Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

Transient Smartphone Blindness

The New England Journal Of Medicine recently reported on a couple of cases of "transient smartphone blindness".

Short version: Some patients were coming to their doctors after recurrent episodes of temporary loss of vision at night, only affecting one eye.  The patients underwent testing (including expensive MRI scans), and in one case started on medication for presumed blood vessel issue.

But the transient blindness was caused by the fact that the patients were reading their smartphones at night with one eye. Hence, the reading eye was exposed to light whereas the other eye remained adapted to the dark. When they shut off their phones, the phone-reading eye was relatively "blind" compared to the other dark-adapted eye and needed a few minutes to recover.

The doctors even ran an eye sensitivity experiment. 

From the article:
When the patients were seen in our neuro-ophthalmic clinic, detailed history taking revealed that symptoms occurred only after several minutes of viewing a smartphone screen, in the dark, while lying in bed (before going to sleep in the first case and after waking in the second). Both patients were asked to experiment and record their symptoms. They reported that the symptoms were always in the eye contralateral to the side on which the patient was lying.

We hypothesized that the symptoms were due to differential bleaching of photopigment, with the viewing eye becoming light-adapted while the eye blocked by the pillow was becoming dark-adapted. Subsequently, with both eyes uncovered in the dark, the light-adapted eye was perceived to be “blind.” The discrepancy lasted several minutes, reflecting the time course of scotopic recovery after a bleach...

Although most people view screens binocularly, people frequently use smartphones while lying down, when one eye can be inadvertently covered. Smartphones are now used nearly around the clock, and manufacturers are producing screens with increased brightness to offset background ambient luminance and thereby allow easy reading. Hence, presentations such as we describe are likely to become more frequent. Our cases show that detailed history taking and an understanding of retinal physiology can reassure both patient and doctor and can avoid unnecessary anxiety and costly investigations.

Birth Control App

NYT: "Birth Control via App Finds Footing Under Political Radar"

Robot Pizzeria

"Inside Silicon Valley’s Robot Pizzeria". (Via H.R.)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

[Off Topic] Hsieh Forbes Column: Why I Don't Trust Government-Backed 'Gun Violence' Research

[Off topic] My latest Forbes piece is now out: "Why I Don't Trust Government-Backed 'Gun Violence' Research".

I discuss the anti-gun bias at the federal government Centers For Disease Control (CDC) and why we should be suspicious of calls for more CDC-backed research into "gun violence".

What Happens If NYC Gets Hacked

"The Big Hack": A fictional (but supposedly realistic) account of a cyberattack on New York City.

Revolving Restaurants

"The History of Revolving Restaurants"

Frozen Earth

"If the sun goes out, how long till the earth freezes?"

iPhone 7 Rumors

"Little change expected with iPhone 7. Has finally Apple plateaued?"

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Too Cute Robots

WSJ: "Too Cute for Their Own Good, Robots Get Self-Defense Instincts"

When Austin Banned Uber/Lyft

"In the first three weeks after Uber and Lyft left Austin, DWI arrests were up 7.5 percent over the same time last year."

The Neuroscience Of Musical Chills

"What Happens in the Brain When Music Causes Chills?"
The researchers found that the brains of individuals who occasionally feel a chill while listening to music were wired differently than the control subjects. They had more nerve fibers connecting auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes sound, to their anterior insular cortex, a region involved in processing feelings. The auditory cortex also had strong links to parts of the brain that may monitor emotions.

So why do so many get the chills when the music is just right? “The chills is a sensation we get when we’re cold. It doesn’t really make sense that your hair would stand on end, or that you’d get these goosebumps in response to music,” Matthew Sachs, an author of the paper, tells Sample. “We think that the connectivity between the auditory cortex and these other regions is allowing music to have that profound emotional response in these people. It’s very hard to know whether or not this is learned over time, or whether these people naturally had more fibers. All we can say is there are differences that might explain the behavior we see.

Big Plane

"Why Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is building the world’s largest airplane":
[T]his very, very big plane is designed with beyond-Earth ambitions: to carry a rocket tethered to its belly to an altitude of about 35,000 feet. Then, once aloft, the rocket would drop, fire its engines and “air-launch” to orbit...

The idea is to open up access to low-Earth orbit, making the couple-hundred-mile trips above Earth’s surface a routine, Amtrak-like commute, Chuck Beames, the president of Allen’s Vulcan Aerospace, said during a tour of the facility with a small group of reporters last week.

Friday, June 17, 2016