Is your brain working correctly?
BBC Science and Nature Senses Challenge>>
"We make judgments based mainly on our experiences and what we see. This dependency on visual information can create large blind spots. Thus, usual stereotypes of how we perceive solid, transparency and lighting are employed in this project to play with notions of ‘solid and void’, and ‘true and false.’"Whether Cheng is male or female is also hidden in the video.
"Among law enforcement officials around the world, the city of 120,000 has a nickname: Hackerville. It’s something of a misnomer; the town is indeed full of online crooks, but only a small percentage of them are actual hackers. Most specialize in ecommerce scams and malware attacks on businesses. According to authorities, these schemes have brought tens of millions of dollars into the area over the past decade, fueling the development of new apartment buildings, nightclubs, and shopping centers. Râmnicu Vâlcea is a town whose business is cybercrime, and business is booming."
"...One early advance was establishing fake escrow services: Victims would be asked to send payments to these supposedly trustworthy third parties, which had websites that made them look like legitimate companies. The scams got better over the years, too. To explain unbelievably low prices for used cars, for example, a crook would pose as a US soldier stationed abroad, with a vehicle in storage back home that he had to sell. (That tale also established a plausible US contact to receive the money, instead of someone in Romania.) In the early years, the thieves would simply ask for advance payment for the nonexistent vehicle. As word of the scam spread, the sellers began offering to send the cars for inspection—asking for no payment except “shipping.”I like how the criminals became smarter than the Nigerian fraudsters who send fake letters with misspellings and bad grammar.
The con artists got even sneakier. “They learned to create scenarios,” says Michael Eubanks, an FBI agent in Bucharest. “We’ve seen email between criminals with instructions on how to respond to different questions.” The scammers started hiring English speakers to craft emails to US targets. Specialists emerged to occupy niches in the industry, designing fake websites or coordinating low-level confederates.How a Remote Town in Romania Has Become Cybercrime Central, Wired (single page)>>
By 2005, Romania had become widely known as a haven for online fraud, and buyers became wary of sending money there. The swindlers adapted again, arranging for payments to be wired to other European countries, where accomplices picked up the cash. A new entry level evolved, people who’d act as couriers and money launderers for a cut of the take. These money mules were called arrows, and their existence elevated Râmnicu Vâlcea to a hub of international organized crime."
"I can fool you because you're a human," said Andrus. "You have a wonderful human mind that works no different from my human mind. Usually when we're fooled, the mind hasn't made a mistake. It's come to the wrong conclusion for the right reason."
"...Hart Dyke became aware of the low-level suspicion – of people and of events – that, of necessity, permeates every day for a spy. 'What struck me most – and I've tried to get this across in my paintings – is the intriguing interface between the mundane and the totally unexpected. So, for example, you'll be in a totally normal setting – on a busy street perhaps, or in a hotel bar – but you're waiting for something completely out-of-the-ordinary – a tip-off or an information drop. In the midst of an entirely innocent-seeming event, something entirely 'other' is taking place.'"The artist who spied on MI6 - It was a top-secret mission he couldn't refuse. Painter James Hart Dyke was assigned to shadow spooks for a year, sketchbook in hand. What did he learn about their mysterious world? The Guardian, UK>>
"I work in a small studio creating original, one of a kind pieces of furniture in wood. My background in 18th century American antiques has deeply influenced my work. When I first opened my shop I made very strict reproductions of important antiques. Now my work begins with traditional designs to which I give a surreal twist. What I never change is the level of craftsmanship that colonial craftsmen employed. I use hand cut dovetails as well as mortise and tenon joints throughout. I also prefer traditional finishing materials such as shellac and varnish."
