is that their calls will be forced down to the less-secure 2G connection, as opposed to currently-conventional 4G.

Under surveillance means under control. Are you allowing yourself to be controlled without evening knowing it? Keep your eyes peeled for the sketchy cell trees...

If you like pina coladas...and getting caught in a sting...

Sun Ships: Floating Solar Panels To Improve Renewable Energy Push In Japan

Hydro-power is a majorly attractive option for sustainable clean energy, but what about using the surface space of some of the world's water to create power as well?  That's the idea behind Kyocera's massive new floating solar plant, scheduled to begin construction this month.

As reported by, the clean-tech movement will have an interesting new option thanks to the innovative new solar plant design, called "Hydrelio."  Created by Ciel&Terre, the flat, floating solar collector is made from  solar panels attached to a 100% recyclable polyurethane mounting system.  It is resistant to ultraviolet light and corrosion, and is designed to maintain its operations even under extreme conditions, like typhoons.  Hopefully this will not need to be put to the test too extensively, as Kyocera's plans are to install two of the systems in ponds in Japan.

With one successful Hydrelio already in operation for over three years in France, and another in Japan at work since 2013, the design is a proven winner.  The two new Hydrelios, which are being installed in the Hago Prefecture, will have a combined capacity of 2.9 MW.  The larger of the two will be able to produce 1.7 MW, making it the biggest floating solar plant on Earth.

Japan has made significant strides towards implementing sustainable solar energy in recent years, and currently sits at the 4th place for worldwide solar power production (behind Italy, China, and Germany.)  While solar power accounts for only 0.7% of global energy generation (from a total of 22.1% that is renewable), perhaps setting more solar panels afloat will make for a brighter future.

Kyocera's current largest floating solar array in Japan, the awesomely-named
Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant, is apparently so durable they didn't worry about putting it next to the active Sakurajima volcano.

Clot In A Shot: New Injectable Foam May Help Stop Catastropic Blood Loss

It has posed a problem for soldiers, adventurers, and the accident-prone since time immemorial: how can one quickly and effectively staunch a life-threatening bleeding wound? Several students at Johns Hopkins University have tackled this problem, and may soon be saving lives thanks to an innovative injector for biologically-safe polyurethane foam.

Hemorrhaging is the #1 cause of battlefield deaths, exacerbated in situations where a neck or limbs meeting the torso cannot be easily bandaged or tied with a tourniquet. Now, according to, the eight students who set out to solve this problem for a biomedical engineering class may have stumbled onto a brilliant solution. Their creation is the size of a whiteboard marker and blends separate chemicals that, when combined, create a foam that could staunch blood flow long enough for a soldier or other afflicted party to survive long enough to get more comprehensive secondary care.

"There is some bleeding we can't see and can't get a tourniquet around it," said Colonel Walter Franz, an Army surgeon who has commanded forward units in battlefields overseas. "We need a product we can pull out of a bag, which is self-contained and simple."

The idea has developed to the point of testing at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., a training facility where medics in the Green Berets, Navy SEALS, Army Rangers and Marine Special Forces could subject the idea to various difficult battlefield conditions and scenarios. To be effective for the military, the foam would need to be nontoxic to all kinds of human organs, able to withstand heat and cold, and maintain its effectiveness in flight or in water. While some of these experiments had undergone rudimentary testing with the students, now chemical engineers are using the idea to craft a more comprehensive foam that can sufficiently harden inside ten seconds (a major amount of time when catastrophic blood loss is concerned.)

A previous type of clotting agent called Factor VII had fallen short of full capability, thus the importance of the new poly foam. Reportedly entering testing on live animals within the year, this foam could hopefully help bring more warriors home.

Home repairs for homo sapiens.

Going Dark: New Email Technology To Easily Encrypt Everything

The unabashed abuse of privacy on the global scale is one of the most troubling invasions of our time. Now, one programmer is advocating a new paradigm of electronic communications that is simple and effective: "Dark Mail" that encrypts every email, every time.

Ladar Levison created the popular and secure email service Lavabit, which made news when he shut down the service entirely rather than cede to the goverment's demands that he surrender his security keys (which would have effectively undermined the entirety of the operation's purpose.) This happened hot on the heels of the Edward Snowden leaks, and since then no seriously secure single service has stepped forward to fill the gap. Now, as reports, Levison still wants to keep you covered.

In an interview posted today, Levison stated that everyone should be under the assumption that their electronic communications are being monitored at all times. This creepy but cruelly accurate statement is one that has yet to sink in for modern society, even though it means that everything from their (possibly "dangerous" and defamatory) private opinions to naked pictures are subject to scrutiny. He argues that the complexity of the e-communication infrastructure, coupled with the ease of cracking "endpoint security" (one's personal computer or device) makes things difficult for the average privacy-prone person. He has created "Dark Mail", a new encryption idea, to aid in spreading the powers of privacy.

