Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
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."
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.Safe for work; just tell your boss you're brushing up on Newtonian mechanics. (Via Boing Boing.)
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.
Sunday, October 29, 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.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Friday, October 27, 2006
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.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Monday, October 23, 2006
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Saturday, October 21, 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.
Friday, October 20, 2006
"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."
Thursday, October 19, 2006
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.)
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
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.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
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.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Friday, October 13, 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.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
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.(Via Clicked.)
"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."
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
"The Nietzsche Family Circus pairs a randomized Family Circus cartoon with a randomized Friedrich Nietzsche quote." (Via GMSV.)
Monday, October 09, 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.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Wednesday, October 04, 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.Here's a related story.
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.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Headline of the future: "19 Year Old Diebold Technician Wins U.S. Presidency"
Washington, D.C., November 5, 2008(Via Bruce Schneier.)
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."