Bob's Junkmail

Purveyor of fine tripe since 1999

Important Stuff.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Quantum Mechanics

What we've all been waiting for! The 7-part guide to quantum mechanics, concepts without higher mathematics. I highly recommend it.

Quantum hydrogen on graphene

Technical literature on quantum mechanics generally requires higher mathematics that I have either forgotten or, more likely, never learned. The technical aspects generally require quite a lot of math and time to understand. As a result, there have been plenty of "pop science" articles written about quantum mechanics, and many are just plain wrong. Quantum theory in novels is often "creatively enhanced" to the point of being ridiculous.

Now we can learn what it's all about, what's real and what's not. The author Miguel Morales is a physics professor at the University of Washington.

Here are the seven parts:

Part One: The Curious Observer's Guide to Quantum Mechanics
Part Two: The Particle Melting Pot
Part Three: Rose Colored Glasses
Part Four: Looking at the Stars
Part Five: Catching a Wave
Part Six: Two Quantum Spooks
Part Seven: The Quantum Century

For bonus points, check out the teaching guide.

I thought this bit from Part 4 was interesting:

if a major storm system forms and much of the air above North America starts moving 40 mph East, the storm is a heavy enough jumper that we can see the Earth’s rotation slow down as the storm forms. We can later watch it speed back up as the storm blows itself out.

Every Thursday the US Naval Observatory publishes what the Earth’s actual rotation was each day for the past week, to millimeter precision as measured by radio interferometric telescopes observing distant galaxies. If you are trying to measure gravity waves with pulsars or guide spacecraft to distant Kuiper Belt objects, you need to know where you are very precisely, and this is published as a free service by the US Navy.

Demanding Electricity

There are more than 10 million electric cars on the world's roads today. Well, a lot of them are parked, but some are on the road. Electric vehicles are a few times more efficient than gasoline or diesel vehicles, but 10 million cars use a lot of electricity. Electric vehicles currently use around about 150 terawatt-hours per year (+/-30), wordwide.

Tesla Y and X, Death Valley

The Bitcoin market uses computing intensive calculations to verify transactions and create new bitcoins. There are now somewhere around a trillion dollars worth of bitcoins in "existence", depending on the current, volatile price. This is a lot of money.

It requires a lot of computation to handle this, currently around 120 twh per year. That's close to the amount of electricity used for all the electric cars in the world, 10 times more than Google uses, and more electricity than is used by many countries!

These computations, called bitcoin mining, are just arbitrary math problems (partially inverting an sha-256 hash using brute force) used to make the verification process expensive and prevent cheating. The "answers" are discarded. If this seems like a waste, it's because it is.

Entire data centers have been built with custom computer hardware for the sole purpose of bitcoin mining, throughout the world. About 65 percent of bitcoin mining is done in China.

That's a lot of overhead just to manage a currency. 6 of every 1000 watts of electricity generated in the world this year will be used for bitcoin mining. I wonder if it would be feasible to use something useful in place of cryptocurrency's current method of transaction verification in order to get some tangible benefit from all that electricity.

Blowing Up Amazon

A guy named Seth wanted to blow up an Amazon data center in Virginia. A slight flaw in Seth's plan was that he tried to buy plastic explosives from the FBI. A second flaw was that he believed this would bring down 70 percent of the internet. While it might bring down for a little while, it wouldn't come close to killing off 70 percent of the internet.

First, the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Virginia data center doesn't contain that much of the internet. Second, important sites located there have alternate sites online at other data centers. It's easy to set this up using AWS. Third, Amazon should be able to restore all but the most recent data from one data center's backup to another for the Luddites (like me) who don't use multiple hosts.

For Seth's plan to work, he'd need to (a) wipe out all the AWS data centers (there are 16 in the United States alone), and (b) find a new supplier for explosives. Why did Seth want to blow up 70 percent of the internet? To make the "oligarchy" mad. Really!

Facebook Data Breach

You can now access information on 533,000,000 Facebook accounts from 106 countries, available free on certain hacking forums. Information includes the full name, phone number, Facebook ID, location, past location, birthdate, email address (sometimes), account creation date, relationship status, and bio.

This data was leaked by Facebook in 2019 and 2020, but for some reason they didn't bother to report it publicly or inform their users. Someone ran across the data posted on hacker sites in January and made it public. In fact, Facebook still hasn't notified users or acknowledged the data breach.

Facebook has managed to lose control of their data so many times it's hard to keep track. Facebook has had four other large data breaches in the past three years. The FTC fined them $5 billion for this in 2019. It apparently didn't make much of an impression.

