Friday, March 31, 2006

Invention of the day: Thong to neutralize the odor of doggy flatulence. No, really. (Via Rand Simberg.)
Best euphemism for "masturbation": According to our local newspaper, the police are calling it "intent to litter". No, really. (Via Little F*cking Ray of Sunshine.)
New institute devoted to the science of chewing gum. Funded by the Wrigley company, of course. No, really.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Richard Branson's private "space shuttle" service (expected to begin 2008) will ban women with breast implants from flying because of fears that they might explode. (Via Boing Boing.)
"Domain names are the hot new charitable gift." (Via Techdirt.)
If I get sick, please don't pray for me. Or at the very least, please don't let me know that you are doing so. According to this recent study:
...[R]esearchers found that having people pray for heart bypass surgery patients had no effect on their recovery. In fact, patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications.
Here's a related article, as well as the full academic paper from the American Heart Journal. (Via Cynical-C.)
"Device warns you if you're boring or irritating".

(Although this invention is intended for autistic users who have a notoriously hard time picking up on others' facial cues, I know a few non-autistic people that could also benefit from this device...)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Scary animation of the day: "How often does an asteroid whiz by the Earth? [This] time-lapse animation follows the orbit of the Earth around the Sun for two months in 2002 as numerous asteroids, also known as minor planets, approach and pass by."

The animation reminds me of the 1980's videogame Asteroids, except that we only have one ship and we can't do anything to dodge the incoming rocks. (Via inkycircus.)
Interesting predictions on the future of science. Some of his admittedly very speculative ideas include "triple blind experiments", "multiple hypothesis matrix", "compiled negative results", etc. (Via Marginal Revolution.)
"Steve Jobs' Best Quotes Ever"
Microsoft chairman Steve Ballmer on childraising:
Fortune Magazine: Do you have an iPod?

Ballmer: No, I do not. Nor do my children. My children -- in many dimensions they're as poorly behaved as many other children, but at least on this dimension I've got my kids brainwashed: You don't use Google, and you don't use an iPod.
I'm glad I'm not one of his kids! (Via GMSV.)
"Scientists Make Water Run Uphill". Includes cool video.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

New methods for administering medicines without needles.
"Geologists in Iceland are drilling directly into the heart of a hot volcano."
Invention of the day: Customizable soda. (Via Gizmodo.)
The science of left-handedness.

Monday, March 27, 2006

A good legal ruling: "FEC Won't Regulate Internet Politics"
[T]he Federal Election Commission unanimously adopted a rule requiring anyone placing a paid political ad on a Web site to abide by federal campaign spending and contribution limits.

But the rule also updates existing FEC regulations to make it clear that all other Internet political activity, such as blogging, e-mail communications and online publications, is not covered by the campaign law.

"Individual online political activity will be protected from FEC restriction regardless of whether the individual acts alone or as part of a group, and regardless of whether the individual acts in coordination with a candidate or acts independently," said Commission Chairman Michael E. Toner...

...Under the new rule, bloggers on the Internet would be entitled to the same exemption from the campaign finance law that newspapers and other traditional forms of media have long received. "There will be no second class citizens among members of the media," Toner said.
New tactics in cybersquatting.
Invention of the day: A specialized microchip that facilitates neuron-to-computer interfacing.
The computer chip is capable of receiving signals from more than 16,000 mammalian brain cells, and sending messages back to several hundred cells. Previous neuron-computer interfaces have either connected to far fewer individual neurons, or to groups of neurons clumped together.

