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.

Clinical Trials And Blockchain

"Prototype of running clinical trials in an untrustworthy environment using blockchain"

The Rise Of Online Recommendation Sites

"Don't Know Which Toaster to Buy? There's a Website for That."

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Old Old English

"The English Word That Hasn't Changed in Sound or Meaning in 8,000 Years"

iOS Shortcut Ror Recording Police

"iOS Shortcut for Recording the Police":
Once the shortcut is installed and configured, you just have to say, for example, "Hey Siri, I'm getting pulled over." Then the program pauses music you may be playing, turns down the brightness on the iPhone, and turns on "do not disturb" mode.
It also sends a quick text to a predetermined contact to tell them you've been pulled over, and it starts recording using the iPhone's front-facing camera. Once you've stopped recording, it can text or email the video to a different predetermined contact and save it to Dropbox.

Medical Video Games

"Your doctor may be playing medical video games at work. That could be good for your health".

I especially love the idea of earning CME (continuing medical education) credits for gaming.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Dinosaurs And Private Property

"Who Owns The Dinosaurs? It All Depends On Where You Find Them".

I'm basically ok with this concept.

Depressing Fermi Solution

"A Physicist Has Proposed a Pretty Depressing Explanation For Why We Never See Aliens"

Dracula's Cannonballs

"Dracula's cannonballs from 15th-century battle found in Bulgaria".

"Dracula's Cannonballs" would also be a good name of a punk band.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

List On Free Will

"Free Will Is Real"

Designer Babies

"Stossel: Don't Be Scared of Designer Babies"

T-Cell Timing

"Immune Cells Measure Time to Identify Foreign Proteins". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Monday, June 10, 2019

New Yawk

"Why some New Yorkers drop their 'R's". (Via H.R.)

Update: Link was bad, fixed now!

Star Wars Theme Park Update

"Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is so ambitious Disneyland fans may not be ready for it"

YouTube Moderation Fail

"YouTube blocks history teachers uploading archive videos of Hitler"

Friday, June 07, 2019

Password Sanity

"Microsoft says mandatory password changing is 'ancient and obsolete'"

Seuss And Education

"How Dr. Seuss Changed Education in America"
It didn’t help that Dick and Jane belonged to what many have dubbed the dullest family on earth. The books were plotless, littered with mind-numbing, repetitious quasi-sentences. (“Look, Jane. Look, look. See Dick. See, see. Oh, see. See Dick.”) The illustrations were stodgy and bland. Flesch deemed the series “horrible, stupid, emasculated, pointless.”

The author John Hersey, in an article on the literacy debate, for Life magazine, was not much kinder, calling the books “namby-pamby” and “insipid,” and the pictures “terribly literal.” Hersey wondered why primers couldn’t at least feature the talents of gifted children’s-book illustrators, and he listed Dr. Seuss among their ranks.

The head of Houghton Mifflin’s education division took note. He challenged Geisel to write a primer that emerging or reluctant readers would actually enjoy, pleading, “Write me a story that first graders can’t put down!” But for a wordsmith as playful and unconventional as Dr. Seuss—someone fond of phrases such as “howling mad hullaballoo,” who invented animals like the Yuzz-a-ma-Tuzz—there was a big catch: to qualify as a first-grade primer, the text would have to be tightly restricted to a list of three hundred and fifty simple, pre-approved vocabulary words, supplied by the publisher, with a preferred limit of just two hundred and twenty-five words.

Could Dr. Seuss deliver a page-turner that contained itself to no more than two hundred and twenty-five real, English, mostly monosyllabic words?

Stock Sectors Over 200 Years

"Visualizing 200 Years of US Stock Market Sectors". (Via Maximizing Progress.)

Thursday, June 06, 2019

AirPods All The Time

"The Case for Wearing AirPods All the Time"

Left Behind, Cosmonaut Edition

"The last Soviet citizen: The cosmonaut who was left behind in space"
Sergei Krikalev was in space when the Soviet Union collapsed. Unable to come home, he wound up spending two times longer than originally planned in orbit. They simply refused to bring him back. 

