Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

An Early Tale of the Internet

Government bureaucracy in action: "An Early Tale of the Internet"


"'Dystextia': Gibberish texts sound stroke alarm".

The article also notes:
The main stroke warning signs with respect to texting would be unintelligible language output, or problems reading or comprehending texts," said Klein. "Many smartphones have an ‘autocorrect' function which can introduce erroneous word substitutions, giving the impression of a language disorder."

Autocorrect, said Savitz, a professor of neurology, can confuse matters - even for doctors. "I have often joked with my colleagues when using the dictation of the smartphone, that it gives me an aphasia," he said. "Potential for lots of false positives!"

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Phantom Eye Syndrome

"Phantom Eye Syndrome: When People Without Eyes Can Still See"

Self-Driving Cars and the Law

"Self-driving cars can navigate the road, but can they navigate the law?" (Via Marginal Revolution.)

An FBI Hostage Negotiator Buys A Car

I enjoyed this NPR podcast "An FBI Hostage Negotiator Buys A Car". The first two segments on negotiation were decent.

But I especially liked the third segment, because the former FBI hostage negotiator explained how he got a great deal by getting the car dealership to essentially negotiate with themselves.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

GeekPress is taking the day off.  Posting will resume tomorrow, but may be lighter than usual for the rest of the week.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

E-Book Licensing Controversies

LA Times: "E-book restrictions leave 'buyers' with few rights".

Note: I support the concept of intellectual property rights and eventually these issues of how to best apply that basic idea to our new technology platforms will be resolved.  But there could be some interesting controversies in the meantime.

Economics of Web Comics

Economics of web comics.

Another example of technology allowing content producers to make an end-run around traditional outlets.

Reversal of Fortunes

"In a Strange Reversal of Fortunes, Microsoft Woos Apple Developers"

Interactive Guide To The Fourier Transform

"An Interactive Guide To The Fourier Transform". (Via Francisco G.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

CHAMP Electronic Warfare

CHAMP Electronic Warfare.
CHAMP, which renders electronic targets useless, is a non-kinetic alternative to traditional explosive weapons that use the energy of motion to defeat a target.

During the test, the CHAMP missile navigated a pre-programmed flight plan and emitted bursts of high-powered energy, effectively knocking out the target's data and electronic subsystems. CHAMP allows for selective high-frequency radio wave strikes against numerous targets during a single mission.
(Via JRW.)

China Blocking Encrypted Communications

China is reportedly now blocking some encrypted communications.

Of course, a natural question is whether/when such technology will be used by the authorities in the US.

10 Reasons Your Top Talent Will Leave You

"10 Reasons Your Top Talent Will Leave You". (Via @LyndsiM.)

Can I Take a Space Flight?

British Medical Journal: "Can I take a space flight? Considerations for doctors".
Numerous commercial enterprises exist that will eventually provide competitively priced access to spaceflight experiences for paying customers. With spaceports construction under way, bookings are already taking place. Physicians can in future expect patients to ask questions and request clearance processes (such as fitness to fly certificates) for space travel as they do for commercial airplane flights today.

Here, we provide some background to the field of space medicine for non-experts and point to resources for clinicians when a patient presents with requests related to space travel.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Inuit Ear-Pulling Game

"Ear pulling is a traditional Inuit game in which competitors sit with their legs in front of their bodies and intertwined, facing each other."
Competitor's left and right ears, respectively, are linked to their rival's via a two-foot-long loop of waxed string. From there, the game is more or less self explanatory: the two competitors pull. The idea is to endure as much pain as possible. The winner is the first man or woman to dislodge the string from the ear of their competition, withstanding the pain a little longer.
(Via Neatorama.)

How Snowflakes Get Their Shapes

Video: "How snowflakes get their shapes".

(Via VA Viper.)

3D-Printing Gun Design Crackdown

"3D-Printing Firm Makerbot Cracks Down On Printable Gun Designs".

Of course, once the basic idea is out, motivated hobbyists will continue to trade the data files.  As the article notes:
In response to Makerbot’s crackdown, Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson wrote to me in an email, saying that the group plans to create its own site for hosting “fugitive” 3D printable gun files “in the next few hours.”

Neither Wilson believes that neither Makerbot’s purge of gun parts nor the outcry over the Newtown shooting has hampered Defense Distributed’s initiative. “The Internet routes around censorship,” he writes. “The project becomes more vital.”
Even if possession/exchange of these data files is made explicitly illegal, there will still be an illicit underground "market" (as there is for pirated software, etc.)

Lawyers of Reddit

"Lawyers of Reddit, what is the stupidest case anyone has ever come to you with wanting to sue?" (Via Walter Olson.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Is the Scientific Literature Self-Correcting?

Nature: "Is the scientific literature self-correcting?"

The End of the University as We Know It

Online education: "The End of the University as We Know It".

"Creative destruction" in action!


The C SEED TV 201 is gorgeous.

Although way more than I would ever spend. (Via Howard R.)

Spiders Make Bigger Spider Decoys

Whoa: "Spider that builds larger spider decoys discovered, may be a new species".

