Saturday, June 30, 2007

Timelapse "light graffiti":
Using LED glowsticks, flashlights, even fireworks, combined with time-lapse photography, light graffiti artists create a unique tagging that wraps around objects dimensionally, allowing them to tag in a way they'd never be able to with spraypaint.
(Via MeFi.)
Diana did get her iPhone last night, after a wait of less than one hour at the Park Meadows Apple Store. So far, she's pretty pleased with it, but she is having trouble connecting it to our local home WiFi network. (It does connect to the AT&T EDGE network, but our EDGE reception is spotty where we live.)

So if anyone has any suggestions for her, please contact her directly at: diana(at)

Update:Diana was able to figure out the problem based on some suggestions she found online. Thank you all!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Why you don't want to sit in seat 29E on an airplane. Actual complaint received from an airline customer.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Taser, iRobot team up to arm robots."
Classic ad from 1977 features disk drive system with "80 Mbytes for under $12k". (Via Fark.)
"Brain Boosters": Technology Review writer David Duncan gives a first-person account of what happens when he tries neuro-enhancement with chemicals and electricity.
"100 Most Often Mispronounced Words and Phrases in English". (Via BBspot.)
"This man is not happy with Verizon."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Life at Google: The Microsoftie Perspective". (Via MeFi.)
Bionic arm update. (Via Neatorama.)
Self-mummification. Includes a somewhat gruesome picture. (Via Cynical-C.)
Capitalism, globalization, and sushi. (Via ALDaily.)
MythBusters Results. (Via BBspot.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"3 Famous Psychology Studies That Would Be Illegal Today":
Stanley Milgram's Obedience Studies
Stanford Prison Experiments
Little Albert
"The Science of Gaydar": What we know about the biology of various traits that are thought to be associated with people who are gay. (Via Clicked.)
"Death of the Clickwheel". (Via Instapundit.)
Betting markets for various iPhone related events. Here are some of the current odds:
Consumers are reported camping out waiting for an iPhone: 3/1
Initial iPhones get recalled: 30/1
Consumers pay at least 3x the original price ($1,500) on ebay: 2/1
The screen breaks/cracks like Apple's 1st Gen Nano iPod: 150/1
Mass reports of the battery life less than promised 8 hours: 10/1
Someone is trampled while trying to get an iPhone: 20/1
iPhone spontaneously combusts: 150/1
(Via Marginal Revolution.)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Older siblings are smarter.
Why settle for a mere iPhone when you can get the rPhone? (Via BBspot.)
"The top 10 dead (or dying) computer skills"
"The DIY Guide to Becoming a (Real) Cyborg."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Admin note: Blogging is going to be light to non-existent for the next few days. I just purchased a new MacBook Pro to replace my old Dell Latitude D610 laptop, and I'll be making "The Switch".

Here are the specs:
Processor: 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory: 4GB 667 DDR2 SDRAM - 2x2GB
Hard Drive: 160GB Serial ATA Drive@5400rpm
Optical Drive: SuperDrive 8x
Display: 15" Widescreen Display (Matte)
BTW, it looks gorgeous.
Microphotograph of the day: "Velcro being pulled apart".
Top 10 bizarre Japanese soft drinks.
Lasers that vaporize matter without creating heat.
Unofficial review of Mac OS 10.5, aka Leopard.
"The Ten Most Common Photographic Mistakes". (Via BBspot.)
Which nations have not adopted the metric system?

Monday, June 18, 2007

You can buy a jet pack nowadays. Unfortunately, they have short flight times of less than a minute. (Via Instapundit.)
Rachel Lucas has written another scathingly funny post on, "The drama and intrigue of medical transcription".
"How Many Ways Can You Spell V1@gra?: Spam mutates, and the Internet community mounts an immune response". (Via ALDaily.)
Physicists are looking for "stuff" made of "unparticles".

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Noise cancelling headphones: The NY Times reviews 9 sets of headphones (including the Bose QuietComfort 2 and 3), and gives its recommendations. For best performance (comparable to the Bose) but for a far lower price, they recommended the Panasonic RP-HC500 and the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7.
Scientists create the most perfect spheres. (Via Fark.)
Patenting artificial life.
"Baby monitor picks up live NASA video". (Via Alexander D. Mitchell IV.)
"What Really Happens In A Gunfight?" (Via BBspot.)
"A robot on Sunday acted as master of ceremonies at a South Korean wedding in what its creators claimed as a world first."

