Monday, December 31, 2018

Thursday, December 27, 2018

15 Years Ago

Jon Erlichman:  Things that didn't exist on Christmas 15 years ago:

Netflix streaming
Google Maps
App Store
Google Chrome

FBI Interview

"Why Doesn’t the FBI Videotape Interviews?" (Via G.F.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

GPS Wars

"The GPS Wars Are Here"

AI Threats

"The case for taking AI seriously as a threat to humanity"

Monday, December 24, 2018

Light Posting Notice

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

New Largest Known Prime

"GIMPS Discovers Largest Known Prime Number: 2^82,589,933-1". (Via H.R.)

FedEx Christmas

"Inside FedEx’s Christmas Miracle". (Via H.R.)

Friday, December 21, 2018

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Laser-Powered Interstellar Probe

"Laser-Powered Probe Might Make It To Alpha Centauri In 100 Years"

Space Beer

"How To Make Beer With Only What You Can Grow On A Generation Ship"

Fake Faces

"These incredibly realistic fake faces show how algorithms can now mess with us"

Monday, December 17, 2018

Amazon Machine Learning Course

"The same machine learning courses Amazon uses internally to train their own engineers are being made available to all developers."
There are more than 30 self-service, self-paced digital courses with more than 45 hours of courses, videos, and labs for four key groups: developers, data scientists, data platform engineers, and business professionals. Each course starts with the fundamentals, and builds on those through real-world examples and labs, allowing developers to explore machine learning through some fun problems we have had to solve at Amazon. These include predicting gift wrapping eligibility, optimizing delivery routes, or predicting entertainment award nominations using data from IMDb (an Amazon subsidiary). Coursework helps consolidate best practices, and demonstrates how to get started on a range of AWS machine learning services, including Amazon SageMaker, AWS DeepLens, Amazon Rekognition, Amazon Lex, Amazon Polly, and Amazon Comprehend.

Modern Dating

"Is Swiping Right On Tinder Considered Cheating?"

Tetris Trivia

Lots of info about Tetris.

Friday, December 14, 2018

AlphaFold Update

AlphaFold @ CASP13: "What just happened?"

Deep Learning Cheat Sheets

Deep Learning cheat sheets covering the content of the CS 230 class at Stanford. Could be useful to anyone interested in Deep Learning.

Lost Heart

"Southwest flight turns around after human heart is found on plane". (Via D.M.)

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Decision-Making Heuristics

"Six science-backed techniques to help you make hard decisions"

"Avengers: Endgame" Trailer

Trailer for Avengers: Endgame


"Protect your dog from predator attacks with the CoyoteVest".

It looks like something an Oakland Raiders fan would wear, but with more cheerful colors. This is apparently a real consumer product.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

More AI Medicine

"Applying Deep Learning to Metastatic Breast Cancer Detection":
 In both datasets, LYNA was able to correctly distinguish a slide with metastatic cancer from a slide without cancer 99% of the time. Further, LYNA was able to accurately pinpoint the location of both cancers and other suspicious regions within each slide, some of which were too small to be consistently detected by pathologists. As such, we reasoned that one potential benefit of LYNA could be to highlight these areas of concern for pathologists to review and determine the final diagnosis...

Encouragingly, pathologists with LYNA assistance were more accurate than either unassisted pathologists or the LYNA algorithm itself, suggesting that people and algorithms can work together effectively to perform better than either alone. 

Christmas In Space

"Christmas Dinner Rocketed To International Space Station"

Mother of All Demos

"The Mother of All Demos turns 50":
On December 9, 1968, Douglas Engelbart gave a demo of NLS, the "oN-Line System", to the Fall Joint Computer Conference of the ACM and IEEE. Later dubbed The Mother of All Demos, it demonstrated many concepts that would later become fundamental elements of personal computing, including the mouse, windows, hypertext, graphics, video conferencing, and word processing.

