Monday, August 31, 2015

Periodic Table Battleship

"Periodic Table Battleship". (Includes instructions on how to make your own set.)

A World Without Drivers

"A Roadmap for a World Without Drivers". (Via A.B.)

iPad Wi-Fi Visualizer App

"iPad app reveals the hidden waves of Wi-Fi and cell signals flowing around us".  (Scheduled to be released December 2015.)

Phone And Laptop Encryption Guide

"Phone and laptop encryption guide: Protect your stuff and yourself"

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hsieh Forbes Column: The Positive Value of Negative Drug Trials

My latest Forbes piece is now out: "The Positive Value of Negative Drug Trials".

I discuss the unfortunate bias against publishing "negative" scientific results that show a drug doesn't have much clinical benefit, and why it's in the self-interest of drug companies to still report these.

In particular, I highlighted two interesting facts:
1) Most drug trial results are still not being reported to a central registry.

2) Negative results funded by private industry (e.g., pharmaceutical companies) are more likely to be reported than from government-funded research.
Fortunately, free market incentives are driving more drug companies towards full disclosure of both positive and negative study results -- which will benefit patients.

For more details, read the full text of "The Positive Value of Negative Drug Trials".

Supercut of Improbable Weapons

"Supercut of Improbable Weapons":

Quest Across A Hyperbolic Surface

"Take an Epic Quest across a Hyperbolic Surface"

Lembas For Mordor

"Simply Walking into Mordor: How Much Lembas Would The Fellowship Need?"

The full analysis is in the paper (PDF).  Their conclusion:
Using hourly metabolic rates for the species, this is approximately 304 pieces for the hobbits, 214 for the ‘men’, 99 for Gimli and 60 for Legolas, assuming that they only eat their daily required amounts.

Chinese Military Tactics

Very, very clever:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How El Nino Shifts Energy Around

The Economist: "How El Nino shifts so much energy around, with such big consequences"

Bosses Vs. Subordinates Emails

"The Linguistics of Writing an Email Like a Boss".

Includes an interesting list of "Top 40 phrases bosses use with subordinates" and "Top 40 phrases in emails people send to their bosses".

Interleaved Phone Books

"Physicists Solve the Mystery of Interleaved Phone Books":
A famous demonstration of the counterintuitive power of friction involves two telephone directories with their pages alternately interleaved. People are then invited to pull the directories apart, a futile task since the force required to do the job is mind-bogglingly huge.

Indeed, experimenters have variously tried to separate the directories with trucks and military tanks. They’ve even used them to lift a car off the ground...

Matrix Of Startup Ideas

"Is Your Startup Idea Already Taken?" (Click on image to see full size).

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Beloit 2019 Mindset List

Beloit College has published its 2019 student mindset list. You should feel very old now.

How Rats End Up In Toilet Bowls

"Here's How Rats End Up In Toilet Bowls".  Not for the faint of heart.

Space Elevator Update

"Going up? Space elevator could zoom astronauts into Earth's stratosphere"

Wait For It...

I'm probably going to hell for posting this comic.  (Click on the image or the hyperlink to see full-sized version.)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Goldberg Of The Day

"Science and Post-It notes power this Rube Goldberg machine". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Suitcase Cam At The Airport

"Suitcase Cam Shows What It's Like To Be Luggage At The Airport".

I, for one, welcome our luggage-handling robotic overlords.

"Right To Be Forgotten" Expands

This is the natural next consequence of the so-called "right to be forgotten": "Google ordered to remove links to ‘right to be forgotten’ removal stories"

Spiral Trains

Endlessly spiralling model train set. Goes in both directions!  (Via Boing Boing.)

Spirograph Simulator

Neat simulation of the classic Spirograph toy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Quadruple Lightning Strike

BBC: "Google says data has been wiped from discs at one of its data centres in Belgium -- after it was struck by lightning four times."

Police Body Cam Transparency

"Should Everyone Get to See Body-Camera Video?: In Washington, D.C., city officials are considering the nation’s most publicly accessible police-body-cam policy."

Transparent Aluminum Update

"The Engineering Of Star Trek: Transparent Aluminum In The 21st Century"

Ethical Fourier Transform

SMBC: "The Ethical Fourier Transform".

