The Big Think

July 1, 2014

No crankshaft, no problem

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 12:09 pm

Toyota’s free piston engine is brilliant

Great video at the link.

June 29, 2014

Strange Bedfellows

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 2:59 pm

Heh:

EFF, Greenpeace Fly Blimp Over NSA’s Utah Datacenter; Launch Campaign To Stop Illegal Internet Spying | Techdirt: “Earlier this week, EFF’s Parker Higgins noted that he was about to head on a secretive ‘adventure to Utah’ — and now it’s come out that he was actually there to fly a blimp over the NSA’s infamous datacenter in Bluffdale, Utah. You know the one. It’s received plenty of attention over the past few years, as it was designed to store a ton of electronic data that the NSA previously didn’t have room for. Either way, EFF and Greenpeace teamed up to launch a new campaign called Stand Against Spying, and took to the skies in the blimp to get it some attention.”

June 26, 2014

Media Loves Big Government

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:58 pm

Media Loves Big Government: “When I began consumer reporting, I assumed advertisers would censor me, since sponsors who paid my bosses wouldn’t want criticism. But never in 30 years was a story killed because of advertiser pressure. Not once. (I hear that’s changed since, and big advertisers, such as car dealers, do persuade news directors to kill stories.)

‘I do a lot of reporting on corporate interests and so on, so there’s pressure from that end,’ says Attkisson, but ‘there’s a competing pressure on the ideological end.’ Right. Ideology affects more stories than ‘corporate interests.’

My ABC bosses leaned left. They liked stories about weird external threats from which government can swoop in to rescue you. 

They are much less fond of complex stories in which problems are solved subtly by the dynamism of the free market. The invisible hand, after all, is invisible. It works its magic in a million places and makes adjustments every minute. That’s hard for reporters to see—especially when they’re not looking for it.

Often, when it comes to news that happens slowly, the media get it utterly wrong. I suspect we get it wrong now about things like global warming, genetically modified foods, almost any story related to science or statistics, or, heck, basic math. Math threatens many reporters.”

A peak behind the media curtain.

June 12, 2014

All Our Patent Are Belong To You

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 1:58 pm

Talk about putting your money where your mouth is. Way to go, Elon Musk. Wow.

All Our Patent Are Belong To You | Blog | Tesla Motors: “Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.

Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”

June 10, 2014

Lyrical Thermostat

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 8:45 am

Pretty neat idea, though letting your thermostat know when you’re gone seems like a good avenue to hackers (of course, they could always, I dunno.. look at your driveway to see if the cars are there).

Honeywell’s Lyric brings geolocation to smart thermostats:

“The Lyric thermostat assumes that if your smartphone is at your house, so are you. You can register your family’s phones with the app, and it’ll use the geofencing features in iOS and Android to tell when everybody’s left for the day. Once you get within a few miles of your house, the thermostat springs back to life, heating or cooling your house so it’s at your preferred temperature (or at least getting there) as you stroll through the door.

The Fine Tune feature is pretty smart too. You know how sometimes the weather forecast has two temperatures: the real air temperature, and whatever it actually ‘feels’ like, adjusted for the wind chill or the heat index? The Lyric is programmed to make those same adjustments inside your house. Fine Tune factors not just the indoor temperature, but also what it’s like outside, and the humidity (the Lyric houses its own humidity sensor), so it can make adjustments like running your system’s fans more or bumping the temperature up or down a degree.”

June 9, 2014

Turing, Complete

Filed under: Computing,Humor and Fun — jasony @ 2:41 pm

Eugene—the supercomputer, not 13-year-old—first to beat the Turing Test: “”

Pretty cool milestone, actually. I, for one, welcome our computer overlords.

June 6, 2014

Color Me Shocked

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 4:52 pm

Report: Freed Taliban Commander Vows To Return To War Against US:

“The deepest concerns of critics of President Obama’s decision to release five Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl may be coming to fruition.

One of the commanders, Noorullah Noori, has plans to return to Afghanistan to resume fighting against the U.S., according to NBC News which spoke to another Taliban commander.

‘After arriving in Qatar, Noorullah Noori kept insisting he would go to Afghanistan and fight American forces there,’ the commander told NBC News.”

Who could have seen this coming?

June 5, 2014

More Media

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:14 pm

A potential candidate putting pressure on a media outlet.

Washington Free Beacon: “Some of Hillary Clinton’s closest aides blasted the New York Times for what they said was unfair coverage of the former first lady during a recent secret meeting with the paper’s Washington bureau, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

Sources said the meeting included Clinton advisers Philippe Reines and Huma Abedin, as well as Times Washington bureau chief Carolyn Ryan and national political reporter Amy Chozick, who has been on the Clinton beat for the paper.

