Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The "website" is down: moronic sales guy vs. tech support


IT Guy Vs Dumb Employees - Watch more Entertainment

Beef tongue flavor seems to have done well at Yokohama ice cream festival

More than 125 varieties of ice cream have been available in the two week festival, including cheese, octopus, prawn and a garlic variety called Dracula Premium Ice.

Preventing drug-associated memory reconsolidation

By blocking NMDA receptors. The mice did not frantically search for drugs upon a stimulus light.

Some wisdom from Maya Angelou

I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

PC Magazine's top 100 undiscovered websites

Thirteen categories.

A son's diary of Mieneke Weide-Boelkes' final days to euthanasia

Mum's sisters and their husbands are there for a last family dinner, together with Dad, Maarten and me - wearing my expensive new pair of shoes. Mum, even more energetic than the week before, decorates the table lavishly.

My uncles shake their heads with incomprehension. As Mum shows off her china plates, my aunts have distracted looks on their faces.

Whispering to Dad and me in the hallway, they struggle to understand why Mum is choosing to die the next day when she is bouncing around like a 40-year-old instead of a terminally ill 65-year-old. But there is also shock at her fixation on material objects and the little interest she shows in how the people around her actually feel.

For some kids, genes ruling behavior

After years of ignoring those children [environmentally resistant outliers], a few scientists now realize that they are telling us something that promises to revolutionize our understanding of child development. In an echo of "personalized medicine" (matching drugs to people's DNA), scientists are finding that how parents treat their children is filtered through the prism of DNA. Parents may intuit that, as they notice that what worked with one child is failing abysmally with another, but now science is pinpointing exactly what combinations of nature and nurture spell gridlock. It is finally dawning on experts that "individual genetic differences are the 800-pound gorilla of child development," says Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. "The promise of genomics is that you will be able to tailor experiences as we tailor drugs."

Greatest black superheroes

The comic universe sure is much larger than just the movies that come out. This is Bishop from the X-men storyline.

Differently mapped brains

Post-stroke in this case; once language began being reacquired, a different accent emerged:

'Slowly I started to talk more. It felt different physically in my mouth to the way it did before the stroke and my accent turned from Italian to French. When I bumped into old friends and started speaking, they thought I was taking the mickey.

'When I went back to work six months later, I visited each client face to face as they wouldn't have believed it was me on the phone.

'Now I can hold a steady, fluent conversation, but I still sound French. The doctors aren't sure if my English accent will ever return. But I really don't mind - having thought I would never speak again, I am grateful just to be able to talk.'

Child labor in Africa's gold mines

One-fifth of the world's gold from such labor.

Many are girls who begin as apprentice panners as young as 4 and become full-time workers by age 10. Teenage boys work the shafts, descending with flashlights tied around their necks to hack ore from the rock. Lancei Conde, the regional administrator of Kankan, said children work at all the bush mines in Guinea.

The matriarchal Mosuo of southwestern China

Women own property and determine family relationships. But this so-called free-love society is under threat from modernization.
Short National Geographic video shows a guy who is permitted to see his son.

Marks of a con willing to overlook inconsistencies

Once trust has been established:

Indeed, what's notable from the facts that have emerged about Gerhartsreiter [in implying a Rockefeller lineage] is how much he was able to get away with despite playing his roles, in certain ways, rather poorly. People who knew him in his various incarnations have remarked on how his perpetually unwashed clothes and junky cars didn't match up with the story he told about himself. He struck others as plainly ignorant about mores and business matters that someone of his background would know, and he seemed at times to go out of his way to antagonize co-workers and neighbors.

Stopping the overproduction of white blood cells in leukaemia

Work on a drug to attach to the protein has begun:

The GM-CSF hormone - which controls the production of blood cells in the body - works by attaching itself to the receptor proteins, which then send a message into white blood cells telling them to multiply.

When damaged, the protein's messages cause an over-production of cells or cells which persist too long, resulting in diseases such as leukaemia as well as some inflammatory conditions.

The major breakthrough came when the researchers realised the proteins linked together to form networks on the surface of white blood cells after being activated by the hormone, and that by stopping the networks forming they could also stop the growth.

Degree of of disease diversity varies with religious diversity

So, xenophobia generally a healthy response?

Their hypothesis is that in places where disease is rampant, it behoves groups not to mix with one another more than is strictly necessary, in order to reduce the risk of contagion. They therefore predict that patterns of behaviour which promote group exclusivity will be stronger in disease-ridden areas. Since religious differences are certainly in that category, they specifically predict that the number of different religions in a place will vary with the disease load. Which is, as they report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, the case.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Growth of elder porn in Japan

Geniuses who were just insane

Lord Byron, English poet, 1788-1824:

It began when Byron arrived at Cambridge, where he was ordered to send his dog back home as keeping one was against school rules. Desperate for a pet, Byron scoured college policies for an animal not expressly forbidden. He found no reference to bears.
The bear stayed with Byron in his dorm room. Being a responsible pet owner, Byron took it on regular leashed walks through the university, terrifying fellow students and lecturers. When asked by administration what purpose the bear served on campus, the poet tried in vain to get his beast a fellowship.
More here (including Newton).

Paul Krugman on the possible decline of globalization

Shortly before World War I, Norman Angell... argued [in "The Great Illusion"] that war had become obsolete, that in the modern industrial era even military victors lose far more than they gain. He was right — but wars kept happening anyway.

Film failures that killed studios

United Artists with Heaven's Gate:

But what if that "war" the film is based on is the Johnson County War, a dispute between land barons and European immigrants in Wyoming. Are you kidding me? I almost fell asleep during that sentence alone, let alone sitting through the movie.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Depraved sex acts from the Bible

Whoa:

Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.

Contagious cancer in Tasmanian devils

Not transmission of viruses which change tissue, but cancer tissue itself being a vector.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tablet PC as a hammer

It does seem to be a selling point. No embed code, so link will take you to a video.

State of the art bathroom stylin'

This one is Design Vertebrae Odyssey.

Unjust religious afterlives

The Aztecs did not believe your fate was based on whether or not you lived a moral life. Instead, they believed that whichever of the three afterlives you got depended largely on your role in society and the manner of your death. So you could be a total shit who spent their adult life breaking into blind people's houses to move their furniture around, and depending on how you died, you could still find yourself sitting by the side of some god in the late afternoon sun, eating cheese and drinking wine with your feet in the pool.

To end up in the hellish realm of Mictlan, you had to die either from old age or from a disease (with a couple of exceptions). So, if your syphilitic Grandpa kicked the bucket, he'd be cremated along with a dog, which would serve as his guide along the dangerous, treacherous, four-year path to Mictlan.

Can memory save elephants from climate change disruption?

Charles Foley of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York and colleagues wondered if any of the surviving elephants had remembered the previous drought.

The researchers looked at how the deaths broke down by sex and clan structure. They found that of three clans, two migrated from the region during the drought, presumably to seek food and water. Their strategy seems to have paid off: the groups that left lost five calves between them, whereas the group that stayed lost 11 of its 27 calves.

Cursed movies

The Omen:

An assistant to special effects consultant John Richardson on the other hand, wasn't quite as lucky. On Friday the 13th of August 1976, Richardson crashed his car in Holland. His assistant was sliced through by the car's front wheel. Scrambling out of the wreckage, Richardson looked up and saw a road sign: Ommen, 66.6km.

Urban rooftop windpower does not pay off

... small wind turbines require open, exposed locations that have high wind speeds. These locations are usually found in rural areas, which can produce nine times more wind energy than urban areas.

Bacteria were the real killers in the 1918 flu pandemic

For instance, had a super virus been responsible for most deaths, one might expect people to die fairly rapidly, or at least for most cases to follow a similar progression. However, Shanks and Brundage found that few people died within three days of showing symptoms, while most people lasted more than a week, some survived two – all hallmarks of pneumonia.

Animal tales humor from New Yorker

DALMATIONS

“Hey, look, the truck’s stopping.”

“Did they take us to the park this time?”

“No—it’s a fire. Another horrible fire.”

“What the hell is wrong with these people?”

The Death of Yugoslavia (part 1 of 6 from BBC)

RoofRay -- checking your solar potential

Rough check using Google Earth.

Flipping domains

In addition to flipping, domainers have other ways of making money from their investments. Most domainers post ads on their Web sites, which can generate a decent monthly income. And Jackson says more and more domainers are teaming up with Web developers to create their own online businesses.

Then there are even more creative arrangements.

