Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Light Posting

Admin note: Again, posting will be lighter than usual the rest of this week due to the holiday. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: The New Congress Should Propose Free-Market Health Care Reforms

[Off Topic]: My latest Forbes piece is now up: "The New Congress Should Propose Free-Market Health Care Reforms".

There's no shortage of good ideas for free-market health care reform. What we're lacking is leadership.

Mathematicians and Holes

"What We Talk About When We Talk about Holes"

Stealing Fingerprints

"Politician's fingerprint reproduced using photos of her hands"

Alarm Clock Philosophies

Heh: "Alarm Clock Philosophies".

Click on image to see full size. (Via Trey P.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Coffee Copter

"'Coffee Copter' serves up a cup of joe -- by drone".  Click through to see video.

The Coffee Copter from screenturner on Vimeo.

Pancreas Hacking

"Diabetes Patients Are Hacking Their Way Toward a Bionic Pancreas".

I hope the FDA doesn't place too many barriers in their way.  (Via H.R.)

Best Media Corrections of 2014

"The year in media errors and corrections 2014".

Their winner was this from the New York Times:
An earlier version of this column was published in error. That version included what purported to be an interview that Kanye West gave to a Chicago radio station in which he compared his own derrière to that of his wife, Kim Kardashian. Mr. West’s quotes were taken, without attribution, from the satirical website The Daily Currant. There is no radio station WGYN in Chicago; the interview was fictitious, and should not have been included in the column.

Tolkien Documentary From 1968

"A lovely J.R.R. Tolkien documentary from 1968"

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sorting M&Ms With An iPhone

"Machine sorts M&Ms using iPhone 5s brain". (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Here the video:

Real Monitors Have Curves

"Samsung's super-wide curved monitor makes your PC extra trendy".

My proposed marketing slogan: "Real monitors have curves." You're welcome, Samsung.

Put Your Money Where Your Values Are

Google CEO Larry Page: "I'd Rather Leave My Billions to Elon Musk Than to Charity"

I'm glad to hear him say this. In death and in life, people should deploy their money according to their rationally-held values.

Walmart Gift Card Exchange

Walmart will exchange other stores gift cards for non-expiring Walmart card dollars (at a discount):
Shoppers won't get the full value of their gift cards to use at Walmart. For example, with, customers can redeem up to 95 percent, while for Staples that figure is up to 90 percent and for Gap, up to 85 percent. Some brands will be worth just 70 percent. Up to about $1 billion worth of gift cards will go unused this year, according to CEB TowerGroup. That's because recipients either lose them or can't figure out what to buy. 
(Via H.R.)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Light Posting

Because of the holiday, posting will be lighter than usual this week.

Happy Festivus and Merry Christmas, everyone!

Prime Spacing

"Mathematicians Make a Major Discovery About Prime Numbers". (Via H.R.)

Oatmeal On North Korea Vs. South Korea

Oatmeal: "The primary difference between North Korea and South Korea".

Livestreaming Funerals

"Death on the Internet: The Rise of Livestreaming Funerals". (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Too Many Hyphens

"Amazon removes book for containing too many hyphens". (Via C.M.)

Zero Knowledge Proofs

"Zero Knowledge Proofs: An illustrated primer"

19 Secrets of UPS Drivers

"19 Secrets of UPS Drivers"

App Turns Your iPad Into a Second Display for Your Mac

"An Ex-Apple Engineer's New App Turns Your iPad Into a Second Display for Your Mac"

Interview With Diana on "Radiology In Practice"

Announcement: On Thursday evening, philosopher Dr. Diana Hsieh will interview me about "Radiology in Practice" on her live internet radio show, Philosophy in Action. This episode of internet radio airs at 6 pm PT / 7 MT / 8 CT / 9 ET on Thursday, 18 December 2014, in the live studio.

If you miss that live broadcast, you can listen to the podcast later. Here's a bit more about the show:
Most people have seen cool medical imaging devices such as CT and MR scanners on TV shows. But what do those machines really do? Advanced medical imaging has revolutionized patient care in the past 25 years, allowing doctors to make diagnoses more accurately, quickly, and safely than ever before.
Radiologist Paul Hsieh will discuss the basics of modern radiology (x-rays, MRI, ultrasound, and nuclear medicine), how these different tests work, what they show about the human body, and how they help doctors take better care of patients.
To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask follow-up questions in the text chat. The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: 18 December 2014.

