Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Colonizing Titan

"The idea of a human colony on Titan, a moon of Saturn, might sound crazy."

The Deadly Boston Molasses Disaster

"The Sticky Science Behind the Deadly Boston Molasses Disaster"

Diamond Batteries

"Diamonds turn nuclear waste into nuclear batteries". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column on Aneurysm Deaths In UK vs US

[Off topic] My latest Forbes piece is now out: "Patients With Aortic Aneurysms More Likely To Die In The UK Than The US".

I discuss a recent New England Journal of Medicine study which showed that if you have an abdominal aortic aneurysm (aka "AAA") in the US vs the UK, the UK patients have to wait longer for surgery, and the aneurysms don't get repaired until they are larger (and more at risk of rupture.)

The researchers conclude: "Rates of aneurysm rupture and aneurysm-related death were significantly higher in England than in the United States".

I also cover three natural follow-up questions:

1) Were US surgeons jeopardizing their patients by operating more aggressively than UK surgeons?

2) Did the UK nationalized health system contribute to the lower rates of appropriate surgery in the UK?

3) Will US government policies incentivize American surgeons towards more — or less — appropriate treatments?

For more details, read the full text of "Patients With Aortic Aneurysms More Likely To Die In The UK Than The US".

Google AI Secret Internal Language

"Google's AI translation tool seems to have invented its own secret internal language"

World Map Of Tourism Slogans

"A site called FamilyBreakFinder produced a world map with every country’s tourism slogan on it."

A few fun ones:
Netherlands: The original cool
Colombia: Colombia is magical realism
El Salvador: The 45 minute country
Slovenia: I feel sLOVEnia
Cape Verde: No stress
Spain: #spainindetail
Morocco: Much mor
Bhutan: Happiness is a place
India: Incredible !ndia
Via Jason Kottke, who also notes: "Some of these countries should ask their ad agencies for their money back."

(Click on image below to see full-size version)

Head Transplant Update

"Head Transplant Patient Will Use Virtual Reality to Smooth Transition to New Body".

Again, I wish they would call it a "body transplant", not a "head transplant".

Monday, November 28, 2016

Telling Kids About Santa

Now that Thanksgiving is over, we can move onto arguing over what to tell kids about Santa Claus!

The article kindly notes: "CAUTION: this article contains sensitive information concerning the existence of Santa Claus."

NASA EM Drive Skepticism

"NASA's EM-drive still a WTF-thruster: New paper generates more noise than experimental thrust".

New Semiconductor

"Indium Selenide Takes on the Mantle of the New Wonder Material". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Hiatus

Admin note: I won't be posting anything until after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Unconventional Magnets

"3D printers promise better, cheaper and more powerful magnets"

Chipotle Lawsuit

"Los Angeles Residents Sue Chipotle Because Their Burritos Contained More Than 300 Calories".

My favorite line from the article: "Better yet, stop paying attention to calorie counts at all and just pay attention to your body’s hunger and satiety signals."


"Crocodile Mummy Found Packed With Dozens of Smaller Crocodile Mummies"

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Programming Ethics

"Programmers are having a huge discussion about the unethical and illegal things they've been asked to do"

GM Mosquitoes

"Field trial of genetically modified mosquitoes gets approval in Florida"

Fork Vs. Sword

BBC: "Woman with plastic fork chased sword-wielding robber".

As they say, "Never bring a sword to a fork fight."
Or is it, "Never bring a fork to sword fight"?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Product 19

"The Long Death of Product 19, the Most Beloved Cereal You've Never Heard Of"

Coffee Lawsuit

"How A Lawsuit Over Hot Coffee Helped Erode the 7th Amendment"

Virtual Brothels

"Virtual Brothels: How Teledildonics Is Revolutionizing Sex Work"

Friday, November 18, 2016

Zeptosecond Physics

"Researchers at the Max Plank Institute in Germany finally measured minute changes within an atom on the zeptosecond scale.

A zeptosecond is 10^-21 second.

Photo Subjects 40 Years Later

"Photographer Tracks Down People He Photographed Nearly 40 Years Earlier For A Reshoot"

Polygraph Reliability

"Do Polygraph Tests Actually Work?"

