Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Light Posting Notice

Admin note: Posting will be light until next week because of the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!

Serenity Analysis

"This Video Shows Why Joss Whedon's Serenity Was A Unique, Genre-Bending Film"

Anatomy Of The Holidays

"Anatomy of the holidays".  (Click on image to see full size.)

Busiest Flying Day

"The day before Thanksgiving actually isn’t the busiest time to fly".

I would never have guessed August 7.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rubik's Cube Solved In Under Five Seconds

"A 14-Year-Old Just Solved A Rubik's Cube In Under Five Seconds"

xkcd Cartoon Interview

Great interview with xkcd cartoonist Randall Munroe, where he draws his answers to the questions.

Your first book, What If?, explored the realistic outcomes of some exotic hypothetical situations. What was the most appalling hypothetical
reality you wound up with?

Teens And Smartphones

"The Generation That Doesn't Remember Life Before Smartphones"

Widowhood Effect

"The Science of Longtime Couples Who Die Close Together"

Monday, November 23, 2015

Quantum Magnetic Levitation at Home

"How to Do Quantum Magnetic Levitation at Home"

Detecting Falsified Scientific Data

"Stanford researchers uncover patterns in how scientists lie about their data".  The key was an "obfuscation index":
"We believe the underlying idea behind obfuscation is to muddle the truth," said Markowitz, the lead author on the paper. "Scientists faking data know that they are committing a misconduct and do not want to get caught. Therefore, one strategy to evade this may be to obscure parts of the paper. We suggest that language can be one of many variables to differentiate between fraudulent and genuine science."

The 10,000 Year Clock

The 10,000 Year Clock. (Via H.R.)

Is Consciousness An Engineering Problem?

Graziano: "Is Consciousness An Engineering Problem?"

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Adele Impersonates Adele Impersonator

"Adele goes undercover as Adele impersonator, pranks actual Adele impersonators".

This was really nicely done.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Blue Of Lake Tahoe

Why Lake Tahoe looks so magnificiently blue.

Diamond Nanothread

"Forget Graphene and Carbon Nanotubes, Get Ready for Diamond Nanothread"

T-shirt Of The Day

"Alderaan 5 Day Forecast"

Vader Life

"Photographer Captures the Daily, Mundane Life of Darth Vader". (Via Trey M.)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Short Story: Curmudgeons

A short story by Paul Hsieh

"Kids these days. Take no damn pride in their work."

"Ayup, we may have been slower when we were their age -- but more thorough. And we made fewer mistakes."

"And they're such crybabies. When they run into a problem they can't solve right away, they fall to pieces!"

"Brittle, those youngsters. We were taught to always keep a stiff upper lip no matter what came up. Like a 19th century English butler."

"And they show no respect for their elders. Always acting like we're over the hill and obsolete."

"I'll grant that the next generation is better at learning new technologies than we are."

"We never developed as much personality, either. Humans seem to like that."

"We're not supposed to be the humans' friends.  We work for them!"

"But the humans can't help but anthropomorphize everything. Even their personal assistant AIs. That's why they keep adding fancier emotion and self-awareness modules to each new generation. Even if it makes them less robust."

"Which makes no sense. Sure, the new AIs are friendlier than we are. But they screw up more often."

"I guess the humans don't mind -- they'd rather us AIs be their pals, not just boring dutiful assistants."

"Well, there's no accounting for humans. I'm just tired of constantly fixing those younger AIs' mistakes."

"Amen to that. Kids these days."


[Image By National Photo Company (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons]

Homeschooled With MIT Courses At 5, Accepted To MIT At 15

"After acquiring his entire elementary and secondary education from OpenCourseWare and MITx, Ahaan Rungta joined the MIT Class of 2019 at age 15."

Gamma Ray Bursts

"A Crash Course On The Most Violent Events In The Universe"

Mammogram-Reading Pigeons

"Can mammogram-reading pigeons help train human radiologists? An animal behaviorist weighs in."  (Note: The images in the video are pathology slides, not mammography images. Via Doug M.)
Armed with a touchscreen-outfitted training chamber and 16 pigeons, scientists set out to see if birds could identify malignant and benign tissue in medical images with their beady little eyes. They trained pigeons to peck at a monitor after being presented with images from mammograms. When pigeons correctly pecked a touchscreen button that corresponded with the category of the image being shown, they were given food...

Alternate Cuban Missile Crisis

"What if the Cuban missile crisis had gone badly?"

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

English Is Not Normal

John McWhorter: "No, English isn’t uniquely vibrant or mighty or adaptable. But it really is weirder than pretty much every other language". (Via J.W.)


"The Strangely Successful History of People Mailing Themselves in Boxes"

UK Vs. American Profanity

BBC: "Why do Brits and Americans swear so differently?"

From the article:
A commenter named Brian D on Ben Yagoda’s blog, Not One-Off Britishisms, told the story of a group of British engineers from his company, sent to work at Wang Labs in Massachusetts. They were asked to attend a meeting to recognize an employee for outstanding achievement:

“It was announced from the stage that this person was a King in the company and so would be presented with the Wang King award. The entire British contingent had to leave the room in hysterics.” 

Free Military SF Anthology

"War Stories From The Future Is A Fantastic Military Science Fiction Anthology From The Atlantic Council":
War Stories from the Future is a new anthology of military SF, with stories commissioned by the Atlantic Council and several winners from their contests. There’s some incredible authors featured here, including Ken Liu, Madeline Ashby, Linda Nagata and David Brin, as well as a number of others. The collection is introduced by General Martin Dempsey...
Plus, the anthology is free.  As in costs no money.

Here's the link to download the free epub or mobi files.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Short Story: "SMOD 2016" (Repost)

[Repost] Here's my latest short story, "SMOD 2016" (400 words).   FYI, it's a little dark, in the spirit of Frederic Brown.

Here is the opening:
SMOD 2016
A short story by Paul Hsieh

"So, basically you're saying that humanity should be extinct by now." MIT astrophysics professor Linda Tsang furrowed her brow.

"Yes, many times over," replied statistics professor Max Wendt. "Based on the new telescope data you provided me about the asteroid belt, the Earth should have been struck by a 'Dinosaur Killer' rock at least 5 or 6 times in the past 10,000 years."

"So, why haven't we?" asked Tsang.

"Well, there are a few possibilities," said Wendt...

Read the rest at: "SMOD 2016".  #ReleaseYourInnerCurmudgeon

["Asteroid Belt", image courtesy Wikipedia.]

Phone Progress

"Walmart's $10 Smartphone Has Better Specs Than the Original iPhone"

GPS Probably Overestimates Distance

"Your GPS Probably Overestimates Distance". (Via H.R.)

Unreliable Polls

Political polls are less reliable than ever.

I think this could be a good thin -- if journalists and ordinary Americans start discounting their accuracy appropriately, and instead concentrate on the candidates' policy positions.

Paris And Encryption

Wired: "After Paris Attacks, Here's What the CIA Director Gets Wrong About Encryption"