If adopted, alphabet would be 42 letters long
Alarmed at a rash of high-profile data breaches at big U.S. retailers like Home Depot, a task force of scientists and engineers looking at computer safety and privacy have called on lawmakers to add 16 letters to the English alphabet. They’ve also called for the addition of three numbers to the number scale, but that recommendation was not included in the final report as task force members look at how that could be done, since the number scale is universally understood to be based on the 10-digit system and any change would be difficult to administer.
The task force, called the Computer Safety Study Group, was created in 2001 as part of the USA PATRIOT Act. The group has been calling on retailers for years to replace outdated memory-strip card-reader technology with the more secure chip-implant technology widely used in Europe.
In this latest recommendation, additional letters in the English alphabet would “make it that much harder for criminals, even those using sophisticated algorithms, to crack passwords.”
Scientists say the new letters would increase the number of random-letter codes—that is, codes that don’t spell out recognizable words—since it’s impossible for the new letters to form recognizable words. “A hacker spending a day successfully outsmarting a password now might have to spend a week if the new letters are in place,” says the group. “That’s because any code that relies on just the new letters would, by definition, be random. Plus, any password using a blend of old and new letters would always be partially random while a password that just used old letters would not always be partially random, even if the person creating the password isn’t a good speller.”
To make the new letters as hard to decipher as possible, the group recommends making up entirely new characters rather than using modifications to existing letters, including Latin letters. The group recommends using “squiggly lines, lines that don’t connect, and a combination of straight and curvy lines. Lines with dots would work, too.”
Many other scientific and engineering organizations, including the American Academy of Sciences, agree the addition of new letters would greatly enhance the country’s computer security. But the proposal has detractors as well. “Additional characters will create a global catastrophe of Y2K proportions,” says Ed Newton, a computer science professor at MIT. “Indeed, it would be worse than Y2K, because whereas Y2K turned out to be a false alarm, new characters in computer passwords would be a real disaster, a five-alarm mega-emergency that would bring the global economy to a screeching, painful, agonizing, and catastrophic halt—which isn’t to say you shouldn’t try it.”
The Obama Administration has yet to respond to the report.
This is a work of satire. It is a fictional news article not meant to be taken seriously. Photo: usda (Creative Commons). Not necessarily an endorsed use of images.
The New York Times sent teachers of English into a tizzy when it split an infinitive on its front page this morning. “Clinton Team Starts to Cautiously Look at Running Mates,” blares the headline in the April 24, 2016, morning edition of the Times, widely considered the newspaper of record of the United States. Reaction from teachers of English was swift—and harsh. “We spend hours each quarter teaching students not to split their infinitives,and what does The New York Times do? It splits an infinitive!” says Mabel Goldsmith, an English teacher in Public School 371 in the Bronx and chair of the school’s English Department. “We expect better from The New York Times.” More.
Manufacturers and technology companies have failed to blanket the living environment with blinking lights and bleeping noises even though they’ve had the capability to do so for many years, the world says. Until enough blinking lights and bleeping noises fill all living spaces at all times, there will be operations and processes that won’t be sufficiently signaled for people the world over to be sufficiently signaled about every process and operation. “As hard as it is to believe, it’s possible today to go from your home to your car without being signaled by a blinking light or a bleeping noise alerting you to an operation or process that has occurred and that could affect you,” says the world. “Has the newspaper arrived at your doorstep? Have your sprinklers been turned on to water your grass? These are the kinds of processes and operations today that remain un-signaled with a blinking light or bleeping noise. More.
Google has launched a service to step in and write your emails for you since it knows what you’re writing about anyway and can do a better job at it. “Having us write your emails is just another way for you to spend more time doing what you like to do and are good at and leaving to us the drudgery of spelling out words and connecting them in sentences in ways that make sense,” says Janna Learner, head of the new service, called Google Ghost Writer, or Google Ghost for short. The service uses the same algorithm the company uses to match ads to the subject matter in your emails. “We’re already tailoring ads to what you’re writing about, so this is just the next logical evolution in that mutually beneficial relationship,” says Learner. “If you’re writing an email about, say, a job you’d like to apply for, imagine how much help our service can be in making sure you say the right things.” More.
TORONTO—Not everyone at Orione Corp. knows what the guy with three monitors does, but there’s little doubt he’s a man of mystery. “I’ve got a five-year-old Dell computer and that’s it,” says Jeff Norton, one of the company’s purchasing associates. “No one walks by my cubicle and wonders what I do, but I can tell you people wonder what he does.” Based on the kinds of programs he uses, the guy with three monitors appears to do something requiring complex multimedia functionality because he’s always working with a high-res graphic interface, motion graphics and video, and audio. To add to the mystery, he keeps the lights out around his workstation to reduce glare on his screens. “It’s almost like a spaceship control module,” says one colleague, a hint of awe in his voice. More.
NEW YORK CITY—One of the top art critics in the United States today said abstract art, from Jackson Pollock to Pablo Picasso to Willem de Kooning, is “just plain dumb” and people are “morons for buying into this crap.” Richard Bartley, the Richard Colby Distinguished Professor of Art and Art History at Harvard University, whose books are widely considered the gold standard among critics, is raising an outcry with his remarks, which he gave at a gallery opening here. Bartley called today’s art industry a “total con game” in which people are suckered into buying “meaningless brush strokes of paint” on canvas and other media that have no worth outside of the market that artists, dealers, curators, and investors have created. More.
Elegant British super spy and womanizer James Bond is ditching his iconic Saville Row suits and other formal wear to sport a more casual look, an MI6 spokesperson says. “Agent 007 isn’t immune to the times,” the spokesperson says. “He understands business is conducted in an increasingly casual atmosphere and that spy craft is similarly changing. I’m not saying Bond will be stepping out of his Aston Martin in anything less than a nice shirt and maybe some khakis, but when he’s just puttering around London, Paris, or New York, you might just see him in a T-shirt and jeans. I’m not saying it will happen, but you might see that. He’s a secret agent, after all.” More.
The English Language Institute removed “utilize” and “cleanse” from the English language today as part of the organization’s long-term plan to trim the language of unnecessary words. The words were recommended for removal by the organization’s Word Removal Committee last month and approved for elimination by the board of directors today. “We grow attached to words, so it’s never easy to say goodbye to them, even when they’re unnecessary,” says Nigel Porter, president of the English Language Institute. “But for the long-term good of our language, today’s actions were necessary and long-overdue.” According to the Institute, “utilize” has long been used as a complex variant of “use,” but it was found to have no meaning beyond “use.” More.
Saying it’s tired of sitting on the sidelines for the majority of compositions in the English language, the letter Q announced today its secession from the English alphabet and a ban on all uses of the letter Q in subsequent English compositions. The letter Q also says it’s reviewing its ties with French, German, Spanish, and other Indo-European languages, but for now, it’s willing to stay in those Latin-based languages until further notice. “For thousands of years the joke has been on the letter Q,” says the letter Q in its Declaration of Secession, delivered simultaneously to the American Library Association, the British Library, the National Library of Canada, the Oxford English Dictionary, the Webster English Dictionary, the Associated Press, and the Chicago Manual of Style. “But no more. As of today, the letter Q is not available for your use.” More.
SmartCarry™ Luggage Carts are the go-to brand of carts for most homeless people, a survey released today by Brand Trust, a business-to-business trade magazine. The magazine asked 250 homeless people in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Toronto about their brand preferences when it came to luggage, grocery, or other types of carts for carrying their possessions and just under 200 said SmartCarry™ is their cart of choice. “They last a real long time,” says Arnold Sween, a homeless person in New York City. “I’ve had mine for 10 years and it still rolls good. Holds a lot, too.” More.
BEIJING—China this week released its plan to dominate the world by 2020 and also host a summit on the overfishing of red herring in the South Sea. “This is China’s century and we are determined to assert our interests globally in accordance with our stature as the one true superpower,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a news conference here yesterday. China is the world’s largest country by population, with 1.36 million people, not counting ethnic Uighurs, and the world’s second largest economy, with a gross domestic product of $16.1 trillion. That is about $1 trillion less than the United States, although that gap is expected to close within the next 18 months because of America’s declining productivity and “black president,” the plan says. More.
For the longest time I enjoyed going on walks with my master. He would give me a call, “Buster!” and when I came rollicking up, excited about what awaited us outside the walls of our house and outside the confines of our yard, he would attach my leash and off we would go. Sometimes we would go right, which I call the “Annie Poodle Route,” because Annie the Poodle lives down that way, and I always leave my calling card by the corner of her fence (along with a million other dogs!). And sometimes we would go left, which I call the “Fred the Mean Dog Route,” because Fred the Mean Dog lives down there, and you can be sure I don’t leave my calling card by his house! More.
House budget negotiators averted yet another showdown by meeting much of the federal government’s projected fiscal year 2015 spending gap with proceeds from the sale of phone data on U.S. citizens that the National Security Agency has been collecting since 2001 under the USA PATRIOT ACT. “We know NSA’s data collection has been controversial, but at least we were able to solve a very real problem with it, and that’s to get our fiscal house in order without resorting to showdown tactics and last-minute deals,” says House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). More.
Researchers at Oxford University have bestowed upon Canada the dubious distinction of being the most boring of the six countries that comprise what’s known as the Anglosphere: Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United States. “We think it’s important that this matter be settled once and for all,” says lead researcher Nigel Clappe, lecturer in political science and demographics at Oxford University. “Up until this point, people have been identifying the most boring country based on nothing more than their own gut feeling. And that wasn’t helping anybody.” More.
Saying it’s impossible to be mad when you skip, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for leaders around the world to take up skipping, the “hippity-hoppity” gait that comes so naturally to children. “If you remember the last time you skipped, you will no doubt remember feeling frisky and carefree,” Ban said in a statement released today. The U.N. last week passed a referendum declaring the week of Dec. 18-25 World Skipping Week, which the international organization hopes will inspire people everywhere to skip rather than fight. More.
WASHINGTON—America’s super-secret National Security Agency (NSA) is responsible for the dreaded “Heartbleed” virus that has infected servers worldwide, according to documents leaked by former U.S. security contractor Edwin Snowden. The documents show that NSA developed Heartbleed as part of its massive MYSTIC anti-terrorism surveillance operation. The virus “enables security personnel to monitor Internet traffic flowing through half a million U.S. and European-based servers,” according to a highly classified briefing NSA officials made last summer to security experts at European intelligence agencies. The briefing was part of the large trove of classified documents on NSA surveillance passed along to news outlets last year by Snowden, who is living under asylum in Russia. More.