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."

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all our friends and readers!