Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Coffee Coffee Coffee

Harvard: "How coffee loves us back"

Hypnic Jerks

"Why Do I Jerk Awake Right As I'm Falling Asleep?"

Robots Suck At Ikea

"Robots are about as bad as humans at assembling IKEA furniture"

Yelp For People

Washington Post: "Everyone you know will be able to rate you on the terrifying 'Yelp for people' -- whether you want them to or not"

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Laser Razor

"This futuristic razor shaves your hair with an actual laser"

Disney's "Envelope Of Protection"

"How Disney Ensures That Your Arms Won't Get Torn Off On Rides":
You may be told to keep your arms and legs in the vehicle at all times when you get on a roller coaster or ride, but it's unlikely that you'd actually lose a limb if you disobeyed thanks to something called the 'envelope of protection'...

Disney uses an "envelope of protection" when testing their rides to ensure that no one could possibly reach out and hit anything. This sounds like a spell you could cast in Dungeons & Dragons, but it's actually pretty simple. They test the ride using a special vehicle with a disk attached that has a number of spindles fixed all around it. These spindles act as a person's hypothetical limbs, and they're much longer than a human's reach could possibly be... 
Interestingly, "selfie sticks" can extent beyond the "envelope of protection" and cause serious problems. Hence, Disney has banned them from the park.

The Calculator And The Tablet

"Casio released a calculator and Amazon released a tablet within 24 hours of each other this week. That alone is unremarkable. One costs $220, the other costs $50. That, too, wouldn’t raise many eyebrows, until you realize which is which..." (Via Gus Van Horn.)

Caption: "Left to right: Casio's S100 calculator, Amazon's 7-inch Fire tablet. WIRED"

Bicycling Against Traffic

Cecil Adams: "Wouldn't it be safer to ride your bicycle against traffic?".

Short answer, "Hell, no!"

Monday, September 28, 2015

Hsieh Forbes Column: Bad Science Reporting

My latest Forbes piece is now out: "How To Protect Yourself Against Bad Science Reporting".

I discuss some sources of error and bias that lead to bad science reporting, including:
1) Many publicly reported science results are still provisional
2) Beware of sloppy statistics
3) Beware of the bias towards positive dramatic results
This latest piece is relatively non-political. But it is uncompromisingly pro-bacon.

For more details, read the full text of "How To Protect Yourself Against Bad Science Reporting".

Spinning Synthetic Spider Silk

"Spinning Synthetic Spider Silk"

Apple's San Francisco Fonts

"The Secret of the Apple's New San Francisco Fonts"

Virtual Machines

"With Virtual Machines, Getting Hacked Doesn't Have To Be That Bad"

What Makes Good Action Scenes

"What Makes Action Scenes Suck in Films, and What Makes Them Good"

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Train Ride Across The USA

"Across the USA by train for just $213".

Strunk & White: Grammar Police

"Scenes From Our Unproduced Screenplay: Strunk & White: Grammar Police":
BEAT COP It’s over here, detectives. The body was found about an hour ago.

STRUNK Use the active voice, rookie.

Old Reviews Of The First iPhone

"What Did People Think About The First iPhone?"

Drones Build Rope Bridge

"Watch these drones build a rope bridge":
One of the big selling points of drones is that they can get to areas that aren't exactly safe or accessible by humans. That's why watching quadrocopters assembling a rope bridge that's sturdy enough for a person to walk across is so damned awesome -- it immediately calls to mind a real-world use scenario that probably all of us can relate to.

The video below was filmed at RTH Zurich Flying Machine Arena in Switzerland, and, according to the YouTube description, aside from the scaffolding on either side of the bridge, the structure is "entirely realized by flying machines." Every knot and braid in the 7.4 meter (just over 24 feet) bridge was tied by the UAVs using Dyneema rope. As Robohub tells it, the material has a low weight-to-strength ratio that makes it pretty great for aerial construction uses...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Speed Bumps And Appendicitis

Whether you hurt going over a speed bump is as reliable a clinical sign of appendicitis as many other clinical signs used in the ER.

Buzz On Time Travel

Buzz Aldrin: "I'd Travel to the Future". (Via Ryan S.)

Betting Markets Summarized

""A quick way to access what betting markets are telling us about the candidates". (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Copyright On "Happy Birthday" Ruled Invalid

"'Happy Birthday' Copyright Ruled to Be Invalid"

Monday, September 21, 2015

Folding Shotgun

"Forgotten Weapons: The Burgess Folding Shotgun -- A fascinating folding oddity from the 1890s". (Via H.R.)

The Big Lie Works

"The Persuasive Power of Repeated Falsehoods". (Via C.M.)

Brief History Of The Royal Family

CGP Grey: "Brief History Of The Royal Family"

Speed Of Light

"Light travels at around 300,000 km per second. Why not faster? Why not slower? A new theory inches us closer to an answer"

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Unrideable Bicycle

"Every person who attempted to ride this bike failed and ate concrete. The reason is mind blowing."

The title is a bit click-baity, but the 8 minute video was very interesting!  (Via JRW.)

Oxytocin And Dogs

WSJ: "The Hormone That Bonds Humans to Dogs"

Google Code

"Google Is 2 Billion Lines of Code -- And It's All in One Place"

IgNobel Prize

"2015 Ig Nobel Prize For Math: Just How Many Children Can One Man Sire?"

Modern Art Simplified

"Modern art, simplified". (Via Trey P.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

De-Bloating Apple

"Apple might finally let you delete those pre-installed apps you don't want".

