Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Admin note: Because of the holiday, GeekPress will take a long weekend off. Regular posting will resume on Monday, January 5, 2009.

Happy New Year!
"73.4 Percent of All Wikipedia Edits Are Made By Roughly 1,400 People".
Don't forget the Leap Second tonight.
Japanese vs. Western web design.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Winning friends in Afghanistan with Viagra:
...Such was the case with the 60-year-old chieftain who received the four pills from a U.S. operative. According to the retired operative who was there, the man was a clan leader in southern Afghanistan who had been wary of Americans -- neither supportive nor actively opposed. The man had extensive knowledge of the region and his village controlled key passages through the area. U.S. forces needed his cooperation and worked hard to win it, the retired operative said.

After a long conversation through an interpreter, the retired operator began to probe for ways to win the man's loyalty. A discussion of the man's family and many wives provided inspiration. Once it was established that the man was in good health, the pills were offered and accepted.

Four days later, when the Americans returned, the gift had worked its magic, the operative recalled.

"He came up to us beaming," the official said. "He said, 'You are a great man.' "

"And after that we could do whatever we wanted in his area."
"Carrying Gunpowder through Airport Security".

As long as it's in clear 3-oz plastic bags, it must be ok. (Via Bruce Schneier.)
Sudoku and optimization algorithms.
Awesome archive of historical photographs via Life magazine and Google. (Via Michael Williams.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

"Is anybody in charge of keeping satellites from colliding?"
MacGyver multitool. (Via BBspot.)
Vanity license plates that slipped past the DMV. (Via Radley Balko.)
The British Royal Navy has chosen to use Windows XP as the operating system for its nuclear submarine fleet. In contrast, the US Navy uses Linux.

(I wonder if the the little "clippy" assistant asks, "It looks like you're trying to launch a missile...")

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Admin note: Due to the holiday, GeekPress will be on hiatus the rest of the week. Regular posting will on resume Monday, December 29. Merry Christmas!
Do you have a privacy right to numbers stored on your cell phone?
Another clever speed camera hack.
Turn cheap "plonk" into a fine vintage by exposing it to an electric field.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Anti-Anti-Missile Missiles".
Dark energy is either nonexistent or it makes up 3/4-th of the universe.
Eric Raymond's musings on Schroedinger's Cat and asking the right questions.
"Interactive fly-through of Mount St. Helens". You can control the video with your computer mouse. (Via JRW.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Behind the scenes at Underwriters Laboratories.

This is a classic free market success story of a private safety certification organization filling an important consumer demand.
"Two U.S. scientists have created a step-by-step guide on how to build a supercomputer using multiple PlayStation 3 video-game consoles."

Here's the guide. (Via IPList.)
"Fancy underground robot bike parking in Tokyo". (Via Instapundit.)
"Students in Montgomery County, Maryland use fake license plates to send speed camera tickets to enemies":
High school students in Maryland are using speed cameras as a tool to fine innocent drivers in a game, according to the Montgomery County Sentinel newspaper. Because photo enforcement devices will automatically mail out a ticket to any registered vehicle owner based solely on a photograph of a license plate, any driver could receive a ticket if someone else creates a duplicate of his license plate and drives quickly past a speed camera. The private companies that mail out the tickets often do not bother to verify whether vehicle registration information for the accused vehicle matches the photographed vehicle.

...A speed camera is located out in front of Wootton High School, providing a convenient location for generating the false tickets. Instead of purchasing license plates, students have ready access to laser printers that can create duplicate license plates using glossy paper using readily available fonts. For example, the state name of "Maryland" appears on plates in a font similar to Garamond Number 5 Swash Italic. Once the camera flashes, the driver can quickly pull over and remove the fake paper plate. The victim will receive a $40 ticket in the mail weeks later.
These speed cameras are an technological implementation of the flawed principle of "guilty until proven innocent". These sorts of "pranks" are a predictable consequence of this bad approach to enforcing the law.

(Via IP List.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Now this is a UAV! (Via Howard Roerig.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Police Officers Become Accidental YouTube Stars".

The article notes that videotaping police is entirely legal, as long as it doesn't interefere with the performance of their duties. Unfortunately some NYPD officers hold the following mistaken view:
An officer directing traffic in Brooklyn asserted that it is illegal to tape police officers. "If I know that he's taking video, I'm going to walk up to him and stop him," the officer said.
Or in another encounter:
...[A] man asks an officer if he may film him, and the officer replies, "You going to post them on the Internet? Then I'm going to have to break your camera over your face." But he and other officers laugh, as does the cameraman, who eventually walks away. The video had 19,370 views as of Tuesday evening.
(Via Instapundit.)
"Medical myths for the holiday season: True, false or unproven?":
Sugar makes kids hyperactive.
Suicides increase over the holidays.
Poinsettias are toxic.
You lose most of your body heat through your head.
Eating at night makes you fat.
You can cure a hangover with...
The Max Planck Institute wanted some classical Chinese poetry for the front cover of its journal, but inadverently ended up with something entirely different:
There were red faces on the editorial board of one of Germany's top scientific institutions, the Max Planck Institute, after it ran the text of a handbill for a Macau strip club on the front page of its latest journal. Editors had hoped to find an elegant Chinese poem to grace the cover of a special issue, focusing on China, of the MaxPlanckForschung journal, but instead of poetry they ran a text effectively proclaiming "Hot Housewives in action!" on the front of the third-quarter edition.
(Via ALDaily.)
Who owns the moon?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Best condom commercial ever. (Via Maximizing Progress.)
"How the Barack Obama tapped into a powerful and only recently studied human emotion called 'elevation'."

