Thursday, September 29, 2005

University faculty and administrators are now getting worried about the popularity of the website, a site which allows students to review their good (or bad) teachers.

I personally don't see it as a problem. Although it is possible for reviews of professors to be biased, thoughtful consumers are able to handle similar biases when reading product reviews on Amazon or IMDB. Plus the expression of opinions is fully protected by the 1st Amendment, provided that it doesn't cross the line into libel/slander. I wish something like this had been available when I was in college.
"The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity". (Via Linkfilter.)
Foreign words with no English equivalent. For example:
Bakku-shan -- a girl who appears pretty from behind but not from the front (Japanese)

Kummerspeck -- excess weight gained from emotion-related overeating (German)

Aviador -- a government employee who only shows up on payday (Spanish)
Update: Here's a more extensive list.
Invention of the day: The $100 laptop.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bryan Caplan analyzes insurance markets and the "Idiot's Stigma".
In part, people buy insurance so they don't "look stupid" when something bad happens to them.

If you get in an auto accident and you don't have insurance, then most middle-class Americans will consider you an idiot. But for some reason, they don't consider you an idiot if you fail to buy long-term care insurance and suddenly need it -- even though it could be argued that long-term care is a smarter buy than a lot of auto insurance.

The result is multiple equilibria. If most people buy insurance and you don't and something bad happens to you, you get a double whammy -- the direct loss plus the idiot's stigma. If most people don't buy insurance and you don't and something bad happens to you, you are only out the money. If most people buy it, you want it too; if most people don't, you probably don't want it either.

By way of analogy, consider these two scenarios:

1. You lose $1000 in some unforeseen way.

2. You lose $1000 in a way your spouse specifically warned you might happen.

It seems to me that #2 is MUCH worse for most people than #1. $1000 is no big deal; but $1000 plus the scorn of your spouse is a very big deal. Now think how much worse it would be if everyone took your spouse's side against you. Ouch.
(Via Marginal Revolution.)
The science of quicksand and how to escape if you fall in. Here's a related article.
Weather story of the day: A tropical storm named "Typhoon Longwang" is apparently forming in the Pacific Ocean. No, really. Rand Simberg comments:
It could pound Asia pretty hard. It may penetrate deep into the continent. Let's hope it doesn't result in another premature evacuation.

OK, so it's a little juvenile.
He also notes this wry observation by "Psychobunny":
If this thing makes landfall in Puntang, the Weather Channel's going to have to go Pay Per View.
More on MRI machines as lie detectors.
Go See Serenity: Last night, Diana and I had the pleasure of watching a bloggers' preview of the upcoming Serenity movie, due to open this Friday. We had previously seen a very rough version of the movie back in May, and the final version is better, and nicely done. In particular, the soundtrack and the visual effects are polished now.

The story line is the same as before, following the characters from the cult hit television show "Firefly" in their next adventure. And although the movie is sure to appeal to fans of "Firefly", the writers also do a good job of setting the background and establishing the characters in the first few minutes of the movie so that audience members who aren't already familiar with the TV show will also be able enjoy the movie as a stand-alone story. What I especially liked was the fact that the movie felt like a real *movie* (as opposed to some of the Star Trek: Next Generation movies that often felt like bad 2-hour episodes.)

The storyline was exciting, the visuals were engaging, and the characterization was crisp. In particular, the external dramatic action scenes nicely mirrors the internal conflict faced by Mal Reynolds, captain of the smuggler ship Serenity.

Unfortunately, I have to be deliberately vague here since I don't want to give away any plot spoilers. But I want to give it my full recommendation to any science fiction fans out there who somehow haven't already heard of this fine movie.

(I also think that the movie studio has adopted an interesting marketing strategy by asking bloggers to review the film in return for being able to attend advanced screenings. If this works out for them, then we should expect to see a lot more of this in the future. BTW, here's Diana's review.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

New office slang. Some examples:
Beepilepsy -- The brief seizure people sometimes suffer when their beepers go off, especially in vibrator mode. Characterized by physical spasms, goofy facial expressions, and stopping speech in mid-sentence.

Plug-and-Play -- A new hire who doesn't require training. "That new guy is totally plug-and-play."

