Friday, April 29, 2005

Buy Crispin Glover's Fecal Matter

When I put "cultural detritus" in my profile I had no idea how gleefully right on it would be. And then I found Celebrity Skin. You can buy Mike Tyson's fecal matter, Conor Oberst's skin cells, and "bacteria" (what the hell?) from Vince Neil and DON RICKLES!!! Oh, and don't forget Norman Mailor's urine is only $15. Now you know what to get me for Xmas. Even though it's surely a joke (since the cart function doesn't work) it is my new favorite e-comm site.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Hardcore Ants

Trap-building ants torture prey

A fierce species of Amazonian ant has been seen building elaborate traps on which hapless prey are stretched like medieval torture victims, before being slowly hacked to pieces.

Lesson: Do not fuck with ants in the Amazon.

Babelfish for the Eyes

I saw a link to this site from Gizmodo. Using site where you upload photos and provide a little basic metadata so that they can be searched--as a basis, some guy(s) calling themselves Flickr Hack had the idea that you could access the image database using your phone and use the search function to call up images for common words. That way when you are in Paris or Bangkok or wherever with your world phone you would have your own handy universal translator if you get into a bind. Want some dog food? Search dog food and you get pictures of dogs eating their food. Nice!

The obvious limitation lies in the metadata--because it is user generated--not really matching with the content. Searching "mango" gives you pictures of some cheesy looking club. But don't let me pointing out the limitations fool you, I think these guys are on to something...

Flickr Hacks' Visual Dictionary/Universal Translator

Friday, April 22, 2005

Get Ready to End up on the Planet of the Apes

Mice put in 'suspended animation'

Mice have been placed in a state of near suspended animation, raising the possibility that hibernation could one day be induced in humans.

If so, it might be possible to put astronauts into hibernation-like states for long-haul space flights - as often depicted in science fiction films.

In this case, suspended animation means the reversible cessation of all visible life processes in an organism.

Read the whole article here.

Cannibal Gets A Second Chance be sentenced to even more time.

Who knew that you could even do that? Note to self, keep perverted desires to one's self. They are grounds for retrial.

Cannibal Faces Retrial on Murder Charge

BERLIN (Reuters) - A top German court ordered a cannibal to be retried Friday, saying his manslaughter conviction for killing and eating a willing victim was too lenient.

"The conviction only for manslaughter and not for murder does not stand up to legal review," the Federal Court of Justice said in a statement, upholding an appeal by prosecutors.

Armin Meiwes, 43, was sentenced to eight and a half years in January 2004 after a gory case that both fascinated and repulsed Germany and the world.

Meiwes admitted to killing a Berlin computer specialist, Bernd-Juergen B, he met via the Internet, but was spared a murder conviction as the victim had asked to be eaten in a startling case of sexual fetishism.

Prosecutors believed Meiwes should have been convicted of murder as he had killed to satisfy perverted desires. Meiwes' lawyer urged the lesser "killing on request," a form of illegal euthanasia that carries a maximum five year sentence.

All you need to know about cannibalism from CourtTV.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Oh, Onion, How I Love Thee

Fifth-Grade Science Paper Doesn't Hold Up to Peer Review

DECATUR, IL—A three-member panel of 10-year-old Michael Nogroski's fellow classmates at Nathaniel Macon Elementary School unanimously agreed Tuesday that his 327-word essay "Otters" did not meet the requirements for peer approval.

Nogroski presented his results before the entire fifth-grade science community Monday, in partial fulfillment of his seventh-period research project. According to the review panel, which convened in the lunchroom Tuesday, "Otters" was fundamentally flawed by Nogroski's failure to identify a significant research gap.

"When Mike said, 'Otters,' I almost puked," said 11-year-old peer examiner Lacey Swain, taking the lettuce out of her sandwich. "Why would you want to spend a whole page talking about otters?"

"It's probably only the dumbest topic in the history of the entire world," 10-year-old Duane LaMott added.

Members of the three-person panel had many concerns about Nogroski's work, foremost among them their belief that the fifth-grader did not substantiate his thesis. Two panel members even suggested that Nogroski's thesis was erroneous.

"Otters are not interesting!" 10-year-old peer examiner Jonathan Glass said.

"Otters are so boring, I fell asleep for a thousand years and woke up with a long beard covered in ice," LaMott said. "I had to defrost myself."
Fifth-Grade Science Paper Doesn't Stand Up To Peer Review

According to the examiners, Nogroski's second paragraph, which begins "Otters live in water," should have been followed by a description of the sea otter's natural habitat, rather than by a description of the world's largest full-grown otter and speculation as to what an otter that size could do to a sea lion.

"An otter could not kill a sea lion!" LaMott said. "I don't care how big it is—sea lions have gigantic claws."

"Nuh-uh," Swain said.

"Yes, sea lions do have gigantic claws," LaMott said. "If you don't believe me, look it up. Sea lions have very long claws. They would tear an otter to shreds in, like, two seconds. Seriously."

Panel members said Nogroski's work contained an alarming number of invalidated claims and irrelevant findings. They were particularly disconcerted by the figures in Nogroski's third paragraph, which begins "How do otters survive? Here are some facts about that."

