Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Amazing x-ray video of a sword-swallower. (Via Madville.)
Buy your own personal supercomputer.
"From factoids to facts": New system to query for usable information from the web.
Invention of the day: Room temperature plastic magnets.

Monday, August 30, 2004

"Japanese banks are turning to a new biometric identification system, based on the unique nature of the patterns of veins in our palms."
The US Army's Tactical High Energy Laser has successfully shot down multiple mortar rounds in tests conducted last week at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
E-mail addresses that would be really annoying to give out over the phone.
Crop Circle Beer is a new microbrew made from barley from English fields where crop circles have appeared. It also contains more alcohol than regular beers. (Via Fark.)

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Brain scan studies show that revenge really is sweet.

Friday, August 27, 2004

For grading papers, purple is the new red.
Geeky gamblers can now place physics bets. Available topics include "life on Titan, gravitational waves, the Higgs boson, cosmic ray origins and nuclear fusion".
Terraserver address search: Enter your street address here, and see your house on the high resolution satellite photos. (Via Linkfilter.)
The Search Engine Belt Buckle.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

What do in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics do with all the extra embryos?
Superconductor update: Researchers have created "a new type of superconducting wire that not only carries a high electric current without resistance but also is remarkably strong, light, thin, and long."
Is your webcam spying on you?
Invention of the day: Researchers at RPI have created a filter made from nanotubules that can filter out poliovirus from water.
Sneaky tricks used in different professions. Some examples:

When taking family portraits that include a dog, don't use the dog's name or say "doggie, doggie" to get its attention, because it might trot over to you. Instead, call out "kitty, kitty, kitty." The dog will perk up and look around for a cat, and you can get a great shot if you time it right.


Patients will occasionally pretend to be unconscious. A surefire way to find them out is to pick up their hand, hold it above their face, and let go. If they smack themselves, they're most likely unconscious; if not, they're faking.
(Via Boing Boing.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Movie casting: What might have been... (Via BBspot.)
The Name Generator Generator. (Via Linkfilter.)
Set your directed energy weapon to "stun".
Before you pick a fight with a stranger, check the symmetry of his ears.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Outsourcing the online gaming experience: American and European online gamers are outsourcing the drudge work to China, Russia, and other countries by paying real money to gamers in the poorer countries to play the boring parts for them that enable their characters to earn virtual currency.
"The closest observed asteroid yet to skim past the Earth without hitting the atmosphere, was reported by astronomers on Sunday." Asteroid 2004 FU162 "streaked across the sky just 6500 kilometres - roughly the radius of the Earth - above the ground on 31 March... The previous record for the closest asteroid approach to Earth was set on 18 March by an object called 2004 FH which missed the Earth by about 40,000 kilometres."
Music piracy lawsuits: An overview of their current status.
"30-year-old Twinkie soon to become teacher's legacy". Apparently, it's still edible... (Via Linkfilter.)

Monday, August 23, 2004

Marathon Mice: By changing just one gene, scientists have bred mice that can run twice as far as normal mice.
"How eight pixels cost Microsoft millions"
The "Allais effect" could indicate a serious problem with Einstein's theory of general relativity.
Transparent aluminum. (Via Linkfilter.)
Optical illusion of the day: Here. (Via WavingAtMyself.)

Friday, August 20, 2004

Outsource your job to earn more! Great quote from a Slashdot poster:
About a year ago I hired a developer in India to do my job. I pay him $12,000 out of the $67,000 I get. He's happy to have the work. I'm happy that I have to work only 90 minutes a day just supervising the code. My employer thinks I'm telecommuting. Now I'm considering getting a second job and doing the same thing.
Full story from the Times of India here. (Via GMSV.)
Boxing and philosophy. (Via ALDaily.)
Invention of the day: Epson's teacup-sized flying robot.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Physicists have successfully performed quantum teleportation via fiber optic cable strung through a public sewer.
Intelligent floor tiles can simulate the sensation of walking in a virtual reality.
"Kruegerware": The newest form of evil spyware.
"64 = 65?": Nice animated version of an old geometry paradox. (Via Metafilter.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

High tech rejection services.
Nanotubes may have no temperature.
The Onion on gay marriage. Heh.
What Would Various Deities Do? (Via Gravity Lens.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Gene therapy turns procrastinating monkeys into workaholics. I was going to post this article yesterday, but never got around to it. (Via Ars Technica.)
Prions might offer a host organism an evolutionary advantage.
Cool pictures taken from the air.

