Thursday, December 30, 2010

"How to pour that drink, scientifically".

Happy New Year!

(Admin note: Posting may be light for a few days.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Medical safety tip: Do not set your patient's throat on fire when performing laser surgery.
The WikiLeaks cables in haiku. (Via Radley Balko.)
"How Disney World is Making Lines Go Faster". Related NYT story. (Via V.R.)
"How Many NASA Engineers does it take to screw in a bolt?"

Unfortunately, it's not a joke.
They sure talk funny in the rest of the USA. (Via GMSV.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Man Prosecuted for Reading Wife's E-Mail Without Her Authorization"
"A Four-Day Dive Into Stuxnet's Heart"
Why are the letters "z" and "x" so popular in drug names? (Via @MatthewBowdish.)
"What happens when you tape a video camera to the end of an expert swordsman's sword?"

(Via @shlevy.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dan Jacoby's modest proposal for NFL draft picks:
From the NY Times article on Tim Tebow's first NFL start, "The victory meant the Broncos lost any chance at the first overall draft pick." Clearly, the NFL needs to change the way the draft order is set up. Below I offer a "humble" suggestion:

It's very simple; teams draft in the order in which they are eliminated from the playoffs.

The Super Bowl winner chooses last, with the Super Bowl loser getting pick #31. The conference championship losers get picks 29 & 30, and so on. For the first 20 picks, teams pick in order of when they are eliminated from playoff contention. When two or more teams are eliminated in the same weekend, their relative standing as of that weekend determines their draft order.

The reason for this process is simple; once a team is eliminated from playoff contention there is no reason to lose, since their draft order is already set.
I think this is a very interesting proposal and has the virtue of eliminating any perverse incentive to lose games on purpose towards the end of the season. It also puts much greater emphasis on how a team does within its own division. For instance, consider a very weak division (like the NFC West) where two teams are still battling for first place. The eventual loser might not be eliminated until week 17, whereas a stronger team in another division might have been eliminated in, say, week 16, and thus get a higher pick.

However in reply, Dan observed that, "In the stronger division that second-place team will probably be in contention for a wild-card spot -- if they're really that good."

(Excerpted with Dan's permission from a Facebook thread. If you wish to give him feedback, his e-mail link is at the bottom of this page on his personal website.)
"Who gets to grope you?"

(Click on image to see full size. Via Jacquard Guenon.)
T-shirt of the day:

(Via Radley Balko.)
The evolution of the suit.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"Magical Beer Dispenser Pours Beer into Cups from the Bottom":

Why is the Hope Diamond so blue?
The future of books? Heh! (Via Jared S.)
The decline of wristwatches?

I actually think not. Instead, they'll be more feature-rich, such as various models of Casios.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Admin note: Because of the holiday, I'll be taking a blogging break. Regular posting will resume next week. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Clever prank with fake bathroom mirror and identical twin sisters:

"How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse During the Holidays". Ho ho ho!

(Via Rand Simberg.)
"Detect Liars by Forcing Them To Think".

Could be useful if you're trying to decide if someone's been naughty or nice. (Via BBspot.)
Inside the FedEx SuperHub in Memphis:
The SuperHub is a world unto itself, with a hospital, a fire station, a meteorology unit, and a private security force; it has branches of U.S. Customs and Homeland Security, plus anti-terror operations no one will talk about. It has 20 electric power generators as backup to keep it running if the power grid goes down.

Every weekday night at the SuperHub, FedEx lands, unloads (in just half an hour, even for a super-jumbo 777), reloads, and flies out 150 to 200 jets. Its aircraft take off and land every 90 seconds. This all happens between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. Central Time. The SuperHub processes between 1.2 million and 1.6 million packages a night.

From Thanksgiving to Christmas, FedEx will ship 223 million packages worldwide. Last Monday, its busiest night ever, it moved 16 million packages.
Even more impressive than a bunch of reindeer circling the globe! (Via Howard Roerig.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Festivus!

More information here!
Flowchart of the day: "Explain the internet to a 19th century British street urchin". (Via VAViper.)
"Use of Night-Vision Goggles Not A Fourth Amendment Search"
Brett Arends of the WSJ explains: "Why I Don't Want an iPad for Christmas"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Queuing theory for the holiday: "Why the other line likely is moving faster":

"Raising a Botnet in Captivity"
"Last-Minute Geeky Christmas Gifts"
15 Most Impenetrable Bank Vaults. (Via Danny A.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Performing in Chicago: A Klingon "Christmas Carol":
The arc of "A Klingon Christmas Carol" follows the familiar Dickens script: An old miser is visited on a hallowed night by three ghosts who shepherd him through a voyage of self-discovery. The narrative has been rejiggered to match the Klingon world view.

