Thursday, December 30, 2004

Admin note: Blogging will be sparse until 1/10/2005. Happy New Year!
CNN has its list of Top 10 bizarre e-mailed stories of 2004. The number one story:
"Bear guzzles 36 beers, passes out at campground" (August 18)

Campground workers at the Baker Lake Resort on Washington State's Puget Sound were surprised to find a black bear passed out and surrounded by three dozen beer cans. The animal had swiped the suds from campers' coolers and seemed to take a liking to the local brew, Rainier Beer.

The bear was chased away only to return the next day, presumably looking for more beer. Wildlife agents captured the bear using honey, doughnuts and beer for bait.
(Via Mark Dennis.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Why do we have so many temperature scales?
Invention of the day: The Wing-Suit will in theory allow a person to jump out of an airplane and land safely without a parachute. In theory. Final testing will probably take place in 2005. (Via Gravity Lens.)
"The Nit Picker's Guide to the Lord of the Rings"
Tech headlines you won't see in 2005. (Via Newstrolls.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Invention of the day: This steam-engined powered automobile, which happens to look like a 21st-century version of the Batmobile.
The recent Asian earthquake "was so powerful it made the Earth wobble on its axis and permanently altered the regional map, US geophysicists said."
"E-mail Doesn't Take a Holiday". Welcome back from vacation -- you have 3,295 unread messages...
Logarithmic Maps of the Universe. (Via Linkfilter.)
Great profile of one of my favorite writers Malcolm Gladwell, plus a little bit about his new book, Blink. (Via NewsTrolls.)

Monday, December 27, 2004

"Superconductors ready to ramp up for the real world"
Revolving Building. (Via MeFi.)
Psychic Predictions for 2004: How did they stack up against what really happened this year? (Via Gravity Lens.)
"10 Things We Learned About Blogs".

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Obnoxious shrink-wrap EULA's may have suffered a major legal defeat:
In January 2003, California resident Cathy Baker walked into her local CompUSA store to return copies of Windows XP and Norton AntiVirus she'd purchased there. When trying to install the programs, she had of course been confronted by all the obnoxious terms in the Windows and NAV End User License Agreements. Instead of clicking OK, she took them back to the store for a refund, as the EULAs said she was supposed to do if she refused to accept the terms.

At CompUSA, however, Baker was told the store's policy was that it could not give refunds for software once the customer has opened the package. Even though Baker had no way of seeing the EULAs until after she purchased the products, took them home, opened the package and tried to install the software on her computer, she was now told she could not get her money back even when she rejected the terms. (In a somewhat bizarre twist, after she protested enough, one CompUSA employee told her that they had "secret instructions" from Symantec to provide refunds in such circumstances.) So, like many others before her, Baker was confronted with the classic shrinkwrap license conundrum: She could only see the terms by opening the box, and opening the box meant she was stuck with it. But Baker did something most others before her had not - she went and got a lawyer...
(Via MBWHA.)
Is Apple Computer on the verge of a renaissance? The article seems a bit optimistic, but not outside the realm of reasonable speculation. (Via IPList.)
Eric Raymond has a good essay on the emergence of geek culture.
Spam messages offering free high-tech consumer goodies: What happens if you respond. From the article:
The e-mail messages are tantalizing: "Join now and receive a free IBM laptop." "Your complimentary iPod with free shipping is waiting."

These offers and similar ones on the Internet promise gifts for buying products or services. Are they for real? At best, yes, but they can also be riddled with problems. Participants may have to spend a lot to qualify or may not get the reward if they fail to follow what can be complicated rules. Ultimately, they may end up with nothing more than a big increase in spam as their e-mail address and other information is passed along or sold.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Admin note: GeekPress will take a brief holiday hiatus, and will return on Monday December 27. In the meantime, Happy Festivus!
Top 11 Worst Gifts for Geeks.
The first cloned-to-order pet sold in the USA has been delivered to his new owner. According to the article, the process cost $50,000 and the new kitten was cloned from the DNA of the owner's much-beloved prior cat who died last year. The happy owner states, "He is identical. His personality is the same..." Here's the corporate website.
David Blaine magic secrets. (Via Linkfilter.)
How to find a parking space at the mall: The 4 main strategies are "Search and destroy", "lay and wait", "stalk" or "see it and take it". (Via BBspot.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Who replies to spam?
"If I Could Turn Back Time": A team of scientists used "furniture clutter to simultaneously focus two different electromagnetic signals to two specific locations in a room using a single frequency, with an accuracy that would be impossible in an empty room." Clutter is good!...
"Underneath a German bus terminal, archaeologists have found the remains of a 2,000-year-old Roman roadside rest stop that included a chariot service station, gourmet restaurant and hotel with central heating." (Via SciTech Daily.)
Filaments across the Sun.
When you click the "Buy" button on, it starts a frenzy of activity.
"Scientists have developed a computer system that can determine mood purely from the way people talk, and are negotiating to sell it to car and computer-game makers." (Via Madville.)
Blogs and sex scandals.
Advances in space food. Interesting trivia point -- tofu is especially sensitive to being damaged by radiation.

Monday, December 20, 2004

"Quantum cryptography has marched from theory to laboratory to real products..."
50 Things to Eat Before You Die. (Via Linkfilter.)
When I lived in Michigan, I used to hate the huge winter "lake effect" snowfalls. Here's what they look like from satellite.
Do you have some colored clay and a lot of excess time on your hands? Here's one way to spend it.
Turn your cell phone into a sex toy.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Diamond computer chips.
Latest climate warning: Global warming could chill the planet.
Mathematicians have made a crochet model of chaos. Here's a closer look.
Why do most cooked exotic meats taste like chicken? (Via GMSV.)
"New Microsoft Patch Blocks Firefox Downloads: Microsoft Corp. today released a new security patch for its Internet Explorer (IE) web browser which prevents users from accidentally or intentionally downloading the new free, open-source Firefox browser from The Mozilla Foundation." (Yes, it's just satire...)

