Monday, October 16, 2017

Three-Body Orbit Solutions

"Scientists discover more than 600 new periodic orbits of the famous three-body problem":
In 1890, Poincare determined that trajectories of three-body systems are commonly non-periodic, i.e. not repeating. This can explain why it is so hard to obtain the periodic orbits of three-body systems. In the 300 years since the three-body problem was first recognized, only three families of periodic orbits had been found. In 2013, Suvakov and Dmitrasinovic [Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 114301 (2013)] made a breakthrough, finding 13 new distinct periodic orbits belonging to 11 new families of the Newtonian planar three-body problem with equal mass and zero angular momentum.

Now, two scientists, XiaoMing Li and ShiJun Liao at Shanghai Jiaotong University, China, have successfully determined 695 families of periodic orbits of the same Newtonian planar three-body system using the TH-2 supercomputer at Guangzhou, China. Their results have been published in SCIENCE CHINA-Physics Mechanics & Astronomy...

These 695 periodic orbits include the well-known figure-eight family found by Moore in 1993, the 11 families found by Suvakov and Dmitrasinovic in 2013, and more than 600 new families reported for the first time.

UBI And Tyranny

"Universal Basic Income and the Threat of Tyranny"

Princess Bride Sword Fight

"How The Princess Bride Built Film's Most Beloved Sword Fight"

Friday, October 13, 2017

Hottest Chip

"We ate the world's spiciest chip, cried for 45 minutes, then wrote this article about it" (via R.S.):
[T]he Austin, Texas based tortilla chip company Paqui (rhymes with hockey) has what can only be described as a delicious form of torture in store for you. Their Carolina Reaper Madness Tortilla Chip is a savory mix of not one, but two of the world’s hottest peppers. It combines the aforementioned ghost pepper with the even hotter variety for which the chip gets its name; the Carolina Reaper. Chipotle pepper powder (which is essentially a dried and aged jalapeno pepper) is added for additional flavor. So for that very brief moment before the heat actually kicks in, your torture tortilla chip is pretty tasty. The company claims that it is the hottest tortilla chip in the world.

Names Of Things

"How it smells after it rains, the cardboard sleeve around your coffee cup and other things you didn’t know had names."

Software Apocalypse

"The Coming Software Apocalypse"

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Online Dating And Society

"First Evidence That Online Dating Is Changing the Nature of Society".

Specifically, it could be increasing the rates of inter-racial marriage. And possibly increasing the strength of marriages.

AI Magic Tricks

"How Artificial Intelligence Is Improving Magic Tricks"

Learn AI With Google Teachable Machine

"Google's new browser experiment lets you learn about basic AI"

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Missing Matter Found

"Half the universe's missing matter has just been finally found".

It was hiding between the seat cushions.

Last Jedi Trailer

The new trailer for "The Last Jedi"!

Glue For Wounds

"Injectable glue heals wounds in seconds". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Monday, October 09, 2017

It's Hook-And-Loop

Video: "Don't Say Velcro". (Via S.L.)

The Horror Created By Early X-Rays

"The Existential Horror Created by the First X-Ray Images". (Via VA Viper.)

Wiffle Ball Physics

"The Contentious Physics of Wiffle Ball". (Via VA Viper.)

Friday, October 06, 2017

Are Replicants Human?

"Are Blade Runner's Replicants 'Human'? Descartes and Locke Have Some Thoughts"

AI Recognition Of Concealed Faces

"AI Will Soon Identify Protesters With Their Faces Partly Concealed":
[The deep learning system] can identify an individual even when part of their face is obscured. The system was able to correctly identify a person concealed by a scarf 67 percent of the time when they were photographed against a "complex" background, which better resembles real-world conditions...

The algorithm can still identify those angles even when part of a person's mug is obscured, by disguises including caps, scarves, and glasses... The research has troubling implications for protestors and other dissidents, who often work to make sure they aren't ID'd at protests and other demonstrations by covering their faces with scarves or by wearing sunglasses. "To be honest when I was trying to come up with this method, I was just trying to focus on criminals," Amarjot Singh, one of the researchers behind the paper and a Ph.D student at Cambridge University [said].

Picking Good Passwords

WSJ: "If ‘P@$$w0rd1’ Is So Simple to Figure Out, Then What Should You Do?"

That's why I just use "12345" for all my passwords.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Anne Frank Cold Case

"Ex-FBI agent opens cold case review into who betrayed Anne Frank"

No Love In That Granola

FDA warns bakery not to list "Love" as one of the ingredients in their granola.

Direct link to FDA letter:
Your Nashoba Granola label lists ingredient "Love". Ingredients required to be declared on the label or labeling of food must be listed by their common or usual name [21 CFR 101.4(a)(1). "Love" is not a common or usual name of an ingredient, and is considered to be intervening material because it is not part of the common or usual name of the ingredient.


Image of the day:

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Saudi King And Yoda

Not-an-Onion story: "Saudi Arabia accidentally prints textbook showing Yoda sitting next to the king":
The Saudi government is scrambling to withdraw a history textbook that accidentally included a doctored photograph of King Faisal sitting next to the little green Star Wars character.  

The picture was supposed to illustrate a section on the King’s rule but somehow the book’s editors used a version that showed Yoda perched next to the monarch as he signed the UN charter.