For starters, since there is neither a messiah nor a celebration of his birth on the Klingon planet of Kronos, the action is pegged to the Klingon Feast of the Long Night. Carols and trees are replaced with drinking, fighting and mating rituals. And because Klingons are more concerned with bravery than kindness, the main character's quest is for courage...
For only 14 Euros ($18 USD) you can hire a drinking buddy in the Ukraine. (Via Marginal Revolution.)
"A woman who feels no fear is teaching scientists about the connections between our brains and our behaviors". (Via HotAir.)
"Strange New Twist: Berkeley Researchers Discover Möbius Symmetry in Metamaterials"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Military invention of the day: The combat codpiece:

(Via Debby Witt.)
"The Economics of Seinfeld".

(Via @Lucidicus, who says "Learn about signaling, incentives, moral hazard, and more!")
Many married men (myself included) could use one of these:

(Via @AriArmstrong.)
"Cyborg Beetles: Merging of Machine and Insect to Create Flying Robots"

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"How I got an uncooperative eBay buyer to pay for her purchase". (Via @keithie.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Off topic: PajamasMedia has published my latest OpEd, "Beware Counterfeit 'Responsibility'".

(My theme is that the Obama Administration's version of "individual responsibility" -- shared by many Republicans -- is a counterfeit version of the concept aimed masking its drive to subvert genuine responsibility and freedom.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Impressive "Insert Coin" Stop Motion Video:

Every one of the moving silver "dots" is a coin on a black cloth background. The last minute of the video includes an explanation of how they did this. (Via GMSV.)
"An elliptical machine that you can ride to work"
The Wall Street Journal reviews two alternate history writers, Harry Turtledove and Connie Willis.
Director Joe Kosinski explains the Tron: Legacy world. (Via /.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Train yourself to see impossible colors"
Irony alert: WikiLeak's Julian Assange didn't want his location revealed by the UK government. (Via @JammieWF.)
"The Facebook Map of the World"
"Sex On Mars: Pregnancy, Fetal Development, and Sex In Outer Space".

From Journal of Cosmology, 2010, Vol 12, 4034-4050. (Via Kottke.)
What a bouncing drop of water looks like at 10,000 frames per second:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"End of privacy: Herding Firesheep in Starbucks".

As the author notes, "No matter how many security measures we provide to the world, there will always be people who leave the door open, even after they've had an intruder. The weakest link in security has been, and always will be, the user's judgment."
"The Top 50 Gawker Media Passwords".

For a good method of selecting a strong yet easy-to-remember password, consider Bruce Scheier's sentence-to-password technique.
"Dr. Seuss does Star Wars". (Via GMSV.)
Clever anti-spill device for klutzy coffee drinkers:

Price is $19.95 at the commercial website. (No, I don't get any percentage of the sales.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

"'Jeopardy' to pit humans against IBM machine"
"How to insult LOTR, Star Wars & Harry Potter fanboys with a single image". (Via @crm72975.)
Cat vs. Internet
Texting gloves from The North Face. Others from Five Point. And a few more.
"The first commercial retinal implant is about to go on sale. It may be crude, but so were the first cochlear implants, 26 years ago..."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Scientific analysis shows how easy it is to smuggle contraband pass TSA x-ray scanners.

Here's an excerpt from "An evaluation of airport x-ray backscatter units based on image characteristics" (PDF file) by Leon Kaufman and Joseph W. Carlson in Journal of Transportation Security:
It is very likely that a large (15-20 cm in diameter), irregularly-shaped, cm-thick pancake with beveled edges, taped to the abdomen, would be invisible to this technology, ironically, because of its large volume, since it is easily confused with normal anatomy. Thus, a third of a kilo of PETN, easily picked up in a competent pat down, would be missed by backscatter "high technology". Forty grams of PETN, a purportedly dangerous amount, would fit in a 1.25 mm-thick pancake of the dimensions simulated here and be virtually invisible. Packed in a compact mode, say, a 1 cm×4 cm×5 cm brick, it would be detected.

The images are very sensitive to the presence of large pieces of high Z material, e. g., iron, but unless the spatial resolution is good, thin wires will be missed because of partial volume effects. It is also easy to see that an object such as a wire or a box- cutter blade, taped to the side of the body, or even a small gun in the same location, will be invisible. While there are technical means to mildly increase the conspicuity of a thick object in air, they are ineffective for thin objects such as blades when they are aligned close to the beam direction.
The downloadable article includes multiple illustrations illustrating the relevant principles.
"The Best of #WookieLeaks". (Via @Vix27.)
"Everything You Need to Know About Wikileaks". (Via Instapundit.)
"Masks so realistic they're arresting the wrong guy":
A white bank robber in Ohio recently used a "hyper-realistic" mask manufactured by a small Van Nuys company to disguise himself as a black man, prompting police there to mistakenly arrest an African American man for the crimes.

