Friday, October 19, 2018

Sommelier Scandal

"The Outrageous Master Sommelier Scandal, Explained"

IPad Tipping

"You Want 20% for Handing Me a Muffin? The Awkward Etiquette of iPad Tipping"

My favorite quote:
“You can certainly walk away without tipping, but it’s hard to do, especially if you’re Canadian,” says Keir Vallance, who is 46 and teaches law in Saskatchewa

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Monday, October 15, 2018

Light Posting Notice

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

New Zealand Border Tips

For travellers to New Zealand: "What to do if a border agent demands access to your digital device"

21st Century Crime

"Bitcoin miner sent to prison for stealing electricity from train network in China"

Friday, October 12, 2018

Reunited Identical Twins

"Twins, Separated at Birth, Reunite as Adults"

They were separated as part of an unethical scientific experiment, and found one another after a documentary about that experiment helped reunite a different set of triplets.

Fitness Tracker Glitch

"Why is Xiaomi's fitness tracker detecting a heartbeat from a roll of toilet paper?"

Can Moons Have Moons?

"Guess what scientists call the moons of moons"

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Fitness Trackers And The Law

"Fitbit's heart-rate tracking helped nail down a murder suspect"

Tigers Like Humans

NYT: "Once a tiger encounters a person and kills, it may develop a taste for human flesh, which, Mr. Khan says, is sweeter than other animal meat because of all the ginger, salt and spices people consume."

Flexible Electronics Update

"Study opens route to flexible electronics made from exotic materials"

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Friday, October 05, 2018

Thursday, October 04, 2018

NZ Border Search Of Phones

"New Zealand: Hand over phone password at border or face $3,200 fine"
Under the Customs and Excise Act 2018, which came into force this week, officials will be able to demand travelers unlock any electronic device so it can be searched. Anyone who refuses can face prosecution and a fine of up to $3,200 (5,000 NZD). 
Officials can also retain devices and potentially confiscate them from travelers who refuse to allow a search at the border. 
The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) described the new law as a "grave invasion of personal privacy of both the person who owns the device and the people they have communicated with."

Smart Pizza Deliveryman

"A Pizza Deliveryman Saved a Woman Who Mouthed 'Help Me'". (Via S.W.)

Stop Signs

"Why Do Stop Signs Have Eight Sides?"

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Chocolate Cottage

"You Can Rent This Cottage Made Entirely of Chocolate — and Yes, You Can Eat Some of It"

Möbius Strips

"The Mathematical Madness of Möbius Strips and Other One-Sided Objects"

$100 Bills

"There are now more $100 bills than $1 bills in the world"

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Emperor And Scientist

"The Emperor of Japan still publishes (even though he has tenure). He also usually gets his name first." (Via Tyler Cowen.)

Ancient Roman Comics

"Painted 'Comics' with 'Speech Bubbles' Found in Ancient Roman Tomb". (Via H.R.)

Fusion Updates

"In search of clean energy, investments in nuclear-fusion startups are heating up"

Friday, September 28, 2018

Developing The Moon

"A Japanese company has announced a long-term plan to develop the Moon"

Magnetic With A Bang

"Magnetic Field Record Set With a Bang: 1,200 Tesla". (Via H.R.)

Sexist Meme

CNN: "'Distracted boyfriend' meme is sexist, says Swedish ad watchdog".

This story, is of course, asking for a meme. Here's my own contribution.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Good Peeler

"The untold story of the vegetable peeler that changed the world"

History Of Numeric Keypad

"A brief history of the numeric keypad".

Includes interesting discussion of how the telephone and calculator keypads ended up with different layouts.

Self-Driving Homes

"Self-driving homes could be the future of affordable housing"

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Saving SpaceX

"Inside the eight desperate weeks that saved SpaceX from ruin"

Blue Marble 2

"This is the best marble chain reaction video so far". (Via H.R.)

LEGO Helm's Deep

"Mind-Blowing LEGO Recreation of LOTR’s Helm's Deep Battle"

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Scrabble Dictionary Update

"New Scrabble Dictionary For A New Generation":
Besides twerk and ew, notable new words include bestie, zomboid, bitcoin, sheeple, beatdown, frowny and bizjet. Unfortunately, twerkery and twerkings are still not acceptable, according to Merriam-Webster

Myst At 25

"'Myst' at 25: How it changed gaming, created addicts, and made enemies"

Cardiologist Recommends Steak

Dr. Bret Scher: "Want a healthier heart? Eat a steak"
I'm a cardiologist — and I encourage patients to eat red meat.

