New challenge questions coming to register

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Frank Sanns
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New challenge questions coming to register

Post by Frank Sanns »

It seems that people and not just bots are looking at our challenge question. I have changed it three times and three times, it was defeated by one IP computer address going through a VPN. We have a stalker. How pathetic to bother a mentoring site as ours.

So I have devised a panel of challenge questions that will need to be solved for new people registering. The question should be easily solvable with basic high school science and math background and trivial for college students. I did not want to get too difficult but start out with simple challenge question.

Our first one (somebody already passed it!) is "What is the mean internuclear distance between center of mass of deuterium molecules in a 6" diameter spherical fusor operating at 23 degrees C and 10 microns absolute pressure. Only supply the whole number in angstroms. No decimal places."

It literally took me just a little over a minute to solve the question with only HS skills and my phone as a calculator.

It is a shame we have to make people work to register but it should not be too difficult.
Achiever's madness; when enough is still not enough. ---FS
We have to stop looking at the world through our physical eyes. The universe is NOT what we see. It is the quantum world that is real. The rest is just an electron illusion. ---FS
JoeBallantyne
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by JoeBallantyne »

Why can't we just use the I'm human captchas that other websites use?

I think they are linked up with Google somehow.

We are going to prevent a lot of people from being able to sign up, and they won't even be able to tell us they can't do it.

Because they can't post if they can't sign up.

I think making the science questions harder is the wrong path to go down.

Joe.
Frank Sanns
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by Frank Sanns »

We have tried the captcha route. It was not effective at all. They are supposed to be a puzzle to solve but in reality are often no more than a time delay to slow down the bots. In our case, the got around it by using massive number of bots each doing their own registration. Like it said, it was nearly like not even having any spam filtering at all.

I tried to keep the challenge question elementary to start. For this one, only things needed are moles, ideal gas law, and basic geometry. Do you not think that is trivial for anybody wanting to participate on the site? Not arguing but rather looking for input before I add the other questions so the challenge is randomized too.
Achiever's madness; when enough is still not enough. ---FS
We have to stop looking at the world through our physical eyes. The universe is NOT what we see. It is the quantum world that is real. The rest is just an electron illusion. ---FS
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Richard Hull
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by Richard Hull »

I dare say we have lost, via the first challenge poser, 99.9% of all High school students and the casually interested in amateur fusion.
Most high school students will not invest the time to tackle the poser challenge. Most are lazy louts and will move on to less satisfying endeavors on the internet. In short, only the finest and brightest may apply.

After the above criticism, I offer no solution that is going to keep the lowest order from applying themselves to get in for the sake of getting in. The world is slowly filling with dedicated misanthropes.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
The more complex the idea put forward by the poor amateur, the more likely it will never see embodiment
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Dennis P Brown
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by Dennis P Brown »

If the effort is to defeat "bot's" one does not need a very difficult question - more like - what is gravity acceleration to two places? Bot's can't really think that will not be able to answer the question to the required accuracy.

But your question is not easy for the average HS student because most the terms are not things they generally know - unless a physics or chem major most college students wouldn't know what you were talking about much less solve it.

Your site your rules.
JoeBallantyne
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by JoeBallantyne »

Frank -

I don't think your question is trivial to answer at all. I think it will prevent the vast majority of folks who want to sign up, from being able to do so.

I don't think the point of this site, is to prevent real people from joining.

Paul should chime in on this, as it is his site.

Joe.
Frank Sanns
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by Frank Sanns »

Well I guess that rules out my second question that I was going to use: What is the probability of fusion occurring in a deuterium fueled fusor running at 30kv, 20 milliamps, and 10 microns pressure (absolute)? Assume the deuterium fusion cross section is 0.01 Barns. Also assume no losses and half of the current is deuterons (the other half being electrons).


Ok, CAPTCHA enabled. Let's see how the next few days go.
Achiever's madness; when enough is still not enough. ---FS
We have to stop looking at the world through our physical eyes. The universe is NOT what we see. It is the quantum world that is real. The rest is just an electron illusion. ---FS
Ryan Ginter
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by Ryan Ginter »

What are our thoughts on using two separate sets of questions. The first set being presented during registration to give new users access to the "Please Introduce Yourself" and "New User Chat Area" forums, and the second set at a later time, giving access to the rest of the forums.

The first set should be more general physics questions. Ones that still require some work to solve, but are less specialized to allow access to people of many different backgrounds.

