Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dave Barry's Year In Review.
"The Decade In Data". (Via @JonHenke.)
Researchers have trapped light in an ultracold cloud of atoms for 1.5 seconds.
Perfect New Year's Eve invention: Synthetic alcohol, without hangovers.

Plus, "[t]he new substance could have the added bonus of being 'switched off' instantaneously with a pill, to allow drinkers to drive home or return to work."

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Top Secret" clearance doesn't mean the same thing throughout the US government.

Update: One reader informs me that, "CIA DOD clearances have been fully reciprocal since at least 2003. Access are different though."
The 370 passwords banned by Twitter for being too insecure. (Via GMSV.)
"Incredible photo of asteroid impact". (Via Radley Balko.)
GPS-Enabled Kitty. (Via Maximizing Progress.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Off topic: In ESPN fantasy football, the GeekPress Generals had a mediocre regular season in the "John Galt League" -- but had a red-hot playoff stretch to win the league championship tonight.
What I've been reading about the recent TSA security snafu:

Rand Simberg, "Some Thoughts on the Latest Man-Caused Disaster Attempt"

Randy Barnett, "TSA Security Directive SD-1544–09-06"

And this joke:
How many TSA employees does it take to stop a terrorist? Nobody knows, they've never done it.
More restaurant menu psychology. "Those aren't the appetizers you're looking for..."

One tidbit on the four types of restaurant customers, as described by menu consultant Gregg Rapp:
...The customers he calls "Entrees" do not want a lot of description, just the bottom line on what the dish is and how much it is going to cost. "Recipes," on the other hand, ask many questions and want to know as much as they can about the ingredients. "Barbecues" share food and like chatty servers who wear name tags. "Desserts" are trendy people who want to order trendy things.
(Via Marginal Revolution.)
"5 Legal Cases That Defined Music in 2009"
"Why is it dangerous to burn wrapping paper?"
Functional single-molecule transistor.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Why Amazon has to collect sales tax in 5 states but not the other 45.

Includes an explanation of the legal technique called "entity isolation".

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Los Alamos National Laboratory Researchers Accidentally Blow up Building with a Cannon". (Via VA Viper.)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Have a very Tesla Christmas! (Via Instapundit.)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"60 Stunning Satellite Photos of Earth". (Via @timothypeck.)
"Why are [ethnic group]?..."

Inquiring minds clearly want to know! (Via BBspot.)
"Facebook Responsible For 20 Percent Of Divorces".

Of course, those doing the actual cheating on their spouses might bear a portion of the responsibility as well...
Sociology and psychology of internet trolls. (Via Ryan Sager.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Festivus!

And don't forget this Seinfeld clip, "The Story of Festivus".
"Why it's better to pretend you don't know anything about computers."
I just hate it when my 12-story building falls down.
"Looking for Life in the Multiverse".

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"Man Delivers Baby Using Guide Found on Google"
Space beer!
"Good cop-bad cop" doesn't work as well as "bad cop-good cop".
The world's longest laser measures 270 km (168 miles).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ryan Sager: "Shopping Psych 201 -- Take a Step Back"
"21 Things That Became Obsolete This Decade". (Via @TomRStone.)
World's smallest snowman. (Via Maximizing Progress.)
"Is the Secret Service responsible for keeping the President from getting drunk?"

The short answer: "No".

Friday, December 18, 2009

"30 Secrets Your Waiter Will Never Tell You".

And 20 more secrets.
The physics of space battles. (Via Howard R.)
Surgery using sound and light.
Video of the day: "The Known Universe".

From the description:
The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world's most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History.
Or as Kottke says, "'Like Powers of Ten', but astronomically accurate".
Even though invisible cloaks are still just theoretical, scientists have started working on anti-cloaking technology.
Gift idea of the day: A Calabi-Yau manifold.

(Note: Only 3 of the 6 spatial dimensions are included!)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Statistician cracks the secret to darts.
Funniest Facebook Snafus.
The Morgan Freeman chain of command. (Via GMSV.)
"Why Tablets Will Kill Netbooks". Mike Elgan lists the following 7 critical factors:
1. Touch instead of pen
2. Cell phone operating systems
3. Cheaper components
4. App stores
5. The rise of e-books
6. Faster mobile broadband
7. HD video on demand
How a married couple lives in 175-square-foot "microstudio" apartment in NYC.

But that's absolutely spacious compared to this 55-square foot NYC apartment.
"15 Failed Predictions About The Future". (Via Kottke.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rand Simberg: "The Precautionary Principle and Global Warming".
"Apple Gestapo: How Apple Hunts Down Leaks"
"If Relatives Edited Wikipedia Pages"
Peter Jackson's upcoming Hobbit movie will include Ian McKellen as Gandalf:
Jackson is hard at work prepping a return to Middle-earth with "The Hobbit" and has revealed to us that three -- and only three -- of the "Rings" actors will be returning for the family reunion.

"Gandalf, being a 2,000-year-old wizard, is still around and plays a major role in 'The Hobbit,' and we're having Ian McKellen reprise," explained the filmmaker, who is executive-producing the flick and writing the screenplay. "There's a couple of other characters: Elrond, who was played by Hugo Weaving [in the original films], and there's a possibility of Galadriel, who was played by Cate Blanchett."
"Typing text into a mobile phone is fiddly enough in English. How do handsets and their users manage in other languages?"
What English sounds like to foreigners. (Via Marginal Revolution.)
Cartoon of the day: "What's the password?" (Via Schneier.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Off topic: Today's edition of PajamasMedia has published my latest health care policy OpEd, entitled "ObamaCare: Tightening the Noose Around Private Health Care".
Jason Crawford asks, "Where is the tablet sweet spot?"
"MIT's Bidirectional Display Lets You Control Objects With a Wave of Your Hand". Includes video.
Super-cool cat-friendly house.