A team from Italy and Germany worked with the mobile chip maker Infineon to squeeze 16,384 transistors and hundreds of capacitors onto an experimental microchip just 1mm squared. When surrounded by neurons the transistors receive signals from the cells, while the capacitors send signals to them.
15 Best Skylines In The World, as rated by Luigi Di Serio. Nice photographs! (Via Metafilter.)
Fermilab scientists have discovered a subatomic particle (the B_s meson) that appears to oscillate between matter and antimatter with a cycle of over 17 trillion times/second.
"U.S. Planning Base on Moon To Prepare for Trip to Mars"

Sunday, March 26, 2006

"Jesse Sullivan powers robotic arms with his mind"
The woman with perfect memory. (Via ALDaily.)
50 MHz 12-transistor circuit built on a single carbon nanotubule.
Addwaita the tortoise has finally passed away at age 250.
"Colorado Police Use MySpace to ID Suspects"

Friday, March 24, 2006

Nice review of Benford's Law. From the article:
Dr. Theodore P. Hill asks his mathematics students at the Georgia Institute of Technology to go home and either flip a coin 200 times and record the results, or merely pretend to flip a coin and fake 200 results. The following day he runs his eye over the homework data, and to the students' amazement, he easily fingers nearly all those who faked their tosses.

"The truth is," he said in an interview, "most people don't know the real odds of such an exercise, so they can't fake data convincingly."

There is more to this than a classroom trick.

Dr. Hill is one of a growing number of statisticians, accountants and mathematicians who are convinced that an astonishing mathematical theorem known as Benford's Law is a powerful and relatively simple tool for pointing suspicion at frauds, embezzlers, tax evaders, sloppy accountants and even computer bugs.

The income tax agencies of several nations and several states, including California, are using detection software based on Benford's Law, as are a score of large companies and accounting businesses.
(Via Linkfilter.)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Quantum computing in the year 2020.
The latest theory of dinosaur extinction: "Dinosaurs were most likely killed off because they never got a good night's sleep..." (Via Rand Simberg.)
Who owns the internet? Here's the detailed PDF map. (Via BBspot.)
"How To Ask Questions The Smart Way" (Via BBspot.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"How Babies Learn Their First Words".
Ode to duct tape: This interesting article covers many of the unorthodox uses of duct tape, detailing some of its life-saving applications in medicine, the outdoors, etc. One interesting tidbit,
Of course, for all its versatility, perhaps the most interesting thing about duct tape is also the most ironic: It's lousy for use on ducts.

In 1998, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory physicists Max Sherman and Lain Walker tested a variety of sealing materials on sheet metal ducting, then heated and cooled the ducts to simulate the aging process. They soon found that duct tape leaked air so badly much of the cooling and heating was wasted -- and that the tape frequently shrunk, dried up or separated.

"It failed reliably and often quite catastrophically," says Sherman. "And nothing else except duct tape failed."
Lego scupture of the day: Aircraft carrier. If this is CVN75, then this makes it a replica of the USS Harry Truman.
"Why do contests say 'no purchase required'?" Short answer -- to avoid running afoul of US lottery laws.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Why you shouldn't start a family fight on the internet:
Two weeks ago Steve Williams became so fed up with his daughter's messy bedroom that he built a website featuring pictures of his slothful offspring's lair in an attempt to shame her into action.

But the public humiliation proved a short-lived victory. While it did spur his daughter, Claire, into tidying up her room, it also whet her appetite for revenge. With the help of her father's friends, the 20-year-old business student has now set up a rival website that displays photos of him in a variety of compromising situations.
(Via Linkfilter.)
"How was ice made and sold in pre-industrial times?"
Bio Oil.
"Product placement in the DVR era"

Monday, March 20, 2006

Math for programmers.
Next 10 Emerging Technologies.
The Economist has an interesting article on the extension of the open-source model to other sectors of business, including how the open-source approach is evolving in response to market pressures as well as specifics of the particular sector (e.g. biotech vs. software).
Geoffrey Chaucer Hath A Blog. My favorite entry:
Top X searches in myne networke:

10. John Gowere swyving a donkey
9. woolen hose
8. discounte ale
7. Kent
6. Macrobius for dummyes
5. howe to thinly veil acquaintences as fictional characteres
4. arabic numerals
3. readynge %(%(%ing chancerye hand
2. Sheene palace dynnere guest listes
1. Katharyne Swinford nude
(Via MeFi.)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The commercial space tourism race is heating up.
Moore's Law for razor blades:
...Twin blades seemed plausible. Three were a bit unlikely. Four, ridiculous. And five seems beyond the pale. Few people, though, seem willing to bet that Gillette's five-bladed Fusion is the end of the road for razor-blade escalation. More blades may seem impossible for the moment -- though strictly speaking the Fusion has six, because it has a single blade on its flip-side for tricky areas -- but anyone of a gambling persuasion might want to examine the relationship between how many blades a razor has, and the date each new design was introduced.