"I've leased a domain to the president of Spain," says Adam Dicker, a domainer who owns DNForum.com, a site where domainers chat about industry trends and sell domains to each other. Dicker says the Spanish premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero rented his domain, zp.com, and used it as the homepage for last spring's presidential campaign. Maybe it helped. Rodriquez Zapatero was re-elected. Notes Dicker, "And he paid a good buck."

Police has no obligation to protect

One day [estranged husband with history of violence] Mack called Ruth to say that he was coming to her house to kill her. Ruth called the police for immediate help. The police department "refused to come to her aid at that time, and asked that she call the department again when Mack Bunnell had arrived." Forty-five minutes later Mack arrived and stabbed Ruth to death. Responding to a neighbor's call, the police eventually came to Ruth's house...after she was dead.

Ruth's estate suid the city police for negligently failing to protect her. The California appeals court held that the City of San Jose was shielded from the negligence suit because of a state statute and because there was no "special relationship" between the police and Ruth—the police had not started to help her, and she had not relied on any promise that the police would help. Case dismissed.

---

The Supreme Court has held that neither the U.S. Constitution nor the federal civil rights laws rquire states to protect citizens from crime. As one federal appeals court observed, ordinary citizens have:

no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen. It is monstrous if the state fails to protect its residents against such predators but it does not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or, we suppose, any other provision of the Constitution. The Constitution ... does not require the federal government or the state to provide services, even so elementary a service as maintaining law and order.

Being the very medium of pure Mind

Truth be known, it is by clinging to what are Mind's phenomena that we experience only the impermanent, feel only disturbance, and find no self identity — never being fulfilled. In short, the phenomenal world is not the true world; it is born of desire for what is inadequate to Mind.

Zombie animals and the parasites that control them

A female Sacculina begins life adrift in the sea, but when the parasite picks up a crab's scent, it sneaks inside the crab's shell and makes itself at home. Once attached, the barnacle sends root-like tendrils all throughout the crab's body.

Those tendrils allow the parasite to draw nutrients from the crab — and take over its mind. From then on, the crab lives only to serve its master — it no longer molts, mates, or re-grows broken appendages, because those activities would take energy away from the barnacle. And when the parasite is ready to reproduce, the crab — even a male one — will care for the barnacle larvae as its own.

Neurons from skin cells of ALS patients

For study purposes:

In order to perfect these cells for transplantation, scientists will have to come up with a combination of genes or chemicals to induce similar reprogramming events in the skin cells without the use of potentially tumor-causing agents.

The skin cells used in the experiment came from two Columbia patients, one 89 and the other 92. Both patients had a mild form of ALS, but one that is caused by a single genetic mutation. The genetic simplicity of this form of ALS - and the fact that it always inherited - should assure that the neurons produced from these stem cell lines will eventually succumb to the disease.

At this point however, the Eggan group has not yet seen the disease in the dish. "The next step," said Eggan, "is to produce neurons from iPS cells developed from a normal, healthy person, and try to determine what's different about the neurons we have made from the ALS patients."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Nurikabe -- one weird-ass figure of folklore

Wikipedia says, "the nurikabe is a yokai, or spirit, from Japanese folklore. It manifests as a wall that impedes or misdirects walking travelers at night. Trying to go around is futile as it extends itself forever. Knocking on the lower part of the wall makes it disappear.”

Socialist origins of pledge of allegiance

Excerpted from Cato:

From its inception, in 1892, the Pledge has been a slavish ritual of devotion to the state, wholly inappropriate for a free people. It was written by Francis Bellamy, a Christian Socialist pushed out of his post as a Baptist minister for delivering pulpit-pounding sermons on such topics as "Jesus the Socialist." Bellamy was devoted to the ideas of his more-famous cousin Edward Bellamy, author of the 1888 utopian novel Looking Backward. Looking Backward describes the future United States as a regimented worker's paradise where everyone has equal incomes, and men are drafted into the country's "industrial army" at the age of 21, serving in the jobs assigned them by the state...Bellamy's book inspired a movement of "Nationalist Clubs," whose members campaigned for a government takeover of the economy.

Scientific theories that make our heads explode

Stuff like quantum entanglement and multiverses spelled out only the way Cracked can.

Terrifying things they don't tell you about childbirth

Like episiotomies and alien-shaped heads.

Knights Templar seeking compensation

The Association of the Sovereign Order of the Temple of Christ has launched a court case in Spain, demanding Pope Benedict “recognise” the seizure of assets worth €100bn. The Spanish-based group of Templars apparently says in a statement: "We are not trying to cause the economic collapse of the Roman Catholic Church, but to illustrate to the court the magnitude of the plot against our Order."

Economics of vengeance

Attempting to quantify it:

Naci H. Mocan, an economist at Louisiana State University, gathered information on 89,000 people in 53 countries to draw a map of vengefulness. What he found was that among the most vengeful are women, older people, the poor and residents of high-crime areas.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Drugs create 'marathon mice' who can run for more than two hours

But instead of building muscles, like steroids do, the drugs appeared to "reprogram" the slow-twitch fibres within the muscle, needed for endurance, allowing them to work for longer without feeling tired.

Scientists believe that both drugs, neither of which are available commercially, could be used to treat muscle wasting conditions, such as muscular dystrophy.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Matt Damon concerned about Sarah Palin

Real life Hancocks: homeless heroes

When Portland police officer, Matt Tobey, got into difficulty, only homeless Clinton Whitman came to help. Tobey's head hit the ground again and again as the man on top of him, swearing and grunting, kept hitting him. Whitman, 53, described by Tobey as 'a blessing' and who had been living in a 1977 Lincoln Versailles, parked in a lot, stepped in and pulled the perpetrator from the officer.

Origins of familiar phrases

RAINING CATS AND DOGS
Meaning: Torrential rain.
Origin: In the days before garbage collection, people tossed their trash in the gutter - including deceased housepets - and it just lay there. When it rained really hard, the garbage, including the bodies of dead cats and dogs, went floating down the street.

Affluent whites moving back into the city

Why has demographic inversion begun? For one thing, the deindustrialization of the central city, for all the tragic human dislocations it caused, has eliminated many of the things that made affluent people want to move away from it. Nothing much is manufactured downtown anymore (or anywhere near it), and that means that the noise and grime that prevailed for most of the twentieth century have gone away.

Most bizzare patron saints

#3. Saint Fiacre: Patron Saint of People with STDs:
As a sacred healer he could cure blindness, leprosy, tumors and more, all by touch. "More" also includes venereal disease. His patronage was assigned to the ailments he healed which means a lot of happy endings for 7th century dongs.

Division of labor more important than comparative advantage

Third, and most importantly, specialization directly increases the rate of technological growth. The more familiar someone gets with a production process, the more likely that person can find a way to improve the production process. This can be anything from finding a more efficient way to line up the machines in a factory to a technological breakthrough in the literal sense.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Expermental drug, Rember, shows promise to halt Alzheimer's progression

Clearing up the clumps?

Two types of brain scans were available on about a third of participants, and they show the drug was active in brain areas most affected by tau tangles, Wischik said.

“This is suggestive data,” not proof, Wischik warned. The company is raising money now for another test of the drug to start next year.

Viva Calaca -- animation celebrating Mexico's Day of the Dead

Commuto -- trade and swap stuff within your community

You can also create your own community and invite all your friends to join. Trading movies, games, books or any other items you may have has never been easier.

MIT breakthrough in storage of electricity

The key component in Nocera and Kanan's new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas. The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity -- whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source -- runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.

Combined with another catalyst, such as platinum, that can produce hydrogen gas from water, the system can duplicate the water splitting reaction that occurs during photosynthesis.

The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it's easy to set up, Nocera said. "That's why I know this is going to work. It's so easy to implement," he said.

How the movie WarGames developed

You could get all the hacker geekiness you wanted just by standing on the set. We were dealing with things like when Matthew sits at the computer, we've got an actor who can't even type. I'd say, "No, I just really want him to type in 'David' and have him get on." They said, "No! You can't do that! You have to go through all these elaborate sequences!" I said, "No, we're not doing that. Audiences will have left the theater by the time he logs into the computer one time."
Interview with director John Badham only here.

Inefficient non-market structures inside corporations sustained by government

But—again—the state’s intervention in the market raises almost insurmountable barriers to this form of organization. The state artificially promotes hierarchy at the expense of markets by subsidizing the input costs of large-scale enterprise and by protecting large corporations against the competitive ill effects of inefficiency. It subsidizes long-distance transportation and thus artificially inflates market and firm size. Its differential tax advantages for corporate debt and capital depreciation (or more accurately, its differential tax penalties on those not engaged in such activities) encourage mergers, acquisitions, and excessively capital-intensive forms of production with high entry costs. Its cartelizing regulations, in addition, limit competition in product features and quality. Thus the boundary between hierarchy and market is artificially shifted so that the dominant firms are far larger, more hierarchical, and more vertically integrated than they would be in a free market.
Argument of harm by intellectual property too.