For more about Philosophy in Action Radio, visit the Episodes on Tap and Podcast Archives.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

MOOCs Aren't Revolutionizing College, But They're Not a Failure

MIT Technology Review: "MOOCs Aren't Revolutionizing College, but They're Not a Failure"

The Drones Are Coming

Nice overview of some of the interesting new technical and legal challenges as drone use becomes more widespread in the civilian economy.

Princeton Scientists 3D Printing LEDs Into Contact Lenses

"Princeton Scientists 3D Printing LEDs Into Contact Lenses"

Robin Hanson On The Great Filter

TEDx talk from Robin Hanson: "The Great Filter". 

As he puts it, "Something out in the universe is killing everything, and we're likely next."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Crappy Magazines in Doctors' Waiting Rooms

Science Has Spoken! "Researchers Finally Figured out Why Doctors’ Waiting Rooms Have Such Crappy Magazines" (Slate, 12/13/2014).

From the Slate article:
Bruce Arroll, a doctor and professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand (apparently this is a global problem) gathered up 87 new and old magazines (a number determined by "how many magazines the investigators could rustle up from family and friends") covering a variety of topics and placed them in the waiting room of his practice.
It turns out that if there are current magazines around, people steal them.
Here's the original British Medical Journal article: "An exploration of the basis for patient complaints about the oldness of magazines in practice waiting rooms: cohort study" (12/11/2014).

From the BMJ article:
"Figure 1. Survival probability for gossipy and non-gossipy magazines in waiting room"

Personal case example: When I went to take my father to a doctor's appointment in Los Angeles earlier this year, they had this 1987 (!) magazine in the waiting room.

I'm pretty sure this falls in the BMJ "non-gossipy" category.

How to Survive A Helicopter Crash

"How to Survive A Helicopter Crash". (Via H.R.)

Big Data In Museums

WSJ: "When the Art Is Watching You"

Iowa Digital Driver's License

"Iowa's smartphone driver's license is a big step toward all-digital wallets".

One possible concern: "Why The Iowa Digital Driver's License Seems So Cool—And Scary; If phones = wallets, should we hand them to cops?"

Uber For Experiments

Fascinating idea for matching startups with spare laboratory capacity.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Worst Parking Job In North America

"The worst parking job in North America caught by police, YouTube".  (Via B.T.)

Glasses For Color-Blind People

Special glasses for color-blind people, "effectively provide high color contrast, producing an image in which the primary colors of red, blue, and green 'pop' and are perceived correctly by the wearer." 

The company website explains how the technology works.

And some cool video of color-blind people trying them out for the first time:

When the Computer Mouse Was New

"When the Computer Mouse Was New"

Hot iPod Classic

The discontinued iPod Classic is a hot item on the secondary markets, often selling for 4x the original price.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How the Perfect Car Door Sound Is Made

Lots of science behind making the perfect card door sound.

From the article:
Some of the most advanced uses of these techniques today are found in the high-end automotive industry, where engineers and designers now routinely lavish attention on every acoustic detail, from the sound of the engine to cabin noise to the squeak of the windshield wipers to the reassuring k-thunk of a car door closing — a subtle but remarkably influential sound when it comes to a potential customer’s decision to buy a new car, experts say.

“The customer may not really know this is important for him, but this is something that really affects his decision to buy a car,” says Florian Frank, Specialist for Noise, Vibration and Harshness who works on acoustical design for BMW and is responsible for perfecting the sound profile of new car designs.

For example, the new BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe is “a sporty car, so the door isn’t supposed to sound too heavy. It can’t sound too light, because a light door wouldn’t convey the right aspects of quality and safety. But it’s not supposed to sound too heavy, either. It should have a precise sound.”

By contrast, “the BMW 7 Series would be a bit softer maybe, a bit darker in the sound as it’s our flagship sedan.” 
(Via Marginal Revolution.)

Microsoft Vs. Feds on Data Privacy

"Microsoft tells US: The world's servers are not yours for the taking"

The Batmobile of Yachts

"The Batmobile of Yachts Is as Awesome as It Sounds"

Math Vs. Maths

"Why Do Brits Say Maths and Americans Say Math?"

Monday, December 08, 2014

Thursday, December 04, 2014

18th Century Law To Defeat Encrypted Smartphones?

Feds invoke 18th century law to attempt to defeat smartphone encryption.

From the article:
[T]he Department of Justice (DOJ) is pursuing an unusual legal strategy to compel cellphone makers to assist investigations.

In both cases, the seized phones—one of which is an iPhone 5S—are encrypted and cannot be cracked by federal authorities. Prosecutors have now invoked the All Writs Act, an 18th-century federal law that simply allows courts to issue a writ, or order, which compels a person or company to do something.