This relationship (see chart) suggests shavers are going to get more blades whether they need them or not. However, just like Moore's law -- the observation that computer chips double in power every 18 months or so -- it seems that technology as well as marketing determines the rate at which new blades are introduced...

...So what does the future hold? With only five data-points, it is hard to be sure exactly which mathematical curve is being followed. If it is what is known as a power law, then the 14-bladed razor should arrive in 2100.
Of course this story from The Onion anticipated real-world developments by over 18 months.
"Microsoft Confirms it Originated iPod Box Parody Video".
Microsoft spokesman Tom Pilla on Tuesday confirmed with iPod Observer that his company initiated the creation of the iPod packaging parody video that was first reported last month. "It was an internal-only video clip commissioned by our packaging [team] to humorously highlight the challenges we have faced RE: packaging and to educate marketers here about the pitfalls of packaging/branding," he said via e-mail.

The video, which surfaced on You Tube but has since been removed and can now be found on Google Video, pokes fun at Microsoft's tendency toward cluttered packaging by imagining how the company would have designed the box for the original iPod. Where Apple's design is sparse, Microsoft's final creation is full of so many stickers and other information that the photo of the MP3 player can be barely seen.
(Via Brian Schwartz.)
Lawyer Jennifer Granick explains her skepticism about fMRI "lie detectors".

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Fanfilm of the day showing a well-choreographed light saber duel. (Via Clicked.)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Sky high tennis. Amazing pictures.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Because it's St. Patrick's Day: "Explaining the faux Irish pub revolution"
Medical invention of the day: QuikClot.
Even hamsters get "'Roid Rage".
"Supercomputer builds a virus".
The Pentagon is considering developing an army of cyborg insects.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Bizarre legal story of the day: "Californian Sues Self For Car Accident"
LODI, Calif. -- A Lodi man is suing the city for driving a dump truck into his car. The strange thing is that he was the city employee driving the truck.

Lodi officials denied Curtis Gokey's $3,600 claim for the December accident because he was, in essence, suing himself. So he and his wife, Rhonda, decided to file a new claim under her name.

Rhonda Gokey's claim is for $1,200 more than Curtis'. She said that she is not as nice as her husband.
(Via Fark.)
"Google News Credibility Foiled By 15-Year Old". (Via Linkfilter.)
Wrist-top computer.
Maybe we should be worried about RFID viruses.
Up until now, everyone working on RFID technology has tacitly assumed that the mere act of scanning an RFID tag cannot modify back-end software, and certainly not in a malicious way. Unfortunately, they are wrong. In our research, we have discovered that if certain vulnerabilities exist in the RFID software, an RFID tag can be (intentionall) infected with a virus and this virus can infect the backend database used by the RFID software. From there it can be easily spread to other RFID tags. No one thought this possible until now. Later in this website we provide all the details on how to do this and how to defend against it in order to warn the designers of RFID systems not to deploy vulnerable systems...

To make clear what kinds of problems might arise from RFID hacking by amateurs or criminals, let us consider three possible and all-too-realistic scenarios.

1. A prankster goes to a supermarket that scans the purchases in its customers' shopping carts using the RFID chips affixed to the products instead of their bar codes. Many supermarkets have plans in this direction because RFID scans are faster (and in some cases can be done by the customers, eliminating the expense of having cashiers). The prankster selects, scans, and pays for a nice jar of chunk-style peanut butter that has an RFID tag attached to it. Upon getting it home, he removes or destroys the RFID tag. Then he takes a blank RFID tag he has purchased and writes a exploit on it using his home computer and commercially available equipment for writing RFID tags. He then attaches the infected tag to the jar of peanut butter, brings it back to the supermarket, heads directly for the checkout counter, and pays for it again. Unfortunately, this time when the jar is scanned, the virus on its tag infects the supermarket's product database, potentially wreaking all kinds of havoc such as changing prices.