“The Ministry of Education regrets the inadvertent error,” said Ahmed al-Eissa, the Saudi education minister.
Of course, there's a response from The Onion

Navy Returns to Compasses and Pencils

NYT: "Navy Returns to Compasses and Pencils to Help Avoid Collisions at Sea"

The Monty Hall Problem Controversy

"The Time Everyone 'Corrected' the World's Smartest Woman".

She was right, but she took a lot of crap from people who didn't agree. 

Monday, October 02, 2017

Trash In Volcanoes

"This Is Why We Can't Throw All Our Trash Into Volcanoes".

Me, before reading the article: Never thought about throwing trash into a volcano.

Me, after reading the article: I don't care what the science says, now I totally want to throw some trash into a volcano!

Reality Behind Retro Ads

"What You Actually Got From Those Back-of-Magazine Ads"

Ars Technica On iPhone 8

Ars Technica reviews the iPhone 8 and 8S.

Friday, September 29, 2017


"Giant Rat That Fell From Sky Is New Species"

AI Deity

"Anthony Levandowski wants to create an AI god".

Related story from Wired.

Ars Technica Reviews High Sierra

Ars Technica on High Sierra Mac OS. (Via H.R.)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

How To Identify That Light In The Sky

I'm disturbed by the lack of "Aliens" in this NASA flowchart.

#GottaBeACoverUp (Via H.R.)

Private NYC Pay Bathrooms

"Reserve private bathrooms across NYC with a new app".

From the article, "The app is reminiscent of George Costanza's fictional iToilet, though the founders say that wasn't part of their inspiration." (Via Tyler Cowen.)

Quants On Wall Street Update

WSJ: "The Quants Run Wall Street Now"

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hsieh Forbes Column: "Pagers, AI, And Google"

My latest Forbes piece is out: "Pagers, AI, And Google: 3 Tales Of Technology And Medicine".

I discuss how past, current, and future technologies can make health care more complicated in interesting (and sometimes) unpredictable ways.

'Firefly' At 15

"Firefly at 15: How a Canceled Show Became a Cult Favorite". (Via H.R.)

Robots Building Molecules

"Scientists create world’s first ‘molecular robot’ capable of building molecules". (Via H.R.)

Octopus City

Scientists have found an octopus city.

Monday, September 25, 2017

USAF Missileers

You can't become a nuclear missile launch officer "if you've been hypnotized even once in your life".

Excellent article including this:
"Our mission every day is to provide deterrence," offers [USAF Captain Amber] Moore. "Every day we try to make our enemies ask themselves the question, Does the benefit of attacking the U.S. outweigh the cost? Because they know that we're always prepared to fire back." Readiness is imperative. A missileer's day-to-day is a lot of maintenance, a lot of making sure each ICBM is in tip-top shape, able to sail over the arctic circle instantaneously. 
The article also notes, "It's all very sensical and comforting until you remember that the order to launch a nuclear missile can only come from the President of the United States, a man who should ostensibly be held to PRP [Personnel Reliability Program] standards...but seemingly is not."

I would say that the American people had ample opportunity to incorporate this concern into their votes and each voter made their own choice on this matter.

Certainly, candidate Clinton and multiple pundits raised the issue of command fitness for the US nuclear arsenal on multiple occasions -- so it's not like voters were never informed of this prior to casting their votes.

(Note: Link was bad, now fixed!) 

Flexible Cooling

"New Flexible Cooling Device Could Provide Efficient Cooling for Mobile Electronics". (Via H.R.)

The Language of the Dark Web

"The Language of the Dark Web"

Friday, September 22, 2017

Attempting An iPhone In 1957

Building an iPhone X equivalent in 1957 would have cost $150 trillion in today's dollars. And it would have been massive:
Consider the 256 GB memory iPhone X: Implemented in vacuum tubes in 1957, the transistors in an iPhoneX alone would have:
  • cost 150 trillion of today's dollars: one and a half times today's global annual product
  • taken up a hundred-story square building 300 meters high, and 3 kilometers long and wide
  • drawn 150 terawatts of power—30 times the world's current generating capacity

Bad Star Trek Fight Move

"How the 'Star Trek' Punch Became the Worst Fight Move on TV"

Algorithms Don't Care

"Amazon Is Suggesting 'Frequently Bought Together' Items That Can Make a Bomb".

Algorithms don't care what you'll do with your purchases.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Chocolate Bar Labels

"How to Read a Chocolate Bar Label to Buy the Best Chocolate"

Topology And The Brain

"Understanding the brain using topology: the Blue Brain project"

Ars Technica Reviews iOS 11

Ars Technica: "iOS 11, thoroughly reviewed". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Chilling FOIA Requests

ABC News: "Governments turn tables by suing public records requesters".

As one person noted, "They are going to great lengths to protect themselves and their own mismanagement. This is retaliation."

Museum Twitter War

Museum Twitter war! :-)

Robo-Reporter Update

"The Washington Post's robot reporter has published 850 articles in the past year"

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Monday, September 18, 2017

New Form Of Water

"Gel-like ice is the lightest form of water ever discovered"

Tolkien Reads The Hobbit

"JRR Tolkien reads from The Hobbit":
In 1952, a friend of J.R.R. Tolkien showed him a tape recorder, which the author had never seen before. Delighted, Tolkien sat for his friend and read from The Hobbit for 30 minutes “in this one incredible take”. The audio is split between these two videos (with visuals and music added later)...

