Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Lighting Zig-Zags Solved

"Physicists strike gold, solving 50-year lightning mystery":

For the past 50 years, scientists around the world have debated why lightning zig-zags and how it is connected to the thunder cloud above...

The answer? Singlet-delta metastable oxygen molecules.

Gene Therapy Advance

"New gene therapy restores night vision of people with inherited eye disorder"

Monday, November 28, 2022

AI Diplomat

"CICERO: An AI agent that negotiates, persuades, and cooperates with people":

Games have long been a proving ground for new AI advancements — from Deep Blue’s victory over chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, to AlphaGo’s mastery of Go, to Pluribus out-bluffing the best humans in poker. But truly useful, versatile agents will need to go beyond just moving pieces on a board. Can we build more effective and flexible agents that can use language to negotiate, persuade, and work with people to achieve strategic goals similar to the way humans do?

Today, we’re announcing a breakthrough toward building AI that has mastered these skills. We’ve built an agent – CICERO – that is the first AI to achieve human-level performance in the popular strategy game Diplomacy...

Direct link to the Science article: "Human-level play in the game of Diplomacy by combining language models with strategic reasoning".


(Via A.B.)


Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Light Posting Notice

Admin note: Posting will be pretty light this week due to the US Thanksgiving holiday.

Is Wine Fake?

Scott Alexander: "Is Wine Fake?"

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Octopus Brains

"How squid and octopus get their big brains"


[Medical content warning] Dr. Nitin Joshi (gastroenterologist) performs upper GI endoscopy on himself

This video from 2018 has been making the rounds again, perhaps because of more recent other work being done by Dr. Joshi on early cancer detection.

Monday, November 21, 2022

AI Copyright Lawsuit

"The lawsuit that could rewrite the rules of AI copyright". (Via D.J.)

Museum Security Expert Speaks

"Just How Safe Is Great Art?"
There are many types of protection. Some paintings are protected from theft. They might have transmitters behind them, or they might have a miniature camera embedded in the ceiling above that looks down and has the ability to analyze the motion in front of the painting and alert when somebody gets so close that they might touch. There might be some sort of a beam in front of the painting that breaks the beam when you reach into it.

But it’s pretty darn hard to protect a painting from somebody throwing a can of soup at it. It’s very, very difficult...

Friday, November 18, 2022

Card Shuffling Machine Loophole

"How a magician-mathematician revealed a casino loophole"

Eukaryote Origins

"The Long and Winding Road to Eukaryotic Cells"

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Minnesota Snowplow Winners

"MnDOT announces winners of 2022 'Name a Snowplow' contest":

The winning names, in order of vote totals, and their future homes are:

  • Betty Whiteout – District 8
  • Ctrl Salt Delete – District 7
  • The Big Leplowski – District 4
  • Plowasaurus Rex – Metro District
  • Scoop Dogg – District 3
  • Blizzard of Oz – District 2
  • No More Mr. Ice Guy – District 1
  • Edward Blizzardhands – District 6

Light And Nerves

"Engineers light the way to nerve-operated prosthetics of the future":
Biomedical and electrical engineers at UNSW Sydney have developed a new way to measure neural activity using light -- rather than electricity -- which could lead to a complete reimagining of medical technologies like nerve-operated prosthetics and brain-machine interface...

(Via H.R.)

Monday, November 14, 2022

Lego Archaeology

"Archaeology adrift?: A curious tale of Lego lost at sea"

Twenty-five years ago, a cargo of millions of pieces of Lego was washed overboard during a storm off Land’s End. To this day, tiny pieces of plastic are still being found on Cornish beaches. Joe Flatman reports on a project working to document these finds.

Obsolete iPads

"When will your iPad become obsolete?"

Friday, November 11, 2022

Crossword Writer Economics

"Inside the Elite, Underpaid, and Weird World of Crossword Writers"

Thursday, November 10, 2022

The Downside Of Standardized Connectors

"Examples of Medical Device Misconnections"

Mastodon Basics

"What is Mastodon, the social network users are leaving Twitter for? Everything you need to know"

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

ML And AI Intro

Ars Technica: "How to get started with machine learning and AI"

Theodicy Microfiction

Really nice bit of microfiction on the theme of theodicy, in the form of a Twitter thread. (Via L.R.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Chess Cheating Scandal

"A Cheating Scandal Has Rocked the Chess World. The 'Chess Detective' Is on the Case"

Barefoot Running

"Should You Take Up Barefoot Running?"