As Levison explained:

"Dark Mail is really an effort to turn the world’s email dark—to make email encryption ubiquitous, universal, and automatic. The simplest explanation of what we’re doing is that we’re rewriting the protocols of email—the standard rules computers use for delivering email messages—so that messages are encrypted before they leave your computer and can’t be decrypted until they’ve reached the recipient’s computer. And because this is built into the system, there’s no cognitive burden. Grandma could use this—you don’t need to understand encryption or why it’s important. If someone can use email today, they will be able to use Dark Mail tomorrow."

Levison went on to elucidate that Dark Mail is not an email service, rather, it is a technology than any provider could implement. Expounding on PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) software, Dark Mail implements asymmetric cryptography techniques that use a public key (given to anyone who would like to send an automatically-message to a specific recipient) and a private key (theoretically, only the viewer of the message) to keep communications secure. Layers of anti-metadata technology to shake electronic position trackers are also in the works.

Levison went on to reference Phil Zimmerman, PGP's creator, and his lengthy police investigation and legal battle stemming from the creation of an encryption so strong that it was at first considered a munition (although the charges were eventually dropped.) On paper (and e-documents), there are laws that are in place to allow us this level of privacy.

Even if you feel you're doing nothing wrong, how do you know what those who would malign you are using against your favor? Why become a target just because you might be seeking knowledge that someone else deems illicit? Keep your privacy and your freedom close at hand, for both are valuable enough to be stolen.

If George W. Bush's personal oil painted nudies can be e-heisted, your info doesn't stand a chance. 

Safely Stash Your Bitcash In Virtual Vaults

The popularity of Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies bodes well for promoting a decentralized financial system, but their allure also ups the danger of their theft. Now, virtual vaults have been created to add an extra layer of protection to your Bit-fortune.

According to, there are currently over 13 million Bitcoins in circulation, with a value of over £311 per unit. Though the price fluctuates, this could rise to over £1000 per unit, and over 80 million people are expected to hold Bitcoin "wallets" (online accounts of their Bit-loot) by the end of 2014. The virtual vault Elliptical, created by students from St. John's University, Cambridge, England, holds virtual "keys" for users so that their Bitcoins may be accessed with additional layers of security, while making reports available on the varying market price of the currency. The heavy security makes Elliptical an attractive option for companies, law firms, and financial service providers, including the new Global Advisors Bitcoin Investment Fund (who collaborate to make Bitcoin viable for pensions and insurance providers.)

Elliptical is fully insured, allowing users not to fret that hackers or viruses will act like modern Bit-bank robbers. Creator James Smith explained Elliptical as, “a secure, insured custodian of Bitcoin and other digital currencies, serving a range of enterprise customers." He claims the site, which recently obtained £1.2 million in funding from the Octopus group, is being placed "at the heart of digital currency infrastructure."

So if your faith in the dollar, Euro, or pound is sinking lower than your hope for humanity, perhaps its time to invest in the realm of e-riches. Other vault options, such as Coinbase and Xapo, offer similar vault services.  The scope is serious, and the security is stronger than what you may think you are currently safe with.

No cracking, no hacking.

Green Genes: Scientists Work On "Hacking" Plants

With global warming now a widely-accepted reality, it's time to make sure that our planet's plant life is able to keep up with the rising temperatures. To drought-proof the world's greenery, scientists have been experimenting on hacking plant genes to improve water retention.

According to, over 2 billion people worldwide have been affected by drought in recent years. The UN's Food And Agriculture Organization reports that over 11 million people have died from drought-related issues (crop failure or unsafe water sources due to scarcity) since 1900. Now, Duke University scientists aim to curtail that trouble, having "hacked" into plant genes to tell them when to conserve the scant amounts of water some of them are only able to obtain.

The "coping methods" are triggered in the plants when their levels of calcium are raised, forcing them to process precious water more slowly. This is encoded into a gene in the plant's cell membranes. To confirm this, the scientists raised both plants with this gene and plants lacking it and studied the results. “Plants that enter drought-fighting mode quickly and then switch back to normal growth mode quickly when drought stress is gone should be able to allocate energy more efficiently toward growth,” concluded associate professor of biology Zhen-Ming Pei.

This discovery will allow scientists to assess how plants in drought-afflicted areas could be made to augment their water retention and thus thrive even under difficult circumstances.  If we can't fix global warming yet, at least we're working on how to deal with it.

Go easy on the drinking there, buddy.