Monday, February 28, 2005

Scientists want to change the definition of the kilogram.
"Will looking directly at a solar eclipse make you go blind?"
Gay men read maps like women.
Three new moons discovered around Saturn have been given the provisional names of Methone, Pallene, and Polydeuces. (For astronomy geeks, Polydeuces is located in one of the stable Lagrange "Trojan points" between Saturn and its moon Dione.)

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Shroud of Turin image could have been produced by very simple technology available to any medieval forger. (Via J. Snowhite.)

Saturday, February 26, 2005

"Interesting solution to irritating cellphone users": Via IPList.
There is one technique I have used successfully to alleviate the annoyance.

When someone talks on their cell phone, pull out a pen and paper and take notes. I do this in airports, especially. Usually folks move away, but if they ask, you remind them that it is a public space and all conversations are in the public domain and may be used by journalists or bloggers.

If someone is arguing on the phone with a boy/girlfriend or spouse, you can suggest that [insert name overheard] might be available for a date. If they are talking business, just do a Marlowe, look professional and don't deny you are an industrial spy.

It is funny that many people seem to think they have the right to a private conversation as they are shouting all over a public place. They hate it when people listen in. And taking notes? They can get very annoyed about that!

The pen is mightier than the phone! Try it, I think you'll be impressed, or at least amused, by the reaction. And you'll enjoy more peace and quiet.
IMHO, it also sounds like an interesting way to get the crap beat out of you...

Friday, February 25, 2005

Bizarre legal story of the day: Man meets woman. Man has oral sex with woman. Woman keeps the sperm, uses it to impregnate herself, then sues for child support. Man counter-sues for emotional distress and "sperm theft". Although the emotional distress claim is still active, the "sperm theft" claim was dismissed. On that point, the court decided:
...[W]hen plaintiff "delivered" his sperm, it was a gift -- an absolute and irrevocable transfer of title to property from a donor to a donee... There was no agreement that the original deposit would be returned upon request.
(Via Mike Williams.)
Geeky Wal-Mart games.
Couple's final photos "an echo from the grave": A digital camera was recovered from a beach in Thailand that contains the final photographs taken by a Canadian couple killed in the tsunami, including the oncoming wave. (Via Linkfilter.)
Voyage of an Antarctic iceberg.
Synesthesia update. Apparently some researchers divide synesthetes into "perceptual" vs. "conceptual" subtypes.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

"Creatures Frozen for 32,000 Years Still Alive"
Astronomers believe they have discovered a galaxy with no stars, consisting only of dark matter. Here's a related story.
"One of the best predictors of a man's income at age 50 is his height at the age of 1." (Via SciTechDaily.)
Can Terrorists Build the Bomb?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Five-Billion-Star Hotel. It will cost $1 million/night, but the view should be incredible.
The latest iPod rumor is about a 6 GB color screen iPod mini. Update - Looks like it won't have a color screen.
For cell phones, it's not just the function but the looks.
Looking for some obscure fact about the Star Trek universe? (Via Joe Borrello, who wrote, "I like Star Trek as much as the next guy, but this dude is obsessed, like Captain Kirk in episode #47. Uh, forget I said that.")

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Summary of Recent Court Decisions Involving the Internet.
"A huge, frozen sea lies just below the surface of Mars..."
"How Global Warming Research is Creating a Climate of Fear". (Via ALDaily.)
Update on artificial limbs.

Monday, February 21, 2005

"Baby stable after second head removed". Includes a photograph.
The Top 100 Gadgets of All Time
"The Subtle Art of Beer Snobbery." (Via Gravity Lens.)

Saturday, February 19, 2005

"The History of the Universe in 200 Words or Less". (Via Linkfilter.)

Friday, February 18, 2005

"And Now For Something Completely Different...": Who says life doesn't resemble Monty Python?
An indignant Israeli is suing a pet shop that he says sold him a dying parrot, reports the Ma'ariv newspaper. Itzik Simowitz of the southern city of Beersheba contends the shop cheated him because the Galerita-type cockatoo not only failed to utter a word when he got it home, but was also extremely ill. Mr. Simowitz adds that the shop owner assured him the parrot was not ill but merely needed time to adjust to its new environment.
Here's the original Monty Python version. (Via Marginal Revolution.)
"Traffic Lessons From Army Ants"
How to Destroy the Earth: "Destroying the Earth is harder than you may have been led to believe." (Via Linkfilter.)
Popular Mechanics debunks some of the popular conspiracy theories about 9/11. One example from Austin Bay's commentary:
Here's the conspiracy theory's hook: The hole in the Pentagon was smaller than the plane's wingspan. The anti-American conspirator's conclusion: voila, an American missile.

