Saturday, August 31, 2002
Friday, August 30, 2002
Thursday, August 29, 2002
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
"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.)
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."
Monday, August 26, 2002
Sunday, August 25, 2002
Saturday, August 24, 2002
Friday, August 23, 2002
"Why the ______s Hate the ______s: A Guide to Ethnic and Religious Strife Through All Human History" (Via Linkfilter.)
Thursday, August 22, 2002
"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.
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."
Wednesday, August 21, 2002
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.)
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
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
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
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.)
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.
Friday, August 16, 2002
Thursday, August 15, 2002
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
Tuesday, August 13, 2002
Monday, August 12, 2002
Sunday, August 11, 2002
Saturday, August 10, 2002
Friday, August 09, 2002
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.
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.
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."
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.
Tuesday, August 06, 2002
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.)
This history of the dotcom boom-and-bust is apparent in this "stroll through the graveyard of defunct domain names".
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
Saturday, August 03, 2002
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.)
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.)
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
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.)