Salmon Day -- The experience of spending an entire day swimming upstream only to get screwed in the end. "God, today was a total salmon day!"
(Via Clicked.)
"Search engines for the forgetful: New firms zero in on tracking items that get mislaid".
Update on non-lethal weapons. The technology sounds quite interesting, although the article also points out some counter-intuitive legal issues:
As valuable as these weapons might be to American troops, they may violate U.S. obligations under treaties forbidding the development of biological and chemical weapons. The antitraction gel, for instance, could conceivably be forbidden under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, which put restrictions on chemicals that "can cause death, temporary incapacitation, or permanent harm to humans or animals"...

It wouldn't be the first time that those treaties prevented U.S. troops from using NLWs. The Chemical Weapons Convention, for instance, prohibits the use of riot-control agents "which can produce rapidly in humans sensory irritation or disabling physical effects which disappear within a short time following termination of exposure." This means that weapons like tear gas -- which domestic law enforcement personnel can use -- are forbidden to our troops. This has led to situations, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has noted, in which "our forces are allowed to shoot somebody and kill them, but they're not allowed to use a non-lethal riot-control agent."
(Via SciTechDaily.)
Carnival of Tomorrow #10 is up.

Monday, September 26, 2005

What to do if you are wrongly included on the TSA "No Fly" List.
Some people want to abolish the leap second.
"Nine Fads To Ignore". (Link via Rand Simberg, but I should note that he disagrees with some of them.)
Left-handed women apparently have twice as great a risk of developing a certain type of breast cancer than right-handed women.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Supreme Court may soon have to deal with issues that were formerly only science -fiction.
If you need to get off the phone, you'll be able to get help with these audiofiles at They include audiofiles like "There's the doorbell", "I can't hear you (jet noise)", and for desperate circumstances "The ambulance is here". Something for every occasion! (Via Linkfilter.)
"Death To Folders!": Will tagging replace folders?
"More Colleges Offering Video Game Courses"
Serenity is coming: This Friday, the much anticipated Serenity movie hits the big screen. Diana and I have been big fans of the original TV series "Firefly" ever since some friends of ours hosted a party in which a bunch of us watched all 14 original episodes in one sitting (interspersed with meals, popcorn, and beer). It's unusual that a cancelled TV series gets turned into a feature film, but given the quality of the show and the intensely loyal fan base, I'm glad that it did.

For interested viewers, the Sci-Fi Channel will be running a 10-hour marathon of the "Firefly" series, plus a preview of the "Serenity" movie, starting this Tuesday 9/27 at noon. Or you can buy the full set of "Firefly" DVD's from Amazon for just $30.

The official studio blurb on the movie goes as follows:
Joss Whedon, the Oscar - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE, ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity.

The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family - squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.

When Mal takes on two new passengers - a young doctor and his unstable, telepathic sister - he gets much more than he bargained for. The pair are fugitives from the coalition dominating the universe, who will stop at nothing to reclaim the girl. The crew that was once used to skimming the outskirts of the galaxy unnoticed find themselves caught between the unstoppable military force of the Universal Alliance and the horrific, cannibalistic fury of the Reavers, savages who roam the very edge of space. Hunted by vastly different enemies, they begin to discover that the greatest danger to them may be on board Serenity herself.
What I enjoyed the most about the TV series were the clever plotlines, mixing drama and humor. The characters were also well-drawn, with the usual witty Whedonesque dialogue. If you're already a fan of "Firefly", then I'm sure you're also looking forward to the movie. If you're not yet a fan, then you need to check it out!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

More critiques of "Intelligent Design": has a good two-part article on the problems with so-called "Intelligent Design". The first part covers the history of their anti-science agenda, and the second part offers specific refutations of the ID arguments of "irreducible complexity" and "complex specified information".

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wireless headsets are creating new etiquette issues. Plus, you may "look like a half-assimilated Borg". (Via Obscure Store.)
"Liquid Sculpture" has a number of beautiful high-speed photographs of water droplets and splashes frozen in time. The site even includes some "Pournography" (safe for work).
Economist Alex Tabarrok argues that contingency fees reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits. (Via Marginal Revolution.)
Astronomers are now trying to re-define the concept "planet" based on recent discoveries. But this is not as easy as it looks:
The effort has been ongoing for several years, as new sorts of objects in the solar system and beyond have rendered the traditional idea of planet useless to astronomers and confusing for the public.

