How to Use Your iPhone as A Security Camera

For as long as people have been able to record video, they’ve been using security cameras. Perhaps this is intrinsic human curiosity at work, or perhaps it’s simply a means of self preservation—either way, you’ve probably found yourself in a situation at least once where you wished you’d had a security camera set up. Now, you can make that happen very easily. 

Why Opt for Security?

You might think it feels a little paranoid to set up a security camera in your home, but that couldn’t be more true. Businesses and stores use these cameras to increase productivity and deter theft, so why shouldn’t you give yourself similar peace of mind? 

Maybe you haven’t pursued your own security camera system because you simply don’t think you can afford it. In reality, you can create a security camera out on your current or old phone. 

Creative Solutions

The first thing you need to create an iPhone security camera is, obviously, an iPhone. You’ll have the best results if you use an old phone, since there’s no chance of notifications interfering with the stream. If you simply want to record your front porch at night and are willing to set your phone to airplane mode, though, you could use your current iPhone. 

After you have your phone positioned in a good recording position and connected to a power source, you’ll need to download a security camera app. A good one will allow you to connect and view the feed from other devices. Set your security iPhone to camera mode, and your other devices to viewer mode, and you’ll be able to keep tabs on your home at all times. 

It’s hard to put a price tag on peace of mind, but turning your iPhone into a security camera will give you just that for virtually nothing.

How to Detect and Remove Spyware

There are so many different types of malicious infections your device can contract that it can be difficult to keep track of them all. Spyware is unusual in that it’s not always installed by some Internet stranger (though that certainly happens often); sometimes, spyware is simply an effort of someone in your life to keep tabs on you. 

A Silent Lurker

Perhaps the most insidious thing about spyware is that it does not cause the obvious issues you’ve been trained to look out for: no spam sent from your email address, and no random popups cluttering your screen. Instead, spyware functions in the background unnoticed, but recording your every digital move. 

With such a surreptitious character, how can you detect spyware effectively? If you do find spyware on your device, how can you get rid of it?

Taking Care of Business

If your computer has been running unusually slowly, or if you’ve noticed unauthorized logins to some of your official accounts, there’s a good chance you’ve contracted spyware. What’s more, now that everyone uses their mobile phones for browsing, you can even get infected with spyware there. 

To know for sure whether you’ve got spyware, download and anti-virus software, which will perform a scan. If it tells you that you do have spyware, the software can go about cleaning it for you. Check with your bank or any other financial accounts that the spyware didn’t access your identity, and then keep the software installed for future protection. 

There’s nothing quite as unsettling as being watched without your knowledge; plenty of people go months without realizing there’s spyware on their devices—don’t be one of them.

How to Detect if Someone Is Using Your WiFi Connection and How To Stop It

As common as a home WiFi connection is today, it’s not exactly cheap. You probably pay a pretty penny for the luxury of your own network every month, so it’s not unreasonable to hope that you’re the only one using it. So what can you do if you suspect that someone else is cashing in on your WiFi?

Cracking The Code

While hacking into a WiFi network isn’t exactly easy, it’s not exactly hard either—particularly for people who understand the technology. Though certain types of networks are more secure than others, none are totally without their weaknesses. 

If your WiFi seems to be sluggish lately despite the fact that you’re not doing anything especially taxing, it’s a good idea to check that you’re the only one using it, and take action if you’re not. 

Checking Connections

The easiest and most low tech way to know if anyone else is using your WiFi is to simply disconnect all of your devices from you network, then take a look at your router. If the wireless signal light does not go out, you know that someone else is on your connection

There are a number of other, more complex and certain ways to check if someone is using your WiFi. This includes things like downloading a security app and check your router’s administrative console for a list of connected devices. 

If you see that there is, indeed, someone else using your connection, the best method to immediately kick them off is to change your password. Make sure it’s something complex; also check that you’re using a WPA2 connection as this is the most secure. 

Don’t just get angry when you think that someone else is leeching your WiFi connection, take some action to change the situation.

Edge Computing

Computers have gone through multiple waves of trends. When the personal computer first arrived, the only option was computing locally. This meant that for years, everything was saved and every function was performed directly on a device and nowhere else. Then came the cloud, which outsources function and security to the Internet, and now edge computing has arrived to create something of a happy medium.

