Tuesday, February 28, 2017

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: Three Paradoxes Of Health And Human Behavior

[Off topic] My latest Forbes column is now out, "People Confound Experts: Three Paradoxes Of Health And Human Behavior".

I discuss three counter-intuitive or paradoxical results from recent health policy research, in which patients don't respond in the way that experts might have predicted.

For example: If you have a serious heart problem, you might do better if the top cardiologists are out of town.

For more details, see the full piece, "People Confound Experts: Three Paradoxes Of Health And Human Behavior"!

Superhuman Location AI

"Google Unveils Neural Network with 'Superhuman' Ability to Determine the Location of Almost Any Image"

New Blood

"Scientists rejuvenate blood by reprogramming cells"

Friday, February 24, 2017

Light Posting

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

Lost Whitman

"A Graduate Student Just Discovered a Lost Work of Fiction by Walt Whitman"


"Identity and Origins of the Nazgûl"

Texts For Exes

"There's a spreadsheet where people are putting texts they want to send their exes." (Via GMSV.)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fitness Tracker Privacy

"Do fitness trackers pose a privacy risk?"

Paying To Join Mile High Club

"Business is booming for private flights catering to couples trying to join the mile-high club"

Eponymous Laws

"Eponymous Laws as Persuasion Tools and Other Tricks for Robbing Walmart"

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Every Best Animated Feature Oscar Winner

"Every Best Animated Feature Oscar winner"

Tricorder Update

"With $10 million at stake, scientists compete to build a Star Trek-style medical tricorder"

Space Poop Challenge

"Air Force doctor wins NASA 'Space Poop Challenge'". (Via H.R.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Woolly Mammoth De-Extinction Update

The Guardian: "Woolly mammoth on verge of resurrection, scientists reveal".

I, for one, look forward to trying mammoth burgers!

Fibonacci Straw

"McDonald's Re-Engineers Straw Using Fibonacci Formula To Let You Enjoy Shamrock Shake More". (Via H.R.)

How to Use a Password Manager

"How to Use a Password Manager"

Friday, February 17, 2017

iPhone Privacy Tips

"The Privacy Enthusiast's Guide to Using an iPhone"

Academia And Exploitation

"How the humanities survive on exploitation"


"This Ain't Your Grandma's SETI".

Call me paranoid, but I think humanity should talk less and listen more when it comes to SETI.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Expensive Cup Of Coffee

"Why the Most Expensive Cup of Coffee in the US Costs So Much".

Based on the description, I don't think I'd like it very much.

No More Overdue Book Fines

"Why public libraries are finally eliminating the late-return fine"

Best Fight Scenes of the 21st Century

"The 27 Best Fight Scenes of the 21st Century So Far, Ranked"

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Extreme Swinging

"Inside the High-Flying World of Estonian Extreme Swinging".

Basically, "kiiking" = swinging so that you perform a 360 around the swing:
Before you assume that just vigorously swinging like an insane school kid will get you over the top, Laansalu says that you’d better be in top physical form if you want to be competitive, citing footballers, rowers, and roller-skaters (because Estonia is delightful) as prime candidates for the sport. It takes a lot of arm and leg strength, as well as solid technique to master the perfect timing of when to stand, when to sit, and when to thrust to complete a 360...

Devising Drug Names

"The creative science of coining drug names"

Favorite Fictional Object

"What fictional object would you most like to own?"

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Monday, February 13, 2017

Indoor Skydiving Dance

"We Should Definitely Replace the Olympics With These Badass Indoor Skydiving Wind Games":
The clip... features Poland’s 16-year old Maja Kuczyńska, who looks like she was born and raised in zero gravity. Most people who step into an indoor skydiving wind tunnel just struggle to remain level flight. But Maja performs an entire graceful routine spinning and soaring to the roof of the enclosure, and then plummeting back down like she’s part sparrow.
Beautiful performance! (Via H.R.)


"Nanorods Emit and Detect Light, Could Lead to Displays That Communicate via Li-Fi". (Via H.R.)

Ice Instruments

"Playing Music on Ice Instruments"

Friday, February 10, 2017

Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory

"Total recall: The people who never forget"

Crab Fight

"Watch pom-pom crabs fight over tiny anemones, which they hold like boxing gloves".

Reminder: The first rule of Pom Pom Crab Fight Club is that you do not talk about Pom Pom Crab Fight Club.

Computers For Venus

"We finally have a computer that can survive the surface of Venus"

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Rethinking Outer Space and Antarctica Treaties?

"The Antarctic and Outer Space Treaties after the Cold War: Are They Still Valid?" (Via Rand Simberg.)

