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 piƱa 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

WW2 Typo

"How a Typo Helped End World War II".

Direct link to Florence Schechter's Twitter thread explanation.

Super-Accurate GPS

"This app features super-accurate GPS, and I can’t figure out how it works". (Via H.R.)

History Of Machine Translation

"A history of machine translation from the Cold War to deep learning"

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

AI Journalism Update

"A New AI 'Journalist' Is Rewriting the News to Remove Bias".

Of course, what counts as "biased" or "unbiased" is itself in the eye of the beholder.

Phone Fiddling Clues

"Mood disorders could be diagnosed by the way you fiddle with your phone"


"How CRISPR works, explained in two minutes"

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Amazon's Tolkien TV Deal

"Inside Amazon's $250M Lord of the Rings Deal: "It's Very Much a Creature of the Times""

3D Printed Bridge

"3D printed bridge looks like alien technology". (Via H.R.)

Four-Eyed Lizard

"A four-eyed lizard walked the earth nearly 50 million years ago"

Monday, April 09, 2018

Robot Rights Debate

21st century debate: Whether sex robots need "rights". #NotAnOnionStory

Angled Satellite Images

"Satellite images taken at an angle".

Injectable Bandage

"Quick-acting 'injectable bandage' developed from seaweed". (Via H.R.)

Friday, April 06, 2018

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Dead Man Fingerprints

"Yes, Cops Are Now Opening iPhones With Dead People's Fingerprints".

As the article notes, dead people's faces are the next logical step with FaceID.

DNA Surprise

"Woman takes DNA test, learns her real dad is her mom's doctor". 

Lawsuit has been filed.

Eyeball Sunburn

"Yes, even your eyeballs can get sunburned"

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Criminal Mastermind

Shoplifter uses Play-Doh to cover up security camera lens, leaves perfectly pressed fingerprint behind.

Good High School

"A single high school in India has produced the CEOs of Microsoft, Adobe, and Mastercard"

Immigrant Social Media

"U.S. to Seek Social Media Details From All Visa Applicants"

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

What Google Knows

"How to download a copy of everything Google knows about you"

Unmixable Nanoparticles

"Scientists mix the unmixable to create 'shocking' nanoparticles". (Via H.R.)

Detecting Account Breaches

"11 Tell-Tale Signs Your Accounts and Devices Have Been Hacked"

Monday, April 02, 2018

The Science of Knuckle Cracking

"Scientists have spent 60 years agonizing over how our knuckles crack"

UBI Update

Wired: "The Paradox of Universal Basic Income"

Police Using Google Data

"To find suspects, police quietly turn to Google":
In at least four investigations last year – cases of murder, sexual battery and even possible arson at the massive downtown fire in March 2017 – Raleigh police used search warrants to demand Google accounts not of specific suspects, but from any mobile devices that veered too close to the scene of a crime, according to a WRAL News review of court records. 
I'm guessing this isn't confined to Raleigh, NC. (Via Debby Witt.)

Friday, March 30, 2018

Pre-Columbian Amazon Forest

"Network of fortified towns indicates Amazon was once heavily populated". (Via H.R.)

Birds And Hurricanes

"What happens to birds during a hurricane?"

Thursday, March 29, 2018

History Of The "Many Worlds" Interpretion

"The Difficult Birth of the 'Many Worlds' Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics".

I'm curious how things transpired in the alternate universe where Everett didn't have quite that much to drink that fateful night.

Atomic Force Microscopy Overview

Derek Lowe: "AFM Marches On". (Via H.R.)

Instant Pocket Translator

"Baidu shows off its instant pocket translator"

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Passport RFID Chips

What's really stored on your passport's RFID microchip?

Jumpsuit Future

You remember those cheesy science fiction movies, where everyone in the future wears jumpsuits? Some people wnat to make that real: "The Jumpsuit That Will Replace All Clothes Forever".

My initial reaction, "No, thank you".

Chinese Space Debris

"What Should You Do If You Find a Piece of China's Crashed Space Station?"

Short answer: Don't touch it -- for both health and legal reasons.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Avoiding Germs On Planes

Where to sit on an airplane, if you don't want to get sick:
How much contact passengers had with their fellow travelers varied by seat position. Those seated at the aisle averaged 64 contacts, the middle seat 58 and the window only 12. People sitting in the middle of the cabin had more contacts than those sitting in the front or back.

Bad Legal Science

"Bad science puts innocent people in jail -- and keeps them there"

Low Cost iPad?