Friday, December 17, 2004

"A Precious Case from Middle Earth": The latest issue of The British Medical Journal has a case report on Smeagol, aka "Gollum". Among their conclusions,
"He fulfils seven of the nine criteria for schizoid personality disorder (ICD F60.1), and, if we must label Gollum's problems, we believe that this is the most likely diagnosis... He is hypervigilant and does not seem to need much sleep. This, accompanied by his bulging eyes and weight loss, suggests hyperthyroidism."
Of course, it could also be the effect of the One Ring, something not yet included in the current ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases) codes.
More medical humor: Notes from actual patient medical records, sent to me by one of my colleagues.
1. The patient refused autopsy.

2. The patient has no previous history of suicides.

3. Patient has left white blood cells at another hospital.

4. Patient's medical history has been remarkably insignificant with only a 40 pound weight gain in the past three days.

5. She has no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night.

6. Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.

7. On the second day the knee was better, and on the third day it disappeared.

8. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.

9. The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.

10. Discharge status: Alive but without my permission.

11. Healthy appearing decrepit 69-year old male, mentally alert but forgetful.

12. Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.

13. She is numb from her toes down.

14. While in ER, she was examined, x-rated and sent home.

15. The skin was moist and dry.

16. Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.

17. Patient was alert and unresponsive.

18. Rectal examination revealed a normal size thyroid.

19. She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got a divorce.

20. I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.

21. Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.

22. Examination of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.

23. The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.

24. Skin: somewhat pale but present.

25. The pelvic exam will be done later on this floor.

26. Large brown stool ambulating in the hall.

27. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.
Bruce Schneier has some excellent advice on how to make your home PC more secure.
"Can Lasers Really Bring Down Planes? Actually, Yes." (Via Cosmic Log.)
Handy Guide to Science Fiction Chronophysics. (Via Linkfilter.)
Invention of the day: Dry quicksand. Here are some videos.
"The Brain's Own Marijuana"

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Bizarre Japanese consumer item of the day: The lap pillow.
Top 10 weirdest programs for the Palm OS. (Via GMSV.)
"What's Next for Google: Running the Web's best search engine isn't enough -- Google wants to organize all digital information. That means war with Microsoft."
When are crowds smarter than individuals? When they are "autonomous, decentralized and cognitively diverse".
Cool snapshot of an electron orbital.
More mathematics of sliding block puzzles, including a new contender for "Hardest 4x5 sliding puzzle problem". (Via Steve D'Ippolito.)
Robotic fish.
Keys to successful e-courtship.
"How Would You Redo the Google Interface?" (Via Linkfilter.)

Monday, December 13, 2004

Salad bar hacking.
What does modern neuroimaging have to say about personal responsibility and the insanity defense?
Why do all the cool gadgets come out in Asia first?
Packing pennies on a tray is harder than it looks.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Wearable robotic vehicles? Um, no thank you...
"The 100 Oldest Currently Registered .COM Domains" .
Top 11 Ways Geeks Celebrate Christmas.
Did Vikings really wear horns on their helmets?

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Oracle Space Sweepstakes: Here's your chance to win a free suborbital space flight from Space Adventures Ltd., worth $138,000. (Via Gunner at No Quarters.)
The complete guide to ASCII cows. (Via Rand Simberg.)

Friday, December 10, 2004

More on the "hardest possible simple sliding block puzzle": You can try it online here.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

"Secrets of Firefox 1.0"
"Scientists Teach Sparrows to Sing Backward."
Getting an iPod for Christmas? Here are the key accessories.
Cryptography geeks: Build your own paper Enigma machine. (Via Linkfilter.)
Law-and-econ legends Gary Becker and Richard Posner have started what promises to be an excellent blog. Their first post is on the topic of preventative war.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Malcolm Gladwell has written an excellent article on mammography, image analysis, and modern aerial warfare. What do all these have in common? Read the article to find out. Here's the printer-friendly version.

(As a practicing radiologist, I thought the article was especially good in its discussion of the limitations of mammography and breast cancer screening, as well as the gap between the reality of mammography vs. popular perception. Gladwell did a good job integrating a number of complex ideas in medicine and image analysis.)
Beautiful gallery of minimal surfaces and a brief discussion of the underlying mathematics. (Via MeFi.)
"Why holograms look so cool in the movies -- and so lame in real life."
Stress reliever of the day: Virtual Bubblewrap. (Via Boing Boing.)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Left-handers flourish in violent society.
Default password list.
"Take a Chance": Good review article on random number and pseudorandom number generators.
Our Sun may have been a planet thief.
Making driving seem more dangerous could actually make it safer.
"A Buddhist monk decided to break his lifelong vow of celibacy with a prostitute - but picked up an undercover police officer instead." No, really.
Blogging may be hazardous to your job.
Biotech marches on: "Primitive cells similar to bacteria have been created by US researchers. These synthetic cells are not truly alive, because they cannot replicate or evolve. But they can churn out proteins for days, and could be useful for drug production, as well as advancing the quest to build artificial life from scratch."
A neural network AI crime analysis system has been able to detect 10 times as many serial crime patterns as human detectives working from the same data set.
How the brain recognizes faces.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Boardgame of the day: Lord of the Rings Monopoly. And it's homemade! (Via Linkfilter.)
"Traffic lights that respond to local conditions could ease congestion."
Noah Schachtman reports on the latest military high-tech gadgets from the 2004 Army Science Conference.
"A group of gamblers who won more than 1 million British pounds at the Ritz Casino by using laser technology have been told by police they can keep their winnings." (Via /.)
The hardest possible simple sliding-block puzzle.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

"What Do You Say to An Extraterrestrial?": Seth Shostak has been rethinking the issue, and he suggests we send the Google servers.
Art project of the day: Zoomquilt.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Game of the day: Reflex. Very addicting. (Via Linkfilter.)
"Australian scientists have discovered a way to track the electronic footpath of a single thought travelling through the human brain."
Great Harvard-vs-Yale prank.
Invention of the day: Anti-laser contact lenses.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Gun geeks critique the design of the phasers on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Tasteless-but-geeky practical joke of the day: Robodump. (Via Memepool.)
New approaches to artificial gravity.
Invention of the day: BananaGuard.
Are you fed up with bringing bananas to work or school only to find them bruised and squashed? Our unique, patented device allows for the safe transport and storage of individual bananas letting you enjoy perfect bananas anytime, anywhere.
(Via Boing Boing.)