In October, a 20-year-old Chinese man who wanted asylum in Canada used one of the same company's masks to transform himself into an elderly white man and slip past airport security in Hong Kong.
Honest grad school ad:

(Via H.V.)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Star Trek-style bedroom doors:

And instructions on how to make your own.

Update: Welcome, Instapundit readers!
Fat middle-aged man undergoes the TSA grope in a kilt while going "commando":
The enhanced patdown is very much like a consensual rape. The screener asks before touching each body part with the back of his hand. "I'm going to put my hand between your beltline and belly, is that okay?" Obviously, the only correct answer here was yes. I could have said no, but that meant that I'd be hitch hiking to Chicago…if I wasn't arrested and charged with a fine. So Officer Gill starts with my backside, then chest and belly. After that, I stretched my arms out, and we finished the upper body. He then took a courageous breath and steeled his reserve, asking me to step forward with my left foot. This was it...

Gen X'ers, remember the old commercials for Milton Bradley's Operation game? In the game, players take turns using metal tongs to remove plastic pieces from an electrified board with the shape of a man on it. If the tongs touch metal surrounding the piece's cutout, the board makes a loud buzzing noise and the patient's nose glows with a red light. "Don't touch the sides!" warns one of the kids in the commercial. That's the enhanced patdown, essentially.

With blue latex gloves on, the backside of Gill's hand caressed my ankles and calf. The hand moved up my knee and vanished along my inner thigh, under the kilt...


Had I a light bulb for a nose, it would have glowed. I almost thought about even making a buzzing noise, but since I had the attention of several TSA officers, plus the one waiting to rifle my rollerboard, I stifled my smirk. I'd officially been felt up by Uncle Sam...
Full blog post.
Tech tips for aspiring criminals:
Don't text your local prosecutor about the drugs you want to sell.

Don't follow the GPS directions to the local US border post when trying to smuggle drugs into the country.
(Via Clumsy Crooks.)
How to make Star Wars paper snowflakes. (Via GMSV.)
Bill Watterson’s cartoons for his college paper. (Via GMSV.)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

10 Most Popular "Damn You Auto Correct" entries for November. (Via Diana.)
How to get your name on a new mathematical theorem.
10 years of Apple.
iPad troubleshooting guide.
Clever method of storing solar energy in chemical form. (Via C.P.)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Some skepticism about the latest reports of "arsenic-based" life:
"This Paper Should Not Have Been Published" (Carl Zimmer, Slate)

"Arsenic-associated bacteria (NASA's claims)" (RRResearch)
Looks like "the science isn't settled" yet. (Via G.R. and H.R.)
I just hate it when giant dark objects at the edge of our solar system hurl stuff at us. (Via BBspot.)
How to tie your shoes really fast. No, really:

And on a related note, how to peel a banana the right way:

"MRI Used to Visualize Live Birth"
Advances in radiology, from Conrad Roentgen to the present day.

Monday, December 06, 2010

How online sellers use dynamic pricing to sell the same goods to different customers at different prices.

Or to charge you a different price depending on your browser/cookie settings.
"Teen Mathletes Do Battle at Algorithm Olympics"
"Computer identifies the most boring day in history".

According to the article, it was April 11, 1954. (Via Cosmic Log.)
How a Casio engineer decided to make the unbreakable watch.

(I'm a big fan of G-shock watches and own several myself.)
"When did prisoners start dressing in orange?"

Sunday, December 05, 2010

23-year old Russian man allegedly responsible for one-third of the world's spam.

For the record, he is pleading "not guilty". (Via WolfFiles.)
"Understanding Pac-Man Ghost Behavior". (Via Waxy.)
"When is the best time to publish blog posts?"

(I am, of course, disobeying the very advice given.)
Time lapse daily photos of a young girl from zero to 10-years old, compressed to 90 seconds:

"Tetris 'L' Piece Screws Architect"

Thursday, December 02, 2010

"Researchers Discover Microbes That Live on Arsenic"
Special relativity as explained by the newspapers. (Via BBspot.)
"Laugh If You Must, But It Is Published in a Refereed Journal". (Via Atul K.)

Update: Reader S.C. points out the paper was even cited in another paper.
"The evolution of gadgets as seen in the Sears, Roebuck & Company catalogs"

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Flying snakes.

