Thursday, March 29, 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?"

Wednesday, March 28, 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"

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Monday, March 26, 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.

Sunday, March 25, 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"

Thursday, March 22, 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).

Wednesday, March 21, 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?"

Tuesday, March 20, 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.)

Monday, March 19, 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"

Sunday, March 18, 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.)

Thursday, March 15, 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.)

Wednesday, March 14, 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.)

Tuesday, March 13, 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"

Sunday, March 11, 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

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: