Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Light Postig

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Cat Burglar

"Mysterious clothing thief turns out to be neighborhood kitty". (Via H.R.)

Noise-Cancelling Window

"Noise-Cancelling Smart Window Blocks Street Din"

Monday, July 13, 2020

Friday, July 10, 2020

Kung Fu Nuns

"The Kung Fu Nuns Of Kathmandu"

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Penguin Poo Physics

"The explosive physics of pooping penguins: They can shoot poo over four feet"

Colonizing The Sun

Robin Hanson: "We Colonize The Sun First"

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

New Larson

New cartoons from Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson.

Tesseract Visualization

Bartosz Ciechanowski has an amazing interactive Tesseract visualization tool.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Monday, July 06, 2020

Black Hole Collision

"A supermassive black hole lit up a collision of two smaller black holes":
Astronomers from Caltech have reported that they’ve observed a collision between two black holes. Normally such an event is invisible, but this time a more massive black hole sitting nearby helped illuminate the other two as they collided. If confirmed, the findings, published in Physical Review Letters, would be the first optical observations ever made of a black hole merger.

Mega Coffee

"What Does Death Wish Coffee Taste Like? (And Is It Safe?)"
Death Wish is billed as the “world’s strongest coffee.” And although the company doesn’t release caffeine-content figures, we have seen third-party test results in an eye-opening range of 650 to 728 milligrams of caffeine in a 12-ounce (Starbucks “tall”-size) cup. By contrast, Starbucks’s dark, medium, and blonde roasts have 193, 235, and 270 mg, respectively. (Darker beans generally have less caffeine than lighter ones.) So drinking a cup of Death Wish is like drinking 2½ to 3 cups of Starbucks coffee.

After brewing a 12-ounce cup of Death Wish (using the company’s recommended brewing ratio and grind size, and our top-pick pour-over dripper), I found the taste hearty and, yes, potently strong—all coffee, no subtlety. It was stronger than two Starbucks dark roasts I compared it with, but not bitter or unpleasant. It’s what I’d expect to find in the thermos of a lumberjack or a Bering Sea crab-boat skipper.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Holiday Hiatus

Admin note: I'll be taking a quick posting break for the long holiday weekend!

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Ninja Studies

"Japan university awards first-ever ninja studies degree"

Advanced Rocket

"The rocket motor of the future 'breathes' air like a jet engine". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Funny Looking Actors Wanted

"Lord of the Rings Series Puts Out Casting Call for Hairy, Burned, and 'Funny Looking' Actors"

Big Lightning

"700-km Brazil 'megaflash' sets lightning record". (Via H.R.)

Monday, June 29, 2020

Win10 Gmail Glitch

"Warning Issued For Millions Of Google Gmail Users"

N95 Physics

Video: "The Astounding Physics of N95 Masks"

Prescription Videogame

"The FDA Just Approved The First Prescription Video Game For Kids With ADHD". (Via H.R.)
Children aged 8-12 years old can now be prescribed gaming sessions on EndeavorRX, in which players pilot a small aircraft through a variety of alien environments – including icy rivers, fiery volcanoes, jungle treehouses and underwater paths.

The game has been specifically constructed to improve attention in youngsters with ADHD, potentially in combination with other treatments, depending on each person – it's certainly much more fun than having to remember to take tablets every day.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Alaska Volcano And Rome

"An Alaskan volcano may have hastened the end of the Roman Republic"

Minimum Mars Colony Size

Nature Article: "Minimum Number of Settlers for Survival on Another Planet". 

They calculate 110 would be the viable minimum.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Mysterious Black Hole Collision

"Ripples in space-time hint at a black hole or a neutron star like we've never seen before".

Maybe this is what thrust our world into this bizarre alternate timeline for 2020!


Atlantic: "You're Showering Too Much". (Via M.M.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Hsieh Forbes Column: Delayed Cancer Care Due To Covid-19 Could Cost Thousands Of Lives"

My latest Forbes piece is now out: "Delayed Cancer Care Due To Covid-19 Could Cost Thousands Of Lives".

I discuss the cost in lives due to the lockdowns, and how this illustrates Bastiat's principle of "the seen vs. the unseen". I also offer some practical suggestions for patients and for lawmakers.

Siri Shortcut For Police Encounters

"'Hey Siri, I’m getting pulled over' shortcut makes it easy to record police"

Zoom Security?

"Can Zoom be trusted with users' secrets?"

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Foundation Trailer

Video: Trailer for the new SF series "Foundation", based on the classic Isaac Asimov novels.

