Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Monday, October 25, 2004
Sunday, October 24, 2004
Friday, October 22, 2004
Thursday, October 21, 2004
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.
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.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
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.
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.)
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
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.
"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.)
Monday, October 18, 2004
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
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
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.)
Thursday, October 14, 2004
"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."
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.
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
Monday, October 11, 2004
Sunday, October 10, 2004
"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.)
Friday, October 08, 2004
Invention of the day #2: Real-time handheld English-to-Japanese voice translator.
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.(Via Linkfilter.)
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.
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.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
"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.)
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Monday, October 04, 2004
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.More information here.
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.