Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror, joining only humans, apes and dolphins as animals that possess this kind of self-awareness..."
Interesting analysis of the Google-YouTube deal. (Via IPList.)
"Attack of the Bots"
Scientists may have figured out the neurophysiological basis behind Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Monday, October 30, 2006

Vampires are a mathematical impossibility. Here's a related article and the academic paper (PDF format).
Answers to multiple Halloween questions: "What happens if a werewolf bites a vampire? What's the minimum daily requirement of blood for a vampire? Can you get zombified by having sex with a zombie?"
Get a workout with Tetris Weightlifting. (Via Waxy.)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

"What happens when you throw an elephant into a black hole?"
Dumb business move of the day: Pissing off your fan base. According to this Slashdot post,
"What happens when a film studio and a fanbase get into bed? Fans of Joss Whedon's Firefly, and the movie by Universal Studios -- Serenity -- are not amused. After being encouraged to viral market Serenity, the studio has started legal action against fans (demanding $9000 in retroactive licensing fees in one case and demanding fan promotion stop), and going after Cafepress. The fans response? Retroactively invoice Universal for their services."
As Glenn Reynolds pointed out, this violates Rule #1 of the internet:
"Don't annoy someone who has more spare time than you do."
Does playing dead really work?
Physics of a pole dancing mishap (click through to see the video):
Consider the body of the body in question. After a quick shake of the head right and left, she leans backward to begin her rotation around the pole. Her pivot points include her right hand, held fast to the pole, and her left foot (disastrously clad, we will soon learn, in three-inch heels). She now has a sizeable amount of angular momentum moving counterclockwise around the pole, and this can be halted only by an external force.

Unfortunately for our young dancer, the outcropping of wall her rear end soon encounters does not provide that force. Instead it simply serves as a new fulcrum, shifting the center of rotation from her hand to her hip. This does two things: Like a figure skater pulling her arms in, shifting the center of rotation closer to her center of mass acts to speed the rotation up. More important, it also means that her right hand must begin to rotate around the wall as well.

The outcome is predictable. A hand rotating away from the pole cannot continue to hold onto the pole, and without that grip, our dancer loses her balance in a most sudden and undignified fashion.
Safe for work; just tell your boss you're brushing up on Newtonian mechanics. (Via Boing Boing.)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

If you display a bad attitude at an airport TSA screening station, it could cost you a large amount of money:
Passengers can be fined for their actions too. For example, "interference with screening" that includes physical contact could cost a traveler $1,500 to $5,000, and "non-physical contact" $500 to $1,500.
Unhealthy food item of the day: Deep-fried pizza. Supposedly it tastes quite good. (Via Clicked.)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

How to make a really good cup of coffee.
This fake Northwest Airlines boarding pass generator will reportedly let you "1) get through airport security without a ticket, 2) bypass the 'extra screening' if you have 'SSSS' printed on your ticket". GeekPress is not responsible if you attempt to use this, and find yourself the recipient of a TSA full body cavity search. (Via Bruce Schneier.)
Next step in automatic language translation:
Imagine mouthing a phrase in English, only for the words to come out in Spanish. That is the promise of a device that will make anyone appear bilingual, by translating unvoiced words into synthetic speech in another language.

The device uses electrodes attached to the face and neck to detect and interpret the unique patterns of electrical signals sent to facial muscles and the tongue as the person mouths words. The effect is like the real-life equivalent of watching a television show that has been dubbed into a foreign language, says speech researcher Tanja Schultz of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Brief update on "sexsomniacs", i.e., people who have sex in their sleep without realizing it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"How to steal an election by hacking the vote"
6 word short stories.
Coin balancing. (Via BBspot.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Beyond Moore's Law.
The digits of pi, rendered in 10-color graphics. Looks pretty random to me!
"The physics of baseball's most popular illegal pitches"
Math geeks will enjoy the video, "Finite Simple Group (of Order Two)". (Via GMSV.)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Holographic ads. (Via JustElite.)
Lengthy article on the "new atheists", including Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Admin note: Posting may be light for the next couple of days due to outside obligations. GeekPress will be back to its regular schedule on Wednesday!
Video of the day: "Pound Coin Domino Effect". (Via Fark.)
"Twenty five years of 'Weird Al' Yankovic"

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Friday, October 20, 2006

More details on outer space etiquette:
...But orbital freefall -- which makes everything seem weightless on the space shuttle or international space station -- by necessity adds some extra twists. Most things have to be secured one way or another, including dental floss and fingernail clippings. And that's where the duct tape comes in handy.

[Former astronaut Tom] Jones said his usual routine would be to stick the floss, the slivers of fingernails and other detritus onto a snippet of sticky tape - then crumple up the tape, put it in a waste bag and seal the bag.