Monday, November 07, 2022

Friday, November 04, 2022

Turkey Terminology

"The Most Important Thanksgiving Turkey Terms, Defined"

Digital License Plates

"California drivers can now sport digital license plates on their cars":

The license plate-sized screens display a driver's license plate number and allow motorists to renew their registration automatically. Users can even change between light and dark modes and customize the plates with personalized banners.

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Not A Crash

"The iPhone 14 keeps calling 911 on rollercoasters":

The iPhone 14’s new Crash Detection feature, which is supposed to alert authorities when it detects you’ve been in a car accident, has an unexpected side effect: it dials 911 on rollercoasters.

Upside Down Art

"Mondrian painting has been hanging upside down for 75 years":

A painting by abstract Dutch artist Piet Mondrian has been hanging upside down in various museums since it was first put on display 75 years ago, an art historian has found, but warned it could disintegrate if it was hung the right side up now.

Monday, October 31, 2022

T-Rex Arms

"The 120-year search for the purpose of T. rex's arms"

Ancient Bacteria

"Ancient creatures are emerging from the cold storage of melting permafrost, almost like something out of a horror movie."

Thursday, October 27, 2022


"The secret life of a super-recogniser":

It was only as she got older and started using social media that Seo became self-conscious of her skill. “I would start a new class in uni or I would meet people through social gatherings and I would remember visually what kind of photos I’d seen them in. I’d already be so familiar with them and I’d know in my head: ‘Oh, you are that person’s sibling, or you used to date so-and-so,’” she says.

“But I also knew it’d be really creepy if I said that out loud, so I’d keep it on the down low and just say: ‘Oh, nice to meet you.’”

 (Via Gus Van Horn.)

Hsieh Forbes Column: Misinformation, Mosquitoes, And Mutations, Oh My!

Yes, some people are "mosquito magnets". That's one of the topics I cover in my latest Forbes piece.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Standard Reference Peanut Butter

Yes, you can purchase Standard Reference Peanut Butter from the NIST Store (National Institute of Standards and Technology). 

Be aware that: 

1) 3 jars cost $1,069, and 

2) The lot expires December 31, 2029.


Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Light Posting Notice

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

Fake Money For Films

Video: "How Fake Money Is Made For Movies And TV". (Via E.D.)

Monday, October 24, 2022

Bionic Noses

"With This Bionic Nose, COVID Survivors May Smell the Roses Again"

Chinese Armed Robo-Dogs

"China Pairs Armed Robot Dogs With Drones That Can Drop Them Anywhere":

Footage of a Chinese-made drone carrying a ‘robot dog’ that is armed with a machine gun has started to make its rounds on social media, and it looks like it was taken straight out of a dystopian war movie. It isn’t immediately clear if the video was recorded as part of a Chinese military exercise or rather in an effort to demonstrate how the pairing will operate, but even without that context, the clip could serve as a foretelling of the technology that may populate future battlegrounds.

Friday, October 21, 2022

How To Become An Excellent Physicist

"The secret to becoming an excellent physicist":

It’s simplicity itself: you become good at physics by solving physics problems. That’s it: that’s the secret. If you want to become competent at physics, you will solve physics problems in the area you wish to learn.

Backpack Ergonomics

Wirecutter: "You're Probably Wearing Your Backpack Wrong"

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Robot Takeout

"I ordered robot takeout on two campuses with wildly different results"

Japanese Microapartments

"A 95-Square-Foot Tokyo Apartment: 'I Wouldn't Live Anywhere Else'"

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Author Acceptance Bias

"Authors' names have 'astonishing' influence on peer reviewers: A Nobel prizewinner is six times more likely than someone less well known to get a thumbs-up for acceptance, finds study."

Wrinkling Math

"The New Math of Wrinkling"

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Monday, October 17, 2022

We Now Know How Many Brain Cells It Takes To Play Pong: 800,000

"Lab-grown brain cells play video game Pong":
Prof Karl Friston, of University College London, who is working with Dr Kagan, says: "The mini-brain learned without it being taught and so is more adaptable and flexible."

I can't wait to teach it how to play "Global Thermonuclear War"!


Signal And SMS

"Signal is 'starting to phase out SMS support' from its Android app"

Friday, October 14, 2022

Popular Websites By Country

"The Most Visited Website in Every Country (That Isn't A Search Engine)"

Fast Internet

"Fastest internet network in the world is upgraded to 46 Tb/s to support scientific research":

Scientists at the United States Department of Energy's (DOE) science network will hereon have access to the world's fastest internet. The DOE's Energy Science Network, ESnet, has now been upgraded to ESnet6, boasting a bandwidth of 46 Terabits per second (Tbps), enhancing the network's connectivity to new levels.

