Wednesday, October 31, 2007

If it's Halloween, then it's time for extreme pumpkins.
"MIT researchers improve 'tractor beam'".
The fastest Windows Vista notebook is a MacBook Pro. (Via Fark.)
"How to Win an Election: Make a Good First Impression (in Less than 250 Milliseconds)"

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"One-third of lottery winners find themselves in serious financial trouble or bankrupt within five years of turning in their lucky numbers..." (Via Consumerist.)
Ars Technica has a nice detailed review of Apple's new Leopard OS.
"The Ethics of Erasing a Bad Memory". (Via SciTechDaily.)
"What's the Going Rate for Bribing a Traffic Cop?":
I am told that the top and bottom limit in the United States is $100. No need to offer more; don't bother offering less. The delicate issue, of course, is how it's proffered. Best defense: Let it fall "absentmindedly" to the ground as you pull out your driver's license (don't look at the money). You haven't offered anything; it's the cop's choice to pick it up after you leave. But as with any bribe, you could lose your $100, get nailed for the ticket and wind up in county jail.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Invention of the day: The xkcd Cuddle Mattress.
"We live in a world where universities compete to build the most powerful antimatter beam." (Via Gravity Lens.)
"Accused speeder to cops: My GPS proves your radar gun is wrong"
While many GPS systems don't log travel details extensively enough to be used as a defense against a moving violation, Malone's car was outfitted with a device that could do just that. According to [stepfather Roger] Rude, all recorded plots on Malone's route show him to be driving under the speed limit. At the same time, Rude says, GPS-systems are clearly more reliable than radar systems, which, while good, are "not an infallible tool" and are subject to human error.
Mathematical fortune telling.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

"The art of sharpening pencils". (Via GMSV.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

"Climate is too complex for accurate predictions":
Climate change models, no matter how powerful, can never give a precise prediction of how greenhouse gases will warm the Earth, according to a new study.

The result will provide ammunition to those who argue not enough is known about global warming to warrant taking action.

...What is more, they found that better computer models or observational data will not do much to reduce that uncertainty. A better estimate of sensitivity is the holy grail of climate research, but it is time to "call off the quest", according to a commentary published alongside the paper.
Which raises the question as to why major policy decisions are being advocated based on inherently unreliable models.
"Glue That Sticks to Nearly Everything"
Best and worst logo remakes. (Via Cynical-C.)
Invisibility update: "'Electromagnetic Wormhole' Could Make Objects Invisible". (Via SciTechDaily.)
How robust is the internet?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Counterfactual sports t-shirts: Immediately after a major sports championship such as a Super Bowl, the winners get pre-made t-shirts proclaiming their victory. But what happens to t-shirts that were made in case the other team had won? They get sent to Africa. It sure would be a cool collectors' item to have all 4 of the "Buffalo Bills Super Bowl Champion" counterfactual t-shirts for 1991-1994.
Some good news on the Stormbot front.
Software geek-entrepreneur Francisco Gutierrez posts his Annual Rant On Taxes. I completely agree with his criticisms of the current system. (Disclamer: I haven't studied the various "fair tax" proposals in detail, so I don't necessarily endorse that particular solution.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Reporter Alex Frankel went undercover for 2 years as an Apple Store retail worker, and reports on his findings. He has a generally very positive assessment of their retail culture. (Via TUAW.)
"Detecting Restaurant Credit Card Fraud with Checksums". (Via Bruce Schneier.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stormbot update: Bruce Schneier thinks it is a significant problem that may cause more problems than anticipated. (Here's a related article from his blog.)

On the other hand, Brandon Enright thinks the worst is over for Storm.
200 Colorado state employees hatched a scheme to purchase World Series tickets using the fast, state-owned supercomputers at the Colorado Emergency Operations Center. Fortunately, they were caught.
Interesting facts about the 5 smallest countries in the world. I guess they don't count the Principality of Sealand as a real country. (Via BBspot.)
How times have changed for Apple and Dell:

In October 1997, Michael Dell was asked what he would do if he ran Apple Computer. His reply, "I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholder". At that time, Dell had a market value of $4 billion to Apple's $700 million.

In October 2007, "Apple's valuation has since soared to $150 billion, more than double that of its personal-computer rival. Last month, Apple passed PC leader Hewlett-Packard Co. in market capitalization for the first time." (Via Fark.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

The neurophysiology of religious experience.
"In today’s America, there are more World of Warcraft players than farmers."
"Brewery offers lifetime supply of beer in return for stolen laptop"
"How Google maps the world"

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I never knew that Albus Dumbledore was gay.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Updated casting choices for the new Star Trek movie by J.J.Abrams:
Chris Pine (Just My Luck) will play a young Captain James T. Kirk and Karl Urban (Lord of the Rings) has been cast as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy in J.J. Abrams' upcoming Star Trek movie for Paramount. ...Just last week, Abrams cast John Cho (Harold and Kumar) as Sulu, Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz) as Scotty, and Eric Bana (Hulk) as the villain Nero. Also on board are Zoe Saldana (Guess Who, Drumline) as the young Uhura, Anton Yelchin (Hearts in Atlantic) as the young Chekov, and Zachary Quinto (Heroes) as the young Spock. Original Spock Leonard Nimoy will also appear in the movie. Little is known about the plot other than it will probably chronicle the Enterprise crew's early days at the Starfleet Academy.
As some commentators have noted, it's sounding a lot like Star Trek: 90210.