Apple Chips

"Apple Mac computers make jump to its own chips"

Monday, June 22, 2020

Friday, June 19, 2020

Neuromorphic AI's Need "Sleep"

"Artificial intelligence that mimics the brain needs sleep just like humans, study reveals"

Military And Race

"How the U.S. Military Has Been Affected by Racial Inequality Debate"

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Gravity Is Different

"Why Gravity Is Not Like the Other Forces"

Bad Apples

"How Apples Go Bad". Literal, not metaphorical.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Late Ordovician Extinction Mystery Solved

"Familiar Culprit May Have Caused Mysterious Mass Extinction":
It has long been our planet’s greatest and oldest murder mystery. Roughly 445 million years ago, around 85 percent of all marine species disappeared in a geologic flash known as the Late Ordovician mass extinction. But scientists have long debated this whodunit, in contrast to clearer explanations for Earth’s other mass extinctions.
My money was on Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with the candlestick.

Ancient Roman City

"Ground-Penetrating Radar Reveals Entire Ancient Roman City". (Via H.R.)

Friday, June 12, 2020

Turtle Migration

"Drone footage shows 64,000 green turtles migrating to Cairns rookery"

Psychic Miss

Psychics apparently did not see the pandemic coming.

SpaceX Spacesuits

"New SpaceX spacesuits get five-star rating from NASA astronauts". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Caffeine Withdrawal

"What Happens to Your Body When You Give Up Caffeine"

Pandemic Donuts

"Two New Doughnut Spots Bring Sweet Relief to Denver"

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Civil War Pension

"Last Person to Receive a Civil War Pension Dies":

Irene Triplett died last week at the age of 90. She was the last person in America to collect a pension from the Civil War, $73.13 each month from the Department of Veterans Affairs right up until she passed away. Her father Mose Triplett was both a Confederate and US soldier (a North Carolinian, he defected from the Confederacy halfway through the war) and Irene was eligible to receive his pension after he died because of disability.

Fast Chip

"Engineers Successfully Test New Chip With Download Speeds of 44.2 Terabits Per Second". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Space Explosions

"It's 2020, And Astronomers Have Just Found a New Class of Massive Space Explosions":
These bursts of energy are extremely powerful and extremely fast, blasting vast amounts of matter into space at intense velocities. Astronomers have named the new class Fast Blue Optical Transients, or FBOTs.

Rocky Mountain Treasure Found

"A treasure chest hidden in the Rocky Mountains for a decade has finally been found"

Black Nitrogen

"Never-before-seen 'black nitrogen' plugs puzzle in periodic table". (Via H.R.)

Monday, June 08, 2020

Friday, June 05, 2020

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Hsieh Forbes Column: 9 More Bizarre Consequences Of The Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic

My latest Forbes piece is out: "9 More Bizarre Consequences Of The Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic".

My favorite:
A clever app developed by Japanese firm Yamaha allows fans to remotely cheer (or boo) players from home, played through the stadium speakers so that players can feel the energy of the online crowd.

The article wryly notes, “The app does not, as yet, allow fans to question the referee’s eyesight, or the eating habits of players who struggled to stay match-fit during the league’s virus-enforced break.”

Taste Simulator

"This Lickable Screen Can Recreate Almost Any Taste or Flavor Without Eating Food"

Monday, June 01, 2020

Spacecraft UI

Gary Parker notes the changes in spacecraft UI over time.


"The Market For Plexiglass Is Booming"

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Astronaut Hopefuls

Dr. Katherine Mack: "[T]he common term for people who are applying to become astronauts but haven't been selected (yet?) is 'astronaut hopefuls,' sometimes abbreviated ASHOs. #ProudASHO"

Good luck, Dr. Mack!

Sneaky Ransomware

"Ransomware deploys virtual machines to hide itself from antivirus software"

France And Mac-N-Cheese

"Macaroni cheese is now an American staple. But it probably arrived there via France -- and Thomas Jefferson"

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Timeline of SF Ideas

Cool! "Timeline of Science Fiction Ideas, Technology and Inventions" sorted by publication date. (Via G.F.)

Ninja Squirrels

"Former NASA Engineer Builds a Ninja Warrior Obstacle Course to Stop Nut-Stealing Backyard Squirrels". (Via H.R.)

Grateful Dead Recordings Free

"14,566 Grateful Dead concert recordings made available online free"

Monday, May 25, 2020

Brief Holiday Hiatus

Admin note: I'm taking a brief holiday hiatus for US Memorial Day. Posting will resume tomorrow.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Star Wars "Danger Zone"

Clever video using Star Wars X-Wing fighter footage, set to "Danger Zone" from the Top Gun movie.

AI Stock Picker

"Can an artificial intelligence learn to beat the stock market?"

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Monday, May 18, 2020

Friday, May 15, 2020

Hobbits At SCOTUS

"Why Frodo Baggins made an appearance at the Supreme Court"
In a line of hypothetical questioning during Wednesday oral arguments on the Electoral College, Justice Clarence Thomas brought up the hobbit from the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy in a case that would decide whether states can bind presidential electors to vote for the state's popular-vote winner...

