Sunday, October 31, 2004

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

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Tom McMahon says you should buy yourself an Election Day present.

Monday, October 25, 2004

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.

Thursday, October 21, 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.

Wednesday, October 20, 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.)

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.
"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.)

Monday, October 11, 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.

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.)
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.