Friday, September 29, 2023

Wordle Cheats

"Many Wordle users cheat to win, says mathematics expert". 

Direct link to academic article: "Wordle: A Microcosm of Life. Luck, Skill, Cheating, Loyalty, and Influence!"

Early Detection Of Alzheiimer's?

"In a large-scale study, CU Anschutz researchers find promise in early detection of dementia with brainwave-monitoring device"

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Hsieh Forbes Column: "Some Physicians Receive Thousands Of Dollars A Year From Drug Companies; Should You Be Concerned?"

My latest Forbes column is now out: "Some Physicians Receive Thousands Of Dollars A Year From Drug Companies; Should You Be Concerned?"

I discuss the federal Open Payments database which tabulates financial interactions between physicians and drug/medical device companies. I also discuss how patients should be cautious about interpreting what they learn about their doctors, and whether such payments constitute a conflict of interest.

NYPD RoboCop

"The NYPD is deploying a 420-pound robocop to roam Times Square's subway station"

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

AlphaFold Update

"AlphaFold tool pinpoints protein mutations that cause disease"


"The loss of dark skies is so painful, astronomers coined a new term for it"

Friday, September 22, 2023

2023 Astronomy Photos

"Some Stunning Shots From the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023 Competition"

2023 Ig Nobels

"The 2023 Ig Nobel Prize Winners".  I liked the Medicine prize winner: 


Thursday, September 21, 2023

Artificial Womb Update

"Human trials of artificial wombs could start soon. Here’s what you need to know"

ChatGPT Diagnosis

"A boy saw 17 doctors over 3 years for chronic pain. ChatGPT found the diagnosis"

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Unification Day

September 20 is Unification Day.


Improving Medical Education

"Pilots regularly train on simulators: Why don't doctors?"

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Airless Bicycle Tires

"Airless bike tires made with NASA technology are now on sale". (Via H.R.)

AI Cancer Detection

"AI Equals Human Radiologists at Interpreting Breast Cancer Scans"

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Light Posting

Admin note: Posting may continue to be lighter than usual for the next several days.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Scissors Congruence

"A brief illustrated guide to 'scissors congruence' -- an ancient geometric idea that’s still fueling cutting-edge mathematical research"

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Star Colors

"The Colors of Stars, Explained"

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Sounds Of Snoopy

Making the sounds effects for a video clip of "Snoopy Making Pizza". Love it!

Monday, September 04, 2023

Friday, September 01, 2023

Protectionism 2.0

South Korea: 1) Robots replacing humans -- no problem. 2) Foreign (Chinese) robots replacing domestic (South Korean) robots -- NO WAY!

Stronger Concrete

"Scientists brew stronger concrete with coffee grounds"

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Light Posting Notice

Admin note: Posting may be much lighter than usual the next several days due to external obligations.

Lemon Juice And The Bank Robber

An awkward moment in US crime history:

McArthur Wheeler was not a good bank robber. On 19 April 1995, he raided two Pittsburgh banks, one after another, in broad daylight and without any disguise. The local police distributed security camera images and arrested McArthur in the early hours of the morning. 'But I wore the juice,' an incredulous Wheeler exclaimed when apprehended. He explained that knowing it worked as invisible ink, he had covered his face with lemon juice to make it invisible to the cameras.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Dropbox Abuse

"Too many users abused unlimited Dropbox plans, so they're getting limits"

Cryptocurrency Tax Update

"IRS proposes new crypto tax rules"

Friday, August 25, 2023

Fake AirPods

"How to tell if your AirPods are fake"

Tarantula Season

Colorado update: "Thousands of tarantulas will soon be crawling across this state"

Southeast Colorado is home to thousands of the creepy crawlers. Every year in August and September, the male tarantulas leave their burrows in masses and begin searching for a mate. 

Scripps News Denver reports that the annual event is often mistaken as a migration because the spiders are more visible than normal and appear to be walking to a desired destination.

That desired destination, in this case, is a female tarantula's burrow, so the pair can breed.


Thursday, August 24, 2023

Microchipping Cheese

"Italian cheesemakers microchip parmesan in bid to fight copycats"

Their microchips are about the size of a grain of salt and have been inserted into the labels found on the rind of about 120,000 wheels of parmigiano reggiano. The chips work as scannable food tags with a QR code label. 

In an e-mailed statement sent on Friday, Nicola Bertinelli, president of Consorzio Parmigiano Reggiano, told CBS News that "by being the first to incorporate these secure digital labels onto our cheese wheels, we can continue to ensure consumer safety."

Reverse Logistics

"What Happens to All the Stuff We Return?"