"The elector who had promised to vote for the winning candidate could suddenly say, you now, I'm going to vote for Frodo Baggins. I really like Frodo Baggins. And you're saying, under your system, you can't do anything about that," Thomas said.

Zoom Fatigue

"Zoom fatigue is something the deaf community knows very well"
“It’s not necessarily persistent fatigue but surely a measurable increase in listening effort,” Mario Svirsky, professor of hearing science at NYU Langone Health medical center, told Quartz. “A little noise in the background can bring you over a tipping point where communication becomes much more difficult and you have to do a lot of work. You may participate in a meeting focusing on everything for the full two hours and, at the end, you are wiped out.” 

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Mathematics For Machine Learning

"We wrote a book on Mathematics for Machine Learning that motivates people to learn mathematical concepts. The book is not intended to cover advanced machine learning techniques because there are already plenty of books doing this. Instead, we aim to provide the necessary mathematical skills to read those other books."

Direct link to most current PDF version of the book.

Also available at Cambridge University Press.

Faster Workout

Forget the 7-minute workout, here's the 4-second workout.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Software Folklore

"Sometimes bugs have symptoms beyond belief. This is a collection of such stories from around the web."

No-Touch Tools Debunked

"You Don't Need A Brass Or Copper No-Touch Tool"

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Robodog Distancing Enforcer

"Roaming 'robodog' politely tells Singapore park goers to keep apart"
The remote-controlled, four-legged machine built by Boston Dynamics was first deployed in a central park on Friday as part of a two-week trial that could see it join other robots policing Singapore's green spaces during a nationwide lockdown.

"Let's keep Singapore healthy," the yellow and black robodog named SPOT said in English as it roamed around. "For your own safety and for those around you, please stand at least one metre apart. Thank you," it added, in a softly-spoken female voice.
Video of the robodog:

iPad Cursor

"How Apple reinvented the cursor for iPad"

Monday, May 11, 2020

Tracking In India

"India is forcing people to use its COVID app, unlike any other democracy"
While official policy is that downloading the app is voluntary, the truth is that government employees are required to use it, while major private employers and landlords are mandating it as well. The city of Noida is now reportedly fining and even threatening to arrest anyone who fails to install the app on their phone.
If this were the policy in the US, I suspect we'd see a lot of non-compliance.

Sneaky Calculator

"Calculator Hacked for Cheating Includes a Secret OLED Screen, Wifi, and Even a Chat Function"

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Zip Tie Art

"Luminescent Zip-Tie Formations Are Shaped into Futuristic Organic Life by Artist Elisabeth Picard"

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Monday, May 04, 2020

Book Stamina

"Men are likely to give up reading a book before page 50, while women more often make it to page 100 (at least)."

Sniff Test And Consciousness

"A 'sniff test' signals consciousness after a brain injury, study shows".

I think it clearly demonstrates neural activity. I'm not convinced it demonstrates consciousness, however.

Friday, May 01, 2020

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Skill Or Chance?

Illinois State Supreme Court rules fantasy sports a game of skill -- not a game of chance. (Via Michelle Minton.)

Medical AI Update

"Google's medical AI was super accurate in a lab. Real life was a different story."

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Turtle Shells

Ada McVean: "Daily reminder that turtles are not 'inside' their shells. They *are* their shells."

McVean elaborates:
Quick guide: mollusk shells = exoskeleton (they can often leave them) veterbrate shells (turtle/tortoise) = endoskeleton (they can't leave them, it's part of their spine)

Meteorite Casualty

"We Have The First-Ever Credible Evidence of Someone Killed by a Falling Meteorite"

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Stricter Rules For Hawaii Visitors

More details of the mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors to Hawaii:
The person will also initial and sign the mandatory order for self-quarantine form confirming they are aware they must self-quarantine for 14 days. By signing the legal document, they acknowledge they understand violating the order is a criminal offense and they are subject to a $5,000 fine and/or a year imprisonment.
An airport representative will collect the two forms and begin verifying their information. First, they will call their mobile phone number to confirm it rings right in front of them. If it does not ring, the person may have listed inaccurate information and is asked to verify the number. If the person refuses to provide a phone number that can be answered on the spot, law enforcement is contacted and they are subject to citation and arrest.

After the phone number is verified, an airport representative will then check the address listed for lodging. For returning Hawaii residents, the address should match their government issued ID. For visitors, the airport representative will call their hotel to confirm they have a reservation. Processing personnel have phone numbers for every hotel in the state.

John Horton Conway

"Remembering Mathematical Magician John Conway"

Monday, April 27, 2020


That awkward moment when your own kid tells all your underlings that he and his friends like the competition's product a lot more. (New York Times, 4/24/2020).

