Friday, March 30, 2007

"April Fool's Pranks For Nerds". GeekPress is not responsible if you get the crap beat out of you by your less computer-savvy office mate as a result.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Philips Electronics is introducing a mobile phone with a built-in compartment for an ordinary AAA battery to power the device when the main battery runs low."
The AAA battery inserted into the phone can be of any brand or type, whether rechargeable or disposable. In the case of a rechargeable, the phone will recharge both the main battery and the backup AAA when it is plugged into an electrical outlet.

The companies say the AAA battery can provide up to three extra hours of talk time.
Two cool videos: Slow motion katana-vs-egg and katana-vs-tomato. (Via Neatorama.)
"Worlds with Double Sunsets Common"
Why do we sleep?
The new gold rush: "Companies are flocking to market themselves in virtual worlds..."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Flaming space junk: "Pieces of space junk from a Russian satellite coming out of orbit narrowly missed hitting a jetliner over the Pacific Ocean overnight." (Via Instapundit.)
"Children of Hurin": "The last, unfinished book by the 'Lord of the Rings' author [JRR Tolkien] has been completed by his son." Release date is April 17. Here's the Amazon link. (Via BBspot.)
How to recover from identity theft: A 24-point checklist. (Via Bruce Schneier.)
"If Ancient Rome Had The Internet..."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Bizarre Hexagon Spotted on Saturn"
There's a good reason that OK Go won the YouTube's "Most Creative" music video award for "Here It Goes Again". Here are the winners in the other categories.
"Al-Qaeda plot to bring down UK internet":
Scotland Yard has uncovered evidence that Al-Qaeda has been plotting to bring down the internet in Britain, causing chaos to business and the London Stock Exchange.

..."Without these services, the UK could suffer serious consequences, including severe economic damage, grave social disruption, or even large-scale loss of life," the MI5 website says.

The Telehouse hub is nicknamed CTU after the counter-terrorist headquarters in the American television series 24. It is designed to provide back-up power for all Britain's vital network services in the event of a large-scale terrorist attack elsewhere.
Filter physics.
Time waster of the day: Boomshine. (Via Ari Armstrong.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Guide to power napping.
Political operatives are scared to death of a "YouTube Swiftboat". Of course, some of them are asking for more regulation of free speech on the internet.
Keyboards are disgusting.
The US Department of Defense is funding research into "soft robotics", i.e., robots that can change shape drastically and rapidly to suit their environment:
The Phase I milestone is:

1. Demonstrate a ChemBot, approximately the size (but not necessarily the form-factor) of a regulation softball (i.e., 30 cm circumference; 10 cm diameter; 500 cm3 volume), that can:
a) travel a distance of 5 meters at a speed of 0.25 meters/minute;
b) achieve a 10-fold reduction in its largest dimension; and
c) traverse through a 1 cm opening of arbitrary geometry and reconstitute its original size and shape, in 15 seconds.
Not quite the T-1000 from Terminator 2, but getting there. (Via IPList.)
Michael Williams has some criticisms of Bruce Schneier's risk article.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Video of the day: Real geeks make their coffee with a laser.
Cool residential building design. (Via Boing Boing.)
Update on bending light and "invisibility cloaks".
Cartoon of the day: "Blagofaire". (Via GMSV.)
"The U.S. military is working on computers than can scan your mind and adapt to what you're thinking."

Friday, March 23, 2007

My day job: For those who want to know a little bit more about my daytime job as a radiologist, here's something I posted yesterday afternoon to Diana's blog.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Why the Human Brain Is a Poor Judge of Risk"
Cognitive biases and heuristics in medical decision-making. (Via MeFi.)
Virtual headphones:
A team, led by Ivan Tashev, a software architect at Microsoft, recently began work on an algorithm that, in theory, will be able to direct sound from a set of speakers -- ideally embedded in a computer monitor--into a person's ears, effectively creating virtual headphones; just a few inches outside the focal point of the sound waves, the volume dramatically fades away. Crucially, says Tashev, his algorithm could be used by a wide range of inexpensive speakers that could be put into computer monitors.

