Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fast Subs

"Bubble-Enclosed Submarines Could Go Really, Really Fast". (Via H.R.)

Detecting "Mechanical Doping" in Bike Races

"Tour de France Goes High Tech to Battle Mechanical Cheating"

Chemistry Of Nitro Beverages

"'Nitro' coffees and beers are the coolest things to sip this summer. What makes them so creamy?"

tldr; Nitrogen creates smaller bubbles than carbon dioxide, and doesn't produce extra acid.

Mixed Political Marriages

"How Many Republicans Marry Democrats?"

Here's an excerpt of the findings:
First, 30 percent of married households contain a mismatched partisan pair. A third of those are Democrats married to Republicans. The others are partisans married to independents. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are twice as many Democratic-Republican pairs in which the male partner, rather than the female partner, is the Republican.

Second, 55 percent of married couples are Democratic-only or Republican-only, which raises a question: Is that a big number or a small number? In other words, is there more or less partisan intermarriage than we should expect? Here are two ways we try to answer that. We can compare interparty marriages to interracial marriages. Using voter registration data, we can do this in three states, Florida, Louisiana and North Carolina, where public voter files list everyone by their party affiliation and their racial identity. In those states, 11 percent of married couples are in Democratic-Republican households. In comparison, only 6 percent of married couples are in any kind of interracial household. At least in these states, there’s about twice as much interparty marriage as interracial marriage...
Lots more interesting information in the full article, such as effect of age, geography, etc., on the rates of such mixed marriages.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


"How a robot lawyer overturned 160,000 parking tickets"

A Reddit Guide for Parents

"A Reddit Guide for Parents"

GPS Tracker Fail

Washington Post: DC Court attaches GPS ankle tracker on man with artificial leg. Man switches legs and commits murder.

Outdated Tech

"10 Organizations That Use Horribly Outdated Tech"

Hmmm, I wonder what common element unites 9 of these 10 organizations?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Transient Smartphone Blindness

The New England Journal Of Medicine recently reported on a couple of cases of "transient smartphone blindness".

Short version: Some patients were coming to their doctors after recurrent episodes of temporary loss of vision at night, only affecting one eye.  The patients underwent testing (including expensive MRI scans), and in one case started on medication for presumed blood vessel issue.

But the transient blindness was caused by the fact that the patients were reading their smartphones at night with one eye. Hence, the reading eye was exposed to light whereas the other eye remained adapted to the dark. When they shut off their phones, the phone-reading eye was relatively "blind" compared to the other dark-adapted eye and needed a few minutes to recover.

The doctors even ran an eye sensitivity experiment. 

From the article:
When the patients were seen in our neuro-ophthalmic clinic, detailed history taking revealed that symptoms occurred only after several minutes of viewing a smartphone screen, in the dark, while lying in bed (before going to sleep in the first case and after waking in the second). Both patients were asked to experiment and record their symptoms. They reported that the symptoms were always in the eye contralateral to the side on which the patient was lying.

We hypothesized that the symptoms were due to differential bleaching of photopigment, with the viewing eye becoming light-adapted while the eye blocked by the pillow was becoming dark-adapted. Subsequently, with both eyes uncovered in the dark, the light-adapted eye was perceived to be “blind.” The discrepancy lasted several minutes, reflecting the time course of scotopic recovery after a bleach...

Although most people view screens binocularly, people frequently use smartphones while lying down, when one eye can be inadvertently covered. Smartphones are now used nearly around the clock, and manufacturers are producing screens with increased brightness to offset background ambient luminance and thereby allow easy reading. Hence, presentations such as we describe are likely to become more frequent. Our cases show that detailed history taking and an understanding of retinal physiology can reassure both patient and doctor and can avoid unnecessary anxiety and costly investigations.

Birth Control App

NYT: "Birth Control via App Finds Footing Under Political Radar"

Robot Pizzeria

"Inside Silicon Valley’s Robot Pizzeria". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: Why I Don't Trust Government-Backed 'Gun Violence' Research

[Off topic] My latest Forbes piece is now out: "Why I Don't Trust Government-Backed 'Gun Violence' Research".

I discuss the anti-gun bias at the federal government Centers For Disease Control (CDC) and why we should be suspicious of calls for more CDC-backed research into "gun violence".

What Happens If NYC Gets Hacked

"The Big Hack": A fictional (but supposedly realistic) account of a cyberattack on New York City.

Revolving Restaurants

"The History of Revolving Restaurants"

Frozen Earth

"If the sun goes out, how long till the earth freezes?"

iPhone 7 Rumors

"Little change expected with iPhone 7. Has finally Apple plateaued?"

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Too Cute Robots

WSJ: "Too Cute for Their Own Good, Robots Get Self-Defense Instincts"

When Austin Banned Uber/Lyft

"In the first three weeks after Uber and Lyft left Austin, DWI arrests were up 7.5 percent over the same time last year."

The Neuroscience Of Musical Chills

"What Happens in the Brain When Music Causes Chills?"
The researchers found that the brains of individuals who occasionally feel a chill while listening to music were wired differently than the control subjects. They had more nerve fibers connecting auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes sound, to their anterior insular cortex, a region involved in processing feelings. The auditory cortex also had strong links to parts of the brain that may monitor emotions.

So why do so many get the chills when the music is just right? “The chills is a sensation we get when we’re cold. It doesn’t really make sense that your hair would stand on end, or that you’d get these goosebumps in response to music,” Matthew Sachs, an author of the paper, tells Sample. “We think that the connectivity between the auditory cortex and these other regions is allowing music to have that profound emotional response in these people. It’s very hard to know whether or not this is learned over time, or whether these people naturally had more fibers. All we can say is there are differences that might explain the behavior we see.