"You can't fly without duct tape or Velcro," said Mario Runco, a veteran of three shuttle flights.

Among the other tips:

* Drinks are generally contained in the kinds of foil pouches familiar to most third-graders on Earth - and the drink straws have to be clamped closed with clips when they're not being sipped from. Otherwise globules of sticky grape juice or orange juice can blurp out of the straw and float around. Jones admitted that he was guilty of this breach during one of his spaceflights, and was embarrassed to find that "our grape spots were still on the walls" of the shuttle interior months later.

* When you brush your teeth, you have to close your lips carefully around the brush, then spit the foam into a towel.

* The shuttle's zero-gravity toilet works by sucking down urine, or using ducted air to blow away solid waste. But because the air currents have to flow in just the right way, you have to make sure to "sit precisely on that seat" to get the proper seal, Jones said. In fact, NASA has a "rendezvous and docking trainer" on Earth so that astronauts can practice their toilet technique before their spaceflight, he said. "After some practice, you begin to get the feel for it, if you know what I mean," Jones said.

* Daily exercise is part of the routine - especially for a long-duration space station flight, because astronauts have to guard against losing bone or muscle mass in zero-G. But because there's no natural convection in freefall, air warmed by the heat of a workout tends to float like a cloud around exercising astronauts. And that leads to increased perspiration. You have to aim an air duct toward yourself to blow away the hot air, or wipe yourself down repeatedly with a towel. Whatever you do, don't let the sweat build up too much. "One false snap of the head, and you'll send a quart of salty water off in someone's direction," Jones said.

* Although the Skylab space station had an actual shower, today's shuttle and station crews bathe by rubbing themselves down with wet, hot towels, then applying some rinseless soap. Hair is washed by applying water to the head (surface tension keeps the water from floating away), then using rinseless hospital-style shampoo. Then you towel yourself off, perhaps putting your head under an air duct to help dry your hair. "If you use that on a daily basis, you'll never offend anyone," Jones said.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"Michigan hospitals to have robot on call"
"Scientists Create Cloak of Partial Invisibility":
Scientists have created a cloaking device that can reroute certain wavelengths of light, forcing them around objects like water flowing around boulders in a stream. To creatures or machines that see only in microwave light, the cloaked object would appear nearly invisible.

"The microwaves come in and are swept around the cloak and reconstructed on the other side while avoiding the interior region," said study team member David Smith at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering. "So it looks as if they just passed through free space."
"Astronauts offer etiquette lessons for space tourists".
Reinventing the boiled egg with halogen bulbs.
All aspiring "Top Guns" should read "How to Live and Die in the Virtual Sky", an online tutorial on aerial combat maneuvers for flight simulators. (Via Michael Williams.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The ratio between the lengths of your index and ring fingers can reveal a lot about you. (Via ALDaily.)
Malcolm Gladwell has written an interesting article on the application of neural network algorithms to predicting winners at the racetrack and in Hollywood. (Via Waxy.)
A DNA-based computer has now mastered tic-tac-toe.
"Reuters is opening a news bureau in the simulation game Second Life this week"...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More creative ads from around the world. (Via Wayward Statisticians.)
"A Brief History of Computers, As Seen in Old TV Ads". (Via GMSV.)
Behind the scenes of the original iPod design team.
Today's ethnic joke comes from Rand Simberg, who wrote:
...[J]okes about ethnic groups that just point out how stupid they are are pointless, since the groups themselves are interchangeable, and have nothing to do with any actual characteristics or history of that ethnic group. In that vein, I provided an example of an appropriate (and I think funny) ethnic joke. I figured that, since I spent the time typing it over on Usenet, I might as well post it here as well:
A guy is walking down the street in Gdansk, and he sees a lamp. He picks it up, brushes the dust off it, and of course, out pops a genie.

"In reward for releasing me from my bondage, I will grant you three wishes. What would you like?"

The guy thinks about it for a while, then he says, "I'd like the Chinese to pillage Warsaw."

The genie scratches his head at the strange request, then shrugs and says, "OK, here you go."

The Chinese march in and pillage the Polish capital.

The genie says, "OK, now what's your second wish? Make it a good one this time."

The guy thinks about it for a while again, and then he says, "I'd like the Chinese to pillage Warsaw."

The genie is wondering if he hears him right.

"What do you mean? That was your first wish. They've been there, done that. Don't you want something else?"

The guys says, "No, I want the Chinese to pillage Warsaw."

The genie throws up his hands, and has the Chinese pillage Warsaw again. This time no woman is left unraped, no one is left alive, many of the buildings have been leveled.

"OK. You get one more wish. Don't waste it, like you did the others."

The guy thinks for a long time, and finally, he says, "You know, what I'd really like, is for the Chinese to pillage Warsaw."