It's usually not a big deal if your information was copied by the hackers. You'll enjoy more scam and phishing phone calls, texts, and emails as a side benefit of your Facebook account. And who knows? You might really want a new auto warranty. Besides, it's not that hard to replace all your credit cards.

You can check this site to see which, if any, data breaches you've been included in. It's normally nothing to worry about, since you no doubt are highly diligent about avoiding online scams, phishing attempts, and other means of making new online friends.

An interesting bonus: If you download your own copy of these 533 million records, you'll have Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg's cell phone number in this data, along with the rest of his account information (assuming he didn't wimp out and change it).

In other news, Facebook has been catching some flack for auto-generating pages for white supremacy and militia groups, without the aid of hackers. There have also been more than a few articles about Facebook accomodating right-wing disinformation.

World Data Breach

Companies and organizations across the world have unknowningly opened their computers to the public.

A few months ago the Russian Intelligence Service hacked into a fair percentage of U.S. government systems, as well as corporate networks around the world, in what is arguably the largest and most successful hacking operation in history. To make matters worse, Chinese hackers have been piggy-backing on the machines compromised by the Russians.

Hackers have also been hacking Microsoft Exchange email servers most of this year.

There are many networks run by uninformed, uninterested, or incapable humans that are still being accessed by the Russians as a result of their hacking operation, and ransomware operaters are still using the compromised Exchange servers to conduct spearfishing attacks.


Deepfake is a term that refers to replacing images of a person in a photo or video with someone else, either a real or artificial. Once restricted to the domain of politicians, corporate execs, and other criminals, the deepfake technology is now available to the masses.  You, too, can make a deepfake video!

For example, maybe you want to make a fake video of some girls in your daughter's school drinking, partying, and doing whatever errant teenagers are prone to do. A dedicated mother name Raffaela did just that. The girls' faces were patched into a video of some partiers, making it look like the innocent girls weren't so innocent.

Aside from Raffaela being awarded a number of criminal charges, her fake videos worked splendidly.

If a 50-year-old from Pennsylvania who exhibits this lack the brains can do it, it must be easy. And, in fact, it is. Just collect some videos and photos of the original and placement person. Then plug them into some software along with the video you want to modify, and the new face will replace the old one on the video. You can even do this online.

Fake videos have been around for a while, but the recent popularity, high quality, and wide availability of deepfake creation software promises an interesting political campaign season in 2024.

Your Privacy

I happened to read the privacy policy for the Panera Bread app. It is fairly typical, which is to say, not private at all. Most companies have something similar.

By installing the app, I agreed to let Panera collect the following from my phone:
  • my full name
  • date of birth (possibly mis-entered)
  • gender expression (I prefer "it, its")
  • phone number
  • address
  • email address
  • social media identifiers
  • financial payment details
  • current location
  • browsing history
I agreed to let Panera disclose this information to, among others, its business partners, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, and similar companies. From that point, the data is controlled by those companies' various privacy policies. Panera accepts no responsibility for the distribution of my data after they give it away.

The alternative to Panera releasing my personal information (location? browsing history??) to the world?  Don't install the app.

I went ahead and installed it since Facebook already provides this information to the darknet on a regular basis.

Sometimes it's good to remember that I may be the product rather than the customer.

Russian Disinformation

Now that the elections are over (for most of us), what are the Russian social media bots going to do?

The Russia Intelligence Service has mounted a strong anti-vaccine propaganda campaign in the U.S. They are sowing disinformation on Covid vaccines in general, and the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines specifically, which are the strongest competition to the Russian Covid vaccine.

This is not just something that someone suspects. The U.S. State Department's Global Engagement Center has confirmed the Russian disinformation.

Iran is doing the same, but not as effectively. 86 percent of the 50 most popular tweets from Russian state media about Pfizer mentioned either bad reactions to the vaccine or negative reports about the company itself. 92 percent of mentions of Pfizer in Iranian government and state media tweets were negative.


Donald Trump lost the election. Then he tried to subvert it. Here's a good, factual article about what happened. It's pretty long, but interesting and well worth reading.

Pictures of Today!

Here are some photos on a road trip to the Southwest. If you're interested (or even if you're not), there are more here.

Turkey Vulture

Sandhill Cranes


Organ Pipe Cactus


Acorn Woodpecker

Crested Caracara

Rush hour traffic

Redneck truck


Water station for border crossers

Climber at Red Rocks, outside Las Vegas

Holes! Organ Pipe National Monument

A view through the top hole

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Some Links