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...
Nuclear reactor for the Moon? (Via Cosmic Log.)
"India has become the first country to convict someone of a crime relying on evidence from... a brain scanner":
The woman, Aditi Sharma, was accused of killing her former fiancé, Udit Bharati. They were living in Pune when Sharma met another man and eloped with him to Delhi. Later Sharma returned to Pune and, according to prosecutors, asked Bharati to meet her at a McDonald's. She was accused of poisoning him with arsenic-laced food.

...After placing 32 electrodes on Sharma's head, investigators said, they read aloud their version of events, speaking in the first person ("I bought arsenic;" "I met Udit at McDonald's"), along with neutral statements like "The sky is blue," which help the software distinguish memories from normal cognition.

For an hour, Sharma said nothing. But the relevant nooks of her brain where memories are thought to be stored buzzed when the crime was recounted, according to Joseph, the state investigator. The judge endorsed Joseph's assertion that the scans were proof of "experiential knowledge" of having committed the murder, rather than just having heard about it.
(Via /.)
Fun with sticky notes. (Via Mike Williams.)
Cool/creepy walking Lego robot.

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Google's Decade: Ten reasons why Google is still number one."
Cancer and stem cells.
Knotted light:
Imagine twisting a beam of light into a knot, as if it were a piece of a string. Now grab another light beam and tie it around the first, forming its own loop. Tie on another and another, until all of space is filled up with loops of light.

Sounds preposterous, but a pair of physicists has shown that light can do just this — at least in theory...
It's surprisingly easy to hack an election. (Via BBspot.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Admin note: Blogging will be light to nonexistent for the rest of the week due to external obligations.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"5 Things You Need to Know About the Large Hadron Collider Now". (Via Instapundit.)
"Galactic Internet"?
"Ten things you don't know about the Earth". (Via Cosmic Log.)
The past and future of touchscreen technology.
"Top 10 Amazing Physics Videos"

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The most minimal online weather site is Umbrella Today. (Via GMSV.)
"Biologists on the Verge of Creating New Form of Life".
How engineers' salaries compare to those in other professions. (Via Michael Williams.)
Are micropayments finally catching on?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Crime-fighting vs. privacy in Newark, NJ.

I'm sure glad that the government will only use this technology for good, not evil. (Via SciTechDaily.)
Advances in camouflage technology.
Can the energy levels of a confined electron prove the Riemann Hypothesis?
Procrastination flowchart. (Via Neatorama.)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Things to say (or not) during sex. (Via MeFi.)

Friday, September 05, 2008

What exactly is the relationship between criminal and civil liability? And when can the results of one be used for trial about the other?

Fortunately, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh answers all the questions that I've ever had on this issue, plus a few more I hadn't thought of...
"How magicians control your mind". (Via Look At This.)
"15 Images You Won't Believe Aren't Photoshopped". (Via Cosmic Log.)
"Welcome to the Hotel 747".

Thursday, September 04, 2008

"Chinese scientists demonstrate how to uncloak an invisible object"
School of Everything. (Via Howard Roerig.)
"Appeals court smacks down judge for relying on Wikipedia":
References to information at Wikipedia have shown up in various inappropriate places, from homework assignments to college term papers. But there's one place that it seems everyone can agree that it doesn't belong: the US court system. The US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, ruling in an immigration case, has agreed with the Board of Immigration Appeals in finding that a reliance on information in Wikipedia is insufficient grounds for a ruling.
(Via The Speculist.)
"Weapons-Grade Lasers by the End of 2008?"
Olfactory diagnosis.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Your spam burden may depend on the first letter of your e-mail address:
...[E]-mail addresses starting with an "A", "M" or "S" got more than 40% spam. By contrast those beginning with a "Q" or "Z" got about 20%.

The difference could be down to the way spammers generate e-mail addresses they want to target, said the study.
(Via GMSV.)
"A researcher claims that toll transponders can be cloned, allowing drivers to pass for free."
CAPTCHA farming:
CAPTCHA-cracking ... is a booming sector of the Indian tech economy. [ZDNet writer Dancho] Danchev reports that CAPTCHA-crackers can earn more per day than they can as legitimate data processing centers.

Indian CAPTCHA-crackers (perhaps they were Chinese gold farmers in another life) appear to earn between 1/10 and 1/8 of a cent per CAPTCHA solved. The businesses in question advertise a wide range of available CAPTCHAs per day; smaller outfits claim they can provide 25,000-50,000 solutions per day, while large-scale operations advertise themselves as producing up to 700,000 CAPTCHAs in a single day.
Here's the ZDNet story, "Inside India's CAPTCHA solving economy".
The civil courts are drowning in e-discovery.
"Why Flies Are So Hard To Swat"

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ars Technica discusses Google's new browser, Chrome.

Here's Google's announcement as well as the Google comic book on Chrome.
Panhandlers who share tips online:
The rise of online panhandling advice helps explain why panhandlers and "sign flyers" -- beggars who use signs to solicit donations -- exhibit remarkably similar methods around the country. Currently, the direct, humorous approach is in vogue. That's why in many cities today you'll hear some version of: "I won't lie to you, I need a drink." Panhandlers also report that asking for specific amounts of money lends credibility to pitches. "I need 43 more cents to get a cup of coffee," a panhandler will declare; some people will give exactly that much, while others will simply hand over a buck.

If it seems unlikely that a homeless person would surf the Web for advice on how to panhandle, that's exactly the point: many aren't homeless and are lying about their circumstances.
Guy Kawasaki explains the settings he uses to get 36 hours of battery life from his iPhone. (Via TUAW.)
What stuff is worth more than its weight in gold?
Item -- Price per pound
Gold -- $12,000
Platinum -- $20,679
Fifty Dollar Bills -- $22,680
Cocaine -- $22,680
Hundred Dollar Bills -- $45,359
Rhodium -- $77,292
Good-quality, one-carat diamonds -- $11.4 M
LSD -- $55 M
Antimatter -- $26 Quadrillion
(Via Marginal Revolution.)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Should you buy eyeglasses online?