Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Monday, December 30, 2019

Long Walk

"This Is the Longest Walkable Distance on Earth":
The total trip is over 14,000 miles. A real person walking this route at a sustainable pace would need about three years to complete the trip. They’d need to pack a variety of things or, like in the award-winning game 80 Days, sell their stuff and buy new stuff along the way: desert gear, rain gear, and even body armor for the sections through anarchic or war-torn regions like South Sudan.

More Public Domain Books

"Millions of Books Are Secretly in the Public Domain. You Can Download Them Free"

Cheerios Physics

"Physicists measured forces behind why Cheerios clump together in your bowl"

Friday, December 27, 2019

Inducing Seizure By Twitter

"A tweet gave a journalist a seizure. His case brings new meaning to the idea of 'online assault.'"

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Cat Physics

"The surprisingly complicated physics of why cats always land on their feet". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all our friends and readers!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

It's Mom!

As we approach Christmas day, I wanted to share one of my favorite C-SPAN political clips of all time. 

Two brothers and pundits with diametrically opposed political views were appearing on C-SPAN just before Christmas time, when a familiar voice called in to give them a piece of her mind:

Monday, December 23, 2019

Light Posting Notice

Admin note: Posts may be much lighter than usual this week because of the Christmas holiday.

Latest Wikipedia Edit War

"Wikipedia page for Home Alone 2 was edited to call Trump the film's first cast member to be impeached"

Mycenaean Tombs

"Archaeologists unearth gold-lined Mycenaean royal tombs in Greece". (Via H.R.)

Friday, December 20, 2019

Eating Snow?

"Is it Safe to Eat Snow? Snow's pristine looks can be deceiving."

Work Computer Safety

"What Not to Do on Your Work Computer"

Asymmetric Conductors

"A nanotube material conducts heat in just one direction"

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Beer Fizzing

"Does tapping the bottom of a beer can really stop it fizzing over?"

No More Ten-Digit ISBN

"Say Good-Bye to the Ten-Digit ISBN"

History Of Beer

History of beer.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Chimp Using Instagram

"Watch This Chimpanzee Swipe Effortlessly Through Instagram".

This suggests that (1) chimpanzees are pretty good at using tools, (2) our user interfaces are pretty intuitive, or both.

Star Wars Future?

BBC: "Will the Star Wars universe survive?"

Black Box AI

"Unpacking the Black Box in Artificial Intelligence for Medicine"

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Best Optical Illusion Of 2019

"The Best Optical Illusion of the Year for 2019":
The illusion features a moving shape that somehow can be seen to rotate around both the horizontal and the vertical axis and rotates in tow different directions around each axis.

Self-Repairing Robots

"Japanese Researchers Teaching Robots to Repair Themselves".

I see no possible way this could turn out badly for humanity.

One Step Closer To Self-Replication

"This 3D-printed Stanford bunny also holds the data for its own reproduction"
The fabricated Stanford bunny holds about 100 kilobytes of data, thanks to the addition of the DNA-containing nanobeads to the plastic used to 3D print it. "Just like real rabbits, our rabbit also carries its own blueprint," said Grass.

Grass and his colleagues were also able to cut off a piece of the rabbit's ear to retrieve the embedded DNA. Then they used that information to fabricate a second bunny, repeating this process four times, for a total of five fabricated bunnies. The data did degrade a bit with each subsequent generation, but the decoding program can fill in any blanks so that useable data can still be retrieved.

Monday, December 16, 2019

More Exoskeletons For Augmented Strength

"Sarcos Demonstrates Powered Exosuit That Gives Workers Super Strength":
The Guardian XO can augment the strength of the user all the way up to making a 200-pound load feel like it weighs zero pounds. Typically, this is not how the exoskeleton works, though, since it can be disconcerting to be lifting something heavy and not feel like you’re lifting anything at all.

It’s better to think of the exo as a tool that makes you stronger rather than a tool that makes objects weightless, especially since you still have to deal with inertia. Remember, even if something has no apparent weight (either because you’re in space or because you’re holding it with a powered exoskeleton), it still has mass, which you have to be aware of when trying to move it or stop it from moving. The amount of help that the exo gives you is easy to adjust; it’s got a graphical control panel on the left wrist.

Exoskeletons For Aging Workers

"The Elderly in Japan are Using Exoskeletons to Delay Retirement"


"5 Things You Could Do With 1TB of RAM"

Friday, December 13, 2019

Inner Voice

"Interesting poll on whether one hears one's 'inner voice' while thinking. (I'm either "rarely" or "never".)"

Some of the comments in the original Twitter thread are quite interesting!

Translating Earbuds

"Timekettle WT2 Plus AI Language Translator Earbuds review".

Even though there are still a few kinks to work out, this looks really cool. And I anticipate future products from this company (or competitors) will be even better!

