Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ghost imaging:
Under special optical arrangements, physicists can create an image of an object using light that has never interacted with the object.
Fun way to fly! (Via Howard Roerig.)
Nice graphical representation of the TLD (top level domain) country codes of the world. Also available as a $30 wall poster. (Via Boing Boing.)
What does your e-mail address reveal about your personality? Here's the article abstract.
"10 Dumb Ideas that Made A Lot of Money". (Via Dark Roasted Blend.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Philosopher Nick Bostrom explains, "Why I hope the search for extraterrestrial life finds nothing".
Gift idea of the day: Star Trek Enterprise bottle opener. (Via Neatorama.)
"Summoning lightning bolts with a laser".
Bionic eye update:
Surgeons have carried out the first operations in Britain using a pioneering "bionic eye" that could in future help to restore blind people’s sight.

Two successful operations to implant the device into the eyes of two blind patients have been conducted at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.

The device — the first of its kind — incorporates a video camera and transmitter mounted on a pair of glasses. This is linked to an artificial retina, which transmits moving images along the optic nerve to the brain and enables the patient to discriminate rudimentary images of motion, light and dark.
The physics of whipped cream. (Via Cosmic Log.)

Monday, April 28, 2008

The FBI is asking for the power to perform "widespread monitoring of 'illegal' Internet activity":
The suggestion from FBI Director Robert Mueller, which came during a House of Representatives Judiciary Committee hearing, appears to go beyond a current plan to monitor traffic on federal-government networks. Mueller seemed to suggest that the bureau should have a broad "omnibus" authority to conduct monitoring and surveillance of private-sector networks as well.

...Mueller said his idea "balances on one hand, the privacy rights of the individual who are receiving the information, but on the other hand, given the technology, the necessity of having some omnibus search capability utilizing filters that would identify the illegal activity as it comes through and give us the ability to preempt that illegal activity where it comes through a choke point."

...If any omnibus Internet-monitoring proposal became law, it could implicate the Fourth Amendment's guarantee of freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. In general, courts have ruled that police need search warrants to obtain the content of communication, and the federal Wiretap Act created "super warrant" wiretap orders that require additional steps and judicial oversight.
Holographic data storage to debut in May 2008. (Via Instapundit.)
Sports in outer space. (Via Transterrestrial Musings.)
"10 Common Travel Scams". (Via BBspot.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

"Look up in the sky! It's a bird!... It's a plane!... It's the Indian version of Superman with Indian version of Spiderwoman!"

I must note that I find this depiction of the two superheroes to be grossly unrealistic -- everyone knows that Superman comes from the DC Comics world, whereas Spiderwoman comes from the Marvel Comics universe... (Via MeFi.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Two links from Howard Roerig: A slick motorcycle-Segway combo, and inside the Archon X Prize for Genomics.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fortune cookie message of the day. (Via GMSV.)
"8 (Pointless) Laws All Comic Book Movies Follow". (Via Neatorama.)
Video of the day: Synchronized kittens. (Via Cynical-C.)
"Humans Almost Went Extinct 70,000 Years Ago":
Human beings may have had a brush with extinction 70,000 years ago, an extensive genetic study suggests.

The human population at that time was reduced to small isolated groups in Africa, apparently because of drought, according to an analysis released Thursday.

The report notes that a separate study by researchers at Stanford University estimated the number of early humans may have shrunk as low as 2,000 before numbers began to expand again in the early Stone Age.
(Via Ari Armstrong.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Overestimating Storm:
Computer security researchers had an "oops!" moment recently when they realized that their monitoring and investigative tools had led to overestimating the size of the Storm botnet.

...But it turned out that Storm was only about a tenth of its estimated size. That is, 200,000-400,000 zombie PCs. Still pretty formidable. There are other botherds out there with 400,000 or more PCs, and they all are built in a similar fashion to Storm. That's the scary part. Yes, Storm was not as big as originally believed, but then it turns out that there are a dozen or more Storms in the wild.

...Criminal gangs are increasingly active in producing things like Storm, and, in the case of China, so are government Cyber War operations. Russia is also believed to rely on criminal hackers for help in carrying out Cyber War tasks, usually espionage. Meanwhile, it's clear what Storm is up to. It has been launching attacks at web sites involved in stopping or investigating Storm. This involves transmitting huge quantities of bogus messages, that shut down targeted web sites (this is a DDOS, or distributed denial or service attack). The Storm botherders are also advertising their botnet as available for the usual illegal activities (various types of spam).