The announcement in July of a world larger than Pluto orbiting our Sun out beyond Neptune brought discussions to a head. A 19-member working group within the International Astronomical Union has been scrambling ever since to reach consensus, but to no avail.

The main sticking point: If Pluto is a planet, then so is 2003 UB313, the object discovered in July. But by that logic, there are several other round objects nearly as big as Pluto that should be considered planets, some astronomers say.

The compromise currently being floated by the working group is to add an adjective in front of the term planet for each different type of non-stellar round object.

Pluto and 2003 UB313 could be called Trans-Neptunian objects. Earth would be called either a terrestrial planet or perhaps a "cisjovian" planet, meaning it's inside Jupiter.

Further complicating the matter are extrasolar planets much more massive then Jupiter, planet-like objects orbiting dead stars called pulsars, and possibly even free-floating worlds that don't orbit stars.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"Cereal Science: Why Floating Objects Stick Together"
You may or may not have pondered why your breakfast cereal tends to clump together or cling to the sides of a bowl of milk. Now there is an easy explanation.

Dubbed the Cheerio Effect by scientists, this clumping phenomenon applies to anything that floats, including fizzy soda bubbles and hair particles in water after a morning shave.

The effect has been known for some time, but an explanation for non-scientists has been lacking.
Now you, too, can learn the answer!
Frequent customer programs at stores like Subway and Cold Stone have been discontinued due to high-tech fraud.
Productivity tip of the day: A "Not To Do" List (via Clicked).
Today is the day you start your project.

Wake up. Make your coffee. Sit down. Get to work.

Now, it should be that simple. Wake up and get to work.

But there are many distractions. Mental and otherwise.

So this is NOT a to-do list. This is a not-to-do list. You don't need to check anything off, because these are things YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO.

Do not check your email.

Do not go to

Do not decide to organize your cd rack.

Do not turn on the television.

Do not clip your nails.

Do not stare at your bald spot in the mirror and begin to calculate how much time your hair has left.

Do not start catching up on the DVDs that have arrived from Netflix.

Do not update your Netflix queue.

Do not Google all your Exes.

Do not Google yourself.

Do not dust the house.

Do not sweep the floors.

Do not take out the trash.

Do not get sucked into the argument when your significant other starts screaming about the fact that you drank the last of the milk and even though you said you would get more you didn't. Just apologize, apologize, and then apologize again. (But don't be tempted to apologize "for being such a horrible person" -- that is a sign that you are getting drawn into a bigger dust-up. Stay on target with your apology, explain that you have serious work to do, and get back to your project.)

Do not decide to make yourself an elaborate lunch.

Do not take a nap.

Do not change the cat litter.

Do not decide to figure out the calorie count of your recent meals.

Do not pay your bills.

Do not balance your checkbook.

Do not freak out that you have no money.

Do not go into the bathroom and give your Academy Award acceptance speech.

Do not put on Prince and party like it's 1999. (Well, okay, maybe ONCE, just to get you fired up about your project.)

Do not start going through your closet.

Do not decide to floss.

Do not organize your spice rack.

Do not update your address book.

Do not make a list of things to do.

Do not watch Oprah.

Do not listen to NPR.

Do not start to think you don't have what it takes to actually do your project.

Do not read any further on this post -- caught you! Stop reading now and get to work on your project.

Do not check what time the movie is playing later.

Do not decide to send an angry email to that annoying friend who recently pissed you off.

Do not play with the cats.

Do not clip your nose hairs.

Do not start trying to organize a dinner party.

Do not start wondering if that mole that seems a little bigger than the last time you checked it might be skin cancer.

Do not start going through all the papers on your desk.

Do not make a list of all the things you have to get done at work.

Do not start thinking you are never going to finish.

Do not make a quick run to the grocery store.

Do not search for gray hairs.

Do not start fantasizing about sex.

Do not decide to make a call to your significant other to tell him or her that you don't think you've been getting any, and that you better damn well get some tonight (you know, because that one works every time).

Do not go to IMDB to see who that actor was in that movie you saw the other night. Or what that girl from that show from way back when is doing now.

Do not start perusing your own bookshelves.

Do not organize your computer files.

Do not clean out your inbox.

Do not click into the online gossip sites.

