Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Legend of Kevin Bacon

Clip from Guardians of the Galaxy includes teaching an alien warrior about the Legend of Footloose and the great hero Kevin Bacon. (Via DJF.)

Sauron Was Misunderstood

"Sauron, The Misunderstood Hero Of Middle Earth"

Related: "Unused Audio Commentary By Howard Zinn And Noam Chomsky, Recorded Summer 2002 For The Fellowship Of The Ring"

13 Commonly Misheard Song Lyrics

"13 Commonly Misheard Song Lyrics That Are Way Funnier Than The Real Ones"

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

"21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever"

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: No, Gun Violence Is Not a 'Public Health' Issue

[Off-Topic] My latest Forbes piece is now up: "No, Gun Violence Is Not a 'Public Health' Issue".

I discuss 4 reasons we shouldn't frame "gun violence" as a "public health" issue, including:
1) Gun violence is not an “epidemic”, except in a metaphorical sense.

2) If “public health” includes “gun violence”, then intellectual fairness demands that we consider pro-gun arguments as well as anti-gun arguments.

3) Expanding “public health” to include “gun violence” diverts us from genuine public health threats.

4) Guns are not the doctor’s “natural enemy.”
Although I think gun crime should not be shoehorned into the category "public health", I recognize that others may disagree. In that case, lives saved by allowing concealed carry should be just as much of the “public health” discussion as lives lost to gun violence.

For more details on each of the four points above, see the full text of "No, Gun Violence Is Not a 'Public Health' Issue".

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hole-In-One Insurance

Yes, you can buy insurance against unusually good luck such as hole-in-one insurance:
The concept of hole in one insurance may baffle the uninitiated, but to many it is a wise precaution as golf tradition holds that anyone who scores a hole in one should buy drinks back at the clubhouse for his playing group -- if not everyone present. In Japan, many give extravagant gifts to friends and family after scoring a lucky ace...

A number of firms offer hole in one insurance, frequently bundled with other services that golfers commonly buy like insurance for golfing equipment or personal liability. (Apparently yelling “Fore!” can’t ward off lawsuits if you hit a ball right at someone.) Golfplan, a U.K. insurer, covers $340 to $510 worth of drinks for hole in one celebrations. (Clubs’ set of rules for validating a hole in one makes it easier to process claims.) When it is sold unbundled, hole in one insurance can be cheap; Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co. Ltd offers Japanese golfers hole in one insurance for as little as a $3 premium. Outside of individual policies, golf tournaments also get hole in one insurance so that they can offer huge cash prizes for a hole in one as a marketing promotion -- it's the same type of "prize indemnity" insurance that covers teams when a fan sinks a half court shot or makes a field goal.
(Via Marginal Revolution.)

The Psychology of First Impressions

"The psychology of first impressions - digested".

I'm sure glad I got rid of those facial piercings! (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Free Self-Education Resources

"12 Dozen Places To Educate Yourself Online For Free".

On a lighter note: "10 Odd Skills You Can Learn Online".

High Speed Photos of People Shot Out Of Water Slide

"High Speed Photos of the Moment People are Shot Out of a Water Slide"

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lego Microscope

"This fully functional microscope is built entirely out of Lego". (Via S.F.)

Alternative Fusion Technologies

"Alternative Fusion Technologies Heat Up: Start-ups in fusion-energy research are fueled by venture capital and a lot of hope".

(Click on image below to see full-sized.)

Redesigned Parking Sign

A Redesigned Parking Sign So Simple That You’ll Never Get Towed". (Via Trey P.)

Induction Lightbulb

"This Super-Efficient Lightbulb Uses Tesla Tech for an Incandescent Glow". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Crazy Circle Illusion

Superb visual "illusion".  (Via IFLS.)

Watch a Watch Being Made

BoingBoing: "Watch a watch being made". (Via H.R.)

Darth 2016!

"Darth Vader More Popular Than Anyone Who Might Run For President In 2016".

Why waste your vote on the lesser of two evils?

MIT Professor Proposes Better Traffic Light Timing

"By optimizing the timing of traffic lights beyond the capabilities of current systems, new software models have been shown to cut rush-hour travel times by 22 percent."  Work from MIT professor Carolina Osorio.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Do Radio Waves Bounce Off Each Other?

Physicist Hans Schantz asks, "Do Radio Waves Bounce Off Each Other?"

He answers that in the affirmative in his technical paper: "On the Superposition and Elastic Recoil of Electromagnetic Waves". 

The full paper is available here at FERMAT (PDF).

His summary for a lay audience:
My technical paper on superposition and electromagnetic recoil is now available online. I argue that the conventional view of radio waves passing through each other is fundamentally flawed. Instead, I present a relatively simple and straightforward argument that the energy associated with electromagnetic waves actually bounces or recoils when radio waves interfere with each other. We've been using this new physical perspective quite successfully in our near-field indoor location systems at Q-Track

Here's a recent WebWire news release.