Monday, November 29, 2004

Functional MRI brain scanning is becoming increasingly reliable as a lie detector. Here's a related story.
The Jerry Seinfeld Dictionary of Terms and Phrases.
Wikipedia will be offering news stories as well. Here's the Wikinews demo.
Transparent transistors.
Obesity Tourism: This is the most unusual weight loss plan I've ever heard of.
Robert Mugabe, dictator of Zimbabwe, "has come up with a bizarre proposal to solve the food crisis threatening half its population with starvation. [He] wants to bring in obese tourists from overseas so that they can shed pounds doing manual labour on land seized from white farmers."
No, seriously. (Via Rand Simberg.)
Electronic wallpaper.
Chocolate may be the next cough medicine.
"Darkness, Tunnels, and Light": The scientific basis of near-death experiences.
This is the geekiest tatoo I've ever seen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Thanksgiving meals are good for you. Happy T-day! (Regular posting will resume Monday, November 29.)
As you prepare for holiday travel, be aware that "Transportation Safety Administration officials say increased concerns about bombs being hidden on a person's body require more intensive torso searches, and women's breasts and the genital and buttocks regions of both sexes are not off-limits." All in the name of national security, of course. (Via Fark.)
Test your space IQ.
Negative Thermal Expansion: A few unusual materials shrink when they're heated, rather than expanding.
World's smallest test tube: Scientists have created a controlled chemical reaction within a carbon nanotubule, causing "the molecules inside the tubes to polymerise in long line just one molecule thick".
"Seeing is believing (in the free market)": Alex Tabarrok has some very interesting observations about health care economics.
Everywhere we look it seems that health care is more expensive: prescription drug prices are increasing, costs to visit the doctor are up, the price of health insurance is rising. But look closer, even closer, closer still. Don't see it yet? Perhaps you should have your eyes corrected at a Lasik vision center.

Laser eye surgery has the highest patient satisfaction ratings of any surgery, it has been performed more than 3 million times in the past decade, it is new, it is high-tech, it has gotten better over time and... laser eye surgery has fallen in price. In 1998 the average price of laser eye surgery was about $2200 per eye. Today the average price is $1350, that's a decline of 38 percent in nominal terms and slightly more than that after taking into account inflation.

Why the price decline in this market and not others? Could it have something to do with the fact that laser eye surgery is not covered by insurance, not covered by Medicaid or Medicare, and not heavily regulated? Laser eye surgery is one of the few health procedures sold in a free market with price advertising, competition and consumer driven purchases. I'm seeing things more clearly already.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

"A new digital technique has been developed that can identify whether two works of art are by the same artist. It can help to reveal fakes, and even discern if an artist used talented students to help with the painting process." Here's a related story.
"Colour laser printer manufacturers encode each printout with the printer's serial number so they can trace it back to you if you are counterfeiting bills. They can trace it back to you for anything else as well. Oh, and you could of course hack this to give yourself a nice alibi. 'Clearly it wasn't MY printer, look at the code!'" (Via Boing Boing.)
How To Steal Wi-Fi and how to keep the neighbors from stealing yours.
The Pentagon wants more ray guns.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Excellent new science news website: LiveScience. Check it out.
Reason vs. emotion -- what happens when they come into conflict? Modern functional brain imaging techniques provides some answers.
Interesting history of Super Glue. Also answers the classic question, "Was Super Glue invented to seal battle wounds in Vietnam?"
Invention of the day: A device that separates ripe open pistachio nuts from unriped closed pistachios by their distinctive acoustic signatures. The new system is cheaper and more accurate than the current mechanical sorters, and as a pistachio addict I heartily applaud this development!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Shameless Political Book Plug: Bill Whittle, one of my favorite internet essayists, has a new book out entitled, Silent America: Essays From a Democracy at War. It's a hard copy edition of some of his best essays, available for for only $29.95 plus S&H. Perfect for Christmas!

If you want to read the online versions, here are the links to the individual chapters:
Trinity (Part 1)
Trinity (Part 2)
Strength (Part 1)
Strength (Part 2)
Deterrence (Part 1)
Deterrence (Part 2)
Although I don't agree with everything he says, for the most part I find his writing thought-provoking and inspiring, both for the actual content of his arguments as well as the underlying optimistic American sense of life. As a supporter of the 2nd Amendment, I especially liked "Freedom". For a fun discussion of capitalism in America, read "Trinity". For an essentialized analysis of our great political divide, read "Responsibility". And for some good counterweights to the conventional wisdom promulgated by the mainstream press on America's role in the world (in general) and the Iraq War (in particular), read "Empire", "War","Strength" and "Deterrence".

(Editor's note: Normally, I keep GeekPress fairly apolitical, since the primary focus of this website is science, technology, and cultural news that I happen to find interesting. But occasionally on the weekends I'll invoke my blogger's prerogative and indulge in more explicitly political posting. If you don't want to read anything political, then skip this entire post -- regularly scheduled programming will resume tomorrow. If you live in Blue America, and you have a genuine interest in knowing why the other side thinks as it does, then take a peek at some of the above links. And if you live in Red America, then bon appetit!)