Tiger Shark Food

"Tiger Sharks' Unexpected Food Source: Birds Falling from the Sky"

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Perpetual Diamond Illusion

Optical illusion of the day: The Perpetual Diamond.
The Perpetual Diamond produces motion continuously and unambiguously in one direction despite never physically changing location. The phenomenon consists of a steady, mid-luminance diamond bordered by four thin edge strips and a surrounding background field. The direction of motion is determined by the relative phases of the luminance modulation between the edge strips and the background. Because the motion is generated entirely by changing contrast signals between the edge strips and background, the stimulus is a valuable tool for tests of spatial contrast, temporal contrast, contrast gain, and color contrast. 

The Risk Of Relying On IOT

"That major Google outage meant some Nest users couldn't unlock doors or use the AC"

How To Get To Mars And Back

"SpaceX beginning to tackle some of the big challenges for a Mars journey". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Apple Update, WWDC 2019

"The 10 most important announcements from WWDC 2019"

Nazi Uranium Cubes

"Tracking the journey of a uranium cube". (Via H.R.)

BTW, "Nazi Uranium Cubes" should be the name of a punk band.

Carroll On Gell-Man

Sean Carroll: "The Physicist Who Made Sense of the Universe"

Monday, June 03, 2019

How 10,000 Steps Became A Thing

"What 10,000 Steps Will Really Get You":
I-Min Lee, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard University T. H. Chan School of Public Health and the lead author of a new study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, began looking into the step rule because she was curious about where it came from. “It turns out the original basis for this 10,000-step guideline was really a marketing strategy,” she explains. “In 1965, a Japanese company was selling pedometers, and they gave it a name that, in Japanese, means ‘the 10,000-step meter.’”

Based on conversations she’s had with Japanese researchers, Lee believes that name was chosen for the product because the character for “10,000” looks sort of like a man walking. As far as she knows, the actual health merits of that number have never been validated by research.

Scientific or not, this bit of branding ingenuity transmogrified into a pearl of wisdom that traveled around the globe over the next half century, and eventually found its way onto the wrists and into the pockets of millions of Americans...

Digital Couture

"A digital 'dress' sold for $9,500: If people will only see it online, does it need to exist in real life?"

Leech Smuggling

(Smuggling) Markets In Everything: "Man caught smuggling nearly 5,000 leeches in luggage".

The market value of these medicinal leeches would have been approximately $40k - $100k, at $8 to $20 per leech.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Encryption Lava Lamps

"The randomness of this wall of lava lamps helps encrypt up to 10 percent of the internet"


NYT: "The Microbots Are on Their Way"
Like Frankenstein, Marc Miskin’s robots initially lie motionless. Then their limbs jerk to life.

But these robots are the size of a speck of dust. Thousands fit side-by-side on a single silicon wafer similar to those used for computer chips, and, like Frankenstein coming to life, they pull themselves free and start crawling.

First Film Of Solar Eclipse

"The First Film Footage of a Total Solar Eclipse (1900)"

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Bezos On Space

Video: "Jeff Bezos, Going to Space to Benefit Earth" (Washington DC, May 9, 2019)
On May 9, 2019, Blue Origin founder held an event in Washington, DC titled, "Going to Space to Benefit Earth." The presentation revealed Mr. Bezos' vision for Blue Origin technologies to service the Moon.
(Link via H.R.)

Early Browsers

"Before Netscape: The forgotten Web browsers of the early 1990s"

EternalBlue Havoc

"In Baltimore and Beyond, a Stolen N.S.A. Tool Wreaks Havoc"

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: 18-Year-Olds Have The Right To Smoke

[Off Topic] My latest Forbes piece is now out, "If 18-Year-Olds Can Fight For Their Country, They Should Be Able To Smoke A Cigarette".

I discuss the latest bipartisan push to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.

I frame the discussion in the form of three questions:

1) Is it the government’s job to stop legal adults from making unhealthy life choices?

2) If Congress allows 18-year-olds risk their lives in military service, shouldn’t they also be allowed to smoke?

3) Whose body is it, anyways?

For more details, read the full piece "If 18-Year-Olds Can Fight For Their Country, They Should Be Able To Smoke A Cigarette".