Some legal experts are concerned that these rarely made public examples of the lengths the government is willing to go in defeating encrypted phones raise new questions as to how far the government can compel a private company to aid a criminal investigation...

The two orders were both handed down on October 31, 2014, about six weeks after Apple announced that it would be expanding encryption under iOS 8, which aims to render such a data handover to law enforcement useless. Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that DOJ officials told Apple that it was "marketing to criminals" and that "a child will die" because of Apple’s security design choices...

But, if Apple really can’t decrypt the phone as it claims, the point is moot.

Terminator Genisys Trailer

The trailer for the new "Terminator Genisys Trailer" movie, actually looks pretty good. Plus there's a Scary Asian Liquid Metal Terminator!

How 'Gangnam Style' Broke YouTube

"How 'Gangnam Style' Broke YouTube".
"We never thought a video would be watched in numbers greater than a 32-bit integer," developers for the platform said. 

How Scotch Tape Was Invented

"How Scotch Tape Was Invented"

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Colbert Explains the New Lightsaber Design

Stephen Colbert explains the new lightsaber design:

Invisible ATM Skimmer

"New 'Wiretap' ATM Skimmers Are Invisible to Your Eye".

You can still protect yourself by covering the keypad with your other hand as you enter your PIN. (Via H.R.)

Virus Tracing

The Economist: "How to trace a cyber-weapon"

Six Famous Thought Experiments, Animated in 60 Seconds Each

"Six Famous Thought Experiments, Animated in 60 Seconds Each"

Monday, December 01, 2014

Amazon Robots

"Army of Amazon robots ready to help fulfill orders on Cyber Monday". (Via H.R.)

Rope-Free Elevators

"ThyssenKrupp develops the world's first rope-free elevator system"

Peer-Review Scam

Nature: "Publishing: The peer-review scam".

It's a lot easier to get published, when you are the "impartial" anonymous reviewer of your own paper!
In the past 2 years, journals have been forced to retract more than 110 papers in at least 6 instances of peer-review rigging. What all these cases had in common was that researchers exploited vulnerabilities in the publishers' computerized systems to dupe editors into accepting manuscripts, often by doing their own reviews. The cases involved publishing behemoths Elsevier, Springer, Taylor & Francis, SAGE and Wiley, as well as Informa, and they exploited security flaws that — in at least one of the systems — could make researchers vulnerable to even more serious identity theft.

Girl Scout Cookie Sales Go Digital

Ars Technica: "Girl Scout cookie sales finally go digital". (Via Trey P.)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The First Object Has Been 3D Printed In Space

Alex Knapp: "The First Object Has Been 3D Printed In Space".

As David Jilk noted online, it's appropriately meta: "a faceplate for a printhead extruder on the printer itself".

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ranking of Thanksgiving Sides

"A definitive ranking of Thanksgiving sides".

Includes the crucial Availability Theorem and Leftover Theorem.  (Click through to see all the graphs.) 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Light Posting

Admin note: Posting may be light for the rest of the week due to the US holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

[Update: Typo fixed!]

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: "How Mandatory Calorie Labeling Hurts Consumers"

[Off Topic] My pre-Thanksgiving Forbes column is up, "How Mandatory Calorie Labeling Hurts Consumers".

If the FDA wants a "War On Bacon", I know what side I'm on!

Full Duplex For Cell Phones

"Simple Circuit Could Double Cell Phone Data Speeds". (Via H.R.)

When Should You Book That Flight?

"So when should you book that flight? The truth on airline prices"

Robot Bartenders

"I spent a weekend on a cruise ship staffed by robot bartenders"

Real Life Spider-Man Gloves

"Watch This Scientist Climb a Wall in Gecko-Inspired Spider-Man Gloves"

Photography Is Not A Crime: Denver Edition

Denver Police Department seizes legal recording showing apparent misconduct, file "disappears", but saved on cloud server.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

Navy Laser

"US Navy Deploys Its First Laser Weapon in the Persian Gulf":
The laser can be adjusted to fire a non-lethal dazzling flash at an incoming vessel so they know it’s there “all the way to lethal,” [Rear Admiral] Klunder said. The laser’s range is classified. 

Interview With Mark Weir (Author Of The Martian)

Ars Technica has a great interview with Mark Weir, author of The Martian.

This was one of my favorite summer SF reads, and I'm glad it's being made into a movie.  (Via Howard R.)

Pixar Animation Math

"Interested In The Math Of Pixar's Animation? This Video Is Must-Watch"

NZ Gets No Respect

"World Maps Without New Zealand"

Sunday, November 16, 2014

How Did The Enigma Machine work?