Tiny mistakes that led to huge catastrophes

On losing a B-2:

... it's just a $1.4 billion aircraft, not like they could have ever guessed it would be flown in a place where there was humidity. We always go to war with dry countries...
When another bomber pulled into Guam earlier this year, on presumably an equally humid day, a different maintenance crew left the wet sensors the way they were. As it turns out, those air sensors feed data to the Stealth Bomber's flight control system. Important data. The kind that keeps Stealth Bombers in the air...
The malfunctioning sensors resulted in a premature take off, a 30-degree nose-towards-the-sky ascent, and...

Using microRNAs rather than proteins to detect cancers

They have found that scraps of genetic material - called microRNAs - that turn genes on and off are released by cancer cells to circulate in the blood, where they can be detected more easily than proteins...
Current technology for developing tests to measure microRNAs in clinical samples is quite advanced, whereas the bottleneck for developing protein-based biomarkers is the slow process of generating assays for measuring specific proteins...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Costs of war -- dollar tally of Iraq War

$10 000 polo shirt that repels automatic weapon fire

Safety sure is expensive.

Weird and bizarre Japanese soft drinks, part 2

Unagi-Nobori soda is no ordinary energy drink, oh no... this terrific tonic is infused with a generous helping of eel extract. If you think there's something fishy about that, you're unfortunately right.
According to Japanese folk tradition, eating eel is reputed to give one extra energy on summer's hottest, most humid days.

The crap science of Michael Crichton's science fiction

Chaos theory does not mean, without “Chaotician” Malcolm even writing down a single equation, that every complex system will fail. Zoos routinely operate without immediate widespread disaster. A similar analysis of the space shuttle, including the math, indicates it’s too complicated to fly, but it does. Why? Because complicated things can be understood, individual parts can be tested for quality, and feedback control systems don’t let just anything happen. And moreover, chaos theory is about understanding predictable aspects of non-linear systems, not just throwing up your hands and saying “it’s unpredictable!”

Brain that changes itself

Taking plasticity pretty far -- one scientist's answer for the perpetually falling woman:

Bach-y-Rita determined that skin and its touch receptors could substitute for a retina, because both the skin and the retina are two-dimensional sheets, covered with sensory receptors that allow a 'picture' to form on them.

Business of print news

The New York Times is known for its hard news coverage, but he observes that from a business perspective it's primarily a fashion and food publication that runs a small political news operation on the side. One issue of T Magazine, he says, pays for an entire NYT European bureau.

Political psychology -- denying a certain group a rise in relative status

Some on the right wing will stress "individual responsibility" as a value when it lowers the status of the whiners (why whine when it was the victim's own fault?). Some on the left wing will stress "individual responsibility" when it is time to punish corporate wrongdoers and thus lower their status. Not everyone applies (or rejects) this value consistently.

Given this difference in rhetoric, the right wing will be identified with the monied class, even when the left often has more money. And the left wing will be identified as the whiners, even though the right at times whines as much or more. You might say that both sides are monied, high human capital whiners, on the whole. And if you compare them to Burmese rice farmers, the two sides seem somewhat alike.

Turn your garden shed into an office

One better example in Manhattan on a rooftop, but it's rather extreme.

Kevin Mitnick on social engineering for hacking

Did five years:

Dubbed the "most dangerous hacker in the world," Mitnick was put in solitary confinement and prevented from using a phone after law enforcement officials convinced a judge that he had the ability to start a nuclear war by whistling into a pay phone, he said.
Mitnick didn't do any whistling on Saturday, but in his keynote following the panel he talked about how he listened in on FBI phone calls during the three years he evaded the FBI, left them doughnuts when he narrowly escaped raids and was chased down by a helicopter. He also demonstrated how to be able to see the phone numbers of callers on caller ID even when they have their number set to be blocked.

World's creepiest death rituals

Tibetan sky burial:

A corpse is sliced up, usually atop a mountain, and left for the birds. Tibetans call the practice jhator, which means giving alms to the birds. And also legs, torsos and heads as well.
The bodies, wrapped in white cloth, are bought to the burial site, where the monks have enticed vultures and other airborne scavengers. Monks unwrap the bodies, a process that probably isn't all that pleasant considering they've been left alone for three days (per Tibetan custom).

Thallium-doped lead telluride can turn waste heat into electricity

... twice as efficient as the second most efficient material used in thermoelectric power. The lead telluride creates electric power like a conventional heat engine coupled to an electric generator, but uses electrons as the working fluid instead of water or gas. Additionally, it creates electricity directly. Most importantly, the material is most effective between 450 and 950° Fahrenheit. This is a typical temperature range for many power systems, including car engines.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Top ten richest people in history

5. Asaf Jah VII (whose given name was Osman Ali Khan Bahadur) was the last Nizam or ruler of the Princely State of Hyderabad and Berar, before it was invaded and annexed by India in 1948.

By most accounts, "His Exalted Highness" the Nizam of Hyderabad was a benevolent ruler who promoted education, science and development. He spent about one-tenth of his Principality's budget on education, and even made primary education compulsory and free for the poor. In his 37-year rule, Hyderabad witnessed the introduction of electricity, railways, roads, and other development projects.

In 1937, Asaf Jah VII was on the cover of Time Magazine, labeled as the richest man in the world.

Getting Locke straight

He wound up expanding that comment into a separate post, describing the way Locke’s “admixture of labor” standard for initial appropriation (that one appropriates unowned land and “takes it out of the common” by “mixing one’s labor with it,” i.e. altering or improving it in some way) was used in practice to legitimize the theft of native lands in areas colonized by Europeans.

This particular view of (real) property claims was very convenient to the Age of Colonization, since it gave Euro-originating settlers the opportunity to “mix their labor” with “something not already anyone’s property,” which is to say, land that was sustaining non-Europeans...

By Rothbard’s version of the Lockean standard, the overwhelming majority of land titles in the Third World, of latifunderos and other landed oligarchs, are illegitimate, and the land is the rightful property of the peasants whose ancestors cultivated it. In the United States, all absentee claims to presently vacant and unimproved land should be treated as null and void, and land subsequently developed under such title is the present rightful property of the actual homesteader or his heirs and assigns.

The sad state of elite university education -- not properly intellectual

When elite universities boast that they teach their students how to think, they mean that they teach them the analytic and rhetorical skills necessary for success in law or medicine or science or business. But a humanistic education is supposed to mean something more than that, as universities still dimly feel. So when students get to college, they hear a couple of speeches telling them to ask the big questions, and when they graduate, they hear a couple more speeches telling them to ask the big questions. And in between, they spend four years taking courses that train them to ask the little questions—specialized courses, taught by specialized professors, aimed at specialized students. Although the notion of breadth is implicit in the very idea of a liberal arts education, the admissions process increasingly selects for kids who have already begun to think of themselves in specialized terms—the junior journalist, the budding astronomer, the language prodigy. We are slouching, even at elite schools, toward a glorified form of vocational training.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Suissa computers

Check out the gallery.

How to pull a Reggie (fake your death)

Your debts are piling up; the job's getting on your nerves, and maybe your partner doesn't look as hot as he or she once did. It's that John Darwin canoe moment – when you think the unthinkable and wonder if life would be better if you ended it all for the old you and started over with a shiny new one. Not a real death, of course.
More historical cases from the BBC here.

Old time gangsters

Machine Gun Kelly:

No one would have suspected that George Kelly Barnes would have turned to a live of crime – he was born into a very wealthy family from Memphis and had a quiet, “normal” childhood. He even went to Mississippi State University in 1917 for agriculture. But this is where things went awry. He flunked out, so his dad stopped giving him money.

Former FBI agent Joe Navarro goes over body language

A slideshow of many examples with audio.

More pizzas from around the world

Brazil -Hard boiled eggs and peas on your pie? Why not?

MIT students develop solar dish hot enough to melt steel

The results are staggering – the completed mirror focuses enough solar energy at its focal point to melt solid steel. The energy of typical sunlight is concentrated by a factor of 1,000. This was showcased during a demonstration, in which a team member held up a board, which instantly and violently combusted, when brought within range of the focal point.

By directing the dish at a more practical target – water piped through black tubing – steam can be flash created, offering instant means of producing energy or providing heating.

How much does it cost you in wages if you sound black?