To put it into perspective, ESnet6 is 46,000 times faster than a comparatively high-speed connection of one Gbps. The current U.S. national average internet speed in 2022 is 119.03 Mbps, according to High Speed Internet.

That's a lot of cat videos per second! (Via H.R.)

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Harvard Classics Free

"Download The Harvard Classics as Free eBooks: A 'Portable University' Created in 1909"

Moldable Ceramics Discovered By Accident

"A new ceramic material that can form tiny, intricate shapes could transform smartphones". (Via H.R.)

When ceramics are subjected to abrupt temperature changes and mechanical loading, they frequently shatter (or even explode) from thermal shock. However, their sample had distorted...

Its underlying microstructure enables the all-ceramic to transmit heat and flow during the molding process effectively. At room temperature, the ceramic can be formed into exquisite geometries and exhibits impressive mechanical strength and thermal conductivity.

“It’s unique: Thermoformable ceramics, from what we’ve seen and read, don’t really exist,” [graduate student Jason] Bice says. “So it’s a new frontier in materials.”


Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Neuroscience Of Tickling

"Neuroscientists unravel the mystery of why you can't tickle yourself". (Via H.R.)

Penguin Post Office

"Meet the Four Women Who Will Run Antarctica's 'Penguin Post Office'"

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Friday, October 07, 2022

Maverick Vs. Star Wars

The parallels are quite striking! "Top Gun: Maverick Being Star Wars for Three Minutes Straight"

(Warning: Contains spoilers for both movies.)

Faster Matrix Multiplication With AI

"DeepMind unveils first AI to discover faster matrix multiplication algorithms"

Direct link to Nature article: "Discovering faster matrix multiplication algorithms with reinforcement learning".

Thursday, October 06, 2022

Medicare Fraud

ProTip: Don't try to defraud Medicare by billing for non-existent radiology exams on deceased patients

The claims were for services that he did not provide and included approximately 151 x-ray services purportedly provided to patients on dates after the patients had died.

Mouse Neuron Data

"Huge new dataset pushes limits of neuroscience":

At the Allen Institute, a nonprofit research institute started by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, they used six Neuropixels probes to record simultaneously from eight different regions of the mouse visual system. In August, the institute released data from 81 mice—comprising the activity of around 300,000 neurons. The data is freely available to any researchers who might want to use it.

As the largest data set of this kind ever collected—three times as big as the previous record holder—the release lets researchers observe enormous groups of neurons acting in concert. That unprecedented scale may unlock opportunities to understand parts of cognition that have previously evaded the scientific community’s grasp. “We want to understand how we think and see and make decisions,” says Shawn Olsen, an investigator at the Allen Institute who played a central role in the project. “And it just does not happen at the level of single neurons.”

The challenge now is figuring out just how to parse all that data...


Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Entanglement Nobel

"Quantum experiments with entangled photons win the 2022 Nobel Prize in physics"

Plant Machete

"Living plant controls a machete through an industrial robot arm":

David Bowen’s installation, ‘Plant Machete,’ enables a living plant to move a machete through an industrial robot‘s bionic-like arm. The installation implements a control system that measures electrical noises found in the living philodendron. This system uses an open source micro-controller connected to the plant, which reads varying resistance signals across the its leaves.

The machine’s movements are accomplished by using a custom technology that translates electrical signals from the plant into real-time motion. Embedded patch sensors pick up electric signals from the leaves and transmit them to the machine that contains several joints that determine how the machete swings, jabs, slices, and interacts in space.

(Via P.B.)


Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Monday, October 03, 2022

Hsieh Forbes Column: You Have The Right To Your Radiology Test Results

My latest Forbes column is now out: "You Have The Right To Your Radiology Test Results: What You Need To Know".

I discuss some changes in federal law that allow near-immediate access to radiology reports (and other test results), and how best to use these rights responsibly.

Mobile Phone Privacy

"How Mobile Phones Became a Privacy Battleground -- and How to Protect Yourself".

Related article: "16 Practical Privacy Tips for Your iPhone"

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

New Non-Stick

"Scientists break down silk to invent extremely efficient non-stick material". (Via H.R.)

Monday, September 26, 2022

Light Posting Notice

Admin note: Posting may be very light this week, due to external obligations.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Stone Skipper

"Stone Skipping Is a Lost Art. Kurt Steiner Wants the World to Find It."

