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.