Lane Dummies

"Note to HOV Lane Cheaters: That Mannequin Isn't Fooling Anyone"

Left-Handed Snail

"It's a Lefty! Welcome to the World's First Crispr Snail Baby." (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

"Terminator: Dark Fate" Trailer

 The trailer for the upcoming Terminator: Dark Fate movie is now out.

The last couple of Terminator films were pretty disappointing. However, Stephen Green notes:
Dark Fate is touted as a direct sequel to T2, and will treat the other three films as though they never existed. In other words, someone ...or some thing... was sent back in time to stop the production of three Terminator movies before they could be made. Heh.
So Linda Hamilton is back for the first time since 1991, kicking cyborg booty and saving her family. And if the trailer is any indication, Dark Fate might just bring back Terminator's engaging mix of action, girl power, sex appeal, and a clever plot twist or two. 
I hope this one is good. Direct link to the video:

NYT On Thrangrycat

NYT: "The Internet Security Apocalypse You Probably Missed"

Unix Time Falsehoods

"Falsehoods programmers believe about Unix time":
These three facts all seem eminently sensible and reasonable, right?
  1. Unix time is the number of seconds since 1 January 1970 00:00:00 UTC
  2. If I wait exactly one second, Unix time advances by exactly one second
  3. Unix time can never go backwards
False, false, false.

But it’s unsatisfying to say “this is false” without explaining why, so I’ll explain that below...

Monday, May 27, 2019

Holiday Hiatus

Admin note: Because of the US Memorial Day holiday, GeekPress will take the day off. Regular posting will resume tomorrow.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

China Blocks All Wikipedia

"The Wikimedia Foundation released a statement on Friday announcing that it had determined that China blocked all versions of Wikipedia."

Robot Flirting

NYT: "The future is robots, and they're teaching us how to flirt"

Surgical Vending Machine

"World's First Surgical Vending Machine"

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Friday, May 17, 2019

Year In Space

NYT: "Scott Kelly Spent a Year in Orbit. His Body Is Not Quite the Same."

Compared to his twin brother who stayed on Earth:
DNA mutated in some of his cells. His immune system produced a host of new signals. His microbiome gained new species of bacteria. 

Many of these biological changes seemed harmless, disappearing after he returned to Earth. But others — including genetic mutations and, after his return, declines in cognitive test scores — did not correct themselves, provoking concern among scientists.

Thinking About Coffee

"Just thinking about coffee can improve your focus, researchers say"

14-Digit Phone Numbers

"Japan plans to create 10 billion 14-digit phone numbers as 5G era nears"

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Deepest Hole

"The deepest hole we have ever dug"

Twisted Graphene

"How Twisted Graphene Became the Big Thing in Physics"

Bank Comics

"New Comic Books from the Federal Reserve Bank".

One sample below:

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Monday, May 13, 2019

Tolkien Biopic

"Birth of Middle Earth: Tolkien biopic explores beloved author's early years"

New Viruses

"Almost 200,000 Never-Before-Seen Viruses Were Just Discovered Hidden in Our Oceans "

Google Privacy

"Limit How Long Google Keeps Your Data With This Overdue Setting"

Friday, May 10, 2019


"What The Hell Is Going On With UFOs And The Department Of Defense?"

Beer Crisis

"'English and Irish fans drink the most': Japan is warned of a Rugby World Cup beer shortage"

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Japanese Precision Walking

"Shuudan Koudou Is the Japanese Art of Synchronized Precision Walking":
If you want the really good stuff, skip to ~1:35 in the first video to watch two columns of quick-walking students march backwards through each other. Whoa.

Video link #1.

Video link #2

High Resolution Update

"Color-Changing LEDs Pave the Way to Impossibly High Screen Resolutions"

Monday, May 06, 2019

Indoor Waterfall

"'You forget you're in a building,' says Israeli-Canadian architect of giant airport waterfall". (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Competitive Air Guitar

"The profound and peculiar sport of competitive air guitar"

Friday, May 03, 2019

Viable Digital Newspaper

"Want to see what one digital future for newspapers looks like? Look at The Guardian, which isn't losing money anymore."