Monday, August 16, 2004

A bright 12-year old boy has written a computer program that uses the Google search engine to detect academic plagiarism. Unfortunately for him, his schoolteacher used the program to uncover the young author's own internet plagiarism. As the article notes, "Write out a hundred times: 'I must install code that makes my own plagiarism undetectable'." (Via Techdirt.)
The Singularity and science fiction. (Via Slashdot.)
The science of twins.
Invention of the day: Metal Rubber. (Via GMSV.)
The MailFrontier Phishing IQ Test: Can you tell the difference between a legitimate e-mail and a phishing scam? Take the quiz. (Via Linkfilter.)
Video of the day: The "Star Wars kid" meets Kill Bill. Watch it here. (Via Neoflux.)

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Friday, August 13, 2004

Neuroeconomics: Brain imaging studies are being used to explain why real-life humans don't always act like perfectly rational economic agents.
Can you ruin a car engine by pouring sugar in the gas tank? Or is it just an urban legend? Find out here.
The New Face of Hollywood: "Is that face on-screen real or computer generated? Film industry wizards are making it harder to tell." (Via SciTech Daily.)
Injections of antibodies against amyloid protein have been able to reverse a form of Alzheimer's disease in mice. This is important because (1) it provides additional evidence that amyloid is indeed the causative agent of Alzheimer's (as many have long suspected) and not just a side effect of the disease, and (2) provides an potentially valuable direction for treatment of the disease in humans.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Brazilian scientists have mapped the genome for the coffee bean. They plan on using this information to create a new "super coffee". Yummmm....
Preschool children who are good storytellers are more likely to be good at math later in life. (Via SciTech Daily.)
Invention of the day: The bed that also functions as its own "panic room" -- the Quantum Sleeper.
Dramatic video of a landslide in Japan. (Via Joost Bonsen.)
"Britain granted its first license for human cloning Wednesday, joining South Korea on the leading edge of stem cell research."

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Is your name hot or not? MIT cognitive scientist Amy Perfors performed an interesting study to see if a person's first name influenced how attractive others judged them to be. She took photos of various friends and posted them on HotOrNot.com along with their (not necessarily real) first names. Then she posted the same pictures with different first names and collated the results. Among other things, she showed that "Paul" is a bad first name for a guy(!)
So what are the ingredients of a sexy name? For boys, a good name will contain vowel sounds made at the front of the mouth, such as 'e' or 'i' sounds; names with fuller, rounder vowel sounds such as 'u' tend to score lower. So pat yourself on the back if you're called Ben... but if your name is Paul you might have to work harder to snare a date.

The opposite is true for girls, Perfors found. Women with round-sounding names such as Laura tended to score higher than those with smaller vowel sounds. "Unfortunately for me, Amy is one of the bad names," Perfors laments.
More information here.
Two cloned pet kittens were born 8 weeks ago using a new technique that duplicates the coat pattern and color of the "parent".
Create a Fake Phantom Limb. (Via John DiPrete.)
Invention of the day: Office In A Bucket. No, really. (Via GMSV.)
"Wherever man may go, lawyers are quick to follow": The current state of space law.
Microdots have been effective at reducing car theft in Australia.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

"Gorilla Seeks Help Using Sign Language"
SETI scientist Frank Drake believes that the chances of alien intelligences discovering Earth will rapidly decrease because we are generating fewer detectable radio and TV transmissions each year. More of our programming is being delivered by cable and direct-transmission satellite technology, which involve very little leakage into space. A corollary is that there may only be a fairly narrow time window for detecting other intelligent species by listening to their unintended transmissions. As the article notes, this means that SETI researchers may have to focus on other methods of detection, such as searching for beacons intentionally built by other intelligences who wish to be found.
What's the etymology of your favorite corporate name?
Women may be able to subconsciously influence the sex of their unborn child. In particular, women who believe that they have a longer life expectancy are more likely to bear boys rather than girls. According to the study, "Every extra year [that the woman thought she would live] increased the odds of producing a male by 1%."
Quiz of the Day: Porn Star or My Little Pony?
She has flowing hair, smooth skin, languid eyes, and she's completely naked. Are we discussing here a star of one of the approximately four hundred thousand single-, double-, and triple-X-rated films out there, or one of the approximately four hundred thousand different "My Little Ponies" they flooded toy stores with in the Eighties?