Do not pick your nose.

Do not start reading old letters from old flames.

Do not crack open a beer.

Do not pluck your eyebrows.

Do not to give yourself a facial.

Do not start going through your photos.

Do not return your phone calls.

Do not start reading your old journal entries.

Do not start thinking about how your project is lame.

Do not scrub the tub.

Do not clean the toilet.

Do not open a bottle of wine.

Do not start wading through all the magazines you subscribe to but never read.

Do not decide to start a screenplay (unless, of course, that is your project).

Do not post to your blog.

Do not pull the ATM receipts out of your wallet and start entering withdrawals into your checkbook.

Do not get up and keep getting yourself a glass of water.

Do not refill the ice trays.

Do not do the dishes.

Do not start picking off the wax on your candle holders.

Do not start worrying about all the time you've already wasted.

There are a million more things that could be on this list, but remember, it's not a to-do list, so it doesn't matter if something is missing -- you are NOT supposed to be doing these things. Just get to work on your project.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

How to write sensible e-mail messages. (Via Boing Boing.)
Invention of the day: Sports watch with a built-in Geiger counter. Here's the corporate webpage.
The science behind bad hair days. (Via Cosmic Log.)
More questions about fingerprint reliability.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Australian scientists have stopped light for a full second in a special crystal.
Destructive power of static electricity story of the day: "An Australian man built up a 40,000-volt charge of static electricity in his clothes as he walked, leaving a trail of scorched carpet and molten plastic and forcing firefighters to evacuate a building. Frank Clewer, who was wearing a woolen shirt and a synthetic nylon jacket, was oblivious to the growing electrical current that was building up as his clothes rubbed together."
MIT Hackers' reunion.
How large of an area would a New Orleans-sized flood affect in your own city? (Via BBspot.)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The next James Bond will be age 28, and there will be "no Q, no gadgets". (Via Fark.)
"Hundreds of cases involving breath-alcohol tests have been thrown out by Seminole County judges in the past five months because the test's manufacturer will not disclose how the machines work." Interesting twist on the right for a defendant to challenge evidence against his case. (Via Bruce Schneier.)
A new trigonometry without sines and cosines. According to the article,
[mathematician Norman] Wildberger has "replaced traditional ideas of angles and distance with new concepts called "spread" and "quadrance".
Interested readers can read the first chapter of his book here. And there's plenty of discussion on Slashdot. (Via Rand Simberg.)
"How did rocks from Mars end up here on Earth?" Here's more information on how scientists pinpointed the site on Mars where one meteorite came from.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

"The humble screw has changed little in 2,000 years, until a stubborn engineer at Illinois Tool Works came up with a fascinating new twist."
For centuries now the screw has held things together, and for almost as long it has been frustratingly inept at its central purpose. Concrete cracks when it is punctured by a screw. Plastic creeps away from the pressure, sliding down the threads so that even a tightened screw loosens almost instantly. Carmakers have to mold brass inserts into plastic parts to accept screws; otherwise they might loosen and cause a dreaded rattle.

Kenneth LeVey has a better idea. A product development director at Illinois Tool Works, the nation's biggest screwmaker, he has reinvented what the company dubs the threaded fastener in a way that lets it grip tight where it used to let loose -- and compete with cheaper screws made by offshore rivals.
An Italian computer programmer used the Google Earth and Google Maps program to discover an ancient buried Roman villa.
You can bet on what you think the New Orleans population will be in the year 2010. (Via Marginal Revolution.)
Invention of the day: High tech sunglasses that also warn the user about impending heat stroke. It takes advantage of the fact that there's a small patch of skin adjacent to the nose that provides an almost perfect noninvasive reading of core body temperature.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Today's "Life Imitates The Onion" Story: Reuters reports,
"Gillette Unveils 5-Blade Razor"
whereas in February 18, 2004, The Onion "reported",
"F*ck Everything, We're Doing Five Blades"
(Via Boing Boing.)
"When Gamers Become Parents"
Google Blog Search.
"New software that transforms a camera phone into a portable, high-precision scanner is threatening to throw the publishing industry into turmoil.

