Thursday, April 22, 2021

The USPS Is Watching You

"The Postal Service is running a 'covert operations program' that monitors Americans' social media posts"

[C]ivil liberties experts expressed alarm at the post office's surveillance program. "It's a mystery," said University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone, whom President Barack Obama appointed to review the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks. "I don’t understand why the government would go to the Postal Service for examining the internet for security issues." ...

[Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice's liberty and national security program] also questioned the legal authority of the Postal Service to monitor social media activity. "If the individuals they're monitoring are carrying out or planning criminal activity, that should be the purview of the FBI," she said. "If they're simply engaging in lawfully protected speech, even if it's odious or objectionable, then monitoring them on that basis raises serious constitutional concerns."

Whitest White

"Researchers Created the Whitest White Paint Ever"

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Naked Zoom

"Canadian lawmaker caught naked during video conference"

"This was an unfortunate error," Amos said in a statement sent by email.  "My video was accidentally turned on as I was changing into my work clothes after going for a jog. I sincerely apologize to my colleagues in the House of Commons for this unintentional distraction. Obviously, it was an honest mistake and it won’t happen again."


Reporting Dissent

"China launches app to report people with 'mistaken opinions'".

I'm just glad no one would ever want to implement something similar here in the US!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Surviving An Asteroid

Wired: "How To Survive A Killer Asteroid"

Calebresi's Fable

Calebresi's Fable. (Source NYT, 19 April 2021).

Related link.


Monday, April 19, 2021

Skynet Wants To Go On A Date

"Artificial Intelligence Learns To Flirt Thanks To Colorado Scientist Janelle Shane". (Via D.M. and J.S.)

Tell-Tale Tattoos

"A Mafia fugitive hiding out in the Dominican Republic was arrested when investigators found his YouTube cooking channel and identified him by his distinctive arm tattoos." (Via Bruce Schneier.)

Friday, April 16, 2021

Tastes Great, More Filling

"Human Taste Buds Can Tell The Difference Between Normal And 'Heavy' Water". (Via H.R.)

Bad Algorithm

"Life's a Bitche: Facebook says sorry for shutting down town's page"

Life’s a Bitche for one historic town in north-east France that has received an apology from Facebook after its page was shut down for apparently using offensive language.

Bitche in the Moselle, population 5,000 and home to the Bitchois, fell foul of the social network’s algorithm, which deemed it insulting and removed it without explanation last month.

On Tuesday, after reports of the Facebook suspension spread, the social network restored the Ville de Bitche page.


Thursday, April 15, 2021

FBI Hacking Others' Computers

"The FBI is remotely hacking hundreds of computers to protect them from Hafnium "

Printing Bone

"3D Printing Bone Directly Into the Body". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Algorithm Vs. Heuristic Vs. Machine Learning

"Algorithm Vs. Heuristic Vs. Machine Learning" explained. (Via FB.) 


EFF's take on SCOTUS decision on fair use and APIs: "The Supreme Court Reverses the Federal Circuit in Oracle v. Google"

Monday, April 12, 2021

Particle Update

"'Last Hope' Experiment Finds Evidence for Unknown Particles"

Alternatives To Injections

"Scientists have spent nearly 100 years searching for a better way to give vaccines"

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Universal Language Traits?

"Alien Languages May Not Be Entirely Alien to Us".

I suspect the author might still be thinking too narrowly about how languages could develop.

Cosmic Rays In Japan

"Cosmic rays causing 30,000 network malfunctions in Japan each year"

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Soviet LOTR

"Soviet TV version of Lord of the Rings rediscovered after 30 years"

Lotsa Drones

"Genesis broke a world record for the most drones in the sky"

Monday, April 05, 2021

Fake Sounds For Nature Documentaries

"How Sounds Are Faked For Nature Documentaries: Meet the Artists Who Create the Sounds of Fish, Spiders, Orangutans, Mushrooms & More"

New Spider

"'Cute' new spider species named 'Nemo' after animated fish". (Via H.R.)

