Skepchick Quickies, 8.10


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

Related Articles


  1. Perhaps there will be no other Da Vinci. Perhaps there will be. Sometimes, amazing scientific discoveries can be made by a prepared mind looking in unlikely places. A talent, perhaps?

    “Never” is a long time…..

  2. An article by an economist using statistics to dissect the scientific scholarship of an artist?
    I don’t see how that could possibly go wrong.
    Until it does.
    The percentage of human knowledge that one scientist can absorb is rapidly heading towards zero.
    So the more we know the less we can know? Huh?
    This is the same sort of thinking that leads to the belief that all tax cuts increase revenue.
    As we approach 0% tax, revenue should reach infinity.
    That is ridiculous, as is this article.

    1. “Every man gets a narrower and narrower field of knowledge in which he must be an expert in order to compete with other people. The specialist knows more and more about less and less and finally knows everything about nothing.” – Konrad Lorenz

  3. RE: 10-year-old girl hacker
    I love to hear about how kids these days surpass me in every way imaginable. Seriously, they are really amazing. NOW GET OUT OF MY YARD YOU KIDS! *sits back in the porch rocker*

    1. I don’t think it really matters. People use “cheats” all the time when playing games. She was just bored and thought she’d try to see if she couldn’t make things faster. It’s just a game. Not a grad school class.

        1. So my using a cheat code while playing the Sims is bad? OMG I AM CHEATING! By giving my Sims lots of money! Oh dear! I’m so, so horrible!

          People use silly cheats all the time in games to do cool things. Sometimes to make things easier, sometimes to add something extra. (In fact, the cheat codes in the Sims were made by the developers.)

          Seriously, it’s a game. She figured out a security hole. It could actually help future game developers to, you know, not make such a silly security hole. But at the same time, it’s not even that big of a deal, because it’s a silly game.

          1. You did not answer my question?

            Does having a lot of people do something make it OK?

          2. No, just because lots of people do something, does not make it right.

            But answer me this, just because something is illegal, does that make it wrong? I don’t really see what your problem is with this little girl hacking a game.

          3. I didn’t answer because it’s far too simplistic of a question. It’d matter entirely on what you are referring to. I don’t think millions of people smoking pot is wrong, even though it’s illegal, because I think it’s wrong that pot is illegal. I also don’t think it’s wrong that tons of people use cheats for games, like the Sims. It’s a damn game. Who freakin’ cares? The only time I’d really care is if it affected the gaming environment of other people — it wouldn’t be cool to cheat on World of Worldcraft, for instance, because it’d mess with the balance of the game and other users (even though at the same time, I still don’t think it’s OMG WORST THING EVER, because jeez, it’s a game).

            But this girl isn’t harming ANYONE AT ALL, or making things difficult for anyone!

            And I really don’t think what this particular girl is doing is wrong, nor do I think it’s cheating. She’s taking advantage of poor programming. It’s not cheating.

        2. Seriously, what is wrong with cheating at a computer game? It harms no-one. She bought the game. I cheat at games all the time – usually by looking up a walk-through when I’m stuck. Is that really so bad?

    2. I think you’re looking at it wrong.

      She didn’t cheat – she simply changed the game she was playing. The new game was “how can I manipulate this system by doing unexpected things?”

      This is a game played by many scientists, engineers and (especially) computer security researchers. Being good at it is much more useful than being good and farming sim games.

  4. .
    It’s OK because it has no real world consequences. It harms no one.
    Though it seemed that the hack only applied to the game, not any real security hole. It was more of an example of careless game coding in an area where tight security isn’t too important. (Though some people do get pretty competitive with FarmVille)

    1. Yeah, I guess it wasn’t so much a “security hole” so much as careless coding. Which she broke. Which is pretty cool. It’s cute that spruge is getting all up in arms about this.

      Oh, dear. Someone “cheated” on a silly game.

        1. OH NO! I made a typo! I actually noticed it, but couldn’t edit it because that’s not an option any longer. Seriously, dude? Seriously?

          You can shove your sensitivity.