The software, developed by NEC and the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) in Japan, goes further than existing cellphone camera technology by allowing entire documents to be scanned simply by sweeping the phone across the page."
Detailed review of the new iPod Nano. Based on the stress-testing, it looks pretty rugged.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Why you want a new Photon Freedom Micro LED light. Here's a related review.
The TM4 Chess Program lets you see what it's thinking as it plans its moves. Try it here. (Via Metafilter.)
If I dig a hole through the center of the Earth, where will I come out? (Via BBspot.)
Search Pi for any sequence of digits, up to 3.2 billion places. (Via Linkfilter.)

Monday, September 12, 2005

"50 States, 50 Slogans". Actually, I think these new state mottos are better. (Via Plastic.)
Cell phone ringtones generated by cellular automata. And the science behind it. (Via Technovelgy.)
Bizarre criminal case of the day: Man breaks into house, then attempts a getaway with a wheelbarrow. After a two hour low-speed chase at slightly over 2mph, police eventually caught up with him 5 miles from the scene of the crime.
Ways To Use Your 2005 Leap Second.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Gallery of alternative keyboards. (Via Gravity Lens.)
"Li Zhuang, Feng Zhou, and Doug Tygar have an interesting new paper showing that if you have an audio recording of somebody typing on an ordinary computer keyboard for fifteen minutes or so, you can figure out everything they typed." (Via Boing Boing.)
Human brains may still be evolving.
Recreational farting: "Is it dangerous to use an air hose to induce flatus?"
Online anonymity is becoming a big business in Europe, which raises a number of interesting ethical questions. Includes a decent discussion of Ian Clarke's Freenet Project.
"Britain has granted permission to scientists to create a human embryo with genetic material from two mothers".

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Walter Mossberg likes the new iPod Nano.
Beloit College Mindset List for 1918: Great parody from McSweeneys.
The millions of young gentlemen, and handful of young ladies, who will be freshman students at the great universities of our Republic came into this world in the year of our Lord 1900. Consider the following:

1. They have no meaningful recollection of the administration of President William McKinley, and probably do not know that he had been shot.

2. They were but three years old when the Wright brothers first took flight at Kitty Hawk.

3. They have never lived in fear of an Indian insurrection.

4. The "hobble" skirt has always appeared fashionable to them.

5. Their life-time has always included Coca-Cola as a recreational beverage. A Coca-Cola has always cost five cents.

6. They likely have never heard of William Jennings Bryan.

7. To them, "Bismarck" is merely the name of the capital of North Dakota.

8. They have only known North Dakota to be a state in the Union -- never a mere territory.

9. They were a mere eight years old when the Habsburgs acquired Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10. They have always known the luxury of the hand-cranked Victrola.

11. They have never heard of the Panic of 1893.

12. They have always known the Gold Coast as a British possession.

13. They have never known King Umberto I of Italy.

14. They have never seen the great Roger Connor play baseball.

15. They shall never know war again, now that the War to End All Wars has forged a new era of world peace.
Invention of the day: SmartWater, a special liquid installed in sprinkler systems that showers any would-be burglars with fluid that glows in the dark and is also tagged with a unique "code" that places the suspect at the scene of the crime. (Via Fark.)
The science of fire-walking. (Via SciTechDaily.)
Tasteless website of the day: Katrina Tetris. (Via Linkfilter.)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Old-fashioned typewriters are making a comeback amongst the young. (Via Linkfilter.)
"Clever Whale Uses Fish to Catch Seagulls". (Via David Solsberg.)
"Robotic space penguin to hop across the Moon: The first lunar colonists may not be humans, but compact robots capable of jumping more than a kilometre in a single bound..."
How not to pick a domain name.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Complexity and spontaneous order in biology and markets: John Paulos has written a nice essay drawing analogies between the spontaneous order of biological systems and economic marketplaces, neither of which requires a central designer/planner. From the article:
Go into almost any drug store and you can find your favorite candy bar. Every supermarket has your brand of spaghetti sauce, or the store down the block does. Your size and style of jeans are in every neighborhood.

And what's true at the personal level is true at the industrial level. Somehow there are enough ball bearings and computer chips in just the right places in factories all over the country.

The natural question... is who designed this marvel of complexity? Which commissar decreed the number of packets of dental floss for each retail outlet?

The answer, of course, is that no economic god designed this system. It emerged and grew by itself, a stunningly obvious example of spontaneously evolving order. No one argues that all the components of the candy bar distribution system must have been put into place at once, or else there would be no Snickers at the corner store...

