Stuff I Found

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Biff Song

In case you were ever wondering what Biff from Back to the Future is up to these days...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ferris Beuller's house for sale

Actually it's Cameron's house... but wow, that's nice house. I wouldn't be fond of cleaning all that glass though. And doesn't look like there are any shades. According to the post:

The stunning Ben Rose Home, which was Cameron's house in the movie, is now available for sale.

The property includes two buildings. One of them was used as a garage/car museum in real life and in the movie. The home has four bedrooms and four full baths, with beautiful forest views. Total size: 5300 square feet.

... all for a bit over $2 million. I'll have to pass.

By the way, did you know Matthew Broderick was 23 when he played the high school, and the guy who played Cameron was 29? Or so I heard.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Dog bowl starts fire

According to this article:

Investigators of a house fire in Bellevue, Wash., last week are suggesting an elevated 11-inch wide glass bowl of water magnified the sun’s rays onto a wood deck, sparking a blaze that caused more than $200,000 worth of damage.

So don't give your dog glass bowls on sunny days!

Reminds me of the fire that started in my house due to concentrated light rays...

Ok, not really a fire, but could've been! Maybe...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Death and social networks

According to this article:

... once Facebook finds out that a user has died, that person’s profile is automatically memorialized. What this means is that for thirty days, sensitive information (status updates and contact information, for example) is taken off the page, the profile can only be looked at by friends (the friend list is also locked), and people are able to post messages and photos on the person’s Wall.

Hmmm... interesting... I look forward to my profile being memorialized... sometime in the 2200's I hope. I've often wondered what would happen to all this online stuff I create, all my profiles spread around the net, after I die. Will they last forever, permanently ingrained on some servers somewhere? Or will future generations just delete them? It's strange because right now we're among the first generations that are aging with the Internet, aging with the opportunity to use Facebook and Twitter and blogs for decades into our lives. In 100 or 200 or 300 years from now, will our info still be around somewhere?

It's also strange because right now, if we want to study the 1700's, say, we have a limited amount of historical resources. We might still have a lot, but compared to all the information that will be digitally saved through these current decades, historians in 2300 will have way too much information. They will go crazy and be mentally ill. Oh well. Serves 'em right.

Or... what if some natural disaster happens and most of our digital files are erased?! Bum bum bum ... !!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dalai Lama donates $100,000

According to the article:

A higher power is trying to save the religion department at Florida International University.

The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan holy leader, has pledged $100,000 to help save the University's program, one of three at FIU which is slated to close.

Well, no wonder he's always so happy if he has that kind of money to donate!

Mixing Wikipedia and Flickr and YouTube

According to this TechCrunch article:

Launched in public beta today, Navify intends to enrich Wikipedia by adding pictures, videos and user comments to each article. And it actually works pretty well. Look up “Sony Rolly” using Navify and you not only get the original Wikipedia text but also hundreds of related pictures and videos (pulled in from Flickr and YouTube) by clicking on the tabs Navify puts on top of each article.

Sounds good to me! Unfortunately the service is not working at the time I am blogging this... I guess because it's so darn popular?

Defying physics to win world record

According to this article, a Japanese man, Toda, has set a new world record for the longest flight of a paper airplane: 27.9 seconds! To break the record, Toda employed the use of a new idea in physics...

"I had thought that the world record was impossible to break, but the key to breaking the record is how high you fly it," Mr Toda told The Daily Telegraph.

Woah!! Can you believe it? Turns out the higher something is, the longer it takes to fall! Wow, what an insight, it's almost hard to believe...

Toda next plans to raise the world record from 27.9 seconds to infinity seconds by launching the paper airplane so high up that it will be in outerspace and will orbit our planet forever, like the moon.

Toda also recently discovered that paper airplanes that are set on the ground will not fly at all. "It's because they have no place to fall," he probably said, "they are too low, they need to have distance between them and the ground to fall. Counterintuitive, yes, but it's true."

Amazing stuff.