Saturday, November 20, 2004

It may be possible to protect astronauts from cosmic rays with a magnetic force shield generated by superconducting magnets built into the spaceship.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Internet Archive "Wayback Machine" is now admissible as evidence. (Via Linkfilter.)
The longest surviving headless chicken lived for 18 months (!) after decapitation. (Via Madville.)
"Big sister is watching you: Virtual chaperones may help both doctors and patients"
The Matrix: A haiku interpretation.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Internet hunting: "Hunters soon may be able to sit at their computers and blast away at animals on a Texas ranch via the Internet, a prospect that has state wildlife officials up in arms. The Web site already offers target practice with a .22 caliber rifle and could soon let hunters shoot at deer, antelope and wild pigs, site creator John Underwood said on Tuesday." Here's the website.
"[British] Home Secretary David Blunkett said today that the German philosopher Immanuel Kant is to blame for scepticism about the governments plans for a compulsory national identity card."
"A shape-shifting robot comprised of many independently moving components has been demonstrated walking, rolling and slithering for the first time."
"An Apple a Day Really Does Keep Doctor Away"
Virtual tour of Mordor. (Via Gravity Lens.)
The Final Capitalist Frontier: Mining other planets for profit.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

"The Real Problem With Voting: The biggest trouble lies not so much in the technology but in poll workers' failure to follow the procedures that would assure reliable results." Given how easy it is for intelligent, honest, and conscientious pollworkers to make inadvertent errors due to deficiencies in the training methods, the author may have a good point.
Game of the day: Human Pacman.
Creepy gadget of the day: Send a long-distance hug by a robotic pillow. (Via Spinneyhead.)
How long can a person survive without food?
The US Army field manual on counterinsurgency operations. (Via IPList.)
Classic book from 1971: "How it Works -- The Computer".
Arctic warming: Should one be worried or not?
Excellent Mountain Dew commercial featuring Steven Segal.

Monday, November 15, 2004

"CSI Cairo: By testing the DNA of the mummy of Tutankhamun, Egypt will attempt to learn what killed the teenaged pharoah who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. Talk about a cold case."
The "First Light" airborne laser passes its first successful test. More good background information here.
NFL football and mathematics: Two interesting questions.
"Icing" the kicker by calling a time-out before a critical field goal -- does it work?

And how much does the final outcome of a sudden-death overtime depend on the initial coin toss?
"Complexity, Randomness and Impossible Tasks"

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Joke of the day:
A couple is golfing one day on a very, very exclusive golf course lined with million dollar houses. On the third tee the husband says, "Honey, be very careful when you drive the ball. Don't knock out any windows it'll cost us a fortune to fix."

The wife tees up and promptly shanks it right through the window of the biggest house on the course. The husband cringes and says, "I told you to watch out for the houses! All right, let's go up there, apologize and see how much this is going to cost."

They walk up and knock, and a voice says, "Come in."

When they open the door, they see glass all over the floor and a broken bottle lying on its side in the foyer. A man on the couch says, "Are you the people that broke my window?"

"Uh, yeah," the husband says. "Sorry about that."

"No, actually I want to thank you. I'm a Genie that was trapped for a thousand years in that bottle. You've released me. I'm allowed to grant three wishes. I'll give you each one wish, and I'll keep the last one for myself."

"OK, great!" the husband says. "I want a million dollars a year for the rest of my life."

"No problem - it's the least I could do.

And you, what do you want?" the Genie says, looking at the wife.

"I want a house in every country of the world," she says.

"Consider it done."

"And what's your wish, Genie?" the husband asks.

"Well, since I've been trapped in that bottle, I haven't had sex with a woman in a thousand years.

My wish is to sleep with your wife."

The husband looks at the wife and says, "Well, we did get a lot of money and all those houses, honey. I guess it's OK with me if it's OK with you."

So the genie takes the wife upstairs and ravishes her for two hours.

Afterward, he rolls over, looks at the wife, and says, "How old is your husband anyway?"

"He's 35, why?", she asks.

"And he still believes in Genies?"
(Via Michael Duff.)
"Rate My Network Diagram." It's like HotOrNot, except for network administrators. (Via Linkfilter.)

Friday, November 12, 2004

Uber-geeky Gadget of the Day: Bluetooth Star Trek Communicator. "This Star Trek Communicator uses Bluetooth to connect to your cell phone as a hands free device, meaning you can keep your actual phone in your inside pocket (or secret stash fold if you're wearing the proper uniform) and use the Communicator like it was the real deal." (Via Fark.)
3D television: Researchers can now broadcast moving holograms.
Top 10 Reasons Why Sex at the Speed of Light is Not an Advisable Form of Procreation. (Via GMSV.)
"A Southern California earthquake forecast based on computer models has successfully pinpointed the location of nearly every major temblor to hit the region over the last four years."

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Excellent article on the new Firefox 1.0 browser. It's open source, it's free, and it blows away Internet Explorer.
Invention of the day: Uranium-sucking tumbleweeds.
Quantum lab on a chip.
"A device that automatically moves electrodes through the brain to seek out the strongest signals is taking the idea of neural implants to a new level. Scary as this sounds, its developers at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena say devices like this will be essential if brain implants are ever going to work..."
"Mars is experiencing global warming, and we don't know why..." Must be because the US didn't sign the interplanetary Kyoto Treaty. (Via Ari Armstrong.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Brain makeovers, aka "cosmetic neurology". (Via ALDaily.)
The Hierarchy of Blogging.
Ten Simple Rules for buying gadgets.
If you're a fan of the classic Hewlett-Packard HP-42s programmable RPN calculator, there's a free emulator available for download. Versions are available for PalmOS, Linux, and Windows.

Monday, November 08, 2004

A second black hole has been discovered in the center of our galaxy.
"Sending a weak electrical impulse through the front of a person's head can boost verbal skills by as much as 20 percent..."
More very cool Red-vs.-Blue maps: These maps are especially nice because they show the red and blue states (or counties) with areas adjusted for population. The purple versions are also quite visually striking. (Via IPList.)
Anthropologists have studied male mating rituals in bars. (Via Fark.)
Americans are getting a lot fatter as this dramatic PowerPoint presentation from the CDC demonstrates. Apparently, this costs the airline industry an additional $275 million per year in jet fuel to carry the extra average 10 pound increase in passenger weight. (Via Boing Boing.)
Hollywood actors use IMDb (Internet Movie Data Base) as their premier dating tool. (Via Fark.)
Break-up lines for various philosophical schools. (Via Boing Boing.)
The Universe will probably last longer than previously thought. Which is good, since I failed to purchase the extended warranty...
Voice controlled unmanned jet airplane.
"Who Knows?": Excellent article on Wikipedia and how it works. One interesting tidbit:
To put Wikipedia's achievements in numerical context, at the same time it was celebrating the publishing of its one millionth entry (a Hebrew article on the Kazakhstan flag) in less than four years, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography launched its latest edition. It had taken 12 years to complete, yet contained a comparatively tiddly 55,000 biographies. It also cost some £25m to create. Wikipedia has so far been bankrolled by Wales, but the total cost so far is still around £300,000.

