Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Dan Simmons has written an interesting commentary as a follow-up to his earlier controversial short-short science fiction story on the future of America and Islam.
Friday, May 26, 2006
Severe backlog in the US Patent system:
The backlog at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office keeps breaking records. And if you want to know the pain that it causes, just ask venture capitalist Greg Blonder. Blonder, a partner at Menlo Park, CA-based Morgenthaler Ventures who specializes in software and nanotechnology, says two promising companies he has worked with were nearly sunk by the sluggishness of the patent office. "Not only couldn't we find investors because we couldn't establish our clear rights to the technology," Blonder says, "we ended up having to spend more than a million dollars to litigate in patent cases that could have been avoided."
...Today, with some 600,000 patents in the queue, applicants in high-tech areas like software will wait nearly four years before knowing whether their patents have been granted.
...Federal officials are pledging to hire as many as 1,000 new patent examiners this year, but given the scale of the bottleneck, expert analysts say it could take close to a decade to fix the problem. The worst part, says Blonder, "is that the problem is getting so bad it threatens to discourage entrepreneurs. At the end of the day, that's the last thing you want to do."
Some savvy teenagers are using a high-frequency ringtone outside of the adult hearing range so they can get away with using their phones in class.
Schoolchildren have recorded the sound, which they named Teen Buzz, and spread it from phone to phone via text messages and Bluetooth technology.Here's an MP3 of the "Mosquito" sound and the 18kHz tone. I'm afraid to admit that I can't hear either sound! (Via Waxy Links.)
Now they can receive calls and texts during lessons without teachers having the faintest idea what is going on.
A secondary school teacher in Cardiff said: "All the kids were laughing about something, but I didn't know what. They know phones must be turned off during school. They could all hear somebody's phone ringing but I couldn't hear a thing."
Thursday, May 25, 2006
"In a step toward linking a person's thoughts to machines, Japanese automaker Honda said it has developed a technology that uses brain signals to control a robot's very simple moves."
Video of the day: "Time lapse radar track of FedEx aircraft arriving into the Memphis hub during area thunderstorms." (Via Andy Trovinger.)
Joke of the day:
A man arrived from Europe at Ben Gurion International Airport with 2 large bags. The customs agent opens the first bag to discover it is full with money in different currencies. The agent asks the passenger, "How did you get this money?"
The man says, "You will not believe it, but I traveled all over Europe, and went into public restrooms. Each time I saw a man peeing, I grabbed his organ and told him: "Donate money to Israel or I'll cut off your balls."
The customs agent is stunned and mumbles:" Well...that's a unique and very interesting story...and what do you have in the other bag?"
The man says, "You wouldn't believe how many people in Europe do not support Israel."
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
"Ever wondered what happens when you play a film backwards? You get an entirely new film." Some examples:
Star Wars(Via GMSV.)
A rather large moon-sized spaceship suddenly appears in the vast depths of space and, to prevent it from disappearing again, a nice young man called Luke extracts a bomb from its central chambers. The space station re-assembles a disintegrated planet, saving its occupants, and slowly begins to dismantle itself as a group of rebels become more and more disorganised. The young man goes home to his farm.
An enormous iron ship surges up from the vast depths of the ocean in order to save a large number of people who are inexplicably, and somewhat foolishly, floundering in the water near an iceburg. It then kindly takes them back to Southampton.
The Lord of the Rings
A mentally challenged Hobbit overcomes his disability by retrieving his finger - and a golden ring - from the depths of a sinister volcano. They then travel through the countryside as we observe the journey of a band of adventurers who go around saving people by pulling swords out of them. The Hobbits spend the rest of their days in the peaceful idylls of the countryside.
Bruce Wayne, playboy millionaire and defender of the people, shuns his role as the masked crusader "Batman" in favour of international travel after cleaning the city of a mysterious fog and receiving no thanks in the process.
After a long day of beating people up in videogames, neo gets a sleeping pill from a black guy in sunglasses so that he can wake up in time for his boring office job in the morning.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Invention of the day: Robo-roach.
A matchbox-sized robot that can infiltrate a pack of cockroaches and influence their collective behaviour has been developed by European scientists.
The tiny robot smells and acts just like a roach, fooling the real insects into accepting it as one of their own. Through its behaviour, the robot can persuade a group of cockroaches to venture out into the light despite their normal preference for the dark, for example.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Medical ethics debate of the day: If the US were hit with a serious bird flu pandemic, some people are arguing that children and the elderly should be the last to get the scarce vaccine, not the first.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Man vs. Machine in wine tasting:
The wine analyser results came close to the expert's judgement, especially when predicting region and quality level for wine at lower prices. But both the panel and the wine analysers had problems when predicting the price of the more expensive wines. The expert's ability to judge the finer points of the wines allowed them to get closer to the actual price.(Via Cosmic Log.)
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Comatose patients are often inaccurately portrayed in movies and television:
A coma is a deep state of unconsciousness in which individuals are alive but unable to consciously respond to their environment. Comas can result from injuries, such as head trauma or stroke, or from complications of an illness like multiple sclerosis.Here's the journal article abstract.
Comatose patients sometimes have the ability to move and respond to external stimuli. They can often smile, open their eyes, and even appear to have the desire speak...
The movie patients are also portrayed as "sleeping beauties" whose eyes are often closed. They generally look well groomed with good coloring and complexion. There are typically no feeding tubes, and the patients seem to somehow suffer no loss of muscle tone.
In a similar study published in the British Medical Journal last year, American soap operas were shown to paint an improbably rosy picture of coma patients, too.
Only 8 percent of comatose patients in soap operas died compared with the real life 50-percent death rate, the researchers of that study said. And those who survived fully recovered, whereas realistically just one in 10 regain their previous health—usually after months of intense rehabilitation, said the authors...
"We are concerned that these movies can often be misinterpreted as realistic representations, especially in the wake of the Terri Schiavo tragedy and public debate," [Mayo Clinic neurologist Dr. Eelco] Wijdicks said.
Invention of the day: Robotic tentacles, aka "Octarms".
The tentacle-like manipulators, known as "Octarms", resemble an octopus's limb or an elephant's trunk. They were developed through a project called OCTOR (sOft robotiC manipulaTORs), which involves several US universities and is funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).Of course, every comic book fan immediately thinks of this supervillain. (Via Gravity Lens.)
"An elephant's trunk can pick up a peanut or a tree trunk," says Ian Walker, a member of the project team from Clemson University in South Carolina. "This ability, inherent in the OCTOR robots, gives OCTOR arms a huge advantage over conventional industrial robots."
Just like a real tentacle, an Octarm simply wraps itself around an object in order to manoeuvre it. This allows it to grasp objects of various sizes and shapes and could let robots deal with unpredictable real-world situations, the researchers say.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
"How easy is it to knock someone out with a smack to the back of the head?"
Monday, May 08, 2006
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Friday, May 05, 2006
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Today's joke (via Eugene Volokh):
Einstein, it is said, was once asked by a layperson to explain how radio works.
"Well," he said, "first I need to explain the telegraph. The telegraph is like a giant cat. The cat's head might be in New York, and the cat's tail in London. You pull on the tail in London, and the cat meows in New York. That's the telegraph.
"The radio is just like that. Only there's no cat."