In other television SF news:
Fox is set to premiere its new series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles on Monday, Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. and will air the show Monday nights alongside 24. The show stars Lena Headey (Aberdeen, 300) as Sarah Connor, who, along with her son John (Thomas Dekker), battle attackers from the future.
Auto-ramen restaurants.
"Quantum cryptography to protect Swiss election"
"The Blow Up": Interesting story (Part 1 and Part 2) about the Wall Street "quants" and the summer 2007 financial crisis. It looks like many in the industry still don't sufficiently take into account the "Black Swans" described by Nassim Taleb.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Which American laws go unenforced? (Via BBspot.)
"Astrophysicist Replaces Supercomputer with Eight PlayStation 3s". Yes, this is a real story not an Onion satire.
Neuroscience update on the biological basis of deja vu, out-of-body experiences, the creepy feeling that you're being watched, etc.
Steven Pinker has written an interesting essay, "Why We Curse". Warning: It does contain a number of curse words that may be NSFW. (Via Cosmic Log.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Invisibility made easier".
"Sex and Marriage With Robots by 2050". (Via Gravity Lens.)
How does it feel to die? (Via Cosmic Log.)
"The most powerful Internet weapon on the planet is hiding in plain sight, and no one can do anything about it":
The weapon in question is the Storm botnet. This is the largest botnet ever seen, and it is acting like something out of a science fiction story. The Storm network is now believed capable to shutting down any military or commercial site on the planet. Or, Storm could cripple hundreds of related sites temporarily. Or, Storm could do some major damage in ways that have not yet been experienced. There's never been anything quite like Storm...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Update on neuromarketing: "This is your brain on advertising". (Via SciTechDaily.)
"The Internet may be killing the pop CD, but it's helping classical music."
"Why are pirates depicted with a parrot on their shoulder?"

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Admin note: Due to external obligations, posting will be sparse-to-nonexistent until Tuesday October 16.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Flying cars within one year?
The best way to deflect asteroids may be with mirrors.
Fake plane trips are surprisingly popular in India. (Via Volokh.)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"Human-Animal Cybrids"
"WtF" apparently stands for "Welcome to Finland".
The Wallet Test: This group dropped 100 wallets in a public place (each containing a small amount of cash, a fake $50 gift certificate, and an ID) in front of a hidden camera in order to see who would keep the wallet and who would return it. They then tabulated their results, including a breakdown by age, race, and gender. There's also a FAQ and a short 8-minute video about the project.

They are careful to make the following disclaimer:
Note: It was not the intention of this experiment to make any particular group look bad, reinforce stereotypes nor to further a hidden agenda of any kind. The actions of a few members in a group should not, of course, be used to judge the whole group.
Of course, there's plenty of online discussion, questions, and ranting about the meaning and significance of the results.

For those who care, it is technically a crime to fail to return a lost wallet in Illinois, where the test was performed (720 ILCS 5/16-2 "Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property".) This may or may not be widely known amongst the general population however.

(Via Clicked.)
"How Pickpockets Work"

Monday, October 08, 2007

What does The Simpsons have to say about cosmology? Or "Doughnuts -- Is there anything they can't do?" (Via SciTechDaily.)
Robert Heinlein quote of the day:
Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded -- here and there, now and then -- are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as "bad luck."
(Via Instapundit.)
"A long-lost text by the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes shows that he had begun to discover the principles of calculus."
Interesting maps of the internet. I especially like the city-to-city connectivity map. (Via /.)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Who else is tired of hearing about "Web 3.0"?
Jennifer Pariser, the head of litigation for Sony BMG, says that it's wrong to make a copy of a song you've already bought for your own personal use:
...[Attorney Richard] Gabriel asked if it was wrong for consumers to make copies of music which they have purchased, even just one copy. Pariser replied, "When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Making "a copy" of a purchased song is just "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy'," she said.
"New plastic is strong as steel, transparent".

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Droplets "can defy gravity and travel up hill -- even on an incline as steep as 85 degrees -- if the surface vibrates up and down sufficiently strongly."
TUAW Interview: "Ambrosia's Andrew Welch on the iPhone update and iToner."
Kyle Haight says:
You Know You're A Geek When...

... you're listening to a history lecture on the Reformation and you have to fight down the urge to ask the teacher why Superman didn't do anything to stop the spread of Lutheranism.
"Could a Computer Hypnotize You?"

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"Gold rings create first true invisibility cloak":
The world's first true invisibility cloak -- a device able to hide an object in the visible spectrum -- has been created by physicists in the US. But don't expect it to compete with stage magic tricks. So far it only works in two dimensions and on a tiny scale.

The new cloak, which is just 10 micrometres in diameter, guides rays of light around an object inside and releases them on the other side. The light waves appear to have moved in a straight line, so the cloak -- and any object inside -- appear invisible.
"Levels of Losing, Version 2.0". (Via Volokh.)
The physics of knots in strings.
"5 Things Hollywood Thinks Computers Can Do"

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Some people are getting a little too attached to their robots.
The rise of DNA evidence to exonerate wrongly convicted suspects has led several states to change their rules of evidence, including DNA evidence, eyewitness testimony, "double-blind" lineups and how testimony from criminal informants is handled.
Why are there only two sexes?
"If A Meeting Were a Blog Comment Thread..." (Via Timothy Sandefur.)

Monday, October 01, 2007

"The 8 Most Common Sci-Fi Visions of the Future (And Why They'll Never Happen)"
"Water forms floating 'bridge' when exposed to high voltage"
"33 Different Ways To Lace Shoes". And "16 Ways To Lace Shoes With Lugs". (Via Found On The Web.)
The first mobile phone:
Motorola's DynaTAC (Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage) 8000X was the world's first commercially released mobile phone -- making its debut in 1983 at the price of $3,995.

...The company spent over $100-million and 15 years developing the technology. At 13 x 1.75 x 3.5 in., the DynaTAC 8000X featured an LED display and up to 30-minutes of talk time when fully charged. It was available in three different color combinations, which included tan/gray, tan, and dark gray.