The current Encyclopedia Britannica has 44m words of text. Wikipedia already has more than 250m words in it. Britannica's most recent edition has 65,000 entries in print and 75,000 entries online. Wikipedia's English site has some 360,000 entries and is growing every day.
Just for reference, £1 UK = $1.85 US. (Via LinkMachineGo.)

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Update on "arrested for not leaving a tip": Back in September 2004, a man was arrested for not leaving a "mandatory" 18% tip after dining in a restaurant as part of a party of 8. So what happened? The district attourney ultimately dropped the charges. The key point was that the restaurant menu described the 18% requirement for large parties as a "gratuity" (i.e., at the customer's discretion), not a "surcharge" (i.e. mandatory).

Friday, November 05, 2004

The "Miss Digital World beauty pageant" is the first beauty pageant for computer generated women. (Via Gravity Lens.)
Time lapse lunar eclipse.
2004 Red vs. Blue county-by-county. Same information rendered in shades of purple, with a corresponding population map. (Via Boing Boing.)

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Nanotubes lengthen to centimeters.
Useful tips on avoiding phishing scams.
Stick figure warning sign gallery. (Via GMSV.)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Geek Guide to Kosher Machines.
The neuroscientific basis of why we enjoy music.
Why life speeds up as you get older. (Via Cosmic Log.)
"Quentin Tarantino says he's planning a kung-fu film with all the dialogue in Mandarin Chinese and out-of-sync English dubbing in homage to many such films in the past."
"Crack babies" may have just been a media myth. (Via AL Daily.)
Robots are learning "robotiquette" so they can better interact with humans.
Prescription glasses for dogs. I want to know how they get the dogs to answer, "Which looks clearer - 1 or 2?"
Dog of the year: When Leana Beaseley suffered a seizure and fell out of her wheelchair, her dog Faith dialed 911, barked into the telephone receiver, and unlocked the front door when the police arrived. No, really. (Via Linkfilter.)

Monday, November 01, 2004

The lastest mobile heads-up displays look an awful lot like Geordi LaForge's visor from Star Trek: Next Generation. (Via GMSV.)
"Men talk to their search engines more than their girlfriends..." (Via BBspot.)
What you wanted to know about squaring the circle.
Real world sales of virtual goods will top $100 million.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Billboard magazine will start listing the Top 20 Ringtones on its weekly charts. (Via GMSV.)

Monday, October 25, 2004

Tom McMahon says you should buy yourself an Election Day present.
Admin note: Postings will be very light for the next few days. Sorry about the inconvenience!

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Build Your Own Batphone. (Via Gravity Lens.)

Friday, October 22, 2004

One step closer to a human brain prosthesis.
"Researchers at The University of Manchester and Chernogolovka, Russia have discovered the world's first single-atom-thick fabric, which reveals the existence of a new class of materials and may lead to computers made from a single molecule." (Via Linkfilter.)
Crank up the heat: "A Cornell Researcher has found that increasing an office temperature from 68 degrees to 77 degrees lowers errors and decreases break times." (Via Technology Review and BBspot.)
Top 11 Geek Pickup Lines, Part 2. (Here's Part 1 in case you missed it earlier.)
Another cool "weapon" built from office supplies: The Micro-Claymore.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Online election betting sites are better at predicting the winners than traditional political pollsters.
Neuroscientist Michael Weliky learned something interesting about mammalian neural activity when he had 12 ferrets watch The Matrix. As Weliky summarizes,
It's one thing to say a ferret's understanding of reality is being reproduced inside his brain, but there's nothing to say that our understanding of the world is accurate. In a way, our neural structure imposes a certain structure on the outside world, and all we know is that at least one other mammalian brain seems to impose the same structure. Either that or The Matrix freaked out the ferrets the way it did everyone else.
(For the record, I disagree with the concept of consciousness "imposing a structure on the outside world", but I found the article entertaining nonetheless.) Via GMSV.
Slashdot has a great interview with Neal Stephenson. His description of his fights with William Gibson is one of the funniest things I've ever read.
Astronaut Larry Chiao will cast his e-vote from space.
"Independent scholars add to the sum of knowledge, enjoy themselves, and never have to grade term papers..." Sounds like a pretty good deal to me. (Via ALDaily.)
Uber-cool Game of the Day: Mindball. As Boing Boing explains,
Mindball [is] a game developed at the Interactive Institute where two players sit at a table and control a small steel ball with their EEG activity. (Actually, your brainwaves control a magnet under the table that moves the ball, but it *seems* as if you're controlling the ball directly.) By relaxing your mind, you can make the ball roll over to the opponent's goal. So to win, you have to "out chill" the other person. I was skeptical, until I actually sat down to play against my friend Nick Philip, an ambient DJ/artist who is in the business of chilling. He beat me every time.
Now only $20,000 US.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Using powerful electromagnetic fields to shrink quarters. This is too weird. (Via Boing Boing.)
"Three parent" babies: "Scientists in the UK are applying for a licence to create children with three genetic parents."
The TV-B-Gone universal remote can shut off nearly all nearby television sets in a public place, much to the dismay, delight, or total indifference of those watching. This powerful device costs only $15, but as Spiderman would say, "With great power comes great responsibility". Here's the corporate website.
A new mathematical system for ranking colleges, which is more robust and less likely to be "gamed" by the schools under consideration. It uses a "revealed preferences" method similar to that used to rank chess players. More information here.
Saved by Google: "An Australian journalist kidnapped in Iraq was freed after his captors checked the popular internet search engine Google to confirm his identity." (Via IPList.)
Update on climate change article: This is obviously a controversial topic. Here's one critique of the article cited below, forwarded to me by reader Eric Anderson. At this point, I can only say that I'm not sufficiently knowledgable about the relevant mathematics and statistics to make a more informed comment at this time.
"Global warming bombshell": One of the most damning pieces of evidence supposedly proving that human activity has been responsible for global warming has been shown to be due to a mathematical artifact.
"Welcome to the secretive world of golf ball retrieval". Typically, a retriever pays a golf course 5-10 cents per found ball for the exclusive rights to collect balls on their property. The retriever profiled in the story collects around 1,000 to 3,000 balls a day or 150,000 to 300,000 per year. After he cleans them, "he can resell them for anywhere between thirty cents for a dud range ball to two bucks for the gold-standard Titleist Pro V1x". As the article says, "You do the math..." (Via Obscure Store.)
Faxing some documents upside down cost this poor guy 100 million Euros. (Via Techdirt.)
How would you score on The Official Geek Test or The Nerdity Test? The first emphasize geek culture, whereas the second emphasizes math and science. (Via Linkfilter.)

