Saturday, August 31, 2002

Better living through french fries: Biodiesel fuel.
"Mike Anderiesz set out to do some research on the phenomenon of cyberstalking. The last thing he expected was to end up a victim himself."

Friday, August 30, 2002

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) wants to crack down on human bodily fluids on keyboards in their home office. (Via Linkfilter.)
Classmates.com is one of the few dotcoms making money. Here's why.
Geeks reinvent the electric guitar.
Scientist Erik Asphaug believes we can prevent asteroid impacts on Earth with a giant cosmic airbag.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Phone companies apparently still try to avoid assigning 867-5309 because of that song. (Via Fark.)
Daniel Brandt really hates Google.
Instapundit link leads to true love.
Leonard Nimoy, photographer. (Via Metafilter.)
Do sperm have memory?

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

A teenage girl in Britain may have been struck by a meteorite.
"Reparations for the Descendants of Women: I got to thinking about this black reparations thing, and it occurred to me that Women were denied a number of rights for a very long time in the United States. Perhaps they, or their descendents, should seek reparations." (Via K5.)
The Jedi "religion" continues to grow in Australia.
A robotic tomb raider will be used to search for a hidden chamber behind a mysterious stone seal in the Great Pyramid. Sound like something out of a Spielberg movie!

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

More on Asimov's Foundation and Al-Qa'ida: Prentiss Riddle sent us an e-mail arguing that the original story is almost certainly bogus. He directed us to Colin Brayton's explanation of the meaning of the term "al-Qa'ida" and concludes that "Yes, it means 'Foundation', but to associate it with Asimov is like doing the same for the National Science Foundation or Joe's Foundation Repair."
Some people want to use the Moon as a storage site for nuclear wastes. However, SatireWire warns that this might turn the Moon into "a vast uninhabitable wasteland".
The new school year is upon us and business is picking up for websites that deal in plagiarized term papers, uh... I mean online research aids.
"A goose fitted with a £3,000 ($4,500) electronic transmitter to chart its migration has been tracked 4,500 miles by satellite - to an Eskimo hunter's freezer."
"What eBay Isn't Telling You About Fraud"

Monday, August 26, 2002

Mathematical analysis of Bingo.
A little extra radiation may help you live longer. Yet another reason I'm glad I'm a radiologist. (Via Plastic.)
Was the 9/11 attack inspired by Isaac Asimov's Foundation series?
Contact lenses that you can keep in your eyes for months.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

If you work in an office, then you'll need office toys.

Saturday, August 24, 2002

Don't like the current cover for your LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring DVD? Try one of these cool alternate DVD covers instead. (Via Linkfilter.)
Cool Person Test: Find out if you're a cool person. It was accurate for me! (Via The Volokh Conspiracy.)

Friday, August 23, 2002

More reasons that I am skeptical about all the global warming hype.
What sort of high tech companies does the CIA invest in?
Dan's Data explains rechargeable battery "memory effect" for us idiots.
"Why the ______s Hate the ______s: A Guide to Ethnic and Religious Strife Through All Human History" (Via Linkfilter.)
Do we really need mobile phones for dogs?

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Play "Planet Prostate": The BBC reviews this free online game in which you have to guide Sammy Sperm "from Arousal through the Twin Planets Testes to Planet Prostate". The purpose of the game is to raise awareness of prostate cancer among men.
"In what the government describes as a bizarre coincidence, one U.S. intelligence agency was planning an exercise last Sept. 11 in which an errant aircraft would crash into one of its buildings." One spokesman said, "As soon as the real world events began, we canceled the exercise". As Diana points out, so much for the claim that airplanes crashing into buildings was completely unforseeable by the US government.
The South Pole will finally get internet access.
Poetic justice: "Over the weekend a notorious Brazilian defacement crew known as Hax0rs Lab went on the rampage to celebrate its 1,000th defaced website. The celebrations consisted of breaking into another 1,158 sites in one of the biggest mass-defacements ever. But while the web vandals were distracted someone snuck into their server and gave them a taste of their own medicine."
Robotic wedding photographer. (Via Techdirt.)