More details here, including image of decoy spider built of leaves. (Via Aaron B.)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Physics of Hobbit Strength

Wired: "How Strong Is a Hobbit?"

NYC Museum of Math

The Museum of Mathematics has just opened in NYC.

Barcode Inventor Passes Away

Joseph Woodland, inventor of the now ubiquitous barcode, has died at the age of 91.

Related history: "The first product sold using a UPC scan was a 67-cent package of Wrigley's chewing gum at a supermarket in Troy, Ohio, in June 1974".

Unrelated Doppelgangers

"Portraits of People Who Look Alike But Aren't Related At All".  (Via Neatorama.)

No Flying Cars, but the Future Is Bright

Virginia Postrel: "No Flying Cars, but the Future Is Bright"
The world we live in would be wondrous to mid-20th-century Americans. It just isn’t wondrous to us. One reason is that we long ago ceased to notice some of the most unexpected innovations.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hobbit Movie Causing Motion Sickness?

"Warner Bros. and Peter Jackson are responding to claims that 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' is causing motion sickness and nausea among viewers".

Personally, I think it's all the waterfalls spiraling the wrong way because the movie was filmed in New Zealand.

Track Your Unfollows

"How to Find Out When Someone Unfollows You on Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Networks"

Off-The-Grid zeroHouse

The zeroHouse is a prefabricated off-the-grid house, with self-sufficient electricity, climate control, and waste-disposal systems that can be assembled in a day.

More information at their FAQ page.  Cost = $350k.  (Via Debby Witt.)

Ban on 3D Printed Guns?

"Congressman calls for ban on 3D printed guns".

I doubt such an attempted ban would be effective, for the reasons Doctorow discusses.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Resourceful Birds

"City birds use cigarette butts to smoke out parasites"

Ubuntu On Chromebook

"How to install Ubuntu on Acer's $199 C7 Chromebook"

Snowflake Photos

"Ethereal Macro Photos of Snowflakes in the Moments Before They Disappear".

Click through to see more. (Via Susan W.)

Getting Closer to Medical Tricorders

"The hand-held diagnostic devices seen on Star Trek are inspiring a host of medical add-ons for smartphones".

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Auxetic Materials

Auxectic materials become fatter (not thinner) when stretched, which makes them useful in a wide range of applications.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Ransomware Spreading

NYT: "For PC Virus Victims, Pay or Else"

Ender's Game Movie Update

Entertainment Week: "'Ender's Game': Harrison Ford stares down Asa Butterfield in first photo"

From the article:
In the photo above, we get a first glimpse of Hugo’s Asa Butterfield (right) as Ender, standing in line with other new recruits (a.k.a. “Launchies”) early on at his time in the Battle School. He’s facing off with the imposing Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) over whether his emails to home are being blocked. It’s telling that the two characters are clashing over communication, since they’ve got major communication issues with each other. In the novel, Ender could never be sure whether Graff was manipulating him, or whether he simply saw great potential in him and wanted to foster it.

StickNFind Bluetooth Stickers

"StickNFind Bluetooth stickers help locate missing items".

I know some people who could really benefit from this product.

Boredom Is Surprisingly Interesting

Smithsonian: "The History of Boredom"

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Universe Is Not a Computer

"Why The Universe Is Not a Computer After All"

Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping, and Beyond

"The Unsolved Mystery of Why You Just Yawned". (Via Instapundit.)

19 Boys In A Row

University of Minnesota Hospital delivered 19 boys in a row last week.

The odds of this happening are roughly 500,000 to 1.  (Via EPMonthly.)

First Open-Source 3D-Printed Gun

"The first open-source 3D-printed gun".

Because the lower receiver was made of plastic, it only lasted 6 rounds.  But the article also notes:
In an industrial setting, though, 3D printing processes such as selective laser melting/sintering (SLM, SLS) are being used to create incredibly rugged parts out of metal. NASA, for example, is producing rocket parts with 3D printing. It is really only a matter of time until everyone has the hardware at home to print a complete firearm — or, well, any weapon really.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Can Big Box Stores Evolve?

Megan McCardle discusses some ways that big box brick-and-mortar stores like Best Buy can possibly thrive in the Amazon era

(Whether they can/will take those bold steps is a separate question.)

Elevator Math

Elevator algorithms. (Via Ryan Sager.)

Awesome Good Deed By Lego

"LEGO Finds Spare Discontinued Set So Boy Who Saved Up For 2 Years Wouldn’t Be Disappointed". (Via Star F.)

Legal Risk of Running Tor Server

Ars Technica: "Tor operator charged for child porn transmitted over his servers".

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Self-Healing Flash Memory Survives 100 Million Cycles

IEEE: "Flash Memory Survives 100 Million Cycles"
[Flash memory] wears out after being programmed and erased about 10,000 times. That’s fine for a USB dongle that you’ll probably lose in a year, but not ideal for the solid-state drives of server farms. And the same problem keeps manufacturers from using flash to replace other types of computer memories. This month, at the 2012 IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting, engineers from Macronix plan to report the invention of a self-healing NAND flash memory that survives more than 100 million cycles.