This advice defies conventional wisdom. For decades, nutritionists and physicians have urged people to limit consumption of red meat and other fatty foods, which were thought to cause heart disease.

But new studies debunk this conventional wisdom. Indeed, it now looks like low-quality carbohydrates -- not saturated fats -- are driving America's heart disease epidemic. It's time to stop demonizing steak...

Monday, September 24, 2018

Mars PD

"How Will Police Solve Murders on Mars?
Mars P.D. will have to deal with new blood-spatter patterns, different body decay rates, and space-suit sabotage -- and they won’t be able to fire guns indoors.

Apple Privacy

"Forget the new iPhones: Apple's best product is now privacy"

Grid Control

"When Power Lines Break, a New Control System Keeps the Sparks From Flying". (Via H.R.)

Friday, September 21, 2018

High Lobsters

"Maine restaurant to get lobsters high off marijuana smoke before killing them: 'It is more humane'"

Atomic Radio

"A new antenna using single atoms could usher in the age of atomic radio". (Via H.R.)

Unofficial English Rules

"4 Unofficial Rules Native English Speakers Don't Realize They Know"

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Ultimate Disney Meal

"A table at Disneyland's 21 Royal commands an elite $15,000 price tag for what’s billed as the ultimate in Disney wizardry"

Criminal Masterminds

"Police: Walmart shoplifters tried to steal clothes for upcoming court appearance"

Google Employees And China

"Google employees quitting over its China search project"

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Monday, September 17, 2018

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Speedy Noise Cancellation

"New Wireless Noise-Canceling Tech Is Faster Than the Speed of Sound"

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Spiral Stairs

Beautiful photographs of spiral staircases in Budapest.

Space Elevator Update

"Could We Take an Elevator to Space? Japan to Begin Tests Soon"

Mustard On Pizza?

"Mustard pizza divides the internet"

Monday, September 10, 2018

Medical AI Update

"We trained an algorithm to detect cancer in just two hours"


"Why the Future of Data Storage is (Still) Magnetic Tape"

Jupiter's Magnetic Field

"Jupiter's Magnetic Field Is Super Weird and Has Two South Poles"

Friday, September 07, 2018

Mandatory Appendectomy

"The icy village where you must remove your appendix":
Imagine that you had to remove your appendix to live in your hometown – and your family had to do the same.

That’s the only option for long-term residents – even the children – of Villas Las Estrellas, one of the few settlements in Antarctica where some people live for years rather than weeks or months.

Appendix removal is a necessary precaution for the handful of people who stay longer-term because the nearest major hospital is more than 1,000km (625 miles) away, past the tip of King George Island and on the other side of the Southern Ocean’s icy swell. There are only a few doctors on base, and none are specialist surgeons.

Better Bubbles

"There's now an even more precise 'recipe' for blowing the perfect bubble". (Via H.R.)

Little Blue Pill

"How Viagra Went from a Medical Mistake to a $3-Billion-Dollar-a-Year Industry"

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Oldest Blockchain

"The World's Oldest Blockchain Has Been Hiding in the New York Times Since 1995"

BSG Love

"Why Battlestar Galactica is still the greatest sci-fi TV show of all time".

I still like Star Trek: Next Generation better. But at its best, BSG was pretty damned good.

Close-up Shark Portraits

"Close-up shark portraits". More here.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Night Before Space Launch

"What Is It Like To Be An Astronaut The Night Before You Launch Into Space?"

Your MLB Nickname

"The 20 rules for creating an MLB nickname (and what yours would be)"

Unfortunate Last Names

"Innocent people with dirty-sounding last names face the 'Scunthorpe problem'"

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Steak Vending Machine

"A meat vending machine exists, for all your midnight steak needs"

Swirling Wine

"Swirling your wine is not pretentious; it's just good physics".

My favorite part is how the analysis of the physics became someone's PhD dissertation. (Via H.R.)

Messages To The Stars

"Will the messages we sent to the stars be understood?"

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Escape Rooms

The Escape Room Craze.