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Mathematical Lego sculptures. (Via Madville.)
Russian "pawn" star: A profile of Alexandra Kosteniuk, the stunningly attractive 18-year old who's also the 2nd highest ranked female chess player in the world. Her second career as a model have caused some to dub her the "Anna Kournikova of chess", to which she responds, "I hope I am going to play chess better than she plays tennis".
Pleistocene Park? Japanese scientists plan to take sperm found inside the frozen carcass of a Siberian mammoth and use it to impregnate an Indian elephant. Then by repeating this process over the next two generations, they hope to breed an animal that is 88% mammoth. (Via GMSV.)
Biomedical researchers hope that scientific advances may lead to ultra-longevity (if not outright biological immortality) sometime in the next century. Amazingly enough, there are some contemporary mainstream intellectuals who think that this is a bad idea.
"Switcher's Remorse": An Episcopal priest goes from Windows to Mac but then has second thoughts.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

A spam filter that uses haiku to distinguish legitimate e-mail from spam.
Life inside a white-collar "prison camp" is not as cushy as commonly believed. (Via Fark.)
Solar surgery: Scientists working in the Negev Desert in Israel have found a way to concentrate sunlight into a sufficiently strong beam that it can be used to burn through tissues. It acts much like a laser scalpel, except it's significantly cheaper. And as one of the inventor admits, "It's useless if you live in London or Seattle"... (Via Cosmic Log.)
British scientists have invented an electric "force field" which will vaporize grenade fragments before they strike their target. The first application will be to enhance the protective armor in tanks. More details are available here. However, it probably won't be able to stop this "death ray" which is under development by the US Dept. of Defense.

Monday, August 19, 2002

Death rays may be ready for deployment within the decade. (Via Linkfilter.)
"Beer Goggles": Scientists have proven that if you drink more beer, then the opposite sex looks 25% more attractive to you.
The mathematics of "sliding block puzzles" can be surprisingly complex. Interested readers can try online Java versions of one such puzzle, "Rush Hour", here or here.
Laptop security: Michigan researchers have developed a small security device for laptops that will automatically encrypt all its data if the laptop is ever lost, stolen, or out of range of the rightful owner.
Is the voting for "American Idol" being skewed by "power dialers" who can cast thousands of votes via computer with the touch of a button?

Sunday, August 18, 2002

The gruesome history of Michael Jackson's face
Socially irresponsible mutual fund: The Vice Fund is a mutual fund specializing in politically incorrect stocks shunned by so-called "socially responsible" investors, including alcohol, tobacco, and gambling stocks, as well as the defense industry. As the founder points out, "[T]hese particular stocks perform really well when the market goes up, goes down, whether we go to war, or don't go to war... People keep smoking, drinking and gambling". (Via Fark.)
Wil Wheaton's scene has been cut from the upcoming Star Trek: Nemesis movie. Rick Berman was nice enough to call him in person, however. (Via Metafilter.)

Saturday, August 17, 2002

NASA is developing a brain monitoring device for airport security screening. Supposedly, the device will monitor passengers' brain waves with "noninvasive neuro-electric sensors" in order "to detect passengers who potentially might pose a threat". The article also quotes some (non-NASA) scientists who are skeptical about the endeavour. (Via Politech.)
Would extraterrestrials be governed by a system of democracy? Douglas Vakoch argues that they probably would be and that extraterrestrial dictators would be rare. I personally don't think we have anywhere near enough information to make a reasonable guess, and that projections based on human societies are at best mere speculation.
Search engine games. (Via BBspot.)
Be careful if you're driving fast through South Florida: Florida Highway Patrol troopers disguised as construction workers are having a great time nabbing speeders.

Friday, August 16, 2002

Research into the marijuana-induced "munchies" may lead to the development of a better diet drug. Clinical trials are already underway in Europe and the US.
Invention of the day: Edible crayons.
American Heritage has a nice retrospective on the space artwork of Chesley Bonestell.
Malcolm Gladwell has written a terrific article on the science of reading facial expressions. (Via The Weigh In.)
Grover Chestnut has guaranteed a steady stream of visitors to his gravesite by installing an ATM machine at his grave, then giving his heirs cards that allow them to withdraw their inheritance from the machine. (Via Linkfilter.)

Thursday, August 15, 2002

"Hacking Las Vegas": The true story of how the MIT Blackjack team managed to win large amounts of money from the casinos using sophisticated card counting techniques. (Via Metafilter.)
Walter Mossberg gives a positive review to this sleek new videophone from Vialta which can be added onto any conventional home telephone line.
Many incoming college freshmen are using e-mail to get acquainted with their roommates-to-be. This can help reduce student anxieties, but it's also very easy to misinterpret others when communicating solely by e-mail.
A robot has taught itself how to fly in just 3 hours, using a genetic algorithm to mimic evolution. More information here.
Cloning has now become a lot cheaper.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Ed Headrick, the inventor of the modern frisbee, passed away today. And his ashes are going to be incorporated into some "special edition" frisbees. (Via Linkfilter.)
California legislators are having a heated debate over whether Segway scooters should be allowed on the sidewalks.
JS Kelly is collecting information about the Prague floods.
Artificial sight is now a reality.
I wonder what our canines would look like wearing Doggles? (Via Boing Boing.)
Build your own LCD video projector. (Via Linkfilter.)
"Finding art in the palm of your hand": Three Cornell graduates have thought of a novel use of PDAs to help with the museum browsing experience (and with one's social life as well.)
You can count on Forbes to tell you who are the top earning dead celebrities.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

How good are wine experts at distinguishing between red and white wine during a blind taste test? Not as good as you might think.
Scientists may be able to provide up to 30 seconds of warning prior to a major earthquake, which would be enough time to shut off gas lines and take other measure to limit damage.
The CIA predicts global trends for the next 12 years. Interesting mixture of optimistic and pessimistic projections. (Via Linkfilter.)
Bruce Schneier, noted cryptographer, is the subject of this excellent article. (Via Plastic.)