"How did" the Enigma machine work?" A nice clear, nonmathematical explanation.

Here's the graphic from the article, below (click through to see full sized).  And a positive review from IEEE of the upcoming movie, The Imitation Game.

Sonar Watch

"Researchers Develop $60 Sonar 'Watch' to Help Blind People Navigate". (Via Howard R.)

How Much Does Google Glass Distract You While Driving?

"How Much Does Google Glass Distract You While Driving?"

Smart (Or Too-Smart) Bombs?

NYT: "Arms makers have crossed into troubling territory: They are developing weapons that rely on artificial intelligence, not human instruction, to decide what to target and whom to kill."

Regarding ShirtGate

Overall his shirt would have been considered inappropriate at a lot of workplace (including my own).

OTOH, I do tend to cut techie/geeky people some slack with respect to their intentions. I don't think he meant to deliberately send an anti-woman message. Rather, it's more like if he had worn a t-shirt with one of those retro Wonder Woman images on it -- wearing a costume meant to highlight her anatomy, but clearly inconvenient for fighting actual supervillains (see below).

Taylor undoubtedly thought his shirt was non-offensive, even if others might see it differently. In turn,  I might have regarded his shirt as worthy of a couple of minor eyerolls, then moving on.

I've been very surprised at the intensity and vehemence of the attacks against Taylor. I get what his critics are objecting too, but there seems something oddly disproportionate about the reaction relative to the magnitude of his deed. And I think that reflects something unhealthy about our culture -- but which I don't quite have a full handle on.

Update: For some reason, I had the scientist's name wrong -- it should be Taylor, not Martin!

Update #2: I wanted to post this thoughtful dissenting response from a female friend who is also a programmer (quoted with her permission):
I've worked with a lot of clueless poorly dressing geeks... Not a single one of them would wear a shirt like that to work. If they did their manager would do his job and tell them to change. The bigger problem here isn't that a lone man wore the shirt. It's that his management let him wear it on national TV... And if he is a manager then he should have known better.

As to why people would blow up over it?? The fact that it so casually was allowed to happen and so many of you think it's not a big deal is why. I've been lucky to not have to deal with the sexism that my fellow female programmers have had to.. But I know in the wrong company or place it is there.

This man took an amazing scientific achievement and at the same time knowingly or unknowingly slapped down thousands of woman who have worked to keep that type of imagery out of their work place. How the $&@? Can I let my little girls see that news conference with that shirt? People aren't yelling to destroy the achievement. They are yelling because they are shocked it was allowed to happen with such an achievement. The achievement deserved honor and not degrading imagery.

Imagine if it had been men in speedos or something that made another race look stupid. Would you still think it not a big deal? Women are extra angry because when it should be getting better junk like this keeps happening... And so many just give us the "oh there she goes again overreacting" stereotype.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Injunction To Enforce Godwin's Law?

Eugene Volokh: "Can one get an injunction to enforce Godwin's Law?"

Update: Link was broken -- fixed now!

Smart LED Bulb Knows When Someone Falls

"Smart LED Bulb Knows When Someone Falls":
The bulb has a 24 GHz milliwave radar, developed by Panasonic, pointing downward that can measure the distance to a person’s skull below it. If this distance suddenly and rapidly increases, the bulb assumes someone fell and uses an on-board networking chip to send a signal that can be picked up by a professional service or relayed to family or caretakers.

The bulb hanging at 3 meters above ground can cover an area of 13.2 square meters (142 sq ft). Having these bulbs throughout the house should be sufficient to cover most of the living space where accidents can happen.

Snow Rollers

"Snow Rollers: Nature's Winter Treat"

Universal Mobile Keyboard

This Universal Mobile Keyboard from Microsoft looks pretty good. And gets good reviews on Amazon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Honest Academic Citation

"This Is What Happens When No One Proofreads an Academic Paper"

Gorgeous Time Lapse Of The Sun

"Gorgeous time lapse of the Sun"

xkcd On No-Rules NASCAR

xkcd: "If you stripped away all the rules of car racing and had a contest which was simply to get a human being around a track 200 times as fast as possible, what strategy would win? Let's say the racer has to survive."

Bostrom at Berkeley

"A video has been posted by Book TV of a talk by Nick Bostrom, a professor, Oxford University, about his book, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, where he posits a future in which machines are more intelligent than humans and questions whether intelligent machines will try to save or destroy us.

Direct link to C-SPAN video.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Princess Leia Gets Catcalls From 'Star Wars' Characters

"Dark side of the walk: Princess Leia gets catcalls from Star Wars characters"
This isn’t the catcalling video you’re looking for. Actually, maybe it is.