During the closed-door gathering, Clinton aides reportedly griped about the paper’s coverage of the potential 2016 candidate, arguing that Clinton has left public office and not be subjected to harsh scrutiny, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

Neither the Times nor the Clinton camp would discuss on the record specifics. However, sources familiar with the meeting describe it as an attempt to brush back and even intimidate the staff of the Times. The sometimes fraught relationship between Clinton and the press has been well documented.”

Hypothetical reverse: the presumptive 2016 Republican candidate held a closed-door meeting with the New York Times to complain that the paper had treated him/her too harshly.

What would the proper response be?

Fix the media and you fix the country.

June 4, 2014

When You’ve Lost The Atlantic, You’ve Lost Middle America

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:30 am

President Obama’s Prisoner Swap Weakened the Rule of Law:

“‘If the president truly believed that the bill was unconstitutional, he had a duty to veto the bill pursuant to his oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. President Obama didn’t veto the bill, and instead made it the law of the land. Having done so, he cannot now complain that the law he is ultimately responsible for is unconstitutional and doesn’t need to be followed… A country where the laws apply to the people but not to the president, even when the laws are specifically directed towards the executive branch, is not governed by the rule of law.’ “

June 3, 2014

A Modest Proposal

Filed under: Politics,Technology — jasony @ 12:59 pm

Let’s Charge Politicians for Wasting Our Time – Bloomberg View: “You should be able to set a charge for calling you. Every number that isn’t on your ‘free’ list would automatically be assessed a fee. The phone company would get a percentage of the revenue, and you’d be able to adjust the fee to different levels at different times of the day or for different seasons. (The nearer the election, the higher I’d make my charge.) If candidates really think it’s valuable to call me, they should be willing to pay. Otherwise, they’re just forcing me to subsidize their political efforts with my time and attention.”

Our home phone is going crazy, to the point that we pretty much just ignore it and use it for outgoing calls only.

June 1, 2014

From the I-can’t-believe-they-said-it department

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 12:23 pm

Property tax appraisals here in Austin came through a few weeks ago and the increases were intense. We personally know people who had annual property tax increases of $8000. On top of what they were already paying.

The front page of the Austin American Statesman’s above-the-fold article contains the following quote:

“Its not because I don’t like paying taxes”, said Gardner, who attended both [tax complaint] meetings. “I have voted for every park, every library, all the school improvements, for light rail, for anything that will make this city better. But now I can’t afford to live here any more.”

Apparently said without the slightest awareness of irony.

May 31, 2014

Up, Up, and Away

Filed under: Space — jasony @ 10:34 pm

Virgin Galactic Is Getting Cleared For Takeoff From Spaceport America – Forbes:

“This week, Virgin Galactic announced that it has signed an agreement with the FAA that begins the process of getting its commercial space flights cleared for takeoff.

Specifically, the deal will lay out how the FAA will coordinate with Spaceport America, the commercial spaceport in New Mexico where Virgin will launch its suborbital flights. The spaceport will work in conjunction with the FAA’s Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center to ensure clear airspace for the flights.

‘Our team is working hard to begin routine and affordable space launches from Spaceport America and this agreement brings us another step closer to that goal,’ Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in a statement. ‘We are grateful to the FAA and New Mexico for their partnership to achieve this milestone.’

The company hopes to launch its first flight by the end of 2014, and the company’s founder Richard Branson plans to be on that flight. But there are still quite a few steps it needs to take to get there. For one, the company still needs to obtain a license from the FAA to operate commercial flights.”

What’s The Best Grocery Store Coffee?

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 11:06 am

Wherein pretentious baristas look down their noses at people who can’t afford a $6 cup of flavored water:

What’s The Best Grocery Store Coffee?:

“Aromas: Wet dog, burning
Flavors: Fish oil, despair
‘What death tastes like.’”

the staff remarked that the roastery smelled like a sewer lit on fire

You had me at “wet dog”.

(I will admit to actually liking an occasional $6 cup of flavored water, though)

Quoth

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:54 am

A blast from the past, for accountability’s sake:

Ezra Klein – Does The Government Run Health Care Better?:

“If you crudely ordered America’s different health-care systems from least government control to most, it would look something like this: individual insurance market, employer-based insurance market, Medicare, Veterans Health Administration (Medicare is single-payer, but VA is actually socialized medicine, where the government owns the hospitals and employs the doctors).