Monday, August 12, 2002

Scientific American explains how to build a time machine.
Europeans have now discovered the Earthship, the house made out of garbage.
The European Space Agency is making plans for a space mission to test an anti-asteroid defense system.
Coincidences happen much more often than one would think. And the fact that we underestimate their occurrences makes us overly prone to believe in conspiracy theories.
There's quite a bit of science to dunking a doughnut. (For the more prurient minded, the article also discusses the physics of sperm ejaculation.)

Sunday, August 11, 2002

Sin all you want with the Get Out Of Hell Free card.
Physicist John Wheeler believes that data from quantum mechanics experiments shows that human consciousness can shape the past as well as the future.
"Microsoft changes its tune towards Linux."

Saturday, August 10, 2002

How the Al-Qaeda website was hijacked.
The magnetic north pole is threatening to leave Canada and enter Russian territory in the upcoming century. (Via Fark.)

Friday, August 09, 2002

A triple murder suspect in California is trying to use the Bigfoot Defense to explain his actions. Maybe he was inspired by the Chewbacca Defense used by the Johnnie Cochrane character against Chef in "South Park".
Practical quantum computing becomes even closer as scientists in France and Kansas have devised methods to stabilize qubits (quantum bits) for up to 100 times longer than before.
Scientists are working on an automated system to call balls and strikes in a baseball game. Needless to say, baseball umpires are not particularly psyched about this. Part of their objection is that they don't want to be held to a uniform strike zone, instead preferring the current system where each umpire can determine his own strike zone.
David Friedman says the best way to solve the spam problem is to charge spammers for access to your e-mail inbox. He explains how to implement his idea here.
"Man with too much time on his hands creates Lego woman in sexy poses". (Via Madville.)

Thursday, August 08, 2002

More airport security insanity: When a New York woman tried to board an airplane at JFK airport in NYC, the security guard found 3 feeding bottles of breast milk in her bag. The security guard forced her to drink a sample of breast milk from each bottle to prove that it wasn't a dangerous substance, refusing to allow her on board until she did so. Given that the US Transportation Security Administration has specifically stated that passengers can not be required to drink liquids before being allowed on a plane, she may have grounds for a lawsuit. (Via Plastic.)
The San Jose Mercury News has a interesting article about our part of Colorado. Unfortunately, they also make a good case that we'll become a lot like the SF Bay area soon in terms of crowding, traffic congestion, overpriced housing, and pollution, precisely because our region's virtues are attracting a lot of Californians. (I guess I'd better start investing in real estate before the prices skyrocket. And buy that second getaway home in Wyoming...)
Jet airplane vapor trails help moderate the extremes of temperature, making daytime highs cooler and nighttime cool temperatures warmer. Interestingly enough, this fact could only be verified in the aftermath of 9/11, when US air traffic was grounded for 3 days, thus allowing scientists to make detailed measurements without the effect of constant air traffic. More details here.
Crop circle confessions.
Mobile phone service providers in Bolivia are offering an unusual service for people who want to make a call but have forgotten their phones. They've hired a roving band of agents to act as mobile phone booths, letting people use their phones for 14 cents/minute. According to the article, "The system is so popular that the mobile cell phones are now more ubiquitous in La Paz than stationary public phones."
An injured tortoise has been successfully fitted with wheels. (Via NP News.)

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

University of Wisconsin researchers have performed computer modelling demonstrating that we can fabricate working quantum computers with today's silicon technology.
Israeli scientists have figured out a way to hide fingerprint data within passport photographs in a robust fashion.
TiVo and Replay users should keep a close eye on the development of digital TV, because Hollywood may try to change the rules for digital TV that makes these devices currently so popular.
Roll your own barcode with this online barcode generator. (Via Boing Boing.)
Ned Flanders, the religious neighbor of Homer Simpson, is now a hip role model for many Christians.
"Discrimination is Good": Douglas Kalish argues that detailed genetic testing of individuals might be bad for insurance companies but it could be of incredible benefit for patients.
The Cult of the Dead Cow is pissing off the mainland Chinese leadership by giving away its free encryption software.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Confessions of an online auction scammer, including some tips on how not to get cheated when bidding on eBay. (Via Techdirt.)
Creepy poetry for your PDA available here.
Which personality disorder do you have?
If you didn't think that the MousePad couch was firm enough, then there's always the Mac II Couch. (Via GMSV.)
After 9/11, the Municipal Credit Union lost its network connection which allowed it to verify members' ATM withdrawals. As a result, thousands of people were able to withdraw more money from ATMs than they had in their accounts, including many who withdrew thousands of dollars more than they were entitled to, resulting in total theft of over $15 million. Of course, all of their transactions were logged and there have been multiple arrests for grand larceny. This restores my faith in human nature...

