Thursday, February 28, 2008

Clever design for an online clock.
Starship Dimensions. (Via LCB.)
"Blind Man Regains Sight After Doctors Implant Son's Tooth in His Eye". (Via Ari Armstrong.)
If you have more books than space in your apartment, consider this amazing book-lined staircase. (Via Tim Sandefur.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Alan Boyle has written a thought-provoking post on so-called "killer robots".
Economics of bribery and assassination. (Via ALDaily.)
Garrett Lisi update.
Really cool pools. (Via BBspot.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Apple iTunes Music Store is now the #2 music retailer in the world, behind WalMart. This figure is for all music including CD's, not just digital music. According to the article:
It was only eight months ago that iTunes passed Amazon to become the number three music retailer. Wal-Mart is still holding its own with a massive brick-and-mortar retail business in addition to its online music store, but must be getting nervous as iTunes continues to close in.
"Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early".
"Astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center have released a rather remarkable Hubble image of a ring of dust around star Fomalhaut, described by New Scientist as resembling 'the Great Eye of Sauron'." (Via BBspot.)
More unfortunate ad placement. (Via Neatorama.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

I like grapefruit quite a bit but apparently xkcd does not.

Update: DieselSweetie agrees with me.
Robots are taking over more service sector jobs. Sure, they say they only want to work for us and make our lives easier. Until this happens...
The economics of "free".
Interesting article on the Great Firewall of China by James Fallows: "China's Great Firewall is crude, slapdash, and surprisingly easy to breach. Here's why it's so effective anyway."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Graphical representations of the the blogosphere, social networks, and viral marketing.
"Five Great Auditory Illusions".
Getting closer to a Star Trek-like translator.
Video of the day: "Karate chop in slow motion". The hand flops around a lot more than I would have guessed. (Via Cynical-C.)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

"Han Solo Carbonite Desk: Exactly what it sounds like, as cool as it sounds." (Via Fark.)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Music using ONLY sounds from Windows XP and 98!"

(The music takes up the first 91 seconds, then there's another minute showing which sounds were used.)
"The real world economics of an online universe".
As little as 5% of a moving crowd can influence the direction of the rest of the crowd. (Via Future Pundit.)
Firefly fanfic novel by a professional SF writer. (Via BBspot.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A surprisingly good incentive for US Navy sailors.
Star Trek star charts. (Via BBspot.)
Button Paradox. (Via Boing Boing.)
"The Truth About Sensational Kidney Thefts".

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The number 10^122 keeps popping up in odd places.
Technology Review predicts "The 10 Emerging Technologies of 2008". Looking back on their track record for prior years' predictions, I'd say they've been mixed.
Resolve your legal disputes online with Here's a video.
Obsolete skills:
1. Dialing a rotary phone.
2. Putting a needle on a vinyl record.
3. Changing tracks on an eight-track tape.
4. Shorthand.
5. Using a slide rule.
6. Using carbon paper to make copies.
7. Developing film/photos.
8. Changing the ball or ribbon on your Selectric Typewriter.
9. Getting off the couch to change channels on your TV set.
10. Adjusting the rabbit ears on your TV set.
11. Changing the gas mixture on your car’s carburetor.
Do you feel old now? (Via Dave Does The Blog.)
Trailer for the new Indiana Jones movie.

Monday, February 18, 2008

"HD DVD vs. Blu-ray Disc: A History"
Sonic Blaster.
"Does giving sweets to kids produce a 'sugar rush?'" You may be surprised at the answer.
People count cash quite differently in different countries. (Via Clicked.)
Only 30% of Americans think that nanotechnology is "morally acceptable".

Dave Hill says, "this is akin to questioning whether metallurgy is morally acceptable".

