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.