Video of the current world record 88 skip throw:

Dental Microrobots

"These shape-shifting microrobots can brush and floss your teeth". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

$2 Paper Microscope

"He Invented a $2 Paper Microscope For Remote Lab Work So Scientists Don’t Have to Haul Heavy Equipment"

Timing Laughter

"Scientists try to teach robot to laugh at the right time"

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Daring Fireball On iPhone 14 Pro

John Gruber offers extensive commentary on the new iPhone 14 Pro, and he really likes it.

Data Searches At US Border

WaPo: "Customs officials have copied Americans' phone data at massive scale".

Key excerpts of the first article:

[T]he revelation that thousands of agents have access to a searchable database without public oversight is a new development in what privacy advocates and some lawmakers warn could be an infringement of Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In a 2018 filing, a CBP official said an officer could access any device, including in cases where they have no suspicion the traveler has done anything wrong, and look at anything that “would ordinarily be visible by scrolling through the phone manually,” including contact lists, calendar entries, messages, photos and videos.

If officers have a “reasonable suspicion” that the traveler is breaking the law or poses a “national security concern,” they can run an “advanced search,” connecting the phone to a device that copies its contents. That data is then stored in the Automated Targeting System database, which CBP officials can search at any time.

Here are some tips on how best to protect your data privacy at the border crossing.


Monday, September 19, 2022

iOS Features

"All the New Privacy and Security Features in Apple iOS 16"

What If? 2

"What If? 2 is here with even more serious answers to your weird questions".

Includes nice interview with author Randal Munroe.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Color Math

"Math error: A new study overturns 100-year-old understanding of color perception".

Direct link to academic abstract: "The non-Riemannian nature of perceptual color space"

Antarctica Internet

"SpaceX hits a milestone as Starlink arrives in Antarctica, high-speed internet now available on all seven continents". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, September 15, 2022

DNA Jeopardy

"San Francisco sued by woman who says her rape-kit DNA was used to arrest her"

San Francisco has been sued by a sexual assault victim in a complaint that describes "the San Francisco Police Department's shocking practice of placing crime victims' DNA into a permanent database without the victims' knowledge or consent."

"Plaintiff Jane Doe, a sexual assault survivor, was re-victimized by this unconstitutional practice," alleged the lawsuit filed Monday in US District Court for the Northern District of California. "In 2016, she provided a DNA sample to the San Francisco Police Department as part of its investigation into her sexual assault. However, she never consented to it to be stored or used for any other purpose. Nevertheless, the Department maintained Plaintiff Doe's DNA in the database for more than six years."

According to the lawsuit, Jane Doe was arrested on burglary charges in 2021 after DNA from a crime scene apparently matched the DNA she provided five years earlier. The charges were eventually dropped...


Quantum-Resistant Algorithms

"What are quantum-resistant algorithms -- and why do we need them?"

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Realistic Synthetic Embryos

"This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting; With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics."

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

New 3-D Gear

This is a cool video and a slick idea. I'm also amazed that the idea of inventing a new type of gear is still possible in the 21st century.

Cheaper Storage

"New optical disc tech could make $5 per TB possible". (Via H.R.)

Monday, September 12, 2022

Monday, September 05, 2022

AI Art Wins Contest

"An AI-Generated Artwork Won First Place at a State Fair Fine Arts Competition, and Artists Are Pissed": 

A man came in first at the Colorado State Fair’s fine art competition using an AI generated artwork on Monday. “I won first place,” a user going by Sincarnate said in a Discord post above photos of the AI-generated canvases hanging at the fair.


Sunday, September 04, 2022

AF all Snafu

"The Air Force Just Survived a Reply-All Apocalypse"

Friday, September 02, 2022

Producing Oxygen On Mars

"MIT's MOXIE takes a huge step toward human life on Mars with oxygen production". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Light Posting Notice

Admin note: Posting may be lighter than usual for the next two weeks due to external obligations.

Open Access Update

"US government to make all research it funds open access on publication"

Monday, August 29, 2022

Friday, August 26, 2022

Keyboard Shortcuts

"The Easiest Ways to Learn All the Best Keyboard Shortcuts"

LED Light Pollution

"Several major cities have adopted LED streetlights to save energy and money. But in many cases, they worsen light pollution, which can harm humans and wildlife."

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Fireproof Wood

"A fireproof wood achieves the highest class in burning test thanks to an invisible coating". (Via H.R.)

Space-Based 5G

"Space 5G Is On the Launchpad". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Metaverse Dating

"People Are Going on Dates in the Metaverse and It Sounds Very Strange"

Moore's Law Continues

"3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore's Law to New Heights". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Energy From Lightning Bolt?

TIL that lightning bolts don't generate that much energy. (Via Gus Van Horn.)