"Eric Blake, a 33-year-old carpenter, has been coming to Crater of Diamonds two or three times a year ever since his grandfather first took him there when he was a teenager. In October 2007, his hard work finally paid off with the discovery of a whopping 3.9-carat stone—nearly the size of the site's Kahn Canary diamond that Hillary Clinton borrowed for her Arkansas-born husband's presidential inaugural galas. It's the kind of rare find that's spectacular enough to attract national attention. Blake reportedly spotted the elongate, white diamond along a trail just as he was plunking down a 70-pound bucket of mud and gravel he planned to sort through.- The Curious Case of the Arkansas Diamonds, In a state park full of amateur diamond miners, one prospector dug up a valuable stone worth thousands of dollars—or did he? Smithsonian Magazine>>
His lucky stone could be worth as much as $8,000—if he can prove it came from Arkansas soil. In the year since his discovery, fellow collectors, park officials and law enforcement officers have started wondering how Blake and his family uncovered an unprecedented 32 diamonds in less than a week.
"We have a concern of maintaining the integrity of not only the park, but the state of Arkansas," says park superintendent Tom Stolarz, who caught a glimpse of the diamond as Blake was packing to leave the park. Although Stolarz is not a geologist, he has been at the park for 26 years and has handled more than 10,000 diamonds, paying special attention to large stones. Blake's rough-hewn gem was certainly a diamond to Stolarz's eyes, but was it an American diamond?
The answer is more important than one might think. Diamonds are merely crystallized carbon and today they can be created economically in a lab. But the stones fascinate people; the National Museum of Natural History's diamond exhibit, featuring the Hope Diamond, is one of the most popular destinations in the Smithsonian Institution. For many diamond buyers, history buffs and a quirky subculture of dedicated diamond hunters, provenance is everything."
“A lot of the names they collected by going through people’s trash... Part of the problem is we really don’t know where they got all the trash from. They just went around getting people’s trash.”- Craigslist baby peddler draws prison sentence, The Joplin Globe, Missouri>>
"After spending several years as a sports agent at Chicago's Interperformances, Biderman founded Ashley Madison in 2002, naming the company after the two most popular names for baby girls that year. A large chunk of his work as an agent involved helping professional basketball players juggle their wives and mistresses, so when he read somewhere that 30 percent of users of Internet dating services were pretending to be single when they weren't, a light went on, pointing the way to an underserved online niche market. What would happen, Biderman thought, if cheaters had a website all their own?"Of course there are more men than women on the site. But does it actually encourage adultery or merely help enable existing adulterers? Or is it really just another way for people to hook up for sex whether they're married or not?
"Promoting adultery and creating a market for it has made Biderman rich. It has not made him popular. "Nobody knows how many people are adulterous. But there is something important here," says Helen Fisher, an anthropologist specializing in love and relationships who is also a consultant to the dating site Match.com. "Even though some people are predisposed to adultery, we do have a big cerebral cortex with which we make decisions—some people are predisposed to alcohol and they give up drinking, drug addicts overcome addiction. This guy is preying on human frailty. It's a little bit like pimping if he's making money." Still, "they certainly own that cheaters' market," said David Evans, publisher of Online Dating Insider. "It's quite lucrative and successful."Cheating, Incorporated, At Ashley Madison's website for "dating," the infidelity economy is alive, well, and profitable, BusinessWeek>>
What Ashley Madison does is legal. It's also illicit, in that it helps users violate their marriage vows and engage in deception and secrecy. This presents enormous branding challenges as well as financial ones: How many fund managers want to go home to their wives and announce, "Honey, I found the perfect investment opportunity!" Some of Avid Life's employees don't publicly admit where they work for fear of jeopardizing their spouses' jobs, provoking family disapproval, or seeing their houses pelted with oranges; Biderman says he sometimes worries about his security. All of this puts him in a unique position: He is running a budding empire built on an activity that most people would say is wrong. Is that the easiest thing in the world or the most difficult?"
"It is also a misconception that Escher depicted optical illusions. Of course, Escher knew many optical illusions; he was interested in them and enjoyed them as well. Yet he never chose them as a starting point for a print. I will give one example here.
(Below) ...you see two boxes. Our visual perception tells us that the left one is more elongated than the right. But if you take a piece of paper and cut it so it exactly covers the black side of the right box you will discover that the same piece of paper also exactly covers the black side of the left box. I asked a friend (Fred van Houten, who has made many impossible figures) to dress up the two boxes so they would appear more realistic... (the result is in the first photo above.)