Given the circumstances, the clarity of this recording is pretty remarkable. Give it a listen for at least the first two minutes…hearing Tolkien do Smeagol/Gollum’s voice is really cool.
Audio part 1

Audio part 2

AI Password Cracking

"Artificial intelligence just made guessing your password a whole lot easier"

Friday, September 15, 2017

How to Talk Minnesotan

"How to Talk Minnesotan: The Power of the Negative"
This short video, taken from a longer documentary on How to Talk Minnesotan, demonstrates how a Minnesotan speaker uses negative words (e.g. bad, not, can’t, worse) to express positive feelings. For example, a translation of the phrase “I’m so excited, I can’t believe it!!” into Minnesotan yields:
A guy could almost be happy today if he wasn’t careful.

Face ID Quick Disable

"Face ID will have a quick-disable feature and work with most sunglasses".

According to Apple senior VP of software engineering Craig Federighi, "If you grip the buttons on both sides of the phone when you hand it over, it will temporarily disable FaceID".

Communicating With Comatose Patients

"How science found a way to help coma patients communicate"

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Drone Delivery Of Medical Samples

STAT news: "A drone flew dozens of blood samples 161 miles -- and kept them viable"

Johns Hopkins researchers say they’ve set a new record by flying a medical drone more than 160 miles across the Arizona desert with human blood samples safely in tow. In a new report, the pathologists say they were able to maintain the right temperature to keep the 84 samples viable for laboratory analysis once the drone arrived. The researchers ran common lab tests on those samples and comparison samples that weren’t flown by drone, and all of them showed similar results. Scientists say that adds to the evidence that in the future, medical drones could be a safe, efficient way to ferry samples between rural regions and far-off labs.

Here's a direct link to the academic article, "Drone Transport of Chemistry and Hematology Samples Over Long Distances" (American Journal of Clinical Pathology, 5 Sep 2017).

We Like Blue

"Why Blue Is the World’s Favorite Color"

Apple FaceID And The Law

"Can Cops Force You to Unlock Your Phone With Your Face?"

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

iPhone Privacy

"It's about to get tougher for cops, border agents to get at your iPhone's data". (Via T.V.)

Facial Recognition Update

"What machines can tell from your face".

Related: "Ever better and cheaper, face-recognition technology is spreading"

Apple AI Chip

"Everything you need to know about Apple's AI chip"

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New Vonnegut

"The Atlantic has just put up a previously unpublished short story by Kurt Vonnegut, The Drone King. It’s about bees."

Sandwich Family Tree

"The Definitive Sandwich Family Tree"

Bouncing Photons

"Experiment reveals evidence for a previously unseen behaviour of light"

Monday, September 11, 2017

Random Number Generator Update

"A True Random-Number Generator Built From Carbon Nanotubes":
Those factors hinged on a phenomenon thought to be truly random—fluctuations in thermal noise, which is a type of atomic jitter intrinsic to circuits. 

Flag Of Mars

"The New (and Unofficial)Flag of Mars"

AI Gaydar

"New AI can guess whether you're gay or straight from a photograph"

Friday, September 08, 2017

Ruby Chocolate

"Barry Callebaut AG, the world’s largest cocoa processor, has come up with the first new natural color for chocolate since Nestle SA started making bars of white chocolate more than 80 years ago. While it has a pinkish hue and a fruity flavor, the Zurich-based company prefers to refer to it as 'ruby chocolate.'"

The beans used to make ruby chocolate come from Ivory Coast, Ecuador and Brazil and the unusual color comes from the powder extracted during processing, De Saint-Affrique said. No berries or colors are added. While other companies including Cargill Inc. already produce red cocoa powder, this is the first time natural reddish chocolate is produced.

High-Tech Modular Home

"This tiny modular home is 325 square feet of IoT heaven"

Medical AI and Watson

"IBM pitched its Watson supercomputer as a revolution in cancer care. It’s nowhere close"

Thursday, September 07, 2017

20 Years Difference

20 years difference. (Via Dave Jilk.)

Radiologists Nervous About AI

NPR: "Scanning The Future, Radiologists See Their Jobs At Risk".

Personally, I predict that some radiologists (and their practices) will thrive, whereas others will disappear -- depending on whether and how they embrace AI.

It's going to be super-interesting to see how this all shakes out, both as a radiologist and a prospective patient.

Congressional Vote On Self-Driving Cars

"House to vote on self-driving car legislation next week":
The U.S. House of Representatives will vote Wednesday on a sweeping proposal to speed the deployment of self-driving cars without human controls and bar states from blocking autonomous vehicles, congressional aides said.

The bill, which was passed unanimously by a House panel in July, would allow automakers to obtain exemptions to deploy up to 25,000 vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards in the first year, a cap that would rise to 100,000 vehicles annually over three years.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Cat Physics

"How Can a Cat Survive a High-Rise Fall? Physics!"
But here's the weird part: Cats falling from super high floors can survive. A RadioLab episode on this falling cat issue states that cats falling between five and nine stories are the ones most likely to be injured. Fall from a higher story, though, and your odds of survival are better...

Free Classic Literature

"How to access free and legal copies of English and American classic literature online"


"Want a cold beer? Just pop it in this insane microwave". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Obsolete Dictionary Words

"The complex process that dictionaries use to decide which words are obsolete"

Unbreakable Rubber Bands

"Unbreakable Rubber Bands That Are 200 Times Stronger Than Steel Are Coming Soon". (Via H.R.)