Useless math

This sign contains some rather useless trivia, don't you think?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Forget forgetfulness to improve memory

According to this article:

Scientists interested in the effects of stereotype on memory enlisted 103 seniors between 60- and 82-years-old to take a memory test. Before the test, some subjects were told that the test checked the effects of age on memory. Researchers call this a threat—it reminds participants of the stereotype.


The other group was told that the test controlled for biases. This could make them feel more secure.


The results: participants who got reminded of their age and the old age, poor memory stereotype did significantly worse.

Who woulda thunk attitude and self-expectations would have an effect on testing?!

While I think this property of human psychology is already known, it can also be easy to forget. This is why it can be dangerous for parents and teachers to negatively comment on their children's intellects; they can easily have a negative impact on their children's confidence.

Then again, parents and teachers who always say how great you are to the point of obviously not being honest, or who say how great to could be if you just tried harder, can have a negative impact too. It can be like parents and teachers hoping to encourage students by giving them a certain self-image to uphold in their mind.

Then again, for some students, that works. Some students enjoy going the extra mile to get that teacher and parental attention. It works for the same reason discouraging remarks can effect self-esteem; there's some natural part of everyone that cares about what everyone else thinks. When you become conscious of it, it becomes a mental balancing act trying to determine just how much to care about what other people think of you. People who don't care completely might never bathe and be committed to mental institutions. People who care too much make themselves miserable because they can never force others to love them, and depending on others makes them weak, takes away their ability to do anything without some sort of external approval.

When I was in college, I heard of this dancer (ballet... yuck... I'm not a ballet fan) who was supposedly very very good. She was so good that... I don't know, I just heard she was really good. And she quit dancing. Because she didn't want to do it anymore. And the teachers (according to one of my teachers) were all upset, and tried to encourage her to stay dancing. And I think a lot of people get all that positive feedback from something they're doing that they'll keep doing it even if they don't really like it, because they know if they did what they really wanted to do they might just get disappointed faces, or a lack of support, or whatever. People can easily get locked in to the images they think other people have of them. "This person thinks I'm smart; I need to uphold that image by doing such and such, even though I hate it..." Well, sorry, you're not that smart then.

Okay, I went off on a big tangent there... :-P But they're kind of related, sort of, maybe, a bit, in a way...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Making stupid decisions

Here's a great TED talk from Dan Ariely about how much we really control our decisions. Psychology is a huge factor in economic decision making, one that is often ignored. This is a pretty fascinating area of study.

In this video, he just touches on the surface of some great insights that are in his book, Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, a book I read a few months ago and highly recommend. Awesome, interesting stuff. :-)

(Well, actually I didn't read that expanded version yet, but I hope to eventually... I only read the original.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why e-books are ugly

According to this article (blog post, or whatever it is):

After spending a weekend with the Sony e-book reader, I found that the convenience of having so many books in a single, lightweight, slim device had me hooked, and its screen offers nearly print-like readability. But after about four hours of flipping through blocks of grey text I found myself feeling strangely melancholic. It couldn’t have been the lack of sunshine. Moving from one book to another, while easy, didn’t help: I was still staring at the same font, the same gray background and the same basic layout.

I had stumbled onto the reason why design and fonts are so important in publishing, says Mark Simonson, an independent typeface designer.

“Different typefaces are like like having different actors in play or different voices in an audio book,” Simonson says. “The variations in typeface influence the personality of the book. Sticking to one font is much like having the same actor play all the different parts.”

It’s why creative directors at publishing houses try so hard to make one book feel different from another, says Henry Sene Yee, creative director for publishing house Picador.

This is a great point, one that I didn't make in my blog post Why e-books stink. Maybe the effect of a certain font is a bit subconscious, but it's there. If all the books in the world had the same font and size and style and layout, I doubt we'd like it very much! Even our online blogs have a variety of fonts and layouts; default templates get extremely boring. Unique layouts and designs give the text "personality" ...

So allow different fonts and layouts, e-readers! (Maybe some already do?)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Animals vs Humans

Check out this picture.