So wrong, yet so seductively appealing... *muwahahaha*  (Click through to see full-size version.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Security Robots

"Meet The Scary Little Security Robot That's Patrolling Silicon Valley":
Looking like a sleeker, taller version of R2-D2 or a Dalek, depending on which sci-fi reference point you're coming from, the K5 comes with a series of sensors and cameras and is designed for perimeter patrolling. It acts as a mobile camera for its operators as well as a detection device in its own right. Its "audio event detection" system senses for things like cars honking, glass breaking, and people screaming. It can scan license plates, separating out cars that are allowed somewhere and those that aren't.

"They're meant for a support role, observing and reporting only," [marketing executive Stacy] Stephens assures us. "There's no offensive measure to them at all."

For now anyway.

The Business Of Rock Stardom

NYT: "How 'Rock Star' Became a Business Buzzword".

Excellent line from the article: "Pretty much anyone can be a 'rock star' these days — except actual rock stars, who are encouraged to think of themselves as brands."  (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Stuff Business People Say

"This ad perfectly slams all of the worst buzzwords and cliches used at the office"

Alternatives To Torture Based Interrogations

"Here's What Actually Gets Terrorists To Tell The Truth — And It's Not Torture"

Monday, August 17, 2015

Beautiful Ferrofluid Clock

"Magnetic numbers shift and reform in amazing ferrofluid clock". (Via Trey P.)

History Of The Chat Typing Indicator

"I Built That 'So-and-So Is Typing' Feature in Chat"

Dark Web Persistence

Andy Greenberg: "Through Crackdowns and Scandals, the Dark Web Lives On"

Superconductivity Record

Nature: "Superconductivity record sparks wave of follow-up physics"
Hydrogen sulfide — the compound responsible for the smell of rotten eggs — conducts electricity with zero resistance at a record high temperature of 203 kelvin (–70 °C), reports a paper published today in Nature.

The first results of the work, which represents a historic step towards finding a room-temperature superconductor, were released on the arXiv preprint server in December and followed up by more in June. They have already sparked a wave of excitement within the research community...

According to Christoph Heil of the Graz University of Technology in Austria, other scientists are intensely interested in the result because it was achieved without using exotic materials such as the copper-containing compounds called 'cuprates' which until now have held the record for the highest superconducting temperature (133 K (–140 °C) at ambient pressure and 164 K (–109 °C) at high pressure). He says that the pressurized hydrogen sulfide seems to be a 'conventional' superconductor in which vibrations within the material's crystal lattice drive electrons to form ‘Cooper pairs’ that can flow through the crystal without resistance...

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Lipsyncher Vs. Sister

"Roadtripping man annoys his sister with seven hours of lip syncing" (condensed to 2:45 minutes, including a cute ending):

As says: "This is an epic display of top-notch lip syncing and world-class shade throwing".

And from Huffington Post:
Anderson, a 911 dispatcher for the San Diego Fire Department, told The Huffington Post that he sang/lip-synced for a good four hours during the trip and that his sister's reactions are completely authentic.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

New Pentagon Tiling

"Mathematicians discover a new type of pentagon that can cover the plane leaving no gaps and with no overlaps. It becomes only the 15th type of pentagon known that can do this, and the first discovered in 30 years"..

$60 Mousepad Vs. Piece of Cardboard

Review: $60 mousepad vs. piece of cardboard.

How Self-Driving Vehicles Will Change Us

"How Self-Driving Vehicles Will Change Us"

Twitter Controversy Maps

"Maps of Vitriolic Twitter Controversies Are Surprisingly Beautiful"

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Atlantic On Hypersensitivity and Intolerance On College Campuses

The Atlantic recently published two major articles on the growing issues of ideological hypersensitivity and intolerance on college campuses.

1) "The Coddling of the American Mind" by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. As they summarize:
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education — and mental health.
2) "That's Not Funny! Today’s college students can’t seem to take a joke" by Caitlin Flanagan.  From the article:
[T]hey wanted comedy that was 100 percent risk-free, comedy that could not trigger or upset or mildly trouble a single student. They wanted comedy so thoroughly scrubbed of barb and aggression that if the most hypersensitive weirdo on campus mistakenly wandered into a performance, the words he would hear would fall on him like a soft rain, producing a gentle chuckle and encouraging him to toddle back to his dorm, tuck himself in, and commence a dreamless sleep — not text Mom and Dad that some monster had upset him with a joke.
Both of these are excellent, detailed analyses.