Monday, December 10, 2018

32-Legged Spherical Robot

"32-Legged Spherical Robot Moves Like an Amoeba". Click through to see video.

Unusual Blood Clot

"A blood clot formed in the exact shape of a man's lung passage -- then he coughed it up"

Quantum Insecurity

"Quantum computers pose a security threat that we're still totally unprepared for"

Friday, December 07, 2018

Self-Designing Machines

"Artificial Intelligence and the coming of the self-designing machine"

Apple ECG App

"ECG app and irregular heart rhythm notification available today on Apple Watch". (Via H.R.)

Cruise Vs. Motion Smoothing

"Tom Cruise is right: motion-smoothing sucks".

Cruise explains.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Food Photography Tricks

"Photography Tricks That Advertisers Use to Make Food Look Delicious".

I had heard of some of these, but others were new to me:
To make food look appetizing in advertisements, food stylists use a bunch of tricks that may not even involve edible objects. For example, syrup on pancakes is motor oil (because it doesn’t absorb), Elmer's glue is cereal milk (it prevent the cereal from sinking), shaving cream is whipped cream (doesn't melt), and dish soap helps the head on a beer appear foamier and last longer...

Control a Machine with Your Brain

"How to Control a Machine with Your Brain"

Against Book Blurbs

"We Need to Destroy the Blurbing Industrial Complex"

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Good Book Design

"The Splendid Book Design of the 1946 Edition of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire"

Bad Airport Wi-Fi

"Airport Wi-Fi can be a security nightmare. Here's what you can do to stop cyber criminals"

Icosahedral Earth Puzzle

"An Infinite Icosahedral Puzzle of the Earth".

From the company blog:
The Earth Puzzle is a map of the globe unlike any you’ve seen before. Start anywhere and see where your journey takes you. This puzzle is based on an icosahedral map projection and has the topology of a sphere. This means it has no edges, no North and South, and no fixed shape. Try to get the landmasses together or see how the oceans are connected. Make your own maps of the earth!

Monday, December 03, 2018

Moore's Law Lives On

"New Metal-Air Transistor Replaces Semiconductors". (Via H.R.)

If People Acted Like Dogs

"8 Hilariously Accurate Comics That Show What Would Happen If People Acted Like Dogs"

AirBnb With Alpacas

"Welsh AirBnb Flaunts Alpacas as an Added Attraction for Guests"

Friday, November 30, 2018

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: Could #MeToo Hurt Women's Health Care?

[Off Topic] Even good movements can create bad unintended consequences. My latest column in Forbes asks: "Could #MeToo Hurt Women's Health Care?"

I discuss recent research that fears of false accusations of sexual assault could prevent men from giving life-saving CPR to women in cardiac arrest. 

Drug-Resistant Bacteria In Space

"Drug-Resistant Bacteria Found on International Space Station Toilet"

Collector of Math and Physics Surprises

"A Collector of Math and Physics Surprises"

Payless Experiment

"Payless Opened a Fake Luxury Store, 'Palessi,' to See How Much People Would Pay for $20 Shoes The answer? A hell of a lot"

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Competence Downshifting By White Liberals

Interesting psychology research from Yale: "White Liberals Present Themselves as Less Competent in Interactions with African-Americans"

I was particular struck by the work done on "normal" people (as opposed to political candidates):
The researchers found that liberal individuals were less likely to use words that would make them appear highly competent when the person they were addressing was presumed to be black rather than white. No significant differences were seen in the word selection of conservatives based on the presumed race of their partner. 'It was kind of an unpleasant surprise to see this subtle but persistent effect,' [Yale professor Cyndee] Dupree says. 'Even if it’s ultimately well-intentioned, it could be seen as patronizing.'

Plural Forms Of Last Names

"How to make your last name plural on holiday cards and avoid apostrophe catastrophe"

100 Websites

"100 Websites That Shaped the Internet as We Know It"

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Fax Machines

"The Fax Is Not Yet Obsolete". Although I really wish it were.


"Chinese scientists are creating CRISPR babies".