Youtube user Are We There Yet? made a Star Wars-themed version of this now-famous GoPro video — in which we learn that even Leia Organa, princess of Alderaan, isn't immune to catcalling on the streets of New York. Watch as Leia is followed by a familiar bounty hunter and hollered at by Yoda, Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, a gang of Jawas, an anonymous Stormtrooper and Darth Vader.

Secret Cameras At Harvard

NYT: "Secret Cameras Rekindle Privacy Debate at Harvard"

Astronauts Put A Camera Inside An Orb Of Water

"Maybe you've seen videos of astronauts playing with floating blobs of water, but how about a video shot from inside the watery blob? That's just what we have here..."

Cyborg Cockroaches

"Cyborg Cockroaches Could Save Your Life":

If you're trapped under the rubble of a collapsed building, the last thing you want to see is a swarm of cockroaches headed your way. But thanks to a group of North Carolina State University researchers, those creepy crawlies could just save your life.

The scientists have developed a technology allowing cyborg cockroaches, or biobots, to pick up and seek out sounds with a miniscule microphone, meant to help emergency personnel in the aftermath of a disaster.

(Click through to see video.)

Kids React To Old Cameras

"Kids React To Old Cameras"

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

How Uber Is Changing Night Life in Los Angeles

NYT: "How Uber Is Changing Night Life in Los Angeles"
A night out in Los Angeles used to involve negotiating parking, beating traffic and picking a designated driver. Excursions from one end to the other — say, from the oceanfront city of Santa Monica to the trendy Silver Lake neighborhood on the eastern side — had to be planned and timed with military precision, lest they spiral into a three-hour commute. More often than not, they were simply avoided.

“Before Uber was a thing, I would rarely go to Hollywood,” said Drew Heitzler, an artist who lives in Venice, a potentially treacherous drive away. “The prospect of going to Hollywood on a weekend night, if I was invited to a party or an art event, it just wouldn’t happen. I would just stay home.”

Now Mr. Heitzler, 42, uses the ride-sharing app at least weekly, gladly leaving his car behind when he socializes. “In Los Angeles, you have the ubiquitous D.U.I. checkpoints everywhere,” he said. “If you’re going to go to a party, you either don’t drink or you Uber there and Uber back, and problem solved.”

Sex After Ebola

"Ebola Survivors and Sex".

Short answer: No unprotected sex for 3 months, instead use a condom.

Smart Spoon

"Food bland? Electric spoon zaps taste into every bite"


"Will ultrasound-on-a-chip make medical imaging so cheap that anyone can do it?"

Speaking as a radiologist, I think this is a very encouraging development.  It could make it much cheaper to acquire images.

However, getting medically useful images also requires a certain amount of skill (which is why sonographers still need to go to school).  And interpreting them accurately is still non-trivial.  So I don't think "anyone" will be able to do it.  But it could help a lot of people, especially in remote areas or in time-sensitive emergency settings.  (Link via Howard R.)

Monday, November 03, 2014

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: Who Hasn't Gotten Ebola

[Off topic] My latest post in Forbes discusses some important groups of people who have not contracted Ebola and now have the green light to resume their normal lives: "Who Hasn't Gotten Ebola".

Twitter-Augmented Memory

"This Man Uses Twitter To Augment His Damaged Memory". (Via Trey P.)

Butter Size

"Why are sticks of butter long and skinny in the East, but short and fat in the West?"

900 Classic Arcade Games On Internet Archve

"Internet Archive now lets you play 900 classic arcade games":
The Internet Archive, a non-profit best known for backing up web pages, has added a collection of 900 video games from the 1970s to 1990s that can be played in your web
browser — no coins required...

Called the Internet Arcade, the collection includes familiar games such as Astro Invader and Pac Man, as well as more obscure titles from that era. Most include detailed background histories and links to play in the browser.

Giant Spider Web

"4-Acre Spider Web Engulfs Building"

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

No Google Glass In Movie Theaters

"Wearable recording devices like Google Glass officially banned from movie theaters":
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), which maintains around 32,000 screens across the US, have updated their joint anti-piracy policy to officially ban the use of wearable recording devices while watching movies.

The Stradivarius Affair

"It isn't every day that a street criminal -- a high-school dropout with two felony convictions -- is accused of stealing a centuries-old violin worth as much as $6 million. But nothing about the heist of the Lipinski Stradivarius, which galvanized the music world last winter, was normal, or even logical"

Haunted Poster

"Watch This Haunted Poster Come To Life and Scare the Hell Out of People".  Click through to see video!