Thursday, November 29, 2007

How to attach this to that. (Via Brian Schwartz.)
"How Does Bruce Schneier Protect His Laptop Data? With His Fists -- and PGP".
"The Secret to Raising Smart Kids: Don't tell them that they are." (Via Jim May.)
Are sleep deficits permanent? (Via SciTechDaily.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Stir fried Wikipedia. (Via Waxy.)
"Marine Research Facility Designed Using Star Wars Films"
Update on reverse engineering the brain in silicon.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

If you're going to sue your boss, don't use your work e-mail account to discuss strategy with your lawyers.
"Prosthetic Limbs That Can Feel".
Why you shouldn't name your ship the "MS Explorer". (Via BBspot.)
"Top 10 worst IT disasters of all time". (Via Fark.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

"15 cool word illusions". (Via Clicked.)
"How to charge an iPod using electrolytes and an onion"
Photographs of cats caught in midair. (Via Neatorama.)
Nice summary of the science and/or pseudoscience of birth order and its effects on personality traits. (Via ALDaily.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Forgotten your password? Google can find it for you. Unfortunately". (Via Fark.)
"Why you shouldn't go to law school". (Via Volokh.)
More on fMRI lie detection.
"7 Incredible Natural Phenomena You've Never Seen". (Via BBspot.)
More on Garrett Lisi's physics theory, including a Wikipedia summary of its strengths and critcisms, a FAQ for newspaper reporters, and a personal FAQ about Lisi himself.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Whose Rules Apply On The Web?": Interesting article on how internet companies can or should respond if they are based on one US state and/or country, but they run afoul of the laws of another state/country.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The day after Thanksgiving is not the busiest shopping day of the year.
This 360-degree military simulator is one step closer to a holodeck.
Robotic "Pied Piper" cockroaches can trick real cockroaches into following them, "even to places where a sensible roach would never venture". (Via SciTechDaily.)
British nuclear security: Until 1998, some British nuclear weapons could be armed by just the single turn of a bicycle lock key.
To arm the weapons you just open a panel held by two captive screws - like a battery cover on a radio - using a thumbnail or a coin.

Inside are the arming switch and a series of dials which you can turn with an Allen key to select high yield or low yield, air burst or groundburst and other parameters.

The Bomb is actually armed by inserting a bicycle lock key into the arming switch and turning it through 90 degrees. There is no code which needs to be entered or dual key system to prevent a rogue individual from arming the Bomb.
(Via Bruce Schneier.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! Regular blogging will resume tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"What If Gmail Had Been Designed by Microsoft?"
The procrastination flowchart. (Via GMSV.)
Tyler Cowen on his iPhone:
I still use my iPhone almost every day and I can no longer imagine not having one. Mostly I surf web sites and blogs while waiting in lines, or read email. I've yet to make a phone call with it.
Who has the oil? (Via BBspot.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Principles of economics, translated into normal English. Very funny piece from the Stand-Up Economist. (Via Lin Zinser.)
Theory of Everything? Physicist/surfer Garrett Lisi may have found a way to unify all the major particle and forces of nature, including gravity, without having to rely on dubious multi-dimensional string theory. Plus his theory may be testable in the near future. His theory predicts:
...more than 20 new particles not envisaged by the standard model. Lisi is now calculating the masses that these particles should have, in the hope that they may be spotted when the Large Hadron Collider - being built at CERN, near Geneva in Switzerland - starts up next year.
Here's a related article. Here's the link to his paper. (Click on the "PDF" icon on the upper right for the PDF version.) And a link to a semi-technical explanation (with video).

(FWIW, I once met him several years ago at a dinner party, back when Diana and I lived in San Diego and he was a PhD student at UCSD. He was a friend-of-a-friend, and he struck me as an extremely intelligent man. So although my math background is not strong enough to enable me to assess the merits of his theory, he would be a plausible candidate to have come up with a revolutionary new theory in foundational physics.)
Cool Star Trek home theater. (Via /.)
Wormholes on Earth? And a related article from Nature.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"A pair of mathematicians has created a video that shows how to visualize and understand Möbius transformations, which are a fundamental and highly abstract mathematical tool. The new video, "Möbius Transformations Revealed," has become an Internet sensation, with 60,000 hits on YouTube so far.

