Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Test Your Reading Speed

What speed do you read?

New Yorkers Love Their Coffee

"New Yorkers drink seven times as much coffee as the rest of us".

Drunk Writing Experiment

Does Hemingway's advice "write drunk, edit sober" work?

Strictly speaking, a good scientist would have to try all 4 combinations -- i.e., drunk/drunk, drunk/sober, sober/drunk, and sober/sober. (H/T: Alex Knapp.)

Museum of Endangered Sounds

The Museum of Endangered Sounds. (Via Hanah V.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Depixeling Pixel Art

Depixeling Pixel Art.

Lots more examples here. Mouse over the algorithm name to see the effect on the images.. (Via Arthur Z.)

Conway's Game of Life, Emulated In Game of Life

"Conway's Game of Life, emulated in Conway's Game of Life". (Via Shea L.)

Affordable Satellite Communicator

The Gadgeteer: "The DeLorme inReach is the first affordable 2-way Satellite Communicator on the market".
When you go camping, boating or traveling, you may think your cell phone will be there for you to get you out of an emergency situation. But only 10% of the world actually has cell phone coverage. Designed for remote or high-risk environments, the inReach uses the Iridium global satellite network, which means it will work from the North Pole to the South Pole and everywhere in between.

Wedding Announcements That Spell Disaster

"Last Name Fails: Wedding Announcements That Spell Disaster"

Monday, May 28, 2012

Why The French Use "Octet" for "Byte"

Why the French use the term "octet" for a byte, e.g., "1 Go" memory. (Via @zooko.)

Da Vinci Style Drawings of LHC

"Drawings of the LHC in the style of Leonardo da Vinci".

Pill Bottle For The Blind

Nice design feature: "Inclusive Pill Bottles for the Blind"

Headlight Flashing As Free Speech

Florida judge rules that flashing your headlights to warn other motorists about a speed trap is protected under the First Amendment.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How Pixar Nearly Deleted Toy Story 2 Before Its Release.

"How Pixar nearly deleted Toy Story 2 before its release"

Levitating Bed

"Build a levitating bed for under $1000"

NHL To NBA Transformation

Transforming an NHL hockey rink to an NBA court:

(Via Howard Roerig.)

Why Do Paper Cuts Hurt So Much?

Why Do Paper Cuts Hurt So Much?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Leap Motion Gestural Interface

Leap Motion: Gestural Interface.

More info here. (Via Maximizing Progress.)

FBI: We'll Be Watching You

CNET: "The FBI has formed a Domestic Communications Assistance Center, which is tasked with developing new electronic surveillance technologies, including intercepting Internet, wireless, and VoIP communications".

I'm just glad this will only be used for good, and will never be misused against the American people.

Free Gmail Backup Program

Lifehacker: "Gmvault Backs Up Your Gmail and Restores It to Any Gmail Account". (Via PJMedia.)

Does Facebook Wreck Marriages?

Interesting factoid:: "More than a third of divorce filings last year contained the word Facebook".

I don't think Facebook "wrecks" marriages.  But it might make it easier for people who are already predisposed to infidelity to do so more easily.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ketchup Innovation

"MIT's Freaky Non-Stick Coating Keeps Ketchup Flowing". (Via TGV.)

This Is Not The Bar You're Looking For

"No Need To Go In: App Tells You This Is Not The Bar You're Looking For"

Stuxnet-Like Viruses Remain a Top U.S. Security Risk

"Stuxnet-Like Viruses Remain a Top U.S. Security Risk"

[Off Topic] Dr. Orwell Will See You Now

Off-topic: The 5/22/2012 edition of has published my latest health care OpEd, "Dr. Orwell Will See You Now".

Theme: Beware the latest health care Newspeak!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Portrait of a Counterfeiter

Artist turns counterfeiter. (Via Bruce Schneier.)

Google Hires Eugene Volokh

"Google Hires Law Professor/Blogger Eugene Volokh"

Slinky On A Treadmill

"If you're like us, you've always wondered what happens when you put a slinky on a treadmill and let it do its slinky thing..."

Guide To Touchscreen Interactions

Touchscreen interactions: How useful they are vs. how dirty they sound.
 (Click on image to see full size)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Keyring 2.0

Clever update on the standard keyring. Click through to read the explanation.

Great School Lunch Blog

"Adorable Nine-Year-Old Girl Reviews Her School Lunches on Her Blog". Here's her blog, NeverSeconds.

Larger Screen iPhone?

Larger screen iPhone?

What Exactly is Web Hosting?

Nice video explanation: "What Exactly is Web Hosting?"


(Via Dr. John Drake.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Terahertz Wifi

"Researchers in Japan have smashed the record for wireless data transmission in the terahertz band, an uncharted part of the electro-magnetic spectrum. The data rate is 20 times higher than the best commonly used wi-fi standard."

Life Imitates Simpsons At All-You-Can-Eat Fish Fry

Real life: "Man protests restaurant after Friday fish fry runs out"


Classic segment from The Simpsons: "'Tis no man, 'tis a remorseless eating machine -- arrgh!..."  (Click through to watch video.)

The Physics Of Not Spilling Coffee

The physics of walking with a coffee cup without spilling. (Via @debbywitt.)

Designing An Antimatter Engine

Ohio scientists design an improved antimatter propulsion engine.

(Now all we need is some antimatter!)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Blogger Confronts Newspaper Editor Who Plagariazed His Work

Blogger confronts newspaper editor who plagiarized his work.  And leaves with a $500 check.

Here's the video:

Go Duane!  (Via PJMedia.)

Touché Enhanced Touch Interaction

Touché: Enhancing Touch Interaction. (Via Howard Roerig.)

Physicists: QM Wavefunctions Are Real

"Quantum Theorists State That Wavefunctions Are Real States Not Just Statistical Tools"

HP Clone Calculators

This small Swiss company make credit card-sized clones of HP calculators (Voyager series).

Here's a video of their production samples:

I'd be very keen on one of their HP-15c clones!  (Via Jeremy S.)

[Off topic] Who Should Control Your Healthcare Spending?

[Off-topic]: The Forbes website has published my latest health policy OpEd, "Just Who Should Control Your Healthcare Spending?"

(Theme: What simple health care reform has reduced medical costs by up to 30%, while preserving quality of care?)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Other Moore's Laws

The Other Moore's Laws (click on image to see full size):

Van Halen and the Brown M&Ms

David Lee Roth tells the back story behind the Van Halen legendary Brown M&M Ban. (Via Kelly V.)

Creative Dad Takes Crazy Photos Of Daughters

"Creative Dad Takes Crazy Photos Of Daughters"

Upcoming Venus Transit

Information about the Venus Transit, occurring June 6, 2012.

On June 6th Venus will transit the sun as seen from earth. The last transit was in 2004. But the next transit after this one is in 2117--no, that's not a typo. Venus transits of the sun are rare--they are among the rarest predictable events in astronomy--and past transits were very important to the history of science.
This page explains what they are, why they are rare, why they show up in pairs eight years apart, but with the time between pairs being over a century, and why they are so important in the history of science. For instance, we would not know how far away stars are if we had not observed Venus transits in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bubbles in Microgravity

"The Trippy Physics of Bubbles in Microgravity".

Click through to watch the video.

Epic Time-Lapse Map of Europe

Well-done animated map of Europe from 1000 AD until 2005 showing shifting borders, alliances, unions, territories, occupied land, etc.:

What's The Secret to Amazing Naps?

"What's the secret to amazing naps?"

Language and Gestures

Interesting essay discussion language and gestures: "Body Language"

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Interview With A Safecracker

Fascinating interview with a (legal) safecracker.