That's what we're here to find out. Below is a list of names. Each name belongs to either a porn star, or a My Little Pony. Your job is to try and tell the fornicator from the latter. Supine or equine? New Wave Hookers or new-agey hoofers? You make the call.
Take the quiz now. (Via Linkfilter.)

Monday, August 09, 2004

The Time Travel Fund: If you put $10 into the Time Travel Fund, they'll invest the money in a trust earning compound interest until the proceeds can be used by future time travelers to retrieve you from the present. Needless to say, I'm extremely skeptical, but I admit that I'll reconsider my views if some of my geeky friends start mysteriously disappearing... (Via Gravity Lens.)

Update from Willem de Moor -- the website is a hoax.
More on radiologist bias: M. Sean Fosmire has some interesting observations about my earlier post on radiologist bias.
The never-ending war of spam vs. spam filter. (Via SciTech Daily.)
One of the reasons that chess grandmasters are so successful is that they are better at challenging their own pet theories than novice chess players. According to a recent study, when chess grandmasters were faced with a difficult game situation, they were better able to objectively evaluate the pros and cons of attractive-looking moves. In particular, they were better at "falsifying" their pet hypotheses by aggressively looking for the strongest possible countermoves and objectively recognizing when a favored choice would have actually resulted in a bad outcome. On the other hand, the novices "were more likely to convince themselves that bad moves would work out in their favour, because they focused more on the countermoves that would benefit their strategy while ignoring those that led to the downfall of their cherished hypotheses."
Cool video of an F-14 breaking the sound barrier. Remember to allow the bottom-right movie to load. (Via David Solsberg.)

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Shocking degree of bias in medical expert testimony: Radiologist physicians who testified on behalf of plaintiffs in asbestos lawsuits saw significant abnormalities in nearly 96% of the patients' chest x-rays. However, when the same set of 492 chest x-rays were reviewed by a panel of neutral radiologists, significant abnormalities were described in less than 5%! More infomation is available here at this Nature article and this Rocky Mountain News article.

Since this is my field of practice, namely diagnostic radiology, I find this deeply disturbing. Of course, it would be very interesting to know if the results were due to a few unscrupulous physicians that were disproportionately represented in the ranks of these so-called "experts" because the plaintiffs' lawyers preferentially put them on the witness stand, or if there was a more widespread unconscious bias that affected even (otherwise) good radiologists. In theory, the opposing counsel can challenge the credibility of bad "expert" witnesses and attempt to get the jury to discount their testimony, but I don't know how effective this is in actual practice.
What will be the top 5 political issues 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 years from now? Randall Parker (aka Futurepundit) makes the following guesses:
United States 2014:

1. Rising costs of medical spending for old folks.
2. Low salaries and low labor market participation rates for the bottom quarter of society.
3. Islamic terrorism.
4. United States debt to the rest of the world.
5. Funding for rejuvenation research.

United States 2024:

1. High costs of medical spending for old folks.
2. Funding for rejuvenation research.
3. The continuing decrease in the demand for the least skilled workers.
4. Genetic engineering choices for offspring personalities, cognitive abilities, and physical attributes.
5. Islamic terrorism.

United States, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada 2034:

1. Increased violence and other crime as all people become young, energetic, and motivated by youthful levels of desire once again. This will lead to a debate on whether governments should genetically reengineer the brains of criminals.
2. Debate over reproductive rights as death due to aging becomes rare. Should anyone be allowed to have as many kids as they would like?
3. Widening cognitive gap between the intellectually enhanced offspring and the older generations.
4. Political rights of artificial intelligences and allowable programming for their motives and values.
5. "Uplift" of other species with enhanced intelligence and allowable mental qualities of uplifted species. How smart are we going to allow our dogs to become? Even smarter than Border Collies?