If you ordered America’s different health systems worst-functioning to best, it would look like this: individual insurance market, employer-based insurance market, Medicare, Veterans Health Administration.

That symmetry should get more attention in the health-care discussion than it does.”

Yes, and this quote should get more attention that it does, especially in light of recent VA events.

May 29, 2014

Should You Follow Your Passion?

Filed under: Business — jasony @ 4:50 pm

An alternative view.

Should You Follow Your Passion? Points and Figures: “My boss, who had been a commercial lender for over 30 years, said that the best loan customer is someone who has no passion whatsoever, just a desire to work hard at something that looks good on a spreadsheet. Maybe the loan customer wants to start a dry-cleaning store or invest in a fast-food franchise—boring stuff. That’s the person you bet on. You want the grinder, not the guy who loves his job.”

Fourth Estate

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:46 pm

Jorge Ramos: Reporters ‘Cozy with Power,’ Act Like They’re in a Club | Mediaite:

“‘You turn on the TV, and you see very bland interviews. Journalists in the United States are very cozy with power, very close to those in power. They laugh with them. They go to the [White House] correspondents’ dinner with them. They have lunch together. They marry each other. They’re way too close to each other. I think as journalists we have to keep our distance from power.’
‘I’m not seeing tough questions asked on American television,’ he added later. ‘I’m not seeing those correspondents that would question those in power. It’s like a club. We are not asking the tough questions.’

Ramos has been critical of Republicans who haven’t prioritized immigration reform and Democrats like President Obama who have yet to deliver on their promises. And Ramos’ hard-hitting interview with Rahm Emanuel earned him praise from Matt Drudge as ‘the last journalist standing.’”

Well good. It’s refreshing to see someone on the inside who is finally speaking up to the fact that all the pressure seems to be rather, er. uniderectional.

The issue of administration officials being married to those who need to hold them accountable seems like a legitimate complaint that isn’t getting enough airtime. Hard to hold someone’s feet to the fire in a confrontational way if you have to go home to the same person at night. That just seems like common sense.

May 27, 2014

There Safe and Then There’s Straightjacket-Safe

Filed under: Space — jasony @ 2:21 pm

Safety First? It’s Time for a Fresh Look at the Risks of Spaceflight – NBC News.com:

“‘The exploration and development of space is a national priority. Therefore, NASA’s first priority must be mission success in the critical steps toward reaching this goal. Consistent with this priority NASA shall strive at all times to achieve a level of safety comparable to that enjoyed by other critical national programs in extreme environments, such as deep-ocean and polar activities.’”

May 23, 2014

Don’t Look Down

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 9:32 pm

Photos That Will Make Your Stomach Drop: “”

Suspended Animation Goes Primetime

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 4:55 pm

Suspended Animation Goes Primetime: Say Goodbye To Death As We Know It – Forbes:

“As of March 29, 2014, a team of surgeons trained in this saline-cooling procedure is on emergency call at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In this field trial of the technique, patients who arrive at the hospital after having suffered cardiac arrest after traumatic injury (i.e. gunshots) and do not respond to attempts to restart their heart will be cooled with saline  to about 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit). Their cellular activity will stop. They will be ‘clinically dead.’ But—if doctors can repair the trauma in roughly two hours—they are still capable of being revived.

In itself, this is amazing. This is two hours of suspended animation—which  has been the stuff of sci-fi for almost a century. Today it’s scientific fact.

But where things get really interesting is what happens tomorrow. As the technology progresses, it is not too much of a stretch to say those two hours of suspended animation will give way to four hours and eight hours and sooner or later whole days and weeks and months—in other words, we’ll have mastered artificial hibernation.”

Hit Me

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Science — jasony @ 3:25 pm

The Science of Bruce Lee’s One-Inch Punch:

“By the time the one-inch punch has made contact with its target, Lee has combined the power of some of the biggest muscles in his body into a tiny area of force. But while the one-inch punch is built upon the explosive power of multiple muscles, Rose insists that Bruce Lee’s muscles are actually not the most important engine behind the blow.

‘Muscle fibers do not dictate coordination,’ Rose says, ‘and coordination and timing are essential factors behind movements like this one-inch punch.’

Because the punch happens over such a short amount of time, Lee has to synchronize each segment of the jab—his twisting hip, extending knees, and thrusting shoulder, elbow, and wrist—with incredible accuracy. Furthermore, each joint in Lee’s body has a single moment of peak acceleration, and to get maximum juice out of the move, Lee must layer his movements so that each period of peak acceleration follows the last one instantly.

So coordination is key. And that’s where the neuroscience comes in.”

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