Cryptography; Ancient and Futuristic

When we think about secret codes, images of military intelligence agents in smokey basements decoding the Enigma probably come to mind. However, for as long as there has been the need to transmit information in secret, thereโ€™s been a way to do it โ€” however rudimentary.

In this article, I’ll explore how the ancient methods of encryption have evolved, the security of WhatApp’s end-to-end encryption, and the political anxiety working against progression in the field of encryption.

Ancient cryptography

An early example of cryptography comes from Ancient Rome, and was recorded by Suetonius in his biography of Julius Caesar. Secret messages were encrypted by Caesar using an extremely simple system, but a system that would produce messages that his illiterate enemies would disregard, assuming they were in a foreign language.…   [continue reading]

Facebook’s Meme Explosion: Why Are There So Many Memes on Facebook?

Itโ€™s easy to disregard memes as the scourge of your news feed โ€” which used to be populated with nothing but narcissistic diary entries โ€” but they have a much richer history than that.

Memes are iterative visual jokes developed by a community. Confined to the internet, where the tools to remix and republish are in the hands of every user, they should technically see more innovation as distribution increases. As weโ€™ve seen with the explosion of memes of Facebook, this is no longer the case.

Memes, which rise and fall democratically, are often jokingly referred to in economic terms.…   [continue reading]

The Politics of Software: Open Source Utopia

In a time where it seems impossible for Netflix to make an original series that isnโ€™t politically charged, where tech startup CEOs criticize Trump freely, and cryptocurrencies threaten to render the finance industry obsolete, software news has taken a step back from the dry figures of the latest Oracle merger and brought issues like power, accessibility, and discrimination to the forefront.

In this series, I’m going to explore the increasingly politicized nature of software. Here, I’m starting with one of the oldest and most contentious issues: open source licensing and distribution.

Before looking into it properly a few years ago, the phrase “open source software” conjured up images of gray, ugly, bug-ridden software that forever languished in the shadow of paid alternatives.…   [continue reading]

Archiving the Web: The Future of Internet History

Imagine trying to find an article you remembered in a magazine from years ago without a solid starting point. Or trying to find the best quality version of a rare film without having access to a proper database. Even on the internet, two decades into its evolution, the attempts to catalog, index and archive the web have been isolated, underfunded, abandoned, or narrow in scope. Even the largest resource, owned by Internet Archive, stores just 0.2% of the pages indexed by Google. That’s despite having being used to hold politicians accountable, win legal battles, and verify sources for important information.…   [continue reading]

The One With The Laugh Track (SCP Mini)

Laugh tracks started out as something unavoidable in the world of comedy. Pantomimes (the historical equivalent of sitcoms), plays, and early TV shows with studio audiences would have natural laugh tracks because there would be a real, laughing audience. Somewhere along the way, audiences got so used to being prompted when it’s time to enjoy a joke that laugh tracks went from being a side-effect of comedy to something that now needed to be inserted.

Television executives of the 50s and 60s had such a low opinion of the general viewership that they believed a comedy would get a bad reception if it didn’t have a laugh track.…   [continue reading]

How Horse_ebooks Changed Internet Poetry Forever

What’s the difference between a tweet written by a human and a tweet generated by a machine?

In a lot of cases, it’s difficult to tell. Twitter bot developers are allowed unbridled creativity, and Twitter’s open API makes it a place where a bot can do pretty much anything. For example, Nathan Bernard (a developer we interviewed in season 2 of our podcast) tweets both manually and automatically. The automatic side of his account runs a script designed to get the first reply to any Donald Trump tweet. Itโ€™s even engineered to match its reply to the original tweet, making it harder to discern whether or not a bot is at work behind the scenes.…   [continue reading]

The Wasted Innovation of Skream!

As anyone who has bothered to gloss over its history will know, dubstep is a widely misunderstood and underappreciated genre. The impression that I get from YouTube comments (at least as far as American audiences go) is that most casual listeners think dubstep is some mutant hybrid of obnoxious samples, grinding novelty synths and drops filthier than [disreputable figure] [performing sexual act] on [elderly family member].

As a teenager growing up in England with a habit of listening to hours of late-night radio, I feel like dubstep is one of the few genres of music Iโ€™ve truly seen develop from the very start.…   [continue reading]

What Created Flat Earth Theory?

“It’s easier to control people when we’re on a ball.” โ€” Eddie Bravo

If youโ€™re struggling to grasp why some people defend the flat earth theory so ferociously, it helps to remember that itโ€™s just as much a real theory people believe in as it is a representation of general mistrust for the mediaโ€™s dominant narrative.

The video below is a perfect example; a short clip of Alex Jones saying that he doesn’t believe the earth is flat, but if the mainstream media said it was spherical, he’d start to question it.


That’s the basic attitude that sums up why flat earth theory is so popular; it’s an extended metaphor blown out of proportion.…   [continue reading]

Through the Lens of @FFD8FFDB: Art by Security Cameras

If you hang around near unsecured security cameras, you might accidentally appear on @FFD8FFDB, an automated Twitter art project run by developer Derek Arnold. The bot is connected to a range of unsuspecting cameras across the U.S. and tweets a screenshot from a random one every 20 minutes.

On the surface, this doesn’t sound particularly appealing. In fact, one of Arnold’s goals was to get any response at all, even a disinterested reaction. The project isn’t supposed to be creepy or menacing โ€” which is often the aesthetic of a security camera. Instead, the images are framed as “beautiful, rather than filthy”, he writes in an article explaining why he chose to start the project.…   [continue reading]

The Last Joke of the Scene: Sitcoms and Sincerity

Television imitates life. The fact that it’s only an imitation is clearer in a sitcom than any other genre. If you distil TV down to its most basic elements โ€” and then simplify each element further โ€” you’re left with the sitcom.

Many sitcoms break the formula, but the most popular (and sometimes older) shows don’t. The Big Bang Theory, Full House, That 70s Show. Even newer releases like The Ranch. They are in the usual form of television but predigested and tidied up to the point where any mystery, crisis, tension or deeper meaning is diffused almost instantaneously, whether that’s at the end of the episode, or at the end of a scene.…   [continue reading]