"Skunk In The Outfield" Baseball Play

"'Skunk in the outfield': How the most epic trick play in history broke baseball"

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Holiday Weekend Hiatus

Admin note: I'll be taking a short hiatus for the US Labor Day weekend. Posts will resume on Tuesday, September 5.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Crypto Gene Analysis

"Cryptographers and Geneticists Unite to Analyze Genomes They Can't See"

Tomato Fight

Images from La Tomatina, the world's largest annual tomato fight.

One example, lots more at the link:

The History of Tater Tots

"The Tater Tot Is American Ingenuity at Its Finest"

Thursday, August 31, 2017


"Burger King launches WhopperCoin crypto-cash in Russia".

I think I'll take a pass on this one.

Rocket Safety Update

"Here Is the Safety Trick That Will Help SpaceX Fly You to the Moon". (Via H.R.)

Fake Male Startup Co-Founder

"These Women Entrepreneurs Created A Fake Male Cofounder To Dodge Startup Sexism":
That’s when Gazin and Dwyer introduced a third cofounder: Keith Mann, an aptly named fictional character who could communicate with outsiders over email.

“It was like night and day,” says Dwyer. “It would take me days to get a response, but Keith could not only get a response and a status update, but also be asked if he wanted anything else or if there was anything else that Keith needed help with.”
 It's too bad that the supposedly hip and "enlightened" world of start-ups is still as sexist as it is.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hsieh Forbes Column: Changing Consent Rules For Organ Donation

My latest Forbes piece is now up: "Should The Government Require Your Consent To Be An Organ Donor?"

I discuss some controversial proposed changes to loosen the consent process for organ donation, including the pros and cons.  There are a lot of passionate advocates on both sides of this debate, and I tried my best to treat each position as fairly as possible (even though I do favor one side).

The Far Future

"Infographic of the fascinating timeline of the far future"

Robocall Hell

"Junk call nightmare flooded woman with hundreds of bizarre phone calls a day". (Via H.R.)

Related from NPR Planet Money podcast: "Robocall Invasion".

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Cooking With Lava

"Here's How To Actually Cook Food Over Lava". (Via Alex Knapp.)

No Anonymous Online Comments In China

"China to Ban Anonymous Online Comments, Blacklist Users"

How Google Broke The Internet In Japan

"Google takes blame for error that crashed the Net in Japan"

Monday, August 28, 2017

Accidental Medical Discoveries

"Accidental Discoveries that Revolutionized Medicine"

Ancient Math Table

"Mathematical secrets of ancient tablet unlocked after nearly a century of study":
The team from the University of New South Wales in Sydney believe that the four columns and 15 rows of cuneiform – wedge shaped indentations made in the wet clay – represent the world’s oldest and most accurate working trigonometric table, a working tool which could have been used in surveying, and in calculating how to construct temples, palaces and pyramids.

Fake Patients

"How retirees can make money as fake hospital patients".

I totally want this job when retire from the practice of medicine.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Flag Pillows

Gareth Soye: "Hmmmmmm"

Friday, August 25, 2017

Eclipse Vs. Porn

Heh: During the eclipse, porn traffic dropped 54% in WY, 42% in NE, and 39% in OR.

Designer Baby Update

Tyler Cowen: "The Drive for Perfect Children Gets a Little Scary".

In particular, "Mothers want extraversion over conscientiousness or intelligence for their children", at least within the sample studied.

QR In China

"16 Ways QR Codes are Being Used in China". (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Phone Hijacking Security Flaw

NYT: "Identity Thieves Hijack Cellphone Accounts to Go After Virtual Currency"

Better iPhone Security

"The Next iOS Update Has a Feature to Prevent Cops From Searching Your iPhone":
In the new iOS 11, if you quickly tap your home button five times, the phone reverts to a password-only screen lock (with an option to dial 911 if needed). Reverting to a password-only mode offers an extra layer of privacy protection from a police officer, or an abusive partner, or anyone else who may force or coerce a person into touching their iPhone to unlock it...

The new feature should be of particular interest to protesters or anyone else who would rather the police not read all their contacts and text messages. Currently, you have to navigate through settings and multiple screens to change how your phone is secured—which is difficult to do rapidly if you sense an impending arrest. With the update, if you think you might get approached by law enforcement, you can just reach into your pocket and tap the button five times.
This feature helps in jurisdictions where the police are allowed to compel you to touch a finger to the phone, but not allowed to compel you to disclose a password/passcode.

Pao On Sexism In Silicon Valley

Ellen Pao: "This Is How Sexism Works in Silicon Valley"

Assuming her account is accurate, here are my initial reactions:

1) She wasn't treated well by her business partners. Certainly, the male physician partners in my own medical practice would not treat a female partner this way.

2) She's obviously giving her version of events, so take that for what it's worth.

3) I guess some folks in the SF Bay area don't necessarily live up to the region's reputation of "progressive", we-value-tolerance-and-diversity culture.

4) Pao later became CEO of Reddit. But had to resign after she made some very unpopular decisions, including firing a much beloved (female) senior staff member. And thus sparking a huge internal revolt. Pao's tenure at Reddit doesn't have any bearing on the merits of her claim about her lawsuit. But it does show how thing turned out when she was given top authority in an organization.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

EFF On Free Speech

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) takes a strong stance in support of free speech, even for odious groups:
[T]he Electronic Frontier Foundation is warning of the dangers of censoring speech, no matter how horrendous or offensive.