The goal, he says, is to "target focused sound so that a person can walk around an office and hear" while on a video- or computer-aided audio conference call. Information about a person's location could be collected by hardware peripherals and fed back into the speaker software, allowing the virtual headphones to move with the user in real time.
Although this sounds like a promising medical advance, one of my partners points out that the title of this article could be easily misinterpreted: "New saliva test may help dentists test for breast cancer"
"Top 15 Unintentionally Funny Comic Book Panels". May be NSFW. (Via Linkfilter.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

10 reasons why you should buy a Mac.
Music as torture?
How to make Microsoft Word less annoying. (Via BBspot.)
Locks and "bumping": This 4-part series covers the basics of mechanical locks, "bumping" attacks, and which locks are relatively more secure. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Oxford English Dictionary has added the word "wiki" to its official online edition.
Is the Hummer more environmentally friendly than the Prius? Although I'm not an environmentalist, but I found the following analysis quite entertaining:
Building a Toyota Prius causes more environmental damage than a Hummer that is on the road for three times longer than a Prius. As already noted, the Prius is partly driven by a battery which contains nickel. The nickel is mined and smelted at a plant in Sudbury, Ontario. This plant has caused so much environmental damage to the surrounding environment that NASA has used the "dead zone" around the plant to test moon rovers. The area around the plant is devoid of any life for miles.

...The plant is the source of all the nickel found in a Prius' battery and Toyota purchases 1,000 tons annually. Dubbed the Superstack, the plague-factory has spread sulfur dioxide across northern Ontario, becoming every environmentalist's nightmare.

All of this would be bad enough in and of itself; however, the journey to make a hybrid doesn’t end there. The nickel produced by this disastrous plant is shipped via massive container ship to the largest nickel refinery in Europe. From there, the nickel hops over to China to produce "nickel foam." From there, it goes to Japan. Finally, the completed batteries are shipped to the United States, finalizing the around-the-world trip required to produce a single Prius battery. Are these not sounding less and less like environmentally sound cars and more like a farce?

Wait, I haven't even got to the best part yet.

When you pool together all the combined energy it takes to drive and build a Toyota Prius, the flagship car of energy fanatics, it takes almost 50 percent more energy than a Hummer -- the Prius's arch nemesis.

Through a study by CNW Marketing called "Dust to Dust," the total combined energy is taken from all the electrical, fuel, transportation, materials (metal, plastic, etc) and hundreds of other factors over the expected lifetime of a vehicle. The Prius costs an average of $3.25 per mile driven over a lifetime of 100,000 miles - the expected lifespan of the Hybrid.

The Hummer, on the other hand, costs a more fiscal $1.95 per mile to put on the road over an expected lifetime of 300,000 miles. That means the Hummer will last three times longer than a Prius and use less combined energy doing it.
(Via /.)
A clever thief managed to bypass multiple layers of high-tech security and steal over $25 million of diamonds from a heavily guarded bank by using chocolates and charm.
Mr Claes [spokesman for the Diamond High Council in Antwerp] said of the thief: "He used no violence. He used one weapon -- and that is his charm -- to gain confidence. He bought chocolates for the personnel, he was a nice guy, he charmed them, got the original of keys to make copies and got information on where the diamonds were.

"You can have all the safety and security you want, but if someone uses their charm to mislead people it won't help."
As Bruce Schneier notes, "People are the weakest security link..."
"A Conversation at the Grownup Table, as Imagined at the Kids Table". (Via Waxy.)
Good overview of plasmonics. (Via Cosmic Log.)

Monday, March 19, 2007

How police interrogations really work.
Neal Stephenson on geek culture and 300. (Via Paul Sand.)
Amusing physics. (Via GMSV.)
Update on planetary defense. (Via Rand Simberg.)

And a related story on anti-asteroid lasers.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

First ever 3-way tie on Jeopardy:
The three contestants on the venerable game show all finished with $16,000 after each answering the final question correctly in the category, "Women of the 1930s," on Friday's show.

..."We've had a lot of crazy things happen on Jeopardy! but in 23 years I've never seen anything like this before," host Alex Trebek said.

The show contacted a mathematician who calculated the odds of such a three-way tie happening -- one in 25 million.

The three contestants, Jamey Kirby of Gainesville, Fla.; Anders Martinson of Union City, Calif.; and Scott Weiss of Walkersville, Md; were all declared champions and taped a rematch that will air Monday.
"Google confirms mobile phone 'in development'"
Impressive sand art. (Via Fark.)
Computers may be better than family members at making end-of-life medical decisions for patients. "Better" is used in the sense of more accurately reflecting the patient's own preferences.