Friday, April 02, 2021

Origami House

"This Tiny Prefab Cabin Unfolds Like Origami in Just Three Hours"

Canary Traps 2.0

"Cybersecurity Researchers Build a Better 'Canary Trap'"

The "canary trap" technique in espionage spreads multiple versions of false documents to conceal a secret. Canary traps can be used to sniff out information leaks, or as in WWII, to create distractions that hide valuable information.

WE-FORGE, a new data protection system designed in the Department of Computer Science, uses artificial intelligence to build on the canary trap concept. The system automatically creates false documents to protect intellectual property such as drug design and military technology...


Thursday, April 01, 2021

Hsieh Forbes Column: To Improve Telemedicine, Reform Outdated State Medical Licensing Rules

My latest Forbes column is now out: "To Improve Telemedicine, Reform Outdated State Medical Licensing Rules".

I discuss some proposals to make it easier for physicians to practice telemedicine across state lines. I'm glad these ideas are getting more attention in outlets such as The New England Journal Of Medicine.

National Burrito Day

"Where to Get Free and Cheap Burritos for National Burrito Day":

National Burrito Day lands on April Fool’s Day this year, but thankfully restaurants aren’t playing around with their deals. 

Starting [April 1], restaurants like Pollo Loco and Moe’s Southwest Grill are offering buy-one-get-one deals, $5 burritos, and more. Less useful but still good, Chipotle is inviting people to play in an online challenge to crack a code and win a free burrito, plus other prizes all-day on April 1. Here are some deals and freebies to take advantage of on National Burrito Day...

Nuclear Tweet

BBC: "Child tweets gibberish from US nuclear-agency account"

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Bach Sword Fight

That time that J.S. Bach called another musician a "Zippelfagottist" and got into a sword fight.


Unique Snake Feeding Behavior

"Unique feeding behaviour of Asian kukri snakes gutting frogs and toads":

In September 2020, we reported the first evidence for a newly discovered behaviour in snakes, as we provided extensive photographic documentation, demonstrating a macabre feeding strategy of Asian kukri snakes of the species Oligodon fasciolatus, the Small-banded Kukri Snake: a snake cutting open the abdomen of a toad, inserting its head and pulling out the toad’s organs which are then swallowed.

This is done while the toad is alive and it may take several hours before it dies! We have now provided new evidence that two other species of kukri snakes also exhibit this highly unusual behaviour...

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Louvre Online

"The Louvre Puts Its Massive Collection of Art Online":

For the first time ever, the entire Louvre collection is available online, whether works are on display in the museum, on long-term loan in other French institutions, or in storage.

Brains And Fiction

"What happens in your brain when you 'lose yourself' in fiction"

Monday, March 29, 2021

Deep Nostalgia

Deep Nostalgia: Animate your family photos.

Drones Vs. Destroyers

"Multiple Destroyers Were Swarmed By Mysterious 'Drones' Off California Over Numerous Nights"

Friday, March 26, 2021

AI-Controlled Fighter Jets

"AI-Controlled F-16s Are Now Working As A Team In DARPA's Virtual Dogfights"

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Monday, March 22, 2021

Light Posting

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

Friday, March 19, 2021

Smart Whales

"Sperm whales in 19th century shared ship attack information"

LEGO Bonsai

LEGO bonsai tree, intended for adults as a mindfullness/relaxation tool.


Thursday, March 18, 2021

Perfect Numbers

"The Mysterious Math of Perfection"

Optical Antennas

"Optical Antennas Promise 'Unlimited' Data Capacity"

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

SMS Attack

"A Hacker Got All My Texts for $16"

Fast Cameras

"Ultra-quick Cameras Reveal How to Catch a Light Pulse Mid-Flight". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

D&D Makers Roll A "20" For 2020

"Dungeons & Dragons had its biggest year ever as Covid forced the game off tables and onto the web"

Measuring Gravity

"Researchers measure the gravity exerted by a 90 milligram object". (Via H.R.)

Monday, March 15, 2021

Antikythera Update

"Scientists solve another piece of the puzzling Antikythera mechanism"

Self-Cleaning Door Handle

"Over-Engineered Door Handle That Wipes Itself Down With Disinfectant After Every Use". (Via H.R.)