One excerpt:
Q: How realistic are movies that show people breaking into vaults?
A: Not very! In the movies it takes five minutes of razzle-dazzle; in real life it’s usually at least a couple of hours of precision work for an easy, lost combination lockout.
Most vault lockouts are caused by malfunctions. A bank employee over-winds the time lock, a technician makes a mistake servicing the vault, or there was no maintenance because the bank has initiated yet another round of cost cutting.
Another 10-20% of my income comes from law enforcement searches and seizures or estate, aka “dead relative” openings. They hire me and I drill it open, but these are not situations where I like to hang around too long.
Q: Do you ever look inside?
A: I NEVER look. It’s none of my business. Involving yourself in people’s private affairs can lead to being subpoenaed in a lawsuit or criminal trial. Besides, I’d prefer not knowing about a client’s drug stash, personal porn, or belly button lint collection...
(Via Marginal Revolution.)

Meta-Meta-Government Study

"This Is Not a Joke: Government Issues Study of a Study About Studies"

Outdated Icons

"The Floppy Disk means Save, and 14 other old people Icons that don't make sense anymore"

Why Computers Still Can't Translate Languages Automatically

"Why Computers Still Can't Translate Languages Automatically".

Short answer: Because computers still don't understand meaning.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tom Wilson's Biff FAQ

"Tom Wilson (AKA Biff from Back to the Future) carries around an FAQ".

It's quite witty.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Invisibility Cloak Update

"Silicon Nanospheres Could Be Building Blocks Of Optical Invisibility Cloaks"

You Can Get Your Face Frozen In Carbonite Now

"You Can Get Your Face Frozen In Carbonite Now".

Price = $100 at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Young Orangutans Love iPads

"Orangutans At Miami Zoo Use iPads To Communicate":
The 8-year-old twins love their iPad. They draw, play games and expand their vocabulary. Their family’s teenagers also like the hand-held computer tablets, too, but the clan's elders show no interest.
The orangutans at Miami’s Jungle Island apparently are just like people when it comes to technology. The park is one of several zoos experimenting with computers and apes, letting its six orangutans use an iPad to communicate and as part of a mental stimulus program...
Our young ones pick up on it. They understand it. It's like, 'Oh I get this,'" [Miami Zoo staff Linda] Jacobs said. "Our two older ones, they just are not interested. I think they just figure, 'I've gotten along just fine in this world without this communication-skill here and the iPad, and I don't need a computer.'"
(Via Tyler Cowen.)

Bowling Alleys in Churches are Disappearing Fast

"Bowling alleys in churches are disappearing fast".

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Real-Life USS Enterprise

This guy wants to build a real-life USS Enterprise over the next 20 years, capable of traveling from Earth to Mars within 90 days.

Of course, this would utilize conventional propulsion technology, not any kind of faster-than-light drive. As Rand Simberg notes, "Well, you can't say that this guy isn't ambitious."

Dinner Cooked By Active Volcano

This restaurant in the Canary Islands cooks your meal with an active volcano.

The Old Man From Pixar's UP

"The old man from Pixar's UP is real!"

Funny YouTube Comments

"25 YouTube Comments That Are Actually Funny".

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

How Much Water Does The Earth Have?

"If you collected all of Earth's water into a sphere, how big would it be?"

Short answer: Surprisingly small.

Radio-Controlled Genes

Radio-Controlled Genes

The Economics of Being Kidnapped By Pirates

Gabriel Rossman: "Kidnapped by Pirates at Sea? Here's How Economics Can Save You".

Of course, when this kind of force is involved, there is no true "market", but there are game-theoretic considerations. I must admit to liking Julius Caesar's ultimate solution (at the end of the article).  

Update: The correct author is Gabriel Rossman (guest-blogging for Megan McArdle in her absence). Sorry about that, Dr. Rossman!

Crowdsourcing Pathology With Videogames

Crowdsourcing pathology with videogames

Monday, May 07, 2012

Statistician Explains Why He Buys Lottery Tickets

"I am a statistician and I buy lottery tickets".

