Fed2 Star - the newsletter for the space trading game Federation 2

The weekly newsletter for Fed2
by ibgames

EARTHDATE: December 10, 2017

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An idiosyncratic look at, and comment on, the week's net, technology and science news
by Alan Lenton

Welcome back to Winding Down. I have managed to get a short edition together, in spite of my doubts last week about whether it would be possible. For your reading we have material on Android trackers, the National Credit Federation security failure, scientific theories, botnets taken down, nice pictures of the moon, a quote from physicist James Dewar and a cartoon about self-driving cars. Scanner URLs point you to legal issues with space applications, modular nuclear reactors for space exploration, how to find out if anyone has used your name to make comments opposing net neutrality to the FCC, old tools made from meteorites, and finally another setback for Uber.

What more could you want?


Your Android phone knows where you are, and it’s not shy about telling the apps on the phone where you are! Security researchers recently identified a staggering 44 trackers in more than 300 Android apps on Google Play. The researchers suspect that iOS phones may have similar problems, but they haven’t yet produced any figures. Worrying.

Groan... Another data breach by people failing to use Amazon cloud’s security features properly. This time it was, of all things, a credit repair service. Forty thousand individuals personal details in the National Credit Federation database are at risk. I wonder if company directors and executives would start taking security seriously if loss of personal data was punishable by the confiscation of all company assets and the jailing the person involved and all the line managers up to and including the managing director!


I discovered a fascinating piece by the late Isaac Asimov about whether scientific theories can be wrong. Asimov’s view is that as long as the theory happens to be the best fit for the facts known at the time the theory is promulgated, then, no, they are not wrong. For Asimov wrong and right in relation to scientific theory are not absolutes. Over time improvements in experimental methods, or new discoveries may be made producing information that doesn’t fit the current theory, rendering it in need of enhancement, or substantial rewriting.

Even amazing upgrades rarely completely ‘overthrow’ old ones, they usually subsume them. Even something as radically new as the theory of relativity didn’t make Newton’s theory wrong, it showed that it only applied within certain limits. We often still assume that the Earth is flat – for instance if you want to build a house, you don’t assume that the curvature of the Earth is going to make the middle walls shorter than the outside one. You just assume that for the purposes of building a house the Earth is flat over the distance involved!

Take a look at the article; it’s very easy to read. And for the curious, even if you smoothed out all the mountains, filled in the seas, etc, the Earth would still not be round, because it’s actually an oblate spheroid, and that matters for the GPS satellite system!

Geek Stuff:

Good news. A team made up from the FFBI, Europol’s European Cybercrime Center, Joint Cybercrime Action Task Force (J-CAT), Eurojust, and Germany’s Luneburg Central Criminal Investigation Inspectorate, along with Microsoft and ESET have managed to take down one of the world’s largest malware rings. This achievements knocks out a bunch of botnets that between them infected over a million computers. Good work.


A moon picture and a moon video this week. The picture is of this month’s full moon over the Alps, taken shortly before moonset. Stunning.

Even more stunning is the video, it takes just under just under four minutes to show a complete moonrise. No tricks, it’s the event in real time.. One of the most amazing pieces of video I’ve seen for a long time. The blurb at the bottom explains how it was done. A must see.



“Minds are like parachutes. They only function when they are open.” Attributed to James Dewar, Scottish physicist and inventor of the vacuum flask.

And finally to cheer you up in run up to Christmas, take a look at this very funny XKCD on self-driving cars...


Seeking regulatory certainty for new space applications

Mars and beyond: Modular nuclear reactors set to power next wave of deep space exploration

Did you unwittingly support the destruction of net neutrality rules? Find out with the New York’s Attorney General search tool

Discover the Jacobean Traveling Library: The 17th Century precursor to the Kindle

Iron tools from the Bronze Age found to have otherworldly origins

Denied: Uber’s request to skip to UK Supreme Court to appeal workers’ rights


Thanks to readers Barb and Fi for drawing my attention to material for Winding Down.

Please send suggestions for stories to alan@ibgames.com and include the words Winding Down in the subject line, unless you want your deathless prose gobbled up by my voracious Thunderbird spam filter...

Alan Lenton
10 December 2017

Alan Lenton is an on-line games designer, programmer and sociologist, the order of which depends on what he is currently working on! His web site is at http://www.ibgames.net/alan/index.html.

Past issues of Winding Down can be found at http://www.ibgames.net/alan/winding/index.html.

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