As Charlie Martin says, these snakes don't need a plane! (Via Instapundit.)
Video of the day: Inverted pendula.

Another fun prisoners-and-hats CarTalk puzzler.
A chemist explains why gold makes good money. (Via BBspot.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

If you don't want to wade through all 250,000 WikiLeaks documents, you can watch the 90 second animated Taiwanese news video for a quick summary:

(Via Wired.)
"The days of keeping your data locked inside a big hard drive on one machine are over."
The mathematics of big caves.

No mention of twisty little passages that all look alike.
"Is there a way to 'game the system' for getting a liver transplant?"

Monday, November 29, 2010

Klein bottle bottle opener.

Could be yours for a mere $78!
Negative temperature = infinitely hot?
After reading this discussion/history of Tron, I actually now want to watch the upcoming Tron: Legacy movie.
Is semen an anti-depressant?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

More details emerge on what and how the Stuxnet virus attacked the Iranian nuclear program.
Things to know before you buy a tablet computer.

In particular, Ars Technica says "Run screaming in the other direction" from this particular tablet. Unless you're willing to make use of it like this.
"How to Verify if an Email Address Is Real or Fake"
Parkour for lazy people.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Admin note: Because of the holiday, I'll take a short blogging hiatus. Regular posting will resume on Monday, November 29. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Harry Potter explains how he enjoys playing the role of Daniel Radcliffe, actor:

"Mail carriers will abuse your package more if it's marked as 'Fragile'".

More details on the testing with hidden accelerometers here.
The seamy world of the professional term-paper writer. (Via Diana.)
"How Rechargeable Batteries Work And Why They Die"

Monday, November 22, 2010

The neuroscience of bluffing. (Via Michael Williams.)
Bruce Schneier's Stuxnet roundup.
A single molecule processor. (Via Instapundit.)
"Jaz drives, spiral notebooks, and SCSI: How we lose scientific data"

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Incredibly cool marble run that a father built for his son's room:

(Via Neatorama.)
"The changing landscape of online fraud: Long life spam"
Bruce Schneier notes that "TSA Scans Won't Catch Anybody".

He also has a detailed set of links on this issue at his blog.
This clever camp stove by Biolite cooks quickly with only twigs and leaves. Includes video. (Via R.B.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Antimatter Trapped For the First Time":
After creating antihydrogen in their antiproton decelerator, scientists at CERN have been able to trap antimatter for the first time in history.
I just hope that the containment field doesn't give out, Scotty!
"Stunning Morning Dew Photography". (Via J.A.)
Google Skymap. (Via Brian Schwartz.)
"If Ikea Made Instructions for Everything"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Insurance against celebrity disgrace. (Via MR.)
"Top 10 Movie Plot Holes You Probably Never Noticed Before". (Via BBspot.)
"MIT Professor invents camera that sees around corners".
"Google Docs Editing Goes Mobile". (Via @LyndsiM.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Oatmeal: "You Only Try This Once"
Puncture-proof airless spring tires, for use on the Moon.
"Why Do Auctioneers Talk Like That? To put you in a trance."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Science Cheerleaders!

Here's their official website.
"The Brutal Decline of Yahoo!"
Treating flashbacks with Tetris.
"How does the President order flowers?"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bruce Schneier: "How often should you change your password?"
Web Designers Vs. Web Developers. (Via BBspot.)
"This Guy Went To Jail Because He Posted Naked Pictures Of His Ex-Girlfriend On Facebook"
The physics of cat-licking.

Radiation Risks from TSA Scanners?

A friend recently asked my opinion about the possible health risks from the new whole body "backscatter" x-ray scanners now being used by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) at many airports.

The short answer is that the radiation risk from the TSA scanners is minimal for a member of the general flying public.

(This is separate from privacy concerns -- or the fact that the bad choice offered to passengers between intrusive x-rays vs. an intrusive physical exam is a problem ultimately caused by our government's inept foreign policy.)

Hence, my personal approach when I fly will be to go through the full-body scanners rather than undergo the aggressive new pat-down searches.

The news media has recently given a lot of attention to the following letter sent several months ago by scientists/physicians at UCSF (Univ. California at San Francisco) to the federal government about the radiation risks:

"Letter of Concern", 4/6/2010

This NPR story from last spring that covers the details more fully:

"Scientists Question Safety Of New Airport Scanners", 5/17/2010

The NPR story also includes a sidebar listing the radiation dose generated by a TSA scanner, and comparing it to the dose one receives merely from being on a transcontinental flight, regular environmental exposure, getting a chest x-ray, etc.