But even at 1 million joules, the typical lightning strike contains only about ¼ of a kilowatt-hour of power, which is not enough to make much difference on our electric bill. "We currently buy electricity at the cost of about 20 cents a kWh," [MIT electrical engineering professor James Kirtly] says. "The amount of energy from a lightning bolt would be worth only about a nickel."

Flying Car Update

"After months of trial and testing, Swedish company Jetson has conducted the first commuter flight of its Jetson ONE eVTOL." (Via H.R.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Signal Account Protection

"How a Third-Party SMS Service Was Used to Take Over Signal Accounts".

If you're a Signal user, they recommend you activate "Registration Lock" with a PIN. This will prevent others from registering a new phone with your account. 

Scoring Benefits to Eastward Travel in the NBA

"We find eastward travel increases scoring and point spread via three-pointers and field goals, with implications for point spread betting in sports gambling markets."

Friday, August 19, 2022

Fake Tutor Scam

I don't know if this is real or not. If it's real, it's both evil and almost brilliant

Snake With Legs

"Man Invents Robot Suit That Lets Snake Walk With Legs". (Via P.B.)

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Cat Destruction Throughout History

"Here is a thread of cats destroying our stuff throughout history, because they've always done it and they always will and for some reason we will keep loving them for it."

Fasting And Chemotherapy

"Intermittent Fasting Could Reduce Chemotherapy Side Effects".  If this result holds up in human clinical studies, it could be good for cancer patients.

Direct link to Nature article: "A nanoparticle probe for the imaging of autophagic flux in live mice via magnetic resonance and near-infrared fluorescence"

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Centrifuge Launcher

"This space tech company spins rockets into space. Watch how it happens". (Via M.A.)

Polyester Comeback

Virginia Postrel: "How polyester bounced back

"Those two innovations -- base layer and fleece -- completely changed the world's opinion of polyester, not just the outdoor industry", says Harward. "It became seen as the high-end performance comfort fiber..."

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Fake Disease Fooled Nazis

"How a deadly disease saved Jewish lives and fooled the Nazis during WWII"

Working jointly with anti-fascist activist Dr. Adriano Ossicini, Dr. Borromeo and others came up with an ingenious plan to conceal Jews in the hospital by claiming they had “Syndrome K,” a degenerative, disfiguring and highly contagious disease, which in fact did not exist.

Fearful of contracting the fatal illness, the Nazis largely steered clear of the hospital in general and the “K” ward in particular, though the patients were encouraged to cough their heads off if and when the Nazis were on the premises.

More Corneas

"Clinical Trial Restored Sight to 20 People With Corneas Made From An Unlikely Source". (Via H.R.)

Link to academic article in Nature: "Bioengineered corneal tissue for minimally invasive vision restoration in advanced keratoconus in two clinical cohorts"

Monday, August 15, 2022

Devereaux On Gold In History

Great Bret Devereaux Twitter thread on gold in history.

No AI Inventors

"AI Can't Be an 'Inventor' Under the U.S. Patent Act"

Friday, August 12, 2022

This To That

Helpful website to help you find the right adhesive to fasten material A to material B. (Via Gus Van Horn.)

(Update: Link was broken, now fixed!)

Dance Moves

Video: "Best of Favorite Dance Moves". This will put a smile on your face! :-) 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Jet-Powered Bicycle

"Watch a YouTuber put a homemade jet engine on his bicycle". (Via H.R.)

The article also notes, "Do not try this at home!"

Crypto Aftermath

"The Crypto Collapse is 'Flooding the Market' with Rolex and Patek Philippe Watches"

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Surprised Weatherman

This is a totally awesome video: "Weatherman finds out he has touch screen this whole time." 

Treasure Finding Tech

"Sunken jewels, buried treasure uncovered in the Bahamas from iconic 17th century Spanish shipwreck". (Via H.R.)

Monday, August 08, 2022

Not A Star

"French scientist Etienne Klein apologises after 'James Webb Telescope' image revealed as slice of chorizo". As friend SDW quipped, "Goes well with a moon made of cheese.":

Etienne Klein, a director at France's Atomic Energy Commission, posted a picture purportedly showing Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our sun...

However, Professor Klein has now admitted that the glowing celestial body shown was in fact nothing more than a slice of Spanish chorizo sausage.

TikTok Vigilantism?

NYT: "A Stranger Filmed Her on the Train. TikTok Users Decided She Had Monkeypox."

Summary: A woman with neurofibromatosis (a non-infectious disease than can cause skin lesions) is filmed by stranger while she is on NYC subway. The video is posted to TikTok with strong implication that she has monkey pox, and the woman receives many reactions including threats of physical violence.