From Japan, of course. (Via Diana.)
"Are cell phone covers, films, and jackets worth the money?"
18 interesting roads you might want to drive -- or maybe not. (Via Howard Roerig.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

How restaurant menu layouts manipulate your mind. (Via Marginal Revolution.)
Beyond E-Ink: "New displays for e-readers"

(The Pixel Qi system mentioned near the end is often mentioned as a possible component of the rumored Apple Tablet.)
Is AT&T getting an unfairly bad rap for iPhone problems?

Randall Stross, the author of the NYT article (and a Verizon customer) notes:
When I set about looking for independent data, however, to confirm the superior performance of Verizon's network, I was astonished to discover that I had managed to get things exactly wrong. Despite the well-publicized problems in New York and San Francisco, AT&T seems to have the superior network nationwide.
Why the US military makes inexpensive Linux supercomputers out of Sony PlayStation 3s. And a related story.
Robots and the Law: "What happens if a robot crushes your foot, chases your cat off a ledge or smacks your baby?" (Via SciTechDaily.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Two rules to success in life:
1. Don't tell people everything you know.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Saturn's mysterious hexagonal jet stream.
"Ridiculous User Interfaces In Film, and the Man Who Designs Them". (Via BBspot.)
Map of every nuclear explosions since 1945. And full-sized version.

(Via Neatorama.)
Which eBay strategy works better: Sniping or squatting?

Here's the academic paper. (Via MR.)
16 ubergeeky cufflinks. (Via Danny.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Secret TSA screening algorithm inadvertently posted online. And the ABC News report.
"How Tiger Woods and other cheating men are getting busted through e-mails and cell phone notes".
Raging against the pinball machine.
Walter Mossberg compares the Amazon Kindle and the B&N Nook.
iPhone icon pillows.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Bagel topology: "How to Slice a Bagel into Two Linked Halves". (Via GMSV.)
Virgin spaceship.
"Do truth serums work?"
"The Ten Brands That Will Disappear In 2010"

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Let's go rollerblading. (Via JRW.)
A broader temporal perspective on the global warming "hockey stick". (Via Instapundit.)
"A Romance Flowchart: When Is It Inappropriate to Use Your iPhone?"

And a larger version.
"Autocomplete Me". Heh!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Off topic: The December 7, 2009 Wall Street Journal has printed my LTE in support of Dr. Richard Lindzen's December 1 OpEd, "The Climate Science Isn't Settled".

My LTE is the 4th one down on the page entitled, "The Science Behind the IPCC Climate Report Is Sound":
If a respected MIT scientist like Mr. Lindzen argues that "the science isn't settled," and other scientists disagree, then doesn't the very dispute itself prove that the science isn't settled?

Paul Hsieh
Sedalia, Colo.
(The title applies to the first letter on the page, not to mine.)

This is also my new record for LTE brevity -- 30 words!
"Shopping Psych 101: Look, Don't Touch"
"HOW DO I TURN OFF CAPS LOCK?"
Jeff Bezos reads in the bathtub by putting his Kindle in a one-gallon Ziploc bag. (Via @jasoncrawford)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Admin note: Posting may be light this upcoming week due to external obligations.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Fusion update.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Dissecting HM's brain.

And background information on HM from Wikipedia and NYTimes. (Via @shlevy.)
"A new infrared image of the galaxy Centaurus A reveals the gassy, ghastly bones of a galaxy that it consumed several hundred million years ago."
Liquid metal antennas.

I can hardly wait for other cool liquid metal products! (Via SciTechDaily.)
"What would happen if you were swallowed by a black hole (revisited)?"
"The Real Reason Darth Vader Wears a Helmet"

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Invention of the day: Shell-proof wallpaper.

Update: And a video. (Via Sam C.)
"Note to Law Enforcement Personnel: If you arrest a suspect for bank robbery, and you find the stick-up note in his pocket, don't put the note on the car near the suspect. The note might not be there when you're done the search incident to arrest."

Of course there's a video.
"Groom Whips Out Phone at Altar to Switch Facebook Relationship Status".

Includes video. (Via HotAir.)
Accidental geography.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Sleek infographic on the Evolution of Storage. (Via Gizmodo.)
Will monkeys really type Shakespeare if given enough time?

After putting the question to an empirical test, some UK university students discovered that:
...The theory is flawed. After one month - admittedly not an "infinite" amount of time - the monkeys had partially destroyed the machine, used it as a lavatory, and mostly typed the letter "s".
(Via Marginal Revolution and BBC News.)
Scrollbar clock. (Via Found On The Web.)
Star Wars Facebook status updates.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

"The Psychology of Being Scammed". Bruce Schneier summarizes some of the standard techniques from a recent security paper, including:
The distraction principle. While you are distracted by what retains your interest, hustlers can do anything to you and you won't notice.

The social compliance principle. Society trains people not to question authority. Hustlers exploit this "suspension of suspiciousness" to make you do what they want.

The herd principle. Even suspicious marks will let their guard down when everyone next to them appears to share the same risks. Safety in numbers? Not if they're all conspiring against you.

The dishonesty principle. Anything illegal you do will be used against you by the fraudster, making it harder for you to seek help once you realize you've been had.