"... 'You need some pretty heavy mathematical machinery that people usually don't do until their first year of grad school to prove the stuff in the video,' [Jonathan] Rogness says, "but we've been showing this to high school students and they seem to get it."
"How to halt light and bottle it".
Hushmail turns over data to the government. (Via Bruce Schneier.)
Because November 19 is World Toilet Day, it seems as good a time as any to answer the perennial question, "What if everybody in the United States flushed the toilet at the same time?". (Via Neatorama.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The end of Tesla vs. Edison: Con Ed will shut down the last of their DC electrical service in Manhattan, marking the end of the famous battle between the AC and DC power distribution methods advocated by Tesla and Edison respectively. (Via Howard Roerig.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's probably illegal to do this to a telemarketer. But it is tempting... (Via MDMD, aka "Mad Dog".)
"Did NSA Put a Secret Backdoor in New Encryption Standard?"
This is how it works: There are a bunch of constants -- fixed numbers -- in the standard used to define the algorithm's elliptic curve. These constants are listed in Appendix A of the NIST publication, but nowhere is it explained where they came from.

What Shumow and Ferguson showed is that these numbers have a relationship with a second, secret set of numbers that can act as a kind of skeleton key. If you know the secret numbers, you can predict the output of the random-number generator after collecting just 32 bytes of its output. To put that in real terms, you only need to monitor one TLS internet encryption connection in order to crack the security of that protocol. If you know the secret numbers, you can completely break any instantiation of Dual_EC_DRBG.

The researchers don't know what the secret numbers are. But because of the way the algorithm works, the person who produced the constants might know; he had the mathematical opportunity to produce the constants and the secret numbers in tandem.

Of course, we have no way of knowing whether the NSA knows the secret numbers that break Dual_EC-DRBG. We have no way of knowing whether an NSA employee working on his own came up with the constants -- and has the secret numbers. We don't know if someone from NIST, or someone in the ANSI working group, has them. Maybe nobody does.

We don't know where the constants came from in the first place. We only know that whoever came up with them could have the key to this backdoor. And we know there's no way for NIST -- or anyone else -- to prove otherwise.

This is scary stuff indeed.
High definition video is causing problems for pornographers:
Pornography has long helped drive the adoption of new technology, from the printing press to the videocassette. Now pornographic movie studios are staying ahead of the curve by releasing high-definition DVDs.

They have discovered that the technology is sometimes not so sexy. The high-definition format is accentuating imperfections in the actors — from a little extra cellulite on a leg to wrinkles around the eyes. ...

“The biggest problem is razor burn,” said Stormy Daniels, an actress, writer and director.
(Via Michael Williams.)
Toddlers start treating robots as if they were other children after only a few months of exposure.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Neuroimaging and political prediction: Powerful new tool or overhype-of-the-day?
"The Death of E-Mail": The cultural gap between first and second generation internet users.
"Suitcase nukes closer to fiction than reality". Includes obligatory Jack Bauer picture. (Via SciTechDaily.)
Today's prequel is Battlestar Galactica: Razor. Coming November 24.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Thought Police: How Brain Scans Could Invade Your Private Life". We're definitely not at that point yet. But we're not that far away either. (Via Cosmic Log.)
Rand Simberg dispels cloning myths. And Phil Bowermaster explains, "Three Things Cloning Isn't".
If you don't want to know the plot to the Star Trek 11 movie, then don't click here. (Via /.)
"24: The Unaired 1994 Pilot". Jack Bauer saves the world with AOL 3.0!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Top 10 Off Switches. (Via /.)
14-year old boy saves a life because he watched "MythBusters". (Via BBspot.)
Malcolm Gladwell has a new thought-provoking essay asking if criminal profiling is more like a pseudoscience rather than a science, especially with predictions that are too vague to provide guidance, and get be fitted to the actual facts only in retrospect.