Related commentary: "What we know — and what we don’t — about the claim of world’s first gene-edited babies"

AI Boo Boo

"Chinese AI traffic cam mistook a bus ad for a human and publicly shamed the CEO it depicted for jaywalking"

Monday, November 26, 2018

Plane With No Moving Parts

"First ever plane with no moving parts takes flight":
The first ever “solid state” plane, with no moving parts in its propulsion system, has successfully flown for a distance of 60 metres, proving that heavier-than-air flight is possible without jets or propellers.

The flight represents a breakthrough in “ionic wind” technology, which uses a powerful electric field to generate charged nitrogen ions, which are then expelled from the back of the aircraft, generating thrust.

Steven Barrett, an aeronautics professor at MIT and the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature, said the inspiration for the project came straight from the science fiction of his childhood. “I was a big fan of Star Trek”...

Background Music

"Inside the booming business of background music"

Holding Cigarettes

The psychology of holding cigarettes? (Via Tyler Cowen.)

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving Break

Happy Thanksgiving to my US readers!

GeekPress will be on break the rest of this week. Regular posting will resume on Monday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Lego Pain

"Why Walking on Legos Hurts More Than Walking on Fire or Ice"

Relativity And Supernovas

"Physicists Used Einstein's Relativity To Successfully Predict A Supernova Explosion"

Wombat Poop

"Scientists explain how wombats drop cubed poop".

Original academic presentation.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

How AI Agents Cheat

"How AI Agents Cheat"

Underwater Hotel

"Hotel's underwater villa costs $50,000 per night":
The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island said the underwater villa, dubbed Muraka, includes a private gym, a stocked bar, an infinity pool, butler's quarters, an ocean-facing bathtub and an underwater bedroom with a panoramic view of the world 16feet under the surface of the Indian Ocean.

Cowen On Journal Of Controversial Ideas

Tyler Cowen: "A new scholarly journal of provocative arguments is interesting but probably redundant"

Friday, November 16, 2018

Literal Diamond Ring

"Jony Ive's latest design is the ultimate diamond ring – made only of diamond":
Creating a ring-shaped diamond is no small feat; the diamond block will be faceted with several thousand facets, some of which are as small as several hundred micrometers. The interior ring will be cylindrically cut out for the desired smoothness using a micrometer thick water jet inside which a laser beam is cast. The finished ring will have between 2000-3000 facets which has never been seen before on a single piece.

3 Rubiks At Once

"Teen solves three Rubik's cubes at once for Guinness record".

Direct link to video:

Airplane Boarding Algorithms

"All the Ways You Can Board a Plane, Ranked by Stupidity"

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Monday, November 12, 2018

Amazing Magic

"The Winning Trick at the World Championships of Magic Might Fry Your Brain Like an Egg"

Eric Chien:

Wi-Fi Spying

"Using Wi-Fi to 'see' behind closed doors is easier than anyone thought"

The All-Seeing Eye

"The DEA and ICE are hiding surveillance cameras in streetlights"

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Round Electrons

"Physicists report electron is round -- what does that mean?" (Via H.R.)

Facebook Unsend

"Facebook Messenger will soon roll out an unsend feature, which will give users a grand total of ten minutes to unsend a message, wiping it from your chat history. This will remove the message from the recipient's inbox as well."

Laser "Porchlight" For Earth

"ET, we're home: Existing laser technology could be fashioned into Earth's 'porch light' to attract alien astronomers.

Um, are we sure we really want to attract the attention of aliens? #WhatCouldPossiblyGoWrong

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Galactic Collision

"Galactic collision ripples across eons to shape our view of the cosmos"

Why Pencils Are Yellow

"The Little-Known Reason Pencils Are Yellow"

Antimatter And Gravity

"Does antimatter fall upwards? New CERN gravity experiments aim to get to the bottom of the matter"

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Monday, November 05, 2018

NASA Logos Everywhere

"Everyone's making money using NASA logos except NASA"

Expensive Art

"Why is art so expensive?"