This is one of the downsides of the widespread use of personal cameras. (There are many good aspects as well.)

The article correctly notes that the filming was legal, given that it was in a public setting with reduced "reasonable expectation of privacy."

Friday, August 05, 2022

Hazing And Solidarity

"Does hazing actually increase group solidarity? Re-examining a classic theory with a modern fraternity"

Using an American social fraternity, we report a longitudinal test of the relationship between hazing severity and group solidarity. We tracked six sets of fraternity inductees as they underwent the fraternity's months-long induction process. Our results provide little support for common models of solidarity and suggest that hazing may not be the social glue it has long been assumed to be.

AR Glasses For Hearing Impaired People

"New AR glasses allow deaf people to 'see' conversations by turning audio into subtitles"

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Shorter Days?

"Earth Sets New Record for Shortest Day

If Earth's fast rotation continues, it could lead to the introduction of the first-ever negative leap second.

Not Dead Yet

Nature: "Pig organs partially revived in dead animals -- researchers are stunned"

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Synthetic Embryos

"Synthetic mouse embryos created from stem cells -- without sperm, eggs, or a uterus". (Via G.F.)

Related: Academic paper in Cell.

Surgery In Space

"Astronauts will undergo surgeries aboard the ISS thanks to an autonomous robot". (Via H.R.)

In a previous experiment, retired NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson took the robot’s controls while at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, directing MIRA to perform surgery-like tasks in an operating room 900 miles away at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. 

Farritor and Rachael Wagner, an engineering graduate student, will write software, configure MIRA to fit inside a space station experiment locker and exhaustively test the device to make sure it’s robust enough to survive launch and its systems will perform as anticipated in space.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

AI Protein Folding Update

"'The entire protein universe': AI predicts shape of nearly every known protein"

Apple Watch Guying Guide

"Apple Watch buying guide: Which wearable is best for you?"

Note: I own multiple watches, but do not own a "smart watch".

Monday, August 01, 2022


"In this work, an inanimate spider is repurposed as a ready-to-use actuator requiring only a single facile fabrication step, initiating the area of 'necrobotics' in which biotic materials are used as robotic components. (H/T: A.O.)


Feynman Physics Lectures Online

"Now, anyone with internet access and a web browser can enjoy reading a high quality up-to-date copy of Feynman's legendary lectures.

"This edition has been designed for ease of reading on devices of any size or shape; text, figures and equations can all be zoomed without degradation."

(This is an oldie-but-goodie reminder post.)

Friday, July 29, 2022

MegaMillions Math

"How To Calculate Odds Of Winning $1.1 Billion And The Value Of A Mega Millions Ticket"

Short answer: The expected value of the lottery ticket is 82 cents.


Digitally Delicate Primes

"How Can Infinitely Many Primes Be Infinitely Far Apart?"

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Pinch-To-Zoom Art

Delightful example of "pinch-to-zoom" nested art!

Magnus Carlsen Legacy

"Magnus Carlsen Is Giving Up The World Title. But The Carlsen Era Lives On."

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Agile Axle

"Mechanics invent an axle that can achieve steering angles of up to 80 degrees". (Via G.F.)

Demonstration video:

Alvin's Deep Dive

"Human-occupied submersible makes historic dive by reaching a depth of 21,325 feet". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Hsieh Forbes Column On Free Speech And Covid-19 "Misinformation"

My latest Forbes column is now out: "Should We Punish Physicians Who Spread Covid-19 'Misinformation'?

[W]hen it comes to offering dissenting opinions — even mistaken opinions — on health-related public policy, I favor keeping the hand of government regulation relatively light rather than overly heavy...

Gecko Feet Update

"Scientists gain fresh insight into the secret of how gecko feet stay sticky". (Via H.R.)

Monday, July 25, 2022

Fictional Deaths

"The 50 Greatest Fictional Deaths of All Time"

Dripping Crust

"Earth's Crust Is 'Dripping' Under The Andes, Scientists Say". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Fewer Emoji

"Why Unicode is approving fewer and fewer new emoji"

Newly Discovered van Gogh

"We have discovered what is almost certainly a previously unknown self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh. Yes, you read that right!"

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Contactless Fabrication Using Acousic Levitation

Video: "Contactless Fabrication using Full Acoustic Trapping of Elongated Parts"

LeviPrint is a system for assembling objects in a contactless manner using acoustic levitation. We explore a set of optimum acoustic fields that enables full trapping in position and orientation of elongated objects such as sticks. We then evaluate the capabilities of different ultrasonic levitators to dynamically manipulate these elongated objects. The combination of novel optimization algorithms and levitators enable the manipulation of sticks, beads and droplets to fabricate complex objects.