For instance, here is a summary of the profilers' predictions about the famous BTK serial killer:
The best minds in the F.B.I. had given the Wichita detectives a blueprint for their investigation. Look for an American male with a possible connection to the military. His I.Q. will be above 105. He will like to masturbate, and will be aloof and selfish in bed. He will drive a decent car. He will be a “now” person. He won’t be comfortable with women. But he may have women friends. He will be a lone wolf. But he will be able to function in social settings. He won’t be unmemorable. But he will be unknowable. He will be either never married, divorced, or married, and if he was or is married his wife will be younger or older. He may or may not live in a rental, and might be lower class, upper lower class, lower middle class or middle class. And he will be crazy like a fox, as opposed to being mental. If you’re keeping score, that’s a Jacques Statement, two Barnum Statements, four Rainbow Ruses, a Good Chance Guess, two predictions that aren’t really predictions because they could never be verified—and nothing even close to the salient fact that BTK was a pillar of his community, the president of his church and the married father of two.
A real-life DaVinci code?
An Italian musician and computer technician claims to have uncovered musical notes encoded in Leonardo Da Vinci's "Last Supper," raising the possibility that the Renaissance genius might have left behind a somber composition to accompany the scene depicted in the 15th-century wall painting.

"It sounds like a requiem," Giovanni Maria Pala said. "It's like a soundtrack that emphasizes the passion of Jesus."
(Via Instapundit.)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"'Robo-moth' melds insect, machine". And more stories on animal brains in robotic bodies (2nd paragraph down).
"Nonlocality of a Single Particle Demonstrated Without Objections"
"Why bad employees don't get fired". (Via Mental Floss.)
Researchers have fashioned the world's tiniest radio out of a carbon nanotube:
The nanotube radio works differently than a conventional radio does. Conventional radios have four main functional parts: antenna, tuner, amplifier, and demodulator. Radio waves falling on a radio antenna create electric currents at different frequencies. When someone selects a radio station, the tuner filters out all but one of the frequencies. Transistors amplify the signal, while a demodulator, typically a rectifier or a diode, separates the data--the music or other audio--that has been encoded on a "carrier" electromagnetic wave.

Zettl's team used one carbon nanotube for all these functions. Because of their unique electrical properties, carbon nanotubes have been previously used to make electronic components such as diodes, transistors, and rectifiers. "It was a revelation that all of this could be built into the same [nanotube]," Zettl says.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Twins were born last weekend but due to the time change from DST to Standard time, the 2nd twin has an official birth time before the first twin:
Everyone knows the pecking order in a family has everything to do with age. The oldest sibling usually rules the roost. But what if you get cheated out of the title because of Daylight Saving Time?

Peter Sullivan Cirioli was dubbed "Baby A" at WakeMed Cary when he arrived early Sunday morning.

"Yes, Peter was born first, it was at 1:32 a.m.," mother Laura Cirioli said.

Thirty-four minutes later, Peter's twin sister, Allison Raye Cirioli, known as "Baby B," made her entrance into the world.

Because of Daylight Saving Time, Allison's time of birth was 1:06 a.m., which makes her 26 minutes older than her brother even though he was born first.
(Via BBspot.)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Speculist has an exclusive interview with the scientist who discovered the cancer-proof mouse.
"Random-Access Warehouses: A company called Kiva Systems is speeding up Internet orders with robotic systems that are modeled on random-access computer memory."
The most caffeinated city in the US is Chicago.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Some interesting examples of concepts that have a word in foreign languages, but no single word equivalent in English:
Pesamenteiro - Portuguese: one who joins groups of mourners at the home of a dead person, apparently to offer condolences but in reality is just there for the refreshments.

Hanyauku - Rukwangali, Namibia: walking on tiptoes across warm sand.

Tartle - Scottish: to hesitate when you are introducing someone whose name you can't quite remember.

Prozvonit - Czech and Slovak: to call someone's mobile from your own to leave your number in their memory without them picking it up.

Pelinti - Buli, Ghana: to move very hot food around inside one's mouth.

Biritululo - Kiriwani, Papua New Guinea: comparing yams to settle a dispute.

Poronkusema - Finnish: the distance equal to how far a reindeer can travel without a comfort break.

Shvitzer - Yiddish: someone who sweats a lot, especially a nervous seducer.

Gattara - Italian: a woman, often old and lonely, who devotes herself to stray cats.

Baffona - Italian: an attractive moustachioed woman.
Scientists and Proctor and Gamble have sequenced the gene for the organism that causes dandruff.
Dr. Jay Parkinson explains why many doctors won't use e-mail to communicate with their patients:
When I first went live with my practice on September 24th, 2007, I received plenty of criticism regarding patient privacy and security. Many people questioned my compliance with HIPAA, a federal law the vast majority of physicians and institutions in America have to abide by in order to protect patients’ private health information (PHI). PHI is defined as any situation where there is an identifying factor (such as name or SSN) associated with a diagnosis. For example, John Smith is telling me about his seasonal allergy symptoms via AIM. Under HIPAA, if I were IM’ing with a patient using an unsecure chat application, like AIM, I could face thousands of dollars in fines. If I revealed this health information with criminal intent, I could face up to $250,000 in fines and 10 years in prison.

