Show of 03-18-2017

Tech Talk

March 18, 2017


Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Replaying segments from previous shows.

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Mike from Maryland:Hello Mr. Big Voice, Are there different levels of cellphone service? I talk to many different people on a daily basis. On some days and the time of day, when I talk on my cellphone, there are times that the conversation is clear and times that the connection is terrible to the point that we have to end the call because we cannot hear each other. I suspect that when there are a lot of people using a particular cellphone tower, that can make the calls difficult to understand. I have a prepaid AT&T cellphone plan and can cancel at anytime. If I decide to go to a Contact cellphone plan, typically would I have better connections most of the time? Do the cellphone companies have different levels of service and perhaps make some type of better service to their customers that they have locked into a contract ? OH, P.S. I was going to ask your mom, Mrs. Big Voice out for a date, but I think that she might be more woman that I can handle. Plus, I suspect that your employee “Richard” and your mom might already have something going on, because at the end of every show, Richard rushes out the door, while you and Jim are still finishing up your duties of each show. With that said, “Do you have a Sister?” I Love the Podcast. Mike from Maryland
  • Tech Talk Responds: You are probably running on one of AT&Ts older networks. They offer the 2G and 3G networks to prepaid customers. They also resell the through resellers using a different brand. Prepaid phones tend to high rates per minute and are no a good deal if you use your phone a lot, particularly if you use data. You might want to look at Walmart’s Straight Talk program. They resell AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. They will also finance your phone interest free and do not have a contract. Google Pi is a good option too. It uses all three networks (picking the strongest one at the time). There is no contract. Data is $10GB. However, you need an Android phone to use.
  • Email from Carl Tyler:Dear Dr. Shurtz: In recent days I have heard news of a SHA 1 collision. Could you explain in non-technical language what SHA 1 is and what is a SHA 1 collision? P.S. Professor Brian Greene of Columbia University recently tweeted that if you take a one-year round trip space journey at 99.9999999% of light speed when you return, 22,361 years will have elapsed on Earth. Please explain. Loyal podcast listener, Carl Tyler
  • Tech Talk Responds: A cryptographic hash function is a special class of hash function that has certain properties which make it suitable for use in cryptography. It is a mathematical algorithm that maps data of arbitrary size to a bit string of a fixed size (a hash function) which is designed to also be a one-way function, that is, a function which is infeasible to invert.
  • In cryptography, SHA-1 (Secure Hash Algorithm 1) is a cryptographic hash function designed by the United States National Security Agency and is a U.S. Federal Information Processing Standard published by the United States NIST.[3] SHA-1 produces a 160-bit (20-byte) hash value known as a message digest. A SHA-1 hash value is typically rendered as a hexadecimal number, 40 digits long.
  • In cryptography, a collision attack on a cryptographic hash tries to find two inputs producing the same hash value. On February 23, 2017 CWI Amsterdam and Google announced a practical collision attack against SHA-1, publishing two dissimilar PDF files which produce the same SHA-1 hash as proof of concept.
  • The SHA-1 hash algorithm is no longer secure. Weaknesses in SHA-1 could allow an attacker to spoof content, execute phishing attacks, or perform man-in-the-middle attacks when browsing the web. Microsoft, in collaboration with other members of the industry, is working to phase out SHA-1 by mid-2017.
  • The time travel question related to a relativistic effect called Time Dilation. As move faster, time slows down. When you travel at the speed of light, time stops. So the traveler ages more slowly and when he returned is younger than his twin. This effect is caused by the observation that the speed of light is constant, regardless of the frame of reference.
  • Email from Lynn is Ohio:Dear Tech Talk. What is Verizon Hum? I am thinking of getting this as gift for a friend. He is very technical. Is it a good idea? I love the TV ads, but don’t understand. Love the podcast. Lynn in Ohio.
  • Tech Talk Responds: I would not recommend this as a gift. Verizon Hum consists of an OBD-II dongle (On-Board Diagnostics) , a Bluetooth-enabled speaker/control unit that clips to your car’s sun visor, a USB charging cable for the speaker with a cigarette lighter adapter, and a companion Android and iOS smartphone app. Hum costs $14.99 per month. The equipment comes at no extra cost with the service, and additional vehicles cost $12.99 each per month.
  • For this monthly fee you get roadside assistance up to four times a year by pressing a button on the control unit labeled with an operator symbol (or via the smartphone app). You can also press another button with a cross symbol to get emergency assistance via a 911 call. The system automatically detects when a crash has occurred and an airbag has deployed, and will immediately call the driver to assess the situation. If the driver doesn’t respond, Hum will call 911 for emergency assistance, relay your location, and stay on the line until help arrives. If your car is stolen, Hum can send its location to local law enforcement once you file a police report
  • Hum offers other features, mainly through the smartphone app, but also via a Web portal. Using data collected from your car through the ODB-II port, the app keeps tabs on fuel economy, battery charge level, transmission coolant temperature, and engine diagnostic error codes, and will notify you of any issues. If your car generates an error code, the app explains what it means, recommend repairs, and even provide an estimate for what it will cost. If your car has a problem, a hotline can connect you to a mechanic who will help to diagnose it. Hum can also remind you where you parked your car. the Bluetooth speakerphone unit can be used to make hands-free calls.
  • Email from Tuc in Fairfax:Dear Tech Talk. I love social media and would like to check out whether some the pictures are real or fake. Is there a way to check whether these pictures appear anywhere else on the web. I want to unfriend all connections with fake pictures. Love the podcast. Tuc in Fairfax.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can use various image searching tools online to find other copies of the image, track down the origin, and discover more information. Two good options are Google and Tineye. I actually prefer the Google search.
    • Google Image Search
  • Go to
  • Click the Camera button on the right side of the search field.
  • There are two ways to search by image: Select “Paste image URL” and paste the copied address into the field. Or Select “Upload an image” and browse for the image that you saved to your computer.
  • Click “Search by image.”
  • If the image was found in other sizes, these will be displayed at the top. Pages where the same image can be found will be displayed beneath, and visually similar images can be found at the bottom of the first page of results.
  • Tineye Image Search
    • Go to
    • Click the Upload button to browse your computer for an image file, or paste the copied image URL into the field.
    • Click Search Symbol
    • TinyEye will only return results for the same image, so browse through the results to find the origin of the image file.