Ancient Egyptian Pregnancy Test

"Ancient Egyptian Pregnancy Test Survived Millenia Because It Worked"

Ancient Earth Globe

Excellent interactive globe showing what the Earth looked like at different times, millions of years ago. (Via H.R. and G.V.H.)

Monday, August 27, 2018

Win95 App

"Windows 95 app brings nerd nostalgia to macOS, Windows and Linux". (Via H.S.)

Flat Earth Believers

"Do People Really Think Earth Might Be Flat?"
Just 66 percent of millennials firmly believe that the Earth is round,” read the summary from the pollster YouGov. Kids today, right? But it’s not only curmudgeons eager to complain about the younger generation who ought to find the survey of interest. For despite the recent prominence of flat-earthery among musicians and athletes, YouGov’s survey seems to have been the first systematic attempt to assess the American population’s views on the shape of the Earth.

Moreover, the results raised a number of compelling questions that deserve attention...

Communicating With Subs

"MIT Researchers Develop Seamless Underwater-to-Air Communication System". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Last Blockbuster

How the last Blockbuster store in the US (in Bend, OR) has managed to survive the digital era.

Hotel Safe Override

Hotel safes also have an administrator code that bypasses the user-chosen combination.

Unless the hotel management has changed it, the override is: LOCK-LOCK-999999

Ridiculous Medical Calls

Doctors discuss, "Most ridiculous thing you've been called about in the middle of the night?"

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Monday, August 20, 2018


"On the nature of wormholes".

Math And The Beaches Of Rio

"Math and the Beaches of Rio: Stephen Smale and the history of the Fields medal"

Sports Idioms

"We Use Sports Terms All the Time. But Where Do They Come From?"

Friday, August 17, 2018

Internal Asymmetry

"Why aren't internal organs symmetrical?"

Renting A Goat

"Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Renting a Goat"

Breaking Spaghetti

"Two MIT mathematicians have figured out the trick to breaking spaghetti strands neatly in two: add a little twist as you bend. They outlined their findings in a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences." (Via H.R.)

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Origins Of Money

"Conflict reigns over the history and origins of money". (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Ghostbusters Logo

"The Ghostbusters Logo Only Became Famous Because Of A Legal Screw-Up"

No Time Travelers

"The Utter Failure of Fictional Time Travel". An answer to why we’ve not been visited from the future?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Poker Professional Maria Konnikova

Professional poker player Maria Konnikova explains how she exploits irrational prejudices by male poker players to her advantage:
There are people who’d rather die than be bluffed by a woman. They’ll never fold to me because that’s an affront to their masculinity. 

I never bluff them. I know that no matter how strong my hand, they are still going to call me because they just can’t fold to a girl.

Other people think women are incapable of bluffing. They think if I’m betting really aggressively, it means I have an incredibly strong hand. I bluff those people all the time. 
FWIW, she has won $200,000 over the past year of playing professionally.

Parker Solar Probe

"As strange as it may sound, it's much more difficult to reach the sun than it is to leave the solar system altogether":
“I’m always amused when someone says, ‘Shoot X or so-and-so into the sun,’” says Rand Simberg, a space consultant and an engineer. “Because they have no idea how hard that is to do.”

The reason has to do with orbital mechanics, the study of how natural forces influence the motions of rockets, satellites, and other space-bound technology. Falling into the sun might seem effortless since the star’s gravity is always tugging at everything in the solar system, including Earth. But Earth—along with all the other planets and their moons—is also orbiting the sun at great speed, which prevents it from succumbing to the sun’s pull.

This arrangement is great if you’d like to avoid falling into the sun yourself, but it’s rather inconvenient if you want to launch something there.

More Superbugs

"Hospital superbugs are evolving to survive hand sanitizers"

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

My Father Is Steve Jobs

"I have a secret. My father is Steve Jobs."

Ultimate Bush Plane

"One man designed and built the ultimate bush plane". (Via H.R.)

Laundering Money With In-Game Purchases

Bruce Schneier: "Evidence that stolen credit cards are being used to purchase items in games like Clash of Clans, which are then resold for cash."

Monday, August 13, 2018

Xanadu Today

"Verses Composed Upon Reading A Review From TripAdvisor"

Battery Progress

"The next major innovation in batteries might be here":
Pellion’s battery can pack nearly double the energy of a conventional lithium-ion battery, making it able to, for example, double the time a drone can spend in the air. That 100% increase in energy density is a step change compared to the annual 10% or so improvement the battery industry currently averages.

