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


"Watch 2 cats watch a cat run across football field mid-game"

Brass Roman Dodecahedrons

"The mystery of brass Roman dodecahedrons"

Most Important Websites

"The 50 Most Important Websites of All Time"

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.)

Friday, November 01, 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.)

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Tuesday, October 29, 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"

Monday, October 28, 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"

Friday, October 25, 2019

Thursday, October 24, 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"

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Feeding Mars

"What Will Humans Eat on Mars?"

Drone Delivery Update

"Google affiliate begins drone deliveries in Virginia town"

Privacy Tech

"Privacy-focused gifts for the paranoid tech lover"

Tuesday, October 22, 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"

Friday, October 18, 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"

Thursday, October 17, 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.

Wednesday, October 16, 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".

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Ars Technica On iPad OS

"iPadOS review: The iPad is dead, long live the iPad". (Via H.R.)

Apple And Hong Kong

"Apple's Loudest Supporters Turn Against the Company Over Hong Kong"

Beware Cheap Smartphones

"Cheap smartphones have a disturbing secret". (Via Rand Simberg.)

Monday, October 14, 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"

Friday, October 11, 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)

Thursday, October 10, 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.

Wednesday, October 09, 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"

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Monday, October 07, 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"

Friday, October 04, 2019

Thursday, October 03, 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.)

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Monday, September 30, 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:

Friday, September 27, 2019

Thursday, September 26, 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."

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Monday, September 23, 2019

Friday, September 20, 2019

Thursday, September 19, 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"

Wednesday, September 18, 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?"

Tuesday, September 17, 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"

Monday, September 16, 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"

Friday, September 13, 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.

Thursday, September 12, 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.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Friday, September 06, 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"

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Wednesday, September 04, 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"

Tuesday, September 03, 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.

Monday, September 02, 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. 

Thursday, August 29, 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.)

Wednesday, August 28, 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?"

Tuesday, August 27, 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"

Monday, August 26, 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."

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Tuesday, August 20, 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"

Monday, August 19, 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.)

Friday, August 16, 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.)

Thursday, August 15, 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.)

Wednesday, August 14, 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.

Tuesday, August 13, 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"

Monday, August 12, 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.

Friday, August 09, 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"

Thursday, August 08, 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"

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Tuesday, August 06, 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.)

Monday, August 05, 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?

Friday, August 02, 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"

Thursday, August 01, 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"

Wednesday, July 31, 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"

Monday, July 29, 2019

Friday, July 26, 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.)

Thursday, July 25, 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.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Getting Bigger

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

Obligatory clip from Annie Hall:

Monday, July 22, 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.)

Friday, July 19, 2019

AI: The Metamorphosis

Henry Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, and Daniel Huttenlocher discuss AI: "The Metamorphosis"

Henry A. Kissinger served as national security adviser and secretary of state to Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

Eric Schmidt is the former CEO and chairman of Alphabet.

Daniel Huttenlocher is the founder and former dean and vice provost of Cornell Tech and the current dean of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing.

Fake French Minister

Con man wears fake latex mask of French defense minister, swindles millions from wealthy victims:
For two years from late 2015, an individual or individuals impersonating France's defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, scammed an estimated €80m (£70m; $90m) from wealthy victims including the Aga Khan and the owner of Château Margaux wines.

The hustle required targets to believe they were being contacted by Mr Le Drian, who then requested financial help to pay ransoms for journalists being held hostage by Islamists in the Middle East...

So, in meetings arranged on Skype, the fraudster wore a custom-made Le Drian mask and sat in a facsmile of Le Drian's ministerial office, complete with flags and portrait of then-President François Hollande.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Light Posting Notice

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

Amazon Nomads

"Anderson is an Amazon nomad, part of a small group of merchants who travel the backroads of America searching clearance aisles and dying chains for goods to sell on Amazon." (Via H.R.)

GE Smart Light Bulb Reset

Bruce Schneier: "Resetting Your GE Smart Light Bulb:"

If you need to reset the software in your GE smart light bulb -- firmware version 2.8 or later -- just follow these easy instructions:
Start with your bulb off for at least 5 seconds.
  1. Turn on for 8 seconds
  2. Turn off for 2 seconds
  3. Turn on for 8 seconds
  4. Turn off for 2 seconds
  5. Turn on for 8 seconds
  6. Turn off for 2 seconds
  7. Turn on for 8 seconds
  8. Turn off for 2 seconds
  9. Turn on for 8 seconds
  10. Turn off for 2 seconds
  11. Turn on
Bulb will flash on and off 3 times if it has been successfully reset.
Welcome to the future!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Crawford On Bicycles

Jason Crawford: "Why did we wait so long for the bicycle?"

Lightning Attractor

"This Cell Tower in the Swiss Alps Is Struck by Lightning More Than 100 Times a Year". (Via H.R.)

Tourism Secret

"The Best Way to Tour a City Is Through Its Grocery Store"
The secret museum in every city is a grocery store. It’s where you can grab and squeeze and not-at-all-weirdly smell indigenous produce. The fishmonger runs an aquarium. The butcher is a zookeeper. But groceries also hoard the culture’s guilty pleasures — its Netflix-and-chill snacks are in its potato-chip flavors (my native London favorite was a packet of sea-salt-and-Chardonnay-wine-vinegar crisps, and Marmite ones always hit the spot, too). Its childhoods are in its confections (I loved Icelandic Prince Polo chocolate bars, which are actually imported from Poland).

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Grasping Adversarial Objects

"Robots Have a Hard Time Grasping These 'Adversarial Objects'"

Filming The Tour De France

"The helicopter team that films the Tour de France is one of a kind". (Via H.R.)

Pizza Hut In Klingon

"Watch this fantastic 1994 Pizza Hut TV commercial that's entirely in Klingon"

Monday, July 15, 2019

Great Wave

Thoughts on digital access to The Great Wave by Katsushika Hokusai.

BTW, this is one of my favorites pieces of artwork.

Translating Long-Lost Languages

"Machine learning has been used to automatically translate long-lost languages"

Friday, July 12, 2019

Botanical Sexism

"Botanical Sexism Cultivates Home-Grown Allergies":
It’s the time year for watery eyes and itchy noses, and if you’re among the afflicted, you may be surprised to learn that decades of botanical sexism in urban landscapes have contributed to your woes.

Serial Toilet Clogger

Headline of the day: "Sheboygan serial toilet clogger sentenced to 150 days in jail, probation". (Via Marginal Revolution.)

AI Poker Update

"No limit: AI poker bot is first to beat professionals at multiplayer game"

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Emojis and The Law

"Emojis are increasingly coming up in court cases. Judges are struggling with how to interpret them."

Alive After 41,000 Years

Worms frozen for 41,000 years in permafrost were found to still be alive after thawed.

Self-Driving Tesla Update

"Is a real, honest-to-goodness, self-driving Tesla on the way?"
Musk, in response to an inquiry about Tesla’s hardware systems, said late Sunday that the company could offer its new Fully Self Driving chip — FSD for short — as an upgrade to more than 500,000 older-model Teslas by the end of this year.

“End of Q4, most likely,” was how Musk replied to a question about when the company would start retrofitting cars that currently include Hardware 2 (HW2), a set of sensors, radars and cameras that Tesla rolled out almost three years ago, with the implication that such cars would eventually have full, autonomous driving capabilities.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Magnus Carlsen 2.0

Tyler Cowen: "The new and improved Magnus Carlsen"

Cowen describes a unique strategy adopted by the current world #1 chess master:
Other grandmasters prepare the opening in the hope of achieving an early advantage over their opponents.  Magnus’s preparation, in contrast, is directed at achieving an early disadvantage in the game, perhaps willing to tolerate as much as -0.5 or -0.6 by the standards of the computer (a significant but not decisive disadvantage, with -2 signifying a lost position).  Nonetheless these are positions “out of book” where Magnus nonetheless feels he can outplay his opponent, and this is mostly opponents from the world top ten or fifteen.

So far it is working.  One commentator wrote: “Magnus is turning into a crushing monster just like Garry. He isn’t the strangler anymore”

And it is hard to counter someone looking for a disadvantage!

Nuking The Moon

"Why the Air Force Almost Blasted the Moon with an H-Bomb"

Autonomous Aircraft Landing

"German Scientists Pull Off Truly Autonomous Aircraft Landing in Stunning Video". (Via H.R.)

Monday, July 08, 2019

Mirror Universe

"Scientists are searching for a mirror universe. It could be sitting right in front of you."
In a series of experiments she plans to run at Oak Ridge this summer, Broussard will send a beam of subatomic particles down a 50-foot tunnel, past a powerful magnet and into an impenetrable wall. If the setup is just right — and if the universe cooperates — some of those particles will transform into mirror-image versions of themselves, allowing them to tunnel right through the wall. And if that happens, Broussard will have uncovered the first evidence of a mirror world right alongside our own.
We'll know we're in real trouble if we find Spock-with-a-goatee.

Space And Booze

"Space and booze, an anecdotal history"

Fixing Bad Science

"What universities can learn from one of science’s biggest frauds"

Friday, July 05, 2019

Neanderthal Superglue

"Neanderthals glued their tools together". (Via H.R.)

Time In Space

"How Should Space Settlers Keep Track of Time?"

Remote Laser ID

"The Pentagon has a laser that can identify people from a distance -- by their heartbeat"

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Holiday Hiatus

Admin note: No posting today on the US July 4th, holiday. Regular posts will resume tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Giant Goldfish

"Giant Goldfish Shows Why You Should Never Flush Fish Down the Toilet"

Is LA The Next Silicon Valley?

Tyler Cowen: "The Next Silicon Valley Is... Los Angeles?"

New Property Of Light

"New property of light discovered":
A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Spain and the U.S. has announced that they have discovered a new property of light—self-torque. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes how they happened to spot the new property and possible uses for it. 
(Via H.R.)

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Post-Human Architecture Problem

"The Hiding Place: Inside the World's First Long-Term Storage Facility for Highly Radioactive Nuclear Waste"
Deep in the bedrock of Olkiluoto Island in southwest Finland a tomb is under construction. The tomb is intended to outlast not only the people who designed it, but also the species that designed it. It is intended to maintain its integrity without future maintenance for 100,000 years, able to endure a future ice age. One hundred thousand years ago three major river systems flowed across the Sahara. One hundred thousand years ago anatomically modern humans were beginning their journey out of Africa. The oldest pyramid is around 4,600 years old; the oldest surviving church building is fewer than 2,000 years old.

This Finnish tomb has some of the most secure containment protocols ever devised: more secure than the crypts of the Pharaohs, more secure than any supermax prison. It is hoped that what is placed within this tomb will never leave it by means of any agency other than the geological.

Improved Waterproofing

"A new way to make droplets bounce away". (Via H.R.)

Historic NASA Recreation

"NASA's restored Apollo Mission Control is a slice of '60s life, frozen in amber"

Monday, July 01, 2019

Physician Fatigue

My latest Forbes piece is now out: "Is Your Doctor Making Mistakes Because He Or She Is Too Tired?"

Fall Asleep Fast

"How to Fall Asleep in 2 Minutes or Less".

If that doesn't work, a fifth of tequila will also work for most people! (Via H.R.)

Quantum Computing For English Majors

"Quantum Computing for English Majors"

Friday, June 28, 2019

Auto Mechanics Recreate Renaissance Paintings

"Auto Mechanics Recreate Renaissance Paintings"

One example:


Antimatter Physics

"How Star Trek's warp drives touch on one of physics' biggest mysteries"

Symphonic Gong

Video: "How to play an 80-inch symphonic gong".

It's amazing how rich the sound is, with such gentle motions. One does not simply bang a gong.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Is There Anybody In There?

"Inverting the Turing Test -- Machine Learning to Detect Cognition in the ICU".

Direct link to the article, "Detection of Brain Activation in Unresponsive Patients with Acute Brain Injury".

Sibyl Hathaway Vs. The Nazis

"During World War II, a 56-year-old British noblewoman stood up to Nazi occupiers on the tiny island of Sark"
In June 1940, German forces took the Channel Islands, a small British dependency off the coast of France. They expected the occupation to go easily, but they hadn't reckoned on the island of Sark, ruled by an iron-willed noblewoman with a disdain for Nazis. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of Sibyl Hathaway and her indomitable stand against the Germans.

Atomic Radio

"We're one step closer to atomic radio". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

DNA And Secrets

"The Death Of The Family Secret: Ancestry and other DNA-testing companies are bringing old family secrets to light. These friends are now dealing with the truth about their fathers."

Pro Cornhole

"Cornhole (yes, cornhole) is going pro". (Via Tyler Cowen.)

White Hat Physical Penetration Testers

Video: "I'll Let Myself In: Tactics of Physical Pen Testers"
As head of a Physical Penetration team, however, my deliverable day tends to be quite different. With faces agog, executives routinely watch me describe (or show video) of their doors and cabinets popping open in seconds. This presentation will highlight some of the most exciting and shocking methods by which my team and I routinely let ourselves in on physical jobs.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Magic Turing Machine

"It's possible to build a Turing machine within Magic: The Gathering"

Bad Burglar

"Burglar steals security camera, accidentally livestreams from own home"

Quantum Internet

"The Quantum Internet Is Emerging, One Experiment at a Time"

Monday, June 24, 2019

ENIAC Programming

The story of ENIAC programming. (Via H.R.)

Solar System "Wilderness"?

The latest debate on environmentalism: "How much of the solar system should be designated wilderness?"

The article lays out one position:
Martin Elvis at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Tony Milligan at Kings College London. They have studied the nature of exponential growth and say that our limited ability to predict its impact means we should take this into account when limiting how the solar system can be exploited.

They calculate that humans should be allowed to exploit an eighth of the solar system, with the rest designated as wilderness. And they warn that at current rates of growth, this limit could be reached within 400 years.
OTOH, I'm pretty much ok with utilizing the resources of any uninhabited lifeless regions for the benefit of humanity.

Flamin' Hot Cheetos

"How a janitor at Frito-Lay invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos".

Great success story! (Via Gus Van Horn and H.R.)

Friday, June 21, 2019

Time-Free Zone

"Norwegian island wants to become the world's first time-free zone"
"When you live in Northern Norway, it doesn’t make sense to talk about daylight saving time, bedtime, dinner time, or any other time," says Kjell Ove Hveding, one of the key islanders behind the initiative. "The midnight sun makes clocks an unnecessary nuisance, and we wish to be a time-free zone"...

Islanders hope for the government’s approval to be free of traditional opening hours and to introduce more flexibility within the island.

Time-free living aligns well with the main industries of the island: fishing and tourism. According to Hveding, the local fishermen and women already spend days on the ocean without any regard for time and sleep.

Sky Rider Airline Seats

Proposed "Sky Rider" standing airline "seats" would allow airlines to cram even more passengers in a limited space. #UmNoThanks

New Mars Crater

"Fresh Crater Spied on Mars -- and It Looks Spectacular". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Robotic Interviewer

"Swedish job candidates to be grilled by robotic interviewer":
“It is becoming very popular for organisations to be able to say they have a discrimination-free recruitment process. We want to take this idea as far as possible,” said Havva Ilhan, deputy head of staff at the municipality...

“All we want to know is what skills the candidate has. We are not interested in hobbies, family relationships, age or anything else that is immaterial and can create a preconceived image of the person when we choose who will go forward in the recruitment process,” Ilhan said.