Tiny Plants

"Microscopic Photography of Tiny Plant Structures"

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Gravitational Energy Storage

"How UK's disused mine shafts could be used to store renewable energy":
The surprising new source of “gravity energy” is being developed by Gravitricity, an Edinburgh-based startup, which hopes to use Britain’s old mines to make better use of clean electricity at half the cost of lithium-ion batteries.

Gravitricity said its system effectively stores energy by using electric winches to hoist the weights to the top of the shaft when there is plenty of renewable energy available, then dropping the weights hundreds of metres down vertical shafts to generate electricity when needed...

Charlie Blair, Gravitricity’s managing director, said: “The beauty of this is that this can be done multiple times a day for many years, without any loss of performance. This makes it very competitive against other forms of energy storage – including lithium-ion batteries.”


"What do we really mean by the 'language' of animals?"

Helpful Travel Tips

VM Brasseur: "My travel habits"

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Powerful Placebo Effect

"Merely Possessing a Placebo Analgesic Reduced Pain Intensity: Preliminary Findings from a Randomized Design".

As one article summary notes: "Placebos are so effective that placebo placebos work: A pain cream with no active ingredients worked even when not used by the patient. Just owning the cream was enough to reduce pain."

Not Tesla's Fault

"Tesla On Autopilot Crashes Into Cop Car Because Driver Was Checking On Dog And It's Not A Damn Self-Driving Car". (Via D.M.)

Best. Christmas. Decoration.

"Man Builds 16-Foot Starship Enterprise For His Outdoor Christmas Display"

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Eliminating Useless Meetings

The Japanese company Disco charges employees $100 per hour to use a conference room.  (Via G.F.)

The employees love it. As one employee notes, "People really cut back on useless meetings."

Football And Chess

"World chess champion on the verge of topping fantasy football table"

Speed Bump Mechanics

"Here's What Happens When You Hit a Speed Bump at High Speed". (Click through to see video.)

Monday, December 09, 2019

Friday, December 06, 2019

Thursday, December 05, 2019

RIP, DC Fontana

"D.C. Fontana, famed writer for Star Trek, dies at 80"

New Bond Trailer

Trailer for new James Bond film, "No Time To Die".  Related thoughts from Vox.

Photos From Within Musical Instruments

"Dreamy Cave-Like Photos Taken Inside Musical Instruments"

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Elf Or Drug?

"Which Is It: Prescription Drug or Tolkien Elf?"

(I'm both a physician and a Tolkien fan, so I'm glad to have gotten 29/30 correct.)

Faster Earth

"What Would Happen if Earth Started to Spin Faster?"

Dent Decal

"The Perfect Decal for a Dent". Click through to see how to purchase.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to my US readers!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Grey On National Popular Vote

CGP Grey new video: "The Sneaky Plan to Subvert the Electoral College for the Next Election". Good overview of the National Popular Vote Compact. Basically, it turns the EC’s built-it features into bugs.

Interesting Boring Machines

"Far From Boring: Meet the Most Interesting Tunnel Boring Machines"

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Light Posting Notice

Admin note: Posting may be lighter than usual the rest of this week due to external obligations as well as the US Thanksgiving holiday.

Super Slippery Toilet

"This new magical coating saves water by making toilets so slippery that poop basically flushes itself"

AT&T Exec Predicted Smartphone In 1953

"In an April 1953 newspaper article in the Tacoma News Tribune, Mark Sullivan made an uncannily accurate prediction about the future of the telephone."

Monday, November 25, 2019

Hsieh Forbes Column: I’m A Physician, And I’ll Continue Eating Red Meat

My latest Forbes column is now out: "I'm A Physician, And I'll Continue Eating Red Meat"

"OK Boomer" And Workplace Law

Elizabeth Tippett: "Why saying 'OK boomer' at work is considered age discrimination -- but millennial put-downs aren't".

I'm not a lawyer, but this legal analysis seems plausible.

No Privacy Hotel Room

"This Japanese hotel room costs $1 a night. The catch? You have to livestream your stay".

The article does note that the livestream is video only, no audio. So if you make a phone call, the contents will be private. Also, "Guests are permitted to turn the lights off, and the bathroom area is out of camera range."

Friday, November 22, 2019

Novel Legal Appeal

Convicted murderer serving life sentence dies in prison from medical issues. Physicians revive him (despite a valid DNR order) and perform surgery.

He then asks to be released on the grounds that he has served his "life sentence".

GPS Spoofing Mystery

"Ghost ships, crop circles, and soft gold: A GPS mystery in Shanghai"

Cramped Airplanes

"Why Bigger Planes Mean Cramped Quarters"

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Vector Calculus In Pictures?