The deception principle. Thing and people are not what they seem. Hustlers know how to manipulate you to make you believe that they are.

The need and greed principle. Your needs and desires make you vulnerable. Once hustlers know what you really want, they can easily manipulate you.
The paper also discusses a dozen con scenarios, which are both informative (and entertaining).

The full paper can be found here (PDF format): "Understanding scam victims: Seven principles for systems security".
What exactly happens during an iPhone backup?
John Avalon: "The Cyber-Threat Grows".
Cartoon of the day: When computers go down... (Via BBspot.)
"Nasty iPhone Worm Hints at the Future"

Monday, November 30, 2009

"NASA scientists have produced the most compelling evidence yet that bacterial life exists on Mars." (Via @ariarmstrong)
Glenn Reynolds discusses some bad code used in the controversial climate change models.
LegoMatrix is a surprisingly accurate Lego recreation of one of the classic Matrix scenes.

Here's the side-by-side video comparison. And more on the LegoMatrix project. (Via Kottke.)
Unclear on the pie-chart concept. (Via @ryansager.)
Why is blackmail illegal?

The article uses the David Letterman case as the launching point. (Via @markwickens)
"Virtual Mafia in Online Worlds"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Video of the day: "One in a million" events.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Now that it's Black Friday, let the Christmas gift suggestions begin!

Today's is the "Behind every great man..." t-shirt.
Invention of the day: Bacon flavored envelopes. (Via @ariarmstrong.)
Time savers. (Via BBspot.)
Patient trapped in 23-year "coma" was conscious all along. (Via Rand Simberg.)

Update: Ryan Sager warns that some of the popular press reporting may be misleading. He also links to this analysis from physician-blogger "Orac".

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Admin note: No posting today due to the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Courtroom First: Brain Scan Used in Murder Sentencing"
Bendable magnetic interface.
Vehicle telemetry.
The really traditional Socratic Method.
"Eight Deep-Fried Turkey Disaster Videos". (Via Instapundit.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ultimate relationship diagram. (Via @ryansager.)
Legal duty to Tweet?
50 Amazing Realistic CG Portraits
Visual illusion stumps adults but not kids.

Monday, November 23, 2009

ClimateGate links I've been reading:
"Global WarmingGate: When Scientists Become Politicians", Rand Simberg, PajamasMedia, 11/23/09

"Global WarmingGate: What Does It Mean?", Charlie Martin, PajamasMedia, 11/22/09

"ClimateGate: The Very Ugly Side of Climate Science", Steven Dubner, Freakonomics Blog (NYT), 11/23/09
"Visual Map of 30 Free Online Promotion Websites"
"Sex and pharmaceuticals": The search continues for a pill that will lift a woman's libido.
Feynman's father.
Man teaches son "worst swearword in the world". Hilarity ensues.
"Man taught his son Klingon before he taught him English". (Via @AriArmstrong.)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Galileo's fingers, tooth are found. No, really.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Quantum ghost imaging:
Ghost imaging is a technique that allows a high-resolution camera to produce an image of an object that the camera itself cannot see. It uses two sensors: one that looks at a light source and another that looks at the object. These sensors point in different directions. For example, the camera can face the sun and the light meter can face an object.
(Via Bruce Schneier.)
Redesigning NFL helmet graphics.
25 Passive Aggressive Office Kitchen Notes .
"How did the states establish long straight borders before GPS?"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

How Secure Is Cloud Computing?
"The Singularity Is Coming -- Now What?"
The best part of the "Laptop Steering Wheel Desk" page are the funny reviews.
Onion story of the day: "Alternate-Universe Sci-Fi Channel Show Asks What Would Happen If Germany Lost War".

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The rhythms of Twitter activity.
Cartoon of the day: If malware detection had existed at the time of the original Trojan Horse.

(Via Bruce Schneier.)
Video of the day: "On the top of Burj Dubai's spire".

The Burj Dubai is the world's tallest building. The video was shot at 2684 feet -- i.e., at an elevation of over half a mile. Hence, don't watch it if you have a fear of heights.

(Via BBspot and Geekologie.)
3-D Mandelbrot set.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Video of the day: "World's luckiest train track inspector". (Via Howard Roerig.)
Shopping tips: "10 Fascinating Facts about Black Friday"
Internet troll taxonomy.
"First universal programmable quantum computer unveiled". (Via David Jilk.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Off topic: My latest health care OpEd, "Mafia-style health insurance: An offer you can't refuse" was just published in the November 16, 2009 Washington Examiner.
"The History of the Internet in a Nutshell"
Top 5 Social Engineering Exploit Techniques.
Calculator hackers.
What the "Bliss" hill (Microsoft XP default desktop image) looks like today.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"20 Geek Inspired Engagement Rings". (Via Danny.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

"Space rock buzzes past Earth". (Via Rand Simberg.)
Onion video of the day: "Google Opt Out Feature Allows Users To Protect Privacy By Moving To Remote Village".
It takes surprisingly few pixels to create an intelligible moving scene.
Funny warning labels.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Comprehensive strategy guide to the all-you-can-eat buffet. (Via GMSV.)
"10 Geeky Laws That Should Exist, But Don't"
Fusion breakthrough?
"The DNA of the domesticated horse shows evolution at work".

