Thursday, September 29, 2011

"The physics of the riderless bike"
"Demystifying the Science Behind Acupuncture"
"How Amazon's Silk Fuses Browser, OS and the Cloud"
Bruce Schneier: "Making Fake ATMs Using 3D Printers". Related story.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lots of Amazon/Kindle news of course. I already have an iPad, so I don't need the tablet. But I am stoked about the new Kindle Touch e-readers. Here's a nice writeup, with video demo of the touchscreen.
It's hard to argue with the conclusion of this paper. (Via @shlevy.)
"Taking A Computer Out of Screensaver Mode to See Suspect's Facebook Wall Is a Fourth Amendment Search"
"How Spontaneous Human Combustion Works". (Via Susan W.)
Things pets ate. Veterinary Practice x-ray contest winners. (Via Debby W.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"A few million virtual monkeys are close to re-creating the complete works of Shakespeare by randomly mashing keys on virtual typewriters."

Note: There are some constraints on the program to facilitate the process. (Via @internetcases.)
"Keep your Mac safe from Web security flaws: How to ensure rogue security certificates don't subvert your encryption"
"The evolution of a coffee addict"
The Princess Bride Monopoly Board. Click on image to see full size. (Via Jennifer I.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

"How much would I have to hollow out the earth to make the days longer?"
"Firefly and Anti-Fascism Posters Get Professor Threatened with Criminal Charges on University of Wisconsin Campus".

Fortunately, free speech advocates and Firefly fans are speaking out against this nonsense.
"What are the chances that you would be born?" (Via Tim C.)
Moneyball: 8 years later.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cartoon of the day: "Three Logicians Walk Into A Bar". (Via Tim C.)

An actual working mind probe.
Fans of The Office will enjoy this detailed NYT profile of Mindy Kaling (who writes for the show as well as plays Kelly Kapoor).
"Ten Star Trek episodes we're glad they never filmed". (Via Instapundit.)
Are cruise ships the perfect murder location?

As blogger Michael Williams notes:
When a person disappears from a cruise ship does their home country investigate? Nope! Police from the country where the ship is registered do the investigation, if one is even performed. Do you think that cop from the Bahamas is going to fly around the world interviewing passengers and collecting evidence? Yeah, me neither.
(Related story.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Have CERN scientists detected faster than light particles?
The World's Rudest Hand Gestures.

One useful bit of information for Americans traveling abroad:
Thumbs up
Meaning: "Up yours"
Used in: Greece, Latin America, Middle East, Russia, Sardinia, Western Africa

Depending on where you are, a thumbs up could just be a sign of approval. But in some countries, this refers to an action in the nether regions, and is meant as an offense. Visitors should note that to add insult to injury, the thumb can be jerked upwards.

More information here.
"The past, present, and future of famous logos". (Via GMSV.)
"It's ON: Shatner Says Star Trek is Better than Star Wars 'On Every Level'"

Wow, Shatner has put on a few pounds...
"In-Car Algorithm Could Rapidly Dissolve Traffic Jams"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

iPhone 5 rollout scheduled for October 4?
"Twitter's 13 All-Time Most Epic Tweets (And The Stories Behind Them)". (Via @LyndsiM.)
Rand Simberg answers "6 Questions About NASA's Falling Satellite".

Update: It won't land on North America.
"How an Omniscient Internet 'Sextortionist' Ruined the Lives of Teen Girls"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"What 7 negotiating tricks can we learn from FBI hostage negotiators?"
"FAQ: When Can You Capture Cops on Camera?"
Is the anti-plagiarism TurnItIn software service playing both sides of the fence? More information here.
"UNIVAC: The troubled life of America's first computer"

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Neal Stephenson Talks About Video Games, The Metaverse, And His New Book, REAMDE". (Via David Jilk.)
3-D printable blood vessels
Tennis spin has changed dramatically in the past 20 years:
...[T]he co-poly strings in use today -- which spread through the pro game only over the last decade or so -- generate more spin than ever. They do so because they're more slippery than prior string designs. Because the strings easily slide across one another, they can slip back and then snap back to position -- all while they're grabbing the ball -- to create more spin.
More details in the related article: "The New Physics of Tennis". (Via MR.)
Metal-based life? (Via Radley Balko.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Things We Say Today And Owe To Shakespeare". Larger version here.
"If the IRS had discovered the quadratic formula". (Click on image to see full size. Via Instapundit.)