Escher undoubtedly would have added this picture to his beloved collection of prints displayed on the door of his cupboard, but he would never have been tempted to make something like it himself. He was occupied with very different things. Dressing up optical illusions was entirely out of his scope."
"I never cheated much as a child, not on tests or papers, not at Go Fish or poker or even board games like Sorry or Risk. It’s been the same since. I pay my taxes, under-claim expenses, give mistaken change back to the cashier. I don’t lie on applications. I’d probably fill out my own death warrant with civic-minded meticulousness.
I’m not bragging. I find this part of me repellent. I’m not noble or good. I’m adult enough to know that the victories of cheats don’t feel hollow to them. They live happy lives. They don’t think they are cheats. They consider themselves warriors of life.
The fact is, I don’t cheat because I’m scared of getting caught, and I will be caught, because my fear will give me away.
You have to hand it to cheats. They have drive and nerve, though their ends tend toward the nefarious. Many great fortunes, from those of the robber barons to those of the robber geeks, bear some taint, an original murk, land wheedled here, software appropriated there. The upright schmoes just stood around, bewildered, fleeced.
We often claim otherwise, but cheating helped build the wealth of this country. That and murder, slavery and outright theft, of course, but the subject here is cheating. Our capitalist system has always harbored cheats, catapulted them through loopholes into riches and glory. The country has paid dearly for it. Predatory loan, anyone?
Still, I was raised to believe that America was the one place you didn’t have to cheat. Hard work alone would deliver you. I think I learned this from a filmstrip at school. Boy, was that filmstrip wrong, and now it seems that Hasbro, the board game manufacturer, agrees."
"Don't under sell deception... Deception is the same as any other talent. It is a big tool."For years, coaches have been trying to change the way the 25-year old pitches, because they felt his style would not be effective throwing the ball "down and away" from a right-handed pitcher. They also had fears that he would blow out his arm.
"I've been thinking about that... Information travels fast in baseball. Hitters learn. If hitters get to me, I'll change something."With Frieri, it's substance over style, Sign On San Diego, San Diego Union Tribune>>
'In the conditions of real war, the feeling of uncertainty is magnified, and this makes the opponent much more sensitive to crafty deception - so that even the most threadbare ruse has succeeded time after time.'Here's how two Confederate commanders fooled their enemy during the American Civil War.
- Sir Basil Liddell Hart
Desperate times require desperate measures, and in warfare few are more cunning - or dangerous - than the desperate. Although the Federals did manage to pull off their fair share, it was the Confederates who were responsible for the majority of the hoaxes that were perpetrated during the Civil War. This stands to reason considering the South's predicament. Desperately lacking in both men and materiel, Rebel commanders were often forced to resort to correspondingly desperate measures, such as deception, in order to mask or offset those deficiencies.How did John B. Magruder's 13,600 men hold off 55,000 Union soldiers? Maj. Gen. Erasmus Keyes could see columns of men moving across the woods, and decided he must know more before his troops could attack the Confederates.
"In truth, most of what Keyes had seen or heard had been nothing more than a grand illusion, compliments of Magruder. The defenses that stretched along the entire 14-mile length of the river had been real enough, but due to a lack of sufficient troops, most were only lightly manned. To throw off the Federals, a handful of Magruder's men had been kept marching from one location to another. Arriving at a designated scene, the soldiers-turned-actors would then go about entertaining their Yankee audience with a staged setting depicting a strongly garrisoned position. Once satisfied that the onlooking Federals were suitably impressed, the troupe would then proceed to the next position and put on a new show. Keyes was oblivious to the fact that many of the enemy columns he had observed filing through those various gaps were often the same units, which had simply doubled back under concealment of the woods."A sound deception masked a retreat. P.G.T. Beauregard's Yankee opponent, John Pope, said:
"The enemy is re-enforcing heavily, by trains, in my front and on my left. The cars are running constantly, and the cheering is immense every time they unload in front of me. I have no doubt, from all appearances, that I shall be attacked in heavy force at daylight..."Hoodwinked During America's Civl War: Confederate Military Deception, Civil War Times>>
Contrary to Pope's belief, the Army of Mississippi had not been reinforced the previous night but was instead withdrawn from Corinth in a prescribed and orderly fashion. To mask the evacuation, Beauregard had arranged for an empty train to be run back and forth along the Memphis & Charleston tracks. It was also he who had instructed the men to cheer every time it rolled in, thereby giving the impression reinforcements were arriving.