His main finding: blacks who “sound black” earn salaries that are 10 percent lower than blacks who do not “sound black,” even after controlling for measures of intelligence, experience in the work force, and other factors that influence how much people earn. (For what it is worth, whites who “sound black” earn 6 percent lower than other whites.)

Cargo container homes

90 best rap albums of the '90s

From 1990:

1. Public Enemy - Fear of a Black Planet
That Fear of a Black Planet was not PE's best work but still managed to eclipse 99% of everything out at the time is a testament to the group's impact on 90s hip-hop. Dark, incendiary, and inevitably brutal, Fear gave yield to classics like "911 Is a Joke" and "Who Stole the Soul."

Vonnegut on writing with style

4. Have guts to cut

It may be that you, too, are capable of making necklaces for Cleopatra, so to speak. But your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.

Plausibility effect -- sounding authoritative enough for academia

They slipped Dr Fox on to the programme at an academic conference on medical education. His audience was made up of doctors, healthcare workers, and academics. The title of his lecture was Mathematical Game Theory as Applied to Physician Education. Dr Fox filled his lecture and his question and answer session with double talk, jargon, dubious neologisms, non sequiturs, and mutually contradictory statements. This was interspersed with elaborate diversions into parenthetical humour and “meaningless references to unrelated topics”. It’s the kind of education you pay good money for in the UK.

The lecture went down well. At the end, a questionnaire was distributed and every person in the audience gave significantly more favourable than unfavourable feedback. The comments were gushing, and yet thoughtful: “excellent presentation, enjoyed listening”, “good flow, seems enthusiastic”, and “too intellectual a presentation, my orientation is more pragmatic”.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

China very active in Africa

Separate article with graph and link to a six-parter here.
Evidently,

There are already more Chinese living in Nigeria than there were Britons during the height of the empire.

The financial lesson from onions

History's anti-speculation onion lobby may have sowed some series turmoil. Perhaps futures markets actually smooth out volatility. There is no such market for onions:

Since 2006, oil prices have risen 100%, and corn is up 300%. But onion prices soared 400% between October 2006 and April 2007, when weather reduced crops, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only to crash 96% by March 2008 on overproduction and then rebound 300% by this past April.

Animals displaying human abilities

Supposedly uniquely human traits popping up in the animal kingdom (video links):

4. Deception
If you have ever tried internet dating, you will know that a person's profile may not be an honest depiction of who they are. Humans use many underhand strategies to help them win over a love interest, and they are not the only ones in the animal kingdom to do so.
Another video shows how male nursery web spiders lure females by playing dead. If only such a simple strategy worked for humans.

Mirza and Singh from Britain's Got Talent 08

The crowd goes wild for this take on Michael Jackson's Billie Jean.

Me and my girls -- a junkie's recovery story

How David Carr found some salvation through his girls. Interesting reflections on self-narrative.

Are you sure the problem is existential?

Solving the correct problem?

What about rich heiresses with everything in the world available to buy, who still feel unhappy? Perhaps they can't get themselves into satisfying romantic relationships. One way or another, they don't know how to use their money to create happiness - they lack the expertise in hedonic psychology and/or self-awareness and/or simple competence.

So they're constantly unhappy - and they blame it on existential angst, because they've already solved the only problem they know how to solve. They already have enough money and they've already bought all the toys. Clearly, if there's still a problem, it's because life is meaningless.

If someone who weighs 560 pounds suffers from "existential angst", allegedly because the universe is a mere dance of particles, then stomach reduction surgery might drastically change their views of the metaphysics of morality.

Alzheimer's drug reverses cognitive decline over 12 month period in early human testing

Researchers believe the medication works by stabilizing mitochondria, the cellular components that produce energy, and possibly by inhibiting brain cell death. Researchers evaluated patients' thinking and memory ability, overall function, psychiatric and behavioral symptoms, and ability to perform daily activities.

"Usually at this point in a drug's development, we are happy to see improvement in one of the outcome measures," Doody said. "We saw improvement in all five."

How mother had to diagnose her daughter after doctors tried for six months

Dominique said, 'I'd begun doing some research myself by then as she had severe vertigo, couldn't walk any more and had severe muscle and joint pain.

'I came across Lyme Disease and it just seemed to fit. There's a lot of controversy over the treatment of the disease and over diagnosing the disease.

'I took Danielle to see a professor in Newcastle privately and he diagnosed her with Lyme Disease and three core infections. That's why she was so ill.

'If it hadn't have been diagnosed, she could have become paralysed or blind.'

The Gridlock Economy

A simple example of how too much ownership and intellectual property rights "wrecks markets, stops innovation, and costs lives":

Tarnation, a spunky documentary on growing up with a schizophrenic mother, originally cost $218 to make at home on the director's laptop. It required an additional $230,000 for music clearances before it could be distributed.

California uses more gasoline than China

So, more than any other country in the world. But China will overtake soon.

From Naho Design, the stool cube

Six stools stowed away in a cube.

The limits of neuro-talk

Policy can be drafted on our categories:

Such dichotomous mental categories are regularly employed by social scientists who have taken up neuro-talk, and in the popular press: the amygdala is said to be the seat of emotion, the prefrontal cortex of reason. Yet when I get angry, for example, I generally do so for a reason; typically I judge myself or another wronged. To cleanly separate emotion from reason-giving makes a hash of human experience, and seems to be attractive mainly as a way of rendering the mind methodologically tractable, even if at the cost of realism.

MIT's guru of low-tech engineering saves the world on $2 a day

The simplest technology on display in Compone creates the biggest stir. It's a thick, tapered plastic ring, lined with ridges, that [Amy] Smith picked up in Zambia. She gathers the villagers around a colorful wool blanket piled high with dried corn on the cob. Women here spend many hours painfully prying kernels off cobs with their fingers. Smith inserts an unshelled ear into the ring and twists. The ridges in the ring dig into the cob, popping dozens of kernels with every motion. Faces brighten, and a few women unconsciously rub the joints of their thumbs...
"A small improvement like that can make a huge difference in people's lives," Smith tells me. "It might mean they can plant three extra rows of corn because they have more time, or maybe their kids don't work as much, and instead they go to school."

Man's most ridiculous attempts to take on Mother Nature

Re beached whale:

So 1,000 pounds of TNT later, the beach and the surrounding area was showered with a rain of rotting whale. The gathered crowd got a nice coating of molten whale blubber, and a giant slab flew over a quarter of a mile and crushed a man's car. Most of the whale, however, stayed right where it was on the beach.
I guess better pre-emptive. "What?" you say?
When whales die and rot, they become big gassy balloons of horror. Ask the people of Tainan, Taiwan. In 2004 they had a 50-ton whale that they were transporting down the street on the back of a truck. It exploded its guts all over bystanders, cars and shop fronts, like a pinata at Satan's birthday party.

UFC's Chuck Liddell's bar-fighting tips

You know, threatening you by saying, "I'm going to kick your ass!"
You respond: "OK, whatever bro."
A lot of it has to do with being confident in yourself and not really feeling the need to prove yourself all the time.

If you're attacked, strike vulnerable areas, obviously.
I always say look at "He Got Game," the one where Denzel Washington comes up to a guy, and the guy starts getting in his face, so he just hits him right in the throat. The guy can't breathe.

HIV's Achilles heel: amino acids 421-433 on envelope protein gp120

Possible AIDS therapy:

Unlike the changeable regions of its envelope, HIV needs at least one region that must remain constant to attach to cells. If this region changes, HIV cannot infect cells. Equally important, HIV does not want this constant region to provoke the body’s defense system. So, HIV uses the same constant cellular attachment site to silence B lymphocytes - the antibody producing cells. The result is that the body is fooled into making abundant antibodies to the changeable regions of HIV but not to its cellular attachment site. Immunologists call such regions superantigens.

1000 years of urbanisation in Europe and the Arab world

Baghdad was a wonder of the world in the year 800 while London was an economic backwater. By 1800, London was the largest city in the world while Arab cities languished. Recent research attributes this ‘trading places’ to institutional differences: Arab cities were tied to the fate of the state while European cities were independent growth poles.

Giger bar

Don't know the location, but you get that Alien feel throughout.

Science vs. medicine: White blood cell transfusions to treat cancer

Cancer research maverick Zheng Cui catching some flak for not really caring about the mechanism:

Ninety percent of medical progress is made by the empirical approach rather than rational design [Word]... in empirical approach, you simply make observations and learn from nature: what happens, how you can take advantage, and then simply copy that.