Monday, October 18, 2004

"Shutting out the chatty fellow flier: Polite and not-so-polite ways to get some peace and quiet at 40,000 feet" (Via Fark.)
McDonald's is making a comeback.
Random number generators: A good review article.
Coke-vs-Pepsi neuromarketing: Functional MRI brain scans show that Coca Cola's advertising and branding has been far more succesful than Pepsi's in creating consistent preferences for their beverage.
The experimental design enabled the researchers to discover the specific brain regions activated when the subjects used only taste information versus when they also had brand identification. While the researchers found no influence of brand knowledge for Pepsi, they found a dramatic effect of the Coke label on behavioral preference. The brand knowledge of Coke both influenced their preference and activated brain areas including the "dorsolateral prefrontal cortex" and the hippocampus. Both of these areas are implicated in modifying behavior based on emotion and affect. In particular, wrote the researchers, their findings suggest "that the hippocampus may participate in recalling cultural information that biases preference judgments."
I predict this is just the beginning of the neuromarketing cola wars. (Via Boing Boing.)

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Google holds a coding contest.
San Francisco will start using a ranked-choice voting system for their municipal elections. In theory, this could create an incentive for voters to choose their favored third-party candidates as their first choice, knowing that they can still list a major party candidate as their second choice.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Worst Jobs in Science. (Via Gravity Lens.)
How to get your name off the Federal "Do Not Fly" list: According to this article, "... all you need to do to get off a do-not-fly-list is modify your name in some way by adding a middle initial or a suffix. In other words, the folks responsible for the list are too stupid to figure out how to prevent false positives, but a true terrorist can get off the list by adding a middle initial. This information comes directly from 'TSA Spokesman Mark Hatfield' as quoted in the article." (Via Politech.)
"Human Lie Detectors Almost Never Miss". If you still don't trust them, then try this "mathematical truth serum".
Invention of the day: Part time roll-up pedestrian bridge. Cool pictures! (Via Linkfilter.)

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Amusing Jeopardy! answer. Here's the audio clip. (Via Volokh.)
Excellent overview of stem cell science. (Via Linkfilter.)
"Paralysed man sends e-mail by thought: An pill-sized brain chip has allowed a quadriplegic man to check e-mail and play computer games using his thoughts."
"A man in central China has been refused permission to name his son '@' because it cannot be translated into Mandarin - as the law demands."
"One grid to rule them all: Efforts are under way to create a computer the size of the world."

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma: For many years, the optimal strategy has been the Tit-For-Tat strategy, in which the computer player mirrored its opponents' moves. However, during the recent 20th Anniversary Competition, a new consistent winner emerged using a radically different approach known as the Southampton Strategy.
Plans for SpaceShipTwo. (Via Cosmic Log.)
The US Air Force Space Command has unveiled their slick new badge. (Via Rand Simberg.)
The last Washington Redskins home football game prior to a presidential election has correctly predicted the election winner going back to 1936. (The Redskins did not exist as a franchise prior to 1936.) This year, the critical game will be on October 31, against the Green Bay Packers. If the pattern holds true for 2004, then a Redskins victory = Bush, Packer victory = Kerry. (Of course, I think it's all a coincidence, since there are any number of possible "predictive" sports streaks, and sooner or later one is bound to match this pattern of 17 straight election results. But I still find it interesting nonetheless...)
The Erradicator is the coolest weapon I've ever seen built from common office supplies. (Via Memepool.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

"IPod Users Go Into the Closet"
Scientists have grown square bacteria in the laboratory.
Stanford researchers have used a common antibiotic to switch off a cancer-causing gene in mice. According to the article, "Mice remained cancer free for as long as they took the drug. The drug also turned cancer cells back to normal." Here's a related article.
Our friend Jimmy Wales, aka the founder of Wikipedia, is blogging again.
Practical psychology tip of the day: Top 10 Poker Tells.
How to make a ramjet from stainless steel coffee mugs. (Via Jason Rollette.)

Sunday, October 10, 2004

The "approximate entropy" method might be able to predict when a stock market is about to crash.
Mathematics of disrupting terrorist cells.
Things that look like porn, but really aren't. Totally safe for work. (Via Solsberg.)
Fluid-based computer chips.
"Google, the Internet search engine, has done something that law enforcement officials and their computer tools could not: Identify a man who died in an apparent hit-and-run accident 11 years ago in this small town outside Yakima." (Via Linkfilter.)

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Fan Google logos. Lots of 'em. (Via Madville.)

