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.