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Best Used Car Advertisement Ever April 30, 2017

Posted by stuffilikenet in Brilliant words, Toys, Video.
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Beauty and the Beast With a Better Gaston March 24, 2017

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Drawing the Wrong Conclusion March 6, 2017

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…or, how we got to now.

Why Trump? February 20, 2017

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https://medium.com/@DaleBeran/4chan-the-skeleton-key-to-the-rise-of-trump-624e7cb798cb#.jmnimypj1 contains the answer to that puzzle.  Be warned: it is a long, thoughtful piece with some uncomfortable ideas for both left and right alike (but not alt-right).

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? November 23, 2016

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View image on Twitter

Too Much Science to Read, Let Alone Review November 15, 2016

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It’s been a banner week for science geeks, nerds, and squints. The locked-in lady gets to at least shout from her prison quietlyGoogle has radar sensitive enough to not only find objects but identify them by their radar signature and perovskite is once again breaking solar-conversion efficiency records.

Ordinarily I would give you a breakdown of each of these nifty developments, but more are coming and I may want to return to these later when I am not pressed for time.  Follow the links above; there are others as well that you will find more well constructed than my chicken scratchings, I’m sure.

How Statistics Can Predict the Future November 10, 2016

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The X Axis on the graph is the percentage of GDP spent on R&D and the size of the balls is the amount of spending. The Y Axis is the scientists and engineers per million people.


Notice that the 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th largest amounts are spent by Asian countries.  And notice that Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Singapore and Finland have the largest number of scientists per capita, but look at the volume of South Korea and the number of scientists…those guys are going to eat the world.

Excuse me; I have to go buy a Samsung phone.

I Have Stopped Longing For Death November 1, 2016

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But that’s just the medication talking.  Here’s a delightful little romance featuring a youngster who longs for death.

Of course, he eventually gets his heart’s desire.

Universal Molecular Diagnostics by Affinity October 10, 2016

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Rice University researchers have invented a technology that could potentially identify hundreds of bacterial pathogens simply, quickly and at low cost using a single set of random DNA probes. Richard Baraniuk, Amirali Aghazadeh and Rebekah Drezek whomped up a batch of five random probes and used them to identify 11 known strains of bacteria, providing a genomic-based test for identity of pathogens.  This is a big deal because usually each species required its own DNA probe.

Their new study includes several computer simulations, including one that shows how a random selection of five probes can identify 40 different strains of bacteria, and another that demonstrates how the system can accurately differentiate between 24 different species of Staphylococcus.

Rather than identifying a target strain based on a 100 percent match with a specific probe, Rice’s system tests how well the target DNA binds with several different random segments of complementary DNA. UMD uses a mathematical technique called compressive sensing, which was pioneered in the field of digital signal processing. With compressive sensing, the disease DNA need not bind with 100 percent of the probes. Instead, the new system measures how well the disease DNA binds with each of the random probes and creates a specific binding profile for the test organism. It then uses deductive reasoning to determine whether that profile matches the profile of any known pathogens.

With larger numbers of probes, it works even better:

No special hardware is required for this approach, other than the tried and true PCR with which we have become familiar over the last twenty years (thank you, Kary Mullis and LSD). The special sauce is the computer code which figures out the relative affinities.  This can be made available everywhere pretty cheaply, versus specialized DNA probes which require expensive facilities and a lot more regulatory testing.

Homework: Universal microbial diagnostics using random DNA probes, Amirali Aghazadeh1,*, Adam Y. Lin1,*, Mona A. Sheikh1,*, Allen L. Chen1, Lisa M. Atkins2, Coreen L. Johnson2, Joseph F. Petrosino2, Rebekah A. Drezek1 and Richard G. Baraniuk1, Science Advances  28 Sep 2016:Vol. 2, no. 9, e1600025 DOI:10.1126/sciadv.1600025

Experimental Design Review—Before Results September 25, 2016

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BMC Psychology has taken a novel (actually, a scorched earth) approach to the problem of irreproducible results in psych studies. Peer reviews of submitted studies will be checked for experimental methods only, until the end of the review process.  The thinking is, reviewers may be unconsciously biased by seeing results they agree with (or disagree with), rather than the value of the methods by which they were derived.

Given that as many as one-third of psych studies in a recent review (of a thousand studies) could not be reproduced, I think this is an excellent first step to cleaning house of cognitive biases.

Sadly, BMC Psychology is not one of the larger players in this field; it may be that this will enhance their prestige.

