Saturday, July 30, 2011

Who invented the "High Five"?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Neuroscience update: "The quest to build the perfect lie detector".

BTW, there's a good 1996 SF novel on this theme, The Truth Machine available at this Amazon link or via free download (MS Word format).
"Physicists Recreate 'End Of Time' in Lab"
1890s-era telegraph operators had their own texting culture.

Many formed transcontinental friendships, even though they may have never met personally. They would use the telegraph lines to spread jokes "virally", with "ha" being their version of today's "LOL". Similarly, "min pen" was apparently the 1890 equivalent of today's IM text "afk brb".

(Via Neatorama.)
What happens after you drop off your clothes at the dry cleaners.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"How Netflix Is Killing Piracy".

Related observations from Gus Van Horn.
Girls go geek. Interesting bit of history I was unaware of:
In 1987, 42% of the software developers in America were women. And 34% of the systems analysts in America were women. Women had started to flock to computer science in the mid-1960s, during the early days of computing, when men were already dominating other technical professions but had yet to dominate the world of computing. For about two decades, the percentages of women who earned Computer Science degrees rose steadily, peaking at 37% in 1984.

In fact, for a hot second back in the mid-sixties, computer programming was actually portrayed as women’s work by the mass media.
The images from the 1967 Cosmo magazine are hilarious. Don't worry, ladies. According to Grace Hopper, programming is just like "planning a dinner."

(Via Tyler Cowen.)
Scientists warn against real-life "Planet of the Apes" scenario.
Cool time-lapse video: "Acorn sprouts into oak tree"



(Via David Jilk.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Medical tip: Do not try to treat your hernia by operating on yourself with a butter knife. (Via HotAir.)
French joggers before and after.
"Navy's Next Laser Mashes Up Machine Guns and Death Rays"
"What some other planets would look like if they were the same distance from the Earth as the moon":



(Via BBspot.)
Hotels offering "snore absorption rooms". (Via MR.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

StrategyPage has an update on EMP weapons.
"If social media were a high school". Click on image to see full size. (Via @LyndsiM.)

fMRI of the "uncanny valley". (Via @rcalo.)
Very clever (and very nasty) scheme: "Smuggling Drugs in Unwitting People's Car Trunks". More details at NPR news.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The bizarro world online market for stolen credit card numbers. Fascinating podcast.

Here's a shorter version.
MacDonald's WiFi setup guide: Windows vs. Mac. (Via @seven2521)
CarTalk.com has a humorous list of "famous last words". Some of my favorites include:
Pull the pin and count to what?
I wonder where the mother bear is.
These are the good kind of mushrooms.
What does this button do?
Quantum weirdness update: "Making something exist in two places at once".
"Why Borders Failed While Barnes & Noble Survived". (Via @jeffbradynpr.)

Friday, July 22, 2011

American English phrases that the British apparently hate. (Via @shlevy.)
Hidden camera experiment reveals "Which City has the Most Dis-Honest Tea Drinkers?"
50 completely useless signs. (Via VAViper.)
"American Airlines finds that the fastest way to board passengers is randomly"
"21 Google Plus circles you can actually use". (Via BBspot.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Today's Big Brother: "Automatic License Plate Readers track your every move":
ALPRs are not ordinary cameras. Attached to police cruisers, or fixed on telephone poles or other stationary places, the cameras snap an image of nearly every license plate they encounter. The device produces a file for each image captured, which includes searchable text displaying the time, date and GPS location of the car when and where the plate was 'read'. This information is fed into a database, where it can be shared with other agencies and databases, and "mined" or analyzed.

One of the major problems with ALPR technology is that it sucks up all license plates, not simply those associated with people suspected of wrongdoing. Therefore as the technology expands, it is possible that law enforcement will be able to track your movements with incredible precision as you go about your daily life in your car. Without proper privacy protections backed by the force of law, ALPRs become yet another tracking technology...
Well-done baseball infographics. (Via GMSV.)

I especially liked ‎"An Etymological Venn Diagram of Baseball Team Names" and "How Often Does the Best Team Win the World Series?" (click on images to see them full-sized):


This court ruling is going to cause a huge debate: "Man's call for Obama assassination is free speech, not crime, court rules" (Los Angeles Times, 7/19/2011.)
"Destroying Hard Drive Leads to Conviction for Obstructing Federal Investigation"
"'Brain Bugs': Cognitive Flaws That 'Shape Our Lives'" (Via Doug Wagoner.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

TruePosition is the 'Keyzer Soze' of Global Phone-Tracking.

(Via Gizmodo: "How Much Information Does Your Cellphone Reveal Without You Knowing?")
"Roman-era shipwreck reveals ancient medical secrets":
A first-aid kit found on a 2,000-year-old shipwreck has provided a remarkable insight into the medicines concocted by ancient physicians to cure sailors of dysentery and other ailments...

"It's a spectacular find. They were very well sealed," Dr Alain Touwaide, from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington DC, told The Sunday Telegraph. "The plants and vegetables were probably crushed with a mortar and pestle – we could still see the fibres in the tablets. They also contained clay, which even today is used to treat gastrointestinal problems."

The pills are the oldest known archaeological remains of ancient pharmaceuticals...
(Via VA Viper.)
Stress-vs.-time vacation chart (click on image to see full size):

Star Trek vs. anti-Star Trek. (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

If you're scared of heights then don't read about the world's steepest roller coaster:


And don't click on the video of the view from the front-row seat (the really steep climb starts at 1:05):



(Via BBspot.)
"What It's Like Inside a Predator Drone Control Station"
It's amazing how much thought goes into designing a good fast food drive-through operation.
"What the iPad's success says about us". (Via Donald H.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Inside SpaceX: A Hint of Life After the Space Shuttle". (Via Howard Roerig.)
The secret behind this classic Indian levitation trick:


The answer (video):



(Via BBspot.)
Writing and procrastination.
Temporal cloaking.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Some great economics ideas packed into this short, upbeat video, "Would You Give Up The Internet For 1 Million Dollars?":



(Via Ari Armstrong.)
"Raspberry Pi: Rise of the $25 computer"
"How a New Police Tool for Face Recognition Works".

In the hands of a decent government, this could be a huge boon for law enforcement. In the hands of a bad government, [fill in your own dystopian scenario]...
"Grains of sand magnified to 250 times real size".


(Via Susan Dawn Wake.)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"First synthetic organ transplant paves way for post-op, immunosuppresive drug-free future". (Via M.O.)
Computer gets better at playing Civilization by reading the manual. (Via Metafilter.)
"DOJ: We can force you to decrypt that laptop"
"How digital detectives deciphered Stuxnet, the most menacing malware in history"
These animals are being real d*cks... (Via R.B.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The OED traces "OMG" back to 1917. (Via GMSV.)
The techniques used by highly-effective liars. (Via BBspot.)
"What's more awesome than neutron stars and red giants? Neutron stars inside red giants!" (Via Michael Williams.)
Make your own holograms.

Update: A regular reader notes that the Integraf kits are highly-regarded in the holography community.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

E-mails and exclamation points. (Via @daniel_wahl.)
Dog learns physics the hard way. (Via @debbywitt.)
"What exactly happens to a brain when it's pumped full of cryoprotectant chemicals and frozen at -124°C?" (Via ALDaily.)
What 30 years of innovation looks like. (Via @internetcases.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Off-topic: The 7/11/2011 edition of PajamasMedia has just published my latest OpEd, "The Coming Collectivization of American Health Care".
How do trick candles work?
Time-waster of the day: Curvy. (Via Andrew Miner.)
"An Intuitive Guide To Exponential Functions & e". (Via MR.)
"How Divorce Lawyers Use Social Networks"

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Classic car commercial of the day. Dude.



(Via Amy M.)

