June 26, 2018

Suriname’s slave registries now accessible online

Filed under: History by Orangemaster @ 7:35 pm

As of today, everybody online can access and search the Surinamese slave registries of the Dutch National Archives, in Dutch.

Started in summer 2017, it took 700 volunteers many months to digitise the entries about 80,000 slaves registered between 1830 and 1863, after which slavery was abolished. Slave owners were obliged to register the details of the slaves in their possession: details such as date of birth, the mother’s name, release or sale, if they had leprosy, and other matters that were important for determining their worth. This project was carried out as a collaboration between the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen and the Anton de Kom University of Surinam and financed thanks to donors.

One of the difficulties in searching the archive even today is that back then, slaves could not have last names. Their proper last name can be found on emancipation documents of 1863 and put together, many people can track the history of their ancestors.

(Link: nu.nl, Photo by Ian Mackenzie, some rights reserved)

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June 28, 2016

Dutch language a poor choice to describe smells

Filed under: Food & Drink by Orangemaster @ 11:45 am


According to linguists Ilja Croijmans and Asifa Majid of the Radboud University Nijmegen, the Dutch language is a bad choice for describing smells, and therefore not great for wine-tasting. However, Dutch wine experts are getting better at describing smells by using very colourful language, something the average person would not do. Then again, pointing out that experts are actually better than ordinary folks sounds odd, considering that’s usually the point of being an expert.

To drive the point home, ordinary mortals and wine experts tasted wine and coffee, to see which group used what kind of language in their descriptions of smells and flavours. The wine experts were better at describing both wine and coffee, although both wine and coffee experts were no better than novices at naming everyday smells and tastes, showing that the expertise benefits are limited to the specific smells and flavours used to train experts, and not to more general ones.

For anyone who sucks at finding words other than ‘fruity’ (calling wine ‘sweet’ is often a no-no) and ‘dry’, Dutch wine shops and even supermarkets sell wine by numbers, which represent some sort of range between ‘fruity’ and ‘dry’ for us plebs.

(Links: www.ru.nl, phys.org, Photo of Arrogant Frog wine by Martin Ujlaki, some rights reserved)

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November 13, 2013

Interpol to use Dutch software for identifying DNA

Filed under: Science by Orangemaster @ 7:07 pm

Earlier this month, Interpol announced its plan to start using a computer program called Bonaparte that is able to identify people from their relatives’ DNA. Bonaparte is based on research done by Radboud University Nijmegen and the Dutch Foundation for Neural Networks at the university.

The Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) has already used Bonaparte successfully on many occasions including in 2012 to find out who had murdered a young Dutch woman, Marianne Vaatstra, in 1999. There are event plans to use Bonaparte to help identify unnamed victims of the 1953 North Sea flood that devastated the southwest of the Netherlands.

As for the name, Napoleon Bonaparte was said to have given people surnames, and so Bonaparte the program does just that for nameless victims.

(Link: phys.org, Photo of DNA by DNA Art Online, some rights reserved)

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August 7, 2013

Nijmegen university fights British ban on car hacking research

Filed under: Automobiles,IT by Orangemaster @ 8:00 am

A British judge has imposed a ban in favour of car manufacturer Volkswagen who claims that the publication of research on car-starting codes for luxury cars would be detrimental to their business. Roel Verdult and Baris Ege of the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen together with Flavio Garcia of the University of Birmingham wrote the publication ‘Dismantling Megamos Crypto: Wirelessly Lockpicking a Vehicle Immobiliser. Since Volkswagen and other car manufacturers don’t want all those codes out in the open, they went to court in the UK and won. Oddly enough, much of the information has apparently already been floating around the Internet since 2009 but nobody really noticed until now.

The Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen is not taking it lying down and is going to court to fight the ban. The university claims that the researchers’ aim was to improve security for everyone, not to give criminals a helping hand at hacking into high-end cars. They argued that “the public have a right to see weaknesses in security on which they rely exposed”. Otherwise, the “industry and criminals know security is weak but the public do not”.

It seems to me that basing a security algorithm on secrecy rather than complexity is asking for problems once someone cracks the code, and assuming that that will never happen is not smart. The researchers didn’t do anything illegal yet they got a gag order. Why not comprise with a ban for like 6 months to let the car manufacturers get their act together? And do the researchers really need to publish damaging details to make their point that the security is weak? Stay tuned.

(Links: www.theguardian.com, www.bright.nl, Photo: guusterbeek.nl)

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