"How to turn the complex mathematics of vector calculus into simple pictures":
Joon-Hwi Kim at Seoul National University in South Korea and a couple of colleagues who have come up with a similar innovation for vector calculus—a graphics-based shorthand for one of the most common and powerful mathematical tools in science. “We anticipate that graphical vector calculus will lower the barriers in learning and practicing vector calculus, as Feynman diagrams did in quantum field theory,” they say.
I've only skimmed the paper, and I'm not yet convinced of the ultimate benefit. But others can read the original paper and decide for themselves

Airbnb Scammers

"I Accidentally Uncovered a Nationwide Scam on Airbnb"

Sports And Law Case

"He told a kid to slide. Then he got sued."

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Emoji Storm

"Every Emoji being used on Twitter, in real time"

Clever Packaging

"TV, or not TV: The story of our bike box". Bicycle seller Vanmoof noticed that too many of the bikes they shipped to the US arrived damaged:
Our co-founder Ties Carlier’s simple idea. Our boxes are about the same size as a really big, expensive, flat-screen television. So we put an image of one on every box. We assumed handlers would care a little more about that. And we were right.

That small tweak had an outsized impact. Overnight our shipping damages dropped by 70-80%. We sell 80% of our bicycles online, which means we still print TVs on our boxes. More than 60,000 of them have now been shipped directly to our riders worldwide.

Artificial Vision Update

"A Blind Man Sees His Birthday Candles Again, Thanks to a Bionic Eye"

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Razr Flip Phone

"Motorola's New Razr Proves That Flip Phones Can Be Cool in 2019"

Anti-Fish Robot

"Latest weapon against lionfish invasion? Meet the Roomba of the sea."

Drunk Birds

"What Happens When Birds Get Drunk?"

Monday, November 18, 2019

New Math Identity

"Neutrinos Lead to Unexpected Discovery in Basic Math"

Machine Smelling

"Learning to Smell: Using Deep Learning to Predict the Olfactory Properties of Molecules"

Why Astrology "Works"

"I was an astrologer -- here's how it really works, and why I had to stop"
I also learned that intelligence and education do not protect against superstition. Many customers were stockbrokers, advertising executives or politicians, dealing with issues whose outcomes couldn't be controlled. It's uncertainty that drives people into woo, not stupidity, so I'm not surprised millennials are into astrology. They grew up with Harry Potter and graduated into a precarious economy, making them the ideal customers.

What broke the spell for me was, oddly, people swearing by my gift. Some repeat customers claimed I'd made very specific predictions, of a kind I never made. It dawned on me that my readings were a co-creation -- I would weave a story and, later, the customer's memory would add new elements. I got to test this theory after a friend raved about a reading she'd had, full of astonishingly accurate predictions. She had a tape of the session, so I asked her to play it.

The clairvoyant had said none of the things my friend claimed. Not a single one. My friend's imagination had done all the work.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Quantum Biomolecule

"A natural biomolecule has been measured acting like a quantum wave for the first time":
Physicists have watched a chain of 15 amino acids interfere with itself, in an experiment that paves the way for a new era of quantum biology.

Addictive Game

"Tiny Islands, an addictive card-based island-drawing game".

Direct link to the game.

Ancient Twinkie

"43-Year-Old Twinkie Still Intact At Maine School"

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Rocky Mountain High

Philadelphia sportscaster says Denver sports franchises should not have any home games, because the elevated altitude gives teams an unfair advantage

Perhaps the Green Bay Packers should not have any December home games against teams from, say, Miama or Atlanta, because they are more accustomed to cold weather.  #BooHooHoo

Apple Watch And Afib

NEJM: "Large-Scale Assessment of a Smartwatch to Identify Atrial Fibrillation".

Bottom line:
The probability of receiving an irregular pulse notification was low. Among participants who received notification of an irregular pulse, 34% had atrial fibrillation on subsequent ECG patch readings and 84% of notifications were concordant with atrial fibrillation. 

Apple AR

"Apple Eyes 2022 Release for AR Headset, 2023 for Glasses"

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Criminal Picks Wrong House

That awkward moment when a criminal decides to break into the house of an experienced medieval combat re-enactor. Who keeps a carbon-steal double headed battle axe that he calls, "my baby".

After the suspect fled, "Police K-9s followed the trail of blood to apprehend the suspect."

Bonus: Jayne Cobb hat!


"Ultra-Black Is the New Black"

Quantum Computing Update

"Quantum Computer Made from Photons Achieves a New Record"

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

MIT Cheetah Robots

"These dog-like robots do backflips and play soccer. Yes, they're adorable"

Microchipping Update

"The rise of microchipping: Are we ready for technology to get under the skin?"

Boring Video Game

"Honestly, a Video Game That Strands You On a Boring Six-Hour Flight Is Just What I Need Right Now"

Monday, November 11, 2019

Bitcoin Heist

"Iceland's Big Bitcoin Heist"

California Housing

"How California Became America's Housing Market Nightmare".