Now the genie is about to have a fit.

"What are you talking about?! There's nothing left to pillage!"

"I don't care. I want the Chinese to pillage it anyway."

Well, the genie has to honor the wish, and this time, when all the festivities are over, the former Polish capital is nothing but a smoldering crater.

The genie says, "You know, we aren't supposed to ask these things, but I've just got to know. Why? Why, three times, you have the Chinese pillage your own country's capital?"

The guy says, "Look, they did it three times, right?"

The genie says, "Right."

"So, every time they do that, they cross Russia twice.
Warning signs of the future. (Via Gravity Lens.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Top 10 advertising tricks used in Tokyo's train stations. (Via Waxy.)
"How to Do Cube Roots of 9 Digit Numbers in Your Head"
Minimal surfaces made of Legos.
Letter denying tenure to Indiana Jones:
The committee concurred that Dr. Jones does seem to possess a nearly superhuman breadth of linguistic knowledge and an uncanny familiarity with the history and material culture of the occult. However, his understanding and practice of archaeology gave the committee the greatest cause for alarm. Criticisms of Dr. Jones ranged from "possessing a perceptible methodological deficiency" to "practicing archaeology with a complete lack of, disregard for, and colossal ignorance of current methodology, theory, and ethics" to "unabashed grave-robbing." Given such appraisals, perhaps it isn't surprising to learn that several Central and South American countries recently assembled to enact legislation aimed at permanently prohibiting his entry.

Moreover, no one on the committee can identify who or what instilled Dr. Jones with the belief that an archaeologist's tool kit should consist solely of a bullwhip and a revolver.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The mathematics and biochemistry of knotted proteins.
"The discovery of new planets has forced a rethink of how they formed".
Deep fried computer. (Via Frederic Maufroid.)
The Seven Worst Fonts -- And The People Who Use Them. (Via GMSV.)
"Red wine might work to protect the brain from damage after a stroke and drinking a couple of glasses a day might provide that protection ahead of time".

Friday, October 13, 2006

Excellent high-res photograph of the Sun.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ironic medical story of the day: Methamphetamine appears to be able to protect brain cells in the aftermath of stroke.
"Methamphetamine is a drug that has been shown to exacerbate stroke damage or make it worse when administered before a stroke," Dave Poulsen, a UM research assistant professor, said in a news release. "But we have seen roughly 80 to 90 percent protection of neurons when administered after a stroke."

...The researchers found that small amounts of meth created a protective effect, while higher doses increased damage.

They also learned that lower doses of the drug helped lessen damage up to 16 hours after a stroke. This discovery was significant because the current leading clot-busting drug used for strokes must be administered within three hours, said Poulsen, a faculty member of UM's Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
"The Eclipse That Saved Columbus". (Via Cynical-C.)
The sordid world of underground identity theft discussion forums, including betrayals, hostile takeovers, and dishonor amongst thieves.
"The long arm of the law is starting to reach into outer space." (Via Gravity Lens.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Interesting origin of the term "nachos". (Via BBspot.)
"Bizarre 'string of pearls' adorns Saturn"
Turing test for physicists: Can physicists tell the difference between answers to physics questions written by a real physicist versus those from a sociologist masquerading as a physicist? Apparently not.
In a recent experiment of his design, British sociologist Harry Collins asked a scientist who specializes in gravitational waves to answer seven questions about the physics of these waves. Collins, who has made an amateur study of this field for more than 30 years but has never actually practiced it, also answered the questions himself. Then he submitted both sets of answers to a panel of judges who are themselves gravitational-wave researchers. The judges couldn't tell the impostor from one of their own. Collins argues that he is therefore as qualified as anyone to discuss this field, even though he can't conduct experiments in it.

It will be interesting to see if Collins' results can indeed be repeated in different situations. Meanwhile, his experiment is plenty interesting in itself. Just one of the judges succeeded in distinguishing Collins' answers from those of the trained experts. One threw up his hands. And the other seven declared Collins the physicist. He didn't simply do as well as the trained specialist -- he did better, even though the test questions demanded technical answers. One sample answer from Collins gives you the flavor: "Since gravitational waves change the shape of spacetime and radio waves do not, the effect on an interferometer of radio waves can only be to mimic the effects of a gravitational wave, not reproduce them." (More details can be found in this paper Collins wrote with his collaborators.)
Unusual lightning strike of the day: A woman was struck by lightning in the mouth, which travelled through her body and exited her anus.
She was wearing rubber bathroom shoes at the time and so instead of earthing through her feet it appears the electricity shot out of her backside," a medic told local television news channel, 24 Sata.