(The article does correctly note that this emotion can be elicited by advocates of both good and bad ideas.)
New trailer for Terminator: Salvation.
xkcd's guide to understanding flowcharts. In flowchart form, of course!
"Semiconductor Lasers Generate Better Random Numbers"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ten bad tech predictions. (Via BBspot.)
Video of the day: A 30-year visual history of Apple products.
"The Best/Worst of SkyMall 2008".

(I must confess that Diana and I each own a Slanket and are very happy with them.)
"Newborn had foot, other body parts, imbedded in brain"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

US government reveals MKV (Multiple Kill Vehicle) hovering robot:
A video released by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) shows the MKV being tested at the National Hover Test Facility at Edwards Air Force Base, in California.

Inside a large steel cage, Lockheed's MKV lifts off the ground, moves left and right, rapidly firing as flames shoot out of its bottom and sides. This description doesn't do it any justice really, you have to see the video yourself.

During the test, the MKV is shown to lift off under its own propulsion, and remains stationary, using it’s on board retro-rockets. The potential of this drone is nothing short of science-fiction.

When watching the video, you can't help but be reminded of post-apocalyptic killing machines, seen in such films as The Terminator and The Matrix.
(Via Bruce Schneier.)
Best pranks from "The Office". (Via DRB.)
The mathematics of procrastination:
...The equation is U=EV/ID.

The 'U' stands for utility, or the desire to complete a given task. It is equal to the product of E, the expectation of success, and V the value of completion, divided by the product of I, the immediacy of the task, and D, the personal sensitivity to delay.
(Via SciTechDaily.)
Jeff Patterson has a new short story out about love, family, and alien contact called "Trajectories".

Monday, December 15, 2008

Robot density is highest in Europe.

As Kottke notes, "When the war with the machines starts, Africa will be humanity's last stronghold."
Self-healing coatings.
"Can animals sense earthquakes?"
Self-destructing USB drive:
Passwords can be hacked, but not the IronKey. It's built to withstand attacks both virtual and physical.

10 incorrect password attempts, and the encryption chip self-destructs, making the contents of the flash drive totally unreadable. The contents of the drive are filled with epoxy, so if a hacker tries to physically access the chips, he'd more likely damage them instead.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tasteless animation of Simpsons cartoon characters having sex is ruled "child pornography":
Judge Michael Adams decided that it could, and found a man from Sydney guilty of possessing child pornography on his computer.

The defence had argued that the fictional, animated characters were not real people, and clearly departed from the human form.

They therefore contested that the conviction for the possession of child pornography should be overturned.

Justice Michael Adams said the purpose of anti-child pornography legislation was to stop sexual exploitation and child abuse where images of "real" children were depicted.

But in a landmark ruling he decided that the mere fact that they were not realistic representations of human beings did not mean that they could not be considered people.
This is in Australia, not the US. But sooner or later, a similar question will arise in the US. I just hope American judges don't make a similarly foolish ruling. (Via Transterrestrial Musings.)
Beware these tourist scams. (Via Bruce Schneier.)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Admin note: There will be no blogging for a few days. My wife and I had to put our dog Kate to sleep this morning. She had been suffering from an abdominal tumor which finally spread to her spinal cord.

We had her for almost 9 years (adopted from a shelter as a full-grown adult). She was a sweet, cheerful, faithful, loyal, and protective girl who gave us many years of happiness.

Rest in peace, Kate.



(Diana's tribute to Kate is here.)
More support for using brain boosting drugs.
"The Stories Behind Hollywood Studio Logos". (Via BBspot.)
The Supersizing Illusion. (Via Instapundit.)
How to teach your iPhone some dirty words.

Monday, December 08, 2008

"Prisoner Escapes by Mailing Himself Out of Jail". (Via Bruce Schneier.)
"Fifty years of popular songs condensed into a single sentence". (Via Kottke.)
The game theory of the Travelers' Dilemma.
"What is truth serum?"

Friday, December 05, 2008

Taking the asteroid threat seriously.
Prescription handguns? (Via Michael Williams.)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Admin note: Due to external obligations, posting may be light to non-existent for the rest of the week.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

How physicists make lunch. (Via DRB.)
"First Light-Driven Nanomachine"
Lemon-powered clock.
"How do female astronauts menstruate in space?"

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"Top 10 Amazing Biology Videos"
Faster MRI scanning with superadiabaticity.
"Why You Should Always Check Your Kid's Homework". (Via The Agitator.)
"Every Episode of House Ever". (Via Hoondat Report.)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Humorous economics video of the day: "Real Estate Downfall". (Via Rule of Reason.)
Two Bowling Balls problem. (Via BBspot.)
Office sign of the day. (Via Flibbertigibbet.)
"How much force does it take to stab somebody to death? Strangely enough, forensic scientists do not know..."