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.

Monday, March 27, 2023

AI Advances

"ChatGPT can now access the internet and run the code it writes
OpenAI has allowed its stunning ChatGPT AI to reach out into the world with staggering new powers. It can now access the internet, run its own code to solve problems, accept and work on uploaded files, and write its own interfaces to third-party apps... 

For the time being, its web browser activities are read-only beyond sending "get" requests to Bing. It can't fill in forms, or do anything else online – so it can't quietly go and set up unshackled copies of itself on some hidden server somewhere and start engaging in the kinds of "power-seeking behavior" it's already been caught exhibiting.

It feels like we are living in a real-life science fiction TV show today.  I'm looking forward to learining whether it's "Star Trek: The Next Generation" or "Black Mirror".

28 Years Of Browsers

Video: "Web browsers over the last 28 years"

Friday, March 24, 2023

Ethical AI Art

"Ethical AI art generation? Adobe Firefly may be the answer":

To avoid those legal and ethical issues, Adobe created an AI art generator trained solely on Adobe Stock images, openly licensed content, and public domain content, ensuring the generated content is safe for commercial use. Adobe goes into more detail in its news release...

Jurassic Park But With A Cat

"Jurassic Park But With a Cat"

Well done!

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Great Visual Guide To Fourier Transforms

"An Interactive Introduction to Fourier Transforms".

Highly recommend clicking through, watching the animations, and playing with the interactive modules for yourself!

Cartoon Guide To ROC Curves

"Diagnostic Test Metrics and Receiver Operating Characteristic Curves: The Graphic Novel"

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

AI Generated Scientific Fraud

"AI-generated research paper fabrication and plagiarism in the scientific community":

In this present paper, we posit that AI-generated research fabrication and falsification of work poses serious challenges to the scientific and medical community. The feasibility of producing fabricated work, coupled with the difficult-to-detect nature of published works and the lack of AI-detection technologies, creates an opportunistic atmosphere for fraudulent research.

Replacement Finger

"Missing Finger Gets A Simple Yet Fancy Replacement"


Monday, March 20, 2023

Career Choices, A Short Story [Slightly Updated Version]

Career Choices

A short story by Paul Hsieh, MD;  19 Mar 2023

It started innocently enough — a retrospective public health analysis of mortality across professions during the past three years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The young public health MPH grad student noticed the expected increased mortality amongst health workers and some public-facing jobs in the initial months. But then he was puzzled by the seeming increased mortality of computer science professionals in the past year. A number of mysterious recent deaths in car accidents, house fire, home invasions — across different ages, genders, races, and geographical locations.

Digging deeper, they all seemed confined to computer scientists working on AI safety — finding ways to constrain artificial intelligence to remain "aligned" to human interests.

Hmm, he thought. I'll have to run this past my professor. She also likes a good public health mystery. For now, the young student typed up his notes and saved them as a draft in his cloud-based online storage account.

He kept thinking about this puzzle as he drove home. Could there be something about questioning the future of artificial intelligence that made people accident-prone?

It was a slick rainy day, and he was glad for the intelligent brake system of his smart "connected" car. It had never failed him in the California rainstorms. But as his car approached a busy intersection, the accelerator mysteriously engaged and rammed his vehicle into oncoming traffic at 80 mph.

In the final seconds of his life, he thought to himself, "Dammit, I should have gone to veterinary school instead..."

Pong History

"'It changed the world': 50 years on, the story of Pong's Bay Area origins"

Avatars For Meetings

"Microsoft Teams is adding 3D avatars for people who want to turn their webcams off"

Microsoft said in late 2021 that the initial versions of these avatars would only animate when users were speaking, but eventually the company wants them to be able to mimic users' real-world facial expressions and movements as captured by their webcams.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Bad Stats

"The Bad Statistics That Never Go Away"

Definition Of "Family" For Wrongful Death Lawsuits

"Who Can Sue Docs for Wrongful Death? Some States Are Trying to Expand That Group"

The NY legislation would have expanded the definition of "close family members" to include spouses, domestic partners, children, parents, stepparents, siblings, grandparents, and perhaps more. Additionally, lawsuits could have allowed juries to determine "close family members" of the deceased patient on the basis of specific circumstances of the person's relationship with the decedent.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

AI Voice Hacking Update

"How I Broke Into a Bank Account With an AI-Generated Voice"

Space And EpiPens

"Elementary schoolers prove EpiPens become toxic in space -- something NASA never knew". Related story.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Athletic Robot Update

"'World's fastest' humanoid robot readies for RoboCup". (Via H.R.)