Big Plane

"Why Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is building the world’s largest airplane":
[T]his very, very big plane is designed with beyond-Earth ambitions: to carry a rocket tethered to its belly to an altitude of about 35,000 feet. Then, once aloft, the rocket would drop, fire its engines and “air-launch” to orbit...

The idea is to open up access to low-Earth orbit, making the couple-hundred-mile trips above Earth’s surface a routine, Amtrak-like commute, Chuck Beames, the president of Allen’s Vulcan Aerospace, said during a tour of the facility with a small group of reporters last week.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Flying Cars?

"Can Google's Larry Page make flying cars a reality?"

Apple Opens Up

"Apple decided to open up a number of core services — Maps, Siri, and iMessage — that for a long time have been closed off."

Language Extinction

"Will the Internet Make Most Languages Go Extinct?"

Google Vs. Apple Maps

Super-detailed comparison of Google Maps vs. Apple Maps.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Doctors And Handwashing

"What is doctors' compliance rate for hand hygiene procedures?"

As Tyler Cowen says:
According to a new study, when they know they are being watched it is 57 percent.

When they don’t know they are being watched, it is 22 percent.

What I find shocking is not the difference, which fits readily into the economic way of thinking.  It is that direct observation of doctors still does not get the rate above 57 percent.

Supersonic Ban

WSJ: "Drop the Supersonic Aircraft Ban, Watch Business Boom"

Driverless Cars And The Law

"When the Trial Lawyers Come for the Robot Cars"

Lassoed Thief

"Man Lassoed Suspected Thief at Eagle Point Walmart". 

The hero seems like a nice, unassuming guy!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

TED Talk Parody

"This Parody Of Every TED Talk Ever Is Absolutely Perfect". (Via Digg):

Tetris History

"The Incredibly Weird Story Behind Tetris"

Exoskeletons For The Elderly

"The Elderly May Toss Their Walkers for This Robotic Suit"


"FarmBot is an open-source CNC farming machine". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Parrot As Murder Witness?

"Would A Parrot Be A Reliable Murder Witness?"
Mr Duram’s mother, Lillian, made a video recording of the bird as he stands on his cage, shouting in a man’s voice: “Don’t f-cking shoot!” The video was made after the murder, so the family believes the parrot is repeating Mr Duram’s last words in his own voice. For this reason, Mr Duram’s family is frustrated that police haven’t considered using the parrot as a material witness to the crime.

Coins In Fountains

"What Happens to the Coins People Toss Into Fountains?"


"The Metalens Means Cameras Everywhere"

New Element Names

"The Four Newest Elements Now Have Names".

113 = nihonium
115 = moscovium
117 = tennessine
118 = oganesson

Monday, June 06, 2016

Sharks Have Distinct Personalities

"Sharks Have Distinct Personalities, New Study Finds"

Realistic Minecraft

"Minecraft in real life would be terrifying":

AI Rights

"Artificial intelligence should be protected by human rights, says Oxford mathematician"

Artificial Leaf

"How an Artificial Leaf Could One Day Power Your Car"

Sunday, June 05, 2016

First Strikes In Space

"MAD will not work in outer space; pre-emptive strikes are nigh-guaranteed"

MSG Got A Bad Rap

"How MSG Got A Bad Rap: Flawed Science And Xenophobia"

Ultrasonic Pacemaker

"An Ultrasonic Implant for Fighting Heart Failure". (Via H.R.)

Facial Recognition Update

"Facial Recognition Tech Will Soon End Your Anonymity in Public"

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Bad Waiter

"The Worst Waiter in History"

Music and Fourier

"Digital Music Couldn't Exist Without the Fourier Transform". (Via H.R.)

Space Junk

"Space Junk Orbiting Our Planet Has Become a Big Mess":
NASA estimates that more than 100 million man-made objects the size of a grain of salt are orbiting the planet. About 500,000 objects that are roughly the size of a marble are also believed to be out there, as well as 23,000 objects the size of a softball or larger.

The amount of such fragments has expanded exponentially since the dawn of space exploration in the early 1960s. It has primarily resulted from discarded rocket parts and satellites, as well as from smash-ups between chunks space junk over the years — much of the debris is made up of bits of other debris. This phenomenon is known as the Kessler Syndrome, named for NASA scientist Donald Kessler, who described the effect in 1978.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Detecting Consciousness

"Will you wake from a vegetative state? New test could tell":
A new application of a common clinical test, the positron emission tomography (PET) scan, seems to be able to differentiate between minimally conscious brains and those in a vegetative state...

After the PET scans were complete, the researchers calculated how much glucose was being consumed by the most active hemisphere of the patients’ brains relative to the healthy controls. Patients in a state of unresponsive wakefulness had 38% as much metabolic activity as the controls, minimally conscious patients showed 58% as much activity, and people being roused back to consciousness (either from sleep or anesthesia), had 63% of the normal metabolic activity.

The decision to “pull the plug” and remove a loved one from life support is never simple, but the choice could easier if we understood which patients might wake up in time. Although it’s often hard for doctors and family to pinpoint important nuances that separate a lighter state of unconsciousness from a deeper one, the PET scan might help us fill in the gaps.

The PET scan data could correctly distinguish between minimal consciousness and severe unresponsive wakefulness with 89% accuracy, the team reports today in Current Biology...

Violent Medieval Rabbits

"Why Are There Violent Rabbits In The Margins Of Medieval Manuscripts?"

Changing SF Demographics

"Quantifying the Changing Face of San Francisco"