Monthly Archives: February 2008

How to hurl things at people

This week I met someone who recently got to watch the Navy’s latest railgun test firing in person.

The flames are caused purely by friction with the air, not by any kind of explosive propellant. Yikes.

The projectile was traveling at 5,600 miles per hour (Mach 7). By contrast, a round fired by an average hunting rifle only travels at about 2,000 miles per hour. The railgun projectile was traveling at Mach 5 when it hit the target. The railgun has a accuracy range of about 220 miles – conventional naval weapons have only gotten us to around a tenth of that number.

The YouTube videos of the test firing are insane:

In other hitting-stuff-with-really-fast-stuff news, here’s the military video of the Navy missile blowing up the wayward spy satellite:

Article | Article

The twitness

I’ve joined Twitter. Micro-blogging is a new evil that I must experience.

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Zodiac copycat

Speaking of Zodiac cipher news, Chris tipped me to this recent Florida news story:

A student at Rutherford High School was arrested Wednesday on a felony charge of making death threats against teachers and other students.

Freshman Dakota Gates, 14, is alleged to have written a coded note with detailed plans for an attack on the school. However, investigators have not yet turned up any weapons or other evidence the teen actually intended to carry out the threats, according to Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen.

The article includes a photo of the coded letter.

Snippet of cryptogram; click to embiggen.

The cryptogram was solved by authorities, but I could not find any mention of the solution in news sources. But Fark, ever the defender of justice and freedom for all, has become a source for the cryptogram’s solution. Look for postings by user “Mayhem of the Black Underclass” in this comment thread on the story. The interesting thing is that the news article claims that in the decoded crytogram, there are “detailed plans of an attack” on the school. But Mayhem’s solution reveals no such plans.

New cipher-solving program available

Brax Cisco, Wesley Hopper, and Michael Eaton have just beta-released their wonderful “Zodiac Decrypto” program, a fun piece of software designed to attack the Zodiac ciphers as well as other substitution ciphers. It uses letter-level n-gram frequency analysis (no, not Engram analysis!) to estimate the validity of solutions generated by the software’s hillclimbing process. The software runs in Windows.

Cracktastic softwares

Give it a shot!


Project Page

Scammer ephemera

The white noise of the internet comes and goes. Here is a recent example:

Round One:

On Jan 19, 2008, at 1:59 PM, wrote:

I want to propose you a deal, if you let me use your ebay account i
will give you 5000$ a month.
You will only have to let me post some auctions on it and you will
get this money.
eBay will believe that someone broke into your account, they don’t
have to know that you gave it to me.
They will think i stoled it. Please reply if you are interested. I
repeat, nobody will ever know you gave it to me.
Thank you.

At this point I’m thinking maybe I can waste this scammer’s time with some bait.

Round Two:

Thanks! This sounds interesting. Where does the $5000 come from?
How do you make that much money to give me?

Thanks; I’m very excited about this.

Round Three:

my name is James Kastoria, i am in london, UK.
I will list laptops, cameras, sewing machines…
ebay will charge you for this listings.
but they will cancel them and refund your money immediatly.
they will suspend your account then, and you need to make it work again.
that is simple just change your passowrd, and give it to me so i can list again…
you need to work like 10 mintues a day and you get $5000 a month.

Round Four:

Very interesting; is there somebody who has worked with you before that can tell me how well it worked for them? if so, i will consider giving you my login.

Round Five:

Date: January 28, 2008 2:34:01 PM EST
Subject: Mail System Error – Returned Mail

Reason: 5.1.1 No such user

Damn! It was just starting to get interesting. And I was just about to give him some bogus eBay account info.

Semi-related note: Chris reports an actual spam email he received that had the following subject: Lesbians and their lovely sheeps.


I was just now looking at the Barack Obama Wikipedia article and was surprised to learn about his religion:

Obama, how could you???

I refreshed the wiki article, and the vandalism disappeared. Click here to see what it looked like when it was active.


In one of the biggest upsets in NFL history, the National Football Conference (NFC) champion New York Giants (10-6) defeated the American Football Conference (AFC) champion New England Patriots (16-0) by the score of 17-14.

A Patriots win in this game would have made New England the first NFL team to complete a perfect season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins and the first since the league expanded to a 16-game regular season in 1978.

(thanks, Josh)