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Blindsight by Peter Watts July 30, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Brain, Brilliant words.
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Blindsight is a scary good hard science fiction thriller regarding solar system invasion by intelligent non-sentient beings, countered by four extraordinarily specialized humans, and a Pleistocene-epoch vampire resurrected just for jobs like that.  This tale is as complex as my synopsis is brief, but ever so much better told and, in the audiobook form, convincingly acted.

There is much discussion of the nature and evolution of consciousness and of its pal sentience in conversational style that forms a great deal of the narrative, and compels the logical conclusion.  This is meaty literary stuff, and I urge you to take a big bite.

Blindsight was nominated for the Hugo, as well as the Campbell and Locus awards, so I’m not the only one who thought it an interesting read.

My Wife Likes Kayaks July 30, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Toys, Uncategorizable.
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but I bet that’s because she doesn’t see this possibility in hers.

Want! Part III July 26, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Octopus.
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You can never have enough octopuses.

Portable 3D Printing July 26, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Geek Stuff, Toys.
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Ilan Moyer, whose designs for rapid prototyping machines have always amused and interested me at Maker Fair, has designed and built a (yes, prototype) portable 3D printer, CNC machine and laser cutter in a standard photographer’s aluminum case:

Beautiful, yes? “PopFab has traveled the world as a carry-on item of luggage to Saudi Arabia and Germany, and within the USA [from Boston] to Aspen in Colorado. We hope that this is only the beginning.”

Hotel-room Electronic Lock Security Hack July 26, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Geek Stuff, Toys.
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Cody Brocious found an exploit to open electronic hotel room locks in 200 milliseconds using an Arduino  (“connected to the OUTSIDE portion of the door lock”) to read the unencrypted security codes of the Onity-branded electronic lock.

This is the lock used on my last hotel room door.  So, while this does not qualify as Stuff I Like (except to my evil child self), I really like the guy’s t-shirt, above.

A Really Sick Joke July 25, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books, Brilliant words.
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The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases presents a list of ills, ailments and syndromes the likes of which the world has never seen…literally. With names such as Ballistic Organ Syndrome, Noumenal Fluke, Hsing’s Spontaneous Self-Flaying Sarcoma, Poetic Lassitude, and Mongolian Death Worm Infestation and written in a droll Victorian monograph style, it is a compendium of imaginary ailments from the pens of some of the most entertaining writers working today: Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, China Mieville, Michael Bishop, Kage Baker, Cory Doctorow and Brian Stableford, among others.  “Imagine if Monty Python wrote the Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, and you sort of get the idea.” (Book Sense).

It’s just the thing to leave in your doctor’s waiting room, especially if you have had some of the experiences horrible therein as I…except it’s about $200 in hardcover.  Buy the $14.99 version in paperback.

The Apocalypse Codex, by Charles Stross July 23, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Brilliant words, Mutants, Octopus, Uncategorizable.
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The Apocalypse Codex is the fourth in the Laundry series of books by Charles Stross, and every bit as good as the first three, though not as humorous (or perhaps I am getting used to his wry take on summoning demon-spawn from the dripping maw of ichor that is Human Resources).  In this latest outing, Bob Howard (Robert E. Howard, the author of the Conan novels, was a great friend of H. P. Lovecraft, whose elder gods are the ultimate evil of this series), junior computational demonologist for the Laundry looks into a born-again evangelical intent upon hastening the Second Coming..but of what he has no clue. 

Bob does.

OK, no more hints.  Well, except that this assignment is kind of a training exercise for Bob, with all the frightening implications of that statement.

Read the book;  if you haven’t read the others read them first:

The Atrocity Archives

The Jennifer Morgue

The Fuller Memorandum

These links take you to the Amazon page for the paperbacks;  all are available as audiobooks, which I also enjoyed, but are pricier.  Kindle versions of all are available.

Seat of All Wisdom July 23, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Toys, Uncategorizable.
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Hepatitis C Cure in the Works July 19, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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Researchers at the University of Florida have created  a(n admittedly small, two-step) nanomachine which can find and cleave the RNA from Hepatitis C.  It is non-toxic to the mice it was tried in and to human cultured cells as well.  This is a delightful bit of building: make “an artificial nanoparticle complex [that] can effectively mimic the function of the cellular RISC machinery for inducing target RNA cleavage” and tie it to a gold nanoparticle, the other end of which seems to be tied to the cleaving enzyme.

Obviously, this approach is expandable to other viruses than just Hep C;  many of the sequences of virulent diseases are already well-characterized enough for this process.  I won’t say Star Trek thought of it first, just because I saw most of that stuff fifty years ago and my memory isn’t that good…but I’m sure it happened.

Second Sight is 576 Pixels July 19, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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For people with macular degenerations, there are a pair of neural transplant technologies making themselves visible (heh) lately. The first of these implants, Argus II developed by Second Sight, is already available in Europe.  It’s a chip with sixty tiny electrodes wired to the optic nerve, giving the  user a sixty-pixel image of whatever is in front of the camera sending the signal (mounted to glasses the user wears.  it’s enough to give the user motion detection and to let the read large letters slowly. A second type of chip, the Bio-Retina by Nano Retina, is planted inside the eye itself on the retina and is powered by a near-infrared laser in the glasses the user wears.  The chip does the imaging, but this one produces a 576-pixel image stimulation to the into the optic Bio-Retina, diagram by PopSci
nerve. An embedded image processor converts the data from each of the pixels into electrical pulses that are coded in such a way that the brain can perceive different levels of grayscale. This one is not yet through clinical trials yet.
Once again, this seems a little familiar.