Helium Compound

Helium can form a compound with other elements:
We report the discovery of a thermodynamically stable compound of helium and sodium, Na2He, which has a fluorite-type structure and is stable at pressures >113 GPa...
Reference: "A stable compound of helium and sodium at high pressure", Nature Chemistry

Exploiting Flaw In Slot Machine Pseudorandom Number Generator

Wired: "Russians Engineer a Brilliant Slot Machine Cheat -- And Casinos Have No Fix"

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Destroyer Of Worlds Podcast

I just finished listening to the latest "Dan Carlin: Hardcore History" podcast, "Destroyer of Worlds".

It was on the history of US nuclear weapons policy, including a chilling/gripping recounting of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

One theme that kept coming up was how close to peril we were back then (and still are). And how enormous consequences can flow from the individual decisions made by one or two key people. So we had better hope that those making those decisions have the suitable knowledge and temperament to be handling that responsibility.

I was especially interested in the discussions of crisis management -- and how easily things can spin out of control in directions nobody wants them to. There were also interesting insights into Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and their relationships to their military advisors (who were not always giving them the best advice and who did not always respect the civilian leadership over military issues.)

It's a long-ish podcast, almost 6 hours -- more like an audiobook. But definitely worthwhile for friends interested in such things. The podcast can be downloaded for free at this link.

Carlin also noted later on Twitter, "For those who think the last history show was specifically about Trump, we started working on it in early August…so, really it couldn't be."

Of course, people can draw various parallels and lessons to today's curren
t situation. 

I, for one, am just glad that Russian President Boris Yeltsin didn't decide to "push the button" during the 1995 Norwegian crisis. (which I hadn't heard of until the podcast.)


Taxonomy From Fiction

Economist: "At least as strange as fiction: taxonomy"
...Most recently Severus Snape, a teacher and double-agent in the “Harry Potter” franchise, inspired Harryplax severus, a crab that also eluded discovery (after 20 years, it was just recognised as a new species). Some names have been less considered. The Spongiforma squarepantsii is a rubbery orange fungus that lives above ground—not “in a pineapple under the sea”, as the eponymous cartoon character does. All this livens up the textbooks, at least.

Untranslatable Emotions

BBC: "The 'untranslatable' emotions you never knew you had.

A couple of favorites:
Desbundar (Portuguese) – to shed one’s inhibitions in having fun

Gigil (Tagalog) – the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze someone because they are loved or cherished

Natsukashii (Japanese) – a nostalgic longing for the past, with happiness for the fond memory, yet sadness that it is no longer

Monday, February 06, 2017

New Dune Movie Adaptation

"Arrival's Denis Villeneuve Is Officially the Latest Director to Attempt a Dune Adaptation"

IKEA Product Names

"How IKEA names its products: The curious taxonomy behind Billy, Poäng, Malm, Kallax and Rens".  Some basics:
  • Bathroom articles = Names of Swedish lakes and bodies of water
  • Bed textiles = Flowers and plants
  • Beds, wardrobes, hall furniture = Norwegian place names
  • Bookcases = Professions, Scandinavian boy’s names
  • Bowls, vases, candle and candle holders = Swedish place names, adjectives, spices, herbs, fruits and berries
  • Boxes, wall decoration, pictures and frames, clocks = Swedish slang expressions, Swedish place names
  • Children’s products = Mammals, birds, adjectives
  • Desks, chairs and swivel chairs = Scandinavian boy’s names
  • Fabrics, curtains = Scandinavian girl’s names
  • Garden furniture = Scandinavian islands
  • Kitchen accessories = Fish, mushrooms and adjectives
  • Lighting = Units of measurement, seasons, months, days, shipping and nautical terms, Swedish place names
  • Rugs = Danish place names
  • Sofas, armchairs, chairs and dining tables = Swedish place names

Humans And Booze

"Our 9,000-Year Love Affair With Booze"

Friday, February 03, 2017

Gel Robot

"Watch this invisible robot grab a fish out of the blue". (Via J.W.)

Stubborn Cold?

"7 Reasons You Can't Shake That Cold"

Blockchain Basics

Bernard Marr: "A Complete Beginner's Guide To Blockchain".

Update: Link was broken, now fixed!

Update #2: Reader GB has concerns about the quality of the article. But does recommend this: "Mastering Bitcoin" from O'Reilly.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Unusual Conductor

"Physicists have found a metal that conducts electricity but not heat.

According to lead researcher Junqiao Wu: "It shows a drastic breakdown of a textbook law that has been known to be robust for conventional conductors."

I guess this material didn't read the textbook. (Via H.R.)

Best NYC Dumplings

"A map of the best dumplings in NYC"

Smart Glasses

"Engineers develop 'smart glasses' that automatically focus on what wearer sees"