Here's the academic paper (warning -- lots of math).

Math Powerhouse

"How one institution keeps claiming math's highest award". (Via H.R.)

Even before this year’s Fields Medal winners announcement, the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques (IHES) or the Institute of Advanced Scientific Studies, boasted a remarkable statistic. Since its founding in 1958, the institute has had 12 permanent mathematics professors; seven of them had won a Fields Medal, considered to be the Nobel Prize in mathematics. On July 5, Hugo Duminil-Copin was named a recipient of this year’s prize, and the IHES extended its remarkable record to eight.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Cows Galore

Counties with more cows than people

More such data here.


Fluffy Asteroid Mission

"NASA sampled a ‘fluffy’ asteroid that could hold clues to our existence"

Monday, July 18, 2022

Quantum-Resistant Cryptographic Algorithms

"NIST Announces First Four Quantum-Resistant Cryptographic Algorithms":

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has chosen the first group of encryption tools that are designed to withstand the assault of a future quantum computer, which could potentially crack the security used to protect privacy in the digital systems we rely on every day — such as online banking and email software. The four selected encryption algorithms will become part of NIST’s post-quantum cryptographic standard, expected to be finalized in about two years.

Ars Technica Review of 2022 MacBook Air

"2022 MacBook Air review: Apple's clean slate"

Friday, July 15, 2022

Spaghetified Star

"Polarized light reveals final fate of a star 'spaghettified' by a black hole"

World Economy Visualized

Superb visualization: "The $100 Trillion Global Economy in One Chart". (Click on image to see full-size version.)


Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Effectiveness Of Chain Mail

How effective is chain mail? More than I imagined. Nice, short 1 minute video demo.

USB Charging Tips

"How USB Charging Works, or How to Avoid Blowing Up Your Phone"

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Friday, July 08, 2022

Thin Watch

"The world's thinnest mechanical watch is here, and it costs almost $2 million!" (Via H.R.)

Mars Mineral Map

"New 'Rainbow Map' Shows Mineralogical Make-up Of Mars"


Thursday, July 07, 2022

Pentaquarks and Tetraquarks

"LHCb discovers three new exotic particles"

The international LHCb collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has observed three never-before-seen particles: a new kind of “pentaquark” and the first-ever pair of “tetraquarks”, which includes a new type of tetraquark. The findings, presented today at a CERN seminar, add three new exotic members to the growing list of new hadrons found at the LHC. They will help physicists better understand how quarks bind together into these composite particles.

Tolkien And Evil

"'The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power' Gets A Controversial New Trailer"

Wednesday, July 06, 2022


"'Soft CRISPR': Safer gene editing could bring a 70 percent success rate". (Via H.R.)

Fields Medals 2022

Congratulations to the 2002 winners of the Fields Medal in Mathematics!

Monday, July 04, 2022

Brief Holiday Hiatus

Admin note: We will take a brief holiday hiatus for the US July 4th holiday!

Friday, July 01, 2022

Quickly Disable Face ID On iPhone

"How to Temporarily Disable Face ID or Touch ID, and Require a Passcode to Unlock Your iPhone or iPad":

Just press and hold the buttons on both sides. Remember that. Try it now. Don’t just memorize it, internalize it, so that you’ll be able to do it without much thought while under duress, like if you’re confronted by a police officer. Remember to do this every time you’re separated from your phone, like when going through the magnetometer at any security checkpoint, especially airports. As soon as you see a metal detector ahead of you, you should think, “Hard-lock my iPhone”.

Owning Colors

"Can a corporation 'own' a color?"

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Lotsa Galaxies

"There are more galaxies in the Universe than even Carl Sagan ever imagined"

Wright Doghouse

"A Doghouse Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright Is Now on Display"


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Monday, June 27, 2022

Smell And Friendship

Fascinating story on how people are more inclined to form friendships with others with similar body odor.

The methodology seems pretty sound. I'm intrigued that this could be yet another arena in which our ancient evolutionary/animal heritage can have a powerful subliminal effect on our "civilized" human life experience.

Popular press summary: "Scent of a Friend: Similarities in Body Odor May Contribute to Social Bonding".

Academic paper: "There is chemistry in social chemistry" (Science Advances, 24 Jun 2022, Vol 8, Issue 25).

Historical Sense

"Five Facts That Will Mess With Your Perception of Time".

I did not know any of these except for #5.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Porn-Reading Detector

"A device that can detect when a man is watching pornography by 'reading his mind' has been developed in China, according to the research team in Beijing behind the project. 

Related article: "Brain wave-scanning helmet developed by scientists to help Chinese censors better detect porn".

Wikimedia Business

"Google is paying the Wikimedia Foundation for better access to information"

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Gaiman On Impostor Syndrome

This is an awesome anecdote from Neil Gaiman


Trademarking "THE"

"Ohio State University officially wins trademark for the word 'THE'".

As a graduate of University of Michigan (MD 1989), I submit this without comment.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Changing Country Names

"Why countries change names"

Smart Home Woes

"Controlling My Family's Smart Home Is Driving Us Mad"

Controls cause the most problems in my household. Take smart lighting, for example. For it to work, you have to remind everyone in your family to leave the old switches alone. Fail, and your meticulously arranged remote control, voice commands, and scheduling are gone. Smart switches can help, but they also may just add to the confusion. Even once you have everyone in your house coached, a visitor innocently flicking that switch renders your smart bulbs useless again.

Then there are the apps. So many apps. Every device has its own app. The more smart home gadgets you add, the more cluttered your phone becomes. Keeping track of which app controls which device is tricky enough. But you must also install them for everyone else and train them, or accept your role as the gatekeeper of settings for the household.

You can always ask Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri, though. Right? Well, actually, the security cameras work with Google, but you have to use Siri for the doorbell. Google Assistant plays music on the dining room speaker, but Alexa does music in your bedroom. Oh, and when you ask, you can’t say, “Turn on my bedroom light." You must say, “Turn on Amy’s bedroom light."

Monday, June 20, 2022

Big Magnet

"Behold the Magnetar, nature's ultimate superweapon". (Via H.R.)

A typical magnetar has a surface magnetic field strength of 1014 to 1015 Gauss, with interior strengths 10 times stronger.

That is not a typo. Magnetars have magnetic fields about a quadrillion times stronger than the Earth's and a billion times stronger than the best that humanity can achieve.

If you get within approximately 1,000 kilometers of a magnetar, you die. Instantly. Leaving aside the copious amount of X-ray radiation constantly pouring out of these objects (we'll get to that), the magnetic fields make life literally impossible. The problem is that atoms are made of positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons. In weak magnetic fields, this doesn't make a bit of difference. But in strong fields, the electrons and protons respond differently. Atoms lose their traditional shape, and the electron orbitals become elongated along the direction of the magnetic field lines.

If you somehow made it to the surface of a magnetar, your individual atoms would only be 1 percent as wide as they are long. With atoms turning into needles, atomic physics as we know it breaks down. As does all the bonds that atoms use to glue themselves together into complex molecules.

In other words, the static magnetic field of a magnetar is strong enough to simply... dissociate you. All the molecules that you're made of simply come apart into oddly shaped atoms.


Jumping Robot

"Record-Breaking Jumping Robot Can Leap a 10-Story Building"

Friday, June 17, 2022

Mundane Gaming

"Mundane chores are all the rage in gaming":

Mundane chores or professions are now the basis for a number of successful games, including “Best Forklift Operator”, “Espresso Tycoon” and “Gas Station Simulator”. “Job Simulator” (pictured below), a virtual-reality experience, was released in 2019 and has sold more than 1m copies to date. Players are placed in working environments and then given simple tasks to do, such as making a slice of toast or stamping pieces of paper.

Bye Bye IE

"Internet Explorer, the love-to-hate-it web browser, has died at 26".


The ghost of Internet Explorer will live on for those who choose to believe: Edge offers a built-in Internet Explorer mode. 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Double-Decker Airplane Seats

CNN: "Here's what it might be like to travel on a double decker airplane seat".

Um, no thanks. (Via A.D.)


SETI Update

"Giant 'Sky Eye' telescope may have picked up alien signals, Chinese researchers say"

Or it could just be "radio interference".  My money is on the latter.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Man Beats Horse

"Ricky Lightfoot wins Man V Horse 2022 -- only the third person ever to beat the horse":

One of Britain’s most unorthodox sporting events, the race pits human against horse over a tough 22-mile course which starts in the tiny town of Llanwrtyd Wells in mid-Wales.

Lightfoot is the first runner to have crossed the finish line before a horse in 15 years – Florien Holtinger was the last person to claim victory back in 2007. It’s also only the third time that a human has finished ahead of all the equine racers since the event began back in 1980...

He took home £3,500 in prize money and was back in work for 7:30 the following morning.