Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Admin note: Because of the holiday, GeekPress will take a long weekend off. Regular posting will resume on Monday, January 5, 2009.

Happy New Year!
"73.4 Percent of All Wikipedia Edits Are Made By Roughly 1,400 People".
Don't forget the Leap Second tonight.
Japanese vs. Western web design.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Winning friends in Afghanistan with Viagra:
...Such was the case with the 60-year-old chieftain who received the four pills from a U.S. operative. According to the retired operative who was there, the man was a clan leader in southern Afghanistan who had been wary of Americans -- neither supportive nor actively opposed. The man had extensive knowledge of the region and his village controlled key passages through the area. U.S. forces needed his cooperation and worked hard to win it, the retired operative said.

After a long conversation through an interpreter, the retired operator began to probe for ways to win the man's loyalty. A discussion of the man's family and many wives provided inspiration. Once it was established that the man was in good health, the pills were offered and accepted.

Four days later, when the Americans returned, the gift had worked its magic, the operative recalled.

"He came up to us beaming," the official said. "He said, 'You are a great man.' "

"And after that we could do whatever we wanted in his area."
"Carrying Gunpowder through Airport Security".

As long as it's in clear 3-oz plastic bags, it must be ok. (Via Bruce Schneier.)
Sudoku and optimization algorithms.
Awesome archive of historical photographs via Life magazine and Google. (Via Michael Williams.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

"Is anybody in charge of keeping satellites from colliding?"
MacGyver multitool. (Via BBspot.)
Vanity license plates that slipped past the DMV. (Via Radley Balko.)
The British Royal Navy has chosen to use Windows XP as the operating system for its nuclear submarine fleet. In contrast, the US Navy uses Linux.

(I wonder if the the little "clippy" assistant asks, "It looks like you're trying to launch a missile...")

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Admin note: Due to the holiday, GeekPress will be on hiatus the rest of the week. Regular posting will on resume Monday, December 29. Merry Christmas!
Do you have a privacy right to numbers stored on your cell phone?
Another clever speed camera hack.
Turn cheap "plonk" into a fine vintage by exposing it to an electric field.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Anti-Anti-Missile Missiles".
Dark energy is either nonexistent or it makes up 3/4-th of the universe.
Eric Raymond's musings on Schroedinger's Cat and asking the right questions.
"Interactive fly-through of Mount St. Helens". You can control the video with your computer mouse. (Via JRW.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Behind the scenes at Underwriters Laboratories.

This is a classic free market success story of a private safety certification organization filling an important consumer demand.
"Two U.S. scientists have created a step-by-step guide on how to build a supercomputer using multiple PlayStation 3 video-game consoles."

Here's the guide. (Via IPList.)
"Fancy underground robot bike parking in Tokyo". (Via Instapundit.)
"Students in Montgomery County, Maryland use fake license plates to send speed camera tickets to enemies":
High school students in Maryland are using speed cameras as a tool to fine innocent drivers in a game, according to the Montgomery County Sentinel newspaper. Because photo enforcement devices will automatically mail out a ticket to any registered vehicle owner based solely on a photograph of a license plate, any driver could receive a ticket if someone else creates a duplicate of his license plate and drives quickly past a speed camera. The private companies that mail out the tickets often do not bother to verify whether vehicle registration information for the accused vehicle matches the photographed vehicle.

...A speed camera is located out in front of Wootton High School, providing a convenient location for generating the false tickets. Instead of purchasing license plates, students have ready access to laser printers that can create duplicate license plates using glossy paper using readily available fonts. For example, the state name of "Maryland" appears on plates in a font similar to Garamond Number 5 Swash Italic. Once the camera flashes, the driver can quickly pull over and remove the fake paper plate. The victim will receive a $40 ticket in the mail weeks later.
These speed cameras are an technological implementation of the flawed principle of "guilty until proven innocent". These sorts of "pranks" are a predictable consequence of this bad approach to enforcing the law.

(Via IP List.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Now this is a UAV! (Via Howard Roerig.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Police Officers Become Accidental YouTube Stars".

The article notes that videotaping police is entirely legal, as long as it doesn't interefere with the performance of their duties. Unfortunately some NYPD officers hold the following mistaken view:
An officer directing traffic in Brooklyn asserted that it is illegal to tape police officers. "If I know that he's taking video, I'm going to walk up to him and stop him," the officer said.
Or in another encounter:
...[A] man asks an officer if he may film him, and the officer replies, "You going to post them on the Internet? Then I'm going to have to break your camera over your face." But he and other officers laugh, as does the cameraman, who eventually walks away. The video had 19,370 views as of Tuesday evening.
(Via Instapundit.)
"Medical myths for the holiday season: True, false or unproven?":
Sugar makes kids hyperactive.
Suicides increase over the holidays.
Poinsettias are toxic.
You lose most of your body heat through your head.
Eating at night makes you fat.
You can cure a hangover with...
The Max Planck Institute wanted some classical Chinese poetry for the front cover of its journal, but inadverently ended up with something entirely different:
There were red faces on the editorial board of one of Germany's top scientific institutions, the Max Planck Institute, after it ran the text of a handbill for a Macau strip club on the front page of its latest journal. Editors had hoped to find an elegant Chinese poem to grace the cover of a special issue, focusing on China, of the MaxPlanckForschung journal, but instead of poetry they ran a text effectively proclaiming "Hot Housewives in action!" on the front of the third-quarter edition.
(Via ALDaily.)
Who owns the moon?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Best condom commercial ever. (Via Maximizing Progress.)
"How the Barack Obama tapped into a powerful and only recently studied human emotion called 'elevation'."

(The article does correctly note that this emotion can be elicited by advocates of both good and bad ideas.)
New trailer for Terminator: Salvation.
xkcd's guide to understanding flowcharts. In flowchart form, of course!
"Semiconductor Lasers Generate Better Random Numbers"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ten bad tech predictions. (Via BBspot.)
Video of the day: A 30-year visual history of Apple products.
"The Best/Worst of SkyMall 2008".

(I must confess that Diana and I each own a Slanket and are very happy with them.)
"Newborn had foot, other body parts, imbedded in brain"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

US government reveals MKV (Multiple Kill Vehicle) hovering robot:
A video released by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) shows the MKV being tested at the National Hover Test Facility at Edwards Air Force Base, in California.

Inside a large steel cage, Lockheed's MKV lifts off the ground, moves left and right, rapidly firing as flames shoot out of its bottom and sides. This description doesn't do it any justice really, you have to see the video yourself.