Best Words

"10 of the best words in the world (that don't translate into English)"

Friday, August 10, 2018

Humidity And HFT

How humidity affects high-frequency trading and the global stock markets. (Via H.R.)

Ethics And Dog Cloning

"Inside the Very Big, Very Controversial Business of Dog Cloning"

Geek Disaster Movie

xkcd: "Disaster Movie". (Via B.E.)

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Money-Losing Hardware

"Why Hardware Makers Rarely Make Their Money From Hardware"

Pure Sand

"The Ultra-Pure, Super-Secret Sand That Makes Your Phone Possible". (Via H.R.)

Lip-Reading AI

"Lip-reading artificial intelligence could help the deaf -- or spies"

Friday, August 03, 2018


"How an Ex-Cop Rigged McDonald's Monopoly Game and Stole Millions"

Check Engine Light

"What Your Check Engine Light Means and What To Do About It"

Big Pipe

Ars Technica: "661Tbps through a single optical fiber: The mind boggles". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: Why The Idea Of Single Payer Heath Care Won't Die

[Off topic] My latest Forbes column discusses how "single payer" health care keeps being rejected at the state level — often by Democrats.

Yet it keeps coming back, like a political zombie: "Why The Idea Of Single Payer Heath Care Won't Die."

Related piece by Steve Forbes: "Only Free Markets Will Save — And Strengthen Healthcare".

New Shape

"Introducing the Scutoid, Geometry's Newest Shape".

Original Nature article: "Scutoids are a geometrical solution to three-dimensional packing of epithelia".

Are You An Android?

The Onion: "New Study Finds Best Way To Determine If You Are Android Still Cutting Open Forearm To Reveal Circuitry Within"

Vader Visuals

"What made Darth Vader such a visually iconic character"

Friday, July 27, 2018


"The Long, Knotty, World-Spanning Story of String". (Via MR.)

Dense Memory

"Record-breaking solid state memory stores data at 100 times the density of Blu-ray". (Via H.R.)

Emotional Surveillance

"Employees' brain waves are reportedly being monitored in factories, state-owned enterprises, and the military across China"

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

SHTF Plans

"How tech's richest plan to save themselves after the apocalypse"

Rocket Plans

"Four huge rockets are due to debut in 2020 -- will any make it?"

Lost Galaxy

"The Andromeda Galaxy Ate The Milky Way's Lost Sibling"

Monday, July 23, 2018

Fake Vs. Real

"How to tell if you're talking to a bot"

Seeing Jaws For The First Time

Jason Kottke: "Everyone has that one obviously great and popular movie that they havent seen yet for no good reason. Mine is Jaws. Or at least it was. Last night, I finally watched it. What an experience..."

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Reading Ancient Texts

"Buried by the Ash of Vesuvius, These Scrolls Are Being Read for the First Time in Millennia":
The scrolls represent the only intact library known from the classical world, an unprecedented cache of ancient knowledge. Most classical texts we know today were copied, and were therefore filtered and distorted, by scribes over centuries, but these works came straight from the hands of the Greek and Roman scholars themselves. Yet the tremendous volcanic heat and gases spewed by Vesuvius carbonized the scrolls, turning them black and hard like lumps of coal. Over the years, various attempts to open some of them created a mess of fragile flakes that yielded only brief snippets of text. Hundreds of the papyri were therefore left unopened, with no realistic prospect that their contents would ever be revealed. And it probably would have remained that way except for an American computer scientist named Brent Seales, director of the Center for Visualization & Virtual Environments at the University of Kentucky...

Shoe Technology And Athletic Rules

NYT: "Nike Says Its $250 Running Shoes Will Make You Run Much Faster. What if That’s Actually True?"

Uncomfortable DNA Truths

"When a DNA Test Shatters Your Identity"

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Insecure Voting

"Top Voting Machine Vendor Admits It Installed Remote-Access Software on Systems Sold to States":
In a letter sent to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in April and obtained recently by Motherboard, Election Systems and Software acknowledged that it had "provided pcAnywhere remote connection software … to a small number of customers between 2000 and 2006," which was installed on the election-management system ES&S sold them.