Basically, it's for the entertainment value:
So why do I still buy lottery tickets? Definitely not for the expected monetary return on investment. I think of it as a discretionary entertainment spend. I get literally hours of enjoyment from fantasizing what I'd do if I won. I happily spend $25 for two hours of entertainment at the movies, and I don't judge the value of that experience based on its expected return. For me, a lottery ticket for the occasional big draw has just as much entertainment value, or more, than the many other things that I spend money on to entertain myself.
The decision of whether to buy a lottery ticket shouldn't be based on the probability of winning, or the expected return of a ticket, but on the entertainment value that comes from imagining a different life. If that entertainment value compares favourably with other activities with a similar price, then go for it. Plus, it has the added bonus that you might actually win; one-in-a-million events happen every day. Someone eventually wins the big prize, and you have to be in to win.

The Humble History of SMS

The humble SMS is 20 years old.

Going Meta About Meta

Ben Zimmer: "Dude, this headline is so meta" (Boston Globe, 5/6/2012)

FBI Demands Wiretap-Ready Websites

"The FBI is asking Internet companies not to oppose a controversial proposal that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, to build in backdoors for government surveillance."

Sunday, May 06, 2012

How to Find a Meteorite in 5 Steps

"How to Find a Meteorite in 5 Steps"

Super Duper Frequent Fliers

"The frequent fliers who flew too much".

Did these super-frequent fliers violate their contracts? Or did the airline renege on the terms because it cost more than they expected? Based on the article, it sounds more like the latter. In particular, the seeming attempt by the airline to intimidate a flier into making a false confession was very disturbing.

Could A Private Data Market Ruin Facebook?

"How A Private Data Market Could Ruin Facebook"

Virus Risk From Religous Websites

"Your computer is more likely to contract a virus by visiting a religious website than a porn site". (Via @internetcases.)

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Wired iPad Keyboard

I must admit to being a little intrigued by this wired iPad keyboard. Related review.

7 Footers In The NBA

"What percentage of 7-footers are in the NBA?"

Short answer: If you believe the methodology, the answer is an astounding 17%. More details here.

200 Years of Surgery

200 years of surgery in 8 pages. (PDF version.)

Artificial Retina Update

"Two blind British men have electronic retinas fitted". (Via David Jilk.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Physicists Crack Fusion Mystery?

"Physicists Crack Fusion Mystery"

Key Design

"The History of Key Design: From Ancient Wooden Rods to the Hotel Keycard"

Hmm, Canada

"Mysterious 'Hum' Only Canadians Can Hear Is Debated".

I suppose that at some point, we Americans should fess up to the Canadians that we really can hear that noise -- but were pretending not to, in order to mess with their heads. (Via SDW.)

Feynman on Magnets

Richard Feynman discusses magnets. But in the process, he discusses what we really mean when we ask the question, "Why?":

(Via A.M. and W.G.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Texas Computer Repair License

While doing some research on government-mandated occupational licensing, I recently learned that Texas requires computer repair technicians to get a private investigator's license:
Texas requires computer repair technicians to get a private investigator's license, which could require a degree in criminal justice or three-year apprenticeship. Uncredentialed IT guys could face a $4,000 fine, one year in jail or a $10,000 civil penalty.
Consumers who knowingly take their computers to unlicensed companies are subject to the same punishment. Since 2007, anyone in Texas who accesses nonpublic computer files to gather information is deemed by the state to have conducted an "investigation" -- thus the requirement.
Here's a related background piece from the Institute For Justice, "Texas Government-mandated Computer Repair License Does Not Compute".

Don't Keep A Meth Lab In Your Pants

"A portable methamphetamine lab exploded in a man's pants as he tried to run away from a state trooper during a traffic stop."

Annular Solar Eclipse

On May 20, 2012, some North Americans will enjoy a very rare "annular solar eclipse".

Yes, that's "annular" not "annual". From the blog post author: "Annular eclipses are not nearly as spectacular as total eclipses, but this is all we are going to get for the next few years. The next total solar eclipse in North America is in 2017."

Against Chairs

Colin McSwiggen: "Against Chairs".

More and more people at my workplace are switching to standing desks, although not as any kind of political statement, but rather for physical compfort. So has my wife, Diana. (Disclaimer: I still use a chair and like it.)