During the test, the MKV is shown to lift off under its own propulsion, and remains stationary, using it’s on board retro-rockets. The potential of this drone is nothing short of science-fiction.

When watching the video, you can't help but be reminded of post-apocalyptic killing machines, seen in such films as The Terminator and The Matrix.
(Via Bruce Schneier.)
Best pranks from "The Office". (Via DRB.)
The mathematics of procrastination:
...The equation is U=EV/ID.

The 'U' stands for utility, or the desire to complete a given task. It is equal to the product of E, the expectation of success, and V the value of completion, divided by the product of I, the immediacy of the task, and D, the personal sensitivity to delay.
(Via SciTechDaily.)
Jeff Patterson has a new short story out about love, family, and alien contact called "Trajectories".

Monday, December 15, 2008

Robot density is highest in Europe.

As Kottke notes, "When the war with the machines starts, Africa will be humanity's last stronghold."
Self-healing coatings.
"Can animals sense earthquakes?"
Self-destructing USB drive:
Passwords can be hacked, but not the IronKey. It's built to withstand attacks both virtual and physical.

10 incorrect password attempts, and the encryption chip self-destructs, making the contents of the flash drive totally unreadable. The contents of the drive are filled with epoxy, so if a hacker tries to physically access the chips, he'd more likely damage them instead.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tasteless animation of Simpsons cartoon characters having sex is ruled "child pornography":
Judge Michael Adams decided that it could, and found a man from Sydney guilty of possessing child pornography on his computer.

The defence had argued that the fictional, animated characters were not real people, and clearly departed from the human form.

They therefore contested that the conviction for the possession of child pornography should be overturned.

Justice Michael Adams said the purpose of anti-child pornography legislation was to stop sexual exploitation and child abuse where images of "real" children were depicted.

But in a landmark ruling he decided that the mere fact that they were not realistic representations of human beings did not mean that they could not be considered people.
This is in Australia, not the US. But sooner or later, a similar question will arise in the US. I just hope American judges don't make a similarly foolish ruling. (Via Transterrestrial Musings.)
Beware these tourist scams. (Via Bruce Schneier.)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Admin note: There will be no blogging for a few days. My wife and I had to put our dog Kate to sleep this morning. She had been suffering from an abdominal tumor which finally spread to her spinal cord.

We had her for almost 9 years (adopted from a shelter as a full-grown adult). She was a sweet, cheerful, faithful, loyal, and protective girl who gave us many years of happiness.

Rest in peace, Kate.



(Diana's tribute to Kate is here.)
More support for using brain boosting drugs.
"The Stories Behind Hollywood Studio Logos". (Via BBspot.)
The Supersizing Illusion. (Via Instapundit.)
How to teach your iPhone some dirty words.

Monday, December 08, 2008

"Prisoner Escapes by Mailing Himself Out of Jail". (Via Bruce Schneier.)
"Fifty years of popular songs condensed into a single sentence". (Via Kottke.)
The game theory of the Travelers' Dilemma.
"What is truth serum?"

Friday, December 05, 2008

Taking the asteroid threat seriously.
Prescription handguns? (Via Michael Williams.)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Admin note: Due to external obligations, posting may be light to non-existent for the rest of the week.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

How physicists make lunch. (Via DRB.)
"First Light-Driven Nanomachine"
Lemon-powered clock.
"How do female astronauts menstruate in space?"

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"Top 10 Amazing Biology Videos"
Faster MRI scanning with superadiabaticity.
"Why You Should Always Check Your Kid's Homework". (Via The Agitator.)
"Every Episode of House Ever". (Via Hoondat Report.)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Humorous economics video of the day: "Real Estate Downfall". (Via Rule of Reason.)
Two Bowling Balls problem. (Via BBspot.)
Office sign of the day. (Via Flibbertigibbet.)
"How much force does it take to stab somebody to death? Strangely enough, forensic scientists do not know..."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Admin note: Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, posting will be light today.

Regular posting will resume on Monday December 1. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
"Sleep reduces harmful buildup of too many connections in the brain..."
What does NASA recycled water taste like? Apparently, "Not bad". (Via BBspot.)
"Jet-pack pilot soars over Royal Gorge". Includes video, of course. (Via Howard Roerig.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Now these are my kind of Christmas Cards!
Contestants in the Netflix Prize competition are tormented by the Napoleon Dynamite problem.
Grape-sized single-cell organisms.
"12 Excellent Free Text Editors for Coders". (Via BBspot.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Map of the US showing only the streets. (Via The Agitator.)
Ultrathin loudspeakers made from carbon nanotubules.
Childrens' brains reorganize as they learn math.
"When you get pregnant from your identical twin's ovary, who's the mom?"

Friday, November 21, 2008

Online self-test for early Alzheimer's disease. (Via Instapundit.)
Today's math joke:
An infinite number of mathematicians walk into a bar.
The first one orders a beer.
The second orders half a beer.
The third, a quarter of a beer.
The bartender says "You're all idiots", and pours two beers.
(Via Bryan at the Hoondat Report.)
"What the Google phone stole from the iPhone"
Behind the scenes at The Onion. (Via ALDaily.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Magic and the Brain: How Magicians 'Trick' the Mind"
"Can a single molecule behave as a mirror?"
The Neuroscience of Con Games: "The key to a con is not that you trust the conman, but that he shows he trusts you". (Via Bruce Schneier.)
How advertisers are modifying television commercials so they still affect viewers fast-forwarding through them on the DVRs.
Academic radiologists whose last names begin with "A", "B", or "C" are being disproportionately overloaded with editorial peer review work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Interplanetary internet passes test"
"Billions of particles of anti-matter created in laboratory"
Star Trek trailers. (Via Dave Does the Blog.)
Underground data center fit for a James Bond villain:
This underground data center has greenhouses, waterfalls, German submarine engines, simulated daylight and can withstand a hit from a hydrogen bomb. It looks like the secret HQ of a James Bond villain.

And it is real. It is a newly opened high-security data center run by one of Sweden’s largest ISPs, located in an old nuclear bunker deep below the bedrock of Stockholm city, sealed off from the world by entrance doors 40 cm thick (almost 16 inches).
Includes lots of pictures. (Via DRB.)
Bizarre iPhone glitch of the day, as reported on the Apple Support Forums:
Please help! I took my husband's i-phone and found a raunchy picture of him attached to an e-mail to a woman in his sent e-mail file (a Yahoo account).

