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.”