Faster, please.

Deep Learning Chess Machine

"Deep Learning Machine Teaches Itself Chess in 72 Hours, Plays at International Master Level"

Bad Electoral Tech

"Hanging chad redux? US heading for 2000-style election catastrophe, report finds":
The Brennan Center study found several ways in which the machines were already ceasing to function properly. Some are simply crashing as their memory cards fail; others are recording inaccurate votes as the glue comes unstuck between the screen of the voting machine and the computer wiring behind it, putting the touch technology out of sync.

In a further alarming problem, the security protections on many of the older machines are inadequate, leaving them vulnerable to hacker attacks...

Alignment Chart

Alignment chart of the day.

NYT On Cryonics

NYT: "A Dying Young Woman's Hope in Cryonics and a Future"

Monday, September 14, 2015

Zero-G Whisky Glass

NYT: "A Glass for Enjoying a Sip of Whisky While Floating in Space"
The bottom of the bulbous glass, made of gold-plated stainless steel, contains a spiral ring for a reservoir of whisky to cling to. Through a phenomenon known as capillary action, first observed by Leonardo da Vinci, the whisky is drawn upward through a helical channel within the side of the glass to a mouthpiece at the rim for a space traveler to drink.

Unkosher Phones

Smartphones are corrupting ultra-Orthodox Jewish youth.

Cat-Like Typing Detector

"The Software That Detects When a Cat Is Messing with Your Keyboard"

Sociology of Microaggressions

"Where microaggressions really come from: A sociological account"

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Kids Launch Probe To Near-Space

"Seattle sisters, 10 and 8, launch own craft to edge of space - with cat pic and LEGO R2-D2 on board":
Two budding Seattle scientists are making a name for themselves after sending a homemade spacecraft 78,000 feet above the Earth's surface on Saturday. Sisters Rebecca and Kimberly Yeung are 10 and 8 years old.

In a video posted to YouTube by their father, Winston Yeung, the girls explain their experiment, which they called the Loki Lego Launcher - after their cat. A cutout photo of Loki hitched a ride on the craft, along with a LEGO figurine of R2-D2.

New Hominids

"Scientists have discovered a new species of human ancestor deep in a South African cave, adding a baffling new branch to the family tree". (Via Ari A.)

Shooting Down Drones

Bruce Schneier: "Is it OK to shoot down a drone over your backyard?"

Pockets and Technology

"Close at Hand: A Pocket History of Technology"

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Learning Chip

Alex Knapp: "This chip incrementally writes and erases, so it can learn and adapt at the hardware level"

Police Body Cam Success

"The police department in Birmingham, AL has seen a 71% drop in citizen complaints -- and a 38% drop in use of force by officers -- since deploying 319 body cameras two months ago."

Spotting A Liar

Better and worse ways spot a liar: "Forget body language or eye movements. There are much better ways to identify the deceitful"

Roanoke Update

"New Discoveries Could Explain What Happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Monday, September 07, 2015

Space Whisky

BBC: "Ardbeg reveals results of 'space whisky' experiment"

Detailed Essay On Saruman

Jeff LaSala: "The Unquiet Voice of Saruman"

Beautiful B&W Photos Of The Sea

Wired: "Capturing the Wonder of the Sea in Stunning Black and White"

My favorite was this:

The Reinvention of Black

"The Reinvention of Black: As the means of creating the color black have changed, so have the subjects it represents"

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Canadian English

BBC on Canadian English vs. American English.

I never knew that the Canadian word for "garbage disposal" was "garburator".

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Light Posting Notice

Admin note: Because of the holiday weekend, posting may be lighter than usual for the next few days.

Good Overview Of Bad Science

"Science Isn't Broken: It's just a hell of a lot harder than we give it credit for"

The Science of Melting Cheese

"The Science of Melting Cheese". (Via VAViper.)

The Science of a Messy Desk

"In Defense of My Messy Desk: Researchers from the Netherlands report a disordered environment can inspire people to set, and achieve, goals".

You don't want to be a science-denier.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Deep Learning Update

"Jeremy Howard: The wonderful and terrifying implications of computers that can learn"

Google Cars Vs. People

Google's Driverless Cars Run Into Problem: Cars With Drivers"
“The real problem is that the car is too safe,” said Donald Norman, director of the Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego, who studies autonomous vehicles. “They have to learn to be aggressive in the right amount, and the right amount depends on the culture.”

Market For Perfect Poop

CNN: "One man's poop is another's medicine".

Donors who qualify can earn $40 per sample of "perfect poop", to be used for fecal transplantation to treat patients with C. difficile infection:
To donate, Eric had to pass a 109-point clinical assessment. There is a laundry list of factors that would disqualify a donor: obesity, illicit drug use, antibiotic use, travel to regions with high risk of contracting diseases, even recent tattoos. His stools and blood also had to clear a battery of laboratory screenings to make sure he didn't have any infections. 

After all that screening, only 3% of prospective donors are healthy enough to give. "I had no idea," he says about his poop. "It turns out that it's fairly close to perfect."

And that, unlike most people's poop, makes Eric's worth money. OpenBiome pays its 22 active donors $40 per sample. They're encouraged to donate often, every day if they can. Eric has earned about $1,000.
The poop also has to have the acceptable texture, either types 3, 4, or 5, on the Bristol Stool Chart:

Google Explains New Logo

Google designers explain the new logo.