Three key components to their strategy:

1. Make your money in digital, not print
2. Make your money from readers, not advertisers
3. Make more money than you did before

Fire Extinguisher In Space

"New concept for novel fire extinguisher in space"

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Selling Empty Air

"You Can Buy a Tin of Air to Commemorate the End of the Heisei Era".  I applaud the entrepreneurial spirit.

Apple Miracle

"Apple Watch lost at sea for 6 months returned to owner in working condition". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

UK Surveillance Update

NYT: "UK Police Have a Message for Crime Victims: Hand Over Your Private Data".

Three noteworthy points stood out to me:

1) If you don't voluntarily surrender your phone/data, the police may not investigate the crime against you.

2) If the police find incriminating evidence against you for an unrelated activity, they can prosecute you. Because you surrendered your phone "voluntarily".

3) They may keep your phone "for weeks or even months".

OTOH, the police promise to use their power only for good, not for evil. So there's that.

Neutron Stars

"Say Hello To Neutron Stars, Your Worst Nightmare"

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

More Star Wars

"5 confirmed Star Wars projects are coming after The Rise of Skywalker -- here are all the details"

MS Drops 60 Day Password Expiration Recommendation

"Password1, Password2, Password3 no more: Microsoft drops password expiration rec"

Monday, April 29, 2019

Light Posting Notice

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

Boom Update

"Denver Built 'Baby Boom' To Propel Planet Into Supersonic Era"

First Molecule

"Astronomers have spotted the universe's first molecule":
Helium hydride (HeH), a combination of helium and hydrogen, was spotted some 3000 light-years from Earth by an instrument aboard the airborne Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a telescope built into a converted 747 jet that flies above the opaque parts of Earth’s atmosphere.

HeH has long been thought to mark the “dawn of chemistry,” as the remnants of the big bang cooled to about 4000 K and ions began to team up with electrons to form neutral atoms. Researchers believe that in that primordial gas, neutral helium reacted with hydrogen ions to form the first chemical bond joining the very first molecule.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Girl Without Hands Wins Handwriting Contest

"Girl Without Hands Wins Handwriting Contest"

Kung Fu From Space

"Stunning Overhead View of Shaolin Kung Fu Training Exercises":
As part of their show Earth From Space, the BBC Earth team shows the coordinated movements of thousands of Shaolin Kung Fu trainees. The number of participants is so large that their movements can easily be seen in a satellite view...

Flashing Headlights As Free Speech

Eugene Volokh: "Flashing Headlights to Warn of Speed Trap May Be Protected by First Amendment"

Thursday, April 25, 2019

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: Health Care Vs. Liberty In Singapore

[Off topic] My latest Forbes column is now out: "Health Care Vs. Liberty In Singapore".

I discuss the trade-offs that Singapore residents must make when they accept government-run "universal health care" and "cost control". This is includes significant losses in liberty as well as accepting government rationing of medical services.

For more details, see the full text of "Health Care Vs. Liberty In Singapore".

Dead Tree Books Are The New Vinyl

"Books are cool precisely because we don't need them anymore"

Border Harassment

"Former Mozilla CTO was detained at US border and told he had no right to a lawyer"

Legal Status Of AI Generated Music

"We've been warned about AI and music for over 50 years, but no one's prepared":

"I won’t mince words," says Jonathan Bailey, CTO of iZotope. "This is a total legal clusterf-ck."

Even if an AI system did closely mimic an artist's sound, an artist might have trouble proving the AI was designed to mimic them, says Aimonetti. With copyright, you have to prove the infringing author was reasonably exposed to the work they’re accused of ripping off. If a copyright claim were filed against a musical work made by an AI, how could anyone prove an algorithm was trained on the song or artist it allegedly infringes on? It's not an easy task to reverse engineer a neural network to see what songs it was fed because it's :ultimately just a collection of numerical weights and a configuration," says Bailey...

C law will also have to contend with the bigger issue of authorship. That is, can an AI system claim legal authorship of the music it produces, or does that belong to the humans who created the software?...

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

AI And Beer

"Smarter beer: When old school craft brewing meets industry 4.0 AI"

Banksy Authentication

"How Banksy Authenticates His Work":
It all starts off with a fairly bog standard gallery style certificate. Details of the work, the authenticating agency, a bit of embossing and a large impressive signature at the bottom. Exactly the sort of things that can be easily copied by someone on a mission to create the perfect fake.

That torn-in-half banknote though? Never mind signatures, embossing or wax seals. The Di Faced Tenner is doing all the authentication heavy lifting here.

The tear is what uniquely separates the private key, the half of the note kept secret under lock and key at Pest Control, with the public key.

EU Surveillance Update

"EU votes to create gigantic biometrics database"

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Laptop Holding Styles

"What your laptop-holding position says about you"

Selling Rex

"Someone Is Trying To Sell a Baby T. Rex Skeleton on eBay for $2.95 Million -- And paleontologists aren't happy about it"

Unreliable Emotion Reading

"Don’t look now: Why you should be worried about machines reading your emotions"

Monday, April 22, 2019

Friday, April 19, 2019

Hacking Passwords

"The Mathematics of (Hacking) Passwords"

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Long Exposure Photo

"1,060-hour image of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) captured by Amateur Astronomers". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Light Posting Notice

Admin note: Due to external obligations, posting may be lighter than usual the rest of this week.

Unusual Demise

"Paste Eater's Grave"

Good Free Education

"Here are 300 free Ivy League university courses you can take online right now"

Monday, April 15, 2019

Tricking A Tesla

"Researchers trick Tesla Autopilot using stickers on the road". (Via Ari A.)

Pollen Clouds

"Pollen clouds shroud parts of US south-east as allergies spike":

A thick haze of yellow pollen has blanketed the sky across parts of the south-eastern US, with reports of spring allergy symptoms on the rise. One particularly dense cloud of pollen was photographed in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Better Bicycle Helmet

"Science and bicycling meet in a new helmet design". (Via H.R.)

Friday, April 12, 2019

Amazon Listens

"Amazon Workers Are Listening to What You Tell Alexa"

Canceled Flight

"What to do if your flight is canceled"

Robotic "Intruder"

"Oregon deputies with 'guns drawn' respond to report of intruder to find ... a Roomba vacuum"

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Big Black Hole

M87 is big.

F-16 Shoots Itself

"Dutch F-16 flies into its own bullets, scores self-inflicted hits"

Struggling In SF

San Francisco residents making $300,000 regard themselves as "struggling" or "middle class".

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

New Phase Of Matter

"New phase of matter is solid and liquid at the same time":
Now, a team has used a type of artificial intelligence to confirm the existence of a bizarre new state of matter, one in which potassium atoms exhibit properties of both a solid and a liquid at the same time. If you were somehow able to pull out a chunk of such material, it would probably look like a solid block leaking molten potassium that eventually all dissolved away.

Google Drone Update

"Google drone deliveries cleared for take-off in Australia"

Memory Zaps

"Zapping brain with precise electrical current boosts working memory in older adults, study finds".

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

1973 Internet

"A Map of the Internet from May 1973"
The network was so small in the early days that those circles and squares on the 1973 map represent individual computers and routers, not universities or cities.

IBM S/360

"Building the System/360 Mainframe Nearly Destroyed IBM". (Via H.R.)

When Copy Editors Meet

"Dropped Hyphens, Split Infinitives, and Other Thrilling Developments from the 2019 American Copy Editors Society Conference"

Monday, April 08, 2019

Friday, April 05, 2019

Duolingo Doubts

"Is It Just Me, or Does Duolingo Not Work?"

Timelapse Of The Future

Video: "Timelapse of the Future":
We start in 2019 and travel exponentially through time, witnessing the future of Earth, the death of the sun, the end of all stars, proton decay, zombie galaxies, possible future civilizations, exploding black holes, the effects of dark energy, alternate universes, the final fate of the cosmos - to name a few.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Running Robots

"After decades of clumsiness, robots are finally learning to walk, run and grasp with grace. Such progress spells the beginning of an age of physically adept artificial intelligence. "

Chinese Burner

"The Chinese Burner: A Chinese science fiction writer goes to Burning Man"

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Light Posting Notice

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

Airbnb Hidden Cameras

"Airbnb Has a Hidden-Camera Problem"

Seizure Dogs

"Dogs Detect the Scent of Seizures".  #GoodDoggies!

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Programmer Migration Patterns

"I made a little flow chart of mainstream programming languages and how programmers seem to move from one to another".

Difficult Conversations

"How to Deliver Constructive Feedback in Difficult Situations"

River Maps

"These Beautiful Maps Capture the Rivers That Pulse Through Our World"

Friday, March 29, 2019

Mail Fishing

"Have You Noticed Those Weird New Mailboxes? Here's Why They Changed"
Thieves, often at night, use string to lower glue-covered rodent traps or bottles coated with an adhesive down the chute of a sidewalk mailbox. This bait attaches to the envelopes inside, and the fish in this case — mail containing gift cards, money orders or checks, which can be altered with chemicals and cashed — are reeled out slowly.

This low-tech crime, which became common in the Bronx, is known as mail fishing

[In the new mailboxes:] The mail slots are only large enough for letters, meaning sending even small packages will require a trip to the post office. The opening is also equipped with a mechanism that grabs at a letter once inserted, making it difficult to retract. (With an air of crime-fighting secrecy, postal inspectors declined to elaborate on precisely how the device works.)

Virtual Military Misconduct

"Soldier charged after 'going rogue' during computer game on virtual battlefield "

Astrology Studies

"A fight has erupted in Norway after the country's higher education regulator agreed to accredit courses in astrology, meaning students will be able to use government loans to look for meaning in the stars."  (Via Tyler Cowen.)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Wifi Password

Dan Edwards learns the coffeeshop password:
Me: Hey, what's the Wifi password?

Barista: You need to buy a drink first.

Me: I'll have a Latte, please.

Barista: £3, please.

Me: There you go, now what's the Wifi password?

Barista: You need to buy a drink first. No spaces and all lowercase.
— Dan Edwards ✨ (@de) March 27, 2019

Bizarre Florida Theme Parks

"Let's revisit Florida's bizarre lost theme parks from before the Disney era"

Attachment Styles and Work

"The 4 ‘Attachment Styles,’ and How They Sabotage Your Work-Life Balance"

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Drunken Online Shopping

"Drunken online shopping is big business -- especially for Amazon"

Unique Table Design

"Unique Tables Designed to Look Like Animals Are Half-Submerged in Water"

Robot Swarm

"‘Particle’ robot swarm moves without computer control"

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Quantum Computing For The Very Curious

"Quantum computing for the very curious"

More Surveillance

"The US Government Will Be Scanning Your Face At 20 Top Airports, Documents Show". (Via T.K.)

Easter Island Update

"Scientists think they’ve solved one mystery of Easter Island's statues"

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Wait

The Wait: "Two people strike up a conversation at a bus stop. They don't say whole lot, but the story will grip you right in the feels. This award-winning short is from Jason McColgan."

The Wait from Jason McColgan on Vimeo.

Quantum Computing Update

"D-Wave 2000Q hands-on: Steep learning curve for quantum computing"

Wite-Out Sales

"Who Still Buys Wite-Out, and Why?" (Via H.R.)

Friday, March 22, 2019

TAVR History

"The astounding 19-year journey to a sea change for heart patients".

Related: Here's the recent NEJM paper on the TAVR trial making national news:
"Transcatheter Aortic-Valve Replacement with a Self-Expanding Valve in Low-Risk Patients"

And a NYT story on the trial:
"Tens of Thousands of Heart Patients May Not Need Open-Heart Surgery"


"Ask A Native New Yorker: Should I Move To Los Angeles?"

Flowers From Space

"Satellites just photographed California's dazzling 'super bloom' of spring flowers from outer space". (Via B.E.)

Thursday, March 21, 2019

New AirPods

"Apple’s New AirPods Are the Future, Like It or Not"

Exascale Computer

"Intel will build the first exascale supercomputer in the US"

Fermi Paradox Revisited

"Are We In A 'Galactic Zoo' Protected By Aliens? Scientists Meet To Investigate The 'Great Silence'"

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Bad Conference Rooms

Don't make important decisions in conference rooms: "Three people quietly sitting in a mid-size conference room produced CO2 levels that within 60 minutes, reached concentrations high enough to impair their ability to make the right decisions."

Surprise Meteor

"A meteor exploded over Earth with 10 times the energy of Hiroshima's atomic bomb. Nobody saw or was even aware of the fireball that exploded above the Bering Sea on December 18, 2018 -- until now."

Flat Antarctica

"Flat Earth Supporters Now Plan An Antarctica Expedition To The Edge Of The World"

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Monday, March 18, 2019

Friday, March 15, 2019

Last Blockbuster

"There's now only one Blockbuster left on the planet"

Space Medicine

"Space Medicine in the Era of Civilian Spaceflight"

Noise Cancellation Update

"Scientists have discovered a shape that blocks all sound -- even your co-workers". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Supersonic Shockwaves

"NASA captures unprecedented images of supersonic shockwaves". (Via H.R.)

Google Is Watching

"Google Exec Finally Admits to Congress That They're Tracking Us Even with 'Location' Turned Off"

Hathaway Prank

"What Anne Hathaway's Prank On 'Ellen' Said About Pseudoscience"

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Humans Are Weird

"These Hilarious Comics Depict How Weird Human Habits Actually Are"

Good Doggie

"The First Dog Ascent of a 7,000-Meter Himalayan Peak"

Physics Of Knitting

"Physicists are decoding math-y secrets of knitting to make bespoke materials"

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Total Hipster Irony

Update on yesterday's MIT article on hipster culture: "A man threatened to sue a magazine for using his picture to show a generic hipster. But it wasn't him."

In other words, he was upset at being used as an illustration on how all hipsters look alike, but he mistake another hipster's picture for his own.

Update Your Chrome

"Google fixes Chrome zero-day exploit, security update rolling out to Mac, Windows, Android, & Chrome OS"

500-Mile Email

"The Case of the 500-Mile Email".  Here's the opening:
I was working in a job running the campus email system some years ago when I got a call from the chairman of the statistics department.

“We’re having a problem sending email out of the department.”
“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“We can’t send mail more than 500 miles,” the chairman explained.

I choked on my latte. “Come again?”

“We can’t send mail farther than 500 miles from here,” he repeated. “A little bit more, actually. Call it 520 miles. But no farther.”

“Um… Email really doesn’t work that way, generally,” I said, trying to keep panic out of my voice. One doesn’t display panic when speaking to a department chairman, even of a relatively impoverished department like statistics. “What makes you think you can’t send mail more than 500 miles?”
Read the whole thing.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Friday, March 08, 2019

Bitcoin Hypnotist

"This hypnotist charges half a bitcoin for helping you remember your lost cryptocurrency password". (Via Tyler Cowen.)

Caesar Death Site

"Site Where Julius Caesar Was Stabbed Will Finally Open to the Public"

Art Thief Secrets

"The Secrets of the World's Greatest Art Thief"

Thursday, March 07, 2019


"The Deep Roots of an Italian Song That Sounds Like English -- But Is Just Nonsense
There’s a long tradition of songs that “sound” like another language without actually meaning anything. In Italy, for example, beginning in the 1950s, American songs, films, and jingles inspired a diverse range of “American sounding” cultural products.

The most famous is probably “Prisencolinensinainciusol,” a 1972 song composed by legendary Italian entertainer Adriano Celentano and performed by him and his wife, Claudia Mori. The song’s lyrics sound phonetically like American English—or at least what many Italians hear when an American speaks—but are clearly total, utter, delightful nonsense. You really have to hear it to appreciate it.

Bad Password

"Why 'ji32k7au4a83' Is a Remarkably Common Password"

Foldable Gorilla Glass

"Corning is working on truly foldable Gorilla Glass". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

USB Confusion

"USB 3.2 is going to make the current USB branding even worse"
USB 3.2 doubles down on this confusion. 5Gb/s devices are now "USB 3.2 Gen 1." 10Gb/s devices become "USB 3.2 Gen 2." And 20Gb/s devices will be... "USB 3.2 Gen 2×2." Because they work by running two 10Gb/s connections along different pairs of wires simultaneously, and it's just obvious from arithmetic that you'd number the generations "1, 2, 2×2." Perhaps they're named for powers of two, starting with zero? The consumer branding is a more reasonable "SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps."

Read The Fine Print

"She read the fine print on her insurance policy. It won her $10,000 in a contest". (Via H.R.)

Worth Staying Up Late?

"How to Decide When It's Worth Staying Up Late"

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Commercial Quantum Computing

"When Will Quantum Computing Have Real Commercial Value? Nobody really knows"

AI And Scientific Reproducibility

"Machine learning is contributing to a 'reproducibility crisis' within science"

Venmo Etiquette

"The Confusing World of Venmo Etiquette"

Monday, March 04, 2019

Bridge Doping Scandal

The lastest doping scandal involves professional bridge. Yes, bridge.

Ice Tsunamis

"Furious Winds Lead to 'Ice Tsunamis' Along Lake Erie"

NASA Communications

"Deep space dial-up: How NASA speeds up its interplanetary communications". (Via H.R.)

Friday, March 01, 2019

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Light Posting Notice

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

Google Microphones

"After a big privacy backlash, Google's Nest explains which of its products have microphones and why"

Hydro Flasks

"Why Are Hydro Flask Bottles Suddenly Everywhere?" (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: Should Therapists Treat Climate Change Denial As A Psychological Disorder?

[Off topic] My latest Forbes piece is now out: "Should Therapists Treat Climate Change Denial As A Psychological Disorder?"

Spoiler: "No."

ET Life Update

"Life probably can't exist on quite as many planets as we once thought"

Missionary Texting

"Latter-day Saint missionaries can now call, text home weekly":
Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can now call, text or video chat weekly, the First Presidency announced Friday. This update to guidelines regarding communication between full-time missionaries and their families follows a decades-long tradition of missionaries only calling home twice a year -- on Christmas and on Mother's Day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Paying For Super-Expensive Stuff

"How Do the Insanely Wealthy Actually Pay for Something Worth Hundreds of Millions of Dollars?"

Emojis In Court

"Emoji are showing up in court cases exponentially, and courts aren't prepared"

Bubble Wrap History

"The Accidental Invention of Bubble Wrap"

Monday, February 25, 2019

Amazon's Middle-Earth

"Where the Stars Are Strange: A First Look at Amazon's Middle-earth"

Northern Vs. Southern Lights

"Why Do the Northern and Southern Lights Differ? Scientists have discovered the culprit: how the sun squeezes Earth’s magnetic tail"

Medieval Trade Routes

"A Detailed Map of Medieval Trade Routes in Europe, Asia, and Africa"

Friday, February 22, 2019

Zebra Stripes

"The Surprising Reason Zebras Have Stripes"

Google Sees All

"How did the police know you were near a crime scene? Google told them"

'Oumuamua Update

"No, 'Oumuamua is not an alien spaceship. It might be even weirder"

Thursday, February 21, 2019

When Kids Realize Their Whole Life Is Already Online

"When Kids Realize Their Whole Life Is Already Online"

Protecting Privacy

"Chrome will make it harder to block incognito browsing"

Foldable Phone

"Samsung's foldable phone is the Galaxy Fold, available April 26th starting at $1,980"

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Good Apple

"Man discovers 30 year old Apple computer still in working order":
“My oldest, who is 9, exclaimed “that’s a computer?!” in genuine surprise, and then pointed at the floppy drives and asked “what are those?” My younger twins just kept laughing at how silly it seemed to them.”

Bad Plagiarist

Courtney Milan: "Cristiane Serruya is a copyright infringer, a plagiarist, and an idiot".

The evidence is pretty convincing.

Plus as the victimized author notes: "[I]f I were an unethical plagiarist and I was looking to plagiarize a romance author, I would pick literally anyone except the one who clerked for the Supreme Court, taught intellectual property as a law professor, and doesn’t back down from a fight."