Basically, just getting on a transcontinental flight exposes one to roughly 1,000 times more radiation than undergoing a TSA body scan. (This is because there is less atmospheric protection from natural solar/cosmic radiation at high altitude.)

The FDA has posted its own response to the UCSF letter at:

"Response to University of California - San Francisco Regarding Their Letter of Concern", 10/12/2010

First let me note that I am philosophically opposed to the FDA and other such regulatory bodies, on the grounds that they do not serve proper functions of government. But to the best of my knowledge, the FDA's scientific arguments in that specific response are essentially correct. And the FDA letter also addresses some of the technical issues raised by the UCSF scientists, such as the question of the TSA radiation being deposited mostly in the skin (vs. in the whole body).

Female passengers who are (or may be) pregnant while undergoing a TSA scan may also wonder about radiation effects on a developing fetus.

This web page from Duke University covers this topic nicely:

"Fetal Radiation Dose Estimates"

As a point of clarification, the Duke website uses the older units (rems and millirems) for radiation dose rather than the newer units (Sieverts, milliSv, etc.).

The conversion factor is:
1 Sievert = 100 rem or
1 milliSievert = 100 millirem
As the Duke website notes, if the fetus exposure to less than 1,000 millirem (10 milliSieverts), then there's no known risk to the fetus.

If the fetus exposure is between 1,000 and 10,000 millirem (10-100 milliSieverts), then then the fetus is probably still ok. But, this is the range where bad effects to a fetus start to be observable in some studies, using the most conservative (cautious) statistical criteria.

So if a pregnant passenger wishes to take the most cautious approach and keep her fetal exposure below the 1,000 millirem (10 milliSievert) range, she could still undergo thousands of TSA scans per year. Again, the radiation exposure caused merely by flying would far exceed that caused by the scanner. Furthermore, most of the TSA scanner radiation would be stopped at the skin before it could even reach the fetus, as opposed to the various forms of natural gamma and solar radiation received during the flight which would penetrate deeper into the body.

A pregnant woman might naturally wonder how much radiation she'd be exposed to from the air travel itself?

According to this aviation news website, if she logged 1,000 hours in the air, then she'd be at the 5-10 milliSievert range (depending on the exact altitude/route), which is the level where one might begin to be concerned:

"Radiation Exposure Aloft -- Are You Being Nuked?"

So if she took 10 flights during her pregnancy totaling, say, 40 hours of air time, then that should be no problem. But she were an airline pilot or a frequent business traveler logging 1,000 hours of air time per year, then it might become a genuine issue, using the most conservative estimates for fetal exposure.

This discussion makes two important assumptions, including:

1) The TSA scanners are actually functioning properly and operating within the limits claimed by the government. Of course, if a particular machine malfunctions in a way that it produces too much radiation, then all bets are off.

2) The passenger doesn't have any special medical conditions that make him or her more sensitive to radiation than the general public.

Finally, this discussion applies only to the "backscatter" type of TSA scanner, which uses ionizing x-ray radiation. The other type of whole body TSA scanner uses "millimeter wave" technology, which does not involve ionizing x-ray radiation and does not have the same type of carcinogenic effect. Otherwise, I don't have any specialized knowledge about that particular technology and thus can't comment about any other health effects.

Conclusion: From a radiation safety perspective, it's generally safe to go through the TSA "backscatter" x-ray scanner.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Detailed review of the MacBook Airs.
Scissors plus!
Neuroscientific basis behind the "they all look alike" effect?
"Entanglement loophole closed"
Elevator etiquette.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ian McKellen discusses filming the Balrog scene from Lord of the Rings:

More information here. Unfortunately, he can't comment on negotiations for the upcoming Hobbit movie. (Via BBspot.)
Violent galactic collision.
A bank that lends goats. No, really.
Hack of the day: Turn your elevator into an express elevator.

In the comments, one person says it works 30-40% of the time. (Via @garrytan.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

"NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has unveiled a previously unseen structure centered in the Milky Way -- a finding likened in terms of scale to the discovery of a new continent on Earth."
One of my favorite humor sites,, has returned!
"A 'whiffletree' is a mechanical digital-to-analog converter. Brilliant..."

Includes links to two cool videos. (Via @Qwertz0.)
The difference between regular and decaf coffee.

(Via BBspot.)
iPod cat toy video:

Monday, November 08, 2010

"Scientists re-create Big Bang in lab"
Clever trick football play:

As a Michigan fan, I can sympathize with the other side...
Externally navigated capsule endoscope.
"Is radiation from the new airport security scanners endangering my health?"