"Neutrinos: Ghostly Particles With Unstable Egos"
"The Importance of Selection Effects":
During WWII, statistician Abraham Wald was asked to help the British decide where to add armor to their bombers. After analyzing the records, he recommended adding more armor to the places where there was no damage!
Although it may be counter-intuitive, the reasoning is sound.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The world's funniest analogies. Some good ones:
Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.
(Via Kottke.)
"Near-Death Experiences Now Found to Have Scientific Explanations"
Scientists find Star Wars planet with two suns"
"Researchers find a method to extract just a single photon from a beam of light, a development that could have an impact on quantum mechanics research"
"The 7 Types of Physician Bad Handwriting". (Via @internetcases.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Why The Trip Home Seems To Go By Faster"
How rational are NFL coaches in their 4th down decision-making? According to this article, not very.
Bruce Schneier: "New Lows in Secret Questions"
Economist: "Digitisation may have came late to book publishing, but it is transforming the business in short order"
The mathematical sculptures of Henry Segerman, utilizing 3-d printing. Example: "Hilbert Curve":

More examples at his YouTube channel.

Hsieh/Minton OpEd: Durbin's Dietary Paternalism

Off-topic: The September 13, 2011 edition of has just published an OpEd co-authored by myself and Michelle Minton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, "Durbin's Bill Is Dietary Paternalism".

The proposed new regulations would require many dietary supplement manufacturers to submit proofs of safety to the FDA before they could be marketed -- including many that are already freely available in drugstores and supermarkets without a prescription. This would raise the prices for many supplements and force others off the shelves entirely.

On a personal level, I am taking some of these supplements (in consultation with physician colleagues) to help with my hip fracture healing. So anything that would restrict my ability to purchase such supplements to promote my health greatly alarms me.

Many thanks to my co-author Michelle Minton and her colleagues at CEI for her excellent work and for facilitating the publication of this piece!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Because sometimes, you just need to look at a photo of a really goddamned happy elephant":

(Via @radleybalko.)
"The Curious Science of Counting a Crowd"
Monopoly Property Value Calculator. The advanced version.

(Via Tyler Cowen.)
"Battery Storage Could Get a Huge Boost from Seaweed". (Via Howard R.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

"Researchers' Typosquatting Stole 20 GB of E-Mail From Fortune 500"
The Economist: "Concerns about the danger posed to human health by radio waves are misplaced -- and increasingly irrelevant".

Yet more reasons not to worry about the "cellphones causing cancer" issue.
Pic of the day: Fixing an antenna on the top of the Empire State Building. Click through to see full size:

(Via Doug W.)
"Apple's Strict Security for Pre-Release Hardware".

Sunday, September 11, 2011

First commercial jetpack will sell for $100,000, in 2012:
It will meet the FAA's strict standards for ultralight aircraft flight. By design, the jetsetter along for the ride won't be able to exceed 63 miles per hour, with a flight time limited to 30 minutes.
Iranian cyberwar counterattack?
Andy's Most Useful Knots:
For a long time, I wished I knew a set of knots that would be the knot equivalent of a Swiss army knife. I knew a few good knots, but every once in a while I'd try to do something like lashing two pieces of wood together and I'd grunt at the end because I didn't know a satisfying way to stop the rope...
(Via @wakalix.)
"A prostitute is more likely to have sex with an on-duty police officer than to be arrested by one." (Via @internetcases.)
Tweet of the day:
If Tetris has taught me anything it's that errors pile up and accomplishments disappear. --@Dav3TheRav3

Never Forget

[Off topic] In Memoriam:

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Hewlett-Packard is releasing special 30th anniversary limited editions of their classic HP-12c and HP-15c calculators.

I have fond memories of my trusty HP-15c in college and the idea of a new version running at 100x speed is very appealing!

The official HP sales page lists the 15c as "coming soon", price $100:

"What Are The Legal Penalties For Using Craigslist To Crowd-Source Revenge?" (Via @InternetCases.)
"What would it be like walking around on a cube-shaped planet?"
"The World's Smallest Electric Motor is Made of Only One Molecule"

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Physics bleg: A friend-of-a-friend is interested in receiving feedback from physicists about a pre-print of an article he has written on quantum mechanics, "Surely You Must All be Joking: An Outsider's Critique of Quantum Physics".

The author is a non-physicist at the University of Colorado. If you're willing to respond, please send your comments directly to him at: "randy.oreilly" "at" "" or via this link. (Please do not send your feedback to me, Paul.)

Here is the abstract:
A critique of the state of current quantum theory in physics is presented, based on a perspective outside the normal physics training. From this perspective, the acceptance of quantum nonlocality seems unwarranted, and the fundamental assumptions that give rise to it in the first place seem questionable, based on the current status of the quantum theory of light. The relevant data can instead be accounted for using physically motivated local models, based on detailed properties of the experimental setups. The semiclassical approach, particularly in the form of the fully coupled Maxwell-Dirac equations with a pure wave ontology, seems to provide a satisfying, local, paradox-free physical model of the quantum world, that appears consistent with known phenomena. It is unclear why this approach is not pursued more vigorously in the field, given its clear potential to resolve all the conundrums that have perplexed generations of physicists.
Blogger manipulation FAIL. (Via @LyndsiM.)
Swedish engineers working on infrared-"invisible tank":
The system, developed by Bae Systems and known as "Adaptiv", allows an object to blend chameleon-like into its surroundings and vanish when viewed in infra-red.