'All fair-minded people must stand against the hateful violence and aggression that seems to be growing across our country,' the San Francisco-based online advocacy group said in a blog post Thursday. 'But we must also recognize that on the Internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others, including people whose opinions we agree with.'
Good for them!

Drug Drones

Drug cartels using heavy-duty industrial drones to smuggle drugs across the border.

Whiskey Better WIth Water

"Chemists Say You Should Add A Little Water To Your Whiskey. Here's Why"

Monday, August 21, 2017

Friday, August 18, 2017

Humans Love Blankets

"Why Do We Sleep Under Blankets, Even on the Hottest Nights?"

Campus Postmodernism

Scientific American: "The Unfortunate Fallout of Campus Postmodernism".

Take-home point: "If you teach students to be warriors against all power asymmetries, don't be surprised when they turn on their professors and administrators."

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Terminator Conundrum

"Earlier this month, the Russian weapons manufacturer Kalashnikov Group made a low-key announcement with frightening implications. The company revealed it had developed a range of combat robots that are fully automated and used artificial intelligence to identify targets and make independent decisions..."

"Known informally inside the corridors of the Pentagon as 'the Terminator conundrum,' the question being asked is whether stifling the development of these types of weapons would actually allow other less ethically minded countries to leap ahead? Or is it a greater danger to ultimately allow machines the ability to make life or death decisions?"

Secret Amazon Brands

"Amazon owns a whole collection of secret brands"

Old Fruitcake

"100-Year-Old Fruitcake Found in Antarctica Is 'Almost' Edible"

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Historical Reactions To Solar Eclipses

"A history of solar eclipses and bizarre responses to them"

Goldfish and Alcohol

"During the winter, goldfish and their relatives can have a blood-alcohol concentration beyond the legal limit for drink driving."

Dr. Smartphone

"The airplane had just taken off when one of the passengers lost consciousness."
Eric Topol pulled his smartphone out of his pocket and immediately performed an electrocardiogram (EKG) on the passenger. He used the device to do an ultrasound scan of the man's heart and measured oxygen levels in his blood. He was then able to give the all-clear and the plane could continue its journey. The man had lost consciousness merely due to a temporarily slowed heart rhythm.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Recipe Videos In The Style Of Famous Directors

"Hilarious recipe videos in the style of famous directors"

My favorite: "What if Tarantino made Spaghetti & Meatballs?"

Free Old Music

"Philly company digitizes 25,000 old records and they're free to download"

Russian Casino Hacker

"Meet Alex, the Russian Casino Hacker Who Makes Millions Targeting Slot Machines":
Alex defends his enterprise as cunning but by no means criminal. “We, in fact, do not meddle with the machines — there is no actual hacking taking place,” he says. “My agents are just gamers, like the rest of them. Only they are capable of making better predictions in their betting. Yes, that capability is gained through my technology, it’s true. But why should it be against the law? On the basic level, it’s like using a calculator for counting faster and more accurately, rather than relying on one’s natural capacity.”

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eclipses Feel Weird

"A Total Solar Eclipse Feels Really, Really Weird"

Parenting As Viewed Through Cartoons

"Changing Parenting Attitudes, as Seen Through New Yorker Cartoons"

Malicious Code In DNA

"In a mind-boggling world first, a team of biologists and security researchers have successfully infected a computer with a malicious program coded into a strand of DNA"

Friday, August 11, 2017

Bad Password Rules

"The Guy Who Invented Those Annoying Password Rules Now Regrets Wasting Your Time"

Underwater Post Office

"Whale Mail Is the New Snail Mail at the World’s First Underwater Post Office"

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Comeuppance In SF

"Rich SF residents get a shock: Someone bought their street"

AI-Generated Beer Names

"Artificial intelligence proves that craft beer names are total nonsense"

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebook

"Browse the British Library's online copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s 570-page notebook"

Fortune Cookie Math

"We Analyzed 1,000 Fortune Cookies To Unlock Their Secrets"

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Ikea Capes

"Game of Thrones uses cheap IKEA rugs as capes"

Tesla Model 3 Review

"Driving Tesla's Model 3 Changes Everything"

Monday, August 07, 2017

SR-71 Speed Check Story

"An SR-71 Blackbird Pilot Recounts His Infamous LA Speed Check Story".

As friend JRW notes, "Interesting story about flying the SR-71 — but go all the way to the end.  The last 60 seconds is hilarious."

Upgrading The Great Firewall

"China holds drill to shut down 'harmful' websites"

Friday, August 04, 2017

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Light Posting Notice

Admin note: Posting may be lighter than usual for the rest of this week and next week due to external obligations.

Gene Editing Update

NYT: "In Breakthrough, Scientists Edit a Dangerous Mutation From Genes in Human Embryos"

Cochlear Implant Upgrade For iOS

New cochlear sound processor allows users to directly stream music and voice from iOS device to the cochlear implant.

Robot Safecracking

"Watch a Homemade Robot Crack a Safe in Just 15 Minutes"

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Can You "Rape" A Sex Robot?

NYT: "The Trouble With Sex Robots".

The NYT author appears to think so, consistently using the term "rape" for males interacting with robots programmed to "reject" their sexual advances.

