Thursday, August 29, 2013

How to Make Perfect Coffee

"How to Make Perfect Coffee: The science of what makes coffee great".

Asimov's 1964 Predictions for 2014

Isaac Asimov predicted what life would be like in 2014 in this 1964 New York Times essay. (Via Alex Knapp.)

How Google's Autocomplete Was Created

"How Google's Autocomplete Was ... Created / Invented / Born"

Stabilized Spoon Lets Parkinson's Sufferers Feed Themselves

"Stabilized Spoon Lets Parkinson's Sufferers Feed Themselves". (Via Jared Rhoads.)

[Off topic] Hsieh Forbes OpEd: How Much Will Your Life Be Worth Under Obamacare?

[Off topic] Forbes has published my latest piece, "How Much Will Your Life Be Worth Under Obamacare?"

Here is the opening:
How much will your life be worth to the federal government under ObamaCare? Less than you might think. We can make an educated guess by looking at which medical screening tests the government U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) considers worthwhile...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

First Human Brain-to-Brain Interface

CNET: "Scientist controls colleague's hand in first human brain-to-brain interface"

The Growth In Illegal Robocallers

USA Today: "Robocallers doing a number on the Do Not Call list"
Illegal robocall operations are taking advantage of increasingly sophisticated technology that has made it easier and easier to simultaneously send thousands of robocalls costing less than one cent per minute...

Along with being cheap and easy, robocalls can be the hardest to trace, says Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam-Proof Your Life. Calls often come from foreign centers, and scammers increasingly use technology to "spoof" caller ID to display whatever number they pick, he says.

10 Fascinating Skybridges

10 Fascinating Skybridges

The Signs Are Hilarious At Switzerland's New 'Drive-In Brothel'

"The Signs Are Hilarious At Switzerland's New 'Drive-In Brothel'".  (Via Tyler Cowen.)

From the article:

We've done our best to translate (going right to left then working down):
  • No one under the age of eighteen.
  • Only cars can use the facility — no motorbikes, people on foot, or bicycles.
  • Just one client at a time.
  • Use the facilities provided, not the outdoor space.
  • Again, do not use the outdoor space.
  • Do not go off facility grounds
  • Throw away your trash.
  • No photography, filming, or recording (or singing, perhaps).
Zurich Sex Boxes Switzerland

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Feds Back Away From Forced Decryption... For Now

Wired: "Feds Back Away From Forced Decryption... For Now".
For the moment, requiring suspects to decrypt data is rare, and has never been squarely addressed by the Supreme Court.

But the legal issue is likely to become more commonplace as the public begins embracing encryption technology that now comes standard on most computer operating systems. What’s more, the public is searching to counter the National Security Agency, whose domestic spying has been thrust into the mainstream press in light of disclosures by NSA leaker Edward Snowden, [Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Hanni] Fakhoury said.

"The one silver lining: I think courts are not buying into the government's theory that encryption is evidence of criminal behavior," Fakhoury said.
As lawyer/blogger Doug Mataconis has written, it depends on what analogy one thinks is more apt:
To make the analogy applicable to the types of cases that helped establish existing law, it boils down to a question of whether a computer password is like a key to locked closet or strongbox, or whether it is like the combination to a safe. Under existing law, someone served with a valid search warrant can be compelled to unlock a locked door or box, but they cannot be compelled to reveal the combination that would unlock a safe. 

To put it simply, Courts have held that the combination to a safe constitutes the constitutes of someone’s mind, and is thus protected by the Fifth Amendment from compelled disclosure while the key is simply a thing and, so long as the search warrant validly allows police to search the item that is locked, then the person whose property is being searched can be compelled to grant access.
This issue will undoubtedly resurface again.  I wouldn't be surprised if this eventually has to be resolved by the US Supreme Court.

Awesomely Bad Samsung Commercial

"Samsung ad featuring possibly the world's worst actors"

Via R.H., who also commented on Facebook: 
Someone claiming to be the korean dude in the glasses, on reddit, explained that this is the nature of Korean adverts, they are asked to be that expressive because (according to him):

(1) Koreans are naturally less expressive, and are often encouraged to be unnaturally expressive in adverts

(2) This is a video made primarily with non-western markets in mind, so they are made to be dubbed over.

Also, according to him, the woman in the ad came in at 7pm and finished some time early morning, hence the glazed over expression.

Two Ancient Roman Techologies

Alex Knapp: "These Two Ancient Roman Techs Could Disrupt Modern Industry"

Existence of New Element Confirmed

"Existence of new element confirmed".

No word yet on what element 115 will be called.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Which Jobs Will Survive the Robot Revolution?

MIT professor David Autor predicts which jobs will survive the next wave of robotic automation.

The key will be jobs that "combine technical skills with interpersonal interaction":
While many middle-skill jobs are susceptible to automation, others demand a mixture of tasks that take advantage of human flexibility. To take one prominent example, medical paraprofessional jobs — radiology technician, phlebotomist, nurse technician — are a rapidly growing category of relatively well-paid, middle-skill occupations. While these paraprofessions do not typically require a four-year college degree, they do demand some postsecondary vocational training.