Friday, October 08, 2004

Invention of the day #2: Real-time handheld English-to-Japanese voice translator.
Now that commercial space tourism is coming soon, government regulations won't be far behind.
Invention of the day: Atomic clocks the size of a grain of rice, suitable for use in handheld devices.
All the other (less publicized) uses of peer-to-peer technology.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Update on XP vulnerability: A couple of people have pointed out that this is not a new discovery. Apparently, using any other OS boot CT (with appropriate file system software) allows one to bypass the OS not used. Thanks to Bryce Wilcox and Stewart Vardaman for writing in. So the story might not be as big a deal as portrayed in the article.
XP passwords rendered useless: A major XP security hole has been found.
Windows XP, which has been marketed by Microsoft as "the most secure version ever," has been found to have a flaw so bone-headed that it renders passwords ineffective as a means of keeping people out of your PC.

Reader Tony DeMartino alerted me to the problem, which all administrators of Windows XP machines should immediately take to heart:

Anyone with a Windows 2000 CD can boot up a Windows XP box and start the Windows 2000 Recovery Console, a troubleshooting program.

Windows XP then allows the visitor to operate as Administrator without a password, even if the Administrator account has a strong password.

The visitor can also operate in any of the other user accounts that may be present on the XP machine, even if those accounts have passwords.

Unbelievably, the visitor can copy files from the hard disk to a floppy disk or other removable media - something even an Administrator is normally prevented from doing when using the Recovery Console.
(Via Linkfilter.)
Optical illusion of the day: "Rollers".
Classic 19th century guide for making hand shadows. (Via Linkfilter.)
The Vickrey Auction: If you're selling a valuable item via sealed-bid auction, it might be to your advantage to use the Vickrey auction system, in which the item goes to the highest bidder, but he or she gets it for the price of the second-highest bid. Mathematician Francis Su explains why.
Top 11 Campaign Pledges You'll Never Hear.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Physics discovery of the day: Under certain circumstances, a bouncing ball can rebound off the wall with greater perpendicular velocity than it originally had. Here's the explanation.
Would you enjoy working for Google? Take the Google Labs Aptitude Test.
"Hundreds of airline passengers suffered disruption to their travel plans when a major regional airport was shut down for an hour after a humming and vibrating adult sex toy was mistaken for a bomb." (Via Linkfilter.)
Invention of the day: Caffeinated beer. No, really. (Via /.)
Is it bad for first cousins to marry?

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Nanotechnology invention of the day: Memory chips based on tiny mechanical switches offer increased storage density, speed, and decreased power consumption than conventional storage media.
Why Google News is in perpetual beta even though the bugs have been pretty much worked out. Short answer - it's the lawyers.
Coffee really is addictive. (Via /.)
"Ten Tech Items Inspired by Science Fiction" (Via Linkfilter.)
The US Air Force is trying to develop anti-matter weapons. (Via IPList.)

Monday, October 04, 2004

Scientists have located the source of Earth's low frequency hum.
"The U.S. government plans to offer will offer low-quality images of its new $50 bill over the Internet but they can't be saved, scanned or printed."
One of Google's biggest challenges is how to retain key workers who are now suddenly wealthy.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Global warming fears may be based on a systematic error in climate modelling. According to the article:
The Earth's temperature may have fluctuated more wildly during the past 2000 years than previously thought, according to a new study that challenges how researchers use tree rings and corals to give us a picture of the Earth's past.

If true, the study suggests that recent warming might not be as unique as was thought previously, and might partly be due to natural temperature cycles, rather than humans spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
More information here.
Noah Shachtman has a review of current US space warfare plans.

Friday, October 01, 2004

NASA's Spaceguard program, which is designed to detect asteroids on a near-Earth trajectory, is doing quite well.
The Dilbert Ultimate House.
A robotic mouse uses real mouse whiskers to help in navigate.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Breakthough in popcorn science allows you to double the size of each popped kernel as well a reduced the number of annoying unpopped kernels.
"The sound of a person's voice may predict his or her level of sexual activity."
Is there more flatulence in a vegetarian diet?
Optical illusion of the day: The Basic Diamond motion and perception effect. Try it with "bars alone" and "bars occluded". (Via Linkfilter.)
"A novel method of optical data storage could soon be used to hold a terabyte of data on a disk the size of a normal DVD, say researchers at Imperial College London, UK..."
"The Martial Arts of Middle Earth." (Via Ars Technica.)
"Software That Knows Your Every Move". (Via IPList.)
Science experiment of the day: "Cleaning Pennies with Taco Sauce". Nice correlation of experimental and theoretical chemistry.
Escher For Real. If you like those, then there's also Beyond Escher For Real. (Via Linkfilter.)

Monday, September 27, 2004

"Ins and Outs of Teledildonics": Wired has a review of the Sinulator, a remote cybersex device that connects to the USB port of one's personal computer. As the article explains, "...a man can be thrusting in Cleveland while a woman is penetrated in Seattle, and the cybersex experience gets one step closer to the holodeck."
Astronomers will soon have the ability to detect Earth-sized exoplanets.
The Sims in The Sims 2 can play The Sims 1. (Via Boing Boing.)
"Klingons for Kerry": A recent poll of the Klingon population of Portland, OR, showed that 75% of them supported John Kerry for president, whereas 25% supported Satan and 0% supported George Bush. One reason they cited was their belief that the current war in Iraq was based on deception and hence dishonorable. (Via Volokh Conspiracy/Hanah Metchis.)

Sunday, September 26, 2004

E-mail from beyond the grave. Here's the corporate website.
Custom Borg My Little Pony.