Profiles in IT: Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger

  • Co-founders of Wikipedia
  • Two personalities with two visions who are now feuding. Here is the story.
  • Jimmy (Jimbo) Donal Wales was born August 7, 1966, in Huntsville, Alabama.
    • Wales’s father Jimmy worked as a grocery store manager while his mother, Doris, and his grandmother, Erma, ran a small private one-room school.
    • Wales attended Randolph School, a university-preparatory school in Huntsville, Alabama.
    • Wales received his bachelor’s degree in finance from Auburn University and started Masters from University of Alabama.
    • In March 2000, Wales started a peer-reviewed, open-content encyclopedia, Nupedia (the free encyclopedia), and hired Sanger to be its editor-in-chief.
    • Wales funded Nupedia and later Wikipedia using revenue from Bomis, a website featuring user-generated webrings that, according to The Atlantic Monthly found itself positioned as the Playboy of the Internet. It features pictures of Bomis girls.
  • Lawrence Mark (Larry) Sanger was born July 16, 1968 in Bellevue, Washington, and raised in Anchorage, Alaska.
    • He graduated from high school in 1986.
    • He received his B.A. in philosophy from Reed College in 1991 and Ph.D. in philosophy from The Ohio State University in 2000.
    • From 1998 to 2000 he ran a website called Sanger’s Review of Y2K News Reports.
    • On January 10, 2001, Sanger proposed the idea of using a wiki to create an encyclopedia.
    • Wales reluctantly agreed and installed wiki software on a server and authorized Sanger to pursue the project under his supervision.
    • Sanger dubbed the project Wikipedia.
  • Sanger and Wales, laid down the founding principles and content, establishing an Internet-based community of contributors during that year.
  • Wikipedia was initially intended to be a wiki-based site for collaboration on early encyclopedic content for submission to Nupedia, but Wikipedia’s rapid growth quickly overshadowed Nupedia’s development.
  • In February 2002; Sanger resigned as editor-in-chief of Nupedia and as "chief organizer" of Wikipedia on March 1, 2002. He later founded Citizendium, which doesn’t allow anonymous editing.
  • In mid-2003, Wales set up the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization.
  • Wales has tried to minimize Sanger’s contribution to Wikipedia. Sanger has fought back. They have been conducting a wiki-feud since 2002.
    • Sanger says: The world needs a better, more authoritative, more reliable, free encyclopedia.
    • Wales says: Nature Magazine has concluded that Wikipedia’s science entries are nearly as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica’s. If Larry’s project is able to produce good work, we will benefit from it by copying it back into Wikipedia.
  • Neither made much money out of the deal.
  • Websites: and