The author blames bad government policies.

No Smartphone

"This Is What It's Like To Not Own A Smartphone".

I would never give up my smartphone -- I find it too useful for so many life-enhancing tasks.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Space Is Big

Fun interactive site: "The Size Of Space"

Zero-Gravity Oven

"With a 'Zero G' Oven, Astronauts Can Have Their Cookies, but They Can't Eat Them Too"

Upside-Down Art

"The Gallery of Art Hung Upside-Down"

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Scroll Bar History

"A critical analysis of scroll bars throughout history"

Eliminating Driving Blind Spot

"14-Year-Old Genius Solves Blind Spots". (Via H.R.)

Insecure DNA Data

"The DNA database used to find the Golden State Killer is a national security leak waiting to happen"

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Mathematical Cranks

"Beware of Cranks: Misguided attempts to solve impossible mathematical problems"

Brain Bacteria

"Are There Bacteria in Your Brain?" (Via T.K.)

American Whiskey Fingerprint

"American whiskeys leave behind a web-like 'fingerprint' as they evaporate". (Via H.R.)

Monday, November 04, 2019

New Walkie-Talkie

"Motorola is building a new kind of walkie-talkie for first responders". (Via H.R.)

MIT's Legendary Milk

NPR: "MIT's Very Old Milk".

Related story: "MIT's legendary milk carton turns 25"

Self-Hiding AI?

"Would a Real AI Purposefully Hide Its Super Intelligence in Fear of Being Destroyed?"

 (From a few years ago, but I just recently saw it.)

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Important Code

"The Lines of Code That Changed Everything"

Guide To Good Asian Restaurants

David Chen: "Ali Wong’s guide to evaluating the quality of Asian restaurants is a must read and I refuse to eat with my non-Asian friends until they have read this and incorporated it into the very core of their being".  (Click on each image to see full-size.)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Monday, October 28, 2019

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column On Unintended Consequences And Government Metrics

[Off Topic] My latest Forbes piece is now out: "How Patients Pay The Price For Unintended Consequences Of Government Health Care".

I discuss how various government "quality" metrics intended to improve patient care can have the exact opposite effect.

This is an example of Goodhart's Law in action, sometimes phrased as, "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure."

Why 3 Prongs?

AC Power: "Why is one wire called 'neutral?' What's all this stuff about 'grounding?' Why are three prongs needed?"

An oldie-but-goodie. Bonus: Old-school ASCII art!

Mathematicians Love Blackboards

"Why mathematicians just can't quit their blackboards"

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Light Posting Notice

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

Neanderthal Glue

"Neanderthal glue was a bigger deal than we thought". (Via H.R.)

iPod Retrospective

"The iPod at 18: The gadget that changed music and tech for ever"

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Aaronson On Quantum Supremacy

Scott Aaronson discusses the competing claims by Google and IBM on "quantum supremacy".

Versatile iPhone GarageBand

Video: "Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit on iPhone (GarageBand)"

More songs here.

I especially liked this rendition of "Sweet Child of Mine".

License Plate Surveillance

"Google And Facebook Are Reading Your License Plates"

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Monday, October 21, 2019

Terminator Score?

"What Is the Time Signature of the Ominous Electronic Score of The Terminator?"

tl;dr: "It's in 13/16. Three plus three plus three plus two plus two".

Helping Dogs Communicate

"The Tech Helping Dogs Learn to 'Talk' With Humans"

Data Fallacies

"Data Fallacies To Avoid"

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Perfect Circles

Time sink of the day: "Can You Draw a Perfect Circle?"

Direct link to the website challenge.

Chinese Cybersecurity

"China’s New Cybersecurity Program: NO Place to Hide"

One noteworthy excerpt:
This system will apply to foreign owned companies in China on the same basis as to all Chinese persons, entities or individuals. No information contained on any server located within China will be exempted from this full coverage program. No communication from or to China will be exempted. There will be no secrets. No VPNs. No private or encrypted messages. No anonymous online accounts. No trade secrets. No confidential data. Any and all data will be available and open to the Chinese government.

Galactic Boom

"Not long ago, the center of the Milky Way exploded"

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Law Enforcement Tracking Bitcoins

"US Law Enforcement Traces Bitcoin Transfers to Nab 'Largest' Child Porn Site"

Hiding Billions

"How to hide a billion dollars"

Awesome Wildlife Photographs

"The Winners of the 2019 Wildlife Photographer of the Year"

I really liked this one:
Audun carefully positioned this tree branch, hoping it would make a perfect lookout for a golden eagle. He set up a camera trap and occasionally left road-kill carrion nearby. Very gradually, over the next three years, this eagle started to use the branch to survey its coastal realm. Audun captured its power as it came in to land, talons outstretched.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Best SF/F Series

"The 21 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Series Ever"

Poker Cheating Scandal

"The Cheating Scandal Rocking the Poker World"

Invisible Essay

"Japan ninja student gets top marks for writing essay in invisible ink":

Ms Haga, 19, soaked soybeans overnight, then crushed them before squeezing them in a cloth.

