Wednesday, September 30, 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.)

Tuesday, September 29, 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'"

Monday, September 28, 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.)

Sunday, September 27, 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.)

Thursday, September 24, 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?

Wednesday, September 23, 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.

Tuesday, September 22, 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"

Monday, September 21, 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 "

Sunday, September 20, 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"!

Friday, September 18, 2009

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

Thursday, September 17, 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.)

Wednesday, September 16, 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.)
Update: @Tenure warns that one should never Google "Google".

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"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.

Monday, September 14, 2009

BBspot needs your help!

Brian Briggs runs, 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?"

Sunday, September 13, 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".

Thursday, September 10, 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.)

Wednesday, September 09, 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.)

Tuesday, September 08, 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.)

Monday, September 07, 2009

"Offensive line not the only thing broken at Oklahoma game..."
Some funny tweets are archived at (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.)

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.


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

Sunday, September 06, 2009

"New Earthquake-Resistant Design Pulls Buildings Upright After Violent Quakes". (Via Howard Roerig.)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

"How Much Can You Really Learn With a Free Online Education?"

Includes detailed discussion of the MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) program. (Via Instapundit.)
"The Status of the P Versus NP Problem". (Via BBspot.)
"Stairs that are More Cool than You"

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Tweet of the day from mwickens:
I love any news story that starts with "A wave of violent refrigerator explosions..." (via @rgg120)
How our Universe began. (Via BBspot.)
"How to count to a zillion without falling off the end of the number line"

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

"SpiderBot Walks on the Ceiling by Shooting Retractable Suction Cups"
A deterministic theory of quantum mechanics and entanglement?