According to Robert Wallace, real-life spy gear isn't anything like the showy devices we see in the movies. "The equipment is developed for clandestine use, for use that isn't flashy, that isn't noticed," he says. He should know: During his 32 years at the CIA, some of them spent working undercover, Wallace served for seven as director of the Office of Technical Services (OTS), where spy gadgets are created...Quotes from Mr. Wallace:
"...Spies in Hollywood are built around car chases, seduction, and assassination and the business we really do is communications and information acquisition. That's what real spies do. So the equipment that is developed is developed for clandestine use, for use that isn't flashy, that isn't noticed, that isn't apparent...- Real-Life Get Smart: Q&A With the CIA’s Former Gadget Guru, Popular Mechanics>>
...(Russians) used to say, oh yes, we used to watch the James Bond movies because what we saw there is what we'd be encountering over the next 2-3 years. Before my time at OTS it was commonly said that the day after the airing of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., OTS would regularly get 2-3 folks saying hey, we saw this, if that's really possible, could we get one of those? Fast forward that to this century, what we frequently would receive is calls from folks after they had been on an international trip and reading about high-tech gadgets on the airlines, you know, put this on your phone and you can tell if the person on the other end is lying. Well, we could get calls, saying, can you guys do that?
My favorite pieces of spy gear are the concealments. Folks with wonderful imagination can take the most common object and turn it into a piece of spy gear. So anything that I see anywhere, my first thought is, I wonder if that has a spy application with it.... I look at the pen and say, well, there can be a camera in there, a listening device in there and maybe be a locating and tracking device in there, secret writing, tablets that you can make secret ink for secret writing. Heck, there can be a pad in there. There can be an L-pill, a lethal pill, a suicide pill, who knows?"
"How five women from the struggling countries of Eastern Europe were tricked into sexual slavery, beaten by traffickers and pimps, forced to work to turn a profit - and finally escaped. Plus, a convicted Ukrainian sex trafficker talks about the multibillion dollar sex trade business, and why he sold an acquaintance for $1,000."Some of the traffickers were captured in secret hidden camera footage. The documentary is available on YouTube: Frontline - Sex Slaves (2005)>>
How are these girls recruited? How do they find these girls?- Sex Slaves documentary, Frontline, PBS>>
A lot of ways. One is in ads offering them jobs as nannies, waitresses, cleaning hotel rooms, real menial pay. But they want to do them because at least they're going to get something to send back home.
The girls realize now that a lot of these recruiters are very shady, so you've got to be very careful with them. And now [the recruiters are] using a lot of women as recruiters. ... Organized crime was pretty smart. When they realized that everyone was saying, "Watch out for these men; watch out for the con artists," that's when they brought the women in, and they realized there are a lot of women out there who are willing to make a quick buck.
They recruit people, particularly women, within the towns and villages and cities, and they swear on a bible to Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the important saints that "This is a legitimate job; my daughter is in Greece, and she works in this great hotel." Yeah, she works in that great hotel as a prostitute because she's forced to, and it isn't her daughter. It's another girl that she sent over. But these young women know that there are a lot of women who have gotten jobs, legitimate jobs - 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent, who knows? - so they're willing to roll the dice. When they leave their country, they're shaking because they're saying to themselves, "Is there going to be a real job, or am I going to be thrown into the prostitution trade?" ... Chances are you're going to be thrown into the prostitution trade, particularly if you're good-looking.
They also use sweet-talking, cool-looking guys who just go into these towns and sweep young women off their feet and promise to marry them. "Come to my country, Greece, and I want to show my parents the woman that I love." She crosses into the country, thinking that she's engaged to this guy, and within two seconds she's prostituted. And now they're using marriage agencies. ... They go off to whatever country to marry this man, and on their honeymoon they're trafficked. ...