2. Emboldened by his success at the supermarket, the prankster decides to unwittingly enlist his cat in the fun. The cat has a subdermal pet ID tag, which the attacker rewrites with a virus using commercially available equipment. He then goes to a veterinarian (or the ASPCA), claims it is stray cat and asks for a cat scan. Bingo! The database is infected. Since the vet (or ASPCA) uses this database when creating tags for newly-tagged animals, these new tags can also be infected. When they are later scanned for whatever reason, that database is infected, and so on. Unlike a biological virus, which jumps from animal to animal, an RFID virus spread this way jumps from animal to database to animal. The same transmission mechanism that applies to pets also applies to RFID-tagged livestock.

3. Now we get to the scary part. Some airports are planning to expedite baggage handling by attaching RFID-augmented labels to the suitcases as they are checked in. This makes the labels easier to read at greater distances than the current bar-coded baggage labels. Now consider a malicious traveler who attaches a tiny RFID tag, pre-initialized with a virus, to a random person's suitcase before he checks it in. When the baggage-handling system's RFID reader scans the suitcase at a Y-junction in the conveyor-belt system to determine where to route it, the tag responds with the RFID virus, which could infect the airport's baggage database. Then, all RFID tags produced as new passengers check in later in the day may also be infected. If any of these infected bags transit a hub, they will be rescanned there, thus infecting a different airport. Within a day, hundreds of airport databases all over the world could be infected. Merely infecting other tags is the most benign case. An RFID virus could also carry a payload that did other damage to the database, for example, helping drug smugglers or terrorists hide their baggage from airline and government officials, or intentionally sending baggage destined for Alaska to Argentina to create chaos (e.g., as revenge for a recently fired airline employee).
Extending the internet into outer space.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

What you should do if your eyeball falls out of its socket.
The designer of the office cubicle later believed it might have been a mistake. (Via BBspot.)
Many hybrid vehicle engines are so quiet that pedestrians can't hear them, resulting in a lot of hybrid-vs-pedestrian collisions.
Smell technology.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Google Mars, based on astronomical data from Arizona State University. (Via /.)
Evolutionary algorithms used to create a software "hunch engine".
"Does fasting rid the body of toxins?"
Did counting lead to writing?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Keeping up with the blogosphere can help you get laid. (Via Marginal Revolution.)
Amateur observer finds two asteroid impact craters using Google Earth.
Math geeks will enjoy these powerful new theorems on quadratic forms.
Entrepreneurial proverbs. (Via Boing Boing.)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

"The Slow and Painful Collapse of a Relationship Over the Course of a Weeklong Vacation as Expressed by the Names Each Partner Gave Their Digital Photos Taken During Said Vacation".
Insane juggling video clips. (Via Cynical-C.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Random Shakespearean insult generator. Thou gorbellied half-faced varlot! (Via Linkfilter.)
"Record Set for Hottest Temperature on Earth: 3.6 Billion Degrees in Lab"
Invention of the day: Nanotech-based paint that blocks cell phone signals.
"The Psychology of Password Generation". (Via Bruce Schneier.)
A robot that climbs trees. The videos are must-see.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A family of human quadrupeds has been discovered in Turkey. Article includes pictures. Here's a related article.
The difference map algorithm was devised for x-ray diffraction microscopy imaging, but can also be used to solve Sudoku puzzles.
Jupiter is growing a new red spot. Some proposed names include "Red, Jr." and "the not-so-great Red Spot".
A valid excuse, for once: Some high school students will now be able to blame the computer for their low SAT scores.
About 4,000 students who took the main SAT college entrance exam last October received incorrectly low scores because of problems with the scanning of their answer sheets...