Drink As Much Coffee As You Like

Your Monday morning news: "The Case for Drinking as Much Coffee as You Like"

Glass Houses

"A growing number of city dwellers are building glass houses."

New Attacks Against ATMs

"Beware Card- and Cash-Trapping at the ATM":
[Card traps] involve devices that fit over the card acceptance slot and include a razor-edged spring trap that prevents the customer’s card from being ejected from the ATM when the transaction is completed.

"Spring traps are still being widely used," EAST wrote in its most recently European Fraud Update. "Once the card has been inserted, these prevent the card being returned to the customer and also stop the ATM from retracting it. According to reports from one country ­ despite warning messages that appear on the ATM screen or are displayed on the ATM fascia ­ customers are still not reporting when their cards are captured, leading to substantial losses from ATM or point-of-sale transactions."
Click through to see some pictures of the devices. (Via Bruce Schneier.)

Inside Amazon

Now this is a warehouse: Inside Amazon facility.

Here's an explanation of their "chaotic storage" system.

10 Best Animated Christmas Lights Displays

"10 Of The Best Animated Christmas Lights Displays For The Holidays". (Via Kelly V.)

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Simberg Kickstarter: Safe Is Not An Option

I contributed to Rand Simberg's Kickstarter book project, "Safe Is Not An Option: Our Futile Obsession In Spaceflight".

Basically, he questions some long-held conventional wisdom about safety, spaceflight, and the supposed infinite value of human life.  It should ruffle a few feathers.

And here's his most recent update, including a link to a positive review of an early draft.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Physics Sex Scandals

"5 Of Physics's Greatest Sex Scandals".

I don't know if one can say whether Schroedinger did or did not cheat on his wife until he was observed. (Via Sam K.)

Turning Escher Drawings into Real 3D Models

"3D Print the Impossible! Turning Escher Drawings into Real 3D Models". (Via Vik Rubenfeld.)

Facebook Plus Wolfram Alpha

"What Facebook and Wolfram Alpha can tell you about yourself"

Win Nobel Prize, Get Free Beer

Alex Knapp: "For Winning The Nobel Prize, Niels Bohr Got A House With Free Beer"

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Awesome Anamorphic Optical Illusions

Awesome Anamorphic Optical Illusions:

From the video description:
I've included the images in this video for you to download and try yourself. Print them on 8.5 X 14. Cut the paper any way you'd like to add more of an effect.

Rubiks -
Tape -
Shoe -

Wireless Network of Cows

"Wireless network of cows to keep burps under control". (Via MR.)

Musk Mars Colony

Ari Armstrong: "SpaceX Founder Musk Envisions Mars Colony: Potential Value is Immense"

Olfactory White

Oldfactory white is the olfactory equivalent of "white noise". (Via Instapundit.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Self-Filling Water Bottle Skepticism

Some skepticism: "Is it possible to create a self-filling water bottle?"

Munchausen By Internet

"Why Would Someone Want to Fake a Serious Illness on the Internet?"

Related: How to spot "Munchausen by internet"

Extinction-Level Near-Collision in 1883?

Did the Earth nearly have an extinction-level "Deep Impact" collision in 1883?

Dr Seuss Does Malaria

"Dr. Seuss Does Malaria".

WWII-era US government pamphlet illustrated by Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), explaining malaria precautions to the troops.  Click through to see the rest. (Via Dr. Amesh Adalja.)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Misplaced Decimal Point Creates Spinach=Strength Myth

The origin of the spinach=strength myth was a misplaced decimal point:
In 1870, German chemist Erich von Wolf analyzed the iron content of green vegetables and accidentally misplaced a decimal point when transcribing data from his notebook. As a result, spinach was reported to contain a tremendous amount of iron -- 35 milligrams per serving, not 3.5 milligrams (the true measured value). While the error was eventually corrected in 1937, the legend of spinach's nutritional power had already taken hold, one reason that studio executives chose it as the source of Popeye's vaunted strength...

Breast Milk Exchange?

No, I did not realize there was a barter market for breast milk. (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Cyberforensics Update

"The Real Cyberforensics Used To Snoop On Petraeus (And You)"

3D Printing and Military Logistics

"3D printing revolution in military logistics".  (Via James Joyner.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

African Teen Innovator

Self-taught African teen builds own batteries, starts own radio station broadcasting news/music. (Via Maximizing Progress.)

Gene Predicts What Time of Day You Will Die

"Study: A Gene Predicts What Time of Day You Will Die"

This adds new meaning to the phrase, "I'm not a morning person."

The 10% Neuromyth

WSJ: "Using Just 10% of Your Brain? Think Again"

(FWIW, I'm not convinced that the "learning styles" concept is a mere "neuromyth".)

The Earthquake Rose

"When a magnitude 6.8 earthquake shook Olympia, Wash., in 2001, shopowner Jason Ward discovered that a sand-tracing pendulum had recorded the vibrations in the image [below]."  (Via Doug W.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Princess Bride Lines On ESPN

Last week on ESPN's "NFL Kickoff", Trey Wingo, Mark Sclereth, and Tedy Bruschi jammed as many Princess Bride references as they could into their half hour show. Hilarious!