Friday, March 12, 2021

Tribute To Ritchie

"Dennis Ritchie is the most influential man you've never heard of. A thread on the life and legacy of the incredible technology pioneer..." (Via R.T.)

Cell To Salamander

"Time Lapse of a Single Cell Growing Into a Salamander"

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Family Tree of the Tolkien Legendarium

"Family Tree of the Tolkien Legendarium". Click through to see incredibly detailed chart.

Hidden Apartment

Woman notices unusual draft from behind bathroom mirror, finds previously unknown 3-bedroom hidden apartment

"Inside the hair-raising secret space, Hartsoe finds open windows and a heap of trash bags. She also discovers an empty water bottle, which she calls a 'sign of life'."


Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Court Perils In The Zoom Era

"'We May Need to Adjourn': Zoom Assault Hearing Goes Off the Rails After Court Discovers Alleged Abuser in the Same Apartment as Alleged Victim".

Good work by quick-thinking state attorney assistant Deborah Davis to notice that something wasn’t quite right! (Via Ari Armstrong.)

Extended Airport Stays

"How some people can end up living at airports for months -- even years -- at a time"

Monday, March 08, 2021

Dramatic Optical Illusion

BBC: "'Hovering ship' photographed off Cornish coast by walker"

[BBC meteorologist David] Braine said: "Superior mirages occur because of the weather condition known as a temperature inversion, where cold air lies close to the sea with warmer air above it.

"Since cold air is denser than warm air, it bends light towards the eyes of someone standing on the ground or on the coast, changing how a distant object appears...


Better Wifi

"How To Build a Radio That Ignores Its Own Transmissions". (Via H.R.)

Friday, March 05, 2021

Imaginary Numbers May Be Essential

"Imaginary Numbers May Be Essential for Describing Reality"

Reese's All PB Cups

"All peanut butter, all the time: Reese's peanut butter cups without chocolate arriving in April".

Commentary: I like peanut butter. But if I wanted an all peanut butter cup, I could also just go to the store, get a jar of my favorite PB, and enjoy it straight from the jar with spoon. 

Which I confess I've done.


Thursday, March 04, 2021

Unlocked Letter

"Digitally Reading 17-Century Locked Letters"

Simplified US

Map of US as seen on Sri Lankan news broadcast. Much simpler!


Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Tip For Surgeons

ProTip for surgeons: Do NOT try to attend your traffic court Zoom meeting at the same time your patient is lying on the OR table

“So unless I’m mistaken, I’m seeing a defendant that’s in the middle of an operating room appearing to be actively engaged in providing services to a patient. Is that correct, Mr. Green? Or should I say Dr. Green?” Link asked over the sounds of suction and the beep-beep of medical devices...

Artificial Hearts

"How to Build an Artificial Heart"

Monday, March 01, 2021

One Does Not Simply Memorize A Speech About Mordor

"The Story Behind Your Favorite Lord of The Rings Meme Is Actually Funnier Than You Think"

Early Globe

"The Earliest Globe to Show the Americas May Have Been Made by Leonardo da Vinci in 1504"


Friday, February 26, 2021

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Bad Prison Software

"Software bugs reportedly keep Arizona inmates jailed past release dates"

Ice Cycling

"This guy replaced his bike wheels with circular saws so he could ride on a frozen lake." (Via H.R.)

Monday, February 22, 2021

Friday, February 19, 2021

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Ten Years Ago

See what the Internet looked like 10 years ago.

SawStop Explained

"The Table Saw That Won't Cut Your Fingers Off".

Includes an informative video:

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Ransomware Is A Growth "Industry"

"Ransomware gangs made at least $350 million in 2020. The figure represents a 311% increase over ransomware payments recorded the previous your, in 2019."

Untrustworthy Watchers

"A Home Security Worker Hacked Into Surveillance Systems to Watch People Have Sex":

Telesforo Aviles, 35, pleaded guilty to a count of computer fraud in federal court this week, confessing that he inappropriately accessed the accounts of customers some 9,600 times over the course of several years. He is alleged to have done this to over 200 customers.