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Video of the day: "I Never Thought Water Drops Looked Like This"
Framed for child porn -- by a PC virus.
Mouse button overkill.
Soviet and post-Soviet mathematics. (Via Tyler Cowen.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Roombas do Pac-Man right.
Virtual cow butt.
"Newborn Babies Cry With Mother's Accent"
"Lost Persian Army Discovered Almost 2,500 Years Later". (Via Neatorama.)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Another freak accident shuts down the Large Hadron Collider:
The Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle accelerator, just cannot catch a break. First, a coolant leak destroyed some of the magnets that guide the energy beam. Then LHC officials postponed the restart of the machine to add additional safety features. Now, a bird dropping a piece of bread on a section of the accelerator has, according to the Register, shut down the whole operation.

The bird dropped some bread on a section of outdoor machinery, eventually leading to significant over heating in parts of the accelerator. The LHC was not operational at the time of the incident, but the spike produced so much heat that had the beam been on, automatic failsafes would have shut down the machine.

This incident won't delay the reactivation of the facility later this month, but exposes yet another vulnerability of the what might be the most complex machine ever built. With freak accident after freak accident piling up over at CERN, the idea of time traveling particles returning from the future to prevent their own discovery is beginning to seem less and less far fetched.
My favorite comment was the following:
The bird's briefing:

The approach will not be easy. You are required to maneuver straight down this trench and skim the surface to this point. The target area is only two meters wide. It's a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. A precise hit will start a chain reaction which should destroy the station.
"Signature of antimatter detected in lightning"
"20 great warning signs"
Where is your favorite technology on the hype cycle? (Via Maximizing Progress.)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Video of the day: Cheesy Chinese inflatable bra commercial. (Borderline NSFW due to bra-wearing model.)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Dodge Viper logo is an upside-down Daffy Duck. (Via BBspot.)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Has Blackberry lost its edge?
Money mules.
"Debate rages over radioactive space monkeys". (Via Rand Simberg.)
"How to Really Browse Without Leaving a Trace"

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Africa is really big. But it will also be the site of a new ocean.

(Via BBspot.)
Safety tip: If you sneak on board a jet fighter plane for a joyride, don't also pull the eject lever in mid-air. (Via DefenseTech.)
Mind-reading computers?
My kind of Christmas lights! (Via Found On The Web.)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

"15 Awesome Ultramodern Fireplaces". (Via Danny.)
Rand Simberg on the Ares I-X rocket launch problems.

(BTW, if you're interested in space policy, you should be reading his blog Transterrestrial Musings.)
"Chickens immunised by GM peas".
'Roid Rage.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Movie narrative charts from xkcd, for LOTR, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, 12 Angry Men, and Primer.
"Four essential tips for extending the battery life of your computer, cell phone, and every other gadget."
Flowchart for "Hey Jude". (Via BBspot.)
A 3-night stay at the Galactic space hotel will cost you $4.4 million.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Off topic: PajamasMedia.com has just published my latest health care OpEd, "ObamaCare: A National Version of RomneyCare".
Video of the day: SawStop demonstration.

This slick safety device allows a power saw to cut wood, but not human flesh.

The technology is impressive, but the most jaw-dropping section is the super slow-motion demonstration where the inventor places his own finger into the path of the saw to show how well it works. More info at the SawStop website.

(Via Maximizing Progress.)
"Free Yourselves! Turn Off Your Laptops! With all our technology, we've lost touch with what is truly important: killing and eating things"
Secure computers aren't so secure:
...The time it takes to store data in memory, fluctuations in power consumption, even the sounds your computer makes can betray its secrets.
Interesting profile of E-Ink, the company that creates the electronic ink displays for ebook readers like the Kindle.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween game of the day: Pumpkin Remover. (Via Cynical-C.)
Hilariously sexist Battleship game cover from the 1970s. (Via BBspot.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Awesome Halloween math lecture. (Via Cynical-C.)
Atoms are really small.

Drag the slider underneath the image from left to right. (Via Radley Balko.)
"People with phantom limbs learn physically impossible body tricks". (Via SciTechDaily.)
Lawsuit of the Day: Defective Underwear Causes Penis Pain. (Via NoodleFood.)
Video of the day: "D&D on Multi-touch Table"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Facebook games analyzed by an MMO player.

(Via Waxy who notes, "interesting, though cynical, perspective of the underlying mechanics".)
What startups are really like. (Via Kottke.)
"The Inside Story of Wal-Mart's Hacker Attack". (Via Bruce Schneier.)
Dense plasma focus fusion device.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One Ring to ping them all...
Giant software mind map comparing mind mapping software. (Via Cool Infographics.)
"Court case shows limits of anonymous blogging"
Video of the day: Two-legged robot that walks like a man.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"How Formula 1 Crews Overclock the Pit Stop". (Via Howard Roerig.)
"'Evil Maid' Attacks on Encrypted Hard Drives"
Klingon military recruitment video. (Via Neatorama.)
Farhad Manjoo of Slate calls Windows 7 "the best operating system on the market". No, really.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"Fluid dynamicists have worked out how to stop teapots from dribbling, once and for all."
Reverse Polish Sausage.

(Confession: I loved the HP-15c that I used in college.)
Awesome pictures of Saturn. (Via Radley Balko.)
"Explaining (Some of) Google's Algorithm with Pretty Charts & Math Stuff"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Antartica is really big. (Via BBspot.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

"Re-imagining a Desktop Touch Interface"
"The CIA is developing the capability to monitor and analyze Twitter traffic, in addition to their existing ability to monitor email, message board and blog data."
"RFID Waves Visualized and Demystified Using a LED Wand":
The video was created using a custom-created LED wand that lights up whenever it is in the presence of an RFID field. The collected images of the wand glowing at various points, then created a composite animation with those pics, which turns out looking like the atomic orbital 3d.
(Via Gizmodo.)
How does the Shazam app identify music?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Who's in Big Brother's Database?"

A review by James Bamford of Matthew Aid's book, The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency.
"A cheap way of using small radios to see inside buildings".

Related story from Physics arXiv.
"Quantum computers could tackle enormous linear equations"
Nice FTC-vs-bloggers summary from Walter Olson: "Where Did You Get That Keychain?"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Video of the day: "The Sordid Story of the Pixar Lamp"
The Pixar lamp is all adorable in the brief intro that plays before their movies, but what happens after he stomps down that I? Nothing good, I can tell you that...(From College Humor.)
JJ Abrams discusses Star Trek plot coincidences (?plot holes) and plans for a sequel.
"11 Ingenious Signs On The Simpsons". (Via J-Walk Blog.)
"Vegas uses computers to nab card counters"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ryan Sager notes, "Mind Reading Fever Flares Up Again".

One especially important point:
And even assuming that something like fMRI lie detection worked and could be administered to an unwilling participant -- what's so much worse about that than, say, regular lie detection? We've already decided as a society that we're okay with the idea of a lie detector (so comfortable, in fact, that we don't care that the ones we already have don't really work). Why would we be uncomfortable with a lie detector that simply utilized a different technology?

The bigger problem, it seems to me, is if these new technologies are as flawed as (or worse than) current technologies, yet we trust them anyway. People tend to trust anything that involves a picture of a brain scan, regardless of its validity. Add that to the usual terrible job jurors do, and we've got a recipe for a new generation of faulty convictions.
Tips for criminals on the run from the law:
1) Don't post your location update on Facebook.
2) Don't "friend" former officials from the Department of Justice.
(Via Bruce Schneier.)
9th century China apology template if you got too drunk at last night's dinner party:

"...[T]he beautifully named 'Dunhuang Bureau of Etiquette' insisted that local officials use the following letter template (dated 856) when sending apologies to offended dinner hosts. The guilty party would copy the template text, enter the dinner host's name, sign the letter and then deliver with head bowed..."
Yesterday, having drunk too much, I was intoxicated as to pass all bounds; but none of the rude and coarse language I used was uttered in a conscious state. The next morning, after hearing others speak on the subject, I realised what had happened, whereupon I was overwhelmed with confusion and ready to sink into the earth with shame.
(Via GMSV.)
"Seamlessly Melding Man and Machine"

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Why Eggs Could Be Getting Harder to Peel"
Federal judge rules that ringtones aren't "performances".

Hence, cell phone carriers do not have to pay royalties to music publishers every time a customer's ringtone plays:
In her ruling, US District Judge Denise Cote pointed out that the carrier has no way to control when a ringtone is being played and earns no revenue when it happens -- customers decide when and where their phones can ring, and they turn the phone on or off without the carrier's consent. She also said that performing a work publicly usually means that it must take place in a public space where a "substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of its social acquaintances is gathered."

Regardless, Cote says that mobile carriers are only responsible for the transmission of the song to the phone, which doesn't count as a performance in and of itself. "Even if the customer could listen to the download as it was being received, and contemporaneously perceive it as the musical work, that would not constitute a public performance," wrote the judge. Additionally, there is no expectation of profit on the part of the carrier or the customer when the phone begins blasting Cher out of its tiny built-in speaker. This means even if it was a performance, it would be exempt from falling under royalty requirements.
Bruce Schneier: "The Commercial Speech Arms Race"
The blog of unfortunate acronyms.

For instance, the Department of Aging, Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods or the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research.

(Via Tyler Cowen.)
Today's internet quiz: "Actual newspaper story or Onion headline?" (Via Neatorama.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

USB PC Prankster:
The USB PC Prankster looks like a stock flash drive, but as you can clearly see above, a few toggle switches enable it to become quite the headache. Once plugged in, the unlucky PC that it's attached to will have its Caps Lock enabled and disabled at random, see garbled text splattered about quarterly reports and be victim to uncontrollable, erratic cursor movements.
Sounds like a great way to become the Most Hated Man In The Office.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

"New Israeli battery provides thousands of hours of power". (Via Vik Rubenfeld.)
The Billion Dollar Gram. (Via Cool Infographics.)
Great infographic depicting 50 years of space travel. (Via BBspot.)
"The Periodic Table of Science Fiction". (Via Technovelgy.)
"Could Monty Python be made in today's Britain?" (Via Instapundit.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bladeless fan.
Are time travelers sabotaging our Large Hadron Collider to protect the future of the universe? (Via Instapundit.)
"Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, has confessed that the // in a web address were actually 'unnecessary'."
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh has an interesting set of posts on ebook technology and "The Future of Books Related to the Law".

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Although I don't give out money to panhandlers, some of them do use clever signs.

And as Steven Malanga reports, the successful techniques are often disseminated across the country via the internet.

(Via Found On The Web.)
Steve Mirsky of Scientific American reviews the Kindle:
...But one of the first things I discovered is how much stuff you can cram on it that is totally free.

Project Gutenberg, which is trying to get everything that's now off copyright onto the Web, has posted thousands of classics, and it's easy to download them in seconds on a home computer and then move them over to the Kindle.