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Can you clean keyboard in a dishwasher?
"Has anybody really 'sold' the Brooklyn Bridge? Plus this man "sold" the Eiffel tower (Con #3).
Clever shadow sculptures. The shadows look very different from the sculpture materials. (Via Neatorama.)
Mechanical fingers.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Random close packing: "Computer simulations reveal an underlying structure for the disordered state of a large number of spheres dumped into a box."
Update on invisibility technology.
"Polish man wakes up after 19 years in coma":
When Jan Grzbebski woke up after 19 years in a coma the Polish railway worker found himself living in the future.

The Soviets had disappeared. So had food rationing. The only thing that stayed the same was his doting wife, Gertruda.

..."When I went into a coma there was only tea and vinegar in the shops, meat was rationed and huge petrol queues were everywhere," Grzebski tells TVN24, according to Reuters. "Now I see people on the streets with cellphones and there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin."
Lakes and Islands and combinations thereof. Includes listings for the following:
"Largest island"
"Largest lake"
"Largest lake on an island"
"Largest island in a lake"
"Largest island in a lake on an island"
"Largest lake on an island in a lake"
"Largest lake on an island in a lake on an island"
"Largest island in a lake on an island in a lake"
"Largest island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island"
(Via BBspot.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Update on time travel research by University of Washington physics professor John Cramer.
"27 Confessions Of A Former Circuit City Worker" (Via Fark.)
"Eye-Tracking Device Lets Billboards Know When You Look at Them"
Zoologist disguises himself as a crocodile to enter their lair. Includes some entertaining pictures. (Via Cynical-C.)
The UK is experiencing a rise in the crime of license plate cloning:
Tony Bullock's car was cloned even though his plates were not physically stolen, and he was threatened with prosecution after "his" car was repeatedly caught speeding in Leicester.

He said: "It was horrendous. You are guilty until you can prove you're not. It's the first time that I've thought that English law is on its head."

Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Glen Smyth said the problem has grown because of the amount of camera-based enforcement of traffic offences, which relies on computer records on who owns which car.
(Via Bruce Schneier.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

3-D websurfing.
"The first liquid camera lens with no moving parts, and that can switch between two levels of magnification, has been designed by a German research team."
What the Earth looks like during a solar eclipse.
If you want to avoid catching a contagious disease on an airplane, you should sit in an aisle seat. Here's why. (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

How Japan sees America: "This map is basically what would happen if you got a bunch of Japanese guys in a room, got them drunk, and then asked them to draw what they could remember about America on a bar napkin... Anyhow, I feel the map speaks for itself." (Via Neatorama.)
"Fuel of the future": Sam Dinkins notes this description from the May 1857 Scientific American of a potential new energy source:
We believe that no particular use is made of the fluid petroleum, from the 'tar springs' of California, except as a lotion for bruises and rheumatic affections. It has a pungent odor, and although it can be made to burn with a pretty good light, its smell is offensive. This, perhaps, may be obviated by distilling it with some acid; we believe that this is not impossible in this age of advanced chemistry. If the offensive odor could be removed, a valuable and profitable business might be carried on in manufacturing burning fluid from it.
Excellent high-speed photographs. (Via BBspot.)
Wireless power transfer. At 45% efficiency!
"Blackout leaves coaster riders dangling":
A dozen riders on a roller coaster spent half an hour hanging upside down -- 150 feet above the ground -- after a power outage shut down the attraction.

It took about 30 minutes for the city Fire Department to rescue the riders using a ladder truck Saturday evening, said Aundrea Crary, spokeswoman for the Springs & Crystal Falls amusement park.

Spectators cheered when the riders were brought to the ground from the highest point of a loop on the X-Coaster, but one passenger threw up after reaching safety.
Rachel Lucas explains in her own inimitable way that, "They Don't Teach Dictation In Medical School". (As a practicing radiologist, I can vouch for the fact that what she writes is both very funny and 100% accurate.)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

"Origin of Deja Vu Pinpointed"
Real-time maps of global internet traffic and attacks.
"Let's touch base": What that office jargon really means. (Via BBspot.)
"30 Days With Mac OS X"
Why does catnip have such a powerful effect on cats?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Invention of the day: Powdered alcohol.
Dutch students have invented powdered alcohol which they say can be sold legally to minors.

The latest innovation in inebriation, called Booz2Go, is available in 20g packets that cost $1.60 to $2.45.