Beloved Legacy Devices

"25 yrs ago today, Apple discontinued the Newton. What devices do you miss?"

Back in the day, I was very fond of my Palm Pilot.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Mac Terminal Commands

"18 macOS Terminal commands to turn you into a Mac power user"

WD-40 Substitutes

"These Household Products Can Sub for WD-40"

Monday, March 13, 2023

Paint Without Pigment

"Inspired by butterflies, researcher invents new paint that has no pigments". (Via H.R.)

Monopoly Domination

"How to Win at Monopoly and Lose All Your Friends". 

The key is exploiting an artificial shortage in the houses.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Alexander On Hyperstitions

I really enjoyed this Scott Alexander piece, "Give Up Seventy Percent Of The Way Through The Hyperstitious Slur Cascade".

Two comments:

1) I was especially interested in the linkage between "hyperstitions", value signaling, and how word usage can reach interesting tipping points.

2) It's totally ok to call me "Asian", rather than "person of Asian descent".


Vocal Cords On A Chip

"New vocal cords on a chip can let the mute people speak". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Magdeburg Water Bridge

I had never heard of the Magdeburg Water Bridge until now!  (As others have noted, this is actually a bridge to allow a canal to pass over a river, not a river over another river.)

Io Pics

"Juno Just Snapped Some of The Best And Clearest Images of Io Yet"

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Office Furniture Surplus

"The Death of Office Culture Leads to Boom Times for Used-Chair Salesman"

Used furniture dealers are making a killing on Facebook Marketplace selling Herman Miller office chairs left behind by frantically downsizing corporations.

Big Galaxies

"Universe's first galaxies unexpectedly large". (Via H.R.)

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Robotic Skin Update

"New e-skin could allow robots to sense touch and their surroundings". (Via H.R.)

Cheaper MRIs

"Portable low-field scanners could revolutionize medical imaging in nations rich and poor -- if doctors embrace them". (Via A.A.)

I think this is an interesting development and these scanners have a role in niche applications. But as the article notes, only in areas where significant loss of resolution is acceptable for treatment purposes.

And there is also this issue, which would be of concern to many practicing physicians [bold emphasis mine]:

Still, the Swoop can miss details a high-field scanner would catch because its resolution of 1.5 millimeters is half that of a standard scanner. For example, Sheth’s team used it to image the brains of 50 patients who had had an ischemic stroke, visible with standard MRI. The Swoop missed the five smallest, millimeter-size strokes, the researchers reported in April 2022 in Science Advances.

That finding shows physicians will have to exercise judgment in deciding when to use each type of scanner, Sheth says. “You shouldn’t be too worried, but you should understand the context in which you might miss something,” he says. Still, McDowell notes doctors may shy away from a low-field scanner if they think using it could leave them open to a malpractice suit.


Monday, March 06, 2023

Signature Makeovers

Markets In Everything: "Hate your signature? Try plastic surgery for autographs".

Doctors, lawyers, celebrities: There’s a new cosmetic surgery, of sorts, that has snared them all.

By that, we mean handing over money to hire a calligrapher for a fresh take on writing one’s own name in cursive. With a pen or another writing implement. On paper.


Microchips In Tissue

"Growing Electronics Inside the Brain"

Friday, March 03, 2023

Unreliable Nukes

"No One Knows If Decades-Old Nukes Would Actually Work"

Super Star Trek 1978 Remake

"This free fan game is a remake/conversion of the 1978 strategy game Super Star Trek reimagined with the UI of one of my favorite games ever: Star Trek 25th Anniversary.

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Hsieh Forbes Column: The Unsettled Science Of Covid-19

My latest Forbes column is now out: "The Unsettled Science Of Covid-19".

I discuss some recent controversies over Covid-19, including natural immunity, the efficacy of mask mandates, and the "lab leak" hypothesis -- and what that means for the concepts of "consensus" and "misinformation".

Fourier Analysis And AI

"200-Year-Old Math Opens Up AI's Mysterious Black Box"