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.