In the answer, they note that the radiation risk is minimal, but there are genuine privacy concerns:
Let's be blunt: a full-body scan means whenever you pass through airport security, you're going to have a total stranger look at you naked. Millimeter-wave scans in particular are luridly detailed. True, faces are purposely blurred, the scan inspector is in a remote locked room, never sees you in person, and isn't allowed to carry a cell phone with a camera, and the images are discarded immediately after inspection.

But remember we're dealing here with the TSA, the outfit whose agents made a nursing mother drink her own breast milk, mistook a Congressional Medal of Honor for a ninja throwing star, and forced a woman to remove her nipple rings with pliers. In March of this year a British Aviation Authority employee got a harassment warning from police after he captured an image of a female colleague passing through a full-body scanner at Heathrow airport. In May a TSA employee in Miami took a baton to a coworker who'd made fun of his genitalia after he passed through a scanner.

You may think that's a small price to pay if it means bad guys can never sneak weapons onto planes. But scans don't guarantee that. They can't detect items concealed in body cavities or by folds of flesh. "These technologies can be evaded relatively easily," a radiation safety expert tells me. "It's a money-making invasion of privacy."

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Conjoined twins with partially fused brains:
Adding to the conundrum, of course, are their linked brains, and the mysterious hints of what passes between them. The family regularly sees evidence of it. The way their heads are joined, they have markedly different fields of view.

One child will look at a toy or a cup. The other can reach across and grab it, even though her own eyes couldn't possibly see its location. "They share thoughts, too," says Louise. "Nobody will be saying anything," adds Simms, "and Tati will just pipe up and say, 'Stop that!' And she'll smack her sister."

While their verbal development is delayed, it continues to get better. Their sentences are two or three words at most so far, and their enunciation is at first difficult to understand. Both the family, and researchers, anxiously await the children's explanation for what they are experiencing.
(Via Kottke.)
Ancient Roman multitool:

Taxonomy of logical fallacies.
Christopher Hitchens on cancer etiquette. (Via @debbywitt.)
If you own an iPhone, beware this DST glitch with recurrent alarms:
Apple says devices using the mobile operating system iOS 4.1 are likely to see have their preset alarms go off an hour late.

The company recommends turning off repeating alarms and setting them manually until Monday, when it's safe to set them to repeat again.

Apple is releasing an update of the software later this month to address the glitch.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Invisibility update:
Using tiny atoms that can interact with light, the St Andrews' researchers have developed a flexible new 'smart' material that could theoretically appear invisible to the naked eye.

It is the first practical breakthrough in a much-theorised area of physics that has inspired characters such as the Invisible Woman and Harry Potter...
"12-yo Girl Prevents Kidnapping By Pretending iPod Touch Is a Phone". (Via Instapundit.)
This soccer player is really fast:

I don't know if it's genuine or a fake. (Via Kottke.)
Magazine editor steals another writer's entire article on the grounds that "the web is considered 'public domain'". (Via Cynical-C.)
"In Quest for 'Legal High,' Chemists Outfox Law". (Via Maximizing Progress.)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Facebook knows when you'll break up. (Via Marginal Revolution.)
"If Apple Made Yachts, They Would Be Like This"
Holographic Telecommuting.
"Life aboard the International Space Station".

One tidbit:
Unsurprisingly, falling asleep can take some getting used to. Just as you are nodding off, you can feel as though you've fallen off a 10-storey building. People who look half asleep will suddenly throw their heads back with a start and fling out their arms. It gets easier with time. One Russian crew member is renowned for doing without a sleeping bag and falling asleep wherever he ends the day. Anyone still awake after bedtime would see his snoozing form drift by, slowly bouncing off the walls, his course set by the air currents that gently pushed and pulled him.
(Via Kottke.)
Off-topic: PajamasMedia has just published my latest OpEd, "GOP: Dance With The One Who Brung You".

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

"Researchers engineer miniature human livers in the lab". (Via SciTechDaily.)
"How digital technology gets the news out of North Korea". (Via Tyler Cowen.)
Cute video filmed entirely on Nokia cell phone. (Via R.B.)
"Apple's $51B cash hoard is greater than the GDP of Costa Rica." (Via @robconeybeer.)

Monday, November 01, 2010

"Are 'Patent Trolls' the Secret Heroes of the Tech World?"
"Israel has forbidden soldiers from using social networking sites (like Facebook) while on active duty."

Apparently too many soldiers have been posting details of ongoing (or future) military operations on their pages.
"2010 Election Watch: Security of Your Electronic Voting Machine". (Via Instapundit.)
The "John Galt" options trading strategy for coping with capital gains tax rate uncertainty. (Via @rndx.)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mt. Everest is now wired for permanent 3G cellphone signal and internet.