She then mixed the soybean extract with water - spending two hours to get the concentration right - before writing her essay with a fine brush on "washi" (thin Japanese paper).

Once her words had dried, they became invisible. But, to ensure her professor didn't put the essay in the bin, she left a note in normal ink saying "heat the paper".

Monday, October 14, 2019

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Vintage Passwords

"Forum cracks the vintage passwords of Ken Thompson and other Unix pioneers"

Apple Safe Browsing

"How safe is Apple's Safe Browsing?"

Catalina Prep

"Don't update to macOS Catalina without checking this first"

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Quantum-Proof Encryption

"New Encryption System Protects Data from Quantum Computers"

Cyclist Pool Noodles

"Why every cyclist needs a pool noodle"

AI, Doctors, And Lawyers

You know medical AI is becoming the real deal, when lawyers start writing articles in major medical journals on malpractice issues: "Potential Liability for Physicians Using Artificial Intelligence".

(JAMA. Published online October 4, 2019)

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Quantum Investments

"Quantum gold rush: The private funding pouring into quantum start-ups"

Fire Prevention Update

"New gel lets us spread flame retardant before wildfires start". (Via H.R.)

Star Wars Cookware

I probably won't buy one, but this Han Solo™ Carbonite Signature Roaster looks pretty damned cool. Click through to see more from the Le Creuset Collection.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Visualizing Card Shuffles

Video: "Visualizing Card Shuffles"

Some explanatory notes from the video:

Starting Distance is how far each card has moved, on average, from its starting spot. So, if the deck was originally 1234 and then shuffled to 4123, the 123 moved 1 space and 4 moved 3, so that’s an average move distance of 1.5.

Neighbor distance is looking the unshuffled deck and how far each card ends from the next card in order. So, if we have 12345 shuffled to 15243.

Card 1 is 1 space from the 2.
Card 2 is 1 space from the 3.
Cards 3 & 4 are considered 0 spaces away from each other since they’re still adjacent, even if their orders are reversed.
5 isn’t taken into consideration because it has no neighbor to start.

So that means the neighbor average is 0.5.

Catalina Review

"MacOS 10.15 Catalina: The Ars Technica review". (Via H.R.)

Colorado Beer

"The Thirty Most Important Beers in Colorado History"

Monday, October 07, 2019

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Implanting False Memories

"Scientists Implant False Memories in Birds to Teach Them Songs They've Never Heard"

This is both super-cool and super-creepy at the same time. #21stCenturyOrwellianHeadlines

Big Locomotive

"Meet the Man at the Controls of the World's Largest Steam Locomotive"

Dark Side Of The Moon

"The First Photograph of the Far Side of the Moon from 1959"

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Baby-Seat Map For Air Passengers

"Airline introduces baby-seat map so passengers can avoid infants on planes".

I like kids. I also like the idea of air passengers being better able to choose to sit closer to (or further away from) babies.

Surviving Lightning

"How to Survive a Lightning Strike"

Contra Caps Lock

"It's time for Caps Lock to die".

Which also gives me a chance to post one of my favorite Homer Simpson quotes. (Click on image to see larger version.)

Sunday, September 29, 2019

NULL License Plate

"How a 'NULL' License Plate Landed One Hacker in Ticket Hell"

No Apocalypse

"Humanity will outlive climate change and nuclear war, no matter how bad it gets"

Mystery LA Singer

"Mystery Woman Sings Opera In Los Angeles Metro -- And Goes Viral".

Tweet via LAPD:

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Lost Masterpiece Found

"Lost Renaissance Masterpiece Worth $6 Million Found Hanging Above Woman's Hotplate"

Apple Watch 5 Review

Ars Technica reviews (and likes) the new Apple Watch Series 5. (Via H.R.)

Inconsistent Facebook Standards

"Facebook confirms its 'standards' don't apply to politicians"

In particular, "Politicians are officially exempt from both hate speech rules and fact checking."

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

RPS Revisited

"Who Invented Rock, Paper, Scissors and What's the Best Way to Win Consistently?" (Via H.R.)

Boston Stereotypes

Video: "Where Boston Stereotypes Come From"

"The Rock" Movies

"The Three Types Of Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Movies"

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Powerful Kirigami

"Mathematical framework turns any sheet of material into any shape using kirigami cuts"

Many Uses Of Dental Floss

"It Slices, It Dices, It Binds And It Stops Bugs: Dental Floss Is Your Secret Multitool"

Tunnel Of Samos

"How did the ancient Greeks dig a 4000-foot tunnel from both ends and meet exactly in the middle in the 6th century BCE, 200 years before Euclid?"