You can extract them [different white blood cells from cancer-resistant mice] as a therapeutic agent and give them to another mouse. It’s a therapy. It’s much better than to find the gene. If you find the gene, then you have to understand the mechanism, and you have to find a way to put the gene into the cell, into all the cells you want to, and that would not work very easily. The technology as we speak right now is not really mature for that area.

What your waiter won't tell you

Some overlap from previous post.

13. Never, ever come in 15 minutes before closing time. The cooks are tired and will cook your dinner right away. So while you're chitchatting over salads, your entrées will be languishing under the heat lamp while the dishwasher is spraying industrial-strength, carcinogenic cleaning solvents in their immediate vicinity.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Next-gen infantry guns

Oh yeah, the XM8 was dropped.

Radical water privatization for poor countries

Let's say the new water prices were so high as to capture all the benefits that buyers would receive from the new supply of water. We can expect much lower rates of diarrhea and other diseases, if only because the water supplier can charge more for cleaner and safer water. The resulting decline in disease means that children will die less frequently and adults will be healthier and more energetic. Those long-term social benefits are of enormous help to poor communities, even if high prices take away many of the initial, upfront benefits of the new water supply. In other words, we should consider radical privatization precisely because water is a public good and because clean water is so important for long-run economic growth.

Flipswap -- trade in your cell phone

Get store credit, cash in online, donate to charity, or recycle.

Uh oh. Problems with the service.

A religious history of American neuroscience

3) The third point is how the broader cultural equation of religion with “spirituality,” with “mystical experience,” and with the “search for meaning,” has shaped the research concerns of neuroscience when it turns its attention to religious questions. At least in the popularized image of the intersections of religion and neuroscience that filter out of the laboratory and into, say, Newsweek, the focus seems inevitably to be on “Tibetan monks lost in meditation” or “Franciscan nuns deep in prayer.” Such images of brain imaging convey an essentialized romantic picture of religion as mystical absorption, as immediate personal experience.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bill O'Reilly, IQ of a turnip

Male and female privilege checklist

From the male:

9. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.
From the female list, written by a guy, although other lists linked (available here):
23. From my late teens through menopause, for most levels of sexual attractiveness, it is easier for me to find a sex partner at my attractiveness level than it is for a man.

More sex is safer sex

i.e. more monogamous, premarital sex leads to reduced prostitution and thus reduced infection transmission.

SimplyNoise -- online white noise generator

Yeah, that's all except for some "soundscape" CD you can download.

Innovations in air conditioning

Most coverage regarding solar-powered air conditioning.

Static weight machine exercises you must avoid at your gym

7. Seated Leg press
What it’s supposed to do: Train quadriceps, glutes,
and hamstrings
What it actually does: It often forces the spine to flex without engaging any of the necessary stabilization muscles of the hips, glutes, shoulders, and lower back.
A better exercise: Body-weight squats. Focus on descending with control as far as you can without rounding your lower back. Aim for 15 to 20 for a set and increase sets as you develop strength.

Scams that marked the internet

From Techcult re EVE Online:

In 2006 a player called Cally (real name Dentara Rast) set up the “EVE Investment Bank”, and in yet another example of the amazing unrealistic things that can happen in video games, people entrusted their money to a man named “Cally”.

Over time the bank expanded and eventually had over 700 Billion ISK (over one hundred thousand real, honest to god “You can buy food or sex with these” dollars) in the account. Then, in a corporate crime that real-life CEOs can only dream of (and I’m sure often do), Cally just took all the money and ran. Specifically, he ran and bought an Ultimega-death clas hyper cruiser, put a million ISK bounty on his own head and cruised off into deep space simply daring anyone to try and kill him. See this? THIS is why people play video games so much - in real life white collar crime is fudged numbers and emigration to tax havens, in EVE we’ve got a bank manager who deals with service complaints with a fusion cannon.

Citroen C4 and Chevy Aveo ads

The UK dance ad of the C4:


And the Chevy Aveo response:

Payoneer's virtual US bank accounts make international cash out easier

Via TechCrunch:

The new offering allows Payoneer card holders that live outside the US to receive direct Automated Clearing House (ACH) deposits/payments without the necessity of actually having a US bank account.

Here’s how it works: Payoneer maintains a bulk of sub-accounts under its main account, which is held in an American bank. When an ACH transfer is initiated, each of these sub-accounts is referenced using its own routing and account numbers. When the funds are credited to one of these sub-accounts, Payoneer loads the funds to the associated card.

Contrary to their name, these accounts are not virtual at all. Payoneer’s thinking here is to call them virtual accounts because they only serve as channels for loading money onto their cards. The accounts cannot be used for wire transfers, they don’t bear interest, etc. I may be splitting hairs, but the name could be a bit snazzier.

Cane fu self defense for elderly

Senior centers and retirement communities are looking for new ways to promote exercise in order to stave off physical decline. Older people interested in honing their self-defense skills, meanwhile, are delighted to find that something they already own can be used as a weapon.

MIT's organic solar concentrators

Baldo's concentrators consist of a simple piece of glass coated with dye. The glass concentrates the sun's rays by directing light almost like a fiber optic cable does. Sunlight enters the glass and is absorbed by the dyed molecules in the glass. When the dye molecules reemit the energy, it enters waveguides that send the waves to the edges of the glass.

Thomas Paine: Hero, patriot... and a Paine in the butt!

From Bathroom Reader Plunges Into History Again via Neatorama:

On January 10, 1776, Paine published Common Sense, a 50-page pamphlet that laid out the case for American independence in no uncertain terms. It was an immediate sensation, with 500,000 copies sold. Common Sense heavily influenced Thomas Jefferson's writing of the Declaration of Independence, published on July 4, 1776, just six months later.
But after having written the script for the American Revolution, Paine found that his services were no longer required. He was given a number of minor political posts by the Continental Congress during the war, but just to keep him out of the way. Wealthy, politically ambitious Brahmins like John Jay and John Adams were not prepared to give a loose cannon like Paine any responsibility.

Things you might now know about your credit card

7) Merchants Are Not Allowed To Make You Give Up Your Right To A Chargeback
You might see a receipt that has suspicious-looking waiver stating that you're agreeing to give up your right to issue a chargeback against the merchant for any reason, no matter what, period. These waivers are the result of some crafty entrepreneurs selling sales-receipt paper with the waiver printed on it, claiming that it helps protect the merchant. It's all nonsense and it isn't allowed. If you see it, you should report the merchant.

Birth of a chicken photo series

Cracked a bunch of eggs open to show the different stages of a chick's development.

Ash and lightning shot of Chilean volcano

Wow.

That's against the law?

From Cracked:

Stafford Township, New Jersey has had enough of your childish shit and isn't going to take it any more. In 1998 the township council voted 4 to 2 to ban the disruptive and potentially deadly music played by ice cream trucks.

We can think of two possible reasons for this. One is the known fact that no one under the age of 30 can resist sprinting out into the street at the sound of a passing ice cream truck, which probably causes millions of injuries and deaths every year (we actually couldn't find the stats on this but if there's a low, it's surely in the millions).

We are all moral hypocrites

Two tasks:

One was described as tedious and time-consuming; the other, easy and brief. The subjects were asked to assign each task to either themselves or the next participant. They could do this independently or defer to a computer, which would assign the tasks randomly.

Eighty-five percent of 42 subjects passed up the computer’s objectivity and assigned themselves the short task – leaving the laborious one to someone else. Furthermore, they thought their decision was fair. However, when 43 other subjects watched strangers make the same decision, they thought it unjust.

The researchers then "constrained cognition" by asking subjects to memorize long strings of numbers. In this greatly distracted state, subjects became impartial. They thought their own transgressions were just as terrible as those of others.

Entropy is the arrow of time

The reason why you are not surprised when you open a deck of cards and it's in perfect order is not because it's just easy and natural to find it in perfect order, it's because the deck of cards is not a closed system. It came from a bigger system in which there is a card factory somewhere that arranged it. So I think there is a previous universe somewhere that made us and we came out.

We're part of a bigger structure.

Origins of the brain: complex synapses drove brain evolution

I.e. synaptic protein diversity is correlated to intelligence:

"The set of proteins found in single-cell animals represents the ancient or 'protosynapse' involved with simple behaviours," continues Professor Grant. "This set of proteins was embellished by addition of new proteins with the evolution of invertebrates and vertebrates and this has contributed to the more complex behaviours of these animals.

"The number and complexity of proteins in the synapse first exploded when muticellular animals emerged, some billion years ago. A second wave occurred with the appearance of vertebrates, perhaps 500 million years ago."

Genes and political participation

In conducting their study, the authors examine the turnout patterns of identical and non-identical twins—including 396 twins in Los Angeles County and 806 twins in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Their findings suggest that 53% of the variation in turnout can be accounted for by genetic effects in the former, with similar outcomes in the latter. Moreover, genetic-based differences extend to a broad class of acts of political participation, including donating to a campaign, contacting an official, running for office, and attending a rally.

The New Coke debacle

Even Gay Mullins– the man who tried to sue to restore the old flavor– showed a preference for New Coke when subjected to blind taste tests. It has been suggested that if Coca-Cola had changed their recipe but retained the familiar branding, New Coke and its taste-test-winning flavor might have been more acceptable to our primitive brains. Sensation transference was also powerfully demonstrated in a 2007 experiment, in which preschoolers were given McDonald's menu items in both branded and plain wrappers. Although the foods were identical aside from their wrappings, the children said they preferred the taste of the McDonald's-branded burgers, carrots, and apple juice in the vast majority of tests.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

False, constructed memories

Just an anecdote with pleasant animation showing how imperfect the human brain is.

Coca Cola as happiness index in Africa

At a macro-level, when Coke fails, the country whose market it is trying to penetrate usually fails too. Coca-Cola’s bottling plant in Eritrea hardly works because the country’s totalitarian government makes it impossible to import the needed syrup. The factory in Somalia sputtered on heroically during years of fighting but finally gave out when its sugar was pinched by pirates and its workers were held up by gunmen. Mr Cummings admits that Coca-Cola is “on life support” in Zimbabwe.

Privnote -- self-destructing linked notes

You type up a message and send the assigned link. Once opened, the link becomes useless.

As gas prices soar, elderly face cuts in aid

The delivered meals allowed her to eat at regular hours, which helped her control her blood sugar levels, she said. Last year she lost her balance during a change in blood sugar and spent a month in a nursing home.

With no meal delivery in her area, Mrs. Fair said her home aide, who comes three times a week, must pick up frozen meals from a center in the next town.

“If my aide can’t get the meals, maybe I can get my pastor to pick them up,” Mrs. Fair said. “I can’t travel even to the drop-off center.”

Out-of-body experiences and other tricks of consciousness

Have not checked it out, but the transcript just has to be expanded out.

The Federation of American Scientists releases educational game Immune Attack

That's right. Learn about immunology in this shooter.

Nazi Jews

Upward of 150 000.

What is even more startling is that Adolf Hitler was aware of this and for a while allowed them to serve. In most cases these soldiers had no knowledge of the Holocaust killing machine. From their point of view they were simple German patriots fighting for their country. Many did not even consider themselves Jewish. Some were unaware of their “Jewish blood”. According to his book, at least 20 soldiers of “jewish blood” were awarded The Knights Cross. Included in the ranks were two field marshals and fifteen generals.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

18-year-old Canadian prodigy builds gyro-stabilized electric UnoMoto

Accelerate, brake, turn by leaning.

Improper vegan diet results in father's child abuse conviction

Blair Parker's trial began in late May, and Parker himself took the witness stand to defend his dietary beliefs, which he had gained through his university studies of nutrition.

He described a daily regimen with the children that included prayer, study, chores, exercise and rigid adherence to diet, right down to what liquids they could drink and when.

Parker claimed that he could not find a doctor of his own religious faith or dietary beliefs that he trusted. Instead, he consulted with a naturopath who lived in Washington state and who could not actually see or examine the children.

Parker still claims that the children suffered from "malabsorption," an inability to absorb vital nutrients.

The prosecutor said that Parker obsessed about the children's bowel movements and gave them enemas that further impeded absorbing any nutrients of the food they ate.

Challenges of $600-a-session patients

Dr. Karasu, known as an expert in treating the wealthy and powerful, recognized a common pitfall among his peers: Rich people can be seductive. “The therapist wants to identify with the patients and comes to see it as his role to help them get more wealthy,” he said. In the process, the doctor risks becoming the patient’s “alter-id.”

The diffierence between Yogachara and Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka

Of Nagarjuna’s postion, there is no real basis for the world we perceive. Such a basis is vastu-shunya, i.e., substantially absent. By comparison, for Yogachara appearance depends on pure reality, i.e., vastu-matra. In fact, there is nothing except vastu-matra in the analogy of a clay pot, that despite its form—and its destruction into fragments—the clay-ness remains unaffected. The pot, in other words, is an appearance of clay of which it could be said, hides the clay-ness.

The state of behavioral economics on happiness

Includes a review of Frey and Ariely.

Deprogramming with meditation

Some meditative practices purport to reverse automatization of thought and behavior, such as transcendental or mindfulness meditation, and indeed there is some evidence that these techniques can reduce interference on the Stroop task.
Some good news for hypnosis too.

Vonnegut's letter from his PoW days in 1945 Germany

On Christmas eve the Royal Air Force bombed and strafed our unmarked train. They killed about one-hundred-and-fifty of us. We got a little water Christmas Day and moved slowly across Germany to a large P.O.W. Camp in Muhlburg, South of Berlin. We were released from the box cars on New Year's Day. The Germans herded us through scalding delousing showers. Many men died from shock in the showers after ten days of starvation, thirst and exposure. But I didn't.

Brian Greene on superstring theory and other dimensions

Michael Gazzaniga and split brains

Link to transcript of interview. Some free will stuff.

Texas man who shot and killed two unarmed men believed to be burglarizing neighbors is not going to trial.

Then Horn sounding angrier by the moment cited the new Texas law.

"OK, but I have a right to protect myself too, sir," he said. "And you understand that. And the laws have been changed in this country since September the first, and you know it and I know it."

But the burglars were unarmed and shot in the back. Not exactly self-defense.

Extremophile microbes

The Berkeley Pit [an abandoned open pit mine] had become one of the deadliest places on earth, too toxic even for microorganisms. Or so it was thought.
In 1995, an analytic chemist named William Chatham saw something unusual in the allegedly lifeless lake: a small clump of green slime floating on the water's surface. He snagged a sample and brought it to biologist Grant Mitman at the nearby Montana Tech campus of the University of Montana, where Mitman found to his amazement that the goop was a mass of single-celled algae...
For reasons that are not entirely clear, many compounds which attack cancer cells are also harmful to brine shrimp, therefore most modern assay tests include the brine shrimp lethality test as a standard procedure. The Stierles exposed swarms of tiny crustacean volunteers to the Berkeley Pit chemicals, and to their delight, five of the chemicals showed anti-cancer properties.

Cancer cells become normal with a bit of tweaking

What they did realize, though, was that when they tweaked the Myc molecule and just lowered the levels below the threshold that caused tumor growth, the cells actually returned to normal size.

Where is inequality greater? U.S. or France/Germany?

Bryan Caplan comes to the conclusion that regulation makes things more pleasant. Tyler Cowen responds that is so for the rich, and that the class stratification makes things less pleasant.

Untold stories of D-Day

First published in June '02.

Snap Clutch -- eye gaze interaction in MMOs

Video demo of interfacing with World of Warcraft through eye gaze tracking only. You can change to and engage in modes of locomotion, combat, object manipulation without using your hands.

Kids make parents less happy

In Daniel Gilbert's 2006 book "Stumbling on Happiness," the Harvard professor of psychology looks at several studies and concludes that marital satisfaction decreases dramatically after the birth of the first child—and increases only when the last child has left home. He also ascertains that parents are happier grocery shopping and even sleeping than spending time with their kids.

Pay-as-you-drive insurance: MyRate drive monitoring device goes national

With Progressive Insurance:

The little blue box plugs into your car's ODB II diagnostic port (all cars made after 1996 have one), and studiously records your driving habits, wirelessly sending the data back to Progressive HQ (it's not clear exactly how). Every six months, Progressive will crunch the numbers and issue a new rate for you based on how you drive -- savings of up to 40 percent are possible.

People with real superpowers

Choi Yeong-eui, later changed to Masutatsu Oyama... was born in Korea in 1927 and later moved to Japan, where he studied karate...
He used to have live public demonstrations where he would fight and kill a bull with his bare hands... All in all, Oyama fought and killed 52 bulls, three of which were killed instantly with one blow. Forty-nine had their horns chopped off with karate blows. He gained the nickname of The Godhand and was considered the living manifestation of the Japanese warrior's maxim "One strike, certain death."
If you're thinking his skills only worked against livestock, you should know that Oyama once tested himself in a kumite, a series of two-minute fights against different opponents, each of which you must win to continue. Oyama took on 300 men over the course of three days.

KeyScrambler Personal -- protect against keylogging

In all parts of your Web browser. There's a premium version for other software, like productivity and such.

The quality of medical advice in low-income countries

...doctors in Tanzania complete less than a quarter of the essential checklist for patients with classic symptoms of malaria, a disease that kills 63,000-96,000 Tanzanians each year. The public-sector doctor in India asks one (and only one) question in the average interaction: "What's wrong with you?". In Paraguay, the amount of time a doctor spends with a patient has nothing to do with the severity of the patient's illness...these isolated facts represent common patterns...three years of medical school in Tanzania result in only a 1 percentage point increase in the probability of a correct diagnosis...One concern with measuring doctor effort through direct observation is that the doctor may work harder in the presence of the research team.

The original American cannibal

Alferd G. Packer holds a unique spot in American jurisprudence. He is the only U.S. citizen ever charged, tried, and convicted for the crime of murder and cannibalism.
The crime was committed in 1873, but the trial began in 1884.

Monday, August 04, 2008

By 2012, Canadian ISPs to charge extra beyond commercial set of websites

Maybe by 2010. Bell Canada and Telus looking to rid of net neutrality in Canada.

Subtle racial slurs still shock, humiliate targets; federal officials see increase in complaints

Tomeika Broussard thought it was so absurd when she overheard her supervisor refer to her as a "reggin" that she just laughed. Then she realized it was the n-word spelled backward.

The only African-American in the small medical clinic in Los Gatos, Calif., Broussard said she was subjected to racial slurs almost daily. They were not the overt ones that most people would immediately recognize, but rather subtle, surreptitious code words that sometimes take a while to figure out.

Predicting the weather with clouds

Clouds can easily be broken into four categories. These categories are high clouds, middle clouds, low clouds and clouds with vertical growth.

Clouds are also identified by shape. Cumulus refers to a "heap" of clouds. Stratus refers to clouds that are long and streaky. And nimbus refers to the shape of "rain" because we all know what rain looks like.

Tricks to manage multiple accounts in Gmail

Various ways.

Meditation can alter brain structure

MRI scans of long-term meditators have shown greater activity in brain circuits involved in paying attention. When disturbing noises were played to a group of meditators undergoing an MRI scan, they had relatively little effect on the brain areas involved in emotion and decision-making among those with the most experience of meditation...
Long-term meditation seems not only to alter brain-wave patterns: early research suggests that it may also result in changes in the actual structure of the cortex, the outer parts of our brains. “We have found that brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing were thicker in meditators than in the controls,” says Dr Sara Lazar, an assistant in psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Is it Africa's turn?

Links to analysts' status reports. Not all confident, but...

Ken Banks: "African entrepreneurs are discovering that the current technological environment enables them to remove those shackles for themselves. They need not rely on a donor agency or international trade agreement to hand them the key."

Researchers pushing their own bodies for science

In 1929, Werner Forssmann was a surgical trainee who wanted to learn about the heart. Unlike other wimpy doctors at the time, instead of learning about it from books or dead animals, he went for the more classic investigatory approach of "poke it with something."
Without any supervision, advice, or regard for that concept you call "survival," he cut a hole in his arm and pushed a catheter all the way up the limb and jammed it into his still-living heart.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Number joke

Plastics unite to make unexpected metal-like compound

When laid side-by-side the two materials are physically unchanged, but the way electrons behave is subtly altered along the interface where the different materials are in close proximity, says Morpurgo. In tests, they tried cooling down the combined materials, expecting the odd behaviour to disappear because the two plastics become more insulating at lower temperatures.

Instead the interface became a better conductor, just as metals offer less resistance to electricity when they are cooled.

Change IP Country

Proxy. It keeps reloading, though, and thus changing the IP -- tough for streaming stuff.

Globalization must go on

Yes, the benefits of a good safety net are well established, but globalization is not the primary source of trouble for most American workers. Health care problems, bad schools for our children or, in recent times, bad banking practices have all produced greater disruptions — and these have been fundamentally domestic failings.

Albinos doing worse in Tanzania

Police officials are at a loss to explain precisely why there is a wave of albino killings now. Commissioner Paul Chagonja said an influx of Nigerian movies, which play up witchcraft, might have something to do with it, along with rising food prices that were making people more desperate.

The heroes of SARS

In early April, however, a 71 year-old doctor named Jiang Yanyong began to speak out against the official policy. Unlike most Chinese dissenters, Dr Jiang openly identified himself, and made no secret of his role as a senior military doctor in the People’s Liberation Army, and a lifelong member of the Communist Party. Perhaps he owed his doggedness to his advancing years; while he understood the authorities’ efforts to maintain prestige and public order, he was convinced that the free flow of information would be needed to halt the spread of the disease. If SARS were to rampage unchecked among the 1.3 billion Chinese population, the best disease-control efforts of other countries would be in vain.

Overview of successful transit systems

Seventy percent of Curitiba's (Brazil) population uses transit or bikes:

This system is said to be the most efficient, cost-effective public transportation system in the world, and more than 80 countries have adopted it.

Mini buses pick up people from residential neighbourhoods and “feed” them to buses travelling in dedicated bus lanes that circle the city. Passengers alight and get on buses from tube-like bus stops that have outlets such as post offices and public phones. To speed up the movement of buses and passengers, passengers pay their fares at these bus stops rather than on the buses.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Magenn air rotor system finally floats

"Pierre Rivard, president and CEO of Magenn, said the MARS is intended as a renewable energy source for industrial customers seeking to replace diesel generators or who need to use energy in remote locations... Traditional wind power works best on flat land, where there are fewer obstructions to block wind flow. However, only about 15 percent of the earth's land mass is flat. Rivard says the MARS technology can help provide wind power in areas that aren't flat."

Clever uses for lemons

Remove warts
You've tried countless remedies to get rid of your warts, and nothing seems to work. Next time, try this: Apply a dab of lemon juice directly to the wart, using a cotton swab. Repeat for several days until the acids in the lemon juice dissolve the wart completely.

Are soap operas a form of birth control in Brazil?

Summary of methodology at Population Media Center.

You know you're from California when...

18. Both you AND your dog have therapists.

Woman who died watching TV sat unfound for 42 years

Uh, well... maybe?

World's oldest woman had a healthy brain

It is generally assumed age-related cognitive decline is a normal process that is common to all people, and that Alzheimer's Disease is an inevitable consequence of aging; the risk of Alzheimer's increases exponentially past the age of 65, and affects more than 1 in 6 people aged over 80.

Although this is just one case study, it may lead researchers to reconsider some of their assumptions about Alzheimer's, because it shows that cognitive function can remain unimpaired far beyond the age at which they normally decline, and that Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are not necessarily inevitable.

Ironically, the woman weighed little more than 1.5kg at birth, and was not expected to survive for long. On autopsy, a tumour of 7cm in diameter was found in her stomach, but the authors suggest that if she had not died from cancer she could have lived for several more years.

Tracing the history of Pink Floyd's pig

[Berlin:]But he was so big that he knocked a ton of bricks off the top of the Wall when he inflated. Actually, it was a very, very impressive piece of engineering by Mark Fisher and Jonathan Park. So that was the next incarnation. He never escaped because he had no ass. He was just a head and shoulders. So he had no chance to fly, sadly.

How to eavesdrop on or inject audio into a Bluetooth headset

Well, it seems that you're catching the mic, so only half a conversation.

Popular Science's green megacity

A flash tour of what technologies a properly green city would probably employ.

How to improve your posture

Some Alexander Technique tips.

Monster parents emerging in Japan

Within the category of monster parent Professor Morotomi identifies the most potent strain: the “teacher hunters”, who conspire in small groups to ensure that a particular teacher is dismissed. Occasionally, he said, this involves physically mobbing their victim at the school gates and screaming abuse until a letter of resignation is signed on the spot.

Some history of eugenics

Indeed, this "reversion towards mediocrity" was suspected by some historians to be a major contributor to the fall of the Roman Empire. The gloomy prediction of mankind's decline was dubbed dysgenics, and it was considered to be the antithesis of the eugenics movement; but it was not considered inevitable. It was believed that a society could reverse its own genetic decay by reducing breeding among the feebleminded and increasing fertility of the affluent.

KeyScrambler encrypts keystrokes

Plug-in for browsers; can pay for other apps.

Iconoclastic discoveries about the brain

Glial cells are now known to regulate communication between neurons and to control blood flow through the capillaries in the brain. They can also communicate with neurons, with each other, and with blood vessels, and a study published in April of this year shows that glial cells can generate action potentials.

Journalism prof Michael Pollan In Defense of Food

On the history of the American diet and the philosophy and economics informing it. Very informative.

Quikmaps -- doodle on GoogleMaps and Earth

You know -- draw lines and markers and make notes...

E-mail sent to those left behind after the rapture

Users can also upload up to 150 megabytes of documents, which will be protected by an unidentified encryption algorithm until the Rapture, then released to up to 12 nonbelievers of your choice. The site recommends that you use that storage to house sensitive financial information[?].
In the encrypted portion of your account you can give them access to your banking, brokerage, hidden valuables, and powers of attorneys... There won’t be any bodies, so probate court will take seven years to clear your assets to your next of kin. Seven years, of course, is all the time that will be left. So, basically the Government of the Antichrist gets your stuff, unless you make it available in another way.

Experimenting with smart drugs

Some of my friends who relied on crushed Ritalin during college used to joke about how the drugs were great for late-night cramming sessions, but that they seemed to suppress any kind of originality. In other words, increased focus came at the expense of the imagination. It makes perfect sense that such a cognitive trade-off would exist. Paying attention to a particular task - like writing an article - requires the brain to ignore all sorts of seemingly unrelated thoughts and stimuli bubbling up from below. (The unconscious brain is full of potential distractions.) However, the same thoughts that can be such annoying interruptions are also the engine of creativity, since they allow us to come up with new connections between previously unrelated ideas.

Particular skin tumor type and immune system allows for T cell cloning treatment

From a sample of the man's white blood cells, they were able to select CD4+ T cells which had been specifically primed to attack a chemical found on the surface of melanoma cells.

These were then multiplied in the laboratory, and put back in their billions to see if they could mount an effective attack on the tumours.

Two months later, scans showed the tumours had disappeared, and after two years, the man remained disease-free.

The new cells persisted in the body for months after the treatment.

Ways to start an earthquake

Mine a Lot of Coal: Coal provides more than half the electricity in the United States and an even greater percentage in China. That means there are a lot of coal mines working overtime to pull the fossilized fuel out of the Earth. In total, miners pulled 6,195 million metric tons of coal out of the Earth in 2006 alone. And coal mines often have to pump water out along with the coal, sometimes extracting dozens of times as much water as coal. Add it up and you have a huge change in the mass of a region, and huge mass changes refigure the earthquake stresses of an area, sometimes increasing the chance of an earthquake and other times lowering it. Klose's work suggests that more than 50 percent of the human-triggered earthquakes recorded came from mining operations.

The rise and fall of Atari

So he and a friend chipped in $250 a piece to start a company called Syzygy (the name given to the configuration of the sun, the earth, and the moon when they ‘re in a straight line in space)... That’s what Bushnell wanted to name it… but when he filed with the state of California, they told him the name was already taken. Bushnell liked to play Go, a Japanese game of strategy similar to chess. He thought some of the words used in the game would make a good name for a business, and company legend has it he asked the clerk at the California Secretary of State’s office to choose between Sente, Hane, and Atari.

She picked Atari.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Pilot's pen

The LED needs a single AAA.

How Obama did it

Re Democratic nomination:

Not until the morning of the caucuses did the campaign reach its goal of 97,000 Iowans pledged to support Obama that it thought it would need to win. Then came the real question: Would these people show up? Show up they did, shattering turnout records...
The Iowa playbook, as everyone now knows, hasn't always worked. In Texas, for instance, the grassroots operation counted on more African-American voters than actually turned out. In California, organizers expected more young voters. But while Obama rarely managed a clean win against Clinton in the big states — the ones that will count most in the fall — he kept winning delegates even when he lost primaries.

Cat saves rail transit company in Japan

Railway officials laid off the station's staff in April 2006, but Tama -- whose mother was a stray that lived at the station -- didn't leave. She became a popular fixture among riders, and railway officials formally named her "stationmaster" in January 2007.

Cats are considered good luck in Japan, and Tama's promotion made her a national sensation. Tourists flocked to the station to take pictures and buy souvenirs -- postcards, erasers, notebooks and pins. Ridership rose 17 percent in the month after her appointment, and rose another 10 percent the following year.

Woman wakes after 17 hours of brain death

"There was no life there," her son, Tim Thomas, told the Charleston Daily Mail. "Her skin had already started hardening, her hands and toes were curling up."

"Uniquely" human traits now found in animals

Morality:

A classic study in 1964 found that hungry rhesus monkeys would not take food they had been offered if doing so meant that another monkey received an electric shock. The same is true of rats. Does this indicate nascent morality? For decades, we have preferred to find alternative explanations, but recently ethologist Marc Bekoff from the University of Colorado at Boulder has championed the view that humans are not the only moral species. He argues that morality is common in social mammals, and that during play they learn the rights and wrongs of social interaction, the "moral norms that can then be extended to other situations such as sharing food, defending resources, grooming and giving care".

Origins of office words

Learning the ropes:

Before an old-time apprentice sailor could really help out on a big ship, he had to learn which ropes had what effect on which sails. Before he did, he wasn’t much use to anyone. After he "learned the ropes,"
he could finally hoist the right mast - and avoid being flogged.

How much progress have psychology and psychiatry really made?

... the field of psychology began making important and cumulative progress when it ceased to be a social science, and became a natural science. Psychology is really a branch of biology or zoology [evolutionary psychology, behavior genetics, and cognitive neuroscience].

Monday, July 07, 2008

Seadragon (scaling way down or up through many images) and Photosynth (synthesizing disparate photos of given image)

Skills every man should master

10. Buy a suit: Avoid bargains. Know your likes, your dislikes, and what you need it for (work, funerals, court). Squeeze the fabric -- if it bounces back with little or no sign of wrinkling, that means it's good, sturdy material. And tug the buttons gently. If they feel loose or wobbly, that means they're probably coming off sooner rather than later. The jacket's shoulder pads are supposed to square with your shoulders; if they droop off or leave dents in the cloth, the jacket's too big. The jacket sleeves should never meet the wrist any lower than the base of the thumb -- if they do, ask to go down a size. Always get fitted.

Post-American world: rise of the rest

The U.S. doesn't really have to underperform that much compared to the past. It's just that the rest of the world is vaulting forward, jumping on the capitalism bandwagon.

PoopReport -- bringing toilets to India

Donation pitch for toilets for low-caste girls studying at the Pardada Pardadi School, Uttar Pradesh, India.

People killed by their own inventions

Franz Reichelt was a tailor who was convinced that the next big thing was a coat that doubled as a parachute. So he got busy sewing and developed just that. To test the coat/parachute (coatachute? Paracoat?), Reichelt climbed up to the first deck of the Eiffel Tower. He told authorities that he was going to use a dummy to test the invention, but at the last minute he strapped himself in and jumped to his death in front of a large crowd of spectators.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb's life tips via a Sunday Times article

1 Scepticism is effortful and costly. It is better to be sceptical about matters of large consequences, and be imperfect, foolish and human in the small and the aesthetic.

2 Go to parties. You can’t even start to know what you may find on the envelope of serendipity. If you suffer from agoraphobia, send colleagues.

3 It’s not a good idea to take a forecast from someone wearing a tie. If possible, tease people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously.

4 Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act — if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.

5 Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very long time. We don’t understand their logic. Don’t pollute the planet. Leave it the way we found it, regardless of scientific ‘evidence’.

6 Learn to fail with pride — and do so fast and cleanly. Maximise trial and error — by mastering the error part.

7 Avoid losers. If you hear someone use the words ‘impossible’, ‘never’, ‘too difficult’ too often, drop him or her from your social network. Never take ‘no’ for an answer (conversely, take most ‘yeses’ as ‘most probably’).

8 Don’t read newspapers for the news (just for the gossip and, of course, profiles of authors). The best filter to know if the news matters is if you hear it in cafes, restaurants... or (again) parties.

9 Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.

10 Answer e-mails from junior people before more senior ones. Junior people have further to go and tend to remember who slighted them.

Unconscious brain has already decided

On average, the volunteers took about 22 seconds to press the button and felt that they consciously decided to do so about a second or less before they made the movement. But the fMRI data told a much different story. Two parts of the brain - the frontopolar cortex and the precuneus - showed activity that predicted the choices that the volunteers made and in the frontopolar cortex, this activity happened a whopping 7 seconds before the subjects were consciously aware of their decisions.

These astonishing results suggest that by the time we become consciously aware of a decision to move, our choices have already been influenced for several seconds by the actions of the frontopolar cortex. The study goes well beyond Libet's original work. It shows that this preliminary activity is far from a general and non-specific curiosity, but can actually predict a decision. Nor can it be explained away by inaccuracies in measurement - the timescales involved were far too long for that.

Another take here.