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Strategic Conquest on the Mac: I used to be a big fan of the Delta Tao game "Strategic Conquest" back when I owned a Mac SE in the 1990's. I stopped playing when I had to switch to a Windows system for work reasons, but now that I have a MacBook Pro, I wanted to find a way to play it again. Unfortunately, it doesn't run on Intel Macs. But after doing a little searching I found this page, "How to run Classic (pre OS X) apps on Intel Macs" which discusses how to use the Basilisk and SheepShaver emulators of classic Mac, as well as the following very useful comment from Mac user John Rethorst:
I've built a complete SheepShaver install, including _everything_ needed to run, as well as the last version of WordPerfect and several utilities. To download this 243mb image, go to, to the Links section, to the "SheepShaver and Basilisk" folder, and click "SheepShaver-WordPerfect Install". It's about 20 minutes on a fast connection.
I downloaded his install as well as a copy of "Strategic Conquest" from Delta Tao (purchased for $24.95), and it works like a charm! The SheepShaver software nicely emulates a Macintosh PPC running OS 7.5 with 256 colors.

Now I just have to figure out if I have enough air cover to plan a successful amphibious invasion of the enemy continent...
Britain's invisible tanks. (Via Linkfilter.)
Google has been taken by surprise at how many people use their services on the iPhone:
Google on Wednesday said it had seen 50 times more searches on Apple's iPhone than any other mobile handset, adding weight to the group’s confidence at being able to generate significant revenues from the mobile internet.

"We thought it was a mistake and made our engineers check the logs again," Vic Gundotra, head of Google's mobile operations told the Financial Times at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Whenever I'm out and about and I need to look up some random factoid, I frequently use my iPhone Google app.
"A Q&A about Quantum Teleportation and why the effect is nothing like Star Trek".

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Update on the American Dream: In response to my earlier post, "Testing the American Dream", a lengthy comment thread has erupted here on, some supporting the overall conclusion and others attacking it for a variety of reasons.

Of the supportive comments, this one by "Minh-Duc" struck me the most:
Why bother with the experiment. Just go talk to immigrants. I arrived to the U.S. with a shirt on my back and spoke no English. I consider myself in the upper middle class now. This is the story that repeated itself a million time in the history of this great nation.

Speaking of family obligations; both of my parents were janitors, my uncle and aunts were (and still are) janitors. My uncle and aunt is even more successful. They put three kids through medical school.

"The American Dream" is a misnomer. It is not a dream. It is a reality.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"The Hunting Strategies of Carnivorous Plants".
Another proposed solution to the airplane boarding problem:
[Physicist Jason] Steffen found that the worst method for boarding a plane is boarding from the front to the back, since passengers have to wait and step over each other to get to their seats. ...Quite unexpectedly, then, Steffen found that the common back-to-front boarding method is actually the second worst method possible, only slightly better than boarding front to back.

...Using a combination of a Monte Carlo optimization algorithm and intuition, Steffen determined an optimal boarding method, which could make boarding go 4 to 10 times faster than the worst method, depending on the size of the plane. In the optimal method, passengers would board 10 at a time in every other row (since loading luggage requires about two aisles of space). This way, passengers could always be boarding luggage or sitting in their seats, rather than waiting in the aisle, as in the two previous methods.

However, Steffen also acknowledged that the optimal method might not be practical, since passengers who sit next to each other often travel together, and prefer to board together. He proposed a modified version, where passengers board in blocks of three consecutive seats on one side of the plane in every other row. In this strategy, there would be four boarding groups, with passengers in the same row on the same side boarding together. This method provided a decent middle ground, as it was twice as slow as the optimal method, but twice as fast as the conventional method. Although getting passengers to line up in their correct groups might sound challenging, Steffen noted that Southwest Airlines has been experimenting with having its passengers line up in numerical order -- so the logistics wouldn't be inconceivable.

Steffen also identified several other boarding strategies with results superior to the conventional method. Contrary to our tendency for order, even completely random boarding proved to be a good alternative. In fact, random boarding was nearly as fast as the modified optimal method. Plus, by its very nature, it has the advantage of not requiring airline attendants to organize boarding passengers in any way. And the random result also shows that, when passengers board out of order in the other strategies, the results will still be better than the conventional boarding method.

The main advantage of the alternative boarding methods is that they allow several passengers to load their overhead luggage simultaneously, which Steffen identified as the largest factor in determining boarding time.
The merits of random boarding have been discussed here in this 2006 article.
The Onion asks the tough question, "Do We Really Want Another Black President After The Events Of Deep Impact?":
Have we learned nothing from the tragic events of 1998, when, under the watch of President Morgan Freeman, this nation was plunged into chaos, and hundreds of millions of people died at the hands of the deadly Wolf-Beiderman space rock?

..As if that is not enough, history shows us that, besides carrying the baggage of a guaranteed asteroid strike, black heads of state also give terrorists extra motivation to destroy the United States. During the presidency of 24's David Palmer, there were no fewer than four nuclear bombs smuggled into this country. That's four more than under any white president.

...Need I even mention that former President Chris Rock and his administration's slogan was "The only thing white is the house"? Though this attitude broke down the stuffiness typically associated with proper White House decorum, President Rock's laissez-faire approach not only made a mockery of the office at home, but made the United States look like a joke abroad.
(Via Cynical-C.)
Klein bottle house. (Via Neatorama.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Testing the American Dream: Having been told that it was extremely difficult for poor people to advance up the economic ladder in America, college graduate Adam Shepard conducted an interesting experiment.

He decided to start from the very bottom of the economic ladder, with "a gym bag, $25, and little else". He moved into a homeless shelter "on the wrong side of the tracks in Charleston, S.C." He set as his goal "to have a furnished apartment, a car, and $2,500 in savings within a year" without relying on his education or his former contacts.

He worked his way out of poverty, found work as a day laborer, made new friends, and landed a steady job at a moving company. He had to quit his experiment after 10 months because of learning of an illness in his family, "[b]ut by then he had moved into an apartment, bought a pickup truck, and had saved close to $5,000."

According to the article:
The effort, he says, was inspired after reading "Nickel and Dimed," in which author Barbara Ehrenreich takes on a series of low-paying jobs. Unlike Ms. Ehrenreich, who chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor, Shepard found he was able to successfully climb out of his self-imposed poverty.
Clearly, this shows the crucial role that a person's character, attitude, and work ethic play in whether he is successful or not, as opposed to the exact magnitude of material resources he starts with.

The full article tells more Adam Shepard's fascinating story: "Homeless: Can You Build a Life from $25?"

He has also written a book about his experience, entitled, Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream. It looks like his book has gotten consistently high reviews on Amazon.

Update: In response to this post, a lengthy comment thread has erupted here on, some supporting the overall conclusion and others attacking it for a variety of reasons.

Of the supportive comments, this one by "Minh-Duc" struck me the most:
Why bother with the experiment. Just go talk to immigrants. I arrived to the U.S. with a shirt on my back and spoke no English. I consider myself in the upper middle class now. This is the story that repeated itself a million time in the history of this great nation.

Speaking of family obligations; both of my parents were janitors, my uncle and aunts were (and still are) janitors. My uncle and aunt is even more successful. They put three kids through medical school.

"The American Dream" is a misnomer. It is not a dream. It is a reality.
Geeky Science Valentines.
"Caffeine: A User's Guide to Getting Optimally Wired". (Via GMSV.)
"Top 5 Bomb-Packing, Gun-Toting War Bots the U.S. Doesn't Have". (Via Instapundit.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"Self-cleaning wool and silk developed using nanotechnology". (Via Cosmic Log.)
"Does a US penny cost more than one cent to manufacture?"
"Wired Wallpaper Offers Alternative to Outlets: Philips has recently designed a type of wallpaper with conducting stripes running through it, enabling electrical devices to be hooked up to just about anywhere on the wall."
What happens when you add an Alka-Seltzer tablet to a spherical drop of water in zero-gravity? See if you can predict the result before you watch the video. (Via Cynical-C.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

How realistic is the television show House? Find out at these medical reviews. (Via Linkfilter.)
Life imitates The Simpsons: Astronauts eating potato chips in zero-gravity.
Gecko tape:
A professor at UC Berkeley has invented a tape-like substance that has so much adhesive strength that a person clothed in such a sticky suit could conceivably scale a building like Spider-Man.
(Via Fark.)
Russian mathematicians are warning that the new CERN particle accelerator in Geneva could "create a rift in the fabric of the universe" and "could open the door to visitors from the future".