  5. I have put up with people making fun of my name for years.

    If screwing with my name was not part of your condescending post then I apologize.

  6. So if I said “LOL, your internet alias is close to spooge! Teehee!” you’d get … upset? Really?

    It’s an internet alias. You can change it at any time. You chose it.

    And did you really think that typing “spruge” Instead of “spurge” was making fun of you? I switched two letters around. How is that in any way making of of you? Really?! Woooooow.

    You are far too sensitive about a silly internet name that you chose. Seriously, though, Spurge is a silly internet name. A cute one, in fact. I like it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not silly.

    My other online identity is “crushdmb” and people like to go “hahaha crushdumb!” Know what I do? Laugh. Because I’m not going to cry over someone making a silly joke over an internet name. Also, because it’s kind of funny.

    Even if it’s your actual last name (which I doubt), you still need to get a sense of humor. I have a silly last name that people sometimes poke fun of. It’s Cornelius (no secret). I get “CORNY!” all the time. Or “Kellogg’s rooster!” Or, “The popcorn machine brands at a lot of movie theaters are Cornelius! CORN!!!! CORNY!”

    I laugh when that happens. But then again, I have a sense of humor…

    1. Actually, I know Spurge, and it really is his real name. I bet Google+ wouldn’t like it, thought :-(

      I’m not sure that trying to speed up the game because you are bored is cheating in any sense of the word, though.

      Even if you insist it is cheating, it is harmless, like cheating at solitaire. It’s not like she was acquiring money without doing the necessary work, or depriving anyone else of anything.

      Would there be any ethical implications to playing Monopoly against your self and changing the rules so that you start with hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place and pass Go (and collect $200) on every move?

  7. I was once the cheats editor at Happypuppy.com (RIP) and I used to write a weekly email newsletter with updated codes and Easter Eggs. Also, I’d just write a small feature article about topics related to cheating in games. There are a lot of different activities that get lumped in with “cheating”, but it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Codes and Easter Eggs are built into a system. Exploits are things overlooked by coders. None of these things matter all that much if you’re playing on your own. People get more sensitive about cheating when its done in competitive or cooperative multiplayer games such as, say, Modern Warfare.

    All that aside, I’m impressed with the young lady’s out-of-the-box thinking since gamers have been fiddling with PC and console clocks for years in order to exploit certain games. I remember altering the Dreamcast clock to make my ‘Seaman’ grow up faster (yeah…Seaman…look it up). Think of it less like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens shooting steroids and more like Capt. Kirk reprogramming the Kobyashi Maru.

    1. We used to cheat at Adventure on our PDP-11 by setting the system date to a particular date so our move script would get us into the end game. (Remember Adventure? It was one of the first interactive command-based computer games. It was the predecessor of Dungeon, which was retrodicted to Zork-0 sometime after Zork I and II were released commercially.)

      Adventure was written in Fortran, and the random number generator seed was based on the date. Once we had all solved everything except the end game, it got boring to play all the way through, only to get killed at the end over and over. So someone (Marc) noted down all his moves and wrote a script file to get there fast. The next day we were surprised the script stopped working until someone remembered the Fortran (PDP-11 Fortran IV) random number generator and reset the system date. It started working again, so we changed the script to save the system date, reset it, run the game, and set the date back.

      I can figure out almost exactly when this was… During the Blizzard of ’78, all the roads were closed, the public transportation was mostly shut down, no one had computers at home, and so on the 3rd or 4th day (after the snow had stopped) 4 or 5 of us, bored out of our minds, hiked the 3 miles from the closest bus line to work, and spent our time there playing Adventure. Over 33 years ago.

      1. Well, it’s a silly name, but a cute one, and I like it, then (just like I like my silly name). It’s still ridiculous to think I was making fun of him because I typed “spruge” though … how does that make any sense whatsoever? It’s pretty obvious it was a typo. Two letters switched around do not a mockery make.

        Anyway, I agree it’s not really cheating.

    1. Of course that’s not possible. How would that ev… wait, why is there a picture of your face on the background of my phone? How…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button