Three decades ago I bought (but still have not read) a copy of The Brothers Karamazov, which sits on a shelf at home. Now, with the Kindle, in less than five months I already have not read the electronic edition of The Brothers Karamazov on three continents.
"Woman Arrested for Facebook Poke".
"Pigs Defeating RFID-Enabled Feeding Systems". (Via Bruce Schneier.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Now this would be a cool national flag. (Via BBspot.)
"A nuclear battery the size of a penny".
"Why Your Brain Wants to Waste That Gift Card"
Smart grids.
Addictive free iPhone game of the day: Line Up.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Physicist wants to test Hyperdrive Propulsion in Large Hadron Collider"
What's Next for the Netflix Algorithms?
"The 10 Creepiest Unintentionally-Sexual Ads Of All Time"
"Italian scientist reproduces Shroud of Turin"
High-tech "Sabbath elevators" may not really be kosher:
...The rabbis wrote that this new technology, which was explained to them by elevator technicians and engineers in "a written and oral technical opinion," made them aware for the first time that using Shabbos elevators may be a "desecration of the Sabbath."

They did not name the offending technology. But for several years there has been debate among Orthodox rabbis in Israel over whether devices that measure the weight in an elevator car, and adjust power accordingly, effectively make entering a car the equivalent of pressing a button.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Help Barack Obama win the Heisman trophy!
"35 Years of the World's Best Microscope Photography"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday, October 09, 2009

Comic of the day: Second monitor.
"How Neutrinos Could Revolutionise Communications with Submarines"
Video of the day: "TimeLapse Typhoon 'Nangka' over Hong Kong". (Via Maximizing Progress.)
"How to Make an 'LotR' Sword"

Thursday, October 08, 2009

"Net Neutrality: Toward a Stupid Internet" (Ray Niles, The Objective Standard, Winter 2008-2009.)

And a related piece, "Computer Science Professor, Former FCC Official Warns Against Net Neutrality" (Washington Post, 9/25/2009.)
Video of the day: Shady optical illusion. (Via Neatorama.)
"What's the story on jury nullification?"
Today's internet quiz: "Steak House or Gay Bar?" (Via A.T.)
Prison security tip of the day: "Don't Let Hacker Inmates Reprogram Prison Computers". (Via Bruce Schneier.)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Flowchart: "Should I Delete My Tweet?"
"Why Minds Are Not Like Computers"
2009 Ig Nobel Prizes!

My favorite:
MEDICINE PRIZE: Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand - but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand - every day for more than sixty (60) years.

REFERENCE: "Does Knuckle Cracking Lead to Arthritis of the Fingers?", Donald L. Unger, Arthritis and Rheumatism, vol. 41, no. 5, 1998, pp. 949-50.
"Teen's DIY Energy Hacking Gives African Village New Hope":
"With a windmill, I could stay awake at night reading instead of going to bed at seven with the rest of Malawi," he writes. But more importantly, "with a windmill, we'd finally release ourselves from the troubles of darkness and hunger... A windmill meant more than just power, it was freedom."
What's Inside a Cup of Coffee?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

"The Federal Trade Commission will require bloggers to clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products."

Diana's commentary.
New "Simon's Cat" video: "Hot Spot". And from a few months ago, "Fly Guy".
"Court order served over Twitter".
Parkour dose of the day.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Schroedinger's virus.
A real use for Twitter.
"Ten New Details on the Apple Tablet"
The ultimate breakfast machine.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Off topic: The October 1, 2009 Denver Post has published my health care OpEd, "The Real Stakes".

Friday, October 02, 2009

Clever bad guy trick:
During a daring bank robbery in Sweden that involved a helicopter, the criminals disabled a police helicopter by placing a package with the word "bomb" near the helicopter hangar, thus engaging the full caution/evacuation procedure while they escaped.
"The Wisconsin Tourism Federation has changed its name, after being made aware that its acronym WTF had become crude internet slang." (Via Instapundit.)
UK English essays for university admission to be graded by computer. (Via BBspot.)
"Only 3 countries in the world have more people than Facebook"
"MIT Scientist Explains OLEDs by Electrocuting a Pickle"

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Off topic: The September 30, 2009 Christian Science Monitor has published my latest health care OpEd, "Health care in Massachusetts: a warning for America".

It's also mirrored here at Yahoo! Opinion.
Who owns my garbage?
"Weird, Rare Clouds and the Physics Behind Them"
"Man Goes Into Business Delivering Costco To Overpriced NYC Neighborhoods". (Via MR.)
"20 Incredible LEGO Artworks".

(Via RB, who pointed out this real-life Bilbo Baggins house.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Schneier on unauthentication.
"The Myth of Crowdsourcing". Here's an excerpt:
The notion of crowds creating solutions appeals to our desire to believe that working together we can do anything, but in terms of innovation it is just ridiculous.

There is no crowd in crowdsourcing. There are only virtuosos, usually uniquely talented, highly trained people who have worked for decades in a field. Frequently, these innovators have been funded through failure after failure. From their fervent brains spring new ideas. The crowd has nothing to do with it. The crowd solves nothing, creates nothing.

What really happens in crowdsourcing as it is practiced in wide variety of contexts, from Wikipedia to open source to scientific research, is that a problem is broadcast to a large number of people with varying forms of expertise. Then individuals motivated by obsession, competition, money or all three apply their individual talent to creating a solution.
There is a legitimate sense of "the power of crowds" in which multiple eyes on a project can catch subtle mistakes that might slip past one observer or in which aggregate actions of individuals acting in a free market can set prices better than a single central planner.

But for creative innovation, it still ultimately comes down to the individual mind.