The statement contradicts what the company told me and fact checkers for a story I wrote for the New York Times in February. At that time, a spokesperson said ES&S had never installed pcAnywhere on any election system it sold. "None of the employees, … including long-tenured employees, has any knowledge that our voting systems have ever been sold with remote-access software," the spokesperson said.

Wacky Gene Names

"Sonic hedgehog and Beethoven: An oral history of how some genes got their names"

Genomes To Face

"Researchers produce images of people's faces from their genomes":
Creating pictures of people’s faces from their genomes has a number of potential uses, especially in forensic science. It might be possible to reconstruct the face of a perpetrator from any genetic material they have left behind, such as blood or body fluids. That would allow police to “see” the face of suspects in cases of murder, assault and rape. It could also help with identifying unrecognisable victims who have been burned or maimed. Unsolved cases might be reopened if suitable samples were still available.

As Dr Venter is quick to point out, this technology has other implications, among them for privacy. He considers that genomic information must now be treated as personal information, even if it is presented as an anonymised sequence of letters—as is currently the case in some countries...

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Monday, July 16, 2018


"More States Opting To 'Robo-Grade' Student Essays By Computer"

Psychology of Roller Coasters

"The History and Psychology of Roller Coasters"

Oldest Color

"Scientists discover world's oldest colour -- bright pink". (Via H.R.)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Blazar Update

"The IceCube Neutrino Detector at the South Pole Hits Paydirt":
...And these led to the first ever identification of the birthplace of a neutrino from outside our galaxy: in this case, the unimaginably violent cosmic forge of a blazar.

Blazars are incredibly bright natural sources of radio waves. They form when some of the swirling material falling into a supermassive black hole is converted into a hot radiating soup of elementary particles and then gets blasted back out into space in the form of twin jets moving at close to the speed of light.

2018 Macbook Pros

"Apple's new 2018 MacBook Pros are now available, and the top specs are much faster". (Via H.R.)

Vatican Keymaster

"Meet the Man With the Keys to the Vatican"

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Light Posting Notice

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

Police Technology Update

"Secret Policing: How Local Authorities Surveil Americans"

40 Years Of IVF

"Seven ways IVF changed the world"

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Spider Ballooning

"Spiders Can Fly Hundreds of Miles Using Electricity"

Ping Pong Ball Trick Shots

"Insane ping pong ball trick shots". Click through to see the videos.

How Lawn Mower Blades Cut Grass

"The Physics of How Lawn Mower Blades Cut Grass (at 50,000 FRAMES PER SECOND)".

Direct link to video:

Monday, July 09, 2018


"The US has an anti-drone gun that shoots drones at other drones"

Roller Coaster In Living Room

Resourceful dad gives his daughter an awesome roller coaster ride in the living room.

(Note: Lots of laughter and shrieking.) #DadOfTheYear

Homemade Underground Temple

"Man Spends 23 Years Carving Sprawling Underground Temple Under His House":
Levon Arakelyan was 44 years old in 1985, when his wife asked him to dig a potato storage pit under their house in the village of Arinj, in Armenia’s Kotayk region. He obliged, but after finishing work on the pit, he just couldn’t stop chiselling, so he kept at it every day, for the next 23 years...

Friday, July 06, 2018

IEEE Statement On Strong Encryption

"IEEE Statement on Strong Encryption vs. Backdoors"
IEEE supports the use of unfettered strong encryption to protect confidentiality and integrity of data and communications. We oppose efforts by governments to restrict the use of strong encryption and/or to mandate exceptional access mechanisms such as "backdoors" or "key escrow schemes" in order to facilitate government access to encrypted data. Governments have legitimate law enforcement and national security interests. IEEE believes that mandating the intentional creation of backdoors or escrow schemes -- no matter how well intentioned -- does not serve those interests well and will lead to the creation of vulnerabilities that would result in unforeseen effects as well as some predictable negative consequences
You can read their full statement here.


"Stepping into a Three-Torus"

Fermi Paradox Revisited

"Why haven’t we found aliens yet? A new paper on the Fermi paradox convincingly shows why we will probably never find aliens."

I'm actually still not convinced. But I thought it was worth flagging this argument for others to read.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Chaotic Clouds of Jupiter

NASA: "Chaotic Clouds of Jupiter":
NASA’s Juno spacecraft took this color-enhanced image at 10:23 p.m. PDT on May 23, 2018 (1:23 a.m. EDT on May 24), as the spacecraft performed its 13th close flyby of Jupiter. At the time, Juno was about 9,600 miles (15,500 kilometers) from the planet's cloud tops, above a northern latitude of 56 degrees.