And related commentary from wireless engineer Steven Crowley, "Looking at radio wave interaction as an electromagnetic Newton’s cradle".

(Caption: "When two identical waves interact, no energy transfers through the point of interaction. The energy “bounces” as the waves exchange their energy.")

Wedding Drones

"The Rise of the Wedding Drone"

Related video: "Wedding Rings delivered via DJI Phantom Quadcopter"

Terminator At Age 30

"The Terminator at 30: An oral history"

I'm really glad they didn't cast OJ Simpson as the Terminator!

How to Flawlessly Predict Anything on the Internet

Adapting an old con game to the Twitter era: "How to Flawlessly Predict Anything on the Internet"

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Former Comcast Employee Explains Horrifying Customer Service Call

"A Former Comcast Employee Explains That Horrifying Customer Service Call"

11 Tricks to Get Engineers to Sort of Respect You

"11 Tricks to Get Engineers to Sort of Respect You"

IEEE on D-Wave

IEEE: "How D-Wave Built Quantum Computing Hardware for the Next Generation"

Smart Contact Lenses

"Google and Novartis hope to launch smart contact lens in five years":
The two companies have a few ideas for a smart contact lens. The first is the original glucose-monitoring lens, which could detect a diabetic person's glucose level via his or her tears. The second is an "autofocus" lens for people who have difficulty switching between near and long-distance vision. Novartis said this focusing problem affects 1.7 billion people, with Joe Jimenez, Novartis' chief executive, calling it “the holy grail for vision care.”
 (Via Trey P.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

High Place Phenomenon

"That weird urge to jump off a bridge, explained". It may be an urge to live, not to die.

Don't Drink Ultrapure Water

Why you shouldn't drink ultrapure water.

Viral Tweet

Here's What Happens When Your Joke Goes Massively Viral On Twitter".  (Via Trey P.)

USB Thumb Drive for iPhones and iPads

"Finally, a USB Thumb Drive for the Latest iPhones and iPads"

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I, For One, Welcome Our New Self-Assembling Microchip Overlords

"Self-Assembly Shows Promise for Extending Moore's Law".

I, for one, welcome our new self-assembling microchip overlords.

140 Google Interview Questions

"140 Google Interview Questions".

Note: These are from 2009, so the questions may be different now.  (Via Tyler Cowen.)

Sapphire Glass

Gizmodo: "What's Sapphire Glass, and Why Would Apple Want It In Your iPhone?"

Cooler 2.0

"21st Century Cooler that's Actually Cooler". (Via H.R.)

Monday, July 14, 2014


"Vantablack: A New Material So Dark, You Can't See It"

10 Minute MBA Course On Negotiation

"Negotiation Tactics: The 10 Minute MBA Course On Negotiation"

Fermi Paradox

A nice overview of the Fermi Paradox.

My personal (admittedly uninformed) guess is that the Great Filter is still ahead of us.  Given the frequent mismatch between our technical capacities and our tendencies towards irrational behavior, something interesting may be in store for us.

How Coffee Fueled The Civil War

NYT: "How Coffee Fueled The Civil War"

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mechanical Movements, Animated

"507 Mechanical Movements".

Some have nice animations as well!  (Via S.K.)

Best Ampersand

"Best-designed ampersand ever"

Missileer Life

The life of a nuclear missile officer (aka "missileer").

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Dominant Players

xkcd: "Dominant Players".

Fascinating chart.

Knot Theory And Tangled Earphones

"Your Earphone Cords Are Determined to Be a Tangled Mess"

How Pickpockets Trick Your Mind

BBC: "How pickpockets trick your mind"

3-D Printed Custom Earbuds

"Normals are 3D-printed earbuds made just for you". According to the official website, price = $199.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Secondary Markets In Restaurant Reservations

Brian Mayer: "How I Became the Most Hated Person in San Francisco, for a Day".

I don't have a problem with secondary markets in general, provided they're done in an open and honest fashion. But using assumed names to do business strikes me as frauduent.  (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Goodnight Darth Vader

From the description of "Goodnight Darth Vader":
It's bedtime in the Star Wars galaxy, and Darth Vader's parenting skills are tested anew in this delightful follow-up to the breakout New York Times bestsellers Darth Vader™ and Son and Vader's™ Little Princess. In this Episode, the Sith Lord must soothe his rambunctious twins, Luke and Leia—who are not ready to sleep and who insist on a story. As Vader reads, the book looks in on favorite creatures, droids, and characters, such as Yoda, R2-D2, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Darth Maul, Admiral Ackbar, Boba Fett, and many others as they tuck in, yawn, and settle down to dream...

