A Scientific Rush

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A Scientific Rush

I see this week’s column shaping up in one of two ways:

1. Last week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a critically important decision on net neutrality that will most likely transform the relationship between Internet user and Internet provider. I can walk through this horribly complex and tedious topic, perhaps boring you to tears and possibly losing readers. In the end, I can offer nothing much of substance since the government statists and their private sector cronies are going to do whatever anyway.

Or…

2. I can talk about a shiny, new gadget that does cool stuff.

Yeah, I vote for cool stuff, too.

But first of all, many parents are nearing a mild stage of panic as they realize elementary and middle school science fair projects are right around the corner. The science fair project is the annual rite of passage where students demonstrate how well they understand and implement the scientific method. The science fair also serves as a parenting exam to evaluate if parents can build a contraption consistent with the complexity of their child’s vision. The fortunate among us have a friend down at TheClubhou.se or will meet someone at next week’s TEDx to help out. The rest of us are on our own.

For those unfortunate folks (like me — remember I have twins!) sciencedemo.org provides numerous ideas and directions for primary school level demonstrations. In addition to the experiments found on the site, links to other science teaching and demonstration websites are provided.

For example, one of the linked sites, scicast.org.uk, showed a 12-ish-year-old student utilizing the scientific method to illustrate why “wee” is darker when you don’t drink enough water. Don’t worry — there are plenty of other ideas that investigate air pressure, the melting point of water, traveling sound waves and the like. And yes, the site is mostly focused on the United Kingdom. That’s not a problem. We all know that students with British accents sound smarter than our hick, redneck kids anyway.

Internet security also continues to be a hot topic, especially given the news of security breaches like the one that happened at Target. While it might not of helped in the Target case, the use of strong passwords is one of the best defenses against hackers. As a reminder, a strong password consists of at least 12 characters and contains a lowercase and capital letters, a number and a symbol. Random characters are preferred, but if you can build a password from two or three words with characters swapped out for numbers or symbols, you’ll be doing much better than most.

Password management software vendor SplashData released its annual list of most common passwords. For the last two years, the phrase “password” was the most common password on the Internet. This year, the phrase “123456” edges out “password” for the top spot. Other members of the top 10 include other easily guessed phrases: “abc123,” “111111” and “adobe123.”

If you are guilty of using one of the really bad passwords, don’t feel bad. During the Cold War, all of the Minuteman nuclear missiles in the U.S. used the same launch code: “00000000.”

I never did get around to talking about that shiny, new gadget. Oh, well. Maybe next time…

Until next time, I’m off the grid @gregory_a_baker.

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