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"
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"