In contrast, this NPR story gets it right ("What's New In The World Of Robot Sex?"):
Today's robots are not conscious and thus "rape" is not the correct descriptor.

I want to be very clear about what I am saying here: The robots' lack of consciousness is fundamentally different from the state of a person who has lost consciousness or for some reason suffers from diminished mental acuity. For a person who has passed out, who is in a coma, or who is mentally compromised for any reason and is violently sexually assaulted, "rape" is absolutely the correct term.
I recognize that there is a potential issue of people acting towards robots that would otherwise be impermissible towards other humans. For instance, if I knew my next door neighbor got his jollies by engaging in mock serial killings of life-like robots, I'd be more than a little nervous. And it might be grounds for asking law enforcement to take a closer look at him. But you can't "murder" a robot any more than you can "rape" one.

AI Creating Malware

"AI quickly cooks malware that anti-viral software can't spot"

Splitting Water

"Scientists produce robust catalyst to split water into hydrogen, oxygen". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

The Case for Cursing

The NYT publishes "The Case for Cursing", doesn't use any actual profanity.

Challenges Of Zero-G Surgery

"Zero-G Blood and the Many Horrors of Space Surgery"

Mathematical Paintings Of Crockett Johnson

"Mathematical Paintings of Crockett Johnson"

Monday, July 31, 2017

Quantum Alternatives

"A brief history of quantum alternatives"

What You'll See On Eclipse Day

Cool app, just enter your zip code: "A solar eclipse is coming to America. Here's what you'll see where you live."

Subway-Style Map Of Roman Roads In Britain

"A subway-style map of the Roman roads of Britain"

Friday, July 28, 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Husband Storage Pods

"[T]he Global Harbour mall in Shanghai has erected a number of glass pods for wives to leave any disgruntled husbands that don't want to be dragged around the shops. Inside each individual pod is a chair, monitor, computer and gamepad, and men can sit and play retro 1990s games."

Google Glass Enterprise

"Google Glass rises again -- at work"

Hypnotic Illustrations

"The hypnotic illustrations of Visoth Kakvei"

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Star Wars Hotel

"At an upcoming Star Wars-themed hotel in Disney World in Orlando, Florida, employees will stay in costume and in character at all times."

Gecko Feet For Space

"NASA looked to gecko feet for its latest space innovation"

Musk On AI

"Elon Musk Says Artificial Intelligence Is the 'Greatest Risk We Face as a Civilization'". He made this latest warning in a speech to the National Governors Association on July 15, 2017.

Of course, if the US imposes unilateral restrictions on AI research, other countries will less regulation and/or less concern for AI safety will gladly take the lead: "China may match or beat America in AI".

Monday, July 17, 2017

History Of Boozing

"Ancient Humans Liked Getting Tipsy, Too"

Facial Recognition At Airports

"If You Get Your Face Scanned the Next Time You Fly, Here's What You Should Know"

Greatest Props

"The 100 Greatest Props in Movie History, and the Stories Behind Them".

I completely approve of their choice for #1.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Eclipse Chasers

 "How Eclipse Chasers Are Putting a Small Kentucky Town on the Map"

I know several friends who will be enjoying the eclipse! And I liked this quote from astronomer Tyler Nordgren:
Make no mistake. The difference between whether you're inside the path of totality or outside it is literally the difference between night and day. No other experience comes close to the multisensory strangeness of this most unnatural of natural events.

Insecure Two-Factor Systems

"Two-factor authentication is a mess"

Font Could Decide Corruption Case

A corruption case in Pakistan could hinge on a font.

One side is claiming a key document is a forgery because it was printed in the Calibri font, which wasn't available at the time.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bought For 100 Euros, Sold For 45,000 Euros

"A 100 euros typewriter has sold for 45,000 euros ($51,500) at auction, after it was discovered it was actually a German Wehrmacht Enigma I":
Cristian Gavrila, the collectible consignment manager at Artmark, told Reuters: "The collector bought it from a flea market. He's a cryptography professor and... he knew very well what he was buying."

My Kind Of Startup

"This startup will fight your traffic ticket for you"

Sex Robot Update

Nature: "Let's talk about sex robots". (Via A.A.)

Great Red Spot

"The Closest-Ever Shot of the Great Red Spot"

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

New Raphael

"Unknown Raphael Paintings Discovered in the Vatican"

Internet Cat Simulator

"The Internet cat simulator (you can set parameters for meowing and purring)"

What Could Go Wrong?

Time sink of the day: "What Could Go Wrong?

BTW, some of these can be disturbing, as indicated by the NSFL tag. #OMG. #HoldMyBeer

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

More Robo-Journalism

"Google funds robot-written news":
The aim: to crank out up to 30,000 stories a month that will be distributed by the Press Association to hundreds of news outlets in the U.K. and Ireland. The stories will be automated with the help of artificial intelligence — and a handful of human journalists.

“Skilled human journalists will still be vital in the process, but Radar allows us to harness artificial intelligence to scale up to a volume of local stories that would be impossible to provide manually,” Peter Clifton, editor-in-chief of the Press Association, told the Guardian. Radar stands for Reporters and Data and Robots.

History Of Equals Sign

"The strange and righteous history of the equals sign". (Via H.R.)

Asteroid Panic

"Would you kill to stop an asteroid panic?"

My own opinions:

1) This sounds like a great premise for a TV show.