Early on, it was believed that Storm was owned by a Russian criminal syndicate, but once more detailed proof was available, the Russian government refused to cooperate, treating Storm like some kind of secret military resources. And to the Russians, that's apparently what Storm is. Meanwhile, the investigation indicates that the Storm crew have some American members, and now the search is on for them, or any other non-Russians who worked on Storm, and are not inside Russia.
Brain enhancement drugs. And more information. (I just tend to rely on a good old morning cup of coffee...)
Don't forget to rotate your new logo 90 degrees before you approve it. (Via BBspot.)
All 120 Crayola Crayon Names, Color Codes and Fun Facts. (Via GMSV.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"Everything you were afraid to ask about 'Battlestar Galactica'". (Via Look At This...)
Update on high-temperature superconductors.
Picture of the day: Colliding galaxies. (Via BBspot.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

California scientists hope to use motion sensors in laptops to create a distributed earthquake-sensing network.
Brain scans can detect lapses in attention before they turn into actual physical mistakes.
An interesting (and potentially troubling) case of an accident victim who reportedly met all the criteria for "brain death", but was later successfully revived. (Via SciTechDaily.)
Invention of the day: Single cell tweezers.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Devil's Swimming Pool.
Charles Darwin online:
About 90,000 pages of manuscripts, field notes, photographs and sketches connected with Charles Darwin are being placed online, where they can be viewed free. Among the gems are his first formulation of the theory of natural selection, his first written doubts that species were fixed and touching correspondence from his wife on religious faith.

The huge set of documents and images is part of the Darwin Online project, based in Cambridge, which claims to be the largest Darwin bibliography and manuscript catalogue created. Many of items were previously available only to scholars with access to the Cambridge University Library.

The project began in 2002 and this is the last major set of additions. Dr John van Wyhe, Darwin Online's director, said: "[The documents] have been known to scholars, but for the first time they are available to everyone for free online."
Here's the website for the Darwin Online archives. (Via Marginal Revolution.)
"101 Great Computer Programming Quotes". And another 101. (Via MeFi.)
"Top 10 Shirts To Get Arrested In". (Via Linkfilter.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Having just paid more in taxes than I care to, I wish more people in the US government would read this Forbes.com piece by Yaron Brook, "Life and Taxes".
"Octopus sex is more complex than you'd think". (Via Fark.)
"If prediction markets are so great, why have they been so wrong lately?". Proposed answers:
1. They're too small.
2. The stakes are too low.
3. They're too slow to react to events.
Tyler Cowen on the Kindle.
Wikipedia shenanigans over global warming? (Via Instapundit.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Update on the asteroid story: "No truth to claims that 13-year-old found NASA error".
Truly bad baby names. (Via Tim Sandefur.)
New software "will for the first time allow computers to analyze the digitized sounds of guitar or piano chords, or even multi-instrument recordings, and then extract and modify individual notes":
"In terms of sound processing, this is kind of the holy grail," says Michael Bierylo, a guitarist and professor of computer music at Boston's Berklee College of Music. "It's something everyone more or less thought we couldn't do."
Physics timewaster of the day: "Stringwave". Get some "hands-on" experience with waves and echoes. (Via Neatorama.)
"How blind children learn the verb 'see'". (Via Cynical-C.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Toward a Quantum Internet: Researchers have built a quantum logic gate in an optical fiber, laying the foundation for a quantum computer network."
"A 13-year-old German schoolboy corrected NASA's estimates on the chances of an asteroid colliding with Earth":
Nico Marquardt used telescopic findings from the Institute of Astrophysics in Potsdam (AIP) to calculate that there was a 1 in 450 chance that the Apophis asteroid will collide with Earth, the Potsdamer Neuerster Nachrichten reported.

NASA had previously estimated the chances at only 1 in 45,000 but told its sister organisation, the European Space Agency (ESA), that the young whizzkid had got it right.

... Both NASA and Marquardt agree that if the asteroid does collide with earth, it will create a ball of iron and iridium 320 metres (1049 feet) wide and weighing 200 billion tonnes, which will crash into the Atlantic Ocean.

The shockwaves from that would create huge tsunami waves, destroying both coastlines and inland areas, whilst creating a thick cloud of dust that would darken the skies indefinitely.