Not Quite Central, Not Quite Local

Think of the cloud as a giant warehouse. There’s plenty of room there, and there’s no danger you’ll lose all your assets if your office burns down, so long as they’re housed in this warehouse. What about when it comes time to retrieve those assets, though? And what if you find you have a large number of assets you’d like to add to the warehouse on day, but there’s only one door? Plus, what’s to stop someone from breaking into the warehouse?

These are the problems that edge computing aims to solve. It does not occur on the device itself, nor does it occur on the cloud entirely. Edge computing happens as close to the source (the device creating the data) as it possibly can, on the edge of the network, hence the name. 

What’s The Point?

As the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes an increasingly real concept, there’s a great deal of data that may need to be processed in a given location. Sending all of that information to the cloud to be processed and stored can create a bit of a traffic jam, and it reduces the function of the IoT because it generates a certain amount of latency no matter what. 

Edge computing takes care of a fair amount of processing the data before it ever reaches the cloud. This way, there’s less to be done with the information after its departure into cyberspace, because the hard part was taken care of immediately. 

The most basic example of edge computing with which you are probably familiar are the security features of iPhones. Rather than storing all of an iPhone users’ security information to the cloud, they keep the functions local. This prevents lag time while still utilizing a centralized system. 

Where The Concept Is Headed

Perhaps the most futuristic yet real example of edge computing right now is autonomous cars. They drive themselves without receiving constant information about what move to make from a centralized data storage center, but they are also managed largely by a cloud. 

These self-driving vehicles have to communicate regularly with a cloud in order to receive updates and provide data that can help improve algorithms, but they cannot communicate so regularly that there is latency in their performance. 

This fusion between local and cloud computing presents a best-of-both-worlds vision for the future of the Internet of Things, capitalizing on both systems’ strengths while compensating for their weaknesses.

Engineered Stem Cells

Stem cell research has long been the subject of controversy in the political climate of the United States. The battle between ethics and science didn’t start with stem cells, however. It has lasted for thousands of years, and yet science always finds a way.

Thanks to advances in modern technology, scientists are now capable of engineering stem cells on their own, without requiring fetal tissue or samples from dying individuals.

The Controversial Birth of Stem Cell Technology

Recombinant DNA was discovered in the 1970s and soon incorporated into gene therapies of all kinds. But what can you do when somebody’s DNA simply doesn’t allow them to create more of a particular cell vital for life and transplants aren’t an option?

This dilemma caused scientists to turn to stem cells, which are cells capable of transforming themselves into other kinds of cells seemingly based on the body’s demand. However, when scientists first discovered human stem cells in 1998, they could only extract them from human embryos.

This meant that no stem cells could be used in medical treatments or even researched without sacrificing the life of a human embryo, a trade that many people found egregious and revolting

Modern Solutions to the Stem Cell Ethics Crisis

As of 2006, the stem cell debate has reached a much more ethical level of science. Scientists are now capable of stimulating a patient’s own body to produce stem cells in a quasi-natural process similar to that by which humans are developed.

More recently, however, scientists and healthcare professionals in 2017 managed to use lab-grown, genetically engineered stem cells to save the life of a patient with a crippling and deadly disorder known as epidermolysis bullosa.

These lab-grown tissues helped the patient regrow his skin and muscle cells in a way that proved vital for not only treating the symptoms of this potentially fatal disorder, but also paved the path to a cure.

Links to movies, pop culture that reference this topic

In the 2000s, the political climate of the United States was marked by a tortured struggle between ethics and science.

One side of the debate believed that the benefits of extracting stem cells from human embryos far outweighed the costs of fetal death, whereas the other side believed that even one dead fetus was too steep a price for the benefit of scientific research on practices that might not even work.

As of 2019, we now know that these stem cell technologies not only work as well as the pro-research side once claimed, but also can be lab-grown in a way that satisfies the ethical complaints and assuages the technological fears of the pro-fetus side of the argument.

Conclusion

Even still, the battle between ethics and science roils on. Though, thanks to biological engineering, stem cell research is no longer considered as taboo and unethical as it once was. 