"He didn't even say how they survive," Glass said. "He was just like, 'Otters are about one to 1.2 meters long. Otters' whiskers are about three inches long.'"

"I know!" Swain said. "It's like, 'Hey Mike, how do sea otters survive?' 'Dur. I'm Mike. Sea otters survive by being one meter long.'"

"Hey Mike," LaMott added. "What do sea otters eat? 'Dur, I'm Mike. Sea otters have whiskers that are three inches long. Also, I don't bathe and my jacket is acid-washed.'"

"His mom drives a Honda," Glass added.

The paper was criticized for failing to evince adequate literature review, failing to adhere to the pass-around style guidelines, and for being presented in "a chicken voice you could barely even hear because his teeth are so yellow."

"It's like, God, how hard is it?" Swain said. "You say what you are going to say, then you say it, then you say what you said. Mrs. Murchinson only explained it, like, a thousand times!"
Nogroski in the school library, where he will revisit his research.
Above: Nogroski in the school library, where he will revisit his research.

"His breath was so bad I can still smell it on my clothes," LaMott added.

"All he eats is bread and butter," Swain added. "Hello? That's disgusting."

While a work that does not gain peer approval often goes on to receive wider acceptance in the academic community, "Otters" has little hope of gaining approval from Nogroski's teacher Stella Murchinson.

"Oh, well, he tries," Murchinson said. "Michael comes from a single-parent household. From what I gather, his father is something of a—something of a—I don't exactly know—he drives railroads? He isn't exactly in the picture. I've spoken to his mother several times, and while she is well-meaning, she is busy and often harried, having spent the night before tending bar. She's a cocktail waitress. Well, from what I can gather, Michael isn't coming from the most stable home environment, and his work reflects that, I'm afraid. He isn't exactly reading at his level."

Although Nogroski's student aide, fourth-grader Samir Sriskandiraja, has encouraged him to resubmit a different paper on a peer-friendly topic like football or airplanes, Nogroski said he will revisit his research and present additional otters-related data Thursday.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Highschool Kids' Robot Kicks M.I.T.'s Ass

Somewhere a screenwriter is hatching a pitch that goes, "It's like Meatballs meets Revenge of the Nerds meets the Bad News Bears...or maybe it's just being randomly generated on a studio computer.

Four high school kids from western Phoenix and an underwater robot named Stinky beat out the nation's brightest students (including a team from M.I.T) in the 2004 Marine Advanced Technology Education Center Remotely Operated Vehicle Competition. It's a boost to their college hopes, which had been far from a sure thing due to financial disadvantages.

NPR story here.

Original Wired story here.

Today's Secret Sect Paranoia Website

I love the paranoid. They keep me going.

"Some acts of corporal mortification may be helpful in checking the desires of the flesh, such as fasting. However, in Opus Dei, especially for the numerary (celibate) members, all of the practices mentioned below are mandatory if one wishes to live the "Spirit of Opus Dei" fully. The "Spirit of Opus Dei" is the standard of living, as outlined by the Opus Dei directors, for which all truly dedicated Opus Dei members strive. Under the umbrella of the "Spirit of Opus Dei" hide many of the abuses in Opus Dei. The subtle control to conform to the norm is typical in groups which practice mind control; members are "guilted" into conforming, feeling that they must in order to follow "God's will" as it is outlined by the controlling group."

Friday, April 15, 2005

Robot Say, "Ah"

Robot that mimics speech:

The purpose of this research is to clarify a human vocal mechanism from engineering viewpoints by reproducing the vocal movement using a talking robot, and to create the dynamic model. This model will lead to the production of cellular phones that can compress data by transmitting human vocal movement instead of human voices. Furthermore, the model will lead to developing medical training devices for vocally challenged people and learning devices for foreign languages.

Check it:

It's in Japanese, so don't feel bad if you don't understand robospeak.

Thanks to carbongeek

Traveling on a Lightbeam

Optical computer made from frozen light

April 12, 2005

Scientists learn to process information with 'frozen light'

Scientists at Harvard University have shown how ultra-cold atoms can be used to freeze and control light to form the "core" – or central processing unit – of an optical computer. Optical computers would transport information ten times faster than traditional electronic devices, smashing the intrinsic speed limit of silicon technology.

This new research could be a major breakthrough in the quest to create super-fast computers that use light instead of electrons to process information. Professor Lene Hau is one of the world's foremost authorities on "slow light". Her research group became famous for slowing down light, which normally travels at 186,000 miles per second, to less than the speed of a bicycle.

Using the same apparatus, which contains a cloud of ultra-cold sodium atoms, they have even managed to freeze light altogether. Professor Hau says this could have applications in memory storage for a future generation of optical computers.

But Professor Hau's most recent research addresses the issue of optical computers head-on. She has calculated that ultra-cold atoms known as Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) can be used to perform "controlled coherent processing" with light. In ordinary matter, the amplitude and phase of a light pulse would be smeared out, and any information content would be destroyed. Hau's work on slow light, however, has proved experimentally that these attributes can be preserved in a BEC. Such a device might one day become the CPU of an optical computer.

Traditional electronic computers are advancing ever closer to their theoretical limits for size and speed. Some scientists believe that optical computing will one day unleash a new revolution in smaller and faster computers.

Professor Lene Hau is Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics & Professor of Physics at Harvard University.


Software Generates Scholarly Paper

Scientific Conference Falls for Gibberish Prank

By Greg Frost

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Reuters) - A bunch of computer-generated gibberish masquerading as an academic paper has been accepted at a scientific conference in a victory for pranksters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jeremy Stribling said on Thursday that he and two fellow MIT graduate students questioned the standards of some academic conferences, so they wrote a computer program to generate research papers complete with nonsensical text, charts and diagrams.

The trio submitted two of the randomly assembled papers to the World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI), scheduled to be held July 10-13 in Orlando, Florida.

To their surprise, one of the papers -- "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy" -- was accepted for presentation.

The prank recalled a 1996 hoax in which New York University physicist Alan Sokal succeeded in getting an entire paper with a mix of truths, falsehoods, non sequiturs and otherwise meaningless mumbo-jumbo published in the journal Social Text.

Stribling said he and his colleagues only learned about the Social Text affair after submitting their paper.

"Rooter" features such mind-bending gems as: "the model for our heuristic consists of four independent components: simulated annealing, active networks, flexible modalities, and the study of reinforcement learning" and "We implemented our scatter/gather I/O server in Simula-67, augmented with opportunistically pipelined extensions."

Stribling said the trio targeted WMSCI because it is notorious within the field of computer science for sending copious e-mails that solicit admissions to the conference.

"We were tired of the spam," Stribling told Reuters in a telephone interview, adding that his team wanted to challenge the standards of the conference's peer review process.

Nagib Callaos, a conference organizer, said the paper was one of a small number accepted on a "non-reviewed" basis -- meaning that reviewers had not yet given their feedback by the acceptance deadline.

"We thought that it might be unfair to refuse a paper that was not refused by any of its three selected reviewers," Callaos wrote in an e-mail. "The author of a non-reviewed paper has complete responsibility of the content of their paper."

However, Callaos said conference organizers were reviewing their acceptance procedures in light of the hoax. Asked whether he would disinvite the MIT students, he replied: "Bogus papers should not be included in the conference program."

Stribling said conference organizers had not yet formally rescinded their invitation to present the paper.

The students were soliciting cash donations so they could attend the conference and give what Stribling billed as a "randomly generated talk." So far, they have raised more than $2,000 over the Internet.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Wired News Mea Culpa

No Teeth in Toothing Craze

Dozens of news organizations, including Wired News, have been duped by pranksters claiming to be practitioners of "toothing" -- anonymous sexual encounters organized through Bluetooth devices.

Last year, in a story headlined Brits Going at It Tooth and Nail, Wired News reported that strangers in Britain were meeting up on commuter trains and other public places for clandestine sexual encounters. The liaisons were supposedly organized through messages broadcast via Bluetooth phones and handhelds.

However, one of those involved now says the story was an elaborate hoax. After first creating an online forum, the pranksters persuaded friends to fill the site with scores of salacious, but fictitious, stories.

It was from the contributors to this forum that Wired News found and interviewed -– by e-mail –- the subjects of the story.

The forum's internet service provider shortly took the site down for violating terms of service regarding sexual content.

From BBC Online

'Geek speak' confuses net users

Cartoon depicting the confusion over tech jargon
Terms like "phishing" only confuse people

The average home computer user is bamboozled by technology jargon which is used to warn people about the most serious security threats online.

Many are often left vulnerable because they have no idea what they are supposed to be protecting themselves against, a survey for AOL UK has found.

Confusing "geek speak" used by experts and media included "phishing", "rogue dialler", "Trojan" and "spyware".

Eighty-four percent did not know that phishing describes faked e-mail scams.

The most common phishing scam is one used to con people into handing over bank account details online.

A quarter said they knew what "spyware" was, although almost one in 10 of those thought it was a computer program that kept an eye on unfaithful partners.

"Some of the terms being bandied around are more suitable for a computer programmers' convention than for people who want to go online at home, " said Will Smith, AOL's net security expert.

"If internet users can't understand the language used to describe these risks, they are going to find it hard to protect themselves from being ripped off."

It is particuarly important that people know what threats there are to security online, and how they can easily protect themselves, as more people get high-speed net connections.

"Keylogging" is a particular threat that hit the headlines recently.

Computer criminals, who unsuccessfully attempted to steal money from Sumitomo Mitsui bank last month, used keylogging to record every key pressed on the bank's computers to get at sensitive passwords and other data.

Horse in my PC?

The "Do you speak geek?" report found that 83% people were worried about personal information getting into the wrong hands.

Yet, only 39% knew what a "Trojan" was when asked.

A Trojan is a malicious piece of software which installs itself on a person's computer without their knowledge.

One of the most common net security threats, it hides in the background and can trigger programs to run that steal personal information or details stored on that computer, for instance.

A surprising 16% had never heard of the term "spam" to describe unsolicited e-mail, even though 76% were worried about junk e-mails.

Twenty percent admitted they did not know what to do to protect themselves generally online.