The Madness of Crowds September 18, 2016

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A thoughtful dissection of crowd psychology is currently running in one of my feeds (ribbonfarm.com), which answers my questions about how persecuted folk end up in cultish groups.  It’s another long-form essay (and uh, book report : ) ), so only go there when you have time.

The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin September 4, 2016

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The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin is another beautiful exploration of the enslavement of talented beings at the hands of merciless monsters, the (frightened) merely human.  The talented beings are oregens, who have the instinctive ability to use the energy of the earth in many often destructive ways. Usually they are killed like witches, but an empire made them slaves instead, to quell earthquakes and volcanoes. Usually successful, oregens nevertheless sometimes failed to keep Father Earth from causing volcanic winters, or Seasons.  This book is about one of them, and how it came about as a direct result of slavery.

It’s a damned good read (or listen, in the case of the link above), filled with pathos and sympathy for the abused and the foolish, and understanding of the wronged. It is thematically nuanced enough that you forget you are reading a polemic against slavery. In this sense it is very similar to N. K. Jemisin’s first book The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (lovingly reviewed by me earlier), which also got a boatload of award nominations (Hugo, Nebula, Tiptree and Sense of Gender). Given her astounding writing it is hardly surprising that The Fifth Season was nominated for Nebula and won the Hugo last year.

This is a trilogy, and you will buy into the main character so thoroughly you will pay for the next two books, so the commitment-phobic among you should probably stay away.

They Are Here Somewhere August 28, 2016

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From reddit.com.

Why Your Life is Not a Journey August 25, 2016

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Snippets from the film “Tree of Life”.  .

Fluke, by Christopher Moore August 1, 2016

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Fluke, by Christpher Moore, is another hilarious tale of a, well, tail, specifically the fluke of a humpback with the words “Bite me” on its fluke. The first person to witness this unusual coloration is Nathan Quinn, a whale biologist with a great fascination with whale song.  He and his terminally cute but too young-for-him research pixie Amy Earhart photograph the whale in the course of research… and the frame of film containing it goes missing.  And his sound recordings.  And his boat. And, finally, him.  He is pursued by his colleague and photographer Clay, Clay’s mean sex-fiend schoolteacher girlfriend Claire, a surfer-Rastafarian hybrid named Kona1 (nee Brad Thompson or something not very Jamaican, Hawaiian or surfish, but more New Jerseyish) and The Old Broad who funds them and who insisted that the whale called her to tell him to bring him a pastrami sandwich.

Much funnier when he tells it, of course; Moore’s signature humor is gentle and mocking  and wry and just silly sometimes. Basically, I would die to be a tenth as funny at any time.  Fluke had me laughing in crowded doctor’s waiting rooms.

Available on Amazon, naturally, but I got mine at sfpl.org.

WARNING: contains some actual science.  Does not detract from the story in the slightest.

1Kona refers to the research pixie as “the snowy biscuit”, for her fair complexion and, well, biscuitness

A Policy Initiative July 24, 2016

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Stuffilike.net has always been devoted to stuff I actually like, from Hello Kitty sex toys and other strange ironies to octopodes and  current technologies I first saw in the original Star Trek show which are now, if not commonplace, at least no longer utterly fictional (still no flying cars, though).

One of the consequences of this relentlessly cheerful editorial policy is the self-limiting nature of the work. Some days I don’t like things very much, and must fight the urge to say so loudly and clearly through the megaphone of the web. For instance, I take no joy in remarking upon electoral politics as the choices available fill me with ennui for more money machine politics at best (Hillary) and World War Three Holocaust at worst (The Donald). And what erudition is to be had there, anyway?  People who think and people who won’t instinctively recognize each other and can’t communicate across the gulf of sentience between them.

I hate shouting across the Grand Canyon–just makes me hoarse.

All this explains (perhaps) why there is little output here.  That and the black depression from the loss of my father, my wife’s father, my job, acquiring pneumonia, acquiring sciatica and a motorcycle racer’s recent suicidal crash into the back of my van have made me less cheerful and unlikely to take delight and inspiration from the beauty in the world around me.

OK, that’s a little bleak.  Here’s a cat picture.


That’s better.  Not sure she is filed correctly, though.