(From personal experience, I don't think this necessarily implies that computers are uncannily accurate in this regard, but rather that family members are notorious for allowing wishful thinking, guilt, and other emotional factors sway them away from what the dying patient would have actually wanted.)
"Computing photographic forgeries"

Saturday, March 17, 2007

"Brain-controlled games and other devices should soon be on sale"...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

300 vs. History: How does the movie compare with the facts? (Via Cosmic Log.)
"A Note To Employers: 8 Things Intelligent People, Geeks and Nerds Need To Work Happily". Includes the following tips:
#1. Let them work when they want
#2. Let them work where they want
#3. Let them control their lighting
#4. Let them wear headphones
#5. Do not expect them to wear a suit
#6. Do not make them participate in company events (unless you are sure it is geek-friendly)
#7. Do not hold a lot of arbitrary meetings that could have otherwise been handled through email or IM
#8. Do not make them do anything other than work
(Via BBspot.)
The psychology of jury selection. (Via ALDaily.)
"I Used To Believe" is a funny and bizarre collection of ideas that adults thought were true when they were children. (Via GMSV.)
Everything you think you know about the genetics of eye color is wrong:
What most people know about the inheritance of eye color is that brown comes from a dominant gene (needing one copy only) and blue from a recessive gene (needing two copies). University of Queensland geneticist Rick Sturm suggests that the genetics are not so clear. "There is no single gene for eye color," he says, "but the biggest effect is the OCA2 gene."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"Funny air traffic controller quotes".
How to mathematically optimize your chance of winning the NCAA basketball office pool.
"Can a sperm donor be forced to pay child support?" The answer may surprise you.
"Computer model hints at how opinions evolve"

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Admin note: No posting today due to external obligations.

Monday, March 12, 2007

If surgery was like Wikipedia. (Via BBspot.)
Fashion can't be copyrighted. And what that means.
How do astronauts get e-mail on the space shuttle?
Programming theorems. (Via Found On The Web.)
"Be More Than You Can Be": Inside the Pentagon's human enhancement project.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Scientists have found a drug that can wipe a single specific memory from the brain of rats, while leaving others intact.
How to sleep at work without getting caught.
Visual effect of the day: Stare at the middle of the strobing lines for 20 seconds, then look away. Click here to try it.
"Top 10 Most Curious States of Equilibrium". (Via GMSV.)

Friday, March 09, 2007

"Web based DST testing site". Quick way to tell if your computer is DST ready for this weekend:
I created a web site that can detect if your computer will accurately spring ahead at the new, earlier time. It can tell if you are using current DST'07 rules, earlier DST rules, EU Summertime, no DST at all (like in non-Navajo areas of Arizona), or if it is unable to detect. It then shows the results in large Red, Yellow, or Green dots to be easy for end-users. -- Jeff Williams
(Via IPList.)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Apple's FairPlay DRM: Everything you ever wanted to know. (Via Bruce Schneier.)
The South Pole Telescope blog. Among other tidbits I learned, there is no decaf coffee at the South Pole:
In the galley, there are two coffee spigots. But instead of the usual "regular" and "decaf", they're labeled "regular" and "high-octane", made extra strong. This suits me just fine. It also suits a station that operates 24 hours of the day, where people often find themselves shifting their schedule back and forth from days to nights or the other way around.
(Via MeFi.)
"Quantum cryptography goes wireless: Single entangled photons travel 144 km through the air."
"How the vi editor would seem if it has been made by Microsoft"
"Items on that you cannot (or at least should not) buy". My favorite is the ACME Rocket Launcher, which includes the following "user review":
I love my ACME Rocket Launcher, and I highly recommend it for anyone with a pesky roadrunner problem*. Quality craftsmanship, easy to use and just an all around good product.

*Not recommended for coyotes, if you are a coyote DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT!!!
(Via Waxy.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Update on Jeff Han and his amazing multi-touch screens, including a couple of videos. Plus here's his official webpage.
"What happens if you confess to a crime after being found not guilty?"
YouTube for books? The website allows users to upload books and other documents, so that they can be viewed and/or downloaded for free. It will be very interesting to see how they handle the inevitable issues that will arise when 3rd parties upload copyrighted materials created by others. (Via David Solsberg.)
"An ethical code to prevent humans abusing robots, and vice versa, is being drawn up by South Korea." (Via Instapundit.)
Nice animated GIF of the so-called "green flash". When I was young and single, I had a beachside apartment in La Jolla, California, and I used to make a point of looking for the green flash during the sunsets. In my one year living in that apartment, I happened to see it 3 times.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Ask Calvin's Dad: Answers given by Calvin's Dad from Calvin and Hobbes. (Via BBspot.)
The US Navy is trying to develop a nonlethal vomit beam. Set your phasers on "puke"!
Conspiracy theory of the day: "Was the Death Star Attack an Inside Job?"
We've all heard the "official conspiracy theory" of the Death Star attack. We all know about Luke Skywalker and his ragtag bunch of rebels, how they mounted a foolhardy attack on the most powerful, well-defended battle station ever built. And we've all seen the video over, and over, and over, of the one-in-a-million shot that resulted in a massive chain reaction that not just damaged, but completely obliterated that massive technological wonder.

Like many Americans, I was fed this story when I was growing up. But as I watched the video, I began to realize that all was not as it seemed. And the more I questioned the official story, the deeper into the rabbit hole I went...
(Via Cynical-C.)
"9 Laws of Physics That Don't Apply in Hollywood":
1. Those Exploding Cars
2. Sound that Moves at the Speed of Light
3. Everything is Illuminated: The Myth of Radioactivity
4. Shotgun Blasts and Kung Fu Kicks Make Targets Fly across the Room
5. Legends of the Fall
6. The Sounds of Science
7. Shell Shock! Exploding Artillery Shells that Blow Straight Up
8. The Sparking Bullet
9. Sound Travels in Space

Monday, March 05, 2007

An AI expert system has been cited by the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for practicing law without a license.
Foolproof quantum cryptography. (Via Gravity Lens.)
More global warming skepticism: Claude Allegre, one of France's leading scientists (and a socialist) and a renowed proponent of global warming, has now reversed his position:
With a wealth of data now in, Dr. Allegre has recanted his views. To his surprise, the many climate models and studies failed dismally in establishing a man-made cause of catastrophic global warming. Meanwhile, increasing evidence indicates that most of the warming comes of natural phenomena. Dr. Allegre now sees global warming as over-hyped and an environmental concern of second rank.

His break with what he now sees as environmental cant on climate change came in September, in an article entitled "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" in l' Express, the French weekly. His article cited evidence that Antarctica is gaining ice and that Kilimanjaro's retreating snow caps, among other global-warming concerns, come from natural causes. "The cause of this climate change is unknown," he states matter of factly. There is no basis for saying, as most do, that the "science is settled."
(Via Michael Williams.)
Strange statues from around the world. (Via Neatorama.)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Will getting a Roomba make your life more efficient? Probably not.
What it's really like to switch from a PC to a Mac. (Via BBspot.)
Quiz of the day: Can you name all 50 states in 10 minutes? Click here to start the clock. I got 48/50. (Via MeFi.)
Astronauts on the International Space Station never trained for a wasabi spill. (Via /.)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Video of the day: Great White Shark. I'd hate to be one of the seals. (Via Joost Bonsen.)
Admin note: If you're having trouble with the RSS feed, make sure that you have the correct URL. (It was recently changed as part of our server migration and Blogger upgrade.)

The RSS feed should be: <>

Friday, March 02, 2007

"Simultaneous warming on Earth and Mars suggests that our planet's recent climate changes have a natural -- and not a human -- induced—cause according to one scientist's controversial theory." (Via Instapundit.)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Interesting FAQ about quantum computing hype, debunking the widely held misunderstanding of "exponential parallelism". Plus a good description of how Shor's algorithm really works. (Via Michael Williams.)
Kidnapped teen escapes using a safety pin:
The key to his escape was a safety pin that was holding together a rip in Clay's jacket, Kelle said.

While his abductor was driving Clay away from the bus stop, the boy took the safety pin off his sleeve and nervously played with it, Kelle said.

When Clay was taken from the truck into the woods, he put the safety pin in his mouth, his stepfather said. Asked later by his parents why he did that, he said he "just thought it would be helpful," Kelle said.

The abductor tied Clay up with duct tape and gagged him with a sock, Kelle said.

When the boy was sure the man had left, he spit the sock -- and the safety pin -- onto the ground. With his hands still bound in front of him, Clay used a stick and his mouth to get the pin back.

"He used the safety pin to free himself by picking at [the duct tape] and more or less untying what was binding him," Kelle said. "And then he used that and his mouth once he was free to pull the duct tape off."

Clay estimated the process took as long as an hour, his stepfather said.

The boy then walked until he found a farm worker with a cell phone.
(Via Cynical-C.)
Science-vs-Faith flowchart. (Via Found On The Web.)
3-D view of the Linux kernel.