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It was cold, dark, quiet and I was on the wrong side of the tracks. I pulled into the parking lot that was nearly empty, the crunching gravel under my tires and the distant rumble of a train the only sounds. The warehouse/garage was lit by a few spotlights and for a minute, I wondered if I was really in the right place. When I walked in to the garage, it was warm and lit with sporadically-placed red and green “mood” lights. A few tables and rows of chairs filled the room, which smelled slightly of sawdust. Small paper lanterns wrapped around votive candles flickered on the tables. Music filled the air and to one side was a rather impressive spread. Crackers, salami, fruit, herb-encrusted brie, mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes drizzled with balsamic, assorted nuts and wine. It was like a sophisticated, adult-version of a rave. Only not.

It was a Leonardo After Hours event. According to their website, the series focuses on “current science and technology topics and their impact on society” with guest speakers and experts from around the valley.

Their most recent event was High-tech Crime and Countermeasures. Three guest speakers presented on topics ranging from

Karl Schmae, FBI, started off the night giving a brief overview of economic espionage. While it may not be as glamorous as a glistening Daniel Craig coming out of the ocean in uber-manly short-shorts, it’s still a serious threat and tool used by most countries.

John Kircher of the psychology department at the U presented on a very interesting method of lie detecting called the ocular polygraph. This test monitors the  movement of eyes and dilation of pupils to tell if someone is answering a questionnaire dishonestly. Basically, if someone is concocting a lie to answer a question, their pupils will dilate from the increased cognitive effort and their eyes will fixate on certain crucial words. Very interesting stuff indeed.

Matt Might, school of computing at the U, basically teaches students to hack in an effort to better learn how to prevent it. He is currently working on the unhackable system, and is very optimistic about it. His presentation focused on the cyber crimes that affect most of us: identity theft and stolen credit card numbers. He said there are three easy ways to protect yourself when using the internet. Install patches. Make sure your antivirus protection software us up to date. Create difficult passwords. Each of his passwords are some 30 characters long. THIRTY! Kinda puts your dog’s name of kid’s birthday passwords to shame.

I was very impressed with the After Hours event. It was relevant, entertaining and free. Their next event will be Tuesday, March 8th. I plan on being there. Do you?

For more info, check out their website, theleonardo.org.

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