Pi Day Celebration

  • Pi Day was dreamed up 27 years ago to celebrate 3.14 on 3/14, but this year the geek dial is being turned up to 15 — as in 3/14/15.
  • And this’ll be the only year until 2115 that you can really celebrate, at 3/14/15, 9:26:53, and an exact match for pi’s first 10 digits (3.141592653).
  • This Pi Second of the Century will occur during the show!
  • Pi is the ratio of the diameter of circle divided by the circumference. It is an irrational number, meaning that it cannot be expressed by a fraction. The Greeks hoped it would be equal to 22/7, but their hopes were crushed when it was clear that Pi was irrational.
  • The earliest known official or large-scale celebration of Pi Day was organized by Larry Shaw in 1988 at the San Francisco Exploratorium, where Shaw worked as a physicist, with staff and public marching around one of its circular spaces, then consuming fruit pies. The Exploratorium continues to hold Pi Day celebrations.
  • On March 12, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution (HRES 224),  recognizing March 14, 2009 as National Pi Day.
  • For Pi Day 2010, Google presented a Google Doodle celebrating the holiday, with the word Google laid over images of circles and pi symbols. Google did nothing this year.
  • Pi Day has been observed in many ways, including eating pie, throwing pies and discussing the significance of the number ?. Some schools hold competitions as to which student can recall Pi to the highest number of decimal places.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology has often mailed its application decision letters to prospective students for delivery on Pi Day
  • The town of Princeton, New Jersey, hosts numerous events in a combined celebration of Pi Day and Albert Einstein’s birthday, which is also March 14.
  • Einstein lived in Princeton for more than twenty years while working at the Institute for Advanced Study. In addition to pie eating and recitation contests, there is an annual Einstein look-alike contest.

Large Hadron Collider proton beam reaches new record energy 

  • On Easter Sunday the Large Hadron Collider circulated beams of protons again for the first time in nearly two years.
  • This was a major milestone on the way to recommissioning the whole project for more data at higher collision energies.
  • However, those beams were at “injection energy” of 450 GeV (energy equivalent to particles accelerated through 450 billion Volts). The LHC itself was steering and storing them, but not adding any energy.
  • On April 10, 2015, the LHC team for the first time accelerated a beam up to 6500 GeV, which is the target for this year.
  • The next big step will be to store two beams at this energy, and bring them into collision with a total energy of 13000 GeV. That’s when the new physics starts!
  • First, researchers hope to precisely measure the Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle” discovered in round one of LHC research.
  • On July 4, 2012, CERN announced that it had been able to discover the Higgs boson by data interpreting the collisions of particles.
  • Increasing the energy of the LHC will increase the chance of creating Higgs bosons in collisions, which means more opportunity for researchers to measure the Higgs precisely and to probe its rarer decays.
  • Some theories predict that there could be a whole new set of particles out there that physicists cannot detect because they don’t interact through the electromagnetic force.
  • These dark sector particles have mass, they will interact with the field associated with the Higgs boson. Higgs may the missing link to dark matter.
  • We can only “see” dark matter by the effect that it has on other things around it in the universe. We detect it from its gravitational effects.
  • Another mystery researchers hope to look at in much higher energy accelerations at LHC is the question of extra dimensions. Gravity is much weaker than the other fundamental forces in the Standard Model. But why?
  • One theory is that we don’t actually feel the full effect of gravity because part of its force is spread across extra dimensions. How can the LHC test for these extra dimensions? By searching for evidence of particles that could only exist if such extra dimensions are, in fact, real.
  • LHC researchers also hope to explore antimatter as well. Every particle of matter has a corresponding antiparticle that matches it exactly – but with opposite charge. Electrons have an antielectron (called the positron). Electrons and positrons are identical in every way – except that a positron has a positive charge.

Gravitational Lens Creates Einstein Ring

  • Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity included descriptions of how mass can warp space-time, with one of the many theoretical consequences being the ability of masses within our universe to act as giant gravitational lenses, bending and warping light.
  • If, by sheer chance, the intervening mass is placed in exactly the right position compared to our planet, the lens will be perfectly symmetrical in bending light from an object behind it, creating a ring.
  • Einstein thought that we’d never observe a ring because they’d be too small for even his most optimistic dreams for the future of telescopes, but that’s because he was only considering rings created by small, star-sized lenses.
  • When galaxies or black holes mess take on the role of lenses, they can create massive Einstein Rings that are both easier to spot.
  • Galaxy SDP.81 is about 12 billion light-years away. Between us and it is a relatively-near galaxy just 4 billion light-years away that, by sheer luck, has just the right mass and distance to act as a perfect gravitational lens and amplify the light from SDP.81.
  • This allows us an otherwise-impossible look at the star-forming galaxy, helping us gain insights into how things have changed and how they’ve stayed the same over time.