Hater's Guide To Williams-Sonoma Catalog

"The Hater's Guide To The Williams-Sonoma Catalog".

(Note: Contains some mildly NSFW language.  Via Kelly V.)

Self-Assembling Polymer Increases Hard Drive Capacity 5X

"Chemists create self-assembling polymer that increases hard drive capacity by 5X"

Modern Day Big Brother

"The Broadwell saga illustrates just how vulnerable our e-mail is to warrantless government snooping"

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

My Electoral College Prediction

In the interest of intellectual honesty and to close the loop, I'll freely acknowledge: Boy, was I wrong in my EC prediction.

(Basically, I banked on an "enthusiasm edge" for GOP supporters that wasn't there or had evaporated.)

For the record, here was my prediction:

Gas for Sex Trades in NY, NJ

Gasoline price controls in NY and NJ have led to this inevitable secondary market: "13 People Trying To Trade Gas For Sex On Craigslist". (Via Marginal Revolution.)

MS Marketing Genius

Microsoft: Hey, let's release Halo 4 on Election Day! We'll totally dominate the news cycle!

Famous Trials

Famous trials.

Iron Man Exoskeletons?

"Will we ever have Iron Man exoskeletons?"

Monday, November 05, 2012

Abacus Championships

"World's fastest number game wows spectators and scientists"

I was especially impressed by the "Flash Anzan" (imaginary abacus) competition:
...[I]t requires contestants to use the mental image of an abacus. Since when you get very good at the abacus it is possible to calculate simply by imagining one. In Flash Anzan, 15 numbers are flashed consecutively on a giant screen. Each number is between 100 and 999. The challenge is to add them up. Simple, right? Except the numbers are flashed so fast you can barely read them.

Is Scotch The New Wine?

"Liquid Assets: Is Scotch The New Wine?"

Behind the Scenes at NASA's Mission Control

"Going boldly: Behind the scenes at NASA's hallowed Mission Control Center". (Via Howard R.)

Robot vs. Human Race Car Driving

"Human 'Only Just' Edges Out Robot Car On The Racetrack". (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Kids Are Smart

"Ethiopian kids hack OLPCs in 5 months with zero instruction"

Related from MIT Technology Review: "Given Tablets but No Teachers, Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves"

British Invasions

"British have invaded nine out of ten countries - so look out Luxembourg"

The article notes, "Britain has invaded all but 22 countries in the world in its long and colourful history".

My favorite quote:
The only other nation which has achieved anything approaching the British total, Mr Laycock said, is France -- which also holds the unfortunate record for having endured the most British invasions...

How Cork is Made

"How cork is made: An illustrated guide to the cork production process". (Via Gus Van Horn.)

Shatner Talks Shatoetry, Star Trek and Apple

Yes, there's now an Apple iTunes app that lets you create sentences using William Shatner's voice (e.g., for voicemail messages, poetry, etc.)

Android version coming soon.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Brendan Loy Electoral College Contest

BTW, you can still enter Brendan Loy's Electoral College Contest.

Here's my prediction.  (Like with any good NCAA basketball pool, I predicted a few unlikely upsets, which by definition go against the conventional wisdom).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New Disney Logo

Doug Mataconis: "The new Disney logo is somewhat disturbing"

ATM Heist

"ATM heist clears $1 million exploiting Citigroup e-payment flaw".

Their method:
"In order to obtain the case, the conspirators exploited a loophole in Citi's account security protocols, which caused Citi's account reconciliation systems to treat identical, near-simultaneous withdrawals as duplicates of a single withdrawal from an individual Citi Checking account," prosecutors alleged in the indictment. "In exploiting this loophole, the conspirators withdrew identical sums of money in succession from a single Citi checking account all within a specific time window. This allowed the conspirators to fraudulently withdraw several times the amount of money deposited into each account."

From Dropout to Poker Star

"From dropout to poker star: Greg Merson is ready for WSOP championship". (Via Marginal Revolution.)

The States With The Riskiest Voting Technology

"The States with the Riskiest Voting Technology".

Oh goody, CO is on the short list.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Truth, Lies, and 'Doxxing'

"Truth, Lies, and 'Doxxing': The Real Moral of the Gawker/Reddit Story"

I don't fully agree with the author's conclusions, but she used excellent case examples to raise some important issues.

Inside Microsoft Surface

"Under the Surface: iFixit breaks down Microsoft's tablet"

AxeCop Animated Series

Upcoming AxeCop animated series! Here's their Halloween video clip:

BTW, AxeCop is a hilarious comic series with the stories created by 5-year old Malachai Nicolle, illustrated by his 29-year old comic artist brother Ethan Nicolle.

The Sex Lives of Conjoined Twins

"The Sex Lives of Conjoined Twins"

Climate Scientist Mann Faces Obstacles to Winning Libel Lawsuit

ScienceInsider reports: "Climate Scientist Mann Faces Obstacles to Winning Libel Lawsuit, Legal Experts Say".

For more on this, see my earlier post: "How To Support Simberg and CEI Against Michael Mann". I donated!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

CBS News Fails to Understand Twitter in 2007

"Watch as CBS News fails to understand Twitter in 2007":

Amazing how much difference 5 years makes.  MySpace was still a big deal back then.

Physicists Beat Roulette

Alex Knapp: "Scientists Beat The House At Roulette With Chaos Theory"

2 Mothers and 1 Father

"A technique intended to eliminate mitochondrial diseases would result in people with three genetic parents".

Mothers' Day cards would get a little bit more complicated!

MS Store Alternate Universe

Marco Arment visits the bizarre alternate universe known as the Microsoft Store.

I was intrigued at the MS Store method of attempting to sell the Surface vs. the Apple Store method of selling the iPad.  It may be right for some potential customers, but probably not for me.

How To Support Simberg and CEI Against Michael Mann

On July 13, 2012, Rand Simberg (an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute) wrote a blog post critical of Penn State University climate scientist Michael Mann and his work on global warming: "The Other Scandal In Unhappy Valley".

Mann subsequently demanded that CEI retract the post and apologize for it.

CEI declined.  CEI general counsel Sam Kazman wrote:
Shortly after that post was published in mid-July, CEI removed two sentences that it regarded as inappropriate.  However, we view the post as a valid commentary on Michael Mann’s research...

And regardless of how one views Mann's work, his threatened lawsuit is directly contrary to First Amendment law regarding public debate over controversial issues.  Michael Mann may believe we face a global warming threat, but his actions represent an unfounded attempt to freeze discussion of his views.

In short, we’re not retracting the piece, and we’re not apologizing for it.
In response, Mann filed a lawsuit against CEI and Rand Simberg, as well as National Review and columnist Mark Steyn (who quoted portions of Simberg's piece).

CEI has stated they will defend their "First Amendment rights".  They've also posted their legal defense of Simberg's blog post.

CEI is accepting donations to help them on this issue and their other work.  I've gladly donated.

(BTW, their website notes, "CEI is a non-partisan, educational and research institute operating under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. CEI accepts no government grants or contracts, nor do we have an endowment. Contributions to our efforts are tax-deductible.")

If you want to support CEI, you can donate here.

I'll also be staying tuned for updates on Rand Simberg's blog, Transterrestrial Musings, and will pass them along as appropriate.

Update #1: Welcome, Instapundit readers!

Update #2:  ScienceInsider reports, "Climate Scientist Mann Faces Obstacles to Winning Libel Lawsuit, Legal Experts Say" (10/26/2012).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Twisted Light

"Chip Makes Twisted Light for Communications"

Google Grand Canyon

"Google street view expands into Grand Canyon trails"

I'd much rather trust the Google version than the Apple Maps version of the Grand Canyon trails!

Permanently Save and Store Your Kindle Books

"How to permanently save and store your Kindle books".

Note: Should only be used for personal use of content you legitimately own, not for promoting piracy of copyrighted material.

What Quantum Computing Is and Is Not

"What Quantum Computing Is -- and What It's Not"

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

10x WiFi Speed Improvement With Math

Math: "Increasing wireless network speed by 1000%, by replacing packets with algebra".

More details at the MIT Technology Review website, "A Bandwidth Breakthrough".

I, for one, welcome the ability to download cat videos and Facebook memes at 10x speed. Just think of the enormous productivity gains America will enjoy as a result! (Via David Jilk.)

Tiny Tractor Beam

"Physicists Invent (Tiny) Working Tractor Beam, World Becomes Instantly More Awesome". (Via VAViper.)

Elevator Floor Video Prank

This is the best use of video monitors to simulate an elevator floor that I've ever seen. (Via Howard Roerig.)

Germs In Space

"Germs in space: Keeping astronauts healthy".

For instance:
[W]ithout gravity, germs launched by coughs and sneezes no longer fall to the ground within an earthly three to six feet, but continue to float around, increasing the distance and time for astronauts to inhale them or for them to settle on a wider variety of surfaces. 
(Via @Medgadget.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Italian Earthquake Convictions

Glenn Reynolds (aka Instapundit): "We Can't Predict Earthquakes And We Shouldn't Scapegoat Scientists".

One excerpt:
If I were an Italian earthquake researcher, I’d be giving serious contemplation to the prospect of relocating. (Four top disaster experts in Italy already have quit their posts in protest.) And if I were a researcher in some neighboring country, I might be reluctant to offer an opinion, lest some overreaching Italian prosecutor call Interpol for my arrest.

That’s too bad for Italy, which is one of the world’s major earthquake hotspots. Italian disaster officials, building-code writers, and insurance companies need the best earthquake advice they can get. But they won’t be getting it now. Instead, they’ll face a run of "bad luck."

Who Neanderthal Man Looked Like

As Debby Witt noted: "UK scientists recreated Neanderthal man, who looks just like Chuck Norris".