Monday, August 05, 2002

Now this is just plain dumb: Security officials at Los Angeles Internationa Airport (LAX) confiscated the 2-inch replica plastic army rifle from a GI Joe action figure. According to the passenger, a 55-year old woman who was bringing the toy as a gift for her grandson, "They examined the toy as if it was going to shoot them. Then they asked me if there were toy grenades as well. I thought they were joking, but they weren’t smiling — they were deadly serious." When the 7-year old grandson finally received the toy (sans rifle), he asked his grandmother, "Don’t those people understand the gun was a toy? and couldn’t shoot". An LAX security chief said he was just following orders: "We have instructions to confiscate anything that looks like a weapon or a replica. If GI Joe was carrying a replica then it had to be taken from him." Maybe it's just me, but maybe the airport screeners should concentrate on improving their 48% miss rate on real weapons, rather than going after the 2-inch replica guns. (Via Metafilter.)
Kuro5hin has posted a nice primer on distributed computing.
Drug testing required at your workplace? Here are some useful tips.
This history of the dotcom boom-and-bust is apparent in this "stroll through the graveyard of defunct domain names".
Why are houses so expensive in the SF Bay area? It's the dirt.
The Hypersonic Sound System (HSS) can beam sound directly to a listener's head without anyone else being able to hear it. The system works by using a pair of ultrasonic beams, each inaudible to the human ear, that intersect at a particular point to reproduce the desired audio signal. (Via Zebulun.)

Sunday, August 04, 2002

Some websites have incredibly stupid linking policies. Find out which ones here.
Bill Simon, the Republican candidate for governor in the state of California, may not win the election. But at least he has a sense of humor.
Build your own BattleMech Warrior. (Via GMSV.)

Saturday, August 03, 2002

Wired reminisces about Mad magazine.
Hacking is easier than ever.
A giant crater has been found under the North Sea, probably from an old asteroid impact. Scientists are excited about the discovery because of some unusual geological features of the crater.

Friday, August 02, 2002

A service in New York City is offering "designer kidnappings" for clients willing to pay thousands of dollars to be violently abducted. These mock kidnappings can include being bound, gagged, and incarcerated for up to days. It sounds like a bizarre version of the cheesy Michael Douglas/Sean Penn movie The Game. The NYPD doesn't approve of this business, but says it's perfectly legal. (Via BBspot.)
More nanotechnology innovation -- this time an advance in nanowires used to connect electronic components. These wires are so thin that they only allow electrons to move in one direction through them.
Have you herniated one of the discs in your lower back? Then consider getting it replaced with an artificial disc. As usual, these have been available in Europe for several years, but are just now beginning clinical trials in the USA.
It's not called "high" tech for nothing: Approximately 92% of IT workers have reported smoking marijuana. (I'd be very curious to learn the figure for my own field of diagnostic radiology, which involves lots of staring at intricately detailed images on computer monitors.)
An unexpurgated copy of the famous "Patton speech", along with some interesting historical background. (Via Linkfilter.)
Carnegie Mellon AI researchers have created the first robot able to "register for a symposium, find a conference room and deliver a lecture" while remaining polite about it.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Weblogs are helping to keep the mainstream media honest.
Black boxes for your car.
Spam victims: Here's everything you wanted to know about deciphering e-mail headers.
The game of Go is one of the most ancient and elegant board games in the world. It's also one of the most difficult for a computer to play.
Many high school and college students routinely use search engines like Google to help them with their homework, instead of going to the library. Although many teachers don't like this, personally I think this is fine, provided that students are also taught critical thinking skills. It's much better than relying uncritically on hard-copy library sources. As one of my friends says, "There's a lot of great information on the internet -- and some of it is even true." (Via Plastic.)
The Japanese like some pretty weird ice cream flavors, like octopus or ox tongue. I have to confess that I'm intrigued by the wasabi ice cream... (Via Boing Boing.)
"Whether or not you believe in the paranormal may depend entirely on your brain chemistry. People with high levels of dopamine are more likely to find significance in coincidences, and pick out meaning and patterns where there are none."