Daring Fireball On The iPad Magic Keyboard

Daring Fireball (John Gruber) really likes his "The iPad Magic Keyboard"

Double Space Debate

"Microsoft Word Now Flags Double Spaces as Errors, Ending the Great Space Debate". (Via H.R.)

Friday, April 24, 2020

Built-In iPhone Scanner

"Working from home and need a scanner? There's a free one built into your iPhone."

Rubber Bands Vs. Watermelon

"How many rubber bands does it take to make a watermelon implode?"

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Hsieh Forbes Column: Do Not Delay Urgent Medical Care Due To COVID-19

My latest Forbes piece is now out: "Do Not Delay Urgent Medical Care Due To The COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic".

I'm glad to be able to discuss some practical information for patients, as well as to tie our current situation back to Bastiat's famous principle of "the seen vs. the unseen."

Zoom Marriages

"Zoom marriages are now legal in New York".

As a friend noted, "Wow, so you can meet, date and now marry all online." I'm guessing there's not yet an option for online-only procreation.

People Delaying Emergency Care

"Patients with heart attacks, strokes and even appendicitis vanish from hospitals".

If you having a serious medical emergency, please go the the ER. Hospitals are working hard to make sure their ERs are safe. (You can always call first to make sure they are ready to receive you.)

Monday, April 20, 2020

Friday, April 17, 2020

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Privacy-Friendly Contact Tracing

"How Privacy-Friendly Contact Tracing Can Help Stop the Spread of Covid-19"

Zoom Alternatives

"The best Zoom alternatives for videoconferencing"

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Monday, April 13, 2020

NASA And Cats

Amber Straughn: "Actually discussed in a virtual meeting today: how to keep cats from accidentally commanding spacecraft while this work is going on in people's homes on laptops instead of inside a cat-free #NASA building".

Early F-Word

"500-year-old manuscript contains one of earliest known uses of the 'F-word'"

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Zoom Security

"How to Keep Your Zoom Chats Private and Secure"

Novel Energy Soure

"Scientists tap unused energy source to power smart sensor networks". (Via H.R.)

Monday, April 06, 2020

Science Of Face Masks

"Face masks for COVID-19: A deep dive into the data". (Via H.R.)

Dense Earth

"This Is Why Earth, Surprisingly, Is The Densest Object In Our Solar System"

Sunflower Growth

"Time Lapse of a Sunflower Growing from Seed to Flower"

Friday, April 03, 2020

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Light Data

"Does a USB drive get heavier as you store more files on it?"

Short answer, "no". It actually gets very very very slightly lighter:
When you save data, a binary zero is set by charging the float gate of the transistor, and a binary one is set by removing the charge. To charge it, we add electrons, and the mass of each electron is 0.00000000000000000000000000091 grams. This means that an empty USB drive (which mostly holds zeros) weighs more than a full USB drive (which has ones and zeros). Add data, reduce the weight. However, you would need to weigh more USB drives than exist on the planet together at once before the difference in weight became easily measurable.

Stewart/McKellan Mysteries

"Someone Comes Up With A Mystery TV Show Starring Patrick Stewart And Ian McKellen, And Their Concept Goes Viral".

This would be a friggin' awesome show.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

MacBook Air 2020 Review

"MacBook Air 2020 review: The most boring Mac is among the best". (Via H.R.)

Computation And Battles

"How computational power -- or its absence -- shaped World War naval battles"

Monday, March 30, 2020

Video Meeting Tips

"The Dos and Don'ts of Online Video Meetings"

Molecular Wakes

"People leave molecular wakes that may give away their secrets"

Friday, March 27, 2020

Hot Tiles

"Picking Up Glowing Hot Space Shuttle Tiles with Bare Hands"

Full Spectrum Sensor

"Scientists create quantum sensor that covers entire radio frequency spectrum". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Happiness Course

"Stuck at Home? Take Yale's Most Popular Course Ever: The Science of Happiness"

Downloadable Books

"45 places you can download tens of thousands books, plays and other literary texts completely legally for free"

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: How Will Doctors Allocate Scarce Medical Resources

[Off Topic] My latest Forbes piece is on the difficult topic of rationing health care: "How Will Doctors Allocate Scarce Medical Resources During The COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic?"

Old Sword

"Graduate Student Discovers One of World's Oldest Swords in Mislabeled Monastery Display"

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Monday, March 23, 2020

Will It Flush?

"So You've Run Out of Toilet Paper. What Else Will Flush?"

Beautiful Music

"A Girl Makes Music Without Irony or Ugliness". (Via S.Z.)

Friday, March 20, 2020

Virtual Dinner Parties

"Here's How to Have Your Own Virtual Dinner Party During Coronavirus Quarantine"

Coping With Layoffs

"Layoffs are Coming"

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Virtual Museum Tours

If you're housebound, consider these virtual museum tours. (Via S.M.)

Desperate Gamblers

"How Desperate are Gamblers with No Sports to Bet On? This Desperate."