When I approached him about this (I think that he is cheating on me) he admitted that he took the picture but says that he never sent it to anyone.

He claims that he went to the Genius Bar at the local Apple store and they told him that it is an i-phone glitch: that photos sometimes automatically attach themselves to an e-mail address and appear in the sent folder, even though no e-mail was ever sent.

Has anyone ever heard of this happening? The future of my marriage depends on this answer!
As GMSV notes, "the consensus is that there is a glitch, but it's with her marriage"...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Why Apple Won't Allow Adobe Flash on iPhone"
Poker bots aren't quite good enough to beat the best humans, but they're getting close.
Were "concrete shoes" a favored technique of mob hitmen?
"How rocks evolve".
Computer verification of mathematical proofs.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The most common password is now "password1". (It used to be "password".)
Fake calls for iPhone.
Breaking quantum encryption with time travel.
Do analog audio recordings really sound "warmer" than digital ones?:
Several years ago, a roomful of engineers performed a series of blind tests on a stack of reference recordings to see if they could distinguish those made using tube technology from others made with transistors. All imagined they would have little trouble picking the tube-based recordings by the warmth of the sound. What they found instead was an ear-opener...
Apparently, it's all about the even-numbered harmonics.
"Ancient Greeks pre-empted Dead Parrot sketch":
"I'll tell you what's wrong with it. It's dead, that's what's wrong with it."

For those who believe the ancient Greeks thought of everything first, proof has been found in a 4th century AD joke book featuring an ancestor of Monty Python's Dead Parrot sketch where a man returns a parrot to a shop, complaining it is dead.

The 1,600-year-old work entitled "Philogelos: The Laugh Addict," one of the world's oldest joke books, features a joke in which a man complains that a slave he has just bought has died, its publisher said Friday.

"By the gods," answers the slave's seller, "when he was with me, he never did any such thing!"...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Math jokes. (Via Neatorama.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Off-topic weekend political post: The November 13, 2008 Denver Post has published my OpEd on the Republican Party.
"How the GOP lost my vote"
Paul Hsieh

After a resounding electoral defeat, in which voters in this once-red state rejected Republicans McCain, Schaffer, and Musgrave, the Colorado Republican Party will undoubtedly be asking themselves, "Why did we lose?"

I want to let them know that they lost the vote of many former supporters (including myself) because they have chosen to embrace the Religious Right.

I voted Republican in 1996, 2000, and 2004. I believe in limited government, individual rights, free market capitalism, a strong national defense, and the right to keep and bear arms - positions that one normally associates with Republicans.

But I didn't vote for a single Republican in 2008. I've become increasingly alienated by the Republicans" embrace of the religious "social conservative" agenda, including attempts to ban abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and gay marriage.

The Founding Fathers correctly recognized that the proper function of government is to protect individual rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion. But freedom of religion also implies freedom *from* religion. As Thomas Jefferson famously put it, there should be a "wall of separation" between church and state. Public policy should not be based on religious doctrines.

Instead, the government's role is to protect each person's right to practice his or her religion as a private matter and to forbid them from forcibly imposing their particular views on others. And this is precisely why I find the Republican Party's embrace of the Religious Right so dangerous.

If a woman chooses not to have an abortion for reasons of personal faith, then I completely respect her right to do so. But she cannot impose her particular religious views on others. Other women must have the same right to decide that deeply personal issue for themselves.

The Religious Right's goal of outlawing abortions would violate that important right, and sacrifice the lives of actual women for clumps of cells that are only potential (but not yet actual) human beings, based on religious dogma. As a physician, I find that position abhorrent and deeply anti-life.

In his October 24, 2008 radio broadcast, Rush Limbaugh told pro-choice secular supporters of limited government such as myself that we should leave the Republican Party. Many of us have already taken his advice and changed our affiliation to "independent."

The Republican Party stands at an important crossroads. The Republican Party could choose to follow the principles of the American Founding Fathers and promote a limited government that protected individual rights but otherwise left people alone to live their lives.

This includes affirming the principle of the separation of church and state. If they did so, I would happily support it.

Or the Republican Party could instead choose to become the party of the Religious Right and seek to forcibly impose the religious values of one particular constituency over others (thus violating everyone else's rights).

In that case, it will continue to alienate many voters and lose elections -- and deservedly so.

Even though I no longer regard myself as a Republican, I definitely regard myself as a loyal American.

My parents immigrated legally from Taiwan to America over 40 years ago. They had very little money, but they worked hard, sent two children to college and medical school, and are now enjoying a well-earned and comfortable retirement.

Their life has been a real-life embodiment of the American dream. America is a beacon of hope to millions of people around the world precisely because our system of government allows honest, hard-working people to prosper and thrive.

Our system is a testament to the genius of the Founding Fathers, who recognized that the proper function of government is to protect individual rights, such as our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Hence, I believe the Republican Party should choose the first path - the path of limited government, separation of church and state, and protection of individual rights.

This is the America that brought my parents from a ocean away in hopes of a better life for themselves and their children. This is the America I want to live in. And this is the America I want the Republican Party to stand for.

Paul Hsieh is a practicing physician in the south Denver metro area and co-founder of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM). He lives in Sedalia.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Video of the day: "How A Butterfly Destroyed My Neighbor's Roof". (Via Robb.)
Flying car. (Via Howard Roerig.)
"Scientists have identified the single chance encounter about 1.9 billion years ago to which almost all life on Earth now owes its existence":
It came when an amoeba-like organism engulfed a bacterium that had developed the power to use sunlight to break down water and liberate oxygen.

The bacterium was probably intended as prey, but instead it became incorporated into its attacker's body -- turning it into the ancestor of every tree, flowering plant and seaweed on Earth.

The encounter meant life on the planet could evolve from bacterial slime into the more complex forms of today.

"That single event transformed the evolution of life on Earth," said Paul Falkowski, professor of biogeochemistry and biophysics at Rutgers University in New Jersey. "The descendants of that tiny organism transformed our atmosphere, filling it with the oxygen needed for animals and eventually humans to evolve."
(Via SciTechDaily.)
"How 10 Famous Technology Products Got Their Names".