"Apple reportedly unveiling a cheaper iPad next week"

Friday, March 23, 2018

Handling In-Airline Disputes

"What Should You Do if a Flight Attendant Tells You to Put Your Dog in an Overhead Bin?: A guide to arguing on an airplane when you know you’re in the right."

Japan Condom Update

"Japan condom makers hope for 2020 Olympic lift". The jokes practically write themselves.

Race-Specific Emojis

NPR discusses whether it's ok for a "15-year-old queer, white girl" to use dark-skinned emojis.

Their answer is basically, "no": "By trying on black skin when it is fun, safe and convenient, your daughter is inadvertently trivializing the experiences of real black people."

I'm curious whether they'd be ok with me (a "yellow"-skinned Asian) using either a darker or lighter skin tone emoji -- or whether they'd tell me to "stick to my own color".

Or what their response would be to a male teenager wishing to use a female emoji (or vice versa).

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Blockchain Used To Hide Contraband Images

"Child abuse imagery found within bitcoin's blockchain":
Since mining is essential for the function of bitcoin, as the process records the transactions into the blockchain to verify trades and generates new bitcoin in the process, having illegal content such as child abuse imagery within the blockchain could cause significant issues for the currency. 

Chinese Government Face Scanning

"China's New Frontiers in Dystopian Tech"

Beer In Space

"How Do You Make Beer in Space?"

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: Any Study Of 'Gun Violence' Should Include How Guns Save Lives

[Off topic] My latest Forbes column is now out: "Any Study Of 'Gun Violence' Should Include How Guns Save Lives".

I discuss three key principles that should be included in any kind of "gun violence" research, including:
  • Firearms save lives as well take lives. 
  • The value of firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens should be measured in terms of lives saved or crimes prevented, not criminals killed.
  • The right to self-defense does not depend on statistics and numbers.
Legal use of firearms in self-defense happens a lot more often than most people realize.

Any public health research that studies only the negative effects of criminal misuse of guns while ignoring the positive lawful uses misses a critically important part of the picture.

Literal World Map

"The literal translation of country names".

Here's the Asia map, click on the map to see larger version. (Click through to the main article to see all the other continents).

UPDATE: Looks like the original source is an Australian credit card comparison company. Kottke also notes, "I have gotten many messages indicating the map is incorrect in one aspect or another, so you might want to take the whole thing with a healthy grain of salt (despite the research)."

Hidden Document

"High-Powered X-Rays Reveal What's Beneath 11th-Century Religious Text".

I especially like that the hidden document turns out to be a "a translated text of the ancient Greek medical philosopher Galen".

Voyager 1 Lives

"NASA Gets Response From Spacecraft 13 Billion Miles Away".

No word from Star Fleet Command on whether a super-powerful alien probe is on its way to the Solar System. (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Edison Bug

"Thomas Edison Was an Early Adopter of the Word 'Bug': In an 1878 letter, he uses the term to refer to a technological glitch"

Graphene Superconductivity

Nature: "Surprise graphene discovery could unlock secrets of superconductivity". (Via H.R.)

PDF Appreciation

"Why the PDF Is Secretly the World's Most Important File Format"

Monday, March 19, 2018

Automaker 3D Printing

"Porsche and Bugatti turn to 3D printing for complex or rare parts"

False Confessions Update

NYT: "False Confessions, Mistaken Witnesses, Corrupt Investigators: Why 139 Innocent People Went to Jail".

Particularly chilling:
In just under half of the exonerations last year, defendants were wrongfully convicted in cases in which no crime was committed. This included more than a dozen drug possession cases, 11 child sex abuse cases and nine murder cases.

In one case, Rodricus Crawford, who was on death row in Louisiana, was exonerated. The state dismissed all charges against Mr. Crawford last year after officials acknowledged that evidence suggested his infant son died with pneumonia and bacteria in his blood, implicating sepsis in the death rather than murder.

Tiny Inductors

"The Last Barrier To Ultra-Miniaturized Electronics Is Broken, Thanks To A New Type Of Inductor". (Via H.R.)

Friday, March 16, 2018

Bad Relationship

Washington Post: "She found a dating app on her boyfriend's phone. Then she bought a samurai sword."

AI-Run Economy?

Alex Tabarrok: "Will an AI Ever Be Able To Centrally Plan an Economy?"

Short answer, "no". Click through for the longer answer.

Feeling In Prosthetics

"Scientists Create a Way for People With Amputations to Feel Their Prosthetic Hands". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Mirror House

"A Mirrored Mexican Home Hides Among a Lush Forest".