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Cheating In Chess

"Think Cheating in Baseball Is Bad? Try Chess"

Virtual Outbreak

"What a WoW virtual outbreak taught us about how humans behave in epidemics"

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: Tips For Staying Out Of The ER

[Off topic] My latest Forbes piece is now out: "Tips For Staying Out Of The ER During The Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic".

Here's the opening:
As case numbers increase during the current Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, hospital emergency rooms are becoming more crowded. Patients showing up at the ER for possible COVID will add to usual load of patients already there for heart attacks, stroke, acute appendicitis, accidents, “normal” influenza, etc.

So anything you can do to keep yourself out of the ER helps everyone (yourself included).

In that spirit, I’d like to remind folks follow some simple old-fashioned prudent practices...
(Full text available at "Tips For Staying Out Of The ER During The Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic".)

Soap And Viruses

"Soap And Water 101: Why It's Best For COVID-19 Coronavirus (And Everyday Practice)"

Monday, March 16, 2020

More Light Posting

Admin note: Due to the current COVID situation, posting may be irregular for the next couple of weeks.

I and fellow physicians have been asked to be flexible with respect to increased workload for the foreseeable future.

Everyone stay safe, and practice prudent "social distancing"!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Knapsack Problem

"How the Mathematical Conundrum Called the 'Knapsack Problem' Is All Around Us"

URL History

"The History of the URL"

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Light Posting Notice

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

Contacts For Color Blindness

"Prototype Contact Lenses Could Allow Colour-Blind People to Tell Green From Red". (Via H.R.)

Contagion Movie Accuracy

"Fact-Checking Contagion -- In Wake Of Coronavirus, The 2011 Movie Is Trending"

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Super Low Gear

"Here's What a Googol-to-One Gear Ratio Looks Like":
To celebrate being alive for a billion seconds, Daniel Bruin built a machine with 100 gears with a 10-to-1 gear ratio…meaning that the overall gear ratio is a googol-to-one. (A googol is 1 with 100 zeros.)

This machine has a gear reduction of 1 to 10 ^ 100. In order to get the last gear to turn once you’ll need to spin the first one a google [sic] amount around. Or better said you’ll need more energy than the entire known universe has to do that. That boggles my mind.

Musk To Mars

"Inside Elon Musk's plan to build one Starship a week -- and settle Mars". (Via H.R.)

NYC Alligators

NYT: "The Truth About Alligators in the Sewers of New York"

Monday, March 09, 2020

Military Analysis Of Siege Of Gondor

"The Siege of Gondor, Part I: Professionals Talk Logistics".

Military analysis of the Peter Jackson movie version of the Siege Of Gondor.  (The link is to part 1 of a six-part series.)


Hey, what happened?

Improved Touch

"Tactile Enhancement to Compensate for Loss of Sensation"

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Hiding Pictures In Maps

"For Decades, Cartographers Have Been Hiding Covert Illustrations Inside of Switzerland's Official Maps"

Wedding Llama

"A man brought a llama in a tuxedo to his sister's wedding, and the photo of her unamused expression is going viral"

More CorpSpeak

"Garbage Language: Why do corporations speak the way they do?"

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

New Etch-a-Sketch Model Can Draw Circles

Progress: "Etch-a-Sketch Revolution Can Actually Draw Circles"

Koreans Vs. Virus

"South Koreans are using smartphone apps to avoid the novel coronavirus":
Recently developed apps using public government data allow users to see how close they are to where a confirmed Covid-19 patient has been. They can also see the date a patient was confirmed with the disease, demographic data about the patient, and, crucially, some of their location history.

At least one app, called Corona 100m, will also alert a user if they come within 100 m (328 ft) of a location visited by someone who’s had Covid-19.

Developers of such offerings have seen a surge in downloads...

Virus Vs. Aliens?

"Coronavirus Could Preview What Will Happen When Alien Life Reaches Earth".

I think the article is making a bit of a stretch.

Monday, March 02, 2020

Hsieh Forbes Column on "Left Digit Bias"

My latest Forbes column is now out: "If You Just Turned 50, 60, 70, Or 80, Your Doctor Might Suffer From 'Left Digit Bias'".

"Left digit bias" is why customers are more likely to purchase an item priced $4.99 than $5.00.  I discuss how physicians' "left digit bias" could affect medical care in older patients, and what patients can do about it.

Handwashing Technique

"First defense against coronavirus: 20 seconds of proper hand-washing"

Bad Forensics

"The wear patterns of your jeans aren't good forensic evidence"

Friday, February 28, 2020

No iPhones For Movie Villains

"Apple won’t let bad guys use iPhones in movies".

(So if you were watching the murder mystery Knives Out and you saw a character using their iPhone, you could deduce they weren't the killer.)

