The mother of all mother lists

Big bombs. hot peppers, sneaky data all hit the mother-load

Being a mother can be a thankless job. Certainly there is no daily recognition of a job well-done (not in any place I know of anyway!). What we have here is a list or rather celebrations of what I would call "non-traditional" mothers. That is to say there are mothers of all sorts of things: bombs, vegetables, security, threats, excitement and even hype. I only include 10 here but I am sure there are others I haven't even considered. Include yours at the end.

The mother of holy hotness

Anyone who loves hot, spicy foods is usually in search of the next hot thing. In this case, the next unbelievably hot food that will hit US stores and restaurants is, by all accounts, the mother of all chili peppers. The Bhut Jolokia chili pepper from Assam, India is no ordinary pepper, rather it is over two-times hotter than its closest competitor the Red Savina habenero. In tests first conducted by the New Mexico State University and subsequently confirmed by Guinness World records and others, the Bhut Jolokia reached over one million Scoville heat units (SHUs), while the Red Savina clocks in at a mere 577,000. Scoville units are a universally accepted measure of chili hotness. That's not just hot, that's ferocious fry-your-brains hot. And indeed, the pepper's name translates into the "ghost pepper" either because if you eat a whole one you become a ghost or the brutal heat drives all the color out of your system.

The mother of sneaky data invasion

Could something as small as a USB drive really be the mother of all data protection issues? Well some folks thing so. Most companies are too enamored with the convenience, portability and low cost of USB flash drives to consider their security threat, said Larry Ponemon, chairman, Ponemon Institute LLC, a Traverse City, Mich.-based research firm, in a ComputerWorld article recently. "I think a lot of organizations are asleep at the switch. They don't see this as a huge problem and it obviously has the potential to be mother of all data protection issues," said Ponemon. "A lot of organizations believe if you have a good [security] policy and you educate people and ask them to be good that's sufficient. The reality is thumb drives create a lot of uncertainty because they contain enormous an amount of information." A December 2007 survey of 691 IT security practitioners by the Ponemon Institute asked respondents if they believed most employees would report a lost laptop or memory stick. While 78% said that employees would likely notify IT about a lost laptop, only 25% expected that workers would report a lost USB flash drive.

The mother of all nasty threats

Last year in the shadow the massive but ultimately unsuccessful denial-of-service (DoS) attack on the Internet's root DNS server, a US-government-based group said: If the United States found itself under a major cyberattack aimed at undermining the nation's critical information infrastructure, the Department of Defense is prepared, based on the authority of the president, to launch a cyber counterattack or an actual bombing of an attack source. The primary group responsible for analyzing such needs is the National Cyber Response Coordination Group (NCRCG). Had the DNS attack been successful there may have been a cyber counterstrike from the United States, said Mark Hall, director of the international information assurance program for the Defense Department and the Defense Department co-chair to the NCRCG, who spoke on the topic of cyber-response during an RSA Conference. "We have to be able to respond," Hall said. "We need to be in a coordinated response." The massive DoS attack attempt against the Internet's root-servers this week, which specifically targeted military networks, raises the question whether the United States would ever respond with a counterattack. In the event of a massive cyberattack against the country that was perceived as originating from a foreign source, the United States would consider launching a counterattack or bombing the source of the cyberattack, Hall said. But he noted the preferred route would be warning the source to shut down the attack before a military response.

The mother of all endurance aircraft

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Vulture program ultimately will build an unmanned aircraft capable of carrying a 1,000-pound payload on five kilowatts of power and can stay airborne for an uninterrupted period of at least five years while remaining in the required mission airspace 99% of the time. DARPA recently picked Aurora Flight Sciences, Boeing and Lockheed Martin as contractors for the first phase of the Vulture program.

The mother of all births

The majority of births in the US are on Tuesdays in August. That's right, according to National Center for Health Statistics August has the highest number of births, with 369,316 taking place that month in 2005 (its most current statistics. The day of the week with the highest number of births, with an average of 13,169 taking place on Tuesdays. While we're on it, there have been a number of large babies born in recent years, For example, while he didn't come in August, nor on a Tuesday, a woman in Brazil gave birth to a boy weighing 16.7 pounds. But he was tiny compared to the world's heaviest baby according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Guinness says the heaviest baby ever was born to Anna Bates of Canada in 1879, weighing in at 23.12lb.