The second set would then be those directed towards nuclear physics, and would allow access to all forums on the site. Something to keep in mind, the questions only need to be solved once. Assuming a user isn't locked out after failing a question, the opportunity is always present to put in the effort to learn and try again.

This could just be an unnecessary complication that the site doesn't need, or perhaps not even technically feasible. Just looking for people's thoughts.
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Richard Hull
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by Richard Hull »

I finally saw the problem in all of its nastiness today. Every forum and every forums FAQ's had the posts by the idiot. I contacted Frank and learned he has been doing this mass erasure for many days now. The new member gate is a serious issue now. We rarely fully appreciate all that Frank does behind the scenes. Hang in there and let him do what he does best for us.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
The more complex the idea put forward by the poor amateur, the more likely it will never see embodiment
Patrick Lindecker
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by Patrick Lindecker »

Hello,

Just a remark. The question makes appear the diameter of the fusor which seems to be important relatively to the answer to supply. In fact the distance to find depends on the conditions inside the fusor (T,P), not on the diameter of the fusor. So the diameter is a trap. I think the question asked in this way is too much tricky.

Patrick
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Emma Black
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by Emma Black »

Massively appreciate Frank to clear up the mess from all the spam posts yesterday. I’m not sure how many new members we get here a month or so but would a human approval system be practical or too much extra overhead for the moderators?

Perhaps with the requirement for a really short introduction and if possible limiting posts of brand new members to a small number a day or to specific section for the first few days?
Frank Sanns
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by Frank Sanns »

No registration is required for people to view the site. Lurkers can read the FAQ and all of the posts.

The goal is to allow everybody with interest to be able to sign on and post here. The problem becomes, how to grant those people access but keep out huge amounts of spam.

Nearly every day for the last month, I have deleted up to 100 posts per day from spammers. A small number of these members have reported but for the most part I, (and sometimes Richard) have cleaned them up shortly as they arrive. Since I can delete entire accounts and all posts with just a couple of keystrokes, it makes sense for me to do this task rather than Richard having to go through one at a time, with multiple steps to delete the post and warn the user. He cannot delete the user though so the spammer can just start again. This is particularly a problem as once registered, a "sleeper" can remain and become active again in the future.


Some of you have suggested to only allow new users to post in the New User Chat and Introduction areas but there is not a way to configure a full proof way to do that on phpBB. A spammer could get around that anyway once they would make ten posts as it is an automatic upgrade.

Some of you have suggested that a moderator approve all new members. I did that for a while. For some, if I did not approve them within an hour, they would email wondering why they were not yet registered. It was a pain for me and again it was not foolproof as these days spammers are using gmail accounts with real sounding names and numbers. There is no way to know who is real and who is a bot from an email address.

The captchas just do not work. They were switched on and get defeated like the last two day. They really only serve to slow down the process a bit so that 1,000 messages cannot be sent in a micro second. Similarly, I have the board configured for a small number of minutes between posts. It would be longer but sometimes Richard likes to machine gun post and a 5 or 10 minute post flood limit is too long for his thoughts. Love you Richard that is not a cut but rather, you get things done! Thank you!

Now to the challenge question I have put up over the years. This method has worked fabulously for over a decade. I deliberately picked and answer that could not be found online. It had to be thought through. It was easy. Easy until some events let it be solvable and then it was compromised.

Changing some of the parameters of the question had zero effect on the spammer so that implies a human with some knowledge of the kind of things we do here. So to frustrate the person from getting in quickly, I devised a series of questions that would take some time to solve. Nothing difficult ( at least I did not think) but apparently too difficult for new real people wanting to register and post here.

Yes, I had put extraneous information into the posts that would be instantly visible to those in the know but a challenge for those working though it. Like the size of the chamber as Patrick pointed out. What none of you knew though was that I had allowed multiple answers. So if the person registering missed the fact that the temperature was not corrected in the ideal gas law, it would still work. Same for the pressure. I actually accepted: No idea, I don't know, and help. There were 10 answers that would have let the problem be solved by any reasonable attempt. This approach stopped 100% of the spam yet allowed two new users to register. This was down from the normal so I concede that it was too difficult.