The list includes: the iPod, BlackBerry, Firefox, Twitter, Windows 7, ThinkPad, Android, Wikipedia, Mac OS X and the "Big Cats," and Red Hat Linux. (Via Gizmodo.)
"How do different religions define death?"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"How To Make Materials Everything-Proof". (This apparently means able to repel water, oil, and alcohol.)
"How Much Ink Is Left in That Dead Cartridge?" According to the article, anywhere from 8% to 45% (!)
Business tip of the day: Don't insult your customers on Facebook.
Card shuffling update: For complete randomization, one generally needs to shuffle a deck of cards 7 times. But for many games of chance, 4 shuffles is probably enough.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Spammers can turn a profit with as little as one sale per 12 million e-mails sent. Researchers found they could generate over $7000 per day from the Storm botnet.

Given this economic incentive, it's no surprise there's so much spam.
Classic sign from the late 1800's or early 1900's telling patrons about that new-fangled "electrical light".

I'm sure glad we're beyond such irrational technophobia in the 21st century!... (Via BBspot.)
Having trouble with writer's block? Then maybe you need "Write Or Die". (Via GMSV.)
Video of the day: Hugh Laurie sings my kind of protest song.
Honda's robotic walking assist device.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gallery of Microsoft Windows over the years.
"Scientists Turn Tequila into Diamonds"
Why military radar operators hate windfarms.
Update on Professor Ronald Mallett's attempt to build a time machine. (Via BBspot.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Cloaking objects at a distance"
"Star Trek Shield May Protect Astronauts". (Via Cosmic Log.)
Red-blue cartograms for 2008.
"Things not to bring to the ER". The list includes:
The snake that bit you.
Things you coughed up.
Things you passed in your stool.
Your disability papers.
Your wife and girlfriend at the same time.
Your pet in need of veterinary care.
(Via KevinMD.)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

"15 videos of amazing rolling ball machines". (Via DDtB.)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

"Cool NASA photo of an erupting volcano in Alaska". (Via Radley Balko.)

Friday, November 07, 2008

The undeclared Cyber War between the US, China, and Russia.
"iPhone tethering coming 'soon'".
"Police Nab Alleged Craigslist Robber"
Big crystals. (Via Mary McKee.)
"VIP Syndrome: Why the rich and powerful might get substandard medical care"

Thursday, November 06, 2008

More amazing high-speed photography. (Via Fark.)
"Windows-to-Mac Key Switching"
"Bejeweled Creator Spills Secrets of Addictive Games"
Self-stabilizing electric bicycle.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

BBspot has a book out!

/subliminal on
"You will make lots of money and be incredibly attractive to the opposite sex if you buy this book"
/subliminal off
"Researchers... have coupled live, swimming bacteria to microscopic beads to develop a self-propelling device, dubbed a nanobot."
Video of the day: "Toys From The Future". (Via Boing Boing.)
"First-hand account of the Charge of the Light Brigade unearthed":
Pte James Olley, of the 4th Light Dragoons, who was in the van of the 1854 cavalry action, tells of how he relentlessly fought the Russians despite having an eye blown out and a chunk of his head torn off.

The three-page document is believed to be one of the only eyewitness accounts by a frontliner and is expect to fetch about £2,000 at auction...
(Via Rand Simberg.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Happy Election Day! The following two quotes pretty much summarize my views on this American institution.

The first is from Sydney J. Harris:
"Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be."
The second quote is commonly (but erroneously) attributed to Benjamin Franklin:
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch."
UCSD computer scientists can duplicate a working key from a photographs taken 200 feet away.
"The incredible, flexible, movable house". (Via SciTechDaily.)
"Otto the octopus has caused havoc in his aquarium by performing juggling tricks using his fellow occupants, smashing rocks against the glass and turning off the power by shortcircuiting a lamp."

Monday, November 03, 2008

"Fighting With Photons": The Economist reviews the current state of real-life raygun technology.
Update on knot theory.
"A brief history of Japan's culture of techno-toilets"
"E-mail error ends up on road sign":
When officials asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign, they thought the reply was what they needed.

Unfortunately, the e-mail response to Swansea council said in Welsh: "I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated".

So that was what went up under the English version which barred lorries from a road near a supermarket.
(Via Volokh.)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Crazy things that dogs have swallowed.

Friday, October 31, 2008

"Jacking into the Brain: Is the Brain the Ultimate Computer Interface?"
I know a few people who need this Caps Lock Trainer Key. (Via Boing Boing.)
The ultimate evil computer program:
A group of scientists is building the world's most evil computer program. This isn't a B-movie setup: A team at Rensselaer Institute's AI & Reasoning Lab is bringing personified evil to virtual life in the hope that they'll unlock the secrets of human morality. The researchers have given their creation a face and a name, and quiz it daily, using its answers to further blacken its hideous character.

Selmer Bringsjord, director of the AI lab and chairman of RPI's Department of Cognitive Science, has created "E," a computer-generated character programmed according to his own definition of evil. E must, according to Bringsjord, be willing to carry out premeditated acts that are immoral and would cause harm to others. And, when E analyzes its reasons for wanting to commit such acts, it must either develop a logically incoherent argument or conclude that it desired to see people harmed.
More info here.

I'm sure glad that nothing could possibly go wrong when building an evil intelligent computer program... (Via Morality War.)
Electoral maps down the years. (Via BBspot.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Hand a friend something hot to hold before you ask for a favor." (Via FuturePundit.)
Harry Potter license plates. (Via Neatorama.)
Now this is an impressive Halloween pumpkin! (Via BBspot.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shameless plug: My radiology practice Invision/Sally Jobe gets mentioned in this October 28, 2008 story in the Wall Street Journal, "CT Scans Gain Favor as Option for Colonoscopy".

The article quotes one of my partners, Dr. Richard Obregon, who was one of the co-authors of the recent September 18, 2008 paper in the New England Journal of Medicine on this topic, "Accuracy of CT Colonography for Detection of Large Adenomas and Cancers".
"Is it safer not to sign the back of your credit cards?"
Cool pictures of slime molds. (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nuclear powered passenger planes. (Via Ari Armstrong.)
Oldest functioning living body part.
Dramatic examples of animal camouflage. (Via Fark.)
"Stinky farts may help regulate blood pressure". Pass the garlic!
"How Matter Licked Antimatter"

Monday, October 27, 2008

I hate it when my MRI machine explodes. (Via KevinMD.)
"Wikipedia and the Meaning of Truth".