The technology is based on sheets of hexagonal 'pixels' that are able to change temperature very quickly.

On-board cameras collect images of the vehicle's background and display that infra-red image onto the vehicle panels, making it appear to vanish.
(Via Neatorama.)
Consumer products that allow you to control objects with your thoughts.
How the transistor got its name. (Via @Qwertz0.)
Off-topic: PajamasMedia has published my latest satirical OpEd, "Let's Model ObamaJobs After ObamaCare!"

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

"If your limb gets trapped, how long should you wait before cutting it off?"
Mark Changizi: "How my 4-year-old girl got self-awareness while watching Toy Story".

(Via @MarkChangizi and @TheAlexKnapp.)
"Two Brits, Alex and Liam, Visit Walmart":

"Walmart is amazing, I don't even know why any other stores exist. They should just have one Walmart for every city."

PacMan as a first-person shooter:

Monday, September 05, 2011

How businesses handle catastrophic risk: "The God Clause and the Reinsurance Industry"
Self-defeating sentences.
Batman's origin, mistranslated. (Via BBspot.)
"How to speed up plane boarding".

Hint: It's not the current back-to-front method most airlines use. Related article in The Economist.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Open Letter to Apple: My iPad and My Hip Fracture

[Update 9/4/2011: Welcome, Instapundit readers!]

Dear Apple:

I've been a happy iPad2 owner since March 2011, but I never fully appreciated its value until I recently broke my hip in a bad fall and required subsequent hospitalization.

I am a physician, so I had already been using my iPad for my work, reading PDFs of medical articles, communicating with my colleagues via e-mail, etc. But when I broke my hip in an accident a few days ago, the iPad became my lifeline to the outside world:

Because I had my iPad with me at the time of the accident, I was able to immediately notify my friends and family of what had happened once I arrived in the ER.

In the ER, the iPad also helped keep my spirits up as I checked e-mail, followed my friends on Twitter and Facebook, and followed the regular world news. When my orthopedic surgeon presented my treatment options to me, he also e-mailed me some relevant medical literature in the form of PDF files which I could digest at my own pace on the iPad. And of course, I was also able to perform Google searches on my various surgery options, the complication rates, postoperative care requirements, etc.

Because of the specific nature of my fracture, I had to choose between two treatment options, each with its own pros and cons. I found it enormously helpful to be able to gather the relevant medical information literally "at my fingertips". Because of the iPad, I was able to more quickly make an informed treatment decision that I was comfortable with.

I did briefly leave my iPad with my wife during the surgery itself, but she gave it back to me immediately after the surgery. Other than that, it did not leave my side while in the hospital.

While in the hospital after my surgery, I used the iPad to read eBooks, check my e-mail, surf the internet, and keep up my regular blogging. It was a real morale booster to be able to continue as much of my regular online routine as possible, despite my impaired physical condition.

My wife also had her own iPad with her while I was hospitalized, which allowed her to update our friends and family in real time on my condition, as well as keep her occupied while I was asleep or in surgery.

And now that I'm at home recovering, my iPad is still at my side!

For someone such as myself with limited physical mobility, the iPad2 with its light weight and long battery life was perfect. A laptop computer simply would not have worked while in the hospital. The iPad was literally an emotional, medical, and physical lifeline for me during a difficult time in my life.

I know Apple has been in the news lately because of Steve Jobs' decision to step down as CEO. I just wanted to take this opportunity to publicly thank Mr. Jobs and Apple for creating such a wonderful, life-enhancing product.

In your advertisements, Apple has touted the iPad as "magical" and "revolutionary". To that, I would add the term "life-saver".

-- Paul Hsieh, MD
"Amazon's Kindle Tablet Is Very Real: I've Seen It, Played With It"

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Scientists understand surprisingly little about how anesthetics work. (Via MR.)
"Did Grandpa really make words by hand?"

A journalist looks at his father's old snail-mail correspondence from decades ago: "When was the last time you saw a page of a handwritten letter? Not lecture notes, or grocery lists or doodlings, but a strictly formatted letter?" (Via Paul B.)
Off-topic: My latest health policy OpEd is now up at PajamasMedia, "How. ObamaCare Plays Games with Your Life".
Admin note: Blogging may be sporadic for a while due to my medical issues.