Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tricorder XPrize Finalists

"10 Finalist Teams Announced for Tricorder XPrize".

BTW, this is one of the technologies I discussed in my earlier Forbes piece, "8 Star Trek Technologies Moving From Science Fiction To Science Fact".

Contagious Wolf Yawns

"Scientists stake out wolves to see whether their yawns are contagious"

Jellyfish Stinger

CNet: "See how a jellyfish stings in microscopic slo-mo"

Incredible Dragon Body Painted in a Single Brush Stroke

"Incredible Dragon Body Painted in a Single Brush Stroke"

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: UK To Experiment on Cardiac Arrest Patients Without Their Consent

[Off topic] My latest Forbes column is now up: "UK To Experiment on Cardiac Arrest Patients Without Their Consent".

CPR being performed on a medical training manikin.  (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Haikus found in Supreme Court opinions

Eugene Volokh: "Haikus found in Supreme Court opinions"

World's Spiciest Noodles

"Is This the World's Spiciest Bowl of Noodles?"
Fu Niu Tang, a recently opened beef noodle restaurant in Beijing, is trying to take the spicy crown for Hunan. It claims to have the world’s spiciest rice noodles and is challenging patrons to finish a bowl of the signature dish in 10 minutes. Those who can finish the task are awarded with a T-shirt and a card that entitles them to a permanent 10% discount.

The restaurant says the hot sauce for its rice noodles is 125 times hotter than Tabasco sauce...
Click through to see the video.  (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Why You Should Break A "Pay-It-Forward" Chain

FastCompany: Breaking A "Pay-It-Forward" Chain Isn't Being A "Cheap Bastard." It's Good Economics.

Butter Knife 2.0

Wired: "The Cutting-Edge Butter Knife of Your Dreams Is Finally Here":
Australian designers -- Craig Andrews, Sacha Pantschenko, and Norman Oliveria—have come together to revamp breakfast with a new knife/grater combo that can transform a densely packed brick of butter into easily spreadable strands of creamy delight...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Star Trek: Axanar

I just watched the 20-minute fan-made short film "Prelude to Axanar", and it looks awesome. I look forward to the full-length 90 minute film coming next year.

For more information, go to either their Kickstarter page or their official ST: Axanar page. (I also donated to the project.)

New "What If?" Book From xkcd Author

Experience Armageddon in Sneak Peek at 'xkcd' Author's New Book"

Viking War Game

"This 1,600-year-old Viking war game is still awesome".  (Via C.M.)

Some excerpts:
The game is similar to chess, but with several important differences. Instead of two identical and equal opponents facing each other, Hnefatafl is a game where one side is surrounded and outnumbered -- like a Viking war party caught in an ambush.

The game might seem unbalanced. The attacking black player has 24 total pieces — known as "hunns" -- to white's meager and surrounded 12 hunns. But white has several advantages.

White has an additional unique unit, a king, which must be surrounded on four horizontal sides to be captured. Hunns require being surrounded on two sides, and that's pretty hard by itself. White's goal is also simple: move the king to one of four corner squares known as "castles." Black's goal is to stop them.

Other rules? All pieces move like chess rooks. Black makes the first move. Black cannot occupy a castle, which would end the game in short order. But black can block off several castles by moving quickly, forming the equivalent of a medieval shield wall...

Hnefatafl is a Viking's worst case scenario: Outnumbered, cut off from their boats — and on the verge of being massacred. Understanding the game played by Viking war parties on the way to raid England of its booty meant understanding something about the way the Vikings saw themselves. The total time spent playing the game may have been more than any individual warrior spent sacking the Anglo-Saxons, for instance.

200-Year-Old Alcohol Found in Shipwreck Is Still Drinkable

"200-Year-Old Alcohol Found in Shipwreck Is Still Drinkable"

Icelandic Volcano

"What Happens When A Volcano Erupts Under A Glacier?" (Via H.R.)

Denser Data

"Computer memory that can store about one terabyte of data on a device the size of a postage stamp". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why Smart People Fall for Fake News

Slate: "Why Smart People Fall for Fake News"

40 Maps That Explain the Roman Empire

"40 maps that explain the Roman Empire".

My favorite is this map comparing the size of Rome with the size of the continent US:
"The Roman provinces of Britain and Egypt were about as far apart as the American states of Florida and Washington. One obvious difference is that the Roman empire had the Mediterranean in the middle of it, which helped to move people and supplies over vast distances. Still, it's remarkable that emperors operating many centuries before the railroad and the telegraph — to say nothing of airplanes and the internet — were able to hold together such a vast domain for so long."

17 Impossibly Satisfying Avocado Snacks

BuzzFeed: "17 Impossibly Satisfying Avocado Snacks".

 One of the actually useful BuzzFeed posts. #9 and #14 look especially good. (Via J.S.)

Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos

Wired: "Why It's So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos"

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Water Tractor Beam

"Physicists create water tractor beam":

Physicists at The Australian National University have created a tractor beam on water, providing a radical new technique that could confine oil spills, manipulate floating objects or explain rips at the beach.

The group, led by Professor Michael Shats, discovered they can control water flow patterns with simple wave generators, enabling them to move floating objects at will.

“We have figured out a way of creating waves that can force a floating object to move against the direction of the wave,” said Dr Horst Punzmann, from the Research School of Physics and Engineering, who led the project...

(Via Marginal Revolution.)

Awesome YoYo Routines

A pair of awesome yoyo routines from the 2014 world championship.

Single yoyo:

Double yoyo

Precision Guided AR-15

"GUN Linux: On the range with TrackingPoint's new AR-15s"

The Most Distant Star in the Milky Way

"Far Out: The Most Distant Star in the Milky Way"

Monday, August 11, 2014

Slot Machine Psychology

"Slot-machine science: How casinos get you to spend more money".

The applied psychology is pretty impressive.  Which is not surprising, given all the money that's at stake.

New Encrypted Email Proposal

Time: "Hackers Unveil Their Plan to Change Email Forever".

Related video:

Marine Vs. Knight

"Could Modern Troops Defeat Medieval Knights in Hand-to-Hand Combat?"

Short answer: Probably not.

War in the Womb

Mother-fetus game theory: "A ferocious biological struggle between mother and baby belies any sentimental ideas we might have about pregnancy". (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Update: Link was missing, now fixed!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

19th Century Physics Brainteasers

Ars Technica: "The never-ending conundrums of classical physics".

For example:
If you force air out of the sprinkler depicted here by squeezing the bulb or connect it to a hose to water your lawn, there is little doubt that, if the top part is allowed to rotate freely, it will spin in the direction indicated by the large arrow. That's opposite to the direction of the expelled fluid.

But what happens when you release the bulb and suck air back in? Or, say, immerse the contraption in a container and force water into the arms through pressure?

Since the sprinkler was first discussed by the great physicist and philosopher of science Ernst Mach in the late nineteenth century, it has periodically reappeared to challenge the intuition of physics students and Nobel prize winners alike. It is now usually referred to as “Feynman’s sprinkler,” partly as a result of the popularity of Feynman’s memoirs, where the young physicist exploded a tank full of water in Princeton’s cyclotron facility while attempting to settle the question experimentally.

When encountering this puzzle for the first time, physicists tend to think the answer is clear. About half think it’s obvious that the sprinkler will rotate counterclockwise, while the other half think it’s obvious that it won’t move at all...
(Click here for the answer.)

Sneaky New Surveillance Method

Algorithm recovers speech from vibrations of potato-chip bag filmed through soundproof glass".

Related story: "Scientists Can Now Eavesdrop By Watching a Soundless Video of a Glass of Water"

Explanatory video: "The Visual Microphone: Passive Recovery of Sound from Video":

(Via Dave J.)

Inside the Flying Quarantine Ward Used to Transport Ebola Patients

Wired: "Inside the Flying Quarantine Ward Used to Transport Ebola Patients". (Via Instapundit.)

Self-Folding Robots

Alex Knapp: "Origami Robots Fold Themselves And Walk Away"

Here's a short explanatory video:

Monday, August 04, 2014

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Loopholes Beget Loopholes

NPR's "Planet Money" had an astonishingly good podcast on the 3 rules of taxes:
1. Taxes inevitably get more complicated.
2. The more complicated the tax, the harder people will work to avoid it.
3. When taxes get complicated enough, the only people who are both motivated and capable of following the ins and out of tax policies are the professionals (e.g., tax lawyers).
As they say, "Loopholes beget more loopholes". For more details, listen to, "How The Burrito Became A Sandwich".

GOTG Screenwriter Triumph

Great story about the screenwriter for Guardians of the Galaxy: "How Guardians Of The Galaxy Triumphed Over The Film Industry's Backwards Thinking".

Space Drive Skepticism

"Don't buy stock in impossible space drives just yet". (Via H.S.)

You Are Not Late

"You Are Not Late"