Simson Garfinkel discusses the problems that arise when truth isn't based on adherence to the facts of reality but instead to a mixture of authority and social consensus:
Unlike the laws of mathematics or science, wikitruth isn't based on principles such as consistency or observa­bility. It's not even based on common sense or firsthand experience. Wikipedia has evolved a radically different set of epistemological standards--standards that aren't especially surprising given that the site is rooted in a Web-based community, but that should concern those of us who are interested in traditional notions of truth and accuracy. On Wikipedia, objective truth isn't all that important, actually. What makes a fact or statement fit for inclusion is that it appeared in some other publication--ideally, one that is in English and is available free online. "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth," states Wikipedia's official policy on the subject.
Surveillance technology to allegedly predict a crime before it happens.

Fortunately, it can only be used for good and never for evil...
The house that can walk away from trouble. (Via GMSV.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Problems with early e-voting? From CNN (emphasis mine):
...[R]eports of problems are troubling signs for many who are skeptical of whether their votes will count.

Forty-two percent of those surveyed in a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll said they were not confident that their votes could be "accurately cast and counted."

... In West Virginia's Jackson County, there were some reports that voting machines were accidentally recording the wrong vote.

"I went in there and pushed the Democrat ticket, and it jumped to the Republican ticket for president of the United States," said Calvin Thomas, an 81-year-old West Virginian...

The same thing happened to his daughter, Micki Clendenin, when she cast her ballot. In both cases, poll workers at the site had them touch the screen a few more times, and the voting machine changed their ballot to their candidate choice.

"The lady came in, and she was -- very nicely, she just said, 'it's just been doing that.' She said, 'just hit it again.' So we hit it again, and this time it did go to Obama," Clendenin said.
Personally, I don't regard "it's just been doing that" as a very satisfactory response from government representatives. If American voters don't have confidence in the legitimacy of the outcome, this election could be historic in more ways than one...

(Via Techdirt.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

"Giant spider eating a bird caught on camera"
"Darpa Wants to See Inside Your House From The Outside"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Dutch Teens Convicted for Stealing Virtual Items". (Via Michael Williams.)
Keyboard sniffers. (Via BBspot.)
Soft Drink Can Generator. (Via GMSV.)
Comparing Katrina with a near-future Bay Area earthquake.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Boston Globe history of MIT pranks. (Via Found on the Web.)
The generation raised on black-and-white television is more likely to dream in monochrome. (Via SciTechDaily.)
Invention of the day: The Calamente fork is used for twirling spaghetti. Or it makes a great Klingon weapon.
"Space smells like fried steak and hot metal". (Via BBspot.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Blender Defender:
Have a cat that won't stay off your counters? I do. I finally got fed up with it enough to do something about it: scare the crap out of him with a motion-detecting blender (while recording the results for my own amusement, of course).
(Via Gizmodo.)
"What happens to your web stuff when you die?" (Via BBspot.)
Making transistors out of paper.
Spatial eyeballing test.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Self-Assembled Organic Circuits"
"Buckypaper is 10 times lighter but potentially 500 times stronger than steel..."
"Airport security in America is a sham 'security theater' designed to make travelers feel better and catch stupid terrorists. Smart ones can get through security with fake boarding passes and all manner of prohibited items as our correspondent did with ease."
If guys really want to know how long they are...
Yahoo vs. Google throughout the years. (Via BBspot.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

"How Spam is Improving AI".
"Could historic Japanese samurai swords cut a human body in two with one stroke?"
JJ Abrams and the new Star Trek movie. Plus lots of pictures here. (Via Gizmodo.)
Magnetic gift sets.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Top 10 TV News Mishaps". (Via DRB.)
The new Apple trackpads have no buttons. Here's how they'll work.
Awesome pictures of the sun. (Via BBspot.)
The US Army is developing "synthetic telepathy". (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Which new MacBook is right for you?"
You decide: Is this a brilliant 21st century innovation or a ghastly perversion of a time-honored American tradition? Peanut butter slices. (Via Clicked.)
Clever use of the laundromat as a counter-terrorism technique.
"Microscope-On-a-Chip Is One Step Closer to the Tricorder"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

So none of the 6 programs won the Turing Test competition, but the Elbot program came pretty close.

You can chat with Elbot yourself, and perhaps help improve its algorithm so that it might win next time.
"Do we live in a giant cosmic bubble?"
Earth may be trapped in an abnormal bubble of space-time that is particularly void of matter. Scientists say this condition could account for the apparent acceleration of the universe's expansion...
(Via SciTechDaily.)
"A new type of dry glue designed to mimic gecko feet is 10 times stickier than the gravity-defying lizards, and three times stickier than other gecko-inspired glues..."

More details here. (Via Mary McKee.)
"10 Funniest Law-Firm Names". (Via Look At This.)
Big Swing.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Baldness genes.
"7 Spectacularly Skilled High-Speed Photographers". (Via DRB.)
Some rock bands are making more money from Guitar Hero releases than from their albums:
...Aerosmith have made more money from "Guitar Hero: Aerosmith" (pictured above), a version of the video-game that features the band, than from any of their albums. Mr Kotick [of Activision] has even suggested that rather than expecting games companies to pay to license their music, bands should pay to have their music included in games.

...Metallica's new album Death Magnetic" was made available as a download for "Guitar Hero" on the day of its release. (Fans have pointed out that the video-game version actually sounds better than the album.)
Combat zone shopping:
One of the unexpected military impacts of the Internet is the stress Internet shopping has placed on the military mail system. It works like this. Americans can cheaply send things to a soldier overseas, because the troops use a special military address in United States. The military then pays for shipping letters (less frequently) and packages (much more frequently) to wherever the military recipient is on the planet. Because of the ease of shopping online, and the near-universal access to the Internet by troops overseas, more stuff is being bought online and shipped overseas largely at government expense. In 2006, the Department of Defense shipped 112,000 tons overseas. In 2007, that was up to 139,000 tons. This year, it's headed for a total of 180,000 tons. It costs the Department of Defense over half a billion dollars a year to move this stuff, most of it moving by air.

Internet shopping became important both because it improves morale, and also saves lives. Little luxuries mean a lot, and just about anything is available via the Internet. This includes things like Netflix (the low cost two discs a month deal works well with troops overseas). But troops also buy military equipment (and some weapons, like knives) as well. Special clothing and equipment (tools, flashlights, goggles, etc.) are the most common items ordered. When one trooper finds a new item that works real well, the word gets around very quickly. The troops have a network of message boards, social sites (MyPage, FaceBook) and email lists (listservs) that keep everyone informed. Some companies have found themselves quickly sold out of an item, days after a soldier or marine found that, "hey, this works." A lot of those popular gadgets are lifesavers, all because the Internet and the military postal system gets the stuff to the troops quickly and cheaply.
Ultrathin superconductors.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Visit China's Forbidden City -- as a virtual eunuch"

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Jeff Patterson conquers the Solar System. (Via Gravity Lens.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

"Entire-paper plagiarism caught by software". (Via Liriodendron.)
"The Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects..."

