There’s a lot to get to this week, from Apple’s fight with the FBI over encryption to high-density “5D” data recording in solid quartz to Virgin Galactic’s brand new space plane, so let’s dive on in! Read on!
Apple vs. FBI
This week saw an unprecedented response to the latest salvo in the government’s ongoing battle to break strong encryption. In a widely-published letter to the FBI, Apple CEO Tim Cook informed them in no uncertain terms that he would not be bullied into having his company create a backdoor into an iPhone. The FBI are saying that, in order to “fight terrorism,” they need the electronics manufacturer to decrypt the phone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters. They need this because they shot the San Bernardino shooters, and because the shooters’ employers were dumb enough to reset the phone’s password
by mistake when the FBI told them to. Cook argues — quite rightly, in my mind — that creating a backdoor into their product will render it permanently accessible to others, even to people we don’t want to give access to:
“Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.
The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”
Within 24 hours, other tech companies had sided with Apple, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. The FBI have since doubled down on their demands, and Apple has again rebuffed them. This one’s going to the courts. All I can say is, when the list of people you’re pissing off includes Donald Trump, you have to be doing something right. You can read Tim Cook’s full letter over at the Verge.
Recording in Quartz
Scientists at the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton announced this week the ability to record data in quartz at previously unheard-of densities and with incredible longevity. The so-called “5D” storage — referring to the data’s three spatial dimensions in the crystal plus two more “dimensions,” its “slow axis orientation” and its “strength of retardance” — is recorded by using femtosecond laser pulses to change the arrangement of molecules in the quartz at the nanoscale. They’re reporting a density of 360TB per disk (which appear to be about the size of a US dollar coin) and a temperature resilience of around 1000 degrees centigrade. At temperatures below 160 degrees, the data should last roughly about as long as the universe is currently old, or 13.8 billion years. Now, I suppose the real question is: do we have anything to say that won’t be embarrassing in a thousand years? Check out their press release and the abstract for their presentation for more.
On his daughter Eva Deia’s first birthday yesterday, Sir Richard Branson unveiled the next space plane in Virgin Galactic’s fleet, the VSS Unity. We haven’t heard much out of the space tourism company since June when the NTSB ruled that the cause of the crash of SpaceShipTwo was due to co-pilot error. Unity, named by Stephen Hawking himself, is the first in a fleet of SpaceShipTwo-class vehicles being built by The Spaceship Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Virgin Galactic stationed in Mojave, California. It will be carried into the air by a White Knight Two-class launcher, and, like its predecessors, will then propel itself to the edge of space and back, for the measly sum of $250,000. Included in the bevy of speeches given at the event was a piece by Hawking in which he says he still hopes to fly on one of Branson’s ships — “If I am able to go – and if Richard will still take me, I would be very proud to fly on this spaceship.” We hope you get your wish. Wired has more on the story.
Just in case there was anything you missed this week here at This Week In Tomorrow, here it all is in handy point-form:
- On Monday, I pointed out that the top three Republican candidates for President of the US are climate denialists
- On Tuesday, I explained why so-called “hate crimes” are objectively worse than their similars
- On Wednesday, I reported that Hubble data had been used to examine the atmosphere of a super-Earth
- On Thursday, I had to actually say that women aren’t property. In 2016. And
- On Friday, Lindsey gave us some good news: a woman has won the Gerhard Hertzberg Gold Medal for the first time!
If you missed them, they’re just a click away!
Best of the Rest
And here’s your weekly linkspam, of all the things I couldn’t cover on my lonesome!
- The Blade Runner sequel has a release date: 12 January 2018. Mark your calendars!
- Someone’s done an HD re-process of the original 35mm Star Wars (con: it’s probably not legal, pro: no CG crap)
- There’s a river in the Amazon that actually boils in places
- In a move sure to be irrelevant in ten years anyway, the FCC has signalled its interest in unlocking set-top boxes, and
- There’s a great piece about the hilarious tricks the USAF used to keep the F117A stealth fighter secret over at Foxtrot Alpha which you need to read.
That’s all for this week. Remember, I only get paid in my own (and your) enthusiasm, so please like This Week In Tomorrow on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @TWITomorrow, and tell your friends about the site! Have a great week.