The mother of all supercomputers

Next month we will find out if anyone has managed to top IBM, but for now the No. 1 position in the supercomputing realm is held by BlueGene/L System, a joint development of IBM and the Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and installed at DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. Although BlueGene/L has occupied the No. 1 position since November 2004, the current system has been significantly expanded and now achieves a Linpack benchmark performance of 478.2 TFop/s (teraflops or trillions of calculations per second), compared to 280.6 TFlop/s six months ago before its upgrade. According to the TOP50 Web site, No. 2 is a brand-new first installation of a newer version of the same type of IBM system. It is a BlueGene/P system installed in Germany at the Forschungszentrum Juelich (FZJ) and it achieved performance of 167.3 TFlop/s. Each year the first TOP500 list is released in June at the International Supercomputer Conference, in Dresden, Germany.

The mother of all Botnets

The Storm worm botnet has made a home in over 1 million machines experts say. In the fourth quarter of 2007, for instance, the Storm botnet launched an MP3 spam campaign that enticed unwitting users into downloading malware by offering them free music through infected sound files, according to data collected by security watchers at Commtouch. The firm says that this particular attack accounted for 7% to 10% of all global spam traffic at its peak. In addition to its MP3 attacks, the Storm botnet launched a series of holiday-themed spam attacks that included dancing skeleton graphics for Halloween and Christmas e-mails that enticed users with promises of "sexy girls" who would "give you that special Santa treatment." Commtouch warns that the Storm botnet has yet to be used to its full potential and that its activity in 2007 "may come to be seen as merely the calm before the Storm compared to what 2008 has yet to bring." Part of the reason that the Storm botnet has been so difficult for security pros to tackle, the firm notes, is that it has an elaborate defense system that aggressively attacks anyone who attempts to reverse engineer it. Additionally, Commtouch says it is virtually impossible to track down Storm's botmaster, because its command and control is executed through a peer-to-peer network. Microsoft has recently claimed to have snuffed Storm but others remain skeptical.

The mother of all hype

The tech industry is littered with over-hyped products but few have gotten the treatment of the iPhone. Not only was its initial hype unreal, it pretty much continues unabated today. A quick Google of the topic brings in 156 million returns (for comparison, if you search on something that could really change your life , like say the IRS, you'd get a little over 28 million).

The mother of all adrenaline rushes

If you fly and are looking for an adrenaline rush, I am guessing you might not come closer than this: being a live target practice aircraft for the military. A Washington Post article last year detailed how a group of Civil Air Patrol pilots do just exactly that: offer up their Cessna's as targets attacking sensitive sites up and down the east coast. CAP is a non-profit group that functions as an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. It as over 56,000 members and owns the World's largest fleet (535) of single-engine, piston aircraft. According to the article, the CAO flies exercises known as Falcon Virgo, which take place over cities such as New York and Washington. They are directed by officials from the 1st Air Force at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, who coordinate air defense for the continental United States. Exact details of the Falcon Virgo exercises are often secret. But this much is known: The exercises test Washington's air-defense radar system and the aircraft that might have to confront an intruder. Those include the Air Force jets that fly continuously over the capital, planes that scramble from Andrews Air Force base and Coast Guard helicopters. During some exercises, the military also tracks the Cessnas with ground-to-air missiles. "Which can be kind of disconcerting if you're flying them," observed one pilot. Pretty sure that I would need to have plastic seat covers if I knew I was being tracked by a missile, maybe that's just me.

The Mother of the Mother of All Bombs

In the world of bombs and explosives as in many other areas of life and death, size does matter. And in this case what a big one it is: a 20 foot long, 30,000lb bomb known as Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) meant to annihilate underground bunkers and other hardened sites. MOP is project funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The DTRA defines its mission as "safeguarding America and its allies from Weapons of Mass Destruction (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high yield explosives) by providing capabilities to reduce, eliminate, and counter the threat, and mitigate its effects." Indeed the MOP would pretty much mitigate any threat I would imagine. Boeing is working with DTRA to develop the MOP, which is designed to be carried aboard B-2 and B-52 bombers and deployed at high altitudes where it would strike the ground at speeds well beyond 2X the speed of sound to penetrate the below ground target, Boeing says. The MOP won't be the heaviest conventional bomb ever made. The US military built the T-12, which weighed about 44,000lbs, in the 1940s. Meanwhile the 21,700-lb Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb, better known as the "Mother Of All Bombs" is still in the US arsenal. The MOAB was developed to replace the 15,000lb "Daisy Cutters" from the Vietnam Ware era.

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