Monday, March 30, 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Best Way To Shuffle Cards

"Statistician-magician on the best way to shuffle cards". (Via H.R.)

Extreme Gardening

"Tree Grown From 2,000-Year-Old Seed Has Reproduced". (Via M.B.)

Messenger Wars

Messenger wars.

Kindle Cover Disasters

Kindle cover disasters.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Patients Secretly Recording Doctors

JAMA: "Ethical Implications of Patients and Families Secretly Recording Conversations With Physicians".

I don't think patients should record their physicians without their consent. However, I do strongly favor such recordings when both sides agree, as discussed in my February 2015 Forbes column, "Why You Should Record Your Doctor Visits".

But I also recognize that many states allow such surreptitious recordings with only "one party" (patient) consent.  Hence, I also agree with the JAMA piece that physicians should probably start communicating as if their words were being permanently recorded by the patient. 

Security Prompts Shut Down Brain

"MRIs show our brains shutting down when we see security prompts".

1975 DNA Asilomar Meeting

Meetings that changed the world: Asilomar 1975: DNA modification secured"

Top 'Oddball' Job-Interview Questions

Top 'oddball' job-interview questions, according to Glassdoor.

Some of them include:
Who would win in a fight between Spiderman and Batman?

If you woke up and had 2,000 unread emails and could only answer 300 of them, how would you choose which ones to answer?

Describe the color yellow to somebody who’s blind.

If you had a machine that produced $100 for life, what would you be willing to pay for it today?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

NFL Lineman Publishes Math Paper

"John Urschel, an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, recently co-authored a paper in the Journal of Computational Mathematics. It is titled 'A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians'".

Here's an excerpt from his paper:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fridge Caught Sending Spam

"Fridge caught sending spam emails in botnet attack":
In the first documented attack of its kind, the Internet of Things has been used as part of an attack that sent out over 750,000 spam emails.

3D Printing Update

"Incredible New 3D Printing Technique Looks Like Sci-Fi". (Via H.R.)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Light Posting

Admin note: Posting will be lighter than usual this week due to external obligations.

Self-fuelled Liquid Metal Motor

"Self-fuelled liquid metal motor":

Should You Go To Grad School?

"Should You Go To Grad School?"

New Apple Trackpad

"Apple's 'force touch' and 'taptic engine' explained"

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Fate of the Ringwraiths

"What Happened to the Ringwraiths Once the Ruling Ring Was Destroyed in the Lord of the Rings books?"

The 100-Billion-Body Problem

The 100-Billion-Body Problem: "A full-scale computer simulation of the galaxy we call home must trace the motions of at least 10^11 stars and other objects over several billion years."

Who Will Buy The $10,000 Apple Watch?

"Who Will Buy The $10,000 Apple Watch?"

Short answer: Not me.

Subjective Time

"Why Time Slows Down When We're Afraid, Speeds Up as We Age, and Gets Warped on Vacation"

Monday, March 09, 2015

Terence Tao

"Terence Tao: The Mozart of Maths". (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Robotic Hands for Stroke Rehab

"Robotic Hands for Stroke Rehab"

The Hardest Shot in Bowling

"What's the Hardest Shot in Bowling? It's not the 7-10 split. It's the 'Greek Church.'"

(Click through on image below to see full size version.)

Public Library Security Guard

"The secret life of a public library security guard"

Sunday, March 08, 2015

A Radiologist's Day

As a radiologist, I really appreciated this comic "A Radiologist's Day".  You can click on the image below to see the full-sized version.

(And I bought the shirt at CafePress.)

Economic Progress Over The Past Century

Megan McArdle: on economic progress over the past century, "It's Complicated. But Hopeful."

A few passages from her piece:
We should never pooh-pooh economic progress. As P.J. O’Rourke once remarked, I have one word for people who think that we live in a degenerate era fallen from a blessed past full of bounty and ease, and that word is “dentistry”...

If you do not think that we are living in miraculous times, I suggest you go read these old instructions for doing laundry. But I don’t suggest that you try them, as they involve hydrochloric acid and lye. Laundry is perhaps the worst job that has been automated, in the process changing from backbreaking labor into a slightly tedious chore. But of course we also have clean-burning stoves that don’t require constant tending of a fire, refrigerators that keep our food safe and refreshingly cold, vacuum cleaners that keep our carpets vastly cleaner without hours of beating, mixers that save our aching arms, drip coffee makers that make our favorite beverage better, faster, and with much less work … the list is potentially endless, but the general results are the same: our homes are cleaner, and our food requires a few hours a week to buy and prepare, instead of most of a housewife’s day....