Perhaps we need a new page of "Neanderthal facts" along the line of "Chuck Norris facts", such as: 
Neanderthal Man doesn't has a grizzly bear carpet in his cave. The bear isn't dead it is just afraid to move. 

There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of animals Neanderthal Man allows to live. 

When Neanderthal Man does a pushup, he isn't lifting himself up, he's pushing the Earth down.

Guide to Italian Hand Gestures

Guide to Italian Hand Gestures. (Via GMSV.)

Related guide, with video. The guide notes, "Remember: With great hand gestures comes great responsibility. Use your new found communication skills wisely."

How to Weaponize Office Supplies

BusinessWeek: "How to Weaponize Office Supplies".

Just remember, if office supplies are outlawed...  (Via Matthew Bowdish.)

Smartphone Muggings

Beware of the rise in smartphone muggings:
The Associated Press reports that smartphone robberies now account for nearly half of all robberies in San Francisco, as well as an impressive 40 percent here in New York City. And the numbers aren't just high, they're getting higher fast. In Los Angeles, smartphone robberies are up 27 percent from last year, with no signs of slowing down.

The thefts come in all varieties as well. Victims have reported having their phones—iPhones in particular (surprise!)—yanked out of their hands while talking, snatched just as public transit reaches a stop, or even taken at gunpoint. Gunpoint.
...[T]he best defense is to just be smart. Don't flash that thing around when you can avoid it and hold on tight. And it won't keep it from getting stolen, but back that sucker up just in case; it'll soften the blow. Whatever you do, be careful. That's a lot of money in your pocket.
(Via Slashdot and Instapundit.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

More on First Sale Doctrine

"Can Copyrighted Works Purchased Abroad Be Resold In the United States?"

Eight Ways Goofing Off Can Make You More Productive

"Eight Ways Goofing Off Can Make You More Productive".

I'm an especially big fan of methods #2 and #6!

Jean-Paul Sartre's Blog

Hah!: "Le Blog de Jean-Paul Sartre". (Via Susan Dawn Wake.)

Facebook History

From the 2004 Harvard Crimson: "Hundreds Register for New Facebook Website".

I doubt this idea will ever catch on. There's no way enrollees would voluntarily share that kind of personal information on a computer network.  (Via Sam K.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Life and Molecules

"In origin-of-life experiment, cooperative molecules win out". (Via John S.)

Scientists Read Dreams

"Brain scans during sleep were successfully used to decode some of the visual content of subjects' dreams"

People Can Handle The Genetic Truth

Ordinary people are able to handle the truth about their genome. (Via Kelly V.)

Glass Slipper Science

"What Qualities Would The Glass In Cinderella's Slippers Need To Have In Order For Her To Walk And Dance Safely?" (Via Alex Knapp.)

Will the Millennial Generation kill the NFL?

Will the Millennial Generation kill the NFL?

George Will makes a similar argument: "[I]n this age of bubble-wrapped children, when parents put helmets on wee tricycle riders, many children are going to be steered away from youth football, diverting the flow of talent to the benefit of other sports."

Personally, I believe adults should have the right to participate in sports like football if they choose provided they are properly informed of the risks/benefits/etc.

It may be that the culture eventually shifts to the point that football is considered an overly barbaric sport (like the way that boxing has lost popularity from the 1950s to today). Or it may be that a combination of technology and rule changes allows football to improve player safety while still preserving the currently-appealing aspects of the game.

Hence, I hope the government stays out of this issue and lets the marketplace sort this issue out.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sounds of Cylons

Video of the day: "Sounds of Cylons", as sung by Simon & Garfunkel.

(Via VAViper.)

Beer Keyboard

Beer Keyboard:

Scientists Discover a New Type of Cosmic Ray

"Scientists Discover a New Type of Cosmic Ray"

Bottles, Bubbles And Breakages

"A firm slap of the hand will break a glass bottle filled with water. A new fluid dynamics video shows exactly why". (Via Reid A.)

The Greatest Fake-Art Scam in History?

"The Greatest Fake-Art Scam in History?"

Also, why stealing multi-million (genuine) artwork is a bad business plan.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What a Live Botnet Looks Like

"What a Live Botnet Looks Like"

Space Jump Tech

Alex Knapp: "The Technology Behind Red Bull's Space Jump"

Related: David Cardinal, "The tech behind Felix Baumgartner’s stratospheric skydive"

BlackBerries Now Officially Uncool

NYT: "Quick, Hide the BlackBerry, It's Too Uncool"

I also remember when Palm used to be the hip, trendy PDA.  Then they failed to keep up and they went the way of the dinosaur.

It's Gotta Be The Shoes

"You Can Judge 90 Percent of a Stranger's Personal Characteristics Just by Looking at Their Shoes"

Monday, October 15, 2012

Google's Answer to Siri

"Google's Answer to Siri Thinks Ahead"

Tolkien Tourism Boom in NZ

"Hobbit tourism scatters more of Tolkien's magic across New Zealand"

Another wave of "Tolkien Tourism" hits New Zealand for The Hobbit, just as it did a decade ago for The Lord of The Rings.