Kanjidamage.com July 17, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Brilliant words, Japan, Uncategorizable.
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If I ever had the mistaken idea that Japanese could be learned by an average American middle-aged man (like myself, for wretched example), I can happily dismiss it with a visit to kanjidamage.com.  This site offers terrific insight to the surrealistic nightmare that is the standard approach to learning kanji.  I’m not here to complain about learning kanji (this is a happy blog, dammit), but to raise a (dozen) glass(es) to the author, who has seen through the veil of lies about teaching kanji told by idiots who try.

Kanji education is a mess.  Let’s not kid ourselves; if I had to learn everything else the same way this is taught I would be (more of) an idiot (than I am).  Because there are sooooooooo many exceptions, exclusions, inclusions, synonyms, repetitions, multiple meanings, lookalikes and other monsters under the bed of kanji lessons–and this is over and above the general weirdness that is the Japanese language itself.

Kanjidamage.com does not attempt to comfort you about this recurring nightmare; it merely points out the scarier bits, leaves out the stupider things and makes fun of the rest in rather coarse language and cheap “yo’ mama” jokes.  Somehow, I am oddly comforted by this, although I admit I never, ever intended to learn kanji in the first place, having been forewarned by a dear friend who almost went mad trying.  And a stepdaughter.  In fact, the intellectual landscape is littered with the corpses of fools who tried.

If you or someone you love MUST learn kanji, have them start here.  If no gun is to your head, stay away from kanji.  It’s just not worth it.

Another Hard News Story July 16, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorized.
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I found this video on Mashable.com, which is arguably a tech news aggregator/interpreter.  This video undermines that argument severely.

New Charles Stross Works July 16, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Uncategorizable.
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A Tall Tale is (probably) just that, but great fun  I hope this link works; it’s a perk I get for being on Tor’s mailing list.  The really big news is that The Apocalypse Codex is shipping, which is the fourth in the Laundry series.  It’s another story of harried British civil servant fighting eldritch, blasphemous, squamous (I had to look that up, too) nightmares of the Lovecraftian sort and matrix management horrors as well.

I predict great stuff; I have yet to not thoroughly enjoy anything Stross has written.  Mine will come Wednesday;  I hope to have a review by Saturday.

Typical Day in Japan July 14, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Japan, Photography.
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https://i1.wp.com/img.gawkerassets.com/img/17qq8jv23wl5mjpg/original.jpg

I like how nobody finds this unusual.

Genetic Protection From Alzheimer’s July 13, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Science.
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An article in Nature details the discovery of a genetic variation which offers some protection from the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s a nifty piece detailing the use of big data from socialized medicine in Ireland homogeneous population to trace genetic factors in Alzheimer’s protection.  A nice write-up of it is in Ars Technica for the non-science reader, and the original is in Nature.

Spoiler: tiny percentage of Scandinavians have it, about 0.1%, so you almost certainly don’t have this protection.  Get back to the lab and work on a cure.

Again July 13, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Science, Star Trek Technology.
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First Actual Photo of a Lightning Bolt Being Directed by a Laser

This lightning bolt was sent down the channel of ionized air created by a short laser burst.  “If a laser beam is intense enough, its electro-magnetic field is strong enough to rip electrons off of air molecules, creating plasma. This plasma is located along the path of the laser beam, so we can direct it wherever we want by moving a mirror. Air is composed of neutral molecules and is an insulator… [But] the plasma channel conducts electricity way better than un-ionized air, so if we set up the laser so that the filament comes near a high voltage source, the electrical energy will travel down the filament.” –George Fischer, lead scientist at the US Army’s Laser-Induced Plasma Channel (LIPC) project.  Repeating a theme:

Not that I’m on a roll with the Star Trek theme here or anything like that.  No, sir.  Not me.

Science Answers the Deeper Questions July 12, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brilliant words, Science.
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Journal of Physics Special Topics Volume 10, No.1 (2011):

P1_1 Could Bruce Willis Save the World?
Back A, Brown G, Hall B and Turner S.,Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, Leicester, LE1 7RH November 1st, 2011
Abstract
The film Armageddon (1998) puts forward the possibility of using a nuclear weapon buried deep within an Earth-bound asteroid to split the asteroid in two, each half clearing opposite sides of the Earth with only relatively minor damage. This article investigates the feasibility of such a plan and shows that even using the largest nuclear weapon made to date,  the bomb comes over 9 orders of magnitude short of the yield required.

https://physics.le.ac.uk/journals/index.php/pst/article/view/390

Yahoo Account Leak Checker July 12, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Geek Stuff.
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http://labs.sucuri.net/?yahooleak  asks you to enter your e-mail account address and let them check if the recent leak includes this e-mail address.  Gmail accounts were also in the leak, so go check yours there.

This Makes Me Happy II July 11, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Hello Kitty, Uncategorizable, Video.
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This Makes Me Happy July 9, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Video.
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