PM's experts point out the obvious: "A crashing jet doesn't punch a cartoon-like outline of itself into a reinforced concrete building." As the jet crashed, "one wing hit the ground; the other was sheared off by the force of the impact with the Pentagon's load-bearing columns. ...What was left of the plane flowed into the structure in a state closer to a liquid than a solid mass."
(Via Instapundit.)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

"NASA Researchers Claim Evidence of Present Life on Mars"
Quiz of the day: Actually 6 of them, including "True Art or Fake?", "Great Prose or Crap?", and "Machine Translation or Faulkner?". (Via GMSV.)
Speed reading.
The Time Travel Gag:
You get some vaguely/slightly futuristic-looking clothes. Make it plausible, somewhat based on current trends, you're probably aiming for maybe ten years in the future. You can most likely make do with an interesting combination of whatever clothes you currently own. Ooh! Or make a fake tour T-shirt for a band that doesn't exist and mark it "Wild Tour 2008" or something. whatever. The point is to make it look plausible that you might come from the future.

Then just run out into the street, select somebody at random and shout at them, "What's the date today?! Quickly, tell me!"

When they respond, you shout, "What YEAR, man, what YEAR is this?!"

And when they respond again you go, "Noooo! They've sent me back too far!" or alternatively "I'm too late! It's all going to happen again!"

Then you run away again.
(Via Sam's Archive.)
The Baby Name Wizard will tell you how popular your first name has been over the decades. Try "Caitlyn" vs. "Adolph" to see some dramatic examples. (Via Tom McMahon.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

GQ presents The 100 Funniest Jokes of All Time. (Via Tom McMahon.)
The scientific basis behind deja vu - an update. (Via Fark.)
Does changing lanes get you there any faster? Sadly, the answer is "no".
Top Ten Geekiest Hobbies. (Via BBspot.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A teenaged boy who "Googled" himself at school learned that he had been kidnapped from his father by his mother when he was an infant in 1989, just before the father could gain sole custody. The mother will serve two months in jail for child abduction. (Via Techdirt.)
"What's the best way to transfer your music collection to your iPod? It depends on what you value most: your time, money, or sanity."
How much money do science fiction writers make? Lots of interesting information here, including fantasy vs. SF writers, those with agents vs. without agents, etc. (Via Boing Boing.)
Physicists have directly visualized atoms undergoing phase transition as they are warmed from 40 to 136 Kelvin. Here's the video.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Communicating with unconscious minds.
Researchers want to build robotic arms based on octopus limbs. Watch out, Spiderman! (Via Fark.)
"Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant. He can perform mind-boggling mathematical calculations at breakneck speeds. But unlike other savants, who can perform similar feats, Tammet can describe how he does it." (Via Madville.)
Invention of the day: Pasta without carbs, nearly all protein.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Competition judges tend to be biased in favor of the last contestants.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Google Maps is up in beta form, and it looks pretty slick. And here's a quick peek under the hood.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The history of the pocket protector. No, really... (Via Linkfilter.)
"Can you get drunk on Listerine? How about vanilla extract?"
Robotic attack jets.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Update on yesterday's "mystery streak": It looks like it was an "unexpectedly bright fuel dump". (Thanks to Paul Sand for pointing this out.)
Huge loophole in airline security? Slate describes an easy way for a bad guy to get around the "no-fly" list. Bruce Schneier wrote about this same flaw over a year ago.
Americans have bad rhythm.
Scientists have bred tame foxes, and their results may shed some light on how dogs were domesticated. From the article:
They stare you in the face, wag their tails and whine with joy when anyone approaches. But these are not dogs; they are a domesticated breed of fox that looks and behaves just like man's best friend.

After 45 years of selective breeding, and almost as many fox generations, scientists have produced what nature could not, a tame fox who eagerly follows his master's gaze.

...After many generations, and 45,000 foxes later, the scientists noted distinct differences between the selectively bred fox colony and their wild cousins. The foxes also looked different. Their coats developed white patches just like some dogs. Their muzzles became shorter and more puppy-like and in some, the ears became floppy and tails curly.

"Through genetic selection alone, our research group has created a population of tame foxes fundamentally different in temperament and behaviour from their wild forebears," Mr Trut said.