Black Sign Language

"How America developed two sign languages -- one white, one black"

Small Victory For Privacy

Ars Technica: "Removing a GPS tracking device from your car isn't theft, court rules"

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Pandemic Prep Items

Australian virologist Ian Mackay offers recommendations of items to purchase and preparations to make in anticipation of potential Coronavirus pandemic:
The list included extra prescription drugs and over-the-counter fever and pain medicines; feminine hygiene products; toilet paper and tissues; and vitamins "in case food shortages limit the variety in your diet." He also advised buying items including soap, alcohol hand rub and household cleaning products.

In terms of food, he suggested purchasing cereals, grains, beans, lentils and pasta; tinned food such as fish, vegetables and fruit; oil, spices and other flavorings; dried fruit and nuts; powdered milk; items for pets; as well as soft drinks, candy and chocolate for treats.

Mackay also provided a list to be used in the event that a "severe" pandemic cuts access to fresh foods. The products "should be the last things to buy if you have a hint of when supplies might slow or stop for a (hopefully short) time."

Those include bread and wraps, meat for freezing, milk, eggs, yogurt, and fruit and vegetables. Car fuel should also be bought at this time, he said.

"But don't panic buy and don't hoard!" said Mackay.
Original article by Mackay, including some risk analysis: "So you think you’re about to be in a pandemic?"

McD's Candles

"McDonald's to sell 'Quarter Pounder' scented candles"

Smithsonian Images

"Smithsonian Releases 2.8 Million Images Into Public Domain". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Signal App And Public Officials

"Mayor de Blasio joins encrypted messaging app Signal, raising legal and ethical questions".

I (and several friends) use Signal, and we like it. However, there's an interesting question of whether public officials should use the secure app for conducting government business in a way that violates Freedom of Information Act.

Related story from Wired: "Signal Is Finally Bringing Its Secure Messaging to the Masses"

More Trek

"Exclusive: Captain Pike And The Enterprise To Be Star Trek's Next Show"

Human Echolocation

"How humans can echolocate like bats"

Friday, February 21, 2020

Mysterious Aerodynamic Lift

"No One Can Explain Why Planes Stay in the Air":
[T]here is actually no agreement on what generates the aerodynamic force known as lift. “There is no simple one-liner answer to this,” [aerodynamics expert John D. Anderson] told the Times. People give different answers to the question, some with “religious fervor.” More than 15 years after that pronouncement, there are still different accounts of what generates lift, each with its own substantial rank of zealous defenders. At this point in the history of flight, this situation is slightly puzzling.
Click through to see lots of diagrams and theories!

Tricking A Tesla

"Hackers can trick a Tesla into accelerating by 50 miles per hour"

RIP, Larry Tesler

"The Computer Scientist Responsible for Cut, Copy, and Paste, Has Passed Away"

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Amazon And Third Party Sales

"Who's responsible for what you buy on Amazon? A court is about to decide". (Via N.L.)

Fooling Driverless Cars

"Driverless cars can't tell the difference between projections and real objects"

Science Emojis

“Scientists ♥ Their Emojis, But It’s Complicated

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Space Tourism Update

"Ready to buy a trip to orbit from Elon Musk?"
Up to four passengers will be able to hire SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft for a joyride around the Earth, Elon Musk’s company said today.

The experience will be brokered by SpaceAdventures, a US tourism firm that helped eight wealthy enthusiasts visit the International Space Station between 2001 and 2009.

The cost of the experience is not disclosed and likely negotiable.

Olympics Hacking Warning

"Hackers will be the weapon of choice for governments in 2020":
The 2020 summer games will be held in Tokyo, and the Russians have already put a bull’s-eye on the event with several successful hacks on relevant organizations. 

Coronavirus Questions

"These 2 questions will determine if the coronavirus becomes a deadly pandemic"

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Bad Price Guessers

"Why are people getting worse at 'The Price Is Right'?"

CS Education

"The Missing Semester of Your CS Education"

UK Airbnb Scam

"I stumbled across a huge Airbnb scam that's taking over London"

Monday, February 17, 2020

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Perils Of Fame

Tim Ferriss: "11 Reasons Not to Become Famous (or 'A Few Lessons Learned Since 2007')"

Netflix Autoplay Fix

"Hell freezes over as Netflix finally lets users turn off autoplaying previews"

CIA Crypto Coup

How the CIA surreptitiously sold crypto equipment to other countries, then read their secret communications for decades.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Monday, February 10, 2020

Hungry Fungi

"Hungry fungi chomp on radiation". (Via H.R.)

Deep Space Signals

"Something in Deep Space Is Sending Signals to Earth in Steady 16-Day Cycles"

I think it's aliens saying, "You kids start behaving yourselves! Don't make us come back down there and make you behave!"