I'm a little skeptical, but if an older-looking version of myself stops me on the street with a few unlikely stock market tips, I'm definitely going to listen... (Via Gravity Lens.)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Women and marriage: Many people have blogged about this article on whether women should "settle" when they choose which man to marry. One question which isn't quite answered in the article is whether "settling" means compromising on core values that are genuinely important to oneself, or whether it means giving up on old priorities that one now realizes aren't really important (but may have seemed important earlier in life).

Some of the points covered do fit well with this other article, "10 Reasons You Should Marry a Geek".
"Seven Habits of Highly Effective Spaceship Captains". (Via Dave Does The Blog.)
Chameleons evolved their color changing ability to stand out, not to blend in. (Via Neatorama.)
"The Peculiar Pain of Paper Cuts". (Via Instapundit.)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Astounding soccer tricks. (Via Slate.)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

"Orbiting Solar Panels to Shoot Energy to Earth in the Form of Laser Beams". What could possibly go wrong?
IBM researchers are working on a computing system capable "of hosting the entire internet as an application." (Via Fark.)
"The Evolution of Tech Companies' Logos"

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Clever invention of the day: The Socket Sense expandable power strip.
High speed photography is now down to the attosecond range (10^-18 sec).
Dynamic updatable holographic displays.
New anti-radiation drug is "5,000 times more effective than the best-available therapy for radiation injuries". (Via SciTechDaily.)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"Embryos created with DNA from 3 people"
"A new chip uses so little power, it could enable sensors, communication devices and other gadgets that run on body heat and movement alone."
"With Mini in vivo Robots, Anyone Can do Surgery":
The researchers tested the mini robots on three NASA astronauts and one surgeon who were undergoing long-term training in an underwater habitat called the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO), located 20 meters underwater off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. The four "Aquanauts" received brief training on how to perform two surgeries – bowel inspection and stretch-and-dissect – and were also evaluated on how well they could perform another surgery – an appendectomy – for which they received no training.

...Another notable result was that the crew members were able to successfully perform the appendectomy, even though they had not been trained on that procedure. This success demonstrates that telementoring can be used to enable individuals trained on basic skills to build upon their skills to complete more complex procedures.
Welcome to the Church of Spock of Latter Day Science Officers. (Via BBspot.)

Monday, February 04, 2008

"Better Than Free": Interesting article on economics in the internet era, when information dissemination is free or nearly so.
When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied.

...From my study of the network economy I see roughly eight categories of intangible value that we buy when we pay for something that could be free.

In a real sense, these are eight things that are better than free. Eight uncopyable values. I call them "generatives." A generative value is a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured. A generative thing can not be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfeited, or reproduced. It is generated uniquely, in place, over time. In the digital arena, generative qualities add value to free copies, and therefore are something that can be sold.
Read the rest to learn what they are. (Via IPList.)
Update on Russia and Storm:
The most powerful Internet weapon on the planet is being protected by the Russian government. The weapon in question is the Storm botnet. This is the largest botnet ever seen, and while the United States has traced its creators to Russia, the government there refuses to cooperate in shutting Storm down...
Scale map of the universe. (Via BBspot.)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Programmers have created an especially difficult video game that tracks the players' eye movements and puts the bad guys where the players are least likely to look.
"Dot-com pioneers: Where are they now?" (Via Fark.)
"What Your Cellphone Says About You". And examples. You can judge for yourself if the extrapolations about owner profiles fit the color schemes.
Burning questions: "Do mice fear the scent of a cat? Do mice really love cheese? Why isn't there mouse flavor cat food?"
"'Across the Universe' by the Beatles will become the first song ever to be beamed directly into space next week..."
Video of the day: "Hitler: Bloodthirsty Dictator, Die-hard Cowboys Fan". (Via Steven E. Hines.)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Video of the day: "Frozen Grand Central"
On a cold Saturday in New York City, the world’s largest train station came to a sudden halt. Over 200 Improv Everywhere Agents froze in place at the exact same second for five minutes in the Main Concourse of Grand Central Station. Over 500,000 people rush through Grand Central every day, but today, things slowed down just a bit as commuters and tourists alike stopped to notice what was happening around them. Enjoy the video first and then go behind the scenes with our mission report and photos.
(Via Brian Schwartz.)