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Calendar Synesthesia

What people with "calendar synesthesia" reveal about how our minds deal with time

Cultural History Of The Mirror

"The Mirror Effect: How the rise of mirrors in the fifteenth century shaped our idea of the individual"

Phones Sending Data To China

NYT: "Secret Back Door in Some U.S. Phones Sent Data to China, Analysts Say".

This mostly affects users of disposable/prepaid phones. But the exact scope of the problem is still unclear.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

DST Twin Paradox

"Riddle of the day: Samuel was born first, but his twin brother Ronan is older. How is that possible?"

Answer: Samuel was born at 1:39 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 6 and by the time Ronan was born 31 minutes later, #DaylightSavingsTime had ended for the year and the time fell back by an hour, making Ronan’s official time of birth 1:10 a.m. Samuel and Ronan were born at Cape Cod Hospital to parents Emily and Seth Peterson of West Barnstable.

Political Spam Warning

"The election is over but spammers aren't conceding".

Please be wary of politically-themed spam and/or malware vectors. Spammers are counting on heated emotions to lower your guard.

Self-Driving Scooter

"Self-Driving Scooter Helps Liberate Elderly and Disabled"

Monday, November 14, 2016

Real Life Trolley Problem

Real life trolley problem from Evansville, IN (via Marginal Revolution):
Deputies say the driver of a red Pontiac Grand Prix exited a curve and noticed the school bus stopped in the opposing lane when he veered into the front of the bus to avoid hitting the children crossing the street.

We're told there were about 35 students on the bus at the time of the crash. Thankfully, no one was reported hurt on the scene.

Facebook Buying Black Market Passwords

"How Facebook buying black market passwords keeps you safe"

Morphing Wings

"New 'Morphing' Wing Could Enable More Efficient Plane Flight". (Via H.R.)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Hacking Elections

Bruce Schneier: "American Elections Will Be Hacked"

Fastest Rubik Cube Robot

"Robot claims fastest Rubik's Cube solving time".

Time = 0.637 seconds (!) Click through to see video.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Monday, November 07, 2016

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Bad Betting Strategies

Even smart people do badly when they get to bet on a coin toss, where they know in advance it's biased to land 60% heads:
The paper invited 61 people, a combination of college-age students in finance and economics and some young professionals at finance firms (including 14 who worked for fund managers), to take a test. They were each given a stake of $25 and then asked to bet on a coin that would land heads 60% of the time. The prizes were real, although capped at $250.
Remarkably, 28% of the participants went bust, and the average payout was just $91. Only 21% of the participants reached the maximum. 18 of the 61 participants bet everything on one toss, while two-thirds gambled on tails at some stage in the experiment. Neither approach is in the least bit optimal.
More details: "Rational Decision-Making under Uncertainty: Observed Betting Patterns on a Biased Coin".

Mental Accounting Foibles

"This classic thought experiment explains the weird decisions we make about spending money".

6.25 Gigabytes From 3 Billion Miles Away

"How NASA Got Every Last Piece of Pluto Data Down From New Horizons"

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

New MacBook Pro Reviews

Ars Technica: "The $1,499 2016 MacBook Pro is an expensive MacBook Air on the inside".

Related iFixit: "New MacBook Pros are unsurprisingly difficult to repair and upgrade". (Links via H.R.)

Realistic Phishing E-mails

"Would You Click on These Fake Gmail Alerts?"

Some of these look pretty realistic. Another good reason to turn on 2-factor authentication.

Friendship Topologies

"When striking up new connections, people are either 'tight-knitters,' 'compartmentalizers,' or 'samplers,' according to Dartmouth sociology professor Janice McCabe"

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Ideal Cycling Speed

The ideal cycling speed is 8-9 mph, if your goal is to minimize inhaling pollution.

GPS Satellite Woes

"Swarm reveals why GPS satellites lose track over the equator between Africa and South America". (Via H.R.)

Probably more accurate than my other favorite theory:

Jesus Tomb

"Researchers open what they think may have been Jesus’ tomb"