Life is a lot better than it was in 1930 if you’re black. Or gay. Or a woman who wants to work outside the home. Or mentally ill. Or pregnant. Or cohabiting. Or accused of a crime. Many categories of people who previously suffered brutal punishment—legal or social—have had their lives immeasurably improved. Are we a perfectly equal and free society? No. But many groups of people have immensely more freedom and opportunity than they used to.
And one of my favorites, on health care getting more "expensive":
[L]et’s look at health care. In the 1950s, when the president of the United States had a heart attack, he got the absolute state of the art treatment from some of the top doctors in the country: blood thinners, painkillers, and bed rest.

Today, he would have had an array of scans and blood tests to diagnose his problem, and then his physicians would have been able to choose from an array of treatments—stents, coronary bypass, balloon angioplasty—to prevent future heart attacks. And thanks to epidemiology, public health campaigns, and an array of smoking cessation aids, he probably wouldn’t have had a four-pack-a-day cigarette habit, either.

1950s health care isn’t expensive; this same regimen would be a bargain at today’s prices. What’s expensive is things that didn’t exist in 1950. You can say that “health care” has gotten more expensive—or you can say that the declining cost of other things has allowed us to pour a lot more resources into exciting new health products that give us both longer and healthier lives.

Smart Homer Simpson

"How Homer Simpson discovered the Higgs boson over a decade before scientists"

Untrustworthy Password Strength Meters

"Why you can't trust password strength meters"

Blackman On Net Neutrality

Justin Blackman on "net neutrality":
Imagine if hard drive providers had been so heavily regulated at the start of the tech boom that only a few, government-approved companies were able to bring their products to the marketplace. We would have never witnessed the same rapid expansion of storage capacity over cost, as there would have been far less incentive to innovate in such a stifling market. Software, however, would have continued to advance in its own relatively free domain, and would have very quickly run up against the limitations imposed by artificial controls on storage media.

In that environment, some software companies would start cutting deals with hardware and OS platform providers. They might, for example, contract that a certain amount of storage space always be dedicated to their product in order to guarantee a certain level of performance for their end users.
The government would then step in and tell these companies that hard drive access must be totally equal, and that no single company should be able to contract for any privileged access to storage.

What consumer would want this situation at all? The free hardware market is clearly far superior, because hard drive space is so plentiful and expanding so rapidly that storage limitations are, at worst, simply a matter of end user preference.

Now, imagine if the telecom industry had not been so heavily regulated by government that only a few, government-approved providers were able to bring telecommunications to the marketplace.

Would we even be having this debate about net neutrality?
 A damned good question.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

A Novel Solution to Public Urination

"A Novel Solution to Public Urination: Walls That Splash Pee Right Back at You":
The neighborhood’s residents aren’t literally going round to wild pee-ers homes and urinating on their doorsteps (though that would actually be kind of brilliant). They’re simply making sure offenders get a small taste of their own medicine by painting walls with splash-creating, urine retardant paint. In keeping with this harbor neighborhood’s nautical traditions, the paint St. Pauli is using normally coats ships’ hulls. It’s so liquid-resistant that anyone peeing on it is liable to end up soiling themselves all over.
(Via GMSV.)

"Moon Is a Harsh Mistress'" Movie

"Bryan Singer Tackling Sci-Fi Classic 'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress' for Fox". (Via H.R.)

170-Year-Old Beer

"What 170-Year-Old Beer Uncovered From a Shipwreck Really Tasted Like":
Both beers were bright golden yellow, with little haze. Both beers smelt of autolyzed yeast, dimethyl sulfide, Bakelite, burnt rubber, over-ripe cheese, and goat, with phenolic and sulfury notes. 

(Via N.P.)

Ribbon Of The Day

Totally. Want.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

ATMs Didn't Displace Bank Tellers?

Timothy Taylor: "ATMs and a Rising Number of Bank Tellers?"  (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Why did the number of bank tellers rise even as ATMs became prevalent? Bessen highlights two changes. One major change wass the spread of opening more bank branches. Bessen points out that you could now open a branch with fewer bank tellers than before; in addition, I'd add that many states were relaxing their rules and allowing banks to open more branches both within and between states during the 1980s and 1990s in particular.

The other major change was that the job of a teller changed. Banks began to offer more services, and tellers evolved from being people who put checks in one drawer and handed out cash from another drawer to people who solved a variety of financial problems for customers.

"Nightmare Bacteria" Update

"'Nightmare Bacteria' Require Old and New Weapons". (Via Dr. Amesh Adalja, who is also quoted in the article.)