World 2044:

1. Migration of cognitive elites to other planets.
2. Creation of new sovereign states by forced shifting of populations to separate cognitively incompatible groups. The sorting will be based not just on IQ (or even chiefly on IQ). Desires, values, religiosity, and other cognitive differences will become too great to allow harmonious existence of some groups with each other in the same society.
3. Religious escalating to armed conflicts will flow from genetically engineered causes of differences in religious beliefs and values.
4. Rivalry between large artificial intelligences.
5. Debates about cognitive qualities allowed in new biological life forms.

World 2054:

1. Humans controlled by artificial intelligences.
2. Cyborgs that are smarter than any human.
3. Wars between artificial intelligences.
4. Possible devastation by nanotech goo.
5. The high level of determinism achievable for the values and preferences of newly created intelligences.
Read more here.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

"'CSI effect' has juries wanting more evidence". One interesting consequence:
In Arizona, Illinois and California, prosecutors now use "negative evidence witnesses" to try to assure jurors that it is not unusual for real crime-scene investigators to fail to find DNA, fingerprints and other evidence at crime scenes.

Friday, August 06, 2004

"Living in 1954 for 10 days": Larry Smith lived for 10 days using only technology that was available in 1954, i.e. utilizing nothing that had been invented in the last 50 years. Here's how he fared. (Via Boing Boing.)
Does barbecuing cause cancer? Find out here.
Detailed review of the new 4th generation iPod.
It's easy to hack RFID chips. (Via IPList.)

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Escape from a bad blind date with this new service from Cingular Wireless. (Via MeFi.)
E-commerce blooper: I definitely don't want to buy one of these used.
Software summarizer: This software system can scan a document, extract the topic list, and generate a useful summary of the document.
Stolen credit card numbers can be found with just a simple Google query. (Via IPList.)
Another incremental nanotechnology development: The use of electric fields to direct nanoscale self-assembly. The developers predict this will come into practical use in 2-5 years.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

"Internet addiction" is now considered a valid reason to be excused from service in the Finnish Defense Forces.
Putting astronauts in long-term biological stasis may be one way to get them to other solar systems, assuming no (as yet undiscovered) method for faster-than-light travel. Here's an update on stasis technology.
Taxonomy of internet trolls. (Via Linkfilter.)
"Physicists discover dramatic difference in behavior of matter versus antimatter"
"Just like the set-up of so many SF stories, the Army has begun constructing a super-computer to run its weapons simulations. Nope, no way this could go wrong..." (Via Gravity Lens.)

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

When nerds get tattoos. (Via Linkfilter.)
Digital camera memory cards are amazingly durable with five different brands surviving a torture test in which they were "dipped into cola, put through a washing machine, dunked in coffee, trampled by a skateboard, run over by a child's toy car and given to a six-year-old boy to destroy."
"One man created most PC viruses": 70% of computer virus infections in 2004 can be traced to a single 18-year old programmer.
ODM (Original Design Manufacturing) will cause a revolution in consumer electronics.
Update on directed energy weapons.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

"Granny-cams" and trust: Despite opposition from the nursing home industry, more states are (sensibly) allowing family members of nursing home residents to install webcams to make sure that their loved ones aren't being mistreated by the staff.

From the article:
...[B]ecause of understandable concerns over privacy, Cottle advocates placing the surveillance systems in the hands of independent companies, which would then monitor the equipment and be responsible for making the data available online.
And some interesting commentary from FuturePundit:
Another way to think about video cameras used in security is that they allow a trusted agent to leverage their trust to enforce and monitor more transactions and facilities. This ability to separate out the role of trusted agent from the roles of providing various other services is a big underappreciated long term trend that is changing how societies are organized. It is going to affect the structure of governments in part by allowing outsourcing of various components of governance. For example, one can imagine how this could lead to situations where particularly corrupt governments agree to remote monitoring of a large range of transactions and faciltiies in exchange for international aid. A country like Finland with an incredibly low level of corruption could literally provide remote trust services for institutions in countries with high levels of corruption such as Moldova or Paraguay.
(Via FuturePundit.)
More parents are using RFID chips to track their kids while visiting the amusement park.
The Apple product cycle.
The Manchurian Candidate is still fiction, but here's the science behind real-life mind control.
How to tell if someone is lying? There are interesting differences in the behaviour of liars, depending on whether they're doing so in the lab or in a high-stress police interrogation room.
How many words-per-minute do you read?