Authorities say that the IT technician “took note of which homes had attractive women, then repeatedly logged into these customers’ accounts in order to view their footage for sexual gratification.” He did this by adding his personal email address to customer accounts, which ultimately hooked him into “real-time access to the video feeds from their homes.”


Monday, February 15, 2021

Friday, February 12, 2021

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Bitcoin Energy Consumption

Just wondering -- did this terrible thing happen in 2020?

Anti-Filming Hack

"Cops playing copyrighted music to stop video of them being posted online":

On several occasions, cops have started playing popular music when they realize they're being filmed. The odd behavior has a point: they hope that copyright-strike algorithms on YouTube, Instagram and other social media sites will prevent the video being posted and shared. The latest example...

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Don't Swallow Your Airpods

"Man swallows AirPod while sleeping; X-ray discovers it lodged in his esophagus"

French Government Allows Workers To Eat At Their Desks

COVID must be getting bad in France: "The Labor Ministry says it will allow French employees to eat lunch at their desks in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus, a practice previously forbidden under Article R.4428-19 of the 3,324-page French labor code..."

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Three For Mars

"Three countries are due to reach Mars in the next two weeks"

Phone Lens Update

"A new lens technology is primed to jumpstart phone cameras". (Via H.R.)

Monday, February 08, 2021

Princess Bride Home Movie

"Home Movie: The Princess Bride"

In June and July of 2020, Jason Reitman directed an at-home reenactment of the entirety of The Princess Bride featuring too many notable actors to list here. It ran in 10 installments on doomed streaming platform Quibi — which is why you probably haven’t heard of it — but it is fantastic. Mixed media, multiple actors playing all the roles, Fred Savage and Cary Elwes reprising their roles from the original, the star power & talent, the fact that they got permission to do it — it’s just so weird and good. You can watch the whole thing [at this link].

Ok, ok, here’s just a few of the actors who appear: Adam Sandler (as The Grandfather), Jon Hamm (Westley), Zoe Saldana (Buttercup), Penelope Cruz (Prince Humperdinck), Pedro Pascal (Inigo Montoya), Shaquille O’Neal (Fezzik), Charlize Theron (Fezzik), Andy Serkis (Count Rugen). And Carl Reiner as The Grandfather in his final onscreen role — he died just three days after recording his part.

Direct link to YouTube video.

Legos And Coronavirus

Clever use of Legos to illustrate how the coronavirus variants interact with patient immune systems: "What's Going On With All These Coronavirus Variants? An Illustrated Guide"


Thursday, February 04, 2021

3-D Printed Bones

"Ceramic-based ink enables 3D-printed bone tissue". (Via H.R.)

Singapore Police and COVID Data

"Singapore police can access COVID-19 contact tracing data for criminal investigations".

If US law enforcement agencies are allowed similar access, we'll see much more reluctance by Americans to use COVID tracking apps. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Amazon Mountain

"First look: Amazon's jaw-dropping new HQ2 looks like a glass mountain".

 (Confession: I personally don't particular find it very appealing.)


Don't Reply To Spammers

"Why You Should Never 'Unsubscribe' From Illicit Spam Emails and Texts"

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Doritos Ranked

"Every Flavor of Doritos, Ranked"

Monday, February 01, 2021

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: Relaxing Regulations During A Pandemic

[Off topic] My latest Forbes piece is now out: "The Case For Relaxing Regulations During A Pandemic".

Reducing regulations can help during a pandemic. And also not during a pandemic.

Equality Failed

"CEO Secrets: 'We tried paying everyone the same salary. It failed'"

Saffron Innovation

"Saffron Tech Challenges Iranian 1,000-Year Monopoly on the Lucrative $1B Saffron Market". (Via H.R.)

Friday, January 29, 2021

Optical Illusions Can Fool Neural Networks

"Neural Networks Tricked by Optical Illusions in the Same Way That Humans Are Deceived"

AI In Health Care

"Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare -- Top Seven Use Cases"

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Older Coders

"Why Older People Struggle In Programming Jobs". (Via M.G.)