Who knows what’s next to come, but if it follows this evolutionary track, it’s sure to be even more ethical and effective than it is now.

Further Reading

For a detailed timeline of American public policy as it relates to stem cell research, click here.

Neural Interfaces

The technology to implant computers into the human brain is almost upon us. Soon, we’ll be able to connect data jacks to our skulls like in Shadow Run or simply interface via wireless connection like the augmented reality demonstrated in countless TV shows and movies.

From Biological Neurons to Artificial 

This technology is said to have originated from the study of the human brain in the late 1800s; however, it could have been conceptualized as early as the 1600s when Enlightenment philosophers attempted to describe human intelligence and reason as a system of interconnected processes.

Neural technology really began to take off in 1949 when Donald Hebb published his book The Organization of Behavior. In it, Hebb posited a novel new set of theories and anatomical facts about the functions of synaptic nerve connections and how they learn.

Artificial neural networking came only a couple years afterward, beginning with the Mark I Perceptron, a robot capable of recognizing characters of text, such as letters and numbers. This was perhaps the first known form of optical character recognition (OCR).

From Artificial Neurons to Biological

But how does such a heavy emphasis on artificial intelligence impact neural interfaces in biological organisms? The answer is simple: when you’re on the bleeding edge of technology, technology bleeds over.

The technology used in the neural nets of AI units has been reappropriated for research into cybernetic enhancements for biological organisms in the form of the neural lace, an ultra-thin mesh computer system implanted over the surface of the human brain.

Inspired by the concept of a neural lace, Elon Musk and his company, SpaceX, have begun work on what they are calling the Neuralink. This is intended to be the first attempt at creating a practical form of neural lace technology capable of safely being implanted into living beings.

From Fiction to Reality

Long before AI was ever invented, science fiction writers had been toying with the mechanics of what an AI creature might look like.

Two of the major examples of neural interfaces are to be found in Star Trek and Star Wars, however these versions primarily concern themselves with AI beings as a separate form of life rather than something capable of symbiosis.

In fact, when Captain Picard is assimilated by the Borg, he becomes a psychopathic murdering machine and attempts to destroy the Federation. In Star Wars, there are limited cybernetic enhancements.

Neither comes close to the accuracy of neural interfaces as depicted in the popular video game series Mass Effect, in which certain character classes are outfitted with neural interfaces to facilitate their daily routines.

Conclusion

While there are virtually an unlimited number of possible paths for neural interface technology to take, futurists like Elon Musk seem to believe it will take the path of the Mass Effect world, being used to improve quality of life and standard of living for everybody.

Further Reading

For a more detailed analysis of the technology that makes artificial neural networking possible, click here.

Superfast Broadband Technology

Imagine being able to get home after a busy day and immediately download your favorite film, book, song, and anything else you want all within milliseconds of walking through your doorway.

That’s superfast broadband technology, and it’s not just science fiction. It’s science reality.

History of the Internet

Nikola Tesla first began research a world wireless system in the early 1900s; however, he would die under mysterious circumstances before being able to succeed.

Come the 1960s, the ARPANET was invented by a New York-based research group with funding from the United States Department of Defense.

Historians consider the ARPANET to be the prototype of the internet as we know it today, which was made commercially viable with the invention of the World Wide Web in 1989. Since then, internet capabilities have increased significantly from year to year.

While the original infrastructure for most internet systems used low-quality fibre optic cables, new forms exist today such as WiFi and of course high-tech, incredibly powerful fiber optic wiring.

Compare Your Home to NASA

If you’re familiar with science fiction, you’ve probably seen a scene in a film or read a chapter in a novel in which a character downloads some new information directly into his or her head in a matter of seconds, oftentimes in the form of a new language database or other information.

But what you might not know is that language databases that provide any advanced level of fluency can be upwards of five gigabytes per language, rendering at least a five gigabyte per second download speed for an average computer.

In reality, the average computer has a download speed of between five and ten megabytes per second. NASA, however, already has superfast broadband technology and is capable of downloading 91 gigabytes per second, which is almost 20,000 times faster.