Monday, September 16, 2019

High Cats

"Photographer Takes Photos Of Cats High On Catnip, And The Results Are Brilliant"

Moving Corpses

"Human Corpses Keep Moving for Over a Year After Death, Scientist Says"

Philosophy Of Computer Science

William Rapaport: "Philosophy of Computer Science"

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Blackest Black

"World's darkest material is 'blackest black' ever created". (Via H.R.)

Escape Rooms

The popularity of escape rooms..

I've done a few with friends, and had lots of fun!

Fraud With Fake Audio

"Fraudsters deepfake CEO's voice to trick manager into transferring $243,000"

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Self-Healing Robots

"Soft Self-Healing Materials for Robots That Cannot Be Destroyed"

As the article notes, "It'll take more than having its fingers chopped off to stop this robot hand". I see no possible way anything could go wrong with this.

Real-Life Moon Base?

"The Silicon Valley Heavyweights Who Want to Settle the Moon"

Fake Keyboard For Cats

Brilliant idea: "This heated fake keyboard was designed to fool your cat".

More info: Patent 10398125, issued September 3, 2019.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

IKEA Hide And Seek

"Police called to Scottish IKEA after thousands sign up for hide and seek"

Instant Boston Accent

Video: "Actor Learns a Boston Accent in 6 Hours"

Exoplanet With Water

"Water found for first time on potentially habitable planet".

The big question is whether the planet will be inhabited with intelligent aliens who happen to look a lot like the actor population of greater LA area with bad makeup.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Thursday, September 05, 2019

New Yorkers Losing Airpods

"New Yorkers Losing So Many AirPods in Subway Tracks That MTA is Considering a PSA to Warn Commuters"

New Perspective On Gymnastics

"Mesmerizing video of a gymnast's high bar routine where he remains stationary while the apparatus moves around him". (Via Kottke.)

Self-Citing Scientists

"Hundreds of extreme self-citing scientists revealed in new database"

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Censor-Proof Messaging

"Hong Kong Protestors Using Mesh Messaging App China Can't Block: Usage Up 3685%". (Via H.R.)

More Noises From Our Machines

"Why Washing Machines Are Learning to Play the Harp"

Monday, September 02, 2019

Welding Ceramics

"Ceramics enter a new era with laser-welded joints". (Via H.R.)

Side Stitches

"When you get a stitch in your side, what's really going on?"

Short answer: We don't really know, although there are a few plausible theories. And at least there's a fancy medical term, "exercise-related transient abdominal pain", or ETAP.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Amazon Claims

"The Amazon Is Not Earth's Lungs: Humans could burn every living thing on the planet and still not dent its oxygen supply"

Nanotubule Chip

"MIT Engineers Build 15,000-Transistor Carbon Nanotube RISC-V Chip"
Engineers from the MIT and Analog Devices have created the most complex chip design yet that uses transistors made of carbon nanotubes instead of silicon. The chip was manufactured using new technologies proven to work in a commercial chip-manufacturing facility.

The researchers seem to have chosen the RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA) for the design of the chip, presumably due to the open source nature that didn’t require hassling with licensing restrictions and costs. The RISC-V processor handles 32-bit instructions and does 16-bit memory addressing. The chip is not meant to be used in mainstream devices quite yet, but it’s a strong proof of concept that can already run “hello world”-type applications. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Night Vision Update

"Nanoparticles Will Give You Superhuman Night Vision".

I'm totally fine with others being the early adopters on this procedure.  (Via H.R.)

Robotic Tail For Elderly

"Japanese researchers build robotic tail to keep elderly upright". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Light Posting Notice

Admin note: Posting may be very light(or non-existent) for the next two weeks, due to external obligations.

Doomsday Returns

"The New Nuclear Arms Race -- and How Washington and Moscow Can Stop It"

Reliability Of Intuitions?

"Can We Rely on Our Intuition?"

Monday, August 26, 2019

Quantum Internet Update

"A super-secure quantum internet just took another step closer to reality":
Now physicists at the University of Science and Technology of China and the University of Vienna in Austria have found a way to ship even more data using something called quantum trits, or qutrits...

Conventional bits used to encode everything from financial records to YouTube videos are streams of electrical or photonic pulses than can represent either a or a 0. Qubits, which are typically electrons or photons, can carry more information because they can be polarized in two directions at once, so they can represent both a and a 0 at the same time. Qutrits, which can be polarized in three different dimensions simultaneously, can carry even more information. In theory, this can then be transmitted using quantum teleportation.

Stolen Fingerprints

"What Can a Hacker Do With Your Stolen Fingerprints?"

Similar Suburbs

Video: "Why so many suburbs look the same"

Sunday, August 25, 2019

First Space Crime?

