Max hates RFID

Sunday, 31 December 2006

UK RFID passport chip

UK RFID passport chip

I have written about RFID chips before in the context of the Real ID Act of 2005. I am writing about them again because starting tomorrow, every new US passport that is issued will contain an RFID chip. I saw my first chipped passport earlier this month when an Australian friend came to visit.

According to Wikipedia, the first RFID chipped passports were issued by Malaysia way back in 1998.

“In addition to information also contained on the visual data page of the passport, Malaysian e-passports record the travel history (time, date, and place) of entries and exits from the country.”

According to The New Amerika State Department’s website, our chips “will store the same data visually displayed on the data page of the passport, a biometric identifier in the form of a digital image of the passport photograph, which will facilitate the use of face recognition technology at ports-of-entry, the unique chip identification number and a digital signature to protect the stored data from alteration.”

While the State Department does not say that our travel history will be stored, it also does not state that it won’t be stored. I probably don’t need to remind you that governments sometimes forget to mention things to their citizens.

There are serious concerns about the security of RFID chips and people being able to gather information about your identity remotely. Don’t just think about the possibility of your government tracking your movements – as scary as that is, but also about hackers who would like to steal your identity.

You can disable an RFID chip. According to both Wired magazine and Gizmodo, the only sure way of destroying the RFID chip embedded in your passport is to smash it with a hammer. But do it very carefully because intentionally tampering with a passport is punishable by up to 25 years in jail. (A passport is never your personal property, it actually belongs to the government.) Note to the government of The New Amerika: I am not condoning smashing RFID chips, I am merely disseminating information.

A passport with a non-functioning RFID chip will still be valid until its expiration date. Information will simply be gathered the old-fashioned way through the machine-readable strip.

Happy travelling!


Reason and the Grand Canyon

Saturday, 30 December 2006

Grand Canyon

The National Park Service of The New Amerika has been gagged. According to a news release from the non-profit service organisation Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Park Service employees are no longer allowed to state an official estimated age of the Grand Canyon.

The order came from Bush administration officials.

The reason: fear of offending creationists.

“In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’”

But that’s not all. When you visit the Grand Canyon National Park, you can go into any of its three shops and purchase a book entitled Grand Canyon: A Different View by Tom Vail. Mr Vail’s book explains how the Grand Canyon was formed just a few thousand years ago by the Big Flood. You know, the one that prompted Noah to build his ark.

Yes, I know, it boggles the mind.

The good news is that PEER is campaigning to restore rational thought and action to the Grand Canyon. We can only hope that they will be successful.

But you can’t argue with people whose beliefs are based on faith rather than reason.

A Religion News Service article contrasts these two opinions:

“The Grand Canyon was formed millions of years ago.” – William Ausich, president of the Palaeontological Society,


“The canyon was formed as a result of the after effects of Noah’s flood, a worldwide global flood. Most of the canyon was formed by a lot of water over a relatively short period of time.” – Mark Looy, vice president of Answers in Genesis.

And Tom Vail himself:

“For years, as a Colorado River guide I told people how the Grand Canyon was formed over the evolutionary time scale of millions of years. Then I met the Lord. Now, I have ‘a different view’ of the canyon, which, according to a biblical time scale, can’t possibly be more than a few thousand years old.”

According to Wikipedia, the general consensus amongst geologists is that the Grand Canyon is 5 to 6 million years old, whilst the geology exposed by its formation ranges from 230 million to 2 billion years old. Just so you know.

Explaining Max

Saturday, 30 December 2006

It’s very simple, really. The force that drives me to write much of what I write is a fierce objection to the retreat of reason in the world.

The problem was summed up well by Roger Scruton in 1999:

“The Enlightenment made explicit what had long been implicit in the intellectual life of Europe: the belief that rational inquiry leads to objective truth. Even those Enlightenment thinkers who distrusted reason, like Hume, and those who tried to circumscribe its powers, like Kant, never relinquished their confidence in rational argument … For the ensuing 200 years, reason retained its position as the arbiter of truth and the foundation of objective knowledge. [But] reason is now on the retreat, both as an ideal and as a reality.”

(as quoted in How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World by Francis Wheen, 2004)

Max is moving

Friday, 29 December 2006

I am just in the process of figuring out WordPress so have not yet started posting here. For the earlier Enlightenment of Max, please visit my old site at . Thank you, and see you over here soon.