As I said on social media: "If you go to college, you should expect to be exposed to ideas you find disagreeable or even offensive. If you can't handle that, stay home. You can still learn a lot from watching YouTube videos from Khan Academy and Sesame Street."

War In Space

"War in Space May Be Closer Than Ever: China, Russia and the U.S. are developing and testing controversial new capabilities to wage war in space despite their denial of such work"

New Old Tolkien Work

"J.R.R. Tolkien's The Story of Kullervo Will Be Published In October".

From the article:
The story is one of Tolkien’s oldest stories, started while he was at college in 1914, and was heavily inspired by Finnish epic poetry tradition, particularly with one poem, the Kalevala, as well as the styling of English author William Morris. 
And a brief summary:
Brought up in the homestead of the dark magician Untamo, who killed his father, kidnapped his mother, and who tries three times to kill him when still a boy, Kullervo is alone save for the love of his twin sister, Wanona, and guarded by the magical powers of the black dog, Musti. When Kullervo is sold into slavery he swears revenge on the magician, but he will learn that even at the point of vengeance there is no escape from the cruellest of fates.
Amazon link:

Digitally Faking Death?

Washington Post: "Just how easy is it to digitally fake a death?"

Sunday, August 09, 2015

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: Free Speech 1, FDA 0

[Off topic] My latest Forbes column is now out: "Free Speech 1, FDA 0".

I discuss a breaking update to my earlier Forbes piece on drug company Amarin's fight to engage in free speech in the form of off-label marketing of one of its products.

Basically, Amarin wanted to give truthful medical information to doctors which would allow them to more effectively use one of their drugs in a way that was legal, but not FDA-approved. The FDA forbade Amarin from engaging in such speech, and Amarin sued the FDA.

This past Friday, Amarin won an important legal victory in federal court. Judge Paul Engelmayer came down firmly on the side of free speech.

For more details see the full text of, "Free Speech 1, FDA 0".

(Earlier Forbes piece, "Drug Company Amarin Stands Up For Free Speech Against FDA", 5/8/2015.)

Economist on Asteroid Impact

The Economist discusses, "What if an asteroid heads for Earth".

Self-Driving Cars And Insurance

"Self-Driving Cars To Cause Car Insurance Industry Revenue Plunge"

Yelp Reviews of Newborn Babies

"Yelp Reviews of Newborn Babies"

Japanese Skateboard Innovation

"The Japanese Have Just Perfected The Skateboard. And it looks amazingly fun." (Via Dave Jilk.)

How to Speak Cat

"How to Speak Cat"

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Urgent Security Upgrade For Mozilla Firefox

PSA: If you use Firefox as your browser in Windows or Linux, update to latest version (version 39.0.3) now!

From Ars Technica: "0-day attack on Firefox users stole password and key data: Patch now!"

Monday, August 03, 2015

Travel Voucher To The Moon

Buzz Aldrin: "My travel voucher to the moon"

Pre-Space Flight Rituals

Why Russian Astronauts Pee on a Bus Tire Before Launching Into Space, and Other Pre-Flight Rituals "

Legal Arguments Over "One"

"What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue".

My favorite line from the article: "To correct this, the three Court of Appeal judges used a mathematical approach, known as rounding."

Check Splitting Incentives

"Does It Make Sense To Split The Check At A Restaurant?"

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Bay Area to Standard American English Translator

McSweeney's: "Bay Area to Standard American English Translator"

The Boom In Mini Organs

Nature: "The boom in mini stomachs, brains, breasts, kidneys and more. Biologists are building banks of 'organoids', and learning a lot about human development on the way."

Keystroke Profiling

"How the way you type can shatter anonymity -- even on Tor":
The profiling works by measuring the minute differences in the way each person presses keys on computer keyboards. Since the pauses between keystrokes and the precise length of time each key is pressed are unique for each person, the profiles act as a sort of digital fingerprint that can betray its owner's identity.

The Failure Of Google+

"Inside the failure of Google+, a very expensive attempt to unseat Facebook"

Saturday, August 01, 2015

iMac Boxes

Chris Espinosa on Twitter: "iMac box is a trapezoid with the front 10° out of parallel with the back. Which means that if you have 36 of them..."