2) This sort of truth should absolutely be told to the public. Hiding it (and killing people who know) goes against core principles of openness and respect for truth. Governments should tell the people and let them decide the consequences.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Emergency Alerts Explained

"Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) explained: AMBER alerts and what the heck is a Severe Alert vs. an Extreme Alert and how do I turn them off?!?"

Computer-Generated Art

"Machine Creativity Beats Some Modern Art".

The link includes an art version of the "Turing Test", where you can guess which artwork was generated by a computer and which by a human.

You Can Now Drink Coffee From A Horn

"Your greatest dream of drinking coffee from a horn has come true"

Saturday, July 08, 2017

[Off Topic] Charlie Gard Case In 30 Words

[Off topic]: My latest in Forbes: "Charlie Gard Case, Summarized In 30 Words".

Plus a glimmer of hope for the family.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Defining Blackmail

Eugene Volokh: "Blackmail is surprisingly hard to define"

Light-Fuelled Wave Machine

Via "Stat News": "A crawling caterpillar made of polymers"
Scientists have created a new material that can dance better than most of us. They created a polymer strip that’s about as big as a paperclip and moves about as fast as a caterpillar. The material — which contracts in reaction to light — works by casting a shadow on itself.

Researchers shine a light on one side of the strip, which starts to curl up and casts a shadow onto the next part of the strip. That section comes into light and starts to change shape, creating a continual wave that propels the paper forward. Study author Anne Helene Gelebart tells me the material might one day be used to transport small devices to tricky-to-reach places during surgery.  

Name The Missing Word

Quiz: "Name the Missing Word in Each Book Title"

Thursday, July 06, 2017

John Urschel Profile

"From the NFL to MIT: The Double Life of John Urschel".

Nice profile of Urschel, who is both a PhD student in math at MIT and an active NFL offensive lineman.

Pentagonal Tilings

"There Are Only 15 Pentagonal Tilings (Probably)"

Neural Repair With Carbon Nanotubules

"Carbon Nanotubes Found to Be a Safe Bet For Reconnecting Neurons". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Why You Should Nap At Work

NYT: "Take Naps at Work. Apologize to No One." The science is settled.

Frogs Aided By Dinosaur Killer

"Frog evolution linked to dinosaur asteroid strike"

AI Vs. Kangaroo

"Volvo admits its self-driving cars are confused by kangaroos".
Volvo’s detection system was designed in Sweden, where it was tested in areas populated with moose, before trials at a nature reserve in Canberra revealed the problem with kangaroos. Kangaroos cause more accidents than any other animal in Australia – the marsupials are responsible for about 90% of collisions between vehicles and animals...
(Via Dave Jilk.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Independence Day Hiatus

Admin note: In honor of the US Independence Day, there will be no posts today. Regular posting will resume tomorrow. Happy July 4th!

Monday, July 03, 2017


NYT: "Greetings, E.T. (Please Don't Murder Us)". Lengthy discussion of SETI/METI, including technical issues and the should-we-even-be-broadcasting issue.

The article also quotes Seth Shostak, "No, if we want to broadcast a message from Earth, I propose that we just feed the Google servers into the transmitter. Send the aliens the World Wide Web."

Sure, if you want to get endless unsolicited promotional e-mails from friggn' alien spammers as well. Tailored to your personal shopping habits, of course.

Nanotube Transistors

"Carbon Nanotubes Reduce Transistor Footprint to Forty Nanometers". (Via H.R.)

Giant Black Holes

"Watching The Dance Of Giant Black Holes"

Friday, June 30, 2017

Hsieh Forbes Column: "Three Novel Health Care Innovations"

My latest Forbes column: "Three Novel Health Care Innovations"

Drones! Photosynthesis! AI!

Read more details at "Three Novel Health Care Innovations".

From one linked article:
"This medical drone can deliver an automated external defibrillator to a patient who has suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. In tests, the drone arrived more than 16 minutes faster than an ambulance had."

Won't Get Out Of Jail Free

Minnesota Man tries to use Monopoly "Get Out Of Jail Free" card to get out of jail. Innovative legal strategy does not work.

New From Hans Schantz

If you liked Hans Schantz' "The Hidden Truth", you might also enjoy his sequel, "A Rambling Wreck".

Thursday, June 29, 2017

5 Types Of Tap on iOS 11

"iOS 11 brings 5 different types of tap, but don’t panic":
[O]n an iPad running iOS 11 there are at least five “taps:”
  1. Tap.
  2. Long tap to drag and drop.
  3. Longer tap to delete/move apps.
  4. Special half-long tap to pop up a dock-extra menu.
  5. Press-tap (or long tap) in notifications to access extras.
This last one is the iPad’s stab at 3D Touch. If you use 3D Touch on your iPhone, you’ll be familiar with the feeling of trying to 3D Touch something on your iPad, only to have nothing happen. In iOS 11, if you press as if you were doing a 3D Touch, the gesture works. It pops open a preview of a notification (allowing you to reply to a message, for instance). It also works in apps, popping up an info card in Maps. It works a lot like 3D Touch on the iPhone, only it does it without a pressure-sensitive screen.

No. 2 in the list — drag and drop — is a new kind of touch interaction in iOS 11. Functionally it’s like the old press-and-hold to rearrange icons that dates back to the original iPhone, but it activates more quickly. It’s timed so you don’t really feel like you have to pause, and you’ll know when the touch has activated because the icon darkens and inflates a little...