AI Sounding Like Humans

"Artificial Intelligence Is Now Shockingly Good at Sounding Human"

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Signal Struggles

"The battle inside Signal".

The secure-messaging app Signal is struggling with how to allow people to communicate privately for "worthy" causes, without helping people communicate privately for causes they deem "unworthy". 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


Geologist finds volcanic agate rock that looks like the Cookie Monster.  (Image via CNET, Mike Bowers/Facebook.)


Powerful Laser

"Groundbreaking New Laser System Cuts Through Earth's Atmosphere Like It's Nothing". (Via H.R.)

Monday, January 25, 2021

Good Smell

"Texas teen saved Covid-stricken family members from raging early-morning fire that only she could smell"

Amazon Tolkien Details

"Amazon's Lord of the Rings Show Is About the Return of Sauron"

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Inside Amazon Security

"Inside the Whale: An Interview with an Anonymous Amazonian"

28-Corner Eraser

"This Eraser is Designed to Always Present a Sharp Corner, Even as It Wears Out"


Wednesday, January 20, 2021


"Animals interrupting wildlife photographers". 

 I especially like #6 and #11.

FedEx Art

"FedEx Shipping Damage Creates Fractured Artworks"

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Galaxy Quest 2?

"Tim Allen gives a Galaxy Quest 2 update: 'It's a fabulous script'"

Evolution Of Ransomware

"Ransomware Is Headed Down a Dire Path"

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Other Tech Giant

"Wikipedia is 20, and its reputation has never been higher"


"Welcome to The Nand Game! You are going to build a simple computer. You start with a single component, the NAND gate. Using this as the fundamental building block, you will build all other components necessary."

Friday, January 15, 2021

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

UFO Data

"US intelligence agencies have 180 days to share what they know about UFOs, thanks to the Covid-19 relief and spending bill"

Miyazaki Images Released

"To celebrate Miyazaki Hiyao's 80th birthday, Studio Ghibli has released almost 2,000 hi-res images from their films for reasonable use."

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Parler Data Breach

Serious data breach at Parler:

Whilst scrambling to keep operational as various server providers pulled Parler from their services the admins left open a security loophole that allowed hackers to create administration accounts. They used this to create MILLIONS of admin accounts and to start downloading all of the data that Parler had stored. Amongst this data, discussions planning to attack the US Capitol from verified users (with pictures of their drivers licences etc. ), GPS data, photos with EXIF data

More details at this Reddit thread

[A]ll of this information was thought to be secure and private by individuals who were making the posts. A significant number of those individuals went through the process of being a "Verified Citizen" on Parler. What does that mean?

It means they uploaded a picture of the front and back of their REAL State Driver's License........ Let that sink in for a second.

I am positive the FBI has been actively soaking in this information along with the Internet Warriors, but this is how they are going to officially track down.

And it's how the FBI, DHS, and FAA have been able to immediately and exhaustively create no-fly lists. Every verified attendee of the Capitol riot where they can find a real name has been placed on No-Fly Lists.

It might seem like a small geeky glitch or hack.. but in the age of Information warfare... this is the silver bullet for the people who used Parler as a place to organize their efforts.

Also, a lot of posts were deleted by Parler members after the riots on the 6th. Turned out... Parler didn't actually delete anything.. just set a bit as deleted.

Guess what has access to all "deleted" content?

Administrator accounts."

QM Guide

Ars Technica: "A 'no math' (but seven-part) guide to modern quantum mechanics"

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Light Posting

Admin note: Posting may be light for the next several days due to external obligations.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Remote Working Conflicts

"After embracing remote work in 2020, companies face conflicts making it permanent"

Magnetically Cured Glue

"This New Type of Glue Is Activated by Magnetic Fields, And Really Easy to Use". (Via H.R.)

Monday, January 04, 2021

Pen Cap Holes

"The Reason For Holes on The Tops of Pen Caps Is Surprisingly Awesome". (Via H.R.)



"3D-printing hollow structures with 'xolography'". (Via H.R.)