Top it up with water and you have a bubbly, lime-coloured and flavoured drink with just three per cent alcohol content.

"We are aiming for the youth market," 20-year-old Harm van Elderen told Reuters.

...The students said companies interested in making the product commercially could avoid taxes because the alcohol was in powder form.
Google in 20 years. (Via Clicked.)
"How many moves does it take to solve a Rubik's Cube?":
The lowest provable number of moves needed to solve a Rubik's cube was 27—until now. A pair of computer science researchers from Northeastern University has developed a proof showing that a Rubik's cube in any configuration can be solved in 26 moves. While that is not much of an improvement, it is still mind-boggling; imagine needing only 26 moves to get from a state as unique as 1 in 43 quintillion to the solution of the puzzle.
(Via Fark.)
London bookies are almost certain that Harry Potter is going to die:
William Hill Plc, a London-based bookmaker, is so sure of Harry's demise that it stopped accepting wagers and shifted betting to the possible killers. Lord Voldemort, who murdered Potter's parents, is the most likely villain, at 2-1 odds, followed by Professor Snape, one of his teachers, at 5-2.

"Every penny was on Harry dying, and it became untenable," said Rupert Adams, a William Hill spokesman. "People are obsessed about this book."
(Via Marginal Revolution.)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Nature video of the day: Lions vs. buffalos vs. crocodiles. Must be seen to be believed. Holy crap! (Via Mike Williams.)
Lots of information about Google's PageRank algorithm. (Via Cynical-C.)
Is there a scientific consensus about global warming? Apparently not. (Via Rand Simberg.)
"Second Life 'land' dispute moves offline to federal courtroom":
A virtual land dispute in Second Life will be resolved in federal court after a judge's ruling. A lawsuit filed in May of 2006 by Pennsylvania attorney Marc Bragg accused Linden Lab and its CEO Philip Rosedale of wrongfully seizing his virtual land and unilaterally shutting down his Second Life account—intellectual property that Bragg says is worth thousands of (real-life) dollars. Linden Lab filed two motions to dismiss the suit, arguing that Bragg came into possession of his land wrongfully, but the Pennsylvania judge denied those motions.

...[I]t appears as if this will be the first case over virtual land to make it all the way to court. Some believe that the outcome of the case could affect how the ownership of virtual property is treated in relation to games like Second Life and World of Warcraft, where users often buy and sell items with both virtual and real money. However, the case may never address the topic of virtual property, as the dispute centers mostly around Second Life's terms of service and how the company's insecure auction result should be handled. Linden Lab made a mistake, and a player managed to take advantage of it.
When can a government quarantine its citizens? According to the article:
When someone has been exposed to diphtheria, infectious tuberculosis, yellow fever, viral hemorrhagic fevers, SARS, and a new strain of influenza with pandemic potential. That's the federal government's list, which changes only by executive order; states may have their own. Patients who have actually been infected, like the Atlanta man, are technically under "isolation," not quarantine.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Turning moths into cyberspies:
...[T]he Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is growing computer chips around insects for use in surveillance, reports The Times.

DARPA is implanting computer chips in moths while still in the pupa stage. The moth grows around the the chip and its nervous system can be controlled by a remote control.

The project is called the Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (HI-MEMS) and it also includes outfitting other insects with miniscule sensors and a wireless transmitter which could send data from places inaccesible to humans.
(Via Bruce Schneier.)
The Earth History site lets you see what the continents looked like 500 million years ago and what they'll look 250 million years from now. As those activists say, "Reunite Gondwanaland!"
Video of the day: Ma and Pa Kettle on math. (Via Eric Daniels).
Some people are outsourcing their personal lives. (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

"Does virtual reality need a sheriff?" (Via Fark.)
"Trisecting an Angle with Origami"
An Atlas of the Universe. (Via The Speculist.)
"Are you a good liar?" Here's how to find out:
Are you a good liar? Most people think that they are, but in reality there are big differences in how well we can pull the wool over the eyes of others. There is a very simple test that can help determine your ability to lie. Using the first finger of your dominant hand, draw a capital letter Q on your forehead.

Some people draw the letter Q in such a way that they themselves can read it. That is, they place the tail of the Q on the right-hand side of their forehead. Other people draw the letter in a way that can be read by someone facing them, with the tail of the Q on the left side of their forehead. This quick test provides a rough measure of a concept known as "self-monitoring". High self-monitors tend to draw the letter Q in a way in which it could be seen by someone facing them. Low self-monitors tend to draw the letter Q in a way in which it could be read by themselves.