Superfast Broadband in Pop Culture

We often see spy movies or science fiction films in which the protagonist requests some sort of data transferral, which the “guy in the chair” scrambles to send just in the nick of time to either defuse a bomb, take out the bad guys, or help the protagonists escape.

The technology that they’re using is most likely superfast broadband internet. If they were using simple WiFi technology to send these massive data packets, the protagonists could potentially have to wait hours before the information has been fully downloaded. By then, the heroes would likely be dead.

So instead, they wire into a superpowered “mainframe” with servers and satellites saved to the network to enable ultra-fast, almost instant download speeds. The only place in the real world that even comes close to such speeds is NASA.

Conclusion

Fortunately, dial-up internet has died out and the internet industry has taken us on to greener pastures and faster WiFi. Scientists and futurists alike are hopeful that, someday soon, the average household internet will be as fast as NASA’s is today.

All in good time, though this technology might be coming sooner rather than later.

Links to related articles (on our site or other sites)

If you’re looking for a detailed explanation of the technological jargon and specifications of superfast broadband, check out this article.

Space-Based Solar Energy

Scientists might not yet have discovered the means of creating a dyson sphere, which is a massive space station completely enveloping and drawing energy from a star, but they certainly have found other methods of using space to generate power.

Talk about spacial awareness!

Understanding the Power of the Sun

Solar energy was first invented by countless primitive humans across the face of the Earth in the seventh century B.C. No, this doesn’t mean that Plato and Socrates used solar panels to power their houses.

Primitive humans of this time were using magnifying glasses to start fires, technically one of the first ever technological evolutions of solar power applied to one of the first ever technological inventions of humanity: fire.

However, no such thing as a solar collector would exist until 1767, when Swiss scientist Horace de Saussure invented one to capture and harness the power of the sun.

Nearly 170 years later, the first known example of solar power in space would be written about in science fiction literature.

Science Fiction Portrayals of Interstellar Solar

In 1937, Olaf Stapledon penned a novel entitled Star Maker. In this novel, the protagonist explores planet after planet, gaining more and more knowledge of the universe. One of the planets that he visits is not really a planet at all, rather it is entirely artificial.

The “planet” that the character explores is actually a series of mechanical contraptions set around a star, completely enveloping it to draw power from its light.

This is the novel that inspired Freeman Dyson to create the theories supporting the possibility of construction of a Dyson sphere. 

After Dyson’s famous exposition of this technology, science fiction exploded with talk of Dyson  spheres. In fact, the technology of the Dyson sphere is so widely known about today that research managed to convince themselves that they saw one in orbit around a distant star before realizing that it was most likely a series of clustered asteroids.

Mastering the Power of the Sun

Today, the only real example of space-based solar energy in use is the practice of using solar panels to increase power efficiency aboard space stations, such as the International Space Station.

Because the sun doesn’t set in space, the solar panels aboard the ISS are capable of receiving a constant bath of sunlight, keeping them on and active all times.

Such technology unfortunately could never be possible on Earth, however, since humans have to contend with the “setting” of the sun with the rotation of the Earth around its axis.

Conclusion

Although there seem to be new inventions and ballot initiatives pertaining to solar power every day, this is far from a new technology. This said, space is the final frontier for all technology and solar power seems to be trailblazing it spectacularly.

Further Reading

For a more detailed analysis of the history of solar energy in all of its past variations and versions, check out this great graphic.

The Use of Atmospheric Energy as Renewable Energy

Oftentimes in science fiction, we see or read about protagonists perpetually generating energy as if from thin air and using that unlimited energy supply to power their fanciful inventions and gadgets.

Compared to modern inventions, what once was reserved for science fiction novels has become possible, albeit in a way that’s less removed from the laws of thermodynamics.

The Study of Ions

Benjamin Franklin was one of the first scientists to discover the electrical nature of lightning, in what would come to be known as perhaps the first known experiment in atmospheric energy collection, when his famous kite in a storm experiment electrified a key in 1749.

Around 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev, a Russian chemist, was working on a few projects when he discovered the differences in energies between atoms. This difference would come to be known as ionization energy.

When arranged properly in the periodic table, ionized energy increases the further to the right and further up you look on the chart.