Saturday, July 09, 2011

6 False Lessons Of The Space Shuttle

Friday, July 08, 2011

"How the FBI and Interpol trapped the world's biggest Butterfly botnet"
Computer e-discovery algorithm detects anomalous (and possibly illegal) communications behaviour inside organizations.
Cool treehouses. (Via @TreyPeden.)
Slow light:
For the past few decades, scientists have been playing more and more with the "slowing down" of light, and scientists at the University of Glasgow have achieved a breakthrough in this area. They've managed to slow the speed of light to a relative crawl -- 741 miles per hour, or about the speed of sound.
Is the flip side of "confirmation bias" the "backfire effect"?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Art and bribery in China.
3-D printer for chocolate. (Via VikR.)
The next step after "invisibility cloaks" are "event cloaks" that don't just hide objects, but events:
Using the ultimate bank heist as an example, McCall and Kinsler explain how a thief could, in principle, use an "event cloak" to steal money from a safe, without even the CCTV surveillance cameras being aware.

The burglar would somehow need to split all the light approaching the safe into two parts: "before" and "after", with the "before" part sped up and the "after" part slowed down.

This would create a brief period of darkness during which the burglar could enter the scene and steal the money, being careful to close the safe door before they leave.

With the safe-cracker gone, the process of speeding up and slowing down the light would then be reversed, leading to an apparently untouched scene once again.

Robbing a bank is, of course, only an example to illustrate the principle of what an event cloak could do. As McCall and Kinsler explain, a more likely application of a full-size event cloak would be to control the flow of signals in an optical routing system, where one may need to process simultaneous uninterrupted signals at the same time.
"Crowd Sourcing Identifies 2 Parkinsons Disease Genes"
"When the temperature is right, airplanes can drill holes in the clouds that they pass through... over a hundred kilometers across":

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

What kinds of webs do spiders weave in zero-gravity?



Orb-weaver spiders create asymmetrical 3D webs on Earth, but in previous experiments on the space station, their webs were much more symmetrical. As you can see in the time-lapse above, Esmeralda is following this trend with her circular web. But now Countryman is also noticing that on the ISS, the spiders aren't at the top of their web facing downwards to look out for captured prey. "They've been sitting in all different parts of their web and they're not necessarily facing down in relation to their habitat," she says.

On the ground, a spider simply has to let itself drop and gravity will help the long strands of the web fall into place. But when a spider tries this in space it goes nowhere...
"My Summer at an Indian Call Center".
Botnets are getting smarter and stealthier.
The space bubble that perplexed skywatchers. (Via @TreyPeden.)
The physics of chilling your beer.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Fantastic card trick by Mathieu Bich that fooled Penn & Teller:



(Via @RadleyBalko.)
"The Voyager probes have entered a strange realm of frothy magnetic bubbles". (Via @laforgetm.)
"20 craziest job interview questions".

And some good responses from Giles Turnbull. My favorite:
VWR International: How would you market a telescope in 1750 when no one knows about orbits, moons, etc.?

"Hey you! Wanna discover orbits and moons, etc.? Then you need this, baby!" Either that, or just sell to peeping toms. Peeping toms have a long, proud history.
"How To Give Robot Vacuums a Personality (And Why It Matters)". (Via Tyler Cowen.)
"Social x-ray specs" that read your emotions from your facial micro-expressions.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

"The Five Best Inventions of the Founding Fathers"

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The 22 Rules of 4th of July Backyard Wiffle.

(I hope everyone has a good July 4 long weekend! Regular posting will resume Tuesday, 7/5/2011.)

Friday, July 01, 2011

How to get around the "No wishing for more wishes" rule (click on image to see full size):

"Acoustic cloak to hide ships from sonar":
"Invisibility cloaks" have been in the news since 2006, when scientists proposed that they could design synthetic materials that would bend light in ways that made the objects under them appear invisible. Three years ago, Steve Cummer at Duke University figured out that the same principle could be applied to sound waves, and his lab has now brought out their first physical proof of the idea.
Popular Mechanics: "101 Gadgets That Changed The World".
Update on the mathematics of the Rubiks' Cube.

In particular MIT computer scientist Erik Demaine and colleagues have shown:
...[T]hat the maximum number of moves required to solve a Rubik's cube with N squares per row is proportional to N^2/log N. “That that’s the answer, and not N^2, is a surprising thing,” Demaine says.
(Via Reid A.)
Hilarious spoof of drug ads:



(Via E.D.P.)