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


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.