Friday, September 24, 2004

First impressions are very important in determining the course of relationship, at least for college freshmen.
"America's addiction to fantasy sports could cost the nation's businesses $36.7 million daily..."
Electronic voting machine hacked by a monkey. (Via Madville.)
Flexible sensors will be useful in creating robotic skin.
Why we want to believe in psychics.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Everyone is speculating about the alleged new Google browser.
"How to Bypass Most Firewall Restrictions and Access the Internet Privately At Work" (Via a contributor who wishes to remain anonymous.)
"Rats equipped with radios that transmit their brainwaves could soon be helping to locate earthquake survivors buried in the wreckage of collapsed buildings."
Unwise microwave oven experiments. (Via GMSV.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Invention of the day: Israeli weapons researchers have created a new non-lethal weapon -- "the ultimate stink bomb, with a disgusting smell that lingers in its victim's clothing for up to five years." (Via DefenseTech.)
Cellphone sociology. (Via Volokh Conspiracy.)
Man rides out Hurricane Ivan in a fortress-like beach house. (Via Linkfilter.)
Physicists have devised a method to speed up the rate of decay of a radioactive element.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Humans swim just as fast in syrup as they do in water. No, really.
Scientists have discovered a naturally decaffeinated coffee plant. (Via BBspot.)
PDA forensic tools. Detailed white paper. (Via Cryptome.)
How Gordon Rugg showed that the "unbreakable code" of Voynich manuscript was just a hoax.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Update on the "Home Computer" picture: The photograph is apparently a Photoshopped hoax. Reader Mike Jaeger pointed out,
That is the control panel from an old naval nuclear reactor. On the far right is the EPCP (electric plant control panel) where the electrical operator on watch ("EO") controls power flows and breaker positions (notice the schematic laid out with switches for breakers). In the middle section is where the reactor operator ("RO") sits. He shims the control rods up and down in the reactor core with the lever (the L shaped lever just in front of the horizontal bar) and on the left is the throttleman station (usually manned by electricians). The large wheel is used to open/close ahead steam valves to the propusion shaft, while the smaller wheel is used to open/close back steam (astern throttles). The two wheels would be used in conjunction with each other to get the shaft to stop from a forward rotation, and then go in reverse (ahead steam is removed and astern steam applied to stop the shaft). The different gauges are specific to each station, with the throttleman concerned about power to steam flow ratios, steam pressures, etc. The RO cares about primary water avg. (coolant) temp, pressures, etc. The EO is watching vital bus voltages, and charging the battery with a trickle charge.

Thought you may like to know that (I used to sit on the far right, but on a newer version of that same panel).
Thanks for the correction, Mike!
The home computer of the year 2004 as envisioned in 1954. The caption reads:
Scientists from the RAND Corporation have created this model to illustrate how a "home computer" could look like in the year 2004. However, the needed technology will not be economically feasible for the average home. Also the scientists readily admit that the computer will require not yet invented technology to actually work, but 50 years from now scientific progress is expected to solve these problems. With teletype interface and the FORTRAN language, the computer will be easy to use...
I just want to know what the giant steering wheel will be used for. (Via Metafilter.)
How the internet saved small bookstores, especially used bookstores. (Via Marginal Revolution.)
Scientists have developed new algorithms for shape-shifting robots. More information here.
"Electronic Voting - The Trouble With Technology": Good overview from The Economist.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Cool HP commercial. (Via Madville.)
Google rotated. (Via Linkfilter.)

Saturday, September 18, 2004

The 50 Weirdest Guiness World Records. (Via Metafilter.)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Invention of the Day: The flashlight that accepts multiple battery sizes.
"Why We Fall Apart": Using reliability engineering theory to explain human aging. (Via Linkfilter.)
"An injection of stem cells saved the sight of mice who would otherwise have gone blind..."
Autonomous software agents. (Via SciTech Daily.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

"Summer vacation at Burning Man"
Bicycle security article of the day: "Your brand new U-Lock is not safe." Warning - read the entire thread before you try this with one of your own Kryptonite bicycle locks, since the technique might ruin your lock.
Beware the "JPEG of Death"
Computer security article of the day: "How to cover your tracks". The bad guys know this stuff. You should, too.
Top 11 Geek Pick-up Lines.
The Onion chimes in on the expiration of the "assault weapons" ban.
Zero-G flights will soon be available to the public for $3000. Here's the corporate website.
Turn your plants into audiospeakers.
Unusual search engines. (Via Linkfilter.)
"Fractal Hypnosis" movie. (Via Gravity Lens.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

"The right and left human ears process sound differently, according to scientists who studied the hearing of babies and found the right ear better at picking up speech-like sounds and the left more attuned to music."
The real-life "Soup Nazi" from Seinfeld will be going national. The stores will be called "The Original Soup Man" and franchises can be purchased for $30,000 (plus 5% of the gross sales). BTW, the owner Al Yeganeh hates Jerry Seinfeld, and the franchises will not be allowed to use the term "Soup Nazi" in their promotional literature.
Human bar codes.
Test yourself: Do you have color-number synesthesia? (Via John DiPrete.)
Humans can survive without dreaming. Related story here.

Monday, September 13, 2004

"Restaurant Customer Arrested For Tipping Under 18%". No, really. (Via Metafilter.)

Monday, September 06, 2004

Admin note: GeekPress will be on hiatus for a week. We'll be back Tuesday September 14!
Portable nuclear power plants.
Latest NYC yuppie trend: $14 powernaps in specialized super-comfortable sleep cubicles. Here's the corporate website.
Update of anti-shoplifting technology.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Invention of the day: The robotic foosball opponent. Here's more information.
Spider-Man reviews crayons!

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Technology vs. Torture: "Psychopharmaceuticals and brain imaging could make prisoner interrogation more humane. Should we use them?" (Via SciTech Daily.)
Cold fusion is back from the dead. (Via IPList.)

Thursday, September 02, 2004

"A private lab in Dallas is set to try something never before attempted by scientists who investigate crimes: separate the DNA of identical twins to try to show which member of the pair committed a crime." (Via Linkfilter.)
Orgasms are all in the mind. (Via Cosmic Log.)
Sending virtual humans into space instead of flesh-and-blood astronauts.
Brain scan studies show that dyslexia is not the same in every culture. In particular, dyslexics reading character-based languages (like Chinese) have different brain abnormalities than dyslexics reading alphabet-based languages (like English). More information here.
Animated insect GIFs using acquired with scanning electron microscopy. (Via Joost Bonsen.)

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

"Is encryption doomed?" Nice discussion of the "P=NP?" problem.
The most efficient way to contact intelligent aliens in other star systems would be to send physical mail packages, not radio broadcasts.
Vote swap websites have been revamped for the 2004 election.