Science & Academia

Quantum computers?

The following is a transcript of an answer that I posted on Stack Overflow in response to the question:

I read a while back that quantum computers can break most types of hashing and encryption in use today in a very short amount of time (I believe it was mere minutes). How is it possible? I’ve tried reading articles about it but I get lost at the “a quantum bit can be 1, 0, or something else”. Can someone explain how this relates to cracking such algorithms in plain English without all the fancy maths?

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Cycling

New lights (and how to fix them)

I got a new set of take-me-home lights recently: the USE Exposure Trace/TraceR set, an evolution of the brand’s previous small front/rear pairs. I’ve been riding with them for a couple of months now and love them.

My pair was working perfectly well until a few days ago, when I washed the bike while the rear light was still onboard. Already a bad idea, probably, but I’d forgotten to batten down the charging port cover and, predictably, the light succumbed to the hosepipe. Of course, once a waterproof thing has water in it, it’s rather difficult to get it out. In this case, the only way the water could come out was through the tiny micro-USB port machined into the side of the otherwise sealed body.

To my surprise, though, I eventually managed to get it working again by leaving it for a few hours in my friend’s food dehydrator (where rice, salt, and a hairdryer had all failed). So if you have water-damaged electronics, a dehydrator or dehumidifier might give them a new lease on life…

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Cycling

Connected cycling

My first thought on getting back from a ride is usually to plug in my Garmin and upload my ride data to Strava — often before stretching, I’m ashamed to admit. In fact, I’m often thinking about my average speed while on the bike, to the point that I avoid the corresponding readout on my Garmin until the end of the ride. It’s good motivation for training and I doubt I’d push myself as far without a way of seeing (and sharing) the results but, knowing that Strava will expose my laziness, I feel guilty taking any rest. I’m not sure whether this is good or bad for my fitness, but it’s definitely changed how I see cycling.

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Cycling

Urban cycling: cars vs. bikes

I was hit by a car the other day while riding back into the city after an afternoon on the bike. An old lady pulled out from a side-road on the left onto the main road I was on, not thinking to check for traffic to her right. Thankfully I saw what was coming and wasn’t hurt by the collision, but for the rest of the day I was quite shaken. I’ve had a few encounters with cars in the three years I’ve been cycling, but this was my first physical contact, and I won’t forget the feeling of oh-crap-I’m-going-to-hit-that-car.

A useful and instructive warning for cyclists. Image: Warrington Cycle Campaign

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Miscellaneous

Writing liberates the mind

I discovered a nice website called Medium the other day (having been sent a distressing piece on the decline of antibiotics), and started browsing for interesting reading. One of the articles I came across encouraged readers not to read, but to write.

The author argues that today’s Internet is so focused on consumption that there’s no need for creativity any more, which I find kind of sad. I’ve always believed in learning through explanation and discourse (partly why I enjoy teaching), so the author’s suggestion is appealing.

So this is what I’m going to do: write a blog article every week or two, and see where things go.

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