Thursday, October 30, 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.)

Wednesday, October 29, 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.)

Tuesday, October 28, 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.)

Monday, October 27, 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"

Sunday, October 26, 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.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

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

Wednesday, October 22, 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.

Tuesday, October 21, 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.)

Monday, October 20, 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.

Sunday, October 19, 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.)

Thursday, October 16, 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.

Wednesday, October 15, 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.)

Tuesday, October 14, 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"

Monday, October 13, 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.

Sunday, October 12, 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.
"Visit China's Forbidden City -- as a virtual eunuch"

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thursday, October 09, 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?

Wednesday, October 08, 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?"

Tuesday, October 07, 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).

Monday, October 06, 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.)

Sunday, October 05, 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".

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The 2008 Ig Nobel Prizes.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Thursday, October 02, 2008

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

First, open a new (/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.)

Wednesday, October 01, 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...