Bread In Space

"Soon Astronauts May Be Able to Enjoy Fresh Baked Bread in Space":
This story starts back in 1965 during NASA’s Gemini 3 mission when pilot John Young pulled out a corned beef on rye that he’d smuggled aboard the spacecraft and shared it with Gus Grissom, the mission’s commander. But with the first bite Grissom realized there was a problem.

“I took a bite, but crumbs of rye bread started floating all around the cabin,” Grissom told a life Life magazine reporter after the mission.

The worry was that in the weightless conditions, the tiny crumbs could slip behind the control panels and wreak havoc on the sensitive equipment, or end up in an astronaut’s eye or lungs. The corned beef incident was so serious that it led to a Congressional investigation, which helped put the kibosh on bread in space and made tortillas the go-to for space travel. And while there’s nothing wrong with flat bread, sometimes you just want an old-fashioned sandwich on sliced bread. 

The German company Bake In Space is behind a project to develop a special dough for low-crumb bread and an oven in which to bake it on the ISS. According to Sebastian Marco, the CEO of Bake in Space, there a lot of challenges to both creating a tasty bread without crumbs and to baking in a low-gravity environment...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017

Hacking Tinder To Sway UK Election

NYT: Hacking Tinder to sway the UK election:
[W]e designed a chatbot, a smart computer program that deployed an adaptable script. In the two days ahead of the election earlier this month, the chatbot struck up conversations with thousands of young people between 18 and 25 years old on Tinder. The chatbot talked about politics, with the aim of getting voters to help oust the Conservative government. The results were amazing. Over 30,000 messages reached young people in key constituencies.
You know we'll see something like this in the US very very soon.

Big Printer

"GE Plans World's Largest Laser-Powered 3D Printer":
The prototype Atlas printer, announced on Wednesday, can print objects up to one meter long using titanium, aluminum, and other metals instead of the plastics, resins, and filaments that many commercial and consumer 3D printers use. That means it could print an entire engine block for a car or truck, for example, replacing the specialized machines and tooling that are currently required to make those types of products in a factory.
(Via Rand Simberg.) 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Light Posting Notice

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

DIY Artifiical Pancreas

"This Woman Designed -- And Texts -- Her Own Pancreas"

Underappreciated Medical Inventions

"What Is the Most Underappreciated Medical Invention in History?"

DHS Or Eye Of Sauron?

"DHS Is Starting to Scan Americans’ Faces Before They Get on International Flights":
For certain international flights from Atlanta and New York, DHS has partnered with Delta to bring mandatory face recognition scans to the boarding gate. The Delta system checks a passenger is supposed to be on the plane by comparing her face, captured by a kiosk at the boarding gate, to passenger manifest photos from State Department databases. It also checks passengers’ citizenship or immigration status. Meanwhile, in Boston, DHS has partnered with JetBlue to roll out a voluntary face recognition system for travelers flying to Aruba. In JetBlue’s case, you can actually get your face scanned instead of using a physical ticket.

While these systems differ in details, they have two things in common. First, they are laying the groundwork for a much broader, mandatory deployment of Biometric Exit across the country. Second, they scan the faces of everyone -- including American citizens.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Typewriter Revival

"Typewriters attracting new generation of fans"

Tactile Map

"Inuit Tactile Maps of Greenland":
[T]hese maps represent the contours of the coastline in a continuous line up one side of the wood and down the other. The contours of the land are highly exaggerated, allowing users to navigate entirely by feel. The navigator would often carry them under his mittens and feel the contours with his fingers to discern patterns in the coastline. Being made of wood, they are buoyant, so they float if accidentally dropped and could be easily retrieved.

Interviewing Coders

"What if companies interviewed translators the way they interview coders?"

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Tesla Fatality Update

"Tesla Driver In Fatal Florida Crash Got Numerous Warnings To Take Control Back From Autopilot"

AI Generated Metal Band Names

"Metal band names invented by neural network":
I gave the dataset to an open-source neural network framework that I’ve previously trained to generate recipes, Pokemon, knock-knock jokes, pick up lines, and D&D spells. As usual the instructions were only to learn what the dataset is like and try to make more of the same. With over 100,000 entries to chew on, the neural network managed to produce results that were… well, surprisingly metal.
I like the AI use of umlauts.

Falling Technique

"How to Fall Down"

Monday, June 19, 2017

AIs Learn Deception

"Facebook Let Its A.I. Negotiate, and the Lying Started Right Away"

Why Amazon Bought Whole Foods

"Why Amazon Bought Whole Foods".  Get used to the concept of the "life bundle":
After today’s announcement, several people on Twitter joked that between Prime and Whole Foods, Amazon may now account for a majority of some urban Millennials’ discretionary spending.

What’s not a joke, however, is that Amazon’s life bundle, like TV’s cable bundle, is fundamentally about the merchandizing of convenience, which is often indistinguishable from sheer human laziness. Driving to the movies and parking is a pain, and cable offered several cineplexes worth of video offerings on the couch.

Similarly, driving to the grocery store, finding parking, seeking out the produce section, and waiting several minutes in Line 6 is a pain. What’s not a pain? Lying on your couch, watching Downton Abbey on Prime Video, and shouting to your Amazon daemon, “Alexa, I need six heirloom tomatoes and a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil for tomorrow’s delivery.”