What is more than a bit odd, however, is that some of the most ardent opponents of Darwinian evolution -- for example, many fundamentalist Christians -- are among the most ardent supporters of the free market. These people accept the natural complexity of the market without qualm, yet they insist that the natural complexity of biological phenomena requires a designer.

They would reject the idea that there is or should be central planning in the economy. They would rightly point out that simple economic exchanges that are beneficial to people become entrenched and then gradually modified as they become part of larger systems of exchange, while those that are not beneficial die out. They accept that Adam Smith's invisible hand brings about the spontaneous order of the modern economy. Yet, as noted, some of these same people refuse to believe that natural selection and "blind processes" can lead to similar biological order arising spontaneously...

These analogies prompt two final questions. What would you think of someone who studied economic entities and their interactions in a modern free market economy and insisted that they were, despite a perfectly reasonable and empirically supported account of their development, the consequence of some all-powerful, detail-obsessed economic law-giver? You might deem such a person a conspiracy theorist.

And what would you think of someone who studied biological processes and organisms and insisted that they were, despite a perfectly reasonable and empirically supported Darwinian account of their development, the consequence of some all-powerful, detail-obsessed biological law-giver?
Top 26 advertising cliches. Although the list is from the BBC, most of them translate well from the UK to the USA.
The internet may have actually saved the Post Office. (Via Techdirt.)
History and psychology of tipping. One interesting set of facts:
In one study, a waitress received fifty per cent more in tips when she introduced herself by name than when she didn't. In another, waiters sharply increased their tips by giving each member of a dining party a piece of candy and then, seemingly spontaneously, offering each person a second piece, too. Squatting by the table instead of standing, writing "Thank you" on the back of checks, and touching customers on their shoulders all measurably improved tips. And waitresses at an upscale restaurant who simply put flowers in their hair boosted their tips by seventeen per cent.

These tricks may seem cutesy, but they help personalize the relationship between the customer and the server, which tells you something important about the nature of tipping. The practice really belongs to what sociologists call a gift economy rather than to a market one.

Monday, September 05, 2005

"20 Things Tech Companies Don't Want You To Know". (Via Linkfilter.)
Bruce Schneier analyzes Hogwarts security.
"A team of astrophysicists claims to have identified evidence that space is six-dimensional." (They do acknowledge that their proposal is "extremely speculative".)
Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne have written an excellent essay explaining why we shouldn't just "teach both sides" of the evolution vs. "intelligent design" debate. Their short answer - because one side is wrong and it's not science.
Stratfor analyzes the geographic and strategic importance of New Orleans for US national security.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Religious fact of the day: "If you paint a picture of C-3PO nailed to a crucifix, you will piss someone off." (Via Gravity Lens.)
Three Cheers for "Price Gougers".

Friday, September 02, 2005

"Suicide Grasshoppers Brainwashed by Parasite Worms." No, really. (Via David Solsberg.)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Calculate your life expectancy.
Eerily prophetic article from October 2001 from Scientific American on what would happen if a hurricane were to strike New Orleans.
New Orleans is a disaster waiting to happen. The city lies below sea level, in a bowl bordered by levees that fend off Lake Pontchartrain to the north and the Mississippi River to the south and west. And because of a damning confluence of factors, the city is sinking further, putting it at increasing flood risk after even minor storms. The low-lying Mississippi Delta, which buffers the city from the gulf, is also rapidly disappearing. A year from now another 25 to 30 square miles of delta marsh--an area the size of Manhattan--will have vanished. An acre disappears every 24 minutes. Each loss gives a storm surge a clearer path to wash over the delta and pour into the bowl, trapping one million people inside and another million in surrounding communities. Extensive evacuation would be impossible because the surging water would cut off the few escape routes. Scientists at Louisiana State University (L.S.U.), who have modeled hundreds of possible storm tracks on advanced computers, predict that more than 100,000 people could die. The body bags wouldn't go very far.
(Via MeFi.)
"A South African inventor has unveiled a new anti-rape female condom that hooks onto an attacker's penis and aims to cut one of the highest rates of sexual assault in the world." (Via Linkfilter.)
A serious article from one of my friends: "How Not to Catch a Thief".