Satellites Snooping On Satellites

"A Russian satellite is probably stalking a US spy satellite in orbit":
We don't know exactly what Kosmos 2542 is capable of, but Harrison speculates it could determine the aperture and resolution of the cameras on USA 245. If it has a radio-frequency probe, it could listen for faint signals from USA 245 to deduce what kinds of computer processes are happening onboard, when it’s operating, and when it is taking pictures.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Face Masks Impeding Facial Recognition

"Frustration grows in China as face masks compromise facial recognition"

Blowing Big Bubbles

"Physicists determine the optimal soap recipe for blowing gigantic bubbles". (Via H.R.)

Blaze On Decision Making

Matt Blaze nails it:

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Upscaled Movie

"Someone Used Neural Networks To Upscale An 1895 Film To 4K 60 FPS, And The Result Is Really Quite Astounding".

Update: Typo in link fixed. Thanks to reader "B" for spotting that!

Good Answer

Violinist Ray Chen vs. Airport Security.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Avoiding Aibnb Scams

"These Are the Most Common Airbnb Scams"

Hidden Cameras When Travelling

"Why You Should Start Screening For Hidden Spy Cameras When You Travel"

Fake Traffic Jam

"'Hack' Creates Fake Google Maps Traffic Jams With 99 Cell Phones". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Dating Fingerprints

"Fingerprints can now be dated to within a day of when they were made". (Via H.R.)

Little Known But Obvious Fact

"What's a little known but obvious fact that will immediately make us all feel stupid?"

iPhone Measurements

"How to Measure Almost Anything Using Your Phone". (Via H.R.)

Monday, February 03, 2020

Apollo 14 Software

"A deep dive into the Apollo Guidance Computer, and the hack that saved Apollo 14". (Via H.R.)

Unusual Prime

Kelley Myers: "53658987879599884946439828657775969842369677 is a prime number with two 2s, three 3s, four 4s, five 5s, six 6s, seven 7s, eight 8s, and nine 9s."

Gruber On iPad

Daring Fireball: "The iPad Awkwardly Turns 10"

Friday, January 31, 2020

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: Why More Employers Are Not Hiring Smokers And What To Do About It

[Off topic] My latest Forbes column is now out: "Why More Employers Are Not Hiring Smokers And What To Do About It".

I discuss how we can address "lifestyle discrimination" by employers by repealing existing bad laws, rather than imposing new bad regulations.

Also: Have you ever wondered why you get health insurance from your employer, but not your car or homeowner's insurance? I cover that bizarre "feature" of the US economy as well.

Turning Hair White From Fright

"How the stress of fight or flight turns hair white"

Photos Of The Sun

"Just released first images from the National Science Foundation's Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope reveal unprecedented detail of the Sun's surface"

Religion And Aliens

"Which Religion Is Friendliest to the Idea of Aliens?"

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Albatross Patrol

"Albatrosses Outfitted With GPS Trackers Detect Illegal Fishing Vessels". (Via H.R.)

Facebook "Clear History"

"The Facebook 'Clear History' Button Is Finally Here"

Linux Laptop Update

"Linux on laptops: Ubuntu 19.10 on the HP Dragonfly Elite G1"

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Meat Cleaver Massage

"You Haven't Lived Until You've Lived Through a Meat Cleaver Massage"

Nice Watch

"Watch This Veteran Collapse on Antiques Roadshow When He Learns His $345 Rolex Is Actually Worth $700,000". (Via H.R.)

Masks And Flu?

"Can surgical masks protect you from getting the flu?"
Basically, there is no strong evidence to support well people wearing surgical masks in public. Or as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put it: "No recommendation can be made at this time for mask use in the community by asymptomatic persons, including those at high risk for complications, to prevent exposure to influenza viruses."

The best thing you can do to stop getting the flu is to regularly wash your hands, and try to avoid touching your face.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Augmented Vision

"Augmented Reality in a Contact Lens: It's the Real Deal".
Augmented reality in a contact lens? Science fiction writers envisioned the technology decades ago, and startups have been working on developing an actual product for at least 10 years.

Today, Mojo Vision announced that it has done just that—put 14K pixels-per-inch microdisplays, wireless radios, image sensors, and motion sensors into contact lenses that fit comfortably in the eyes. The first generation of Mojo Lenses are being powered wirelessly, though future generations will have batteries on board. A small external pack, besides providing power, handles sensor data and sends information to the display. The company is calling the technology Invisible Computing, and company representatives say it will get people’s eyes off their phones and back onto the world around them.

Lowe On ML

Derek Lowe: "Will It Learn? Can It Learn?" (Via H.R.)
[C]ould you have a dataset that really does have a rule in it that could theoretically be discovered, but you are luckless enough to have picked an ML algorithm that is incapable of finding such a rule? How general is learnability?