"NASA investigating possible first allegation of criminal wrongdoing in space".

Related story from New York Times: "How a Bitter Divorce Battle on Earth Led to Claims of a Crime in Space".

Police And Photoshop

Police use Photoshop to make a suspect more closely resemble the perpetrator caught on video, to "help" witnesses make a positive identification. US Attorney calls this "prudent" and "appropriate".

As one of my lawyer friends says, "So what evidence does that earn the government? An eyewitness identification of a manipulated photograph. Otherwise known as defense attorney manna from heaven."

Medical Innovation

"This college dropout was bedridden for 11 years. Then he invented a surgery and cured himself."

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Monday, August 19, 2019

Mysterious "Top Brand"

"What does Amazon's 'Top Brand' badge actually mean?"

Related:  "What Does It Mean When a Product Is 'Amazon's Choice'?"

Noninvasive BP Measurement

"Researchers accurately measure blood pressure using phone camera". (Via H.R.)

Robots Fighting Back

"Smart ovens have been turning on overnight and preheating to 400 degrees"

Sunday, August 18, 2019

AI Can't Distinguish California Legislators From Criminals

"Facial recognition software mistook 1 in 5 California lawmakers for criminals, says ACLU".

The jokes practically write themselves.

Tolkien Series On Amazon

"The Tolkien Estate has banned Amazon from using certain storylines in its billion dollar Lord of the Rings series"
[Tolkien scholar and series consultant Tom] Shippey says that the series will be confined solely to Middle Earth's 'Second Age', the period prior to the 'Third Age', which was seen in Peter Jackson's movies, and that the 'First Age' is 'off-limits'.

“Amazon has a relatively free hand when it comes to adding something [to the Second Age], since… very few details are known about this time span,” Shippey said.

“The Tolkien estate will insist that the main shape of the Second Age is not altered. Sauron invades Eriador, is forced back by a Númenorean expedition, is returns to Númenor. There he corrupts the Númenoreans and seduces them to break the ban of the Valar. All this, the course of history, must remain the same.

Real Flying Saucer

"Someone Built a Flying Saucer That Actually Flies And We're So Here For It". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

RFK And Cuban Missile Crisis

"RFK's Secret Role in the Cuban Missile Crisis"

Self-Driving Trucks In Use

"UPS Has Been Delivering Cargo in Self-Driving Trucks for Months And No One Knew"

AC-Powered LEDs

"AC-powered LEDs Could Cut the Cost of Lighting". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Hsieh Forbes Column: "Pooping Less Frequently To Save The Planet? Really?"

My latest Forbes column is now out: "Pooping Less Frequently To Save The Planet? Really?"

I'm totally letting out my inner 10-year old.

School Bus Routing

"How One City Saved $5 Million by Routing School Buses with an Algorithm"

New Electric Motor

"HET electric motor massively boosts power, torque and efficiency, reduces weight and complexity". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Clever Teen

"Teen's tweets from her smart fridge go viral after mother confiscates phone". #CantStopTheSignal

Falling Space Debris

"No one has yet been killed by re-entering space junk".  The key word is "yet".

Regulating Biohacking

"Is it time to regulate biohacking? California thinks so."
California wants to make it clear that tinkering with your own genes is a “don’t try this at home” sort of thing. 

The state is making it illegal to sell a do-it-yourself genetic engineering kit unless it comes with a clear warning stating that “the kit is not for self-administration.” This is a notable escalation of an effort to regulate biohacking, a movement that’s gotten people interested in hacking their genomes — although it bears noting that right now, nobody appears to actually be selling the sort of kit California prohibits.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Moon Base

"IEEE Special Report: Project Moon Base"

Hacking Canon Cameras

"Canon DSLR Cameras Can Be Hacked With Ransomware Remotely"

Artificial Whiskey Taster

"Artificial tongue's nanoscale tastebuds can sort real whisky from counterfeits more than 99% of the time"

Sunday, August 11, 2019


"A new tool uses AI to spot text written by AI"

IOT Insecurities

"Russian hackers are infiltrating companies via the office printer"

Machine-Made Art

"Metal and Wood Drawing Machines by James Nolan Gandy Form Mesmerizing Multi-Color Ellipses".

They look like high-quality "Spirograph" drawings. I especially like this one.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Alien Abduction Insurance

"Florida company offering 'alien abduction insurance' has sold nearly 6,000 policies"
Policyholders should read the fine print before they buy, though. In the event of an abduction, the plan's $10 million coverage pays out at a rate of $1 per year for 10 million years. 