Lab-Made Whiskey, Lab-Made Wine

"Lab-Made Whiskey, Lab-Made Wine". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Texting 911

"Why is it so hard to text 911?"

Two Women Can Carry Same Baby

"New fertility procedure allows 2 women to carry same baby, presents new choices for same-sex couples"

Harvard Pigment Collection

"Harvard's Pigment Collection"

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Lawyers Vs. AI

"20 top lawyers were beaten by legal AI. Here are their surprising responses". (Via Tyler Cowen.)

Optical Illusions and AI

"Can Optical Illusions fool Artificial Intelligence too?" (Via A.B.)

AI Lie Detector

"Police are using artificial intelligence to spot written lies"

Monday, October 29, 2018

Hsieh Forbes Column on Nudging and Bad Science

My latest Forbes piece is now out: "When Government-Backed 'Nudgers' Go Bad".

I discuss how bad science and bad government policy may have affected the diets of millions of American school children.

Updated Trolley Problem

"Massive Driverless Car Survey Updates the Trolley Problem With a 'Moral Machine'".

I'll try to be younger and more useful to society!

Getting Your Apple Data

"You can now download your Apple user data -- here's how"

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Lions Vs. Buffalo

"It takes a whole lotta lions to take down a solitary buffalo".

Dr. AI

"Your next doctor's appointment might be with an AI"

No Google Mapping

"The One Place in the US Google Earth Stopped Mapping"

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Intact Shipwreck

"World's oldest intact shipwreck discovered in Black Sea". (Via H.R.)

Matrix Green Code

"That Trippy Green Code in The Matrix Is Just a Bunch of Sushi Recipes"

Unhackable Internet?

"Inside Europe's quest to build an unhackable quantum internet"

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Monday, October 22, 2018

Don't Destroy The Universe

"Would Traveling Back In Time Destroy The Universe?"

Let's hope not. That's where I keep all my stuff.

Recognizing Faces

"The Average Person Can Recognize 5,000 Faces"


"How can stenographers keep up with a speaker"

Sunday, October 21, 2018


It's not rocket surgery.

Micro Electron Diffraction

"Small Molecule Structures: A New World". (Via H.R.)

Design "Crimes"

Write people up for their design crimes with this ticket book

Thursday, October 18, 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

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Monday, October 15, 2018

Sunday, October 14, 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"

Thursday, October 11, 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"

Wednesday, October 10, 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"

Monday, October 08, 2018

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Wednesday, October 03, 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?"

Tuesday, October 02, 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"

Monday, October 01, 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"

Thursday, September 27, 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.

Wednesday, September 26, 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"

Tuesday, September 25, 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"

Monday, September 24, 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...

Sunday, September 23, 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.)

Thursday, September 20, 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"

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Tuesday, September 18, 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"

Monday, September 17, 2018

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Speedy Noise Cancellation

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

Monday, September 10, 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"

Sunday, September 09, 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"

Thursday, September 06, 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"

Wednesday, September 05, 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.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Thursday, August 30, 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'"

Tuesday, August 28, 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?"

Monday, August 27, 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.)

Sunday, August 26, 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.)

Tuesday, August 21, 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?"

Monday, August 20, 2018

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Thursday, August 16, 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.)

Wednesday, August 15, 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?

Tuesday, August 14, 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"

Monday, August 13, 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."

Sunday, August 12, 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)"

Thursday, August 09, 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.)

Wednesday, August 08, 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"

Thursday, August 02, 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.)

Monday, July 30, 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"

Thursday, July 26, 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"

Tuesday, July 24, 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"

Sunday, July 22, 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..."

Wednesday, July 18, 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"

Tuesday, July 17, 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...

Monday, July 16, 2018

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Thursday, July 12, 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"

Wednesday, July 11, 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"

Monday, July 09, 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:

Sunday, July 08, 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...

Thursday, July 05, 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.