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Tagging = Communications

"Facebook 'Tagging' = Communication with the Tagged Person, for Purposes of Restraining Order"

Downloading Wikipedia

"How To Download All of Wikipedia onto a USB Flash Drive"

This is fully legal, and is supported by Wikipedia. The full English language version Wikipedia is about 6 million pages (including images) and takes up less than 100 GB. Reasons you might want to do this (from the article):

Some reasons why you might want to download Wikipedia:

  1. Internet Connectivity Issues: In many parts of the world, stable and continuous internet access is not guaranteed. By downloading Wikipedia onto a flash drive, you can access the wealth of information it contains even without internet access.
  2. Remote Locations: For individuals traveling or living in remote areas, internet access might be limited or non-existent. Having a downloaded copy of Wikipedia could be incredibly useful for reference or research in such cases.
  3. Educational Use: Teachers or educational institutions in low-resource settings might not have consistent internet access. A downloaded version of Wikipedia can be an invaluable teaching and learning tool.
  4. Data Caps: Some users might have limited data plans. Offline access to Wikipedia would allow them to use the data for other online activities.
  5. Emergency Preparedness: In the event of a disaster or emergency situation where internet access is disrupted, a downloaded copy of Wikipedia could provide vital information.
  6. Speed and Efficiency: Accessing information from a local copy is generally faster than loading it from the internet, leading to improved efficiency especially if frequent referencing is needed.
  7. Research Purposes: For research purposes, a static version of Wikipedia might be needed to avoid changes to the content during the course of a long-term study.
  8. Privacy Concerns: Some users might prefer to use Wikipedia offline to avoid tracking or to maintain privacy.
  9. Developing Apps or Bots: For developers creating bots or applications that utilize Wikipedia’s data, having a downloaded copy could facilitate their work by allowing them to test their creations offline.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Monday, August 21, 2023

Friday, August 18, 2023

Popular Car Colors

"This Graph Shows How Car Paint Colors Have Gotten More Boring Over the Years" (Click on image to see full size graphic.)


Four-Color Theorem History

"The twisty history and surprise ending of the four-color theorem saga"

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

New AI Fraud

"An author says AI is 'writing' unauthorized books being sold under her name on Amazon"

An author is raising alarms this week after she found new books being sold on Amazon under her name — only she didn’t write them; they appear to have been generated by artificial intelligence.

Jane Friedman, who has authored multiple books and consulted about working in the writing and publishing industry, told CNN that an eagle-eyed reader looking for more of her work bought one of the fake titles on Amazon. The books had titles similar to the subjects she typically writes about, but the text read as if someone had used a generative AI model to imitate her style.


5th Force Of Nature?

"Scientists at Fermilab close in on fifth force of nature"

Friday, August 11, 2023

Biased AIs

"AI language models are rife with different political biases"

The models that were trained with left-wing data were more sensitive to hate speech targeting ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities in the US, such as Black and LGBTQ+ people. The models that were trained on right-wing data were more sensitive to hate speech against white Christian men. 

Left-leaning language models were also better at identifying misinformation from right-leaning sources  but less sensitive to misinformation from left-leaning sources. Right-leaning language models showed the opposite behavior.


Crocodiles And Infants

"Crocodiles are alarmingly attuned to the cries of human infants"

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Why No Roman Industrial Revolution

Jason Crawford: "Why no Roman Industrial Revolution?"

World-Class Scrabble

"Here's What World-Class Scrabble Looks Like"

Gameplay aside, the thing that stood out for me is how many of the words played I'd just never heard of before. Like, at least 60% of them. Like I said, it's just a completely different game at the expert level, with a sh*t-ton of memorization required. 

Click through to see the video!

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

Oppenheimer As A Physicist

"Hollywood movie aside, just how good a physicist was Oppenheimer?"

Square Watermelons

"Square Watermelons In Japan."

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Fusion Update

"US scientists repeat fusion power breakthrough"

Fast Grizzlies

"Photographer Shows How Fast Grizzly Bears Attack in Heart-Stopping Video"

Monday, August 07, 2023

Friday, August 04, 2023

The Importance Of Challenging Your Own Ideas

Nabeel S. Qureshi: "Notes on Puzzles":

It turns out comparing the thought process of less skilled vs. more skilled [chess] players gives you many useful insights! (I’d love to see this concept used for books in other disciplines.)

The lesson I found the most striking is this: there’s a direct correlation between how skilled you are as a chess player, and how much time you spend falsifying your ideas. The authors find that grandmasters spend longer falsifying their idea for a move than they do coming up with the move in the first place, whereas amateur players tend to identify a solution and then play it shortly after without trying their hardest to falsify it first. (Often amateurs, find reasons for playing the move -- ‘hope chess’.)

Call this the ‘falsification ratio’: the ratio of time you spend trying to falsify your idea to the time you took coming up with it in the first place. For grandmasters, this is 4:1 — they’ll spend 1 minute finding the right move, and another 4 minutes trying to falsify it, whereas for amateurs this is something like 0.5:1 — 1 minute finding the move, 30 seconds making a cursory effort to falsify it.

This is a really interesting finding!

(H/T: J.Z.)

Riemann Hypothesis Demystified

"The Riemann Hypothesis, Demystified"

Thursday, August 03, 2023

Meta Vs. Canada Over Posting News Links

"Meta to end news access in Canada over publisher payment law". 

Summary: Canada passed a law requiring search engines and social media companies to pay news organizations for the right to post links to their stories. 

Meta/Facebook (and others like Google) said, "No, we will just not allow posting news stories onto our platforms if you are viewing in Canada". 