...It was also thought that wolves were relatively easy to tame because they were a pack animal and naturally obeyed orders from those higher in the pecking order. But the latest findings show that foxes, a solitary animal, can also be bred to read the communication gestures of humans.
Here's a related article, including a picture of these tame foxes.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Here's the controversial GoDaddy.com ad that aired during the Super Bowl. The web page includes links to both the original long version (which never made it on air), as well as the shorter version approved by Fox. The ad was supposed to air twice during the game, but Fox reportedly pulled the second showing because,
[T]he National Football League was upset with the content of the spot, which featured a scantily clad model struggling to keep her top on while testifying before "broadcast censorship hearings."
Given GeekPress' strong interest in the issues of free speech and government regulation of the airwaves, etc., I felt professionally and morally obliged to watch the ad. Several times, in fact... (Via Politech.)
Mystery "streak" above Hawaii. (Via Sam.)
Truth is stranger than bad soap operas: Husband and wife get separated. Husband and wife place ads in an online dating service, using pseudonyms. Husband and wife fall in love with each other's persona. Husband and wife agree to meet in person to get engaged, not knowing each other's true identity. Unfortunately, the story doesn't end happily ever after. He divorced her immediately, and she fainted on the spot. (Via Techdirt.)

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The primitive South American Piraha tribe doesn't have words for numbers greater than "one". How do they count? Not very well:
In one typical test, the researcher set out a group of one to 10 nuts and asked each participant to place an equal number of batteries--used because of their availability and size--on the table. The participants performed perfectly when matching sets of up to three batteries, but at four batteries the accuracy rate dropped to about 75 percent, and by nine none of the Piraha got the right answer.
Lead research Peter Gordon concludes,
...[T]he example of the Piraha tribe shows that language may have more sway over numerical concepts than many previously imagined.

"The lack of number-words seems to preclude the ability to entertain concepts of exact number," Gordon says. "There may be other ways to learn and represent exact numbers, but in the normal course of human learning, language is the route we take."
.
Malcolm Gladwell applies his ideas to professional football.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Please don't use the California online sex crime database as a dating service.
Have Israeli scientists discovered the gene for altruism? (Via David Jilk.)

Sunday, February 06, 2005

"D'oh! A woman has pleaded guilty to selling on eBay three nonexistent cases of Duff brand beer -- the favorite of cartoon character Homer Simpson."
Admin note: Posting will be lighter than usual for the next week. GeekPress will return to normal on Monday Feb 14, 2005.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Robotics researcher Kim Jong-Hwan "has developed a series of artificial chromosomes that, he says, will allow robots to feel lusty, and could eventually lead to them reproducing. He says the software, which will be installed in a robot within the next three months, will give the machines the ability to feel, reason and desire." Now, didn't Data try this in the first Star Trek: Next Generation movie, leading to nothing but trouble? (Via Linkfilter.)

Friday, February 04, 2005

Deleting spam costs American workers approximately $22 billion per year, assuming that each of us wastes approximately 2.8 minutes a day on this task.
Super Bowl Myths.
Updated office slang. (Via Linkfilter.)
How to kick someone's ass with an umbrella or walking-stick -- Part 1 and Part 2. (Via Boing Boing.)
Moss grows strangely in space under zero-G conditions.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Java sliderule. Way cool! (Via GMSV.)
Incredibly geeky math humor (.pdf format). (Via Linkfilter.)
"Hide Your iPod, Here Comes Bill": The iPod music player is incredibly popular amongst Microsoft employees, with nearly 80% of them owning one. It's really pissing off the Microsoft management, to the point that many MS employees feel they have to hide them from their bosses.
How are experiences "burned into memory"? Here's a nice review of the neuroscience.
"A computer-vision system is being credited with saving the life of a would-be drowning victim."

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

New political divide?: The next big political divide may be the biopolitical divide between "pro-technology transhumanists on one pole and people who are suspicious of technology on the other." (Via SciTechDaily.)
As Bruce Schneier says, "[I]t doesn't matter what kind of security you implement if it's easy to get around."
The new iPod Shuffle does indeed select songs randomly; it just doesn't seem that way to our brains.
Bizarre reality TV show of the day: German "Sperm Race". Twelve men will each donate a sperm sample, which will then be sent to the studio where the sperm will race towards an egg.
Three doctors, including a gynaecologist, will be on hand to make sure the sperm behave correctly, while cameras will record it all.

As well as laying claim to the title of Germany's most fertile man, the winner will also be given a suitably German reward, a red Porsche.

...[The company] said the cameras would not follow the contestants into the cubicles when they donated sperm.
(Via Fark.)

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The sociological impact of the remote control and related advancements such as the Walkman, the VCR, TiVo, and iPod. The author has an oddly pessimistic assessment of these devices which give individuals so much more control over the media content they consume.
The best cyber-sex occurs in games (such as MUDs, MUCKs and MMORPGs).
Things to say when you're losing a technical argument. (Via Linkfilter. Update: The original link seems to be out of commission, but Keith Myers was kind enough to alert us to the Google cache.
Satellite radio: A nice review of the Sirius and XM services.