Climbers can now update their Facebook status and check their e-mail once the reach the top. Amazon Prime deliveries might still be a little bit tough. (Via Marginal Revolution.)
Maslow's Hierarchy of Internet Needs.
"Coffin technologies that protect you from being buried alive"
Quote of the day:
I have always wished for my computer to be as easy to use as my telephone; my wish has come true because I can no longer figure out how to use my telephone.

-- Bjarne Stroustrup (creator of the C++ programming language)
(Via GusVanHorn.)
Taking Halloween home decoration to a new height:

Halloween video of the day: "How to Carve a Jack-O-Lantern"

(Via The Wolf Files.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

[Off-topic] "Why I'm Voting Straight-Ticket Democrat on Tuesday"
Because I want to support President Obama's agenda and continue his string of domestic and foreign policy successes, including:

1) Getting the federal budget deficit under control

2) Getting our economy back on track

3) Guaranteeing universal health care, while making sure everyone who likes their current health plan gets to keep it

4) Reducing unemployment to near-record lows

5) Getting our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan and getting our enemies abroad to stop hating us

6) Fighting for the rights of gays serving in the military

7) Changing the rancorous tone in Washington and moving us in a "post-partisan" direction

...Wait, what's that? ...Hang on a sec

[Quick internet search]

...Um, never mind

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"What Smartphone Makers Can Learn From the Sewing Machine Patent War".

(Congratulations to Adam Mossoff for getting his article mentioned in the WSJ!)
"16 Funniest Facebook CAPTCHAS"
The "mimic octopus" can imitate as many as 15 different sea creatures:

More information.

(Via Marginal Revolution.)
Information rage.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Was a time traveller captured on film in 1928?" (Via Rand Simberg.)
"Robotic Limbs that Plug into the Brain"
Software to predict earthquakes can also predict street crime.
"45 Photos From Clever, Sometimes Unbelievable Perspectives"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"The inferno inside a jet engine is hotter than the surface of the sun and would melt the turbine's blades if not for some very clever management of airflow." (Via ALDaily.)
Hersh: "Should we be worried about a cyber war?"
Impossible gears:

How to make a penny:

And it only costs 2 cents! (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

How a F-22 engineer saved another driver's life by crashing into him on purpose:
Duane slammed on the gas, pulled ahead of the renegade truck, and let it rear end him. Risky? Stupid? Incredibly smart!

"Basic physics," explained Duane. "If I could get in front of him and let him hit me, the delta difference in speed would just be a few miles an hour, and we could slow down together." And they did. You see, you dummy? Basic physics.

The driver, who had suffered a heart attack and passed out at the wheel, survived, thanks to daring Duane and the power of science.
Related story.
Programmable shape-changing blobs.

I'm just glad nothing could ever go wrong with this technology. (Via @TreyPeden.)
The best break-dancing surgical robot video I've seen so far:

Cubelets: Buy A Robot Swarm For $300

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Clever used book arbitrage:
I make a living buying and selling used books. I browse the racks of thrift stores and library book sales using an electronic bar-code scanner. I push the button, a red laser hops about, and an LCD screen lights up with the resale values.

It feels like being God in his own tiny recreational casino; my judgments are sure and simple, and I always win because I have foreknowledge of all bad bets. The software I use tells me the going price, on Amazon Marketplace, of the title I just scanned, along with the all-important sales rank, so I know the book's prospects immediately. I turn a profit every time.
(Via Marginal Revolution.)
Physics video of the day: "Flow of ants and ants as fluids"

Lots more cool fluid dynamics videos here.
"How Facebook decides what to show you". (Via Kottke.)
Fastest way to run the bases?
Mathematicians computed that this path around the bases is, theoretically, the fastest. The red lines show the direction the runner is accelerating.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Off topic: Two of my health care pieces have just been published:

The October 23, 2010 Denver Post has published "The 'Right To Health Care Choice'is right for Colorado".

Capitalism Magazine just posted, "A Medical Doctor Explains the Pros and Cons of ObamaCare: An Interview with Dr. Paul Hsieh".

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Why 'Gorilla Arm Syndrome' Rules Out Multitouch Notebook Displays"

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bird flocks.
"Stan Lee To Create Futuristic Romeo and Juliet Comic"
"Every visit to the dentist is an episode in the Stockholm syndrome..." (Via MedGadget.)

(FWIW, we don't have the dentists' side of the story here...)
"Why did my iPad Fail as a Laptop Replacement During my Vacation?"
More fun optical illusions.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

UK government: "Every email and website to be stored".