A recent paper came up with a surprising answer to that question. (Update: here’s Ash/Wavefunction with a post on this as well). The authors have a particular learning model (“estimating the maximum”, or EMX) and investigate its behavior with data produced by several different underlying “rule” functions. And they show – as in no escape, mathematically prove – that there are functions for which it is absolutely impossible to know whether they are learnable by the EMX algorithm or not. Not just difficult to know, not computationally hard until someone comes up with a better way to evaluate the problem, none of that: the question of learnability in those cases is formally undecidable.

The mathematically inclined will be wondering if I mean that term the way it sounds like, and the answer is, yep, Kurt Gödel rides again.

Surgery Update

"Hours after world-first keyhole lung removal, cancer patient gets out of bed". (Via E.P.)

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Quantum Weirdness Update

"How 'spooky' is quantum physics? The answer could be incalculable"

Inside Golf Balls

"Abstract Photographs of the Colorful Insides of Golf Balls"

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Optimal Airplane Boarding

"We're closer than we've ever been to the optimum airplane boarding procedure"

In Praise Of Cash

"An elegy for cash: The technology we might never replace"

Lotsa Lasers

"Most lidars today have between 1 and 128 lasers -- this one has 11,000". (Via H.R.)

Monday, January 20, 2020

Friday, January 17, 2020

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Avoiding Online Scams

"The Complete Guide to Avoiding Online Scams"

Finding Meteorites

"How to Find a Meteorite"

Shape-Shifting Planter

"Shape-Shifting Origami Planter Adapts To Your Plant's Size As It Grows Over Time". (Via D.D.)

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

An Important 42

"Sutherland helps solve decades-old sum-of-three-cubes puzzle"

Old Stuff

"The oldest material on Earth has been found in a meteorite":
Fifty years ago, a meteorite fell to Earth and landed in Australia, carrying with it a rare sample from interstellar space. A new analysis of the meteorite revealed stardust that formed between five to seven billion years ago. That makes the meteorite and its stardust the oldest solid material ever discovered on Earth.

Our sun is around 4.6 billion years old, meaning this stardust existed long before our sun or solar system were even a reality. The stardust found on the meteorite are called presolar grains because they formed before our sun.

Computer Programming Then And Now

"How Is Computer Programming Different Today Than 20 Years Ago?"

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Delayed Y2K Reckoning

"A lazy fix 20 years ago means the Y2K bug is taking down computers now"

Stepping On Lava

"What happens when you step on lava"

Samsung Ballie

New "cute" home robot from Samsung is the closest thing to BB-8 today.

Monday, January 13, 2020

McKellen's Blog On Lord Of The Rings Production

"Read Sir Ian McKellen's Fascinating Lord of the Rings Production Blogs".

Direct link to McKellen's blog.

Bluetooth Update

"The Biggest Problems With Bluetooth Audio Are About to Be Fixed". (Via H.R.)

Creepy Alexa

That awkward moment when your Amazon Alexs tells you to stab yourself in the hear 'for the greater good'.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Clever Outhouse

"This Outdoor Bathroom by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects is a Mirrored Cube Hidden in Nature".

Click through for more pictures.

Loudest Sound

"The Loudest Sound In The World Would Kill You On The Spot"

Balloon Art

"Japanese artist creates coolest balloon art".

Click through to see full gallery. Impressive! (Via D.D.)

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Origins Of Life On Earth?

"A chemical clue to how life started on Earth"

Carry On Hassles

"The reason carry-on luggage became such a hassle".

One tidbit I didn't know:
Carriers have latched onto travel fees as a way to bring in more revenue and avoid the 7 percent excise tax on airfare. Domestic flights are subject to the tax, but any services considered optional (additional luggage, seat selection, priority boarding) are exempt.

Old School Directions

"Turn-by-turntables: How drivers got from point A to point B in the early 1900s". (Via H.R.)

Monday, January 06, 2020

Dracula Billboard

"Genius billboard advertising the new Dracula TV series"

via Gfycat

Particle Accelerator On A Chip

"Researchers build a particle accelerator that fits on a chip".

Well, you have to make them small if you want them to fit in your flux capacitor for your Delorean.

Science Vs. Free Will?

Steve Taylor: "How a Flawed Experiment 'Proved' That Free Will Doesn't Exist"

Friday, January 03, 2020

Mystery Drones

"Mystery drone squadrons flying over Colorado and Nebraska".

Related New York Times article, "'It's Creepy': Unexplained Drones Are Swarming by Night Over Colorado".

Mystery Orb

"A virtual version of da Vinci's mystery glass orb has helped explain its weirdness"

Mystery Boson

"New boson appears in nuclear decay, breaks standard model"

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Vanishing Stars

"Finding stars that vanished -- by scouring old photos".

No Dyson Spheres found -- yet.

Ski Maps

"The Man Behind Most of the Ski Maps in America"

Teens On Tech

MIT Technology Review: "We asked teenagers what adults are missing about technology. This was the best response."