Expiration dates on food are just a guideline. Sometimes, things like milk are bad from the get-go, while tinned products seem to last for years. However, we don’t really know, as most of us make sure nothing green is growing on our food or sniff it to make sure it smells alright.
But wouldn’t it be great to have the guesswork taken out of the equation? The Eindhoven University of Technology is working on doing just that using a plastic analogue-digital converter, or plastic chip. The cost of having these chips on food are less than a euro cent and could also be used for other expiration date sensitive goods such as medicine.
One of the researchers on this project says food can be monitored already using standard silicon chips, but that is too expensive, about 10 euro cent, which is too much for a one euro item. That is why they are using plastic, as the chips can be applied directly to packaging. And apparently, the chips use some very complex mathematics to make sure they work properly.
(Link: opmerkelijk.nieuws.nl, Photo of Orange juice – expiration date by viZZZual.com, some rights reserved)
Tags: chip, Eindhoven University of Technology, milk, plastic
Two students of the Eindhoven University of Technology have discovered that the least safe code for your bank card (PIN) is 2580.
They did this by estimating which hand movements are easiest to observe, then calculating the amount of fits for each series of movements. The PIN 2580 on a grid that consists of the rows 123, 456, 789 and x0x requires a continuous downward motion of the hand, and is the only code possible for that series of movements. A bad actor should be able to guess that PIN 100% of the time.
Eindhoven Dichtbij reports that 292 codes can be guessed in three goes after observing hand movements. This also produces a 100% success rate, assuming the bad actors get three attempts before access is blocked. Codes that are relatively safe require lots of back and forth movements. The code 1959 belongs to the same set of hand movements as 105 other PINs.
I wonder if making fake movements would help against PIN thieves?
The students, Anne Eggels and Aukje Boef, also considered other ways of hacking PINs:
- Dabbing the keys in salts, and measuring which salts were gone after use of the keypad—especially useful for PINs in which the same key is used more than once.*
- Camera surveillance.
- Observing wear and tear of keys—useful in locations where the same PIN is shared my most users, such as nursing home wards.
Aukje Boef has a telling name by the way, as her last name means ‘crook’ in Dutch.
Update: found an article from last year that claims 2580 is the third most used PIN.
*) This is an old trick that I was aware of. To this day paranoid me wipes all keys with his fingers after entering a code.
(Photo by Flickr user Redspotted, some rights reserved. Link: Bright.)
Tags: ATMs, banking, code breaking, cryptography, Eindhoven University of Technology, security
Aspiring boffins at the Eindhoven University of Technology have developed a smartphone app for Android that helps cyclists navigate to their destination by using music. By using the phone’s satnav, a cyclist can listen to their favourite tunes the way they always do, but, for example, when they have to turn left, the music will be harder on the left, allowing the cyclist to focus on the road.
The application can be used around the world and can be downloaded as of next week for lucky Android users. iPhone users will have to wait, something that is often the other way round.
I’ve seen or heard nothing of this app, but I already have some issues with it. Using satnav (GPS function) on a smartphone sucks energy out of a battery like a vampire sucks blood (comes with a warning, too), so I cannot imagine using something like this for a real long bike ride that would require any serious directions. Is this something we really need? Will the app respond fast enough or even properly? Some of the best satnavs for cars have problems with certain countries and small roads. When do people need a map when they’re on a bike? That’s right, for a long ride. By then your phone will have died and you’ll have to sing the rest of the way. And I’m not even going to get into people who are hard of hearing or easily distracted.
If anyone uses this in the near future, please tell us about it.
Tags: Android, Eindhoven, Eindhoven University of Technology, satnav, Smartphones
I once had a Dutch roommate back in Québec in the 1990s who asked me why our tap water looked so afwul. I explained that it’s slightly cloudy because it’s full of chlorine, but tastes fine. Many people pour water into a jug fitted with a carbon filter and keep it in the fridge. Problem solved.
“Isn’t there chlorine in the water in the Netherlands?” “Oh, no” she said, “we have very clean water”. For years I thought the Dutch were water geniuses and that Quebeckers were water dummies.
It turns out Dutch water has a dirty little secret: it’s chock full of the bacteria that causes legionnaire’s disease. Professor Annelies van Bronswijk, Professor of Health Technology at Eindhoven University of Technology estimates that 800 people die of legionnaires’ disease every year, more than the dozens quoted in official statistics. “Since severe pneumonia is what most people with legionnaires’ disease die from, you can put two and two together and get a proper estimate of the problem.”
These days, Western countries chlorinate with monochloramine, a compound of chlorine, which doesn’t leave a taste.
(Link: rnw.nl, photo: ipeg.eu)
Tags: chlorination, chlorine, Eindhoven University of Technology, legionnaire's disease, water
Researchers of the Eindhoven University of Technology have managed to crack the McEliece cryptosystem. This system is a candidate for securing Internet traffic in the ‘Post-Quantum Computing’ era, when the superfast computers of the future will be in use. The scientists presented the crack as well as a new encryption key.
Last weekend’s successful attack was done using a large number of computers linked together throughout the world, explained Eindhoven University of Technology professor Tanja Lange. Together with her student Christiane Peters they presented a new encryption key with which the McEliece code will be immune to quantum computers.
Banks currently use the RSA code from 1977 to secure electronic transactions. A quantum computer would have little problems cracking this code, something that takes an ordinary computer three weeks. This is why researchers are looking for something better now before the introduction of quantum computers, which according to Lange is another 10 years away.
Tags: Eindhoven University of Technology, McEliece cryptosystem, quantum computers, RSA code
On Wednesday 15 October, students of the Eindhoven University of Technology set a new world record for simultaneous fire-breathing. The Eindhoven campus got 267 people breathing fire simultaneously. On 14 March 2007, a world record for fire-breathing was set in Tilburg, Brabant, with 115 people breathing fire simultaneously. All fire-breathers used Roman oil as fuel under the watchful eye of the local fire brigade. As well, every participant followed a fire-breathing course the week before.
Will Tilburg try again next year? Will Eindhoven hold on to their world record? Stay tuned.
(Link and photo: omroepbrabant.nl)
Tags: Eindhoven, Eindhoven University of Technology, fire-breathing, Tilburg
Weird science! The Ig Nobel awards are tongue-in-cheek awards given to the people doing very serious scientific studies that make you laugh before they make you think. Last Thursday, the 2007 awards were presented at MIT in the US.
Prof. Dr. Johanna van Bronswijk of the Eindhoven University of Technology came to pick up the prize she had won in the category biology for doing a census of all the mites, insects, spiders, pseudoscorpions, crustaceans, bacteria, algae, ferns and fungi with whom we share our beds each night. See also “Huis, Bed en Beestjes” (House, Bed and Bugs), J.E.M.H. van Bronswijk, Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde, vol. 116, no. 20, May 13, 1972, pp. 825-31.
Juan Manuel Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Núria Sebastián-Gallés, of Universitat de Barcelona in Spain, won the award for Linguistics by showing that rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards. See also “Effects of Backward Speech and Speaker Variability in Language Discrimination by Rats,” Juan M. Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Núria Sebastián-Gallés, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, vol. 31, no. 1, January 2005, pp 95-100.
Other winners were the US military apparatus for trying to make a bomb that turns its victims into homosexuals (no-one turned up to accept the award); Mayu Yamamoto, from Japan, for developing a method to extract vanilla fragrance and flavouring from cow dung; Brian Wansink of the UK for investigating the limits of human appetite by feeding volunteers a self-refilling, “bottomless” bowl of soup; and more.
Tags: Dutch language, Eindhoven University of Technology, experiments, Japanese language, rats