As an electromagnetic theory, chemistry, and the natural sciences advanced over the decades, scientists soon came to understand how to manipulate ions. In the 1990s dozens of experiments were conducted and published in regards to the use of electromagnets or other devices in a process known as ionic manipulation.

The Manipulation of Ions

In 2011, ionic manipulation became less of a hypothetical and more of a plan. In fact, it became the plan for a company known as Ion Power Group.

Named NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Scientist/Engineer of the Year, Dr. Philip Metzger penned a groundbreaking technical report entitled “Analysis of the Economic Viability of Ion Power Generation,” forever marking this technology as a profitable and practical endeavor.

Today, ionic power generation is defined by its ability to pull naturally occuring, electrically charged ions from out of the atmosphere in a clean and renewable way that is not only safe for the engineers but safe for the environment.

This energy burns so cleanly because all it does is remove the natural electrical charge from the world around the devices, meaning that it doesn’t change the air quality, pollute streams, or even put off radiation.

Atmospheric Power Generation in Pop Culture

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was perhaps one of the first examples of atmospheric power generation in literature; however, it is most likely the case that she had absolutely no idea that that’s what she was depicting.

To Shelley, the lightning bolt was a symbol of religion. To Dr. Frankenstein, it was the first successful use of ionic manipulation to power a research lab.

The same sort of technology was used in the Back to the Future series to power the delorean. Once the atmosphere had ionized enough to be manipulated, the protagonists would drive through the storm and flash into another point in time.

Conclusion

There is much left to learn, many articles left to write, and countless more hours to spend in the lab before anybody creates the first commercially viable ionized power generation grid. However, when they do, they will quite likely become overnight billionaires.

Further Reading

For a more in-depth explanation of the mathematics and chemistry behind the concept of ionization energy, click here.

3D Metal Printing

Virtually everybody has printed documents, pictures, or files from the treasure trove of online data, but have you ever printed a house? What about a car? This kind of technology isn’t reserved for ethics class hypotheticals and science fiction premises any longer.

Instead, 3D metal printing is exploding in popularity and becoming more and more of an essential for producers and manufacturers the world over.

The Legos of the Real World

The first mention of 3D printing might be found in the short story “The Things Pass By,” written by Murray Leinster in 1945. In this story, Leinster’s protagonist describes the process of printing an entire space ship by “feeding” molecular compounds to a robotic arm and having it spray out solid matter in mid air.

At the time, this was considered the product of fantasy and wild imagination. However, in just about seventy years, Leinster’s concept would go on to become less of a product of fantasy and more of a fantastic product available for purchase at any ordinary Best Buy or tech store.

Imagination Made Reality

As often happens, science fiction accurately predicted the invention of what we today call “3D printing.” These devices are capable of being set up anywhere from a decently-sized living room to an auto body shop and printing necessary parts with relative ease.

Anything from chairs and tables to screws and nails can be printed, if the machine is large enough and using the correct materials. Even houses have been printed using 3D printing technology.

The Dangers of 3D Printing

One of the biggest sources of controversy for 3D printers is the ability for owners to create unregistered firearms completely incapable of being traced. Oftentimes, these firearms are only capable of firing one bullet before having to be either partially or completely reconstructed.

A great comparison would be that 3D printed guns are incredibly similar in firing speed to muskets, except muskets can be reloaded. While a few designs for 3D printed guns allow the broken piece to be removed and replaced by another discardable barrel, most do not.

This sort of technology has been showcased in the rebooted Lost in Space series, in which one of the characters hacks into the ship’s 3D printer to create a gun without telling anybody else. The gun ends up playing a pivotal role in the plot, as you might expect.

Authorities have, as of August 2019, been incapable of putting a permanent stop to the 3D printing of weapons.

Conclusion

While there are perhaps limitless ways to use 3D printers today, we are still far from the day when we’ll be able to speak into our Star Trek replicator and command it to instantly materialize food and beverages. That said, among the controversy comes hope for a better tomorrow. 

In the words of captain Jean-Luc Picard of the SS Enterprise, “Make it so.”

Further Reading

For a more in-depth explanation of the mechanical components of a general 3D printer, check out this great article. For more information on what politicians are doing to prevent violence from unlimited printing of 3D firearms, click here.