Friday, May 30, 2003
Interesting use of HotOrNot: Simon Wright acknowledges, "I can't compete with Brad Pitt or Ewan McGregor. I can't even compete with John Smith and Joe Average. But, I ask myself... Could I compete with Hitler?" As a comparison, here's Adolf Hitler's entry on HotOrNot. (Via Metafilter.)
Thursday, May 29, 2003
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
Saturday, May 24, 2003
Friday, May 23, 2003
Suppose you wanted to broadcast an open message to aliens without giving away your location. Our current SETI transmission system wouldn't work since our beamed radio messages would allow another alien species to quickly pinpoint our home world. But one could accomplish this with quantum communications.
Thursday, May 22, 2003
Stanford researchers are working on robots with a movement system based on cockroaches. The cockroach system was chosen because of a combination of speed, agility, and robustness on rough terrain. Plus the robot cockroaches can survive a nuclear EMP blast that would destroy all other robot life. (Via Techdirt.)
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
War Crime Alert: US Army PsyOps (Psychological Operations) forces interrogating recalcitrant Iraqi prisoners are using offensive Western music to break down their resistance, including songs fom Barney the Purple Dinosaur. This method is apparently extremely effective. As one US operative said, "In training, they forced me to listen to the Barney 'I Love You' song for 45 minutes. I never want to go through that again..." According to the article, "Amnesty International, said such tactics may constitute torture - and coalition forces could be in breach of the Geneva Convention." (Thanks to Charlie Nichols for the link.)
Some school teachers are now using software to help them grade their students' essays. According to the company website, their Intellimetric software can assess a student's "depth of understanding" and "breadth of knowledge" on the paper topic with an "accuracy greater than or equal to that of 2 expert human scorers."
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Spam economics: Why is there so much spam? According to this article, it's because spam is still a money maker for the spammers, despite a measly 0.00036 percent conversion rate, which the author calls the "Barnum rate" (after PT Barnum's famous saying that "there's a sucker born every minute"). He calculates that despite this low click-through rate an aggressive spammer could make close to $100,000 per year. (Via Techdirt.)
Monday, May 19, 2003
Sunday, May 18, 2003
Saturday, May 17, 2003
Friday, May 16, 2003
"A super-powered neutrino generator could in theory be used to instantly destroy nuclear weapons anywhere on the planet"
Thursday, May 15, 2003
Caltech scientist David Stevenson is proposing an unmanned journey to the center of the Earth. His proposal would start by creating a crack in the Earth's surface with a powerful explosion, then sending a special probe surrounded by molten iron to burrow its way into the Earth's core, taking about a week of travel time.
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Thailand's Minister of Finance Suchart Jaovisidha was trapped inside his BMW after the car's computer system crashed, locking all the doors and windows as well as shutting off the air conditioning system. After rescuers smashed the windows and freed him and his driver, the Minister told reporters, "'We could hardly breathe for over 10 minutes... It was a harrowing experience." Update: Bryce Wilcox wonders if this Microsoft Windows CE-based system was the one that crashed. (The original article doesn't say one way or another.)
Monday, May 12, 2003
Sunday, May 11, 2003
Saturday, May 10, 2003
Adulthood begins at age 26, at least according to a recent survey. That's not too far off from the old joke, "To the Catholics, a fetus is a human being from the moment of conception. To the Jews, a fetus is still a fetus until it graduates from medical school." (Before anyone sends me an indignant e-mail, this joke was told to me by one of my Jewish physician colleagues.) Link via Weigh In.
Friday, May 09, 2003
The old adage states that if a million monkeys were given a million years, they'd eventually type some Shakespeare. Some researchers tried the experiment in real life, with 6 monkeys and 1 month. According to the researchers, "They pressed a lot of S's... Obviously, English isn't their first language.... Another thing they were interested in was in defecating and urinating all over the keyboard..." I guess John Grisham's job is still safe.
Thursday, May 08, 2003
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Spam fighter: Cloudmark's Spamnet software uses a Napster-like community peer-to-peer network to help weed out spam. Using a clever system of collaborative filtering and trust ratings, once someone else marks an item as spam, it's removed from the inboxes of all subscribers, while preserving the privacy of legitimate e-mail. This seems like a very promising idea -- utilizing the positive network effect of the internet to fight spam.
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
Monday, May 05, 2003
Internet etiquette tip: If you're a well-connected white woman and part of the family of Thomas Jefferson descendants, don't join the Yahoo discussion group for descendants of Sally Hemings (reputed slave/mistress to Thomas Jefferson) by masquerading as an elderly black woman with emphysema in order to try to keep the Hemings descendants from attending the annual family reunion of Jefferson descendants.
Sunday, May 04, 2003
Friday, May 02, 2003
More nanotech: "IBM researchers have created the world's smallest solid-state flashlight -- a tube 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. It emits a glow that is invisible to our eyes, but ideal for devices that use light to send data in fiber-optic cables and the like."
Thursday, May 01, 2003
Is the free market the most effective environmentalist force? According to the article, "Corporations have found that environmentally friendly technologies often allow them to eliminate waste and lower manufacturing costs, thus improving their financial performance" as well as increase customer good will.