The 13-year old made his discovery as part of a regional science competition for which he submitted a project entitled: "Apophis -- The Killer Astroid."
I hope he won the science competition!
"The lives of elevators". And yes, there's a video of Nicholas White's unpleasant experience. (Via ALDaily.)
Video of the day: "An Engineer's Guide To Cats". (Via MeFi.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Racetrack memory: "The new chip that will let an iPod store 500,000 songs". (Via Ari Armstrong.)
Transmission pattern of chain letters:
The final result was a "tree" of nodes and connections that was long and thin, not one that funneled out as in the case of rapidly spreading information. Gossip in smaller communities may fan out quickly, but – as the new study shows – such a pattern changes with scale. This large-scale spreading of information is a rare case, since most circulated e-mail messages never reach such a large number of recipients.

"A natural assumption going into this study was that information would spread explosively, reaching many people in only a few steps," said Liben-Nowell and Kleinberg. "Instead, a much more complex picture emerges, with the chain letter following longer, narrower paths. After this initial surprise, we eventually found possible ways to reconcile the deep, narrow structures we observed with the facts we knew about human social networks."
"What was the actual cause of death by crucifixion?"
High temperature superconductivity physics update.
"Firefox Logo Spied In Deep Space"

Monday, April 14, 2008

What we do and don't know about the 3G iPhone.
The dark side of Moore's Law. (Via SciTechDaily.)
10 weirdest computer architectures. (Via Boing Boing.)
"Why amino acids in living things are left-handed". (It does take the explanation one step further back, but doesn't explain the ultimate origin of the asymmetry.)
"The New E-spionage Threat: A BusinessWeek probe of rising attacks on America's most sensitive computer networks".

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Funny real life "Dear Abby" letters.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bakken Oil Field Update: The USGS report on the Bakken oil field estimates that it contains "3 to 4.3 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil".

Although it's clearly not as large as the 200 billion figure some people were hoping for, it's still not trivial:
This is a lower figure than I had guessed. However, it is 24 times more than the 1995 estimate of 150 million barrels and 6 times more recent quotes of 600 million barrels... Proven reserves increases by almost 3 billion barrels. The 95% figure was 3063 million barrels of oil. The old proven reserves was 150 million barrels. So the US proven reserves number goes up to 24 billion barrels, a 15% increase. Adding almost 2 years to the 12 year life of US reserves based on proven reserve calculations. The Bakken is now the largest probable reserve in the United States outside of Alaska. It is one third the size of Alaska's ANWR.
(Via Caiazza's.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

"Twenty percent of scientists admit to using performance-enhancing prescription drugs for non-medical reasons..." (Via Drudge.)
"The Color of Plants on Other Worlds: On other worlds, plants could be red, blue, even black". (Via Cosmic Log.)
"Man whose house was hit by five meteors believes he is targetted by aliens":
I am obviously being targeted by extraterrestrials. I don't know what I have done to annoy them but there is no other explanation that makes sense. The chance of being hit by a meteorite is so small that getting hit five times has to be deliberate...
Internet "black holes".

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Video of the day: The view inside a BMW engine.
After two weeks of intensive study and preparation, the team took another four, 20-hour days to film what happens inside the 420 hp mill during a single revolution. The completed spot was filmed at 10,000 frames-per-second and doesn't utilize any form of computer-generated effects. We've already watched it a half a dozen times and we think you'll do the same.
(Via Howard Roerig.)
Invention of the day: Handheld lie detector. However, there still seems to be many "opportunities for improvement" in the accuracy department.
"Baby with 2 faces born in north India":
A baby with two faces was born in a northern Indian village, where she is doing well and is being worshipped as the reincarnation of a Hindu goddess, her father said Tuesday.

The baby, Lali, apparently has an extremely rare condition known as craniofacial duplication, where a single head has two faces. Except for her ears, all of Lali's facial features are duplicated — she has two noses, two pairs of lips and two pairs of eyes.

..."She drinks milk from her two mouths and opens and shuts all the four eyes at one time," [Sabir Ali, the director of Saifi Hospital] said.

...Lali's condition is often linked to serious health complications, but the doctor said she was doing well.

"She is leading a normal life with no breathing difficulties," said Ali, adding that he saw no need for surgery.
Yes, there's a picture. (Via Ari Armstrong.)
"How to catch a Netflix thief."
"Pen Spinning Tournament Japan 2008". (Via Found on the Web.)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Superfast internet.
Cheap GPS.
Yet another Dune movie. (Via BBspot.)
Update on proving the Riemann Hypothesis.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

DARPA turns 50. Here's some of what they're currently working on:
Researchers are working on a two-way speech translation system that would permit soldiers to go anywhere in the world and understand the people around them. The idea, Tether said, is to create a miniature headset that would immediately translate a foreign language into English and feed it to an earpiece. In turn, a reply by an English speaker would be converted into the appropriate language and broadcast from small speakers on the headset.

When the technology is perfected, "the world will become a safer place. People will be able to talk to one another and understand one another," Tether said.

Another project looks for ways to restore severely injured soldiers. Researchers are trying to develop a prosthetic arm and hand that can be directly controlled by the brain and used as a natural limb, with dexterity and sensations. Prototypes are in development, Tether said, and hold promise that disabled soldiers can stay in the military "and contribute as before" rather than be discharged.

DARPA conducts research in almost every field -- biology, microelectronics, satellites, unmanned cars and aircraft. "We are extraordinarily broad. If you can think of it, we're doing it," Tether said.

Of course, numerous projects are classified because they may have a useful military application or because DARPA does not want the world to know everything it is doing.
"Scientists create material one atom thick". (Via Cosmic Log.)
Diamonds, nanotech, and quantum computing update:
Diamond can hold quantum information even at room temperature, which makes it a candidate material for future quantum computers.
How To Terminate a Terminator For Real, Part 1 and Part 2.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Creative Japanese barcodes. (Via Marginal Revolution.)
Video of the day: "Snake robots at CMU".
21st National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. (Via Howard Roerig.)
"Matrix-style virtual worlds 'a few years away'"
"Abortion and sex selection in the United States":
Two days ago, economists Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund published an article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examining the ratio of male to female births in "U.S.-born children of Chinese, Korean, and Asian Indian parents." Among whites, the boy-girl ratio was essentially constant, regardless of the number of kids in a family or how many of them were girls. In the Asian-American sample, the boy-girl ratio started out at the same norm: 1.05 to 1. But among families whose first child was a girl, the boy-girl ratio among second kids went up to 1.17 to 1. And if the first two kids were girls, the boy-girl ratio among third kids went up to 1.5 to 1. This 50 percent increase in male probability is directly contrary to the trend among whites, who tend to produce a child of the same sex as the previous child.

There's no plausible innocent explanation for this enormous and directionally abnormal shift in probability. The authors conclude that the numbers are "evidence of sex selection, most likely at the prenatal stage."

Sex selection of this magnitude has previously been documented in China, South Korea, and India, but not in the U.S.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Scuba car! And more information. (Via Howard Roerig and The Speculist.)

Friday, April 04, 2008

Terrific photos of Space Shuttle processing rarely seen by the general public. (Via Howard Roerig.)
Game theory and drug doping in sports. Plus some specific recommendations on how to handle the problem in cycling:
Here are my recommendations for how cycling (and other sports) can reach a Nash equilibrium in which no one has any incentive to cheat by doping:

1. Grant immunity to all athletes for past (pre-2008) cheating. Because the entire system is corrupt and most competitors have been doping, it accomplishes nothing to strip the winner of a title after the fact when it is almost certain that the runners-up were also doping. With immunity, retired athletes may help to improve the antidoping system.

2. Increase the number of competitors tested—in competition, out of competition, and especially immediately before or after a race—to thwart countermeasures. Testing should be done by independent drug agencies not affiliated with any sanctioning bodies, riders, sponsors or teams. Teams should also employ independent drug-testing companies to test their own riders, starting with a preseason performance test on each athlete to create a baseline profile. Corporate sponsors should provide additional financial support to make sure the testing is rigorous.

3. Establish a reward, modeled on the X prizes (cash awards offered for a variety of technical achievements), for scientists to develop tests that can detect currently undetectable doping agents. The incentive for drug testers must be equal to or greater than that for drug takers.

4. Increase substantially the penalty for getting caught: one strike and you’re out—forever. To protect the athlete from false positive results or inept drug testers (both exist), the system of arbitration and appeals must be fair and trusted. Once a decision is made, however, it must be substantive and final.

5. Disqualify all team members from an event if any member of the team tests positive for doping. Compel the convicted athlete to return all salary paid and prize monies earned to the team sponsors. The threat of this penalty will bring the substantial social pressures of "band of brothers" psychology to bear on all the team members, giving them a strong incentive to enforce their own antidoping rules.
(Via Cosmic Log.)
Are animals smarter than you think? This National Geographic article discusses some interesting research on animal minds.
Excellent essay on the underappreciated Leonhard Euler. (Via SciTechDaily.)
"Lost In Translation: English Signs Gone Wrong". (Via GMSV.)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