The article also notes:
Both [former state Police Superintendent Thomas] Hutchins and [current Police Superintendent Terrence] Sheridan said the activists' names were entered into the state police database as terrorists partly because the software offered limited options for classifying entries.
The 1940's excuse of "I was just following orders!" has now apparently now been upgraded into "The software left me with no other choices!"

(Via IPList.)
Bloggers and the law.
"Can the President grant immunity from prosecution?":
I love Fox's 24. A common plot device in the show is for the bad guy to demand and get a letter of immunity from prosecution signed by the President in exchange for some vital piece of information. The immunity always seems to hinge on the information being true and resulting in the capture of some villain or the recovery of the explosive du jour. Is any of this true? Can one demand immunity from prosecution signed by the President, and, more importantly, can one expect to get it?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Proposed experimental test of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

(Is it possible for the test to fail in one universe but pass in another?)
"Depth": Another great xkcd cartoon, this time going from macro to micro.
HP classic calculator fans might like the following iPhone emulations of the HP-11C and the HP-15C.

(They do cost $15 and $20, respectively. However, after 5 days I'm very pleased with the HP-11c emulator.)
Review of potentially interesting book: "How Round Is Your Circle?"

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"Americas 10 Most Confusing Traffic Signs". (Via Neatorama.)
GPS spoofing. (Via SciTechDaily.)
Atoms and noodles. (Via Marginal Revolution.)
Best OJ headline so far: "With a prison term, maybe Simpson can find real killers".

(From the 10/6/2008 San Francisco Chronicle).

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Web server on a business card. (Via BBspot.)
"Pictured: The moment a grey heron catches a baby rabbit by the ears, drowns it, then swallows the thing whole".

I guess the heron never heard of animal rights... (Via Found on the Web.)
Is there an incentive to redefine "death" to allow easier organ transplantation?
"5 Insane Devices From Kids Cartoons That Actually Exist". (Via Cosmic Log.)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Prison currency is no longer the cigarette, but rather the mackerel:
There's been a mackerel economy in federal prisons since about 2004, former inmates and some prison consultants say. That's when federal prisons prohibited smoking and, by default, the cigarette pack, which was the earlier gold standard.

Prisoners need a proxy for the dollar because they're not allowed to possess cash. Money they get from prison jobs (which pay a maximum of 40 cents an hour, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons) or family members goes into commissary accounts that let them buy things such as food and toiletries. After the smokes disappeared, inmates turned to other items on the commissary menu to use as currency.

...[T]he mack is a good stand-in for the greenback because each can (or pouch) costs about $1 and few -- other than weight-lifters craving protein -- want to eat it.
(Via Marginal Revolution.)
"How do bloggers make money?"
Six AI programs to be put to a Turing Test competition.
"The Pop-Vs.-Soda Map".

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The 2008 Ig Nobel Prizes.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Friday, October 03, 2008

Play Tetris in Mac's Terminal app:
Here's how to do it.

First, open a new Terminal.app (/Applications/Utilities) window and type "emacs," then hit enter.

After the screen loads, press "escape," then "x."

Type "tetris" (lower-case) and hit enter.

There you have it, a fully playable game of Tetris. Use the arrow keys to control the blocks.
If you have a little spare time, feel free to work on "The world's 23 toughest math questions". (Via GMSV.)
"Spontaneous traffic jams are like detonation waves":
We're all familiar with phantom jams, traffic blockages that arise with no apparent cause and that melt away for no discernible reason.

Today Ruben Rosales and pals at MIT and the University of Alberta in Canada coin a new term for the waves that cause these hold ups: they call them jamitons.
Who will protect us against killer asteroids -- the UN? I feel much better now. (Via SciTechDaily.)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

"What can you do with a 12-million-digit prime number?"
xkcd has an excellent cartoon on "height".
Can real-time voice analysis tell you when a politician is lying?
"MIT biological engineers have found a way to mass-produce smell receptors in the laboratory, an advance that paves the way for 'artificial noses' to be created and used in a variety of settings."
"10 future shocks for the next 10 years". As long as that list doesn't include Skynet, then I'm happy...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

"Top 11 Things Geeks Would Do with $700 Billion"
Metal plates for your carry-on luggage that send a message to TSA screeners. The possibilities are endless. Plus it's probably a good way to learn about full-body cavity searches. (Via Bruce Schneier.)
"Dr. Horrible's Evil League of Evil Seeks New (Evil) Members".

I really enjoyed the original micro-series, so I'm glad to see that Joss Whedon will be making new episodes. (Via DDTB.)
"California Scientists Design Working Tricorder".
Some of the dumbest IT help desk questions:
* "Why isn't my wireless mouse connected to the computer?"
* "My laptop was run over by a truck. What should I do?"
* "Can you rearrange the keyboard alphabetically?"
* "How do I read my e-mail?"
* "My computer is telling me to press any key to continue. Where is the 'any' key?"
* "Can you reset the Internet for me?"
* "There are animal crackers in my CD-ROM drive."
* "Can you build me a robot?"
(Via Neatorama.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Light beams that can curve around corners.
StrategyPage makes an interestring prediction about North Korea:
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il apparently fell ill last April, and months of treatment left him unable to continue nuclear disarmament negotiations. It's unclear if he is back at work, but no one else seems to be able to make decisions.

Meanwhile, the Chinese have better connections inside North Korea, but apparently do not share a lot of information with anyone else. Defectors from North Korea believe that the Chinese will take over if it appears that the North Korean government is about to fall apart. The Chinese plan to install pro-Chinese North Koreans as head of a new "North Korean" government, and institute the kind of economic reforms they have been urging the North Korean to undertake for over a decade. The Chinese do not want North Korea to merge with South Korea, nor do they want North Korea to collapse (and send millions of starving refugees into northern China.

China and South Korea both want North Korea to stay independent, and harmless. Thus China is willing to unofficially annex North Korea, knowing that the South Koreans would go along with this as long as the fiction of North Korean independence were maintained.