Subjectivity in DNA Matching

"DNA analysis: Far from an open-and-shut case"

Does DNA analysis have more observer subjectivity than previously thought?  The authors compare this technology with recently-recognized error sources in conventional fingerprint matching.  (Via Alex Knapp.)

Browse like Bond

"Browse like Bond: How to surf the Web like a spy"

Increasingly advanced technique for web browsing without leaving a trace. I hadn't heard of the TAILS (The Amnesiac Incognito Live System) system before.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dude, Where's My Xenon?

"The Mysterious Case of the Missing Noble Gas"

Amazon Confirms It Makes No Profit On Kindles

"Amazon Confirms It Makes No Profit On Kindles"

The Measurement That Would Reveal The Universe As A Computer Simulation

"If the cosmos is a numerical simulation, there ought to be clues in the spectrum of high energy cosmic rays, say theorists"

Cobra Effect

Excellent Freaknomics podcast/blog post on the "Cobra Effect", where enacting a well-intentioned incentives can result in the opposite of the desired results.

Of course, many government programs fall prey to this kind of "unintended consequences".

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Largest Meteorite Auction Ever

"The Largest Meteorite Auction Ever".

Items include, "a four-pound piece of the moon (estimated cost: $340,000), the largest piece of the moon ever auctioned".

Update: Link was broken, now fixed.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

UAV Tresspassing?

"If I Fly a UAV Over My Neighbor's House, Is It Trespassing?"

Is the Government Afraid of This Phone App?

"Two Navy SEALs are bringing world-class encryption to the iPhone, for everything from state secrets to celebrity selfies. But that means it can be used by criminals as well."

Related story from Business Insider.

Things Getting Better

Interesting moving graph of income and life expectancy since 1800.

I'd much rather be living now than then! (Via Robert G.)

Facebook vs. Sex

"Between Facebook and Sex, Facebook Wins"

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Smart Bra

"When Lingerie and Medical Devices Collide, You Get the 'Smart Bra'"

Accidental Inventions

"The 15 most fascinating accidental inventions"

E-mail Takeover

"How can you stop e-mail from taking over your life?"

The CIA Burglar Who Went Rogue

CIA burglar who first worked for the CIA, then tried to work against them. (Via Bruce Schneier.)

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

SpaceX Engine Failure - Silver Lining?

Rand Simberg: "Why the Engine Failure Could be Good News for SpaceX"

Toroidal Vortices

"Extraordinary and beautiful examples of toroidal vortices produced by dolphins, beluga whales, humpback whales..." And man. (Via Francisco G.)

DNA Testing for Hotel Cheat

Hotel guest skips out on bill, caught by DNA left behind on his toothbrush.

Welcome to the 21st century.

13 Brilliant Science Museum Billboards

"13 Brilliant Science Museum Billboards"

Sunday, October 07, 2012

There's Gold In Them Thar Bacteria

"Researchers Discover Bacteria That Produces Pure Gold"

How To Steal The Space Shuttle

"How To Steal The Space Shuttle: A Step-By-Step Guide"

For those with criminal tendencies and Bond-villain-like grandiosity.

Phone Valet Market

Some NYC high school students pay private 'valets' a dollar a day to hold their cellphones while they're in class.

NYT Frets Over 3-D Printing of Guns

NYT: "Disruptions: With a 3-D Printer, Building a Gun With the Push of a Button"

The genie will soon be out of the bottle.

BTW, I'm ok with it, even if the NYT apparently isn't.  Given that it's already (generally) legal for a non-felon to create his own firearm for personal use with machine tools, this technology will merely make something already legal easier.

Of course, if a felon is prohibited from owning a gun, it should be illegal for him to make one with a 3-D printer, just as it is already illegal for him to buy one from his cousin. But we shouldn't limit the rights of the innocent people in the process of enforcing any legitimate laws.

Here is the current law:
Q: Does the GCA prohibit anyone from making a handgun, shotgun or rifle?

A: With certain exceptions a firearm may be made by a non-licensee provided it is not for sale and the maker is not prohibited from possessing firearms. However, a person is prohibited from assembling a non-sporting semi-automatic rifle or non-sporting shotgun from imported parts. In addition, the making of an NFA firearm requires a tax payment and approval by ATF. An application to make a machine gun will not be approved unless documentation is submitted showing that the firearm is being made for a Federal or State agency.

Steve Jobs on Changing The World

I hadn't seen Steve Jobs quote before:

When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and you're life is just to live your life inside the world.  Try not to bash into the walls too much.  Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That's a very limited life.  Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact:  Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.  And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Fruit and Veggie MRI

"What do fruits and vegetables look like inside an MRI?" (Via Debby Witt.)

And a handy apple flowchart!

Presentation Lessons

"11 Presentation Lessons You Can Still Learn From Steve Jobs"

Pronouncing Scotch Names

I don't know how to pronounce some of the crazier Scotch brands, such as Bruichladdich, Laphroaig, An Cnoc, Auchentoshan, and Lagavulin. Fortunately, actor and Scotsman demonstrates how. (Via Kottke.)