If I signed contracts with insurance companies and/or Medicare and submitted online claims to these companies I would have to abide by HIPAA. My entire practice would be illegal. I could not email, IM, text, or video chat anyone using the ubiquitous most popular communication apps (like AIM, gmail, etc.) without breaking federal law. They are not encrypted and considered not secure. I would be fined out of existence and, if argued in court, I could even face years of jail time.

If any of you are wondering why your own doctor doesn’t communicate with you using email, IM, and other ways that simply make sense in today’s world, wonder no further. They break federal law with every email and IM since the vast majority of physicians have contracts with insurance companies or Medicare.

...Because I do not take health insurance, I am free from HIPAA regulations and therefore I can conveniently communicate with you in ways that simply and plainly just make sense in today’s world. People have criticized me, a solo physician who will likely have about 1,000 patients in my practice, about security and privacy (FYI...all of my patient medical records are encrypted, password protected twice on my laptop and backed up daily to a secure, encrypted remote server). Those who question me seem horribly concerned about my patients’ privacy. Meanwhile, those of you who do have health insurance with the major insurance companies, please beware. Your name, SSN, and medical information are stored along with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of other people in enormous databases at your mega-insurance company. The people responsible for that CD they’re using to transport maybe 196,000 people’s PHI aren’t doing such a good job. I guarantee I won’t have to provide 12 months of free Equifax to you if you are my patient. Go with the big guys and kiss your privacy goodbye. I personally use Apple’s encryption technology called Firevault. According to Apple, it could take as long as 149 trillion years to crack my password using a computer that could attempt it every second.
(Via KevinMD.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"Why are they called 'trailers' if they're shown before the movie?"
"Anti-social bot invades Second Lifers' personal space: An ill-mannered automated avatar is assisting psychological experiments in the virtual world – and raising ethical concerns too..."
Levitating lamps.
"25 Photographs Taken at the Exact Right Time". (Via Cynical-C.)
I don't think I'd do well at either half of chessboxing.
Defeating CAPTCHA's with porn:
Spammers have created a Windows game which shows a woman in a state of undress when people correctly type in text shown in an accompanying image.

The scrambled text images come from sites which use them to stop computers automatically signing up for accounts that can be put to illegal use.

By getting people to type in the text the spammers can take over the accounts and use them to send junk mail.
(Via Bruce Schneier.)
High speed video of popcorn kernel popping. (Via GMSV.)
Convert any URL into a HugeURL. (Via Found On The Web.)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Engadget vs. Gizmodo smackdown. As Gizmodo's Brian Lam says, "We're like two samurai in the movies. We might respect each other's skills, but in the end we have a job to do, and one of us is going to kill the other."
Cellphone jammers: "Sweet but illegal".
Flying robotic insect spies.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

"If We Had No Moon". (Via BBspot.)
"Who won, the Hatfields or the McCoys?"
Consumer revenge story of the day:
"Consumer's Revenge Against Restaurant Not Honoring Coupons"

Three co-workers and I went out to lunch. We brought a coupon that said, "Buy one entree, and receive 50% off a second entree of equal or lower price." Three of us ordered food from the Entree section of the menu, but one of us ordered something from the [cheap] Sandwich section.

When the bill came, they had given us the sandwich for half price. I complained to the waiter, pointing out that the sandwich was not an entree. He did not budge. I asked to speak to the manager. After a while, the waiter returned and said he had spoken to the manager, who also refused to honor the coupon. He said that the 50% was off the cheapest meal on the menu, whether it was an entree or not.

For the next week, I scrounged up about 10 of the same coupons...

Then I returned to the restaurant with my co-workers. I handed out these coupons to other customers. The restaurant staff became furious. They wanted to kick us out, but we already had our food. They asked me which customers I'd given the coupons to, but I refused to say. I related the sandwich story, and they really didn't have any recourse.

So I never did get the $3 or whatever they owed me. But I got way more than $3 in entertainment, satisfaction, and the admiration of my co-workers.

After we left, a waiter ran after us in the parking lot to write down our license plate number. Be we never returned.