South Korea won't admit this, but most South Koreans know that absorbing North Korea would put a big dent in South Korean living standards. That is more unpopular than any other outcome.
As my wife told me, it's pretty pathetic when China has to come into a country and be the agent of free market economic reforms...
Cautionary words about interpreting the meaning and/or significance of brain scan studies. (Via SciTechDaily.)
Advertisements for erectile dysfunction drugs always include a disclaimer like, "Seek medical attention if you have an erection lasting for more than 4 hours".

So what happens if you have to make that call? Warning: Some guys may not want to read this.

(Via KevinMD.)
"Scientists discover why we overbid for old junk on eBay"

Monday, September 29, 2008

How To Land a 747 Jet. (Via Cynical-C.)
"Will eating tapeworms help you lose weight?"
Real world "pre-crime" detector? (Via Bruce Schneier.)
"How Crayons Are Made". (Via Jennifer's Links.)
"5 Ways Google's Android Beats the iPhone ... And 5 Ways It Doesn't".

However, something like this might make the real difference in the marketplace...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The financial crisis is now harming Playboy Bunnies. Now it's getting serious! (Via Instapundit.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

OffTopic: One of my tech friends pointed me towards this controversial recent post by Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, entitled, "How The U.S. Government Engineered The Current Economic Crisis".

Arrington pulls no punches when he writes:
Every time we get ourselves into an economic mess, there's usually some milestone idiocy we can point back to as the government action that made the meltdown inevitable...
I added my own comment to his blog post:
Thank you for having the courage to write this post, Michael. You may have alienated some readers, but you've gained the respect of other readers such as myself.

As some commenters have noted, the blame does not rest solely on one particular political party or the other but the very fact of massive and inappropriate government involvement in the lending industry -- a policy supported by both political parties.

It's clearly not in the interest of lenders to make loans to people who can't pay them back. But when government creates artificial incentives that rewards banks for doing so (with the implied promise that taxpayers will pick up the tab if anything goes wrong), then the current mess is exactly the result one would expect.

The worst part of it is that the mess is being blamed on the "free market", when in fact it was caused by government interference in the free market.

That's like blaming the *car* for getting into a car accident instead of blaming the fact that one was driving while yakking on a cellphone and trying to access the onboard GPS system while getting a stick of gum out of the glove compartment...
And commenter Jason Crawford posted a link to a recent excellent article by Yaron Brook in Forbes which discusses how bad government policy has led to the current crisis: "The Government Did It".
Quote of the day:
"If we hit that bull's eye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards. Checkmate."

-- Zapp Brannigan

Friday, September 26, 2008

An electoral college tie? I think this would be incredibly cool and/or a friggin' political nightmare. (Via Gus Van Horn.)
Red wine can protect you against radiation.
"The One Minute Case For Stock Shorting".
"The Population of China's Provinces Compared":
China is the world's most populous nation. That much anybody knows. But even if we know a bit more (that the number of Chinese is around 1.32 billion, which is just under 20% of all humans alive today), that figure is still too big to mean much beyond that China is 'number one'.

This map compares the population of China's provinces (plus the 'renegade province' of Taiwan), autonomous regions and municipalities with those of whole countries, and thus helps shed some light on that issue.
(Via Dave Does The Blog.)
Suspicious Vans. This one is especially suspicious. (Via Found On The Web.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Currently circulating on Wall Street:
SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP

DEAR AMERICAN:

I NEED TO ASK YOU TO SUPPORT AN URGENT SECRET BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP WITH A TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF GREAT MAGNITUDE.

I AM MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY OF THE REPUBLIC OF AMERICA. MY COUNTRY HAS HAD CRISIS THAT HAS CAUSED THE NEED FOR LARGE TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF 800 BILLION DOLLARS US. IF YOU WOULD ASSIST ME IN THIS TRANSFER, IT WOULD BE MOST PROFITABLE TO YOU.

I AM WORKING WITH MR. PHIL GRAM, LOBBYIST FOR UBS, WHO WILL BE MY REPLACEMENT AS MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY IN JANUARY. AS A SENATOR, YOU MAY KNOW HIM AS THE LEADER OF THE AMERICAN BANKING DEREGULATION MOVEMENT IN THE 1990S. THIS TRANSACTIN IS 100% SAFE.

THIS IS A MATTER OF GREAT URGENCY. WE NEED A BLANK CHECK. WE NEED THE FUNDS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. WE CANNOT DIRECTLY TRANSFER THESE FUNDS IN THE NAMES OF OUR CLOSE FRIENDS BECAUSE WE ARE CONSTANTLY UNDER SURVEILLANCE. MY FAMILY LAWYER ADVISED ME THAT I SHOULD LOOK FOR A RELIABLE AND TRUSTWORTHY PERSON WHO WILL ACT AS A NEXT OF KIN SO THE FUNDS CAN BE TRANSFERRED.

PLEASE REPLY WITH ALL OF YOUR BANK ACCOUNT, IRA AND COLLEGE FUND ACCOUNT NUMBERS AND THOSE OF YOUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN TO WALLSTREETBAILOUT@TREASURY.GOV
SO THAT WE MAY TRANSFER YOUR COMMISSION FOR THIS TRANSACTION. AFTER I RECEIVE THAT INFORMATION, I WILL RESPOND WITH DETAILED INFORMATION ABOUT SAFEGUARDS THAT WILL BE USED TO PROTECT THE FUNDS.

YOURS FAITHFULLY MINISTER OF TREASURY PAULSON
I'm sure glad it's just humorous satire...
"9 Mental Math Tricks". (Via BBspot.)
"Do emergency sirens have to be changed periodically so people will pay attention?"
"Tools That Bend So You Don't Have To"
Self-Assembling Stomach-Bot.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"If Wikipedia Was A College Professor." (Via Clicked.)
"25 Beautiful Macro Photography Shots". (Via Linkfilter.)
"Klingons For Jesus". (Via BBspot.)
Israeli "skunk bomb".

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"The First Laser Gun Was Too Cruel To Use"
Memory is surprisingly unreliable. (Via SciTechDaily.)
"Dog appears as witness in murder trial":
...During a preliminary hearing the pet was led into the witness box by a vet to see how it reacted to a suspect.

It is said to have "barked furiously".

The aim was to decide if there was sufficient evidence to launch a full murder inquiry and a judge is yet to reach a decision.
FWIW, this was in France, not the US.
Informative Piechart. (Via Found On The Web.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

The largest known prime number has been found. It has 13 million digits, and is (2^43,112,609) - 1.