Curt Schilling Vs. Twitter Jerks

Curt Schilling names and shames the jerks who harassed his daughter online.

Schilling has a blog post explaining his actions.  Related from Ars Technica, "Twitter trolls suffer real-world consequences for online actions".

Punctuation For The Digital Age

NYT: "When Your Punctuation Says It All (!)"

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Awesome Response To Phone Scammer

Jay Smith posted his awesome response to a phone scammer.

Here's the text of his post mirrored below (may be mildly NSFW due to an f-bomb):
I typically don't answer my cell phone if I don't know the number, but I was expecting a phone call from the area code displayed, so I answered. Sigh.

Me: Yes?

Dude: May I speak with Mr. Jason Smith, please?

Me: (immediately know where this is going) May I ask who is calling?

Dude: Is this Mr. Smith?

Me: I assume I may NOT ask who is calling. That's not very nice of you.

Dude: This is David with [redacted] about an important legal matter that has come across my desk and it is urgent that you resolve this issue immediately today because a process server is on his way to your place of business right now with a warrant for your arrest related to your property at [redacted, but I've never lived there]. Now, sir, you have one opportunity to stop the server from coming to your office...

Me: A process server? Oh. Dear. With an arrest warrant? Well, we can't have that.

Dude: It is important that you resolve this matter of $625.75 today. Are you willing to pay your obligation and avoid being arrested at your place of business?

Me: My place of business is the International Space Station. Are you sending the server up in a rocket?

Dude: Excuse me?

Me: I am currently in low Earth orbit, David. It might be easier if you contact my attorney and send him the paperwork and we'll work it out when I get back. That's if we can destroy this asteroid before it hits...oops, I wasn't supposed to say anything about that.

Dude: (pause) Mr. Smith? I am trying to assist you from being arrested today. Do you wish my help or not?

Me: Sure. What's the case number? Who is the plaintiff?

Dude: I do not have that information. You will need to call the 800 number I'm about to give you.

Me: Oh good. I'll forward that to my lawyer and the local sheriff's office and they can call for me. I'm a little busy saving the world.

Dude: You may not wish to do that. You may want better to settle this matter quietly.

Me: Really? I'm sure they'll both be interested to learn someone is acting on arrest warrants without them. What's your last name, Dave?

Dude: Sir, if you contact the police directly they will be forced to enforce the arrest warrant. You will not want that, I think.

Me: That's okay. There's no Space Sheriff in my jurisdiction anyway. And if things go "boom" it won't matter anyway. Your last name, Dave?

Dude: Will you take down this number, please?

Me: By the way, are you within a thousand miles of Mongolia?

Dude: Mr. Smith...

Me: Because if you are, I envy you. If this thing hits you won't even realize it. Me? I get to sit up here with five desperate assholes and watch the world burn.

Dude: [unintelligible]

Me: I mean, you'll see it coming. You'll look up and see this giant gray peanut rising in the east...just getting bigger and bigger until it's like the only thing in the sky and then... "Squish". The entire atmosphere will crush you with the asteroid still like ten miles up. Maybe the oxygen will ignite first...not sure how all that stuff works. I'm just the trigger man on the nukes. If I'm lucky, we'll be screaming over Asia when it hits and get obliterated when the planet's core reaches up and boils us alive. Otherwise we'll be orbiting the ruins of Earth until we run out of air or eat each other.

Dude: You are...

Me: ...probably eat each other after drinking all the scotch. Space scotch.

Dude: Why you lie to me, sir? You are in trouble and are making jokes.

Me: You have to have a sense of humor when you're sitting on 500 megatons of atomic death facing a rock the size of New Jersey. If we do survive this, the radical freons bleeding from the warheads will kill the five of us within a year. I'd almost prefer it if we can crack this rock open, come home and just take a bullet to the head. I mean do you know what happens to a person soaking up this many RADS? I might come home looking like Sloth from The Goonies. I'll be shitting bones. Commander Cornholder just wants to get naked, open the airlock and die jerking it fifty miles above the burning Earth.

Dude: … So you are not willing to settle this debt today?

Me: How about I settle it by saving the god-damned world, Dave? How about I drive these nuclear warheads into the heart of a mother-f*cking asteroid and keep you and your whole debt collection scam from becoming cosmic vapor? Call it even, there, slappy?

(end of call)

Dynamic Pricing At Ski Resorts

"Ski Resorts Experiment With Dynamic Pricing". (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Hacking Cars

Boing Boing: "The time a hacker remotely bricked cars in Texas".

Crazy Pool Vortex

Excellent video from "Physics Girl" on the "Crazy Pool Vortex":