Compelled Decryption Update

"The debate over 'compelled decryption' is likely headed for the US Supreme Court"

Path-Traced Movies

Pixar: "The Path to Path-Traced Movies"

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Hidden Galaxies

"Scientists find huge world of hidden galaxies, changing our understanding of the universe"

Better Lens Equation

"A Mexican Physicist Solved a 2,000-Year Old Problem That Will Lead to Cheaper, Sharper Lenses". (Via H.R.)

Cell Signal Boosters

"Ars reviews three cell signal boosters -- and they actually work"

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Monday, August 05, 2019

Bond Villians Ranked

"All 104 James Bond Villains, Ranked"

I will say that I don't agree with their #1 choice. But I do appreciate this list was all on a single page, without having to click-click-click onto multiple pages.

Hidden Copyright Message

"Author hid funny messages on the copyright page of his book"

Decoding Beethoven

"Roll over, Beethoven: Decoding the maestro's musical style with statistics". (Via H.R.)

Sunday, August 04, 2019

AI Code Assistant

"This AI-powered autocompletion software is Gmail's Smart Compose for coders". (Via H.R.)

Claw Machines

"Claw machines are rigged -- here's why it's so hard to grab that stuffed animal".

Related article.

Jaywalking Vs. Self-Driving Cars

NYT: "How Jaywalking Could Jam Up the Era of Self-Driving Cars".

If pedestrians know that self-driving cars will never hit them, how will that change their behavior?

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Roman Joke Pen

"Ancient Roman 'Pen' Was a Joke Souvenir"
During an archaeological excavation at a Roman-era site in London, researchers found around 200 iron styluses used for writing on wax-filled wooden tablets. One of those styluses, which just debuted in its first public exhibition, holds a message written in tiny lettering along its sides. The inscription's sentiment, according to the researchers who translated it, is essentially, "I went to Rome and all I got you was this pen."
I came, I saw, I bought some kitchy trinkets!

Florida Man Again

Today's 21st century headline: "Florida Man Parks His Tesla Overnight on a Stranger's Lawn to Steal Electricity"

Advanced Prosthetic

"World’s Most Advanced Prosthetic Now With Sense of Touch"

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Super Contacts

"Scientists create contact lenses that zoom on command"

Bad Eats

"Worried delivery drivers are eating orders? You have good reason."
About 21% of delivery customers worry the driver may have nibbled their order en route—and with good reason, according to a new study of delivery gripes. Some 28% of drivers say they were unable to resist taking a bite.

Gardening Video Games

"Gardening games are blossoming in turbulent times"

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Fighting Quantum Hype

"The memelords and BS-sniffers fighting hype in quantum computing"

TV In Tesla

"Elon Musk: Netflix, YouTube are coming to your Tesla".

The article also notes:
But, before you start picturing yourself watching the new season of “Orange Is The New Black” while flying down I-5 on the way to Disneyland, think again. Musk was also quick to mention that any such video-streaming feature will only work when a Tesla is at a stop...

And, possibly to stay on the good side of federal regulators, Musk said to not hold your breath waiting for being able to stream Netflix or YouTube while you are actually driving your car.

“When full self-driving is approved by regulators, we will enable video while moving,” Musk tweeted.

Social Hacking Google

"People forged judges' signatures to trick Google into changing results"

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Stroking Cats

"How to stroke a cat, according to science"

Ternary Logic

"Korean researchers develop ternary semiconductor tech: Future semiconductors may perform logic with 0, 1, or 2 instead of the current binary system of 0 and 1 with the new technology." (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Government Still Wants Backdoors Against Encryption

It doesn't matter which party is in charge. Their law enforcement officials keep making the same fallacious arguments about how they need "back doors" to read our secure e-mails.

I liked the response from US Senator Ron Wyden, who has consistently made the same point against both the Obama and Trump administration on this issue:
From the Senate floor on Tuesday, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., responded to Barr’s remarks in New York calling it an “outrageous, wrongheaded and dangerous proposal.”

Wyden said Barr wants to “blow a hole” in a critical security feature for Americans’ digital lives by trying to undermine strong encryption and advocating for government backdoors into the personal devices of Americans. He said strong encryption helps keep health records, personal communications and other sensitive data secure from hackers.

Effectively banning encryption in the U.S. by not allowing companies to provide unbreakable encryption, doesn’t prevent it existing and flourishing elsewhere, and only makes Americans less secure against foreign hackers, Wyden said.

“Once you weaken encryption with a backdoor, you make it far easier for criminals, hackers and predators to get into your digital life,” Wyden said.

Permanently Magnetic Liquid

"We Now Have The First-Ever Permanently Magnetic Liquid". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Monday, July 22, 2019

Getting Bigger

"How fast is the Universe expanding? Cosmologists just got more confused"

Obligatory clip from Annie Hall:

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Better Middle Seats?

"Airlines are finally fixing the middle seat"

Modern Salmon Farms

"Remote-controlled Salmon Farms to Operate Off Norway by 2020". (Via H.R.)