Sunday, December 31, 2017

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: The War On Meat

[Off topic] My final Forbes column of the year is now out: "In The War On Meat, Count Me In The Resistance".

I discuss the latest idea of a "tax on meat", and why that's bad from both a medical and public policy perspective.

To (mis)quote Firefly, "I don't care. I'm still free. You can't take my bacon from me."

Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Light Posting

Admin note: Posting may be lighter than usual next week because of the holiday. Happy New Year!

Anesthesia And Childbirth

"It Didn't Take Very Long For Anesthesia to Change Childbirth"

Quantum Computing Languages

"Quantum Computers Barely Exist -- Here's Why We're Writing Languages for Them Anyway".

As the article  notes: "There may soon be more quantum programming languages than there are quantum computers."

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

More Surgical Robots

"New surgical robots are about to enter the operating theatre"

Blimp Vs Pyramid

"Robotic Blimp Could Explore Hidden Chambers of Great Pyramid of Giza":
French research institutes Inria and CNRS are working with ScanPyramids to develop an exploration robot that can squeeze through a tiny hole while still maximizing the amount of exploration that it can do once it’s through. The concept that they’ve come up with is a robotic blimp that can be stuffed through a 3.5-centimeter hole, unfold and inflate itself, and then explore large areas before deflating and escaping again.

Instant Pot History

NYT: "Inside the Home of Instant Pot, the Kitchen Gadget That Spawned a Religion".

I have the 6-quart model, and it is awesome.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

Andy Weir On Economics Of Sci-Fi And Space

"Before writing a single word of his new book Artemis, Andy Weir worked out the economics of a lunar colony."

Fun interview of Andy Weir by Tyler Cowen.  BTW, I was told that the interview contains some plot spoilers for Artemis, so don't read/listen to the interview until you've read the book. (I haven't read the book yet, so I'm also holding off on reading the interview.)

Preserved Embryo

"Woman gives birth to baby frozen as embryo for 24 years"

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Light Posting Notice

Admin note: Due to external obligations, posting may be lighter than usual the rest of this week.

Dinosaurs Vs. Saturn

"Dinosaurs Were Around Before Saturn Had Rings"

Physics And Recycled WW2 Weapons

"How a million Russian artillery shells helped scientists discover the Higgs boson". (Via H.R.)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Car Roof Rack Cooler

"Blitzen is a car roof rack for chilling beverages (so you don't show up to your holiday party with a warm bottle of booze)" .

Who says innovation is dead in America? The website also notes:
Cooling time depends on ambient temperature, car speed, and a whole lot of other factors that some of our engineers here spent way too much time calculating. The same goes for lateral G force and speed calculations. It was like a flashback to Calc 2.

Speaking of engineers, please don't go randomly strapping bottles to your roof. All of our tests were conducted under controlled conditions with extensive safety measures.

AI Harry Potter

"Here's a chapter of Harry Potter written by a predictive text bot after being fed the entire Harry Potter series."

This is comedy gold.

WeCroak App

"The App That Reminds You You're Going to Die"

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Car Safety Then And Now

"The Many Ways in Which Cars Were Stupendously Unsafe 60 Years Ago". (Via Rand Simberg.)

Curvature Blindness Illusion

"The Curvature Blindness Illusion":
The first thing you should know is that all the lines across the page are exactly the same shape. You can see that in the corners with the light and dark contrasting backgrounds. But in the gray background, some seem to be curvier, while others seem to be more angular. That's because of how the colors (actually shades of gray) of the lines are segmented.
More info at the academic paper.

Chinese Medical AI Progress

"Chinese robot becomes world’s first machine to pass medical exam":
A Chinese AI medical robot named “Xiaoyi” became the world’s first to pass the written test of China’s National Medical Licensing Examination, who will now work to improve clinical diagnosis...
The robot scored 456 points in the exam, well above the national average, according to its research team at the Tsinghua-iFlyTek Joint Lab of Tsinghua University and China’s leading AI enterprise iFlyTek Co., Ltd.

Xiaoyi studied nearly one million medical images, 53 medical books, two million medical records, and 400,000 medical literatures and medical reports before sitting for the test, said Wu Ji, director of the joint lab.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Not Aliens

"Astronomers to Check Mysterious Interstellar Object for Signs of Technology".

My head says, "It's not aliens."
My heart thinks it would super-cool/scary if it were.

Electricity From Electric Eels?

"Can we harvest electricity from electric eels?"

Short answer, "no".

Concealing Location With Snack Bag Faraday Cage

"Employee used crisp packet as 'Faraday cage' to hide his whereabouts during work":
Tom Colella, a 60-year-old  electrician in Perth, lost his job after an anonymous letter to his firm claimed that he left work to play golf at least 140 times over the last two years.

Australia’s Fair Work Commission, a workplace tribunal, heard that Mr Colella blocked his whereabouts by storing his personal digital assistant, a phone-like device that has a GPS inside, in an empty foil packet of Twisties, a puffy cheese-based snack that is popular in Australia. 

The tribunal found that the packet was deliberately used to operate  as an elaborate “Faraday cage” - an enclosure which can block electromagnetic fields - and prevented his employer knowing his location. The cage set-up was named after English scientist Michael Faraday, who in 1836 observed that a continuous covering of conductive material could be used to block electromagnetic fields.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Friday, December 08, 2017


"Don't Buy Anyone an Echo":
I’m not here to be Tin Foil Hat Man and convince you that companies like Amazon are spying on your every move and compiling data sets based on your activity so that they can more effectively serve you ads or sell you products. I am here to say that smart speakers like the Echo do contain microphones that are always on, and every time you say something to the speaker, it sends data back to the server farm... For now, the companies that sell smart speakers say that those microphones only send recordings to the servers when you use the wake word. The same companies are less explicit about what they’re doing with all that data. They’re also vague about whether they might share voice recordings with developers in the future. Amazon, at least, seems open to the idea.

We do know that Amazon will hand over your Echo data if the gadget becomes involved in a homicide investigation. That very thing happened earlier this year, and while Amazon had previously refused to hand over customer data, the company didn’t argue with a subpoena in a murder case. It remains unclear how government agencies like the FBI, CIA, and NSA are treating smart speakers, too. The FBI, for one, would neither confirm nor deny wiretapping Amazon Echo devices when Gizmodo asked the agency about it last year.

Sinister ambitions of governments and multinational corporations aside, you should also worry about the threat of bugs and hackers going after smart speakers.

Facebook AI Suicide Prevention

"Facebook is using AI to try to prevent suicide".

I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to consider ways in which this could go wrong.

iPhone X Review

"iPhone X: A New Frontier"

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Algorithms And War

"Future wars may depend as much on algorithms as on ammunition, report says."

Dino Eggs

"Scientists find over 300 ‘incredibly well-preserved’ dinosaur eggs". (Via H.R.)

Uterus Transplant Success

"First baby from a uterus transplant in the U.S. born in Dallas"

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Pizza In Space

"Astronauts show how to make pizza in space"

Lightning Photography

"Transient": Spectacular lightning photography. (Via H.R.)

Smart Condoms

"This ‘smart condom’ will give insights into your sex life you probably didn’t want" :
The adjustable band measures number and velocity of thrusts, total duration of “sessions”, traditional fitness tracker information like calories burned, and is beta testing its tracking of positions used. And as if that wasn’t enough, all of the data is shareable.
Not sure this counts as "progress".

Friday, December 01, 2017