As I write this, Kaja is snoozing in Maggie’s desk chair. Kokoro is snoring on the bed. Yuki and Rhubarb are dozing on the stairs. And Watanuki is curled up with his magic banana, sleeping on the dining room floor.

Notice a pattern here? Yeah, I’m the only one awake in the house. A minor miracle, given the number of Feline Sleep Rays (FSRs) being generated.

Cats have a near-magical ability to force even the most alert human to pass out within minutes. It’s simple: sit down with a cat in your lap. Pat the cat until he or she relaxes and goes to sleep. Almost instantly, your eyelids will begin to droop; shortly after, your chin will be bouncing off of your chest.

Frighteningly, the cat doesn’t actually need to be in your lap. A cat sleeping on chair across the room is nearly as effective as one in contact with you. My own research suggests that unlike Wi-Fi, the strength of the signal is not attenuated by passing through walls. Even worse, the FSRs are apparently not radiated. Radiated electromagnetic signals weaken as a factor of the square of the distance (double the distance and the strength drops to a quarter). FSRs retain an astonishing 90% of their power across the length of the typical home. That suggests that they are actually focused beams directed as specific targets, rather than general broadcasts. They don’t appear to track moving targets well: you can fight off the effect of an FSR by moving around. As soon as you stop moving, though, the FSR will reacquire its target (you).

Interestingly, there seems to be an inverse relationship between feline size and the ability to generate FSRs: on average, kitten-generated rays are 4.2 times as strong as those produced by fully-grown felines. Current scientific speculation is centered around the well-known fact that kittens purr much more loudly than adults; studies suggest that there may be a sub-sonic audio component to the FSR which is produced through a mechanism similar to purring.

With all of their awesome potency, why don’t more people know about FSRs? Conspiracy theories that the CIA and FBI are hiding information about FSRs to cover up their use in covert operations are clearly nonsense: nobody has ever figured out a way to get a cat to take orders. Can you imagine walking up to a foreign embassy with a kitten in your pocket and then trying to convince it to go to sleep so you can sneak past the guards to plant a bug? My suspicion is that the powerful Ambien® lobby is suppressing the information while they try to figure out how to monetize it. Fortunately, there are significant issues that would have to be overcome to make packaging FSR generators, as the brains behind the bonsai kitten discovered back in 2001.

So now the information is out. If this post fails to show up in Google or vanishes from this site, you’ll know the coverup is factual, and I’m sleeping with the fishes instead of the felines.

Oh, My Heart!

Oh, for crying out loud.

The latest “hot” topic in the media is hacking of medical devices. It’s hardly a new story. It wasn’t new when we talked about it back in April: I cited reports about wifi-enabled, unsecured pacemakers dating back to 2008. So why is it suddenly all over the news?

Wait, before we go there, is it really all over the news? Well, the SF Chronicle ran a piece on the subject over the weekend which had previously appeared in Businessweek. Forbes has a short item on their website. And there are a number of others. It may not be at quite the same level of visibility as Perez Hilton’s feud with Lady Gaga, but it’s out there.

So, why is it out there? Two reasons: a hacked pacemaker played a key role in an episode of the TV show “Homeland”, and security researcher Barnaby Jack died last week just before he was going to demonstrate real-world hacks of pacemakers. Let me say that again. Last December, a character on a TV show was killed by someone hacking his pacemaker wirelessly. Late last month, a real person who had previously exposed security flaws in insulin pumps died of causes unknown. Said real person was going to show off his ability to short out pacemakers wirelessly (not control them, apparently, just destroy them).

It’s a pretty tenuous link, but it’s enough to hang a story or two on when things are slow. And the coincidence of Jack’s death just before his presentation is good for another couple of paragraphs in the story. Yes, I’m betting coincidence, unlike such noted venues of conspiracy theories as Twitter, Reddit, and ABC News.

ABC? Yup. Check out this lovely bit of unbiased (and well-edited) journalism:

Meanwhile, questions — and even conspiracy theories — are swirling around the Web regarding Jacks’ untimely death, with some even blaming the U.S. Government.

“This is an industry where a lot of money and danger is at stake,” ABC News consultant and former FBI Agent Brad Garrett said. “The work he was doing certainly put him at some risk,” ABC News consultant and former FBI Agent Brad Garrett said.

Of course, the San Francisco police, who have ruled out foul play must be in on the conspiracy, and the ongoing investigation is nothing but a transparent attempt to cover up the murder.  Fortunately, we can still get the occasional voice of reason. The Daily Dot quotes one participant in the Reddit discussion as pointing out that Jack had already given the same demonstration last year.

Not that I expect that little revelation to stop the conspiracy theorists. After all, how much credibility does some guy in Australia posting under the name “ThaFuck” have compared to a “former FBI Agent”? (That would be the same FBI that works with the NSA to conduct illegal “information gathering” on American citizens who have communicated with other citizens who have at some time communicated with still other citizens who have once communicated with people outside of the U.S.) Hey, wait a minute. Jack supposedly gave his presentation in Australia. That means he’s not only talked to foreigners, he’s actually been to a foreign country. He’s obviously a terrorist himself!

Ahem. The really frustrating thing here is that Jack’s good work is getting swept under the carpet for the general public. His exposures of the “implement first, release second, worry about security later” mentality that afflicts too much of the technology industry were a valuable service. (In fairness to the device manufacturers, I should note that some of the problems Jack and other researchers have found have been bugs rather than instances of “insecure by design”. Some.) Security flaws are dangerous in ways that go well beyond people’s possessions and financial information. In medicine and other fields, they can kill. We need more people like Barnaby Jack.