Look, wonderful things have been happening in our world.  Research in mixed graphene substrates have opened up some exciting avenues for development of smaller, faster, more powerful (and less power-consuming) electronics.  Computer controls are cheaper and more sophisticated than ever, and people are starting to do the theoretical heavy lifting about communications security to make the world’s devices more flexible in response, data more analyzable and who knows what kind of benefits neural network analysis thereof will derive? Augmented reality is in a nascent phase, the infrastructure of AR-ware barely beginning to coalesce from a dark void of ignorance to saleable products, when Real Money will push research to actual utility. Powered exoskeletons are already entering clinical trials for muscle-wasting conditions, and soon will be available for grandmothers, too.  The James Webb telescope will soon make Hubble look like a spyglass. And right here in front of me is a box that lets me communicate with anyone in the world, if I’m smart enough to get them to answer. Even if they don’t, so much of the world’s information is now available to me through this box I may not need their answer…if I’m smart enough to get one myself.  And my magic box is smaller than this:


Well, that seems better.  What? Our time is up?

Thank you, doctor.  See you next week, then?

The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi July 17, 2016

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The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi, is one scary piece of fiction featuring all the violence, desperation and hopelessness that any person should ever be exposed to in fiction.  This tale of the possible future (not actually science fiction, I hasten to point out, just speculating on what happens with the logical extension of our attitude towards water, land, money and each other) where the Colorado continues to dry up and states fight for water rights—to the point of excluding US citizens from moving from one state to another (using guns.  Did I mention the guns?) is pure Bacigalupi in its stark descriptions of privation, threats, torture and murder for profit on a large scale.  Very much not safe for children, as there are gruesome depictions of torture, murder and fairly explicit depictions of sex…and foul language.

That said, the characters are detailed and believable, the action scenes are briskly paced, the villains are monsters and a lot of people fall into the gray areas of morality, mostly driven by fear.  Fear is the main character in this book, touching the lives of everyone except the worst monster (no spoilers).

I like and recommend The Water Knife.  It’s gripping, if you can stand the horror of the world Paolo Bacigalupi creates.  More terrible than The Windup Girl for sure, but no less fascinating.

Link above goes to Amazon, but it should be in your local library or borrowable therefrom by inter-library loan (ask your librarian).

The Red, by Linda Nagata July 7, 2016

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The Red, by Linda Nagata held my interest well enough that I also listened to The Trials, the concluding (?) book in this story. Of the two, I think I liked The Red better, since the story arc seemed more complete and satisfying in and of itself.

Lieutenant James Shelley, US Army is part of a Linked Combat Squad which is just what it sounds like: an Army unit with excellent communications in three forms: a radio linkage to each other (GenCom), a video linkage to an overhead drone (an Angel), and a linkage to a handler (Control).  The individual soldier is also equipped with armor and an exoskeleton (either referred to as “armor and bones” or “dead sister”) and an “emotional prosthesis”, a skullcap which keeps mood swings in check.

Nice killing machines, you think? Not so much.  Our hero and his squaddies seem to be nice folks, just regular Joes (and Janes) in a rough business. There’s a bit of backstory for our hero but much less for the other characters, which does keep the narrative as tight as it needs to be, since this is an action tale after all.

This is probably interesting enough setup for several novels-worth of tales, but this particular one deals with a third sci-fi trope that is really interesting.  Shelley is infrequently given to having strong feelings in tactical situations that seem entirely incongruous with known operational parameters—he has hunches, and plays them. 

And they are always right. 

The source of these hunches are the crux of this novel. I must say I found the idea which explains it in the book is the most whimsical possibility I could have imagined, and brings me great delight when I think of it.

Good action, fair character development and a breezy pace (considering) make a good audiobook, competently read.


Exciting update: This is part of a trilogy. Great; now I have to listen to another one.

The Road to Hell July 6, 2016

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“Intentions are now the most widely used technology for creating unintended consequences, having disrupted older technologies like madness and stupidity.”—from a lovely essay by Venkatesh Rao.

Nexus, Crux and Apex, by Ramez Naam July 1, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Star Trek Technology.
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These three novels are among the most interesting science fiction novels I have come across in some time..Lovingly detailed descriptions of the brain-nanoparticle operating system (Nexus) that allow people to hack their own brains, regulating mood, compelling actions and desires and enabling communication mind-to-mind seem plausible (after you swallow the sufficiently-advanced-technology bits) enough to support a tale of personal discovery by the author of the OS as he winds between the US government, Chinese spies, Thai drug lords and showdowns with the US government and a singularity’s intelligence. A good actioner, the story will compel your attention through all three books and make you wish for a different ending to the last one, for sure.

Highly recommended.  The links above go to Amazon, but are available at sfpl.org.