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.