Super-Thin ATM Skimmers

"The Latest Super-Thin ATM Skimmers Are Virtually Unspottable"

Bringing Internet To The Ocean Floor

"Deep-sea streaming: 500-mile NEPTUNE cabling brings Internet to the ocean floor". (Via H.R.)

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Underappreciated Pinky

"The Finger Your Phone Can't Live Without (It's Not Your Thumb)"

Creative Destruction in Education

The Economist has a lengthy feature article on the current upheaval in higher education, as well as the state of higher education online learning.

Evolution Of PC Design

"The evolution of the PC: A decade of design"

The U.S. Territories That Aren't States

"The U.S. Territories That Aren't States"

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Robot Valet

"A Robot Valet Will Park Your Car at This German Airport"

Right To Be Forgotten Update

Wired: "For Google, the 'Right to Be Forgotten' Is an Unforgettable Fiasco"

Life With 10-Year Old Cell Phone

Gizomodo writer Ashley Feinberg used a 2004 Motorola Razr for 30 days, instead of her iPhone.

Her article highlights how much progress we now take for granted in just 10 years -- such as mapping apps and immediate fingertip access to information.

3D Printing Medical Success

"3D Printing Used to Successfully Remove Previously Inoperable Tumor in 5 Year Old Boy". (Via Charlie Martin.)

[Off Topic] Interview on 3 Languages of Politics

[Off topic] Philosopher (and my wife) Dr. Diana Hsieh recently interviewed me about "Understanding the Three Languages of Politics" on her live internet radio show, Philosophy in Action. You can listen to or download the podcast any time. You'll find the podcast on the episode's archive page, as well as below. About the Interview:
How many times have you been in political discussions with friends where you find you're talking past one another? You'll make points they consider irrelevant, whereas they'll focus on issues you consider nonessential. Such problems can be overcome, at least in part, using Arnold Kling's concept of the "Three Languages of Politics."
Paul Hsieh will explain how freedom advocates (e.g., Objectivists and better libertarians), conservatives, and liberals tend to use three vastly different metaphors in political discussions, which can create unintentional misunderstandings and miscommunications. He will also discuss how to frame discussion points so they better resonate with those speaking the other "languages" without compromising on principles.

Listen or Download:
Topics: Topics:
  • About the "three languages of politics"
  • The differences in the three languages
  • The difference that the three languages make
  • Examples of the three languages
  • Conflict between camps
  • Alliances between camps
  • Political argument between camps
  • The debates over the Hobby Lobby decision
  • Using the three languages to become more persuasive
  • Caveats and cautions
  • Three take-home points
For more about Philosophy in Action Radio, visit the Episodes on Tap and Podcast Archives.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Economist Chart on UFO Sightings

Awesome chart from The Economist on UFO sightings:
"It turns out that aliens are considerate. They seldom disturb earthlings during working or sleeping hours. Rather, they tend to arrive in the evening, especially on Fridays, when folks are sitting on the front porch nursing their fourth beer, the better to appreciate flashing lights in the heavens..."

Friday, July 04, 2014

Big Firework!

"The world's largest firework fills the sky with hundreds of explosions". Happy Independence Day! (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Compelled Password Disclosure in MA

Doug Mataconis: "Court Rules Defendant Must Reveal Computer’s Encryption Password"

From his analysis:
[T]he issue for Courts in these cases is how a demand that a suspect or defendant produce a password is viewed under the law. If it is viewed as testimony, then it would be barred under the Fifth Amendment even if it were supported by a warrant signed by a Judge. If, however, it is merely viewed as giving law enforcement access to something that they have the legal right, due to a warrant, to search, then it is not testimonial and permissible as long as the Fourth Amendment is complied with.

The analogy that has been made here is one that compares the password to either the key to a strongbox or the combination to a safe. If it’s viewed as analogous to the key, then its a Fourth Amendment issue and the subject of the warrant must provide access as long as there is a valid warrant. If, however, it is the combination to a safe, then requiring the subject to provide access is testimonial and forcing a person to reveal it would be barred by the Fifth Amendment because the combination constitutes the “expression of the contents of an individual’s mind.”

The analogies are, admittedly, not perfect, but they have come to be adopted in large part due to the distinction that the case law makes between these two activities, and they are useful analogy in a situation where there is very little actual law to apply.

Facebook Experiment Update

Wired: "Everything You Need to Know About Facebook's Controversial Emotion Experiment". (Via Jimmy Wales.)

The Hack That Saved Apollo 13

"This is the actual hack that saved the astronauts of the Apollo XIII"

Apollo 11 Flight Plan

Apollo 11 Flight Plan (PDF).

Sample image, page 178 (click on image to see full size):