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.)