News

I’m co-hosting the monthly Ars Technica Live series in Oakland

If you’re interested in coming out to Oakland’s best tiki bar Longitude for an evening of in-depth conversation with people at the nexus of technology, science, and culture, then you should join me and my co-host Cyrus Farivar for the monthly series Ars Technica Live. On the third Wednesday of every month, we interview a fascinating person about their work, take questions from the crowd, and film the whole thing to post on Ars Technica later. It’s a chance to meet your fellow nerds and drink some grog.

On Oct. 19, our guest will be space exploration advocate Ariel Waldman, and on November 16 it’s human rights computer security expert Morgan Marquis-Boire. Join us!

Listen to me on Science Friday!

Science Friday has started a book club, and their first book was Margaret Atwood’s fascinating biopocalypse novel Oryx and Crake. Listen to me and UC Berkeley bioengineer Terry Johnson chat with Ira Flatow in a fun discussion of the scientific themes in the novel.

New technology helps us excavate ancient history

I’ve been writing a lot about archaeology over at Ars Technica, and one of the topics that fascinates me is the ways scientists are using new technologies to “dig up” ancient sites without ever disturbing a single blade of grass.

Recently a group of archaeologists used a LiDAR system to uncover the massive city grid around the temple at Ankgor Wat. This provided the first solid evidence of what most scientists and historians had long suspected: this temple was merely the centerpiece of a huge, sprawling city that held at least a million people during its height in the 13th century. This is a terrific tale of finding a lost city using lasers, airplanes, and good historical sources.

And this week a group of archaeologists and computer imaging specialists revealed how they used micro-CT scans–a high resolution version of the CT scans you get in the hospital–to virtually unwrap an extremely damaged biblical scroll from the ancient oasis settlement of En-Gedi. Excavated in the 1970s, the scroll resembled a charred lump of coal. But creating a high-resolution 3D image of the scroll, then using algorithms to map the surfaces of its parchment, the researchers were able to reconstruct what was written on its pages. Turns out it’s the first two chapters of Leviticus. And it has a lot of interesting implications.

Watch my Santa Fe Institute talk on lost cities

In this talk, I explore the history of cities by taking you to the excavation of 9,000-year-old city Catalhoyuk. Find out how people lived in neolithic cities, and why Catal may have been abandoned. It turns out that the ancient history of this place could tell us something about our own urban future as well. Many thanks to the Santa Fe Institute, which sponsored this lecture.

My latest short story, “The Weird Visa” is up on The Message

Medium’s magazine The Message has just published my story “The Weird Visa,” which was inspired by editor Evan Hanson asking me what I thought would happen if there were an ISIS crackdown on social media. Of course, I immediately thought of all the innocent people who would be caught up in the data-mining mess that would no doubt ensue. Read about one such innocent, Bill Hernandez, whose Rolod.ex account has just been blocked for no apparent reason…

Read My Four-Part Series About the Ashley Madison Fembot Scandal

In this series, I did a realtime data analysis of the leaked Ashley Madison “data dump,” which included company emails, part of their membership database, credit card transactions, and source code. It was particularly interesting because in my first article I misunderstood an odd data anomaly in the membership database — and when readers pointed out the misunderstanding, it led to an even more bizarre discovery, which you can read about in Part III and Part IV. You can read my whole Ashley Madison data dump series in these articles on Gizmodo:

Part I: Almost None of the Women in the Ashley Madison Database Ever Used the Site

Part II: The Fembots of Ashley Madison

Part III: Ashley Madison Code Shows More Women, and More Bots

Part IV: How Ashley Madison Hid Its Fembot Con from Users and Investigators

The Information Age Is Over. Welcome to the Infrastructure Age.

Nobody wants to say it outright, but the Apple Watch sucks. So do most smartwatches. Every time I use my beautiful Moto 360, its lack of functionality makes me despair. But the problem isn’t our gadgets. It’s that the future of consumer tech isn’t going to come from information devices. It’s going to come from infrastructure.

See my manifesto for infrastructure at Gizmodo.