...[College Board spokeswoman, Jennifer] Topiel said the "vast majority of students" affected received scores that were within 100 points of their correct score on the three-section, 2,400-point test.

Admissions officials, however, said Tuesday some students had been affected by as much as 130 points -- forcing schools to scramble to re-evaluate candidates at a time when many are trying to make final decisions.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Robotic pack mules.
Top 10 accidental discoveries.
Scientists have discovered a new organ in lab mice. This potentially confounds the results of a lot of basic immunology research previously performed on mice.
"Netbanging": Street gangs are now establishing an internet presence, both for recruiting as well as for scheduling fights with other street gangs.
But the Web has also given rival gangs a new, less violent way to settle scores -- flooding each other's sites with junk e-mail. Stalker says he spends hours every week deleting threatening or insulting messages from other gangs from his Web site. Not even a gangster is safe from spam.
"Why do waves always break in odd-numbered groups?"
"Caller ID spoofing becomes all too easy".
In the last few years, Caller ID spoofing has become much easier. Millions of people have Internet telephone equipment that can be set to make any number appear on a Caller ID system. And several websites have sprung up to provide Caller ID spoofing services, eliminating the need for any special hardware.

For instance, sells a virtual "calling card" for $10 that provides 60 minutes of talk time. The user dials a toll-free number, then keys in the destination number and the Caller ID number to display. The service also provides optional voice scrambling, to make the caller sound like someone of the opposite sex.

Caller ID spoofing appears to be legal, though many of its uses are not. The Federal Communications Commission has never investigated the issue, spokeswoman Rosemary Kimball said.

Lance James, chief scientist at security company Secure Science, said Caller ID spoofing websites are used by people who buy stolen credit card numbers. They will call a service such as Western Union, setting Caller ID to appear to originate from the card holder's home, and use the credit card number to order cash transfers that they then pick up.
(Via /.)

Update: The FCC is now investigating this issue.
Nicely done video on the classic double-slit experiment. Obligatory disclaimer: There are other interpretations of quantum mechanics experimental data besides the standard "Copenhagen interpretation", but this gets into philosophy of physics as opposed to physics.
"How To Save a Snowflake for Decades". The key is superglue.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Producers for "The Simpsons" have created a version of the opening sequence with live actors. It's very cool, in a creepy sort of way.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Invention of the day: The 360 Electrical outlet.

Friday, March 03, 2006

This excellent video has been making the internet rounds lately. If you were a fan of the NBA back in the Michael Jordan days, you should definitely watch it, even though MJ is only on for 2 seconds.

Here's an interesting story from ESPN on the making of video. (Via Volokh.)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Top 10 Peeves of a Support Tech.
Onion story of the day: "Rotation of Earth Plunges Entire North American Continent Into Darkness"
NEW YORK -- Millions of eyewitnesses watched in stunned horror Tuesday as light emptied from the sky, plunging the U.S. and neighboring countries into darkness. As the hours progressed, conditions only worsened....
NFL coaches are too conservative in 4th-and-goal situations.
This company will install hidden passageways in your own home, ala Batman. Be sure to check out the videos.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"Russia plans to hit a golf ball into Earth orbit from the International Space Station. If NASA approves the plan, the ball would set records for the longest drive ever made -- but some experts warn that a mishap could cause "catastrophic" damage to the station."
The plan is part of a commercial deal between the Russian space agency and Element 21 Golf Company, based in Toronto, Canada. In the plan, the station's next crew members, due to launch to the station on 29 March, will try for the record-breaking swing during one of three planned spacewalks by September 2006.

A gold-plated, six-iron golf club will be used to hit the ball, which is made out of the same scandium alloy used to build the station. After being hit from a special platform alongside the station, the ball is expected to orbit Earth for about four years, beaming its location to Earth-bound computers using global positioning transmitters. Eventually, the ball will lose altitude through atmospheric drag and burn up in the atmosphere.
Quitting Google for even one day is surprisingly difficult.
Useful tips to get around web censorship. (Via Instapundit.)
Career Day ideas that didn't quite work out.