To "tackle crime or terrorism", of course.
"How the Allies Used Math to Figure out Nazi Germany's Tank Production". Related story.
"Why Japanese Love Robots (And Americans Fear Them)". (Via Marginal Revolution.)
Video of the day: Slow, deep, Mandelbrot zoom.

Couple becomes pregnant because they lost their iPod Touch (with rhythm method app).

(Via GMSV.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

10 brutal Facebook ownings. Some might be NSFW.

(FWIW, I don't agree with the sentiments in #7 -- but it is a clever analogy!)
Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) explains how to write humor. (Via ALDaily.)
Cool behind-the-scenes photos from Empire Strikes Back. (Via BBspot.)
Erik Demaine talks about recreational computer science inspired by Martin Gardner.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"The Promise of Fusion: Energy Miracle or Mirage?" (Via SciTechDaily.)
Pictures of water balloons without the balloons.

(Via Mental Floss.)
Twitter Mood Predicts The Stock Market
"Smart Machines Evolve On The Battlefield"
The World According to San Francisco. (Via Boing Boing.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Mountain goats scramble up a near-vertical wall in Italy". These related pics are also awesome.

(Via @Rob_Abiera.)
If you're a fan of Law and Order: SVU then you'll enjoy this blog by federal sex-crimes prosecutor Allison Leotta which discusses what each episode got right (and wrong) -- The Prime-Time Crime Review.

(Via Orin Kerr.)
Oatmeal: "7 things you really don't need to take a photo of"
Kenneth Anderson: "Google Cars Drive Themselves, and Robots and the Law"

Friday, October 15, 2010

How John Elway travels incognito:
When he's out and about near his Denver home, former Broncos quarterback John Elway has come up with a novel way to travel incognito -- he wears his own jersey. "I do that all the time here," the 50-year-old Hall of Famer told me. "I go to the mall that way. They know it's not me because they say there's no way Elway would be wearing his own jersey in the mall. So it actually is the safest thing to do."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Shortest book titles. (Via GMSV.)
Is the Milky Way square?
"Army finds simple blood test to identify mild brain trauma"
Video of the day: "Water Droplet Bouncing on a Superhydrophobic Carbon Nanotube Array". (Via BBspot.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

X-shaped asteroid? Or Klingon Bird-of-Prey visiting the solar system?

I sense a cover-up here! (Via A.M.)
Advanced microphone can pick out single voices in a mob of people.

I'm just glad this technology won't ever be used against us by a future totalitarian government!
Newcaster teleprompter hacked:

(Via Instapundit.)
Wearable robots.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Economics of helium. (Via MR.)
Superman's Facebook nightmare. (Via BBspot.)
Can the government recall a book?
The Economist on biometrics and the dangerous of over-reliance on such "fuzzy" systems.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"Why You See 'Free Public WiFi' In So Many Places".

Related story
from NPR.
New colored electronic ink with high refresh rate and low power consumption.

Still a few years away from commercial use, however. (Via @AriArmstrong.)
The true size of Africa.
Autonomous robots to guard part of US nuclear stockpile.

As long as it's not called SkyNet...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

911 call of the day: Lost elephant

Scotch tape is a tiny particle accelerator.
An innovation in the simple cupholder. (Via @GuyKawasaki.)
Helicopter? Airplane? Or a little of both? (Via David Jilk.)

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Bruce Schneier overview of Stuxnet.
Video of the day: "How Not To Fire a Watermelon Out of a Huge Slingshot"

(Via A.B.)
Rand Simberg on alternatives to rockets for space travel:
There have been plenty of alternative means of getting into space proposed over the years that don't employ traditional chemical rocket engines. The list presented here isn't exhaustive but representative, and they fall into four broad categories -- cannons, external-energy vehicles, static structures and dynamic structures.
(Via Instapundit.)
E-mail vs. snail-mail infographic.
Paul Graham: "Where to see Silicon Valley". (Via GusVanHorn.)

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

JK Rowling hints at three more Harry Potter novels. (Via @briggsb.)
"How the Internet Works". (Via BBspot.)
Need to create some parallel universes? There's an App for that!
"The strange but inevitable rise of pornography for the Amazon Kindle"

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

"Young Boy Becomes First Human to Live With a Permanent 'Robot Heart'". (Via Instapundit.)
"Moon Landing: Unrated Director's Cut to be released". No, really. (Via @BBspot.)
Oatmeal: "If you do this in an e-mail, I hate you".
Mutant worms produce miles of super-strong spider silk.

Monday, October 04, 2010

50 images that went viral this year. (Via GMSV.)

A couple of my favorites: