Tuesday, January 31, 2012

HP Calculators in 2025, As Predicted In 1978

In 1978, the HP Calculator Journal published a cute short story by science fiction writer Gordon Dickson entitled, "Thank You, Beep!"

It described a day in the life of a business traveler in the year 2025, armed with his trusty "HP XX-2050" handheld computer (which he nicknames "Beep"), capable of storing personal data, functioning as an "auto secretary" to make appointments, and interfacing with other machines through various "computer nets".

In retrospect, the predicted 1 GB of memory seems small by modern standards but was of course enormous by the standards of 1978.

The related article, "Smartphone futures -- Thank You, Beep...!" does a nice job comparing some of Dickson's other fictional predictions with current day reality.

The fictional HP XX-2050 is a bit chunkier than current smartphones:

But overall, Dickson did a pretty good job for someone writing in 1978.

I remember reading "Thank You, Beep!" when it was originally published, thinking how cool it would be to see something like that in real-life. Today's smartphones aren't quite there yet, but they're astonishingly close. And if current progress continues, they may well exceed Dickson's predictions by the time 2025 rolls around.

Alien Brain Hemorrhage Cocktail Recipe

Cocktail recipe for a "Alien Brain Hemorrhage" drink.

Instructions: To make an alien brain hemorrhage cocktail, fill a shot glass halfway with peach schnapps. Gently pour Bailey's Irish Cream on top. After the shot is almost full, carefully add a small amount of blue curacao. After it settles, add a few drops of grenadine syrup. (Via Neatorama.)

A Swarm of Nano Quadrotors

"A Swarm of Nano Quadrotors". (Via @SupaTrey.)

Password Sharing Among American Teenagers

"Password Sharing Among American Teenagers"

[Off Topic] TOS: "The Grey: A Great Reminder of Crucial Truths"

Off-topic: The blog for The Objective Standard has posted my short piece, "The Grey: A Great Reminder of Crucial Truths".

Sunday, January 29, 2012

How Google's New Privacy Policy Could Affect You

"How Google's New Privacy Policy Could Affect You"

204 Lay's Potato Chip Flavors from Around the World

"204 Lay's Potato Chip Flavors from Around the World"

Sh*t Programmers Say

"Sh*t Programmers Say". Watch through to the end.

Serious Flaw Emerges In Quantum Cryptography

"Serious Flaw Emerges In Quantum Cryptography"

Crude Gags and Riddles About Beer Found Dating Back to Exodus

"Tablet full of crude gags and riddles about beer is found -- dating back to Exodus".

Technology changes. Human nature does not. (Via @debbywitt.)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

HI Proposing Tracking All Websurfing

"Hawaii's legislature is weighing an unprecedented proposal to curb the privacy of Aloha State residents: requiring Internet providers to keep track of every Web site their customers visit."

Of course, if customers choose give up personal information to a service provider as a matter of voluntary contract (e.g., for some promised benefits), then that's completely legitimate. But mandating such data collection is outside the proper scope of government.

Pac-Man Proved NP-Hard By Computational Complexity Theory

"Pac-Man Proved NP-Hard By Computational Complexity Theory"

The Looming Threat of a Solar Superstorm

"The Looming Threat of a Solar Superstorm"

Lego Man Sent to Space by Toronto Teens

"Lego man sent to space by Toronto teens". (Via T.N.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tiny Tunable Terahertz Beam Could Enable Real Handheld Tricorders

"Tiny Tunable Terahertz Beam Could Enable Real Handheld Tricorders"

Printing A Home

Printing A Home. (Via Transterrestrial Musings.)

Funny Titles Mask Serious Science

"Funny titles mask serious science". Here's the full list.

Some of my favorites:
Local Pancake Defeats Axis of Evil
Superbanana Orbits in Stellarator Geometries
New Regions for a Chameleon to Hide

Sh*t Tech Support Agents Say

This video pretty much sums up every tech support call ever made:

(Via Kelly V.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Leap Seconds May Be Abolished In 2015

"Leap seconds may be abolished in 2015"

Reynolds: Supreme Court Privacy Ruling Is About More Than GPS Tracking

Glenn Reynolds (aka Instapundit) discusses the latest SCOTUS ruling at, "Supreme Court Privacy Ruling Is About More Than GPS Tracking".

Thomas Edison's To Do List From 1888

Thomas Edison's To Do List From 1888.

You should feel like a total slacker now. (Via Susan Dawn Wake.)

MITx Could Revolutionize Higher Education

"MITx Could Revolutionize Higher Education". (Via Kelly V.)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Best Response to Interrupting Ringtone, Ever

"When a cell phone ringtone interrupted his viola recital, Slovak musician Lukáš Kmit responded by improvising his own classical version of the Nokia ringtone"

What Does a Conductor Do?

"What Does a Conductor Do?"

(The musical kind, not the electrical kind.)

Astronomers Aim To Take First Picture of Black Hole

"Astronomers aim to take first picture of black hole"

Warrants Needed for GPS Monitoring

"Warrants Needed for GPS Monitoring, Supreme Court Rules"

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Stuff That Didn't Happen Before Facebook

"Man shoots nail into his brain, posts it to Facebook from ambulance"

Teenage Girl Sees LP For First Time

John Scalzi's 13-year-old daughter sees an LP record for the first time:

"What? What?! This is huge! This is like ten CDs in one. How many songs does it have on it?"

The Rise and Fall of Personal Computing

"The rise and fall of personal computing". (Via Tyler Cowen.)

Lots of interesting analysis, including this graph (click on image to see full size):

Kodak Vs. Fujifilm

Why did Kodak go bankrupt while Fujifilm thrived?
Surprisingly, Kodak acted like a stereotypical change-resistant Japanese firm, while Fujifilm acted like a flexible American one.
This is reminiscent of how Borders went bankrupt, whereas Barnes & Noble successfully adapted to the digital age.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Man Convicted of Murder Gets Retrial After Virus Eats Transcripts

"Man convicted of murder gets retrial after virus eats transcripts":
Court stenographers normally record proceedings on both paper and digital disk. But Terlesa Cowart, stenographer at Chaviano's 2009 trial, forgot to bring enough rolls of paper and relied on digital recordings alone to chronicle proceedings. She transferred this data to her PC and erased it from the stenograph. Cowart has been fired for the monumental screw-up, The Miami Herald reports.

Bad move. The PC subsequently became infected by an unidentified virus, causing the destruction of the records. No secure backup was taken, so the state will be put through the expense of a second trial that will cause, at the very least, inconvenience for witnesses and heartache for the victim's family.
(Via Bruce Schneier.)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

SOPA Update

Update #2: Evan Brown dissents from the Khan Academy video.

Update: Politico reports on 1/20/2012, "PIPA bill vote canceled by Harry Reid".

Original post: I received the following SOPA update from a friend:
The proponents of PIPA/SOPA are now regrouping and redoubling their efforts to force these egregious pieces of legislation into law by forcing a vote next week in the Senate called "Cloture", which in effect forces Senators to vote for a bill as written without debate or amendments. They are doing this as fast as possible because they know opposition is building and they still think they have the votes necessary to pass PIPA.

Although some Senators have said they are working to "fix" the bills to address some of our concerns, they may not get the chance.

It is imperative that we tell our Senators to vote NO on "Cloture". Please help spread the word, as this is a process most Americans are not familiar with, and need to understand if they are going to speak up in time.
Use this link to contact your Senator.

BTW, the Khan Academy has a nice explanation of what's wrong with SOPA/PIPA:

Vinyl Continues Unlikely Recovery

"Vinyl Continues Unlikely Recovery":
For the fourth year in a row, more LPs were sold than in any other year in the SoundScan era; last year, sales soared to 3.9 million, up from 2.8 million LPs in 2010. Of the 228 million physical albums sold in 2011, nearly 2% were vinyl. Two-thirds of those albums were purchased at independent music stores.

Virtual Tunnelling to the Other Side of the Earth

This cute online mapping tool lets you perform virtual tunnelling to the other side of the Earth. (Via Howard R.)

Man With Two hearts Survives Double-Sized Attack

"Man with two hearts survives double-sized attack"

College Professor on How To Earn A Good Grade

"Dear Student: I Don't Lie Awake At Night Thinking of Ways to Ruin Your Life"

PJM OpEd: "SOPA, Guns, and Freedom"

The 1/19/2012 edition of PJMedia has just published my OpEd, "SOPA, Guns, and Freedom".

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Is Google Ditching Search?

Is Google Ditching Search?

What's the Best Animal to Slice Open and Crawl Inside to Stay Sarm?

What's the best animal to slice open and crawl inside to stay warm?

The Faster-Than-Fast Fourier transform

New algorithm from MIT: "The faster-than-fast Fourier transform"
[A] group of MIT researchers will present a new algorithm that, in a large range of practically important cases, improves on the fast Fourier transform. Under some circumstances, the improvement can be dramatic — a tenfold increase in speed.

The Restart Page

The Restart Page: "Experience the restart sequences from a number of operating systems". (Via Kottke.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

[Off-topic] My latest RCM OpEd: Why Is Creating Value Good, But Profits Bad?

Off-topic:: The 1/17/2012 edition of Real Clear Markets has just published my latest OpEd, "Why Is Creating Value Good, Profits Bad?"

Monday, January 16, 2012

English Wikipedia to Go Dark January 18 in Opposition to SOPA/PIPA

"English Wikipedia to go dark January 18 in opposition to SOPA/PIPA"

The Virtue of Price Discrimination

Keith Schacht: "The virtue of price discrimination"

Star Trek Mistakes

Star Trek mistakes. (Via Arthur Z.)

Iterative Google Image Search

"What happens if you ask Google Images what's most similar, starting with a blank image, repeating the process 2951 times?"

(Via Howard R.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Mathematics of Magic

You want this book: Magical Mathematics: The Mathematical Ideas that Animate Great Magic Tricks by Persi Diaconis and Ron Graham. (Via Freakonomics blog.)

Walking On Lava, Continued

"Can You Walk on Lava? Falling into Lava Revisited"

Computer Mouse with 13 Buttons

Computer mouse with "13 buttons and six programmable modes for up to 78 potential commands".
"Photoacoustic device finds cancer cells before they become tumors". (Via Craig B.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Remember, Stealing From MIT Is a Bad Idea

"Remember, Stealing From MIT Is a Bad Idea":
For the Museum of Modern Art's Talk to Me exhibit, MIT's SENSEable City Lab created a piece composed of 40 laptops that were sent all over the world and programmed to transmit data and images from their environments back to MIT. Fast forward some months and one of those laptops had entered common usage at the Lab. It was left on a desk and stolen in a burglary. (Of all the luck!) How do you think this crime caper might end? This is a story with a moral, after all.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Deep In The Heart Of Stuxnet

"Deep In The Heart Of Stuxnet"

The Great Tablet Hype

17 tablet computers were hyped last year at CES 2011. Where do they stand one year later?
We broke down the trajectories of 17 tablets from CES 2011. In the final tally, I think you could say one is a qualified success (the Asus Eee Pad Transformer), one did OK (the Motorola XOOM), and several flopped (Dell Streak, RIM Playbook) or made no impact (Coby Kyrus, Cydle M7 Multipad, Naxa NID-7001). Nine never were heard from again.
(Click through for more details.)

Modern Day Rube Goldberg

Cute modern-day Rube Goldberg machine, "The Page Turner". (Via Howard Roerig and Michael Williams.)

Google Maps: Designing the Modern Atlas

Google Maps: Designing the Modern Atlas

Mafia Now The Biggest Lender In Italy

"Mafia Now The Biggest Lender In Italy"

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Most Famous Urology Lecture of All Time

"How (not) to communicate new scientific information: A memoir of the famous Brindley lecture"

The Lunar Yellow Peril

Rand Simberg discusses why alarmist talk about China going to the moon is wrong at "The Lunar Yellow Peril".

Twitter Revealed Epidemic Two Weeks Before Health Officials

"Twitter Revealed Epidemic Two Weeks Before Health Officials"

Galaxy Hosts 100 Billion Planets, in New Estimate

"Galaxy Hosts 100 Billion Planets, in New Estimate":
Astronomers said Wednesday that each of the 100 billion stars in the Milky Way probably has at least one companion planet, adding credence to the notion that planets are as common in the cosmos as grains of sand on the beach.

"Planets are the rule rather than the exception," said lead astronomer Arnaud Cassan at the Institute of Astrophysics in Paris. He led an international team of 42 scientists who spent six years surveying millions of stars at the heart of the Milky Way in the most comprehensive effort yet to gauge the prevalence of planets in the galaxy...
(Via Evan P.)

Leap Second In 2012

We will have a leap second on June 30, 2012.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Age of Ships

"The Age of Ships: A time before passenger jets, when ocean liners were 'the greatest of the works of man'".

I especially liked the story Vladimir Yourkevitch, who fled Russia after the Communist takeover and had to take a job in France as a riveter in the Renault factory. The image of an poor immigrant factory worker trying to persuade the chairman of a major French shipyard that his revolutionary new ship hull design would work is something straight out of fiction. That ship would later set a Transatlantic speed record.

Self-Healing Electronics

"Self-healing electronics restores broken connection in microseconds"

The Top 10 Photoshop Blunders Of All Time

"The Top 10 Photoshop Blunders Of All Time". (Via Kelly V.)

A Smart Phone That Knows You're Angry

A Smart Phone That Knows You're Angry:
Researchers at Samsung have developed a smart phone that can detect people's emotions. Rather than relying on specialized sensors or cameras, the phone infers a user's emotional state based on how he's using the phone.

For example, it monitors certain inputs, such as the speed at which a user types, how often the "backspace" or "special symbol" buttons are pressed, and how much the device shakes. These measures let the phone postulate whether the user is happy, sad, surprised, fearful, angry, or disgusted...
Now if it will also stop you from sending that Facebook post or Tweet until you've cooled down sufficiently...

Tweeting Cabbie

Business is booming for this Tweeting cabbie.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Capitalism and Communion Wafers

Markets in everything: Communion wafers. Includes familiar themes of commoditization, industrialization, marketing battles, knockoffs, etc.

My favorite line from the article: "We take a lot of pride in putting our family name on a product that will eventually become the body and blood of Jesus."

(Via ALDaily.)

Auto-appendectomy in the Antarctic

Auto-appendectomy in the Antarctic: Case Report.

This really takes a lot of guts.

Update: The original link appears broken, but here's a cached version at The Internet Archive.
Angiogram from a professional yo-yoist. Click on image to see full size.:

The WSJ caption reads: "An angiogram shows the ruined veins in pro yo-yoist Dave Schulte's index finger." FWIW, it looks more like an arteriogram to me, rather than a venogram. More from the yoyo-ist here. (Image link via @shlevy)

Chess and the Open Source Revolution

Chess and the Open Source Revolution

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Why Can't We Use Lasers As Ray Guns?

Why can't we use lasers as ray guns?

Electronic Focusing Eyewear

LCD-based eyeglasses that dynamically refocus to switch between nearsighted and farsighted modes:
Each lens is able to changes its molecular structure, changing the focus as needed. There is a transparent LCD layer to the lens that with the accelerometer detecting motion, sending a signal to the LCD layer. This changes how light is refracted and is comparable to the varying thickness of traditional glasses.

Treating Radiation Sickness

"Researchers successfully treat previously lethal doses of radiation". (Via Instapundit.)

Mathematicians Solve Minimum Sudoku Problem

Mathematicians Solve Minimum Sudoku Problem:
Sudoku fanatics have long claimed that the smallest number of starting clues a puzzle can contain is 17. Now a year-long calculation proves there are no 16-clue puzzles.

Let's Blame The Brain Tumor!

"California lawmaker claimed brain tumor led her to shoplift thousands from Neiman Marcus"

Saturday, January 07, 2012

France vs. Google

"A court in Paris, France has fined Google $65,000 because its search engine's autocomplete feature brings up the French word for 'crook' when users type the name of an insurance company."

[Off-topic] OpEd: The Truth About RomneyCare

Off-topic: PJMedia has published my latest piece, "The Truth About RomneyCare".

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Grammar Poetry

Grammar poetry.

Update: Link was broken, but is fixed now.

6 Big Health Tech Ideas For 2012

"6 Big HealthTech Ideas That Will Change Medicine In 2012". (Via @sonodoc99)

Building a Better Suntrap

Building a better suntrap: MIT researchers "have invented a way of concentrating the energy in the sun's rays without the need for mirrors. It is, quite literally, a suntrap."

Why Best Buy is Going out of Business

"Why Best Buy is Going out of Business...Gradually"

Sunday, January 01, 2012