High self-monitors tend to be concerned with how other people see them. They are happy being the centre of attention, can easily adapt their behaviour to suit the situation in which they find themselves, and are skilled at manipulating the way in which others see them. As a result, they tend to be good at lying. In contrast, low self-monitors come across as being the "same person" in different situations. Their behaviour is guided more by their inner feelings and values, and they are less aware of their impact on those around them. They also tend to lie less in life, and so not be so skilled at deceit.
(Via Marginal Revolution.)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Trick Stair: Michael Williams has the following interesting idea.
If I ever build a house with a staircase I'm going to make one stair in the middle about two inches higher than all the rest. My family and I will get used to it over time, but a burglar will be almost certain to trip on it in the dark. Good security measure.

My Op-Ed Opposing Socialized Medicine in Colorado

One brief weekend foray into politics, then your regularly scheduled GeekPress will return. The Rocky Mountain News has just printed my op-ed opposing socialized medicine in Colorado:

Free market holds key to ensuring quality for Coloradans

By Paul Hsieh, M.D.
June 2, 2007

The Colorado Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Reform recently selected four health care reform proposals for eventual consideration by the Colorado legislature. Although they differ in their details, these differences are dwarfed by their fundamental similarity - they all entail a massive increase in government interference in medicine in the name of "universal coverage."

All four plans inject government force into the doctor-patient relationship. They include some combination of forcing all residents into a single health program, forcing some or all individuals and/or businesses to purchase a state-approved insurance policy, requiring insurance companies to provide new additional benefits, establishing a new bureaucracy to set payments to the doctors for services they provide, and doubling the Colorado Medicaid population.

These are just disguised forms of socialized medicine.

Similar programs already have been tried in states and other countries. They have all failed, resulting only in higher costs and lower quality patient care. The TennCare disaster - Tennessee's failed attempt at "universal coverage" - offers an important lesson for Colorado.

In the 1990s, the Tennessee government expanded the state Medicaid program to include people earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty line, i.e., a middle-class family of four making $55,000 a year. The state also forced insurance companies to offer expensive new benefits and forced employers to either buy health insurance for their employees or else pay into a state fund for the uninsured. Many employers chose the second option, shifting their employees' health costs onto taxpayers. Because of the new regulations, many insurance companies withdrew from Tennessee, forcing more patients into the state health plan.

The Tennessee government initially offered a generous benefits package. Predictably, costs skyrocketed because patients had no incentives to spend prudently. In response, the government attempted to control costs by slashing payments to doctors and hospitals.

Hospitals closed and doctors left the state in droves. Many doctors who remained stopped seeing TennCare patients since they lost money on each one. Families with sick children often had to drive long distances to find a doctor who would see them. And they had no alternatives to TennCare because the state regulations had all but destroyed the insurance market. Ironically, TennCare ended up causing the most harm to the very people it was intended to help - the working poor and rural patients.

Nor did TennCare save money. Instead, it nearly bankrupted the state budget.

The problems of TennCare are not aberrations that can be fixed with a few minor reforms. They are inherent in any system of government medicine. Under such systems, bureaucrats and politicians decide what care individuals can receive, not doctors and patients. This has long been the case in Canada's "single-payer" socialized medical system, with its infamous waiting lists for critical medical tests and treatments. For the sake of my patients and myself, I don't want this to happen in Colorado.

Socialized medicine is not the cure for Colorado's health care problems. Forcing everyone into a government-run medical program because some people are uninsured would be just as wrong as forcing everyone to live in a government-run housing project because some people are homeless.

Instead, Colorado should adopt free market reforms such as the FAIR Program ("Free-Markets, Affordability & Individual Rights") proposed by Brian Schwartz, Ph.D. Such programs are especially good at providing affordable quality care for the working poor and rural patients. They work precisely because they encourage individual responsibility and they respect the right of the individual to spend his health care dollar according to his best judgment.

Colorado has an opportunity to become a real innovator in health care reform. Instead of recycling failed government programs, we should set an example for the rest of the country by adopting free market solutions. Only the free market can provide Coloradans with the high-quality, affordable health care they need and deserve.

Dr. Paul S. Hsieh is a practicing physician in the southern metro area. He is a founding member of the Colorado group Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Update: The kidney donor reality show was a hoax. (Via Alexander D. Mitchell IV.)