Neurochemistry and Storytelling

"The Neurochemistry of Empathy, Storytelling, and the Dramatic Arc, Animated":

[Off Topic] Forbes OpEd: Get Ready For Medical Rationing

[Off topic]: Forbes has published my latest health care OpEd, "Get Ready For Obamacare's Medical Rationing".

I discuss the latest PR campaign in the New York Times to "sell" overt medical rationing to the general public. If the ObamaCare advocates are confident enough to use the "R-word" now, they're almost certainly going to implement these ideas in a 2nd Obama term.

BTW, I am now a regular monthly columnist for Forbes, with my own dedicated page -- woo hoo! 

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Crowdsourcing Travel Plan Searches

"Brilliant: People making money by finding cheap fares for other people's complex flight itineraries." (Via Stellar.)

Malware Innovations

Antivirus software writers are having a hard time keeping up with the new malware innovations.

Personal DNA Testing

NPR raises concerns about inexpensive personal DNA testing: "Will Low-Cost Genome Sequencing Open 'Pandora's Box'?"

For the record I fully support this concept, as I discussed in 2010: "Should You Be Allowed to Know What’s in Your DNA?"

Strategic Napping

I would love a job that allowed "strategic napping".

Monday, October 01, 2012

Military Smartphone Malware

"The US Naval Surface Warfare Center has created an Android app that secretly records your environment and reconstructs it as a 3D virtual model for a malicious user to browse"

Thermos-Sized Telescope

Thermos-sized telescope

Are You A Phone Upside-Downer?

Are You A Phone Upside-Downer?

Marching Geese

Marching geese:

[Off topic] Hsieh PJM OpEd on the Harms of Medical Licensing

[Off topic]: Today's PJ Media has published my latest health care OpEd, "How Medical Licensing Laws Harm Patients and Trap Doctors".

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Freedom and 3-D Printing

"The Next Battle for Internet Freedom Could Be Over 3D Printing"

Fractal Cat Images

Mathematicians have finally created fractal cat images.

Economics In Virtual Worlds

How macroeconomic theories operate in the massive multiplayer virtual worlds.

Free Stanford Online Class on Computer Networks

Stanford University announces "Free Public Online Class: An Introduction to Computer Networks".

From the e-mail description by Professor Nick McKeown:
Professor Philip Levis and I are teaching one of these free (and often massive) public online classes this Autumn quarter as an "Introduction to Computer Networks". The material is designed to be broadly accessible to anyone who wants to understand the design principles of computer networks, with a special emphasis on how the Internet works. The class is based on our CS144 class for Stanford juniors and seniors, which will run in parallel.
The class begins October 8, 2012.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Honest Trailers: The Avengers

Honest Trailers: The Avengers.

 (Via @supatrey.)

A Conversation With Randall Munroe

"A Conversation With Randall Munroe, the Creator of xkcd"

Human Support Robot

"Toyota has unveiled a new assistant robot designed to help the disabled live more independently."
Called the Human Support Robot (HSR), it represents the latest initiative in Toyota's Partner Robot program and is intended to help out around the home by fetching things, opening curtains, and picking up objects that have fallen to the floor.
(Via Kelly V.)

Can a Robot Pass the University of Tokyo Math Entrance Exam?

"Can a robot pass the University of Tokyo math entrance exam?"

From the article:
The test uses high-school math problems. For a computer to solve a math problem, it needs three things, according to NII:
  1. Semantic analysis: Understand the problem text, which is expressed as natural language and formulas easily understood by humans.
  2. Formulation: Convert to a form that can be processed by a computer.
  3. Calculation: Find the answer using the mathematical solver.
So far, Todai Robot can solve about 50–60% of Todai’s Level 2 entrance-exam problems, Fujitsu says.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gorilla Glass

"Gorilla Glass is the thin strong glass used for the screens of most smartphones. It was invented in the 1960s by Corning but was shelved in the early 1970s due to a lack of demand. The iPhone brought it out of retirement in a big way."

Laser Pointering The Moon

xkcd: "If every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at the Moon at the same time, would it change color?"

Meeting A Troll

Man confronts internet troll in real life. With a very surprising ending.

Stanford For All

Stanford University's big push for online education.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Driverless Cars Update

Lots of people are working on driverless cars.

Robotic Fish To Catch Drug Dealers

"Something's Fishy Here: Robo-Tuna Sinks War On Drugs To New Depths". (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Are Prehistoric Cave Drawings Really Animations?

Are prehistoric cave drawings really animations? (Includes video.)


New lens-free microscopy capture complex 3D swimming pattern of human sperm.

Link includes an animated video. (Via Maximizing Progress.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Can a Google Autocomplete Function Be Libelous?

Can a Google Autocomplete Function Be Libelous? (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Create Your Own Local Dropbox

"Create your own local Dropbox with AeroFS".

Update: Other services, such as ownCloud, may do something similar.

How To Avoid Choking In Sports

Surprisingly simple technique: Make a fist with your left hand

(Note: The research was only performed on right-handed athletes.)