The region seen here is somewhat chaotic and turbulent, given the various swirling cloud formations. In general, the darker cloud material is deeper in Jupiter’s atmosphere, while bright cloud material is high. The bright clouds are most likely ammonia or ammonia and water, mixed with a sprinkling of unknown chemical ingredients.

A bright oval at bottom center stands out in the scene. This feature appears uniformly white in ground-based telescope observations. However, with JunoCam we can observe the fine-scale structure within this weather system, including additional structures within it...

Too Many Meetings

"Tortured by meetings"

NYT On Descending Testicles

NYT: "The Evolutionary Origin of Descending Testicles"

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Star Trek Spirits

"'Kirk Bourbon Whiskey' Launches Line of STAR TREK Spirits".

Available for pre-order here.

AI Vs. Dermatologists

"AI detects skin cancers with more accuracy than dermatologists":
“The CNN [convolutional neural network] missed fewer melanomas, meaning it had a higher sensitivity than the dermatologists, and it misdiagnosed fewer benign moles as malignant melanoma, which means it had a higher specificity,” Haenssle said. “This would result in less surgery.”

Amazon Delivery To The Himalayas

"Delivering Amazon Packages to the Top of the World". (Via H.R.)

Monday, July 02, 2018

Medieval Trade Routes

"Behold an Incredibly Detailed, Handmade Map Of Medieval Trade Routes"

Future Phones

"Whoa! Meet the future phones that fold up, have 9 cameras and charge over thin air."

Magnetically Activated Micromachines

"Magnetically Activated Micromachines to Operate Remotely Inside Body":
Engineers at MIT have created a class of magnetically activated bug-like microdevices that may foreshadow remote-controlled surgical tools and externally powered heart-assist pumps. These interesting devices have an origami-like look and a variety of them have been built that crawl, jump, grasp, and do other things. They’re actually printed from soft materials that have ferromagnetic nanoparticles within their interior, allowing a magnet to manipulate them.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

[Off Topic] Hsieh WSJ Column On Doctors And Guns

[Off topic] I am honored and delighted to have been invited by the Wall Street Journal to write a column on the topic, "Should Doctors Routinely Talk to Patients About Gun Use?".

They invited two physicians to take opposite sides, with Dr. Megan L. Ranney of Brown University taking the "yes" side and myself taking the "no" position. Many thanks to all who helped provide quotes!

(I know that some readers might not be able to read the full piece because of the paywall. I'll see if I can post screenshots or excerpts of my piece later. You can often read the full text of the piece by searching for the title on Twitter and then viewing the piece through the Twitter link -- for example via this Tweet by Ari Armstrong.)

The link to the pair of pieces can be found here.

Faucet Plinks

"The Physics Behind a Leaky Faucet's Maddening 'Plink'"

Robot Overlord Update

"A new kind of deep-learning machine has taught itself to solve a Rubik's Cube without any human assistance."

Detecting Fake Art

"How to spot a perfect fake: The world's top art forgery detective"

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Light Posting Notice

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

Monday, June 11, 2018

Bottomless Pits

"Could We Create A Bottomless Pit On Earth?"

Amazon LOTR

More details on the 5-season Tolkien series from Amazon.

Psychopath AI

What happens when you train a machine learning system using Reddit? You get "the world's first psychopath AI".

Friday, June 08, 2018

Lost Videogames Found

"70 Long-Lost Japanese Video Games Have Been Discovered in a 67GB Folder of ROMs on a Private Forum. They were found in a folder called 'DO NOT UPLOAD.'"

Armed Birds

Drawing armed birds.

Pneumatic Email

"How to email a cat". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Military WinXP

"Why the Military Can't Quit Windows XP"

The Psychology of Money

"The Psychology of Money"

Studying Videos

"Quiet! I'm Cramming for Finals -- By Watching Someone Else Study"

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

More Private Spaceflight

"With a simple and cheap rocket, Virgin Orbit aims for the extraordinary". (Via H.R.)

Future Avis

"As Rental Cars Fade Away, Avis Will Try Anything to Survive"

Sterile Neutrino?