These middle-skill jobs will persist, and potentially grow, because they involve tasks that cannot readily be unbundled without a substantial drop in quality. Consider, for example, the frustration of calling a software firm for technical support, only to discover that the technician knows nothing more than the standard answers shown on his or her computer screen — that is, the technician is a mouthpiece reading from a script, not a problem-solver. This is not generally a productive form of work organization because it fails to harness the complementarities between technical and interpersonal skills. Simply put, the quality of a service within any occupation will improve when a worker combines routine (technical) and nonroutine (flexible) tasks.

Following this logic, we predict that the middle-skill jobs that survive will combine routine technical tasks with abstract and manual tasks in which workers have a comparative advantage — interpersonal interaction, adaptability and problem-solving. Along with medical paraprofessionals, this category includes numerous jobs for people in the skilled trades and repair: plumbers; builders; electricians; heating, ventilation and air-conditioning installers; automotive technicians; customer-service representatives; and even clerical workers who are required to do more than type and file. Indeed, even as formerly middle-skill occupations are being “deskilled,” or stripped of their routine technical tasks (brokering stocks, for example), other formerly high-end occupations are becoming accessible to workers with less esoteric technical mastery (for example, the work of the nurse practitioner, who increasingly diagnoses illness and prescribes drugs in lieu of a physician). Lawrence F. Katz, a labor economist at Harvard, memorably called those who fruitfully combine the foundational skills of a high school education with specific vocational skills the “new artisans.”

Could One Knit A Sweater From Human Navel Lint?

"Could one knit a sweater from human navel lint?"

Maybe You Get Bad Customer Service Because You're a Bad Customer

Matt Walsh: "Maybe You Get Bad Customer Service Because You're a Bad Customer"

Tiny Video Cameras Protect Cops, Suspects

"Tiny video cameras protect cops, suspects".

As @dunstan noted, "Rialto, CA police wear video cameras: use of force ↓60%, complaints ↓88%, Officer-involved shootings ↓60% "

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Prison Door Computer Glitch

Sounds like something from a movie:
Florida prison officials are trying to figure out whether a computer glitch may be behind two recent, as yet unexplained incidents where all of the doors at a facility’s maximum-security wing opened simultaneously. In the latest occurrence, on 13 June, guards at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami, Florida, had to rush to corral prisoners back into their cells after a “group release” button in the computerized system was triggered...
More details here.

DNA Cannot Distinguish Identical Twins On Rape Charge

"DNA tests cannot distinguish identical twins on rape charge".

For now, prosecutors have charged both men.

The Apollo Guidance Computer

A 30-minute documentary from the 1960s on the Apollo Guidance Computer.

Engineer left NASA to make awesome wearable tech Halloween costumes

"Engineer left NASA to make awesome wearable tech Halloween costumes"

X-Rays Reveal the Insane Innards of Space Suits

Wired: "X-Rays Reveal the Insane Innards of Space Suits"

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Near-Drowning in Space

Astronaut Luca Parmitano describes near-drowning in space. (Via @supatrey.)

The Economist's Guide To Drinking While Pregnant

NPR: "The Economist's Guide To Drinking While Pregnant"

(Spoiler: A glass of wine is ok.)

1.86 Stuf Oreos

"Double Stuf Oreos Don't Actually Have Double The Creme".

Instead, it's more like 1.86 x. I smell lawsuit!

World's Oldest Twinkie

"World's oldest Twinkie still looks fresh after 36 years". (Via VAViper.)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Getty Open Content

The Getty Museum is now offering thousands of high-resolution digital images free, as part of their Open Content program.

(They merely request attribution in the form of "Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.".)

Delving Into the Darknet

"Meet Darknet, the hidden, anonymous underbelly of the searchable Web"

15 Really Strange Beaches

"15 Really Strange Beaches". (Via B.M.)

Chrome Dominance

 Browser war update.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Lavabit Alternatives?

"Encrypted email isn't secure, but if you must use it, here are some Lavabit alternatives"

How Your Brain Becomes Addicted to Caffeine

"This Is How Your Brain Becomes Addicted to Caffeine".

"Addiction" is such an ugly word. I prefer the term "special relationship".

History of Britain in LEGO

History of Britain in LEGO

Storing Information with Skyrmions

"Twisted Magnetic Fields Tie Information in a Knot: Elusive magnetic vortices called skyrmions have been made in the lab for the first time and could be used to develop more efficient memory chips"

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wikipedia Says No To Censorship

"Wikipedia Co-Founder Refuses to Comply With China's Censorship". Go, Jimmy Wales!

Financial Planning for Egg Freezing

WSJ: "Financial Planning for Egg Freezing"

Well, it is the 21st century.  (As usual, if clicking on the link doesn't work, you can enter the WSJ article title into a Google search box and often get a link that goes to the full piece.)

The Science of the Great Molasses Flood

"The Science of the Great Molasses Flood: In 1919 a wave of syrup swept through the streets of Boston. Fluid dynamics explains why it was even more devastating than a typical tsunami."

Basically, the problem arises because molasses is a non-Newtonian fluid.

Where The Rubber Ducks Landed

"In 1992, around 29000 rubber ducks fell off a cargo ship in the Pacific Ocean. This is where they made landfall."