While it may seem pretty interesting, some of it isn't exactly true. That apes can learn sign-language signals doesn't mean they understand language. That some animals react to themselves in the mirror doesn't mean they are self-aware. That monkeys seem to "play" doesn't mean they have a sense of humor. A lot of unscientific assumptions here! I suggest reading the book Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique by Michael S. Gazzaniga.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Man avoids bathing for 35 years

According to the article:

An Indian man who fathered seven daughters has not washed for 35 years in an apparent attempt to ensure his next child is a boy, newspapers reported.


"A seer once told Kalau that if he does not take a bath, he would be blessed with a male child," a man called Madhusudan told the paper.

Of course, in reality, he now can't have any children at all.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

13,000 to put their genomes online

According to this article:

The Personal Genome Project has signed up 13,000 volunteers who will donate genetic material for the benefit of gene research worldwide. Information about the genetic material will also be posted online.

Medical info on diseases on stuff... yeah, that's great. Actually, I'd be a bit more interested in the study of the correlation between personalities and interests and people's DNA. Of course, interests are extremely influenced by environments (siblings may share 50% DNA, but tend to want to be "individuals" in there interests), but I still think it would be interesting to see. Then you could set up an online dating service based on compatible DNAs. "Wow, that's a nice sequence you have!"

Of course, then we get into the whole sci-fi "DNA discrimination" issue... go watch the movie Gattaca.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Biodiversity caused by galaxy?

According to this article:

Normally, our galaxy's magnetic field shields our solar system from this "galactic wind." But every 64 million years, the solar system's cyclical travels take it above the galactic plane.

"When we emerge out of the disk, we have less protection, so we become exposed to many more cosmic rays," Melott has said.

The boost in cosmic-ray exposure may have a direct effect on Earth's organisms, according to paleontologist Bruce Lieberman. The radiation would lead to higher rates of genetic mutations in organisms or interfere with their ability to repair DNA damage. In this way, the process could lead to new species while killing off others.

Wild idea . . . so wild, it just might work . . .

Does that mean we can accelerate human evolution by radiating ourselves the proper amount, even though we'd have to kill some of ourselves in the process?

Are humans technically even really "evolving" right now anyway?

Which movie looks better?

I just can't decide which movie looks better... ??


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

YouTube will be profitable

According to this article, the CEO of Google is certain that YouTube will one day be profitable.

Schmidt, who is currently the focus of the Federal Trade Commission over his role on the boards of both Apple and Google, would not comment directly on suggestions that YouTube was going to lose $400 million (£265m).

However, the internet and advertising giant's CEO insisted that Google could turn YouTube into a key asset.

"What we said is we believe YouTube will eventually be a successful and a profitable business and it will take some time to do it."

I'm surprised it isn't profitable now considering the traffic it gets; I thought it was.

If they're hoping to make money by streaming films and currently-running shows like Hulu is doing, they're going to have to change their formatting. Seeing stupid comments right below a video and seeing "related videos" on the side doesn't go with videos you plan to be streaming for a half hour or more, though it's a fine format for short videos. And of course they're going to have to work out a good deal with content providers; the films they have available right now look pretty stupid.

Or maybe Google should just buy Hulu. Hulu, in my opinion, is the top site for streaming professional TV content. I wonder if they're making any money?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mental math linked to eye motion

According to this article:

When people performed addition, they triggered the same patterns of brain activity that light up when they looked right. When they did subtraction, the left-looking brain patterns activated.

Scientist suggest it might be because the areas in the brain we use for math were once used to processing visual spacial information.

So all those people who close their eyes when doing math must be stupid.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New pattern found in prime numbers

According to the article:

In a recent study, Bartolo Luque and Lucas Lacasa of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid in Spain have discovered a new pattern in primes that has surprisingly gone unnoticed until now. They found that the distribution of the leading digit in the prime number sequence can be described by a generalization of Benford’s law.

At first the article title excited me, but this new "discovery" doesn't mean much to me.

There is a pattern to the primes, and I know what it is, but I don't know how to express it in an equation, so I've never been able to do much with my brilliant knowledge. (And it's non-recursive... a recursive function is cheating!)