"Detection of foreign bodies in chocolate with pulsed terahertz spectroscopy":
We demonstrate the detection of metallic and nonmetallic foreign bodies in chocolate using pulsed terahertz imaging. Investigating the shape of the temporal waveform allows for the discrimination between wanted ingredients like nuts on one hand and foreign bodies like stone, glass, or plastic particles on the other hand. Yet, the intensity image alone does not provide enough information to evaluate the quality of the chocolate bar. To achieve a low false-alarm rate it is important to measure the height profile of the sample and to include the measured results in the image-processing step. Our results show that terahertz imaging can be used for the detection of contaminations in chocolate bars. Furthermore, other kinds of dry food can be investigated with our technique.
(Via Brian Schwartz.)
Interesting facts about iPhone owners:
* 80% of iPhone owners said they were "satisfied" with the device
* 72% of users said they use the iPhone at least once a day for e-mail
* 55% of those surveyed said that the iPhone has increased their mobile browsing
* Almost half of the owners changed their carrier
* 40% of those that switched, switched from a smartphone device
* 1/3 of iPhone owners carry 2 phones
* 13% of iPhone owners surveyed have unlocked iPhones
* 1 out of 10 users reported "hand pain" after use
* 1 out of 5 iPhones were purchased as a gift

Only 20% of the users surveyed said that they had both an iPod and Mac; while only 5% said they had had a Mac and no iPod. Half of iPhone owners are under 30 years of age and students took up 16% of iPhone usage.
"How much free space is left in the broadcast spectrum?"
Time waster of the day: Boomstick.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

"World's fastest internet connection 'used to dry laundry'":
Last summer a 75-year-old woman from Karlstad became the envy of internet users worldwide.

With her blistering 40 gigabits per second connection, Sigbritt Löthberg had the world's fastest internet connection - many thousands of times faster than the average residential link and the first time ever that a home user had experienced such a high speed.

So after nine months with the ability to download a full high definition DVD in just two seconds or access to 1,500 high definition HDTV channels simultaneously, how has Sigbritt's life changed?

Not much, according to Hafsteinn Jonsson, who is heading up the fibre network operation for Karlstad Stadsnät.

"She mostly used it to dry her laundry," he told The Local.

"It was a big bit of gear and it got pretty warm."
(Via IPList.)
"Billionaire College Dropouts". (Via Matt.)
Space shuttle launch as viewed from on-board. (Via Cynical-C.)
Slow motion slap. (Via Clicked.)
Update on sexbots.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Beverly Hill 90210 is being remade for cable TV with new characters.
"Hackers Assault Epilepsy Patients via Computer":
The incident, possibly the first computer attack to inflict physical harm on the victims, began Saturday, March 22, when attackers used a script to post hundreds of messages embedded with flashing animated gifs.

The attackers turned to a more effective tactic on Sunday, injecting JavaScript into some posts that redirected users' browsers to a page with a more complex image designed to trigger seizures in both photosensitive and pattern-sensitive epileptics.
Two men file a lawsuit to stop physicists from destroying the world:
...Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a "strangelet" that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called "strange matter." Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

...Dr. Arkani-Hamed said concerning worries about the death of the Earth or universe, "Neither has any merit." He pointed out that because of the dice-throwing nature of quantum physics, there was some probability of almost anything happening. There is some minuscule probability, he said, "the Large Hadron Collider might make dragons that might eat us up."
College students playing real-life quidditch (minus the flying):
The Amherst College Acromantulas played host to the Middlebury College Mollywobbles on Friday. This was the Acromantulas's first match as part of the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association.
This USA Today story explains how the rules are adapted to the non-magical world:
So, here's how Quidditch is played according to earthbound rules:

Brooms are required, leaving only one hand available, making the game harder as you chase the game ball, a slightly deflated volleyball.

Each team has seven players.

Three chasers throw the ball among them as they work down the field. If they get it through one of three circular goals (think hula hoops on poles), the team scores 10 points.

At the same time, two other team members fling around dark balls called bludgers in an attempt to distract and knock over opposing players. When a player is hit with a bludger, he must drop any ball he is holding and run back to his goal zone before he can make any more plays.

Seekers try to catch the most elusive ball, the Golden Snitch. In the Rowling books, the Snitch flies about independently. In real life, it hangs in a sock from the shorts of a player selected for fleetness of foot. The Snitch disappears for periods of time, reappearing on the field to shrieks of the crowd. The Snitch player has a much larger boundary than the others, often covering a large part of campus. Seekers can follow him. Catching the Snitch is worth 50 points, and once the Snitch is caught, the game ends.