"Evidence Found for a New Fundamental Particle":
The MiniBooNE experiment has detected far more neutrinos of a particular type than expected, a finding that is most easily explained by the existence of a new elementary particle: a “sterile” neutrino that’s even stranger and more reclusive than the three known neutrino types. The result appears to confirm the anomalous results of a decades-old experiment that MiniBooNE was built specifically to double-check.

Monday, June 04, 2018

What Is Li-Fi?

"What Is Li-Fi? The New Alternative To Wi-Fi"

Secret Government Phone Tracker

"How a Hacker Proved Cops Used a Secret Government Phone Tracker to Find Him, And how it might change what cops can do with our smartphones"

Regenerating Dental Enamel

"New material regenerates dental enamel". (Via H.R.)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Coldest Place

"NASA's Atomic Fridge Will Make the ISS the Coldest Known Place in the Universe"

Longer Nanotubules

"Forget carbon fiber -- we can now make carbon nanotube fibers". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Light Posting Notice

Admin note: Posting may be lighter than usual for the next 2 weeks due to external oblgations.

Choking Treatment

"What to do if you find yourself choking -- and no one's around"

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: "Pelvic Exams On Anesthetized Women Without Consent: A Troubling And Outdated Practice"

[Off topic] My latest Forbes column is now out -- "Pelvic Exams On Anesthetized Women Without Consent: A Troubling And Outdated Practice".

Many doctors think this is "no big deal" and "good for society", whereas many patients consider this a violation.

Ultimately, the patients' wishes should prevail.

PGP Vulnerability

"People Are Freaking Out That PGP Is 'Broken' -- But You Shouldn’t Be Using It Anyway"

Mars Helicopter

"NASA is Sending a Helicopter to Mars on Next Red Planet Rover Mission". (Via H.R.)


"The world's lightest wireless flying machine lifts off"

Monday, May 14, 2018

Friday, May 11, 2018

Searching Devices At Borders

"Fourth Circuit Rules That Suspicionless Forensic Searches of Electronic Devices at the Border Are Unconstitutional"

Police Cams And Facial Recognition

"Facial recognition may be coming to a police body camera near you":
Axon, the maker of Taser electroshock weapons and the wearable body cameras now used by most major American city police departments, has voiced interest in pursuing face recognition for its body-worn cameras. The technology could allow officers to scan and recognize the faces of potentially everyone they see while on patrol. A growing number of surveillance firms and tech start-ups are racing to integrate face recognition and other AI capabilities into real-time video.

The board’s first meeting will likely presage an imminent showdown over the rapidly developing technology. Shortly after the board was announced, a group of 42 civil rights, technology and privacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP, sent members a letter voicing “serious concerns with the current direction of Axon’s product development.”

Old School Navigation

"Figure Out Where You Are With Nothing But a Watch and Protractor":
In a recent episode of MacGyver, Angus (yes, that's his first name) finds his location in the desert using only a string, a protractor, and a watch. Is this actually possible? Basically, yes...

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant

CGP Grey: "The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant"

No Secret Tut Chambers

"Sorry, There Are No Secret Chambers in King Tut’s Tomb":
After two contradictory radar scans, Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities commissioned a third comprehensive survey that revealed no voids beyond the tomb walls.

Amazon Reviews From Scientists

"'Fits neatly inside a lizard's cloaca': Scientists are leaving Amazon reviews, and it's amazing". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

The Last Man Who Knew Everything

"The last man who knew everything".

Poetry and Math

"How Poetry and Math Intersect"

Fermi Paradox Explained

 "Why We Haven’t Met Any Aliens":
I suggest a different, even darker solution to the Paradox. Basically, I think the aliens don’t blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they’re too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don’t need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today. Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose the cosmic plot. They become like a self-stimulating rat, pressing a bar to deliver electricity to its brain’s ventral tegmental area, which stimulates its nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, which feels…ever so good.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: That Time The CDC Asked About Defensive Gun Uses

[Off topic] My latest Forbes piece is now out: "That Time The CDC Asked About Defensive Gun Uses".

I discuss some recent work by criminologist Gary Kleck on unpublished CDC data on defensive gun use, and how that may support the case of gun rights advocates.

Some of the statistical evidence is still in question, however, and Kleck has withdrawn the original version of his paper pending further analysis.

Ultimately, individual rights are not validated (or refuted) by statistics. But real-world evidence can help affirm the underlying principles.

For more details, see the full text of "That Time The CDC Asked About Defensive Gun Uses".

Related articles:

"Any Study Of ‘Gun Violence’ Should Include How Guns Save Lives" (Paul Hsieh, 3/20/2018)
"Criminologist Gary Kleck on Guns, Crime, and Their Study" (Ari Armstrong, 11/7/2015)

Wrong Kind Of Self-Driving Car

"A man in England was caught driving his Tesla on Autopilot... from the passenger seat."

Fancy Ice Cubes

NYT: "She Makes Fancy Ice Cubes for a Living". (Via Tyler Cowen.)

New Gender Rules For Sports

"Track’s New Gender Rules Could Exclude Some Female Athletes":
In an effort to address questions about fair play, track and field’s world governing body will publish regulations on Thursday that could force some elite female athletes with naturally elevated testosterone levels to lower the hormone with medication, compete against men in certain Olympic events or effectively give up their international careers.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Difficult Statistics Of Rare Events

Alex Tabarrok: "Defensive Gun Use and the Difficult Statistics of Rare Events". (Via A.B.)

AI Discovery

"AI is discovering new alloys faster than humans ever could":
Using artificial intelligence, the scientists at Northwestern University have already been able to discover three new blends of ingredients that form metallic glass–and AI does it 200 times faster than the scientists themselves could have done. The results mean that new alloys could reach the market decades before they normally would thanks to AI. This, in turn, could have a massive impact on the industrial and structural design of objects large and small, from smartphones to skyscrapers.

Transcribing Silent Speech

"Computer system transcribes words users 'speak silently'"

Friday, April 20, 2018

Diamonds From Space

"These diamonds are tiny, flawed, and may come from a long-lost planet". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Pre-Human Civilization

"Was There a Civilization On Earth Before Humans?"

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Lebowski Theorem Of Machine Superintelligence

"The Lebowski Theorem of machine superintelligence":
Harvard cognitive scientist Joscha Bach, in a tongue-in-cheek tweet, has countered this sort of idea with what he calls “The Lebowski Theorem”:
No superintelligent AI is going to bother with a task that is harder than hacking its reward function.
In other words, Bach imagines that Bostrom’s hypothetical paperclip-making AI would foresee the fantastically difficult and time-consuming task of turning everything in the universe into paperclips and opt to self-medicate itself into no longer wanting or caring about making paperclips, instead doing whatever the AI equivalent is of sitting around on the beach all day sipping piña coladas, a la The Big Lebowski’s The Dude.

Ikea-Style Programming Algorithms

"Ikea-style instructions for programming algorithms".

One example:

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Light Posting Notice

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

The Secret Language of Ships

"The Secret Language of Ships"

Monday, April 16, 2018

More Gmail Update

" redesign includes self-destructing emails". (Via H.R.)

Surveillance Tech Update

"Facial recognition tech catches fugitive in huge crowd at Jacky Cheung Cantopop concert in China"

Artificial Heart Update

"A simple artificial heart could permanently replace a failing human one":
[R]esearchers have been trying for decades to make an artificial heart that can be permanently implanted. But building one that imitates a real heart over a long period of time without breaking or causing infections or blood clots is incredibly difficult. One problem is that the more parts there are, the more things could go wrong.

To solve the problem, Sanjiv Kaul and his team at Oregon Health and Science University are developing an artificial heart with an extremely simple design -- it contains a single moving piece with no valves. They believe it could be the first such device that could last the rest of a person’s life...

Friday, April 13, 2018

Medical AI Update

"FDA approves AI-powered diagnostic that doesn't need a doctor's help":
What it does: The software is designed to detect greater than a mild level of diabetic retinopathy, which causes vision loss and affects 30 million people in the US. It occurs when high blood sugar damages blood vessels in the retina.

How it works: The program uses an AI algorithm to analyze images of the adult eye taken with a special retinal camera. A doctor uploads the images to a cloud server, and the software then delivers a positive or negative result.

No specialist required: The FDA recently cleared AI-based software to help detect stroke, too. But the agency says this is the first device authorized to provide a screening decision without the need for a specialized doctor to interpret the image or results.

New Gmail?

"Gmail will be updated soon and I’m worried"

Space War

"Space Wars Will Look Nothing Like Star Wars"

Thursday, April 12, 2018