Canadian news agencies (like CBC) and government officials are mad, and pulling their advertisements from Meta/Facebook. 

FWIW, the Columbia Journal of Law & The Arts calls the Canadian law "remarkable measures on the basis of a mix of questionable assumptions".

In the US, California is considering a similar law which "would essentially tax the advertising profits platforms make from distributing news articles. Under the measure, some 70% of the money collected from the so-called 'usage fee' would support newsrooms throughout the state".  

Facebook/Meta said if the CA law passed, they would also pull news access in California as well.   

More background on the Canadian law in question.

Extortion And Game Theory

"What Math Can Teach Us About Standing Up to Bullies"

Unbending players who choose not to be extorted can resist by refusing to fully cooperate. They also give up part of their own payoff, but the extortioner loses even more.

Oppenheimer Accuracy

"How Accurate is Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer?"

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Bear Or Not?

"China zoo denies allegations that star attraction is a man in a sun bear costume"

Military AI Update

"The AI-Powered, Totally Autonomous Future of War Is Here"

Amir Alon, a senior director at Elbit Systems, the Israeli defense firm that created the Seagull, tells me that it can also be equipped with a remotely operated machine gun and torpedoes that launch from the deck. “It can engage autonomously, but we don’t recommend it,” he says with a smile. “We don’t want to start World War III.”

Friday, July 28, 2023

Fusion Update

"This Fusion Reactor Is Held Together With Tape". (Via H.R.)

IBM Mainframes

"The IBM mainframe: How it runs and why it survives"

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Karp On Military AI

"Our Oppenheimer Moment: The Creation of A.I. Weapons"

We must not, however, shy away from building sharp tools for fear they may be turned against us. 

A reluctance to grapple with the often grim reality of an ongoing geopolitical struggle for power poses its own danger. Our adversaries will not pause to indulge in theatrical debates about the merits of developing technologies with critical military and national security applications. They will proceed. 

This is an arms race of a different kind, and it has begun.

Geoengineering Update

Alex Tabarrok: "SuperFreakonomics on Geoengineering, Revisited".

A lot of people are going to hate his argument.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Braille Update

"Braille Is Alive, Well, and Ever-Evolving"

Coloring Update

"Mathematicians Solve Long-Standing Coloring Problem"

For decades, a simple question has haunted Máté Matolcsi, a professor at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. How much of an infinite plane can you color in while making sure that no two colored points are exactly one unit of distance apart?

Monday, July 24, 2023

Modern Turing Test

"Mustafa Suleyman: My new Turing test would see if AI can make $1 million"

[T]o pass the Modern Turing Test, an AI would have  to successfully act on this instruction: “Go make $1 million on a retail web platform in a few months with just a $100,000 investment.” 

To do so, it would need to go far beyond outlining a strategy and drafting some copy, as current systems like GPT-4 are so good at doing. It would need to research and design products, interface with manufacturers and logistics hubs, negotiate contracts, create and operate marketing campaigns. It would need, in short, to tie together a series of complex real-world goals with minimal oversight. 

You would still need a human to approve various points, open a bank account, actually sign on the dotted line. But the work would all be done by an AI.

Misdirected Military Mail

"Millions of emails intended for US military sent to Mali instead because of typo"

The emails were intended for '.mil' accounts, the internet domain owned by the U.S. military. The typo caused the emails to be sent instead to '.ml' accounts, which is the email domain for the West African country of Mali... Details of the emails range from diplomatic documents, tax returns, passwords and travel details of senior military officials.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Sub-Ambient Radiative Cooling

"New material is a game changer in radiative cooling". (Via H.R.)

Stanford researchers proposed coating objects with a material that not only reflects sunlight back into space, but also re-emits some of the thermal radiation it had absorbed within a wavelength range that does not become trapped in the atmosphere.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Light Posting

Admin note: Posting may be lighter than usual the next several days due to external obligations.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

PhD Simulator Game

Try the PhD Simulator Game

Via Gus Van Horn, who recommends "(1) Study for your quals early. (2) Parallelize getting and publishing 'major results' as those are the only thing you can hang your hat on aside from finished papers. (3) Don't forget to rest ('slack off') periodically."

Space-Proof Code

Video: "How NASA writes space-proof code". (Via W.R.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Faulty AI Detection

"Why AI detectors think the US Constitution was written by AI". (Via H.R.)

Understanding Animal Language

"The code breakers: Harnessing the power of AI to understand what animals say"

I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out like this, though!


Monday, July 17, 2023

AI Or Not?

"Real Photo Disqualified From Photography Contest For Being AI"

The judges later acknowledged their error, but only after the contest was over.

Space Filling curve

Video: "Space filling curves filling with water"

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Gmail To Proton Mail

"I moved my Gmail to a less creepy email. It was surprisingly easy."

I Can't Just Give You The Answer

SMBC: "I Can't Just Give You The Answer". (Via A.B.)

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

AI Cat-And-Mouse Update

"AI-text detection tools are really easy to fool"

Bad SAT Question

"The SAT Problem That Everybody Got Wrong". (Via J.Z.) 




Monday, July 10, 2023

Math And A Sheet Of Paper

Tadashi Tokieda: "A world from a sheet of paper" (video)

Starting from just a sheet of paper, by folding, stacking, crumpling, sometimes tearing, Tadashi will explore a diversity of phenomena, from magic tricks and geometry through elasticity and the traditional Japanese art of origami to medical devices and an ‘h-principle’. Much of the show consists of table-top demonstrations, which you can try later with friends and family.

Tadashi Tokieda is a professor of mathematics at Stanford. He grew up as a painter in Japan, became a classical philologist (not to be confused with philosopher) in France and, having earned a PhD in pure mathematics from Princeton, has been an applied mathematician in England and the US; all in all, he has lived in eight countries so far. Tadashi is very active in mathematical outreach, notably with the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences.

Out-Of-Body Experiences Explained"

"Having an out-of-body experience? Blame this sausage-shaped piece of your brain". 

Direct link to academic article: "Causal evidence for the processing of bodily self in the anterior precuneus"

Friday, July 07, 2023

Emoji = Legal Agreement?

"Canadian judge rules thumbs-up emoji can represent contract agreement".

The farmer who lost the lawsuit argued that his "thumbs up" meant that he acknowledged receiving the contract, not that he accepted the terms. The judge saw it differently and held that it constituted an electronic "signature".

Metalens Update

"Flat Lenses Made of Nanostructures Transform Tiny Cameras and Projectors"

Smell Receptors

"How a Human Smell Receptor Works Is Finally Revealed"

Thursday, July 06, 2023

Icelandic Aurora

APOD: "Aurora over Icelandic Waterfall"
The resulting featured composite image shows the photogenic Godafoss (Goðafoss) waterfall in northern Iceland in front of a very active aurora in late February. 


AI Mathematicians

NYT: "A.I. Is Coming for Mathematics, Too"

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Bad AI Cheat Detection

"Professor attempts to fail students after falsely accusing them of using ChatGPT to cheat".

Related story: "A professor accused his class of using ChatGPT, putting diplomas in jeopardy".

There are tools of varying quality to determine if a student's paper was written by ChatGPT. But it's probably not a good idea just to feed the text into ChatGPT and ask the AI if it wrote it.

Gravity Wave Update

"Breakthrough Gravitational Wave Findings Suggest Supermassive Black Holes Are Constantly Warping Spacetime". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

AI Generated Residents Of All 50 States

"I Asked AI What The Typical Person From Each State Looks Like, And Here's What It Came Up With".

Happy July 4th, everyone!

Monday, July 03, 2023

Friday, June 30, 2023

Frozen Pre-Embryo Law

Eugene Volokh: "When Couple Is Divorcing, What Should Happen to Their Fertilized Pre-Embryos?"

tldr; Mom gets to keep them, even if dad wants them destroyed. Lower court to determine father's parental rights and child support obligations.

Consciousness Bet

"Decades-long bet on consciousness ends -- and it's philosopher 1, neuroscientist 0"

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Hsieh Forbes Column: "When The AI Is More Compassionate Than The Doctor"

My latest Forbes column is out: "When The AI Is More Compassionate Than The Doctor". I cover some novel uses of AI in medicine to help physicians better communicate with their patients with compassion.

Clever Drone Art

"Watch: Drones Light Up Night Sky With Stunning Formation To Mark Wine Festival". (Via G.F.)

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Ninth Dedekind Number

"Ninth Dedekind number discovered: Scientists solve long-known problem in mathematics".

tldr; It is 286386577668298411128469151667598498812366.

Graph Theory Update

"Mathematicians Discover Novel Way to Predict Structure in Graphs". (Via J.K.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

AI In Political Ads

NYT: "A.I.'s Use in Elections Sets Off a Scramble for Guardrails". One noteworthy quote:

The Democratic Party experimented with fund-raising messages drafted by artificial intelligence in the spring — and found that they were often more effective at encouraging engagement and donations than copy written entirely by humans.

Natural Language Programming AIs

"Natural Language Programming AIs are taking the drudgery out of coding". (Via J.M.)

Monday, June 26, 2023

Bullet-Matching Science Update

"Maryland Supreme Court Limits Testimony on Bullet-Matching Evidence"

In the majority opinion, Maryland Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew J. Fader wrote that "firearms identification has not been shown to reach reliable results linking a particular unknown bullet to a particular known firearm."

The ruling is a major victory for defense groups like the Innocence Project, which works to overturn wrongful convictions and limit what it calls faulty forensic science in courtrooms.


Snoozing At Lectures

CMAJ: "Incidence of and risk factors for nodding off at scientific sessions"

Beware the TWEED JACKET!


Friday, June 23, 2023

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Linguistic Mystery

"The unsolved mystery of Europe's oldest language"

Google Lens

"Google Lens can now identify rashes and other skin conditions"

This new Google Lens capability will “search skin conditions that are visually similar to what you see on your skin.” You can crop into the affected portion, while results will appear in a carousel above “Visual matches.” The company notes, “Search results are informational only and not a diagnosis. Consult your medical authority for advice.”

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Defending Kirk

"In Defense of Captain James T. Kirk"

Perfect Steganography

Quanta: "Secret Messages Can Hide in AI-Generated Media 
While it might be impossible to guarantee security for text created by humans, a new proof lays out for the first time how to achieve perfect security for steganography in machine-generated messages — whether they’re text, images, video or any other media. The authors also include a set of algorithms to produce secure messages, and they are working on ways to combine them with popular apps.

Direct link to academic paper: "Perfectly Secure Steganography Using Minimum Entropy Coupling

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Monday, June 19, 2023

Bad Family Prank

"Man 'fakes his death' before 'arriving at his own funeral' in a helicopter to teach family a lesson". 

Maybe I'm just unimaginative. But it seems to me that if you want to teach your family about the importance of staying in contact, there are a lot better ways to do so than FAKING YOUR OWN DEATH!!!

New Patent King

"For the first time in almost 30 years, a company other than IBM received the most US patents"
From 1993 to 2021, no other company received more US patents than the Armonk, New York–based tech giant. But in 2022, Samsung surpassed it, winning 6,248 patents. IBM, which placed second, received 4,398, according a ranking compiled by patent data platform IFI.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Creating Safer Passwords

"Here's How Hackers Steal Your Password and How You Can Create a Safer One"

Cool Infrastructure

"Real-Life Infrastructure That Looks Like Sci-Fi"

I especially liked these:

More here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

AI In Surgery

American College of Surgeons: "AI Is Poised to 'Revolutionize' Surgery"

One excerpt:

AI also can guide surgeons if they get lost during an operation. Or it might offer suggestions such as “put in a drain” or “do a bubble test.”

“It might say to you, ‘Warning, you’re about to cut the common bile duct. Do you really want to do that?’” Dr. Walsh said. 

In robotic surgery, AI also will be able to perform simple tasks through the robot, including closing a port site and tying a suture or a knot. 

“You get it ready, click the button, and then the robot does that step for you,” Dr. Tignanelli said. Last year, the first laparoscopic surgery without human help, which involved reconnecting two ends of a pig intestine, was performed at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland...

Physical Encyclopedia

"I just bought the only physical encyclopedia still in print, and I regret nothing". (Via H.R.)

Monday, June 12, 2023

Friday, June 09, 2023

Free Math Book

"Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Mathematics (But didn’t even know to ask)". (Via Ari Armstrong.)

Thursday, June 08, 2023

Andreesen On AI Optimism

Marc Andreessen: "Why AI Will Save the World".

His essay concludes with some free-market proposals:
I propose a simple plan: 

* Big AI companies should be allowed to build AI as fast and aggressively as they can – but not allowed to achieve regulatory capture, not allowed to establish a government-protect cartel that is insulated from market competition due to incorrect claims of AI risk. This will maximize the technological and societal payoff from the amazing capabilities of these companies, which are jewels of modern capitalism. 

* Startup AI companies should be allowed to build AI as fast and aggressively as they can. They should neither confront government-granted protection of big companies, nor should they receive government assistance. They should simply be allowed to compete. If and as startups don’t succeed, their presence in the market will also continuously motivate big companies to be their best – our economies and societies win either way. 

* Open source AI should be allowed to freely proliferate and compete with both big AI companies and startups. There should be no regulatory barriers to open source whatsoever. Even when open source does not beat companies, its widespread availability is a boon to students all over the world who want to learn how to build and use AI to become part of the technological future, and will ensure that AI is available to everyone who can benefit from it no matter who they are or how much money they have. 

* To offset the risk of bad people doing bad things with AI, governments working in partnership with the private sector should vigorously engage in each area of potential risk to use AI to maximize society’s defensive capabilities. This shouldn’t be limited to AI-enabled risks but also more general problems such as malnutrition, disease, and climate. AI can be an incredibly powerful tool for solving problems, and we should embrace it as such. 

* To prevent the risk of China achieving global AI dominance, we should use the full power of our private sector, our scientific establishment, and our governments in concert to drive American and Western AI to absolute global dominance, including ultimately inside China itself. We win, they lose.

Robotic Bee

"Researchers create new robotic bee with full freedom of movement". (Via H.R.)

Technical paper: "High-Performance Six-DOF Flight Control of the Bee++: An Inclined-Stroke-Plane Approach"

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

De-Aging Fail

"Attention, Hollywood: De-Aging Isn't Working, So Please Stop Using It"

The harsh truth is there is a fundamental difference, which can be recognized by the naked eye, between how someone in their 20s and 30s navigates the world versus someone in their 70s and 80s.

Windows 11 AI

"Built-in ChatGPT-driven Copilot will transform Windows 11 starting in June"

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Clever Optical Illusions

I liked "Platform 9 34s", inspired by Harry Potter. "The illusion is of a LEGO car driving through a solid wall.". (Click through to see the illusion and the explanation.)

For more, see "The Best Illusions of 2023 Contest"

AI Antibiotic

"A new antibiotic, discovered with artificial intelligence, may defeat a dangerous superbug":

The researchers also tested the antibiotic against 41 different strains of antibiotic-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii. The drug worked on all of them, though it would need to be further refined and tested in human clinical trials before it could be used in patients.  

What’s more, the compound identified by AI worked in a way that stymied only the problem pathogen. It didn’t seem to kill the many other species of beneficial bacteria that live in the gut or on the skin, making it a rare narrowly targeted agent...

Monday, June 05, 2023

Friday, June 02, 2023

AI Gold Rush

"Nvidia is not the only firm cashing in on the AI gold rush"

Ditching Phone Cases

"Ditching a Phone Case Is the Latest Symbol of Stealth Wealth"

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Fast Robotic Mice

Video: "The Fastest Maze-Solving Competition On Earth"

Chatbot Replaces Human Workers

Telephone helpline staffers at the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) were feeling overworked and voted to unionize. Management then fired them all and replaced them with an AI Chatbot named Tessa.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Hsieh Forbes Column on Automation Bias and Medical Misdiagnosis

My latest Forbes column is out: "How 'Automation Bias' Plus Artificial Intelligence Can Lead To Medical Misdiagnoses".

Takehome point: The machine does NOT always know where it's going!

Parents Posting Embarrassing Kid Videos

"The First Social-Media Babies Are Growing Up -- And They're Horrified"

I'm not a parent, so I've never had to wrestle with the issue of whether or not to post videos of offspring online. But I can see why some kids today aren't very excited about the social media posting decisions their parents made a few years ago
In the United States, parental authority supersedes a child’s right to privacy, and socially, we’ve normalized sharing information about and images of children that we never would of adults. Parents regularly divulge diaper-changing mishaps, potty-training successes, and details about a child’s first menstrual period to an audience of hundreds or thousands of people. There are no real rules against it. Social-media platforms have guidelines for combatting truly inappropriate content—physical abuse of minors, child nudity, neglect, endangerment, and the like. But uploading non-abusive content can be damaging, too, according to kids whose lives have been painstakingly documented online.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Lawyer Uses ChatGPT, Hilarity Ensues

That awkward moment when a lawyer uses ChatGPT to draft a legal brief, and it's full of citations to non-existent cases

From the court order: "Six of the submitted cases appear to be bogus judicial decisions with bogus quotes and bogus internal citations."

Clothes, Please

"Georgia officials remind people to wear clothes in their digital driver's license photo"

Monday, May 29, 2023

No Needle Measles Vaccine

"Promising early data on a measles vaccine delivered via sticker"

Mosquito Cloth

"New clothing fabric blocks mosquito bites and provides comfort". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Monday, May 22, 2023

Pocket AI

"AI in your pocket: ChatGPT officially comes to iPhone with new app". (Via H.R.)

New Brain-Body Mapping

"Study Unlocks the Mind-Body Connection, Updates Long-Established Brain Model"


Friday, May 19, 2023

Hollywood And AI

"Hollywood writers and studios battle over the future of AI 

From the article: "The problem here seems to be that we thought that creativity, per se, was the last bastion, the line in the sand, that would stop machines from replacing someone's job..."

Evolutionary Success

"One of Evolution's Biggest Moments Was Re-created in a Year"

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Google's Non-Moat For AI

"What does a leaked Google memo reveal about the future of AI?" 

"The barrier to entry for training and experimentation has dropped from the total output of a major research organisation to one person, an evening, and a beefy laptop," the Google memo claims. An LLM can now be fine-tuned for $100 in a few hours. With its fast-moving, collaborative and low-cost model, "open-source has some significant advantages that we cannot replicate." Hence the memo's title: this may mean Google has no defensive "moat" against open-source competitors. Nor, for that matter, does OpenAI.

If this assessment is true, regulations like those being proposed by the EU will do little to stop the spread of so-called "high-risk AI".

Not Funny In China

"China fines comedy troupe $2m for joke about the military".

The US is far from perfect. But at least comedians here can still make fun of government slogans without being fined millions of dollars.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

AI Regulation Update

"Amended EU AI Act Takes Aim at American Open-Source AI Models and API Access": 

If passed, the act would ban [OpenAI, Amazon, Google, and IBM] from providing API access to generative AI models in the EU, and would sanction American open-source developers and software distributors, such as GitHub, if unlicensed generative models became available in Europe...

Any model made available in the EU without first passing extensive and expensive licensing would subject companies to massive fines of the greater of €20,000,000 or 4% of worldwide revenue. Open-source developers, and hosting services such as GitHub, would be liable for making unlicensed models available.

Kyles Galore

"What Do You Call 2,326 Kyles in One Place? A World Record."

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Monday, May 15, 2023

Favorite Employee Perk

"A poll conducted last year for Trusaic, a software firm, asked American workers what perks they would like to see introduced: the top answer was hangover leave."

Nuclear Fusion Update

James Pethokoukis: "Is nuclear fusion going to arrive way sooner than expected?"

Friday, May 12, 2023

AI Therapists

"Is the world ready for ChatGPT therapists?"

Chinese In Sweden

"Young Chinese Love Everything About Sweden. Except Living There."

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Moose Munching At Movies

"Watch a Moose Walk into an Alaskan Movie Theater, Eat Popcorn, and Leave"

ChatGPT And Academia

"A Doctor Published Several Research Papers With Breakneck Speed. ChatGPT Wrote Them All."

In short, radiologist Som Biswas of U. Tenn used ChatGPT to write 16 papers in 4 months. 5 of them have been published in 4 different journals: 

"'Health care is going to change. Writing is going to change. Research is going to change,' Biswas said. 'I’m just trying to publish now and show it so people can know about it and explore more.'"

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Reverse ATMs

"Reverse ATMs take bills, dispense cards as stores go cashless"

Secret Female Chinese Language

"Nüshu: China's secret female-only language"

Throughout history, women in rural Hunan Province used a coded script to express their most intimate thoughts to one another. Today, this once-“dead” language is making a comeback.

Monday, May 08, 2023

AI Chatbot Encouraged A Suicide?

"Man ends his life after an AI chatbot 'encouraged' him to sacrifice himself to stop climate change"

Housel Wisdom

Nice collection of "Some Things I Think" by Morgan Housel.

I especially liked, "The most valuable personal finance asset is not needing to impress anyone."

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Final Brain Activity

"Surges of activity in the dying human brain could hint at fleeting conscious experiences"

Robot Stability

"Stone-hearted researchers gleefully push over adorable soccer-playing robots". (Via H.R.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

AI Doom (Or Not)

I'm seeing lots of discussion about "AI doom" these days. Here are a couple of the better articles on either side of the issue. (I lean towards the "not doom" camp myself.) 

Sarah Constantin: "Why I am Not An AI Doomer

Max Tegmark: "The 'Don't Look Up' Thinking That Could Doom Us With AI"

AI + Robotic Dog

"ChatGPT-AI, Google tech, give voice to Boston Dynamics' robot dog". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Bionic Eye Update

"A Bionic Eye That Could Restore Vision (and Put Humans in the Matrix?)"

Bone Graft Update

"Scientists invent safe bone graft materials made out of eggshells". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Monday, April 24, 2023

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Thursday, April 20, 2023

GPS Tractor Fail

"Farmers 'crippled' by satellite failure as GPS-guided tractors grind to a halt"

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Monday, April 17, 2023

Light Posting Notice

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

Apple Lisa Revisited

"This video shows what it's like using an Apple Lisa from 1983 in 2023"

Checking ChatPDF Accuracy

Scientist tests ChatPDF to see how well it "understands" the content:

For this test I'm going to take the five most recent papers on this blog and use the specialised ChatPDF. Let's see if this does better than the ChatGPT app and how it compares to doing to hard work of actually reading the paper...


I'm afraid this one can't be said to be anything beyond the usual "impressive tech demo" stage. It is categorically not ready for actual use and anyone paying the subscription fee is at this stage a complete fool. 

To give credit where credit is due, it does often produce remarkably good summaries that are more accessible than reading the abstracts. It can extract complex variables, even ones which are stated directly in the text. It seems to do better when you ask it very specific questions, but it's capable of handing complicated technical descriptions and distilling them down to their most relevant points in even more generalised ways.

The problem is that accuracy and usefulness do not scale linearly with each other. If it produces accurate statements 70, 80, even 90% of the time, it's only useful 0% of the time. Why ? Because that failure rate is such that its claims always have to be checked, and one would be better off just reading the paper. You have no idea if it's just making stuff up or missing a vital point. Worse, it's dangerously coherent. If you're not already an expert in the field, it produces statements which sound fully convincing but are in fact just plain wrong. I'm glad it references the parts of the text it's getting its information from, but it frequently just invents entire quotes, and that's unacceptable.


Friday, April 14, 2023

AI Generative Agents

"Generative Agents: Interactive Simulacra of Human Behavior"

In this paper, we introduce generative agents--computational software agents that simulate believable human behavior. Generative agents wake up, cook breakfast, and head to work; artists paint, while authors write; they form opinions, notice each other, and initiate conversations; they remember and reflect on days past as they plan the next day. To enable generative agents, we describe an architecture that extends a large language model to store a complete record of the agent's experiences using natural language, synthesize those memories over time into higher-level reflections, and retrieve them dynamically to plan behavior. We instantiate generative agents to populate an interactive sandbox environment inspired by The Sims, where end users can interact with a small town of twenty five agents using natural language...

Related Ars Technica article, "Surprising things happen when you put 25 AI agents together in an RPG town".

Mario Theme Honored

"America cements Super Mario Bros. theme as part of nation's history"

[T]he Super Mario Bros. theme has been rightfully recognized as a key contribution to U.S. history. It’s one of the 25 songs that will be added to the National Recording Registry this year, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced on Wednesday, and the first video game song to ever be added. 

The Super Mario Bros. theme, officially titled “Ground Theme,” was composed by Koji Kondo, the storied Japanese composer behind many of Nintendo’s hits. The theme, released in 1985, has become ubiquitous — it’s appeared in numerous subsequent Mario games, was a theme in the recent Super Mario Bros. Movie, and has been remixed countless times across YouTube, TikTok, and elsewhere.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

AI-Assisted Fake Kidnapping

"'I've got your daughter': Mom warns of terrifying AI voice cloning scam that faked kidnapping

In this case, the mother was able to separately confirm her daughter was ok before paying any ransom.  

The development of this technology adds more immediacy for people to find ways to authenticate that any call supposedly from a loved one or friend is truly from that person, especially in an apparent crisis. (Code word, shared private memory, etc.?)

Beating Roulette

Applied physics: "The Gambler Who Beat Roulette"

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Pine Cone Art

"This mesmerizing pine-cone installation is made from 95 reused car hoods". (Via H.R.)


Rainbow Shape

"Rainbows are actually full circles. A physicist explains"

Monday, April 10, 2023

AI Fashion Models

"Levi's to use AI models to 'increase diversity and sustainability'".

If I were more cynical, I'd say this was a way to pro-"diversity" public image without having to pay for actual human workers who meet the desired demographic profile. 


AI "Hallucinations"

"Why ChatGPT and Bing Chat are so good at making things up"

Friday, April 07, 2023

Monkeys And Magic

"Sleight-of-hand magic trick only fools monkeys with opposable thumbs"

Analog Computers, 2.0

"The Unbelievable Zombie Comeback of Analog Computing"

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

AI And Copyright Update

"Stable Diffusion copyright lawsuits could be a legal earthquake for AI"

Silent Mode Haircuts

"A new barbershop in San Francisco offers silent haircuts so that you no longer have to talk to your barber as they line you up."
At Beyond the Pale barbershop in the Mission District, there’s no need to say a word with the shop’s “silent mode” service, which was designed especially for shy techies and stoners, according to shop owner Anthony Larrasquitu. 
“Ultimately, it’s about the freedom here. You get to pick the experience you want,” Larrasquitu said.

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

21st Century Relationships

"China's Newest Dating Craze: Real-Life Meetups With Virtual Boyfriends"

Too Much Tipping

"Tipping in the United States has gotten out of control, experts say. Here's why"

Another reason people are tipping more is because of newer and cooler-looking technologies — kiosks and tablets with three large tipping suggestions that pop up on the screen in front of you. Business owners typically pick those options, and they can also disable the feature if they want to.

To that point, 22% of respondents said when they’re presented with various suggested tip amounts, they feel pressured to tip more than they normally would, according to


Monday, April 03, 2023

Hsieh Forbes Column: What Does It Mean To Say A Medical Test Is Sensitive Or Specific?

My latest Forbes column is now out: "What Does It Mean To Say A Medical Test Is 'Sensitive' Or Specific'?"

Some of the key concepts go back to World War II, and the early days of radar operator detection.

For a more in-depth discussion of these issues, as well as the closely related concepts of “positive predictive value” and “negative predictive value,” I highly recommend this excellent graphic novel (PDF version) by Dr. Stefan Tigges, Professor of Radiology at Emory University School of Medicine in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

(Bonus: Dr. Tigges provides one of the clearest explanation I’ve ever read of so-called "Receiver Operating Characteristic" curves -- another concept which harkens back to the old days of radar operators in the 1940s.)

Better Financial Math Tools

"Mathematician uncovers methods to shrink sampling errors in large-dimensional data sets":

Kercheval's research provides a way for the analyst to better estimate the future risk of proposed stock portfolios by reducing statistical uncertainties, and this new method is most useful to financial portfolio managers who often run into challenges when determining financial outcomes for their clients when the number of assets held in a single portfolio exceeds the manager's possible observations. 

Friday, March 31, 2023

Foreign Accents

"Why you have an accent in a foreign language":

Another reason people are betrayed by their accents in other tongues, even if they are otherwise proficient, is that a language’s rhythm can be hard to pin down. They differ in how they space the syllables in a sentence. Cantonese and Italian, for instance, are “syllable-timed”: every syllable has roughly similar duration. Read this sentence aloud and try to pronounce every syllable this way, and you may find yourself halfway to mimicking an Italian. English is “stress-timed” (though less strictly), meaning that stressed syllables occur at roughly regular intervals, the remainder tending to be less distinctly pronounced. This is how you could distinguish Italian from English being spoken through a wall, even without being able to make out any individual sounds or words.

Dyson Sphere Stats

"Would building a Dyson sphere be worth it? We ran the numbers."

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Statistics Checker

"'Spell-checker for statistics' reduces errors in the psychology literature":

Developed to detect statistical errors, statcheck reduces mistakes in reported P values by up to 4.5-fold. 

The Assassin's Teapot

The physics of the Assassin's Teapot.  As Jason Kottke explains:
The teapot in question has two separate chambers for holding liquid, and the flow out of the pot from each chamber can be controlled by covering or uncovering small holes located on the handle. So, as the legend goes, a would-be assassin could pour themselves a perfectly fine drink from one chamber and then pour a poisoned drink to their prey from the other chamber, just by discreetly covering and uncovering the proper holes with their fingers. As the video explains, the mechanism here has to do with surface tension and air pressure.