Here are the first digits, along with a link to the text file of the entire number (16.73 Megabytes).
"A French museum has found a previously unknown piece of music handwritten by Mozart..."
"12 Year Old Boy Invents New Type of Solar Cell":
Now here's a story that makes me feel profoundly unaccomplished: a 12 year old boy in Beaverton, Oregon recently developed a new type of 3D solar cell that makes other solar cells look inefficient by comparison.

William Yuan's 3D cell can absorb both visible and UV light. According to his calculations, solar panels equipped with his 3D cells could provide 500 times more light absorption than current commercial solar cells and nine times more light than existing 3D solar cells.
More info here. (Via Ari Amstrong.)
Good warning sign. (Via Neatorama.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

ObPoliticalPost: The September 19, 2008 edition of the Rocky Mountain News has printed my OpEd supporting free market health care reform and opposing Colorado Amendment 56 (which would require businesses with more than 20 employees to purchase health insurance for all its workers):
Free market reforms healthier than Amendment 56

By Paul Hsieh, MD
Friday, September 19, 2008

This fall, Colorado voters must decide whether to require all businesses with more than 20 employees to provide health insurance for their employees (Amendment 56). Although voters may be tempted to say "yes," this is an immoral and impractical solution to the problem of rising health insurance costs.

It is morally wrong because it violates the rights of employers and employees to negotiate to their mutual self-interest in a free market.

Businessmen create jobs through rational thought and hard work. Consequently, they have the moral right to decide on what terms to offer those jobs to prospective employees, including specific wages and benefits.

Similarly, workers have the right to negotiate for any specific wages and benefits they desire, and the right to reject job offers that don't meet their criteria. But they have no right to demand a specific salary or benefit from employers (such as health insurance) via government force.

Two motivations behind this proposed law are (1) the mistaken notion that health care should be a guaranteed "right," and (2) the desire to force businesses (rather than government) to pay for this supposed obligation. But health care is a need, not a right. A right is a freedom of action in a social context, such as the freedom of speech.

It is not an automatic claim on a good or service that must be produced by someone else. There is no such thing as a "right" to a car or an appendectomy. Any attempt by the government to guarantee a false "right" to health care can only be done by violating the actual rights of someone — in this case, business owners.

Forcing businesses to provide health insurance to employees will also cause serious economic harm to Colorado. Such a law would cause many businesses to fire workers, outsource jobs, or cancel plans to hire new workers. This will disproportionately harm unskilled workers and those at the lower end of the income scale — the very people the measure is intended to help.

According to Howard Roerig, owner of Seale & Associates, Inc. in Centennial, "This measure will have a chilling effect on all small businessmen. Although I don't have 20 employees at present, I would make certain never to hire that 20th person. The costs would be so high that I would be better off starting another firm in a different state, and letting it do business in Colorado as an out-of-state firm.

"I would have to find some means of skirting this measure or else close my doors."

Other states such as California have driven away many businesses and jobs due to high taxes and heavy regulations. Colorado must not repeat these mistakes.

To "solve" the problem of high insurance costs by foisting those costs onto businesses would be just as wrong as "solving" the problem of rising gasoline prices by forcing businesses to pay their workers' gasoline expenses.

Our current high health care costs have been caused by decades of government interference in the free market. Hence, the proper solution is not more government regulations, but instead free market reforms that addressed the problems caused by prior government controls.

Some examples of free market reforms include allowing Coloradans to purchase health insurance across state lines and eliminating mandatory insurance benefits. Patients should be allowed to purchase Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) for small routine expenses and insurers should be allowed to sell low-cost catastrophic-only policies to cover rare but expensive events.

These measures could greatly reduce insurance prices and allow patients to purchase from the best offerings of all 50 states, thus making insurance available to thousands of Coloradans who want to purchase it but currently cannot afford it. Furthermore, the state legislature could adopt these reforms without permission from the federal government.

If Coloradans want to address the problem of high health insurance costs, they should reject the Amendment 56 and instead demand free market reforms. This is right for employers, right for employees, and right for Colorado.

Paul Hsieh, MD, of Sedalia is co-founder of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM)
I'd like to thank Ari Armstrong for suggesting that I write about this issue and Howard Roerig for providing me with a fantastic quote that concretizes the economic issues at stake.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The US states ranked in order of economic freedom. Colorado comes in at #3! Here's more info.
Stopping "superbugs" with fecal transplants? (Via Linkfilter.)
Test your color hue discrimination here.

A perfect score is zero. (Via Mental Floss.)
The Onion gets a peak inside Obama's Gmail inbox. (Via Waxy.)
"The NSA Teams Up with the Chinese Government to Limit Internet Anonymity"

Thursday, September 18, 2008

"Study into near-death experiences":
Doctors at 25 UK and US hospitals will study 1,500 survivors to see if people with no heartbeat or brain activity can have "out of body" experiences.

Some people report seeing a tunnel or bright light, others recall looking down from the ceiling at medical staff.

The study, due to take three years and co-ordinated by Southampton University, will include placing on shelves images that could only be seen from above...
"The Art and Beauty of Microfluidics".
"Can a city stop people from posting a link to its Web site?"
That's the question at the center of a federal lawsuit brought by a Sheboygan woman against the mayor and other officials there, in what appears to be a first-of-its-kind case, according to an Internet law expert.
(Via Neatorama.)
Nassim Taleb has written an interesting new essay, "The Fourth Quadrant: A Map of the Limits of Statistics". (Via ALDaily.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"The Internet: A Private Eye's Best Friend". One interesting tidbit:
"Domino's has built the biggest consumer database in America," and the U.S. Marshals Service, the New York Police Department and collection agencies are using it to track people down, [private investigator Steven] Rambam said.
(Via Linkfilter.)
"Paging Spiderman: New material mimics gecko feet"
Netflix origami. (Via BBspot.)
"If principles of life are universal, could life emerge on the internet?"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Hubble Finds Unidentified Object in Space":
The object also appeared out of nowhere. It just wasn't there before. In fact, they don't even know where it is exactly located because it didn't behave like anything they know. Apparently, it can't be closer than 130 light-years but it can be as far as 11 billion light-years away. It's not in any known galaxy either. And they have ruled out a supernova too. It's something that they have never encountered before. In other words: they don't have a single clue about where or what the heck this thing is.
As long as it isn't one of these...