"It appears to have earthed through the damp shower curtain that she was touching as she bent over to put her mouth under the tap. If she had not been wearing the shoes she would probably have been killed by the blast."
(Via Clicked.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Netflix is offering a $1 million prize for an improvement to their recommender system algorithm. Here's the official announcement.
"The Geekiest License Plates"
Trying to remember where you heard that snippet of classical music? Find out here, including where it appears in popular culture. (Via Dave Hill.)
How attractive is the average of 15 attractive female faces?

Monday, October 09, 2006

"The Nietzsche Family Circus pairs a randomized Family Circus cartoon with a randomized Friedrich Nietzsche quote." (Via GMSV.)
Long exposure photograph of a plane taking off at night. (Via Clicked.)
Scientific reasons for having sex. For those who don't find the usual reasons sufficiently persuasive.
Physics video of the day: Nice demonstration of the Meissner effect. And the Wikipedia link.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

"Here's why you hate Mondays". (Via Cosmic Log.)
Has one of the Milleninum Problems been solved?

Update: Apparently not. "* UPDATE 9 Oct 2006: On 8 October, Penny Smith wrote to Nature to say: 'I have just found a serious flaw in the paper and have withdrawn it.' The work has been pulled from arXiv."
Japanese fembots look and act even more realistic.
"The Moon as backup drive for civilization". (Via Solsberg.)
Incredibly cool kinematic whiteboard from MIT.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Friday, October 06, 2006

Half of Americans admit to "re-gifting". Also,
The study showed that nine percent of people admitted that they re-gifted out of laziness to purchase a new gift and four percent confessed that they re-gifted out of dislike for the recipient.
The article doesn't mention how many people adhere to the standard re-gifting etiquette.
"The Truth About Food Expiration Dates". (Via BBspot.)
Single pixel camera.
More people are building hidden rooms in their homes.
Google Gadgets For Your Webpage.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot in Any Programming Language"
Cool elevator floor illusion. (Via Solsberg.)
Clever shopping bags.
Who's controlled the Middle East over the past 5000 years? This animated map covers 5000 years of history in 90 seconds. (Via MeFi.)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Storm swells in Alaska caused the breakup of the one time world's largest floating iceberg halfway around the globe in Antarctica:
Glaciologists studying the gigantic B-15A iceberg, which broke up in October 2005, have discovered that it fragmented as it was being buffeted by a wave whipped up by a violent storm in the Gulf of Alaska six days before.

The swell travelled a staggering 13,500 kilometres before reaching the iceberg, which measured some 100 by 30 kilometres and was floating just off Cape Adare, at the tip of Antarctica's Victoria Land region.

...By comparing the arrival times of faster and slower-moving wavelengths of the swell, the team calculated the storm responsible had, surprisingly, originated almost on the far side of the globe. Buoy measurements confirmed that 10 metre-tall waves were spotted in the Gulf of Alaska during its storm, and 5 metre waves showed up in Hawaii two days after that. The researchers report their discovery in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Here's a related story.
"Where to find your favorite shows online." (Via BBspot.)
Neuroscientists can now induce out-of-body experiences. (Via Marginal Revolution.)
"Why don't magnets work on some stainless steels?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Headline of the future: "19 Year Old Diebold Technician Wins U.S. Presidency"
Washington, D.C., November 5, 2008

In a dramatic development that has come as a surprise to pundits and the public alike, a youthful technician with Diebold, Inc. has emerged as the unlikely winner of the 2008 U.S. Presidential election. The president-elect, 19 year old Billy Pustule of Green, Ohio, reached via SMS at the garage apartment by his mother's house in which he currently resides, said he was "real psyched about being the president" and "had big plans for the inauguration party".

Veteran political observers including Seymour Shackleton of the Miami-Dade Political Coroner have expressed what amounts to sheer disbelief at the unanticipated outcome.

"To my knowledge, this is the first presidential election in American history won by an entirely unknown write-in candidate," Mr. Shackleton said. "No one seems to have even heard of Billy Pustule. A Google of his name turns up only five listings, all of them Amazon.com reader comments on anthologies of 19th century erotic cartoons. How the president-elect managed to build a sufficiently large grass-roots groundswell to clinch the election while operating in complete anonymity is, frankly, beyond me."
(Via Bruce Schneier.)
"How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb"
"Top ten geek business myths". (Via /.)
Closeup photograph of a lightning strike. And the story behind it. (Via Cynical-C.)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Robots apparently think we taste like bacon:
When a reporter's hand was placed against the robot's taste sensor, it was identified as prosciutto. A cameraman was mistaken for bacon.
At least we don't taste like chicken. (Via Dave Hill.)
"PC World's 100 Fearless Forecasts"
The culture and economics of Second Life
How to make your own retractable metal Wolverine claws. (Via Boing Boing.)