Over the next few days, I will be working on some simple and more complex challenge questions that stop the spammer with knowledge of us yet let a serious person register. I am also pondering a minuscule fee (10 cents) to register to end the spam. I have not talked to Paul about this but it is a consideration to eradicate this issue once and for all.
Achiever's madness; when enough is still not enough. ---FS
We have to stop looking at the world through our physical eyes. The universe is NOT what we see. It is the quantum world that is real. The rest is just an electron illusion. ---FS
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Paul_Schatzkin
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by Paul_Schatzkin »

I just got wind of this this morning. I usually make point to login / check the site at least every Friday but got sidetracked until this morning.

I have observed the increase in spam posts and Frank and I have talked a little about how to stem that tide.

This morning I went in to see what the new routine is (created a new account) and the only qualifier I saw was a question to " ". Then I got an email with a link to activate the account (which I did and will eventually delete).

So where are we on this today, Nov 27?

It appears there is now just the one 'challenge' question in the Registration panel.

The bots know how to xxxxx?

Edited to remove cues. Frank
Paul Schatzkin, aka "The Perfesser" – Founder and Host of Fusor.net
Author of The Boy Who Invented Television: 2023 Edition – https://amz.run/6ag1
"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 60 years in the past and we missed it."
Frank Sanns
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by Frank Sanns »

I continue to remove cues from posts. You all have to realize that sites can get crawled in seconds. Algorithms and soon AI can spot the important portions of what is written in the forum and make the connections.


You can imagine even just using the search function here to find what threads will contain information regarding qualifying to post. Even giving a single letter in a word and the length cuts down HUGELY on the number of tries to succeed.


So forgive me if I am vague here. I am trying different approaches and logging the successes and failures. Even my changing things regularly gives me ways to defeat this but keeps it open for even a non technical person.
Achiever's madness; when enough is still not enough. ---FS
We have to stop looking at the world through our physical eyes. The universe is NOT what we see. It is the quantum world that is real. The rest is just an electron illusion. ---FS
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Paul_Schatzkin
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by Paul_Schatzkin »

.
I think the technical expression of this is "this is come crazy shit."

--PS
Paul Schatzkin, aka "The Perfesser" – Founder and Host of Fusor.net
Author of The Boy Who Invented Television: 2023 Edition – https://amz.run/6ag1
"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 60 years in the past and we missed it."
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Bob Reite
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by Bob Reite »

Another special interest site I'm a part of took a different approach. They require a new user to send an email with the exact phrase "I understand that spam posts will never be seen by other users". The first part is semi-automatic. The phrase must be exact or the message will fail silently. Of course it can be copied and pasted. In the body of the email, they introduce themselves and say why they want to join the group. The administrator(s) then judge them on the content and admit them. However the first 20 posts are moderated. It seems to work.
The more reactive the materials, the more spectacular the failures.
The testing isn't over until the prototype is destroyed.
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Richard Hull
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by Richard Hull »

I am so glad in 1998 none of this secret handshake crap was there to keep me out of the Farnsworth Chronicles/fusion subsite, or these forums would now be nearly 15,000 posts short. Of course, perhaps that would be ok with some.

That we have to gyrate to keep out trash like this of late, tells a tale of the world of difference in mindset and temperament that has devolved from 1998 to 2023. We live in a world going down to the basement in a venue meant to teach and enhance the human condition via contact and communication.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
The more complex the idea put forward by the poor amateur, the more likely it will never see embodiment
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Emma Black
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by Emma Black »

My day job is in cyber security. The volume of attacks and other crap we deal with day to day is quite shocking.
Threats that target seemingly insignificant companies and sites are very widespread. Sadly the online world is a much more hostile place these days, especially when state sponsored nuisance makers get involved.
thecoalman
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Re: New challenge questions coming to register

Post by thecoalman »

JoeBallantyne wrote: Fri Nov 24, 2023 2:15 am Why can't we just use the I'm human captchas that other websites use?
It's so effective most of your spam accounts are using gmail accounts... The problem with widely deployed captchas is they are a huge target for automation. The Q&A question is usually the most effective because it's unique to the site making it difficult for a bot to solve. The downside is a bot or human only has to solve it once. Then the answer can be reused or shared by the spammers. There is an active industry in India and Pakistan dedicated to solving captchas with humans, they get paid pennies for each one solved.

Spam is an ever evolving issue and it's going to be even more difficult going forward with AI driven bots that can more easily mimic human behavior, answer these questions and even hold a conversation.

I have pretty much eliminated spammers from my own site but I have the luxury of blocking half the world. I'm assuming that is not something you want to do here.
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