Thursday, March 30, 2017

Light Posting Notice

Admin note: Posting may be lighter than usual next week because of external obligations.

Way Overdue Book

"Case of the purloined library book solved 35 years later"

Math Quiz

"Would You Rather Get $1 Million or $5000 a Month for Retirement?"

Of course, the correct answer depends on assumptions about rate of return. But it's a reasonable starting point for analysis.

Space Elevator Variant

"A 20-mile long 'spacescraper' dangling from an asteroid: Could it work? "

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Brain-Machine Interface Update

"Elon Musk is setting up a company that will link brains and computers".

Personally, I'm looking forward to that "I know kung-fu!" moment.

Musk Vs. AI

"Elon Musk's Billion-Dollar Crusade to Stop the A.I. Apocalypse"

Leaf Scaffold For Heart Tissue

"Spinach Leaf Transformed Into Beating Human Heart Tissue"

Monday, March 27, 2017

Bitcoin and Venezuela

"Venezuela has a serious food shortage, but electricity is subsidized. People are mining bitcoins because it's worthwhile to use bitcoins to buy food across the border. Bitcoin is a way for Brazillians to get around currency controls and tarriffs." (Via Metafilter.)

Chatbots That Read Your Facial Expressions

"Customer Service Chatbots Are About to Become Frighteningly Realistic"

Skateboarding on Frozen Sand

Video: "Skateboarding on frozen sand"

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Surgery While Awake

"More surgery is being performed with the patient awake and looking on, for both financial and medical reasons. But as surgical patients are electing to keep their eyes wide open, doctor-patient protocol has not kept pace with the new practice."

Mars Rocket

"These Scientists Sent a Rocket to Mars for Less Than It Cost to Make 'The Martian'

Big Mammals

"How Big Can a Land Animal Get?"

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Cooking At Your Desk

"Watch This Chinese Woman Make the Most Insane Desk Lunch Ever"


"Researchers are using Darwin's theories to evolve AI, so only the strongest algorithms survive"

Monday, March 20, 2017

Aristotle And Computers

"How Aristotle Created the Computer":
The history of computers is often told as a history of objects, from the abacus to the Babbage engine up through the code-breaking machines of World War II. In fact, it is better understood as a history of ideas, mainly ideas that emerged from mathematical logic, an obscure and cult-like discipline that first developed in the 19th century. Mathematical logic was pioneered by philosopher-mathematicians, most notably George Boole and Gottlob Frege, who were themselves inspired by Leibniz’s dream of a universal “concept language,” and the ancient logical system of Aristotle...

Pandemic Prep

NPR: "How To Prepare For A Pandemic"

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Light Posting Notice

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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Test For Hidden Hearing Loss

"How well can you hear in a noisy background? Try it here":
You will be asked to repeat a series of sentences. The exercise begins in quiet, but then it will introduce background noise. The noise comes in six levels, faint at first but eventually louder than the words.

People with hearing loss start to have some trouble understanding the words at the second or third level, according to Robert Fifer, director of audiology and speech pathology at the center. That doesn’t mean that they can’t understand anything, but they show increasing difficulty understanding accurately what is said compared to someone with normal hearing abilities, he said...

Fake Friends Market

"Japanese company offers fake friends photo service to help customers look popular on social media".

The article notes:
However, there’s one weakness to such schemes that’s pretty glaring. If you don’t have enough friends to get together for a birthday party, is anyone really paying attention to your social media posts? However, Family Romance is also billing its Real Appeal service as a way to affect a specific group or individual’s perception of you. If you want your coworkers to think you’re a more sociable person than you appear to be under normal working conditions, or if you’re romantically interested in an acquaintance with whom you’ve got an online connection and want to present yourself as someone who’s fun to be around, Family Romance can help you craft images that make it look like you’re having an absolute blast on the weekends.

The Scientific Way to Cut a Cake

Numberphile: "The Scientific Way to Cut a Cake"

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Numberphile on Terry Tao

Numberphile has a great profile of legendary UCLA math professor Terry Tao.

CIA Board Games

"The CIA uses board games to train officers -- and I got to play them"

Spider Silk Update

"In the Future, We'll All Wear Spider Silk"

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

When The Wife Likes Ikea But The Husband Doesn't

Photo gallery: "My wife and I visit IKEA again and I try to figure out why".

My favorite line: "Our other measuring spoons do not strike me as structurally unsound."

(Make sure you click the "Load 11 more images" button to see the full saga.)

DNA Computing Update

"A DNA computer has a trillion siblings and replicates itself to make a decision"

Dogs Are Good Liars

"Trick or Treat: Conniving Behavior Discovered in Dogs"

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sunday, March 12, 2017


"The American wealthy have been redefining social status through a practice known as 'countersignaling'".

FWIW, I was wearing crappy clothing before it was cool.

Film Projection Tech

Peter Suderman: "On the fascinating history of film projection, and why it matters to your cinematic experience"


"Your old CD-ROMs are probably rotting"

Friday, March 10, 2017

Digital Privacy at the U.S Border

"Digital Privacy at the U.S Border: A New How-To Guide from EFF"

Reverse Turing Test Update

"Google's reCAPTCHA turns 'invisible,' will separate bots from people without challenges". (Via J.J.)

Simpler Ikea

"IKEA is going to save your relationship with new furniture that simply snaps together".

No more fighting over who lost the hex wrench!

Thursday, March 09, 2017

More TSA Gropings

"U.S. Airport Pat-Downs Are About to Get More Invasive".

Basically, the TSA has determined it doesn't do a very good job looking for contraband with the x-ray machines, so it needs to do more aggressive groping of travelers.

Also from the article, "TSA officials didn’t immediately address whether the new universal pat-down protocol will mandate touching of passenger genitals."

I feel much safer now.

Chocolate Replacement?

"This Little-Known Waste Product Could Provide A Chocolate Replacement".

They can have my chocolate when they pry it from my cold dead gooey-brown covered hands.

Bad Science Reporting

"Reports Of Medical Breakthroughs Often Don't Prove Out". Key quote:
Only about half of the medical findings reported in 199 English-language newspapers actually turn out to hold up when tested in further studies, the study found. And sorry, dear reader, you're not likely to hear about those refutations.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Monday, March 06, 2017

Amazon Shipping To Moon?

"Amazon boss Jeff Bezos wants to start delivering packages to the Moon."

If I have Amazon Prime, will it be free and within 2 days?

Glass Battery Technology

"Will a New Glass Battery Accelerate the End of Oil?" (Via H.R.)

Plasma Rocket Engine

"NASA's longshot bet on a revolutionary rocket may be about to pay off". (Via H.R.)

Human Echolocation

"Humans' Hidden Ability to Navigate the World With Tongue Clicks"

Friday, March 03, 2017

Fake WW2 Radio Show

"The Fake British Radio Show That Helped Defeat the Nazis"

Flying Cars

Flying cars are now for sale. Only $400k from Dutch company PAL-V.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Measuring Pee

"Just How Much Pee Is In That Pool?"
But up until now, just how much urine has been difficult to measure, says chemist Xing-Fang Li of the University of Alberta. Li and her colleagues report they can now tell roughly how much pee is in a pool by measuring the artificial sweeteners carried in most people's urine. Certain sweeteners can be a good proxy for pee, she says, because they're designed to "go right through you" and don't break down readily in pool water.

The scientists calculated that one 220,000-gallon, commercial-size swimming pool contained almost 20 gallons of urine. In a residential pool (20-by-40-foot, five-feet deep), that would translate to about two gallons of pee. It's only about one-hundredth of a percent, but any urine in a swimming pool can be a health concern for some people, not to mention that smell that never quite goes away...

Artificial Blood

"The quest for one of science's holy grails: artificial blood"