(Via David Jilk.)
Future MilTech:
In the last century, each war has left pretty clear signs about which new weapons and gear will be common in future ones.

...What are we seeing now? Lots more personal electronics for infantry, armed battlefield robots, the beginning of the battlefield Internet, and a lot more sensors. There are already portable electronic devices that can see through walls. There's more pattern recognition software that can examine digital video and make decisions on what is dangerous, and what is not. In the lab, there is a "crowd scanner" that examines how flushed (excited, as in blood rushing to different parts of their faces) people are, and who might be feeling guilty, or ready to attack. The last decade has seen the first large scale use of combat robots (if you don't count naval mines, which were first introduced in the late 19th century.)

Now you know what kind of weapons will be common, reliable and most effective in a decade or two.
In the right hands, these could be tremendous technological advances. (In the wrong hands, that's a different story...)
Spot the difference between Arial and Helvetica. (Via BBspot.)
Total Recall: "Microsoft researcher converts his brain into 'e-memory'"

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Big Egg.

Here's how it happens.
"The coming tablet wars"
"Where will synthetic biology lead us?" (Via Cosmic Log.)
"10 Dirty Little Restaurant Secrets". (Via Jon Henke.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dvorak keyboard fans take their fight to smartphones.
"Woman gets pregnant -- while pregnant". (Via Instapundit.)
"A Stick Figure Guide to the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)". (Via Schneier.)
Spider silk. (Via Howard Roerig.)

Friday, September 25, 2009

"Rusty Soviet Doomsday System Still Turned On". Related Wired article.
Rice paddy art. And more. (Via RB.)
Making Realistic Skin For Robots
"What's Augmented Reality's Killer App?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Are winter babies dumber due to the "prom effect"? (Via Ari Armstrong.)
"How Facebook Copes with 300 Million Users: VP of Engineering Mike Schroepfer reveals the tricks that keep the world's biggest social network going."
"Quantum Computer Factors the Number 15". More info.
"How To Fix the Airlines' Stupid Portable Gadget Rules"
40 cool logos.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Anti-paparazzi lasers.

(Via GMSV, who notes that it "does not toast paparazzi to a crisp, but merely detects digital cameras and blinds any shot with a beam of bright light".)
"MySpace is to Facebook as Twitter is to ______"
Bizarre McDonald's lamp post.
"FileSharing - Rationalization = Theft"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Where will the e-reader revolution take publishing?"
How Google fights corporate ossification.
The joy of Spirograph. (Via Instapundit.)
"Astronomers Plan Galaxy-Sized Observatory For Gravitational Waves "

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Red Rocks on Mars Aren't Just Rust." (Via Howard Roerig.)
Crime tip of the day: If you break into someone's house, don't check your Facebook page on the victim's computer and forget to log off.

Or at least take the computer with you. (Via GMSV.)
"Does a sauna or steam room do you any good?"
Now this is a model railroad. Includes "houses with bad reputation" and "underground bases"!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Off topic: PajamasMedia has just published my latest health care OpEd, "Is Your Doctor Getting Ready To Quit?"

Friday, September 18, 2009

Official House of Representative guidelines on how Congressmen are and are not allowed to insult the President. More info here.

(Via Radley Balko.)
The legalities of preserving your online anonymity.
Amazing cheese sculptures. (Via BBspot.)
Cheese or font? (Via Radley Balko.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hardware keyboard for iPhone? (Via mjgardner.)
"Gene therapy fixes color blindness in monkeys". (Via David Jilk.)
"Floating Houses From North Central Europe". (Via RB.)
"If You Printed The Internet..." (Via DRB.)
Comics of the day: "How Science Publishing Works" and "How Science Reporting Works".

(Via Not Totally Rad.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Update: @Tenure warns that one should never Google "Google".
"The 33 Most Deadly Substances On Earth". (Via BBspot and Howard Roerig.)
"Googling Google from Google"
Self-healing circuits. (Via Technovelgy.)
"15 Unfortunately Placed Ads".

This is an old link, but I just saw it via Neatorama.

Here's another unfortunate ad placement from a few days ago featuring Steve Jobs.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

BBspot needs your help!

Brian Briggs runs BBspot.com, one of my favorite tech humor sites (from which I routinely cite links). But he needs your help to stay alive. If he goes under, then he may be forced to get a "real job" (*shudder*).

If you need more convincing, see "Top 11 Ways to Save BBspot".
Sudoku solver made from Lego:
This little robot solves a sudoku puzzle all by itself. It scans the sudoku puzzle using a light sensor. It calculates the solution to the puzzle and then writes the digits.
(Via BBspot.)
Moviegoers subconsciously control their blinks to avoid missing important scenes.

Hence, "moviegoers often blink in unison". (Via Neuroworld.)
"Augmented Reality in a Contact Lens"
"Where Does a Memory Go?"

Monday, September 14, 2009

Video of the day: Awesome between-the-legs tennis shot from Roger Federer, 2009 US Open semi-final.

Here's the AP News story. (Via Jared Seehafer.)
Self-erasing paper.
"A very special snowball: The long-predicted Ice XV has been spotted in the lab"
"How to Create Quantum Superpositions of Living Things"
The hierarchy of digital distractions.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Off topic: The forthcoming Fall 2009 issue of The Objective Standard will include my latest health care article, "How the Freedom to Contract Protects Insurability".