Click through to see more pictures.

Brain Uploading Startup

"A startup is pitching a mind-uploading service that is '100 percent fatal'".

Only $10,000 to get on the waiting list!

How To Tie Your Shoes

A video classic: "How To Tie Your Shoes". (Via G.F.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Secret Flying Taxis

Today's 21st century headline: "Google founder's flying taxis secretly tested in New Zealand".

Affordable 3D-Printed Homes

"This cheap 3D-printed home is a start for the 1 billion who lack shelter":
Using the Vulcan printer, ICON can print an entire home for $10,000 and plans to bring costs down to $4,000 per house. “It’s much cheaper than the typical American home,” Ballard says. It’s capable of printing a home that’s 800 square feet, a significantly bigger structure than properties pushed by the tiny home movement, which top out at about 400 square feet. In contrast, the average New York apartment is about 866 square feet

Songs You Know But Can't Name

"Here's a Playlist of Songs You Know But You Can't Name"

Monday, March 12, 2018

Humans Attacking Self-Driving Cars

"Two of the six collisions involving autonomous vehicles in California so far this year involved humans colliding with self-driving cars, apparently on purpose"

Euro Clock Problems

"How Conflict in the Balkans Is Screwing Up Europe's Clocks"

Tattoo Science

"How Tattoos Are Maintained by Macrophages Could Be Key to Improving Their Removal"

Friday, March 09, 2018

Invisible TVs

"Samsung's new TVs are almost invisible":
Samsung's new QLED line of 4K TVs features a technology the company is calling "Ambient Mode." Before you mount the TV, you'll snap a picture of the wall it's going to hang on -- it doesn't matter if it's brick, wood, patterned wallpaper, or just a white wall -- and then after it's up, you can set that picture as the TV's background. The result is something that looks like a floating black rectangle mounted on a wall.

Human Vs AI Learning

"Why humans learn faster than AI -- for now"

What Lawyers Wish You Knew

"What Lawyers Wish You Knew"

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Merriam-Webster Embiggens The Dictionary

"A Perfectly Cromulent Fake Word From ‘The Simpsons’ Is Now In The Dictionary"

Super Monster Wolf

"The 'Super Monster Wolf' is a 65cm-long, 50cm-tall robot animal covered with realistic-looking fur, featuring huge white fangs and flashing red eyes":
It's been designed to keep wild boar away from rice and chestnut crops, and was deployed on a trial basis near Kisarazu City in Japan's eastern Chiba prefecture last July. When it detects an approaching animal, its eyes light up and it starts to howl, Asahi TV says. Its manufacturers say the robot wolf uses solar-rechargeable batteries and has a range of howl noises so that animal threats don't get used to it.
Heck, I'm not a Japanese rice farmer, but I want one for my home!


Laser-Worn Levi's

"Laser-Worn Levi's Are the Start of Something Big". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Oldest-Known Message In A Bottle

"Oldest-Known Message In A Bottle Found In Australia"

LTE Security Flaws

"LTE security flaws could be used for spying, spreading chaos":
[T]he collection of exploits could be used to track device owners, eavesdrop on texts and other sensitive data, and even pose as them on cellular networks and spoof location and other data. An attacker could even spoof warning messages like those used by government agencies and weather services -- such as the false missile warning sent out by a Hawaii government employee.

Recovering Hidden Texts

"At the world’s oldest monastery, new technology is making long-lost manuscripts available to anyone with an Internet connection"

Monday, March 05, 2018

OED Vs. Internet

"Inside the OED: Can the world's biggest dictionary survive the internet?"

AI Lie Detection?

"Revealing True Emotions Through Micro-Expressions: A Machine Learning Approach"

Space Hotel

"A Space Hotel Could Be Coming Soon to Skies Near You"

Friday, March 02, 2018

Fart Tracking

"With ingestible pill, you can track fart development in real time on your phone"

First Stars

"Cosmic dawn: Sstronomers detect signals from first stars in the universe". (Via H.R.)

3000 Years Of Art

"3000 years of art in just three minutes":
This short film from 1968, set to Classical Gas, shows 3000 years of fine art in just three minutes. As the final frame of the film says:
You have just had all of the Great Art of the World indelibly etched in your brain. You are now cultured.
As mesmerizing as the film is, especially for 1968, the backstory is perhaps even more interesting...
Direct link to the video:

Wednesday, February 28, 2018