Friday, September 11, 2009

Submarines and underwater lasers.
"Why 100% uptime often isn't 100% uptime"
"How to set up Ubuntu Linux on a Mac".
Invention of the day: Bookmark II. (Via Boing Boing.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Cosmic cannibalising: Images show one galaxy engulfing another". (Via SciTechDaily.)
"The Kindle is a lovely little Linux box"
Invention of the day: Steel velcro.
Normandy: Then and Now. (Via NF.)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The current science of birth order.
Why receipts are getting ridiculously long. (Via BBspot.)
"'Don't post that!': Networking etiquette emerges"
Geeky origami. (Via Neatorama.)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

"Offensive line not the only thing broken at Oklahoma game..."
Some funny tweets are archived at Twaxed.com (warning -- many NSFW):
debihope When peeing on someone, the element of surprise is everything.

digitaldean8 Programming is a lot like sex. One mistake and you could have to support it the rest of your life.

adamisacson Hi. I'm in a staff meeting. There are 83 ceiling tiles in our meeting room. And 8 light fixtures, with 24 fluorescent bulbs. That is all.
Google's PageRank algorithm can also "predict which small groups of important species would crash their food web if they went extinct."

(I wonder if it would have applications in economics -- such as predicting which banks would fail in a depression?)
"Code-breaking quantum algorithm run on a silicon chip"
"37 Kitchen Gadgets That Every Geek Should Own". (Via Danny.)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Medical Alert: Women and Thigh Fractures

Off-topic medical alert: Women and thigh fractures

Last week I attended a medical conference which included an update on the radiology of skeletal and orthopedic disease.

Although most of the lectures were intended for health professionals, there was one lecture which included information that would be of interest to the general public because it involved the common condition known as osteoporosis.

After women undergo menopause, many of them start losing bone mineral at a significant rate -- enough that they are at increased risk of developing fractures of the hip, spine, and other bones from relatively minor trauma. This condition of abnormal low bone density is known as "osteoporosis". In particular, hip fractures can be devastating to older women, and can often result in permanent disability or premature death.

In the past, women with osteoporosis (but who had not yet developed a fracture) were often treated with hormone replacement therapy in order to reduce their risk of these fractures. (Hormone replacement therapy was also widely used to alleviate the uncomfortable "hot flashes" associated with menopause). But because recent research has shown that these hormones can also increase the risks of certain cancers of the female reproductive system, this is no longer commonly done.

Instead, starting 4-5 years ago, many primary care physicians started treating such women with a different set of drugs designed to help protect and restore bone mineral density. One commonly prescribed family of drugs is known as bisphosphonates, and some examples include Fosamax, Boniva, and Actonel. These drugs have proven effective in halting (or even reversing) the mineral loss, and have also reduced the risk of these potentially devastating hip fractures.

However, in recent years there have been reports that these drugs can also paradoxically increase the risk of a certain type of upper thigh fracture (known as "subtrochanteric proximal femur fractures"). Although physicians and scientists don't fully understand the cause, it appears that women who have been on these drugs for a few years start developing tiny stress fractures in the upper femur bone (below the level of the hip joint), which gradually increase in size. Eventually, a certain percentage of these turn into complete fractures, and often the triggering event might be a relatively minor fall or bump.

This has only been recognized in the past year or so, as more women reach the point where they've been on these drugs for the (apparent) requisite time of 4-5 years.

So if you are a post-menopausal woman who has been diagnosed with either "low bone density" or "osteoporosis", and you are currently taking one of these drugs, then you need to be on the lookout for any new pain in the upper thigh region. This could be an early warning sign of a developing stress fracture.

Here is an example of an early stress fracture in the right femur (thigh) bone:



Here is an example of a late (completed) fracture:



(Both images are from "Subtrochanteric Femoral Insufficiency Fracture in Woman on Bisphosphonate Therapy for Glucocorticoid-Induced Osteoporosis", Lisabeth A. Bush, M.D., and Felix S. Chew, M.D., Radiology Case Reports, January 1, 2009.)

Your physician can then order various radiology tests (x-ray, MRI, or nuclear medicine bone scan) to see if you are developing a stress fracture. These can often affect both sides, even if you only feel the pain on one side. If you have one of these fractures, then your doctor can recommend the appropriate treatment.

For the time being, the benefits of these drugs are still felt to outweigh the potential drawbacks. Hence, physicians are not currently recommending that women who are taking them should discontinue them. And a lot more effort is being focused on this problem, now that doctors and scientists have become aware of it. The exact guidelines as to who should (or should not) be on these medications will undoubtedly undergo refinement as the research develops. As usual, if you have specific concerns, you should discuss them with their own personal physician.

Summary:

If you are taking a bisphosphonate drug such as Fosamax, Actonel, or Boniva, and you start experiencing upper thigh pain, get it checked out immediately. It could be an early stress fracture, which needs to be detected and treated before it becomes a complete fracture. This is especially important for women who are athletically active (e.g., running, tennis, etc.)


Even if you personally don't take these drugs, it's very likely you will know someone in your family or circle of friends who does.

(Obligatory disclaimer for any lawyers out there: This should not be construed as personal medical advice. If you have any questions about your specific situation, please consult your personal physician.)

Additional References:

"Subtrochanteric Femoral Insufficiency Fracture in Woman on Bisphosphonate Therapy for Glucocorticoid-Induced Osteoporosis"

"Atraumatic Bilateral Femur Fracture in Long-Term Bisphosphonate Use"

"Atypical fractures of the femoral diaphysis in postmenopausal women taking alendronate"

"More on Atypical Fractures of the Femoral Diaphysis"

Wikipedia entry on bisphosphonates