Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at for more up to date info. My main trade is technology strategy, process/project management, and performance optimization consulting, with a focus on enterprise and open source CMS and related technologies. More information. I write periodic long pieces here, shorter stuff goes on twitter or


The Tragedy of the Selfish, again and again.

I kept seeing this pattern emerge, and couldn’t find a good name for it (originally in reference to failures of the free market), so I came up with one. Simply put, The Tragedy of the Selfish is the situation that exists when an individual makes what is logically the best decision to maximize their own position, but the sum effect of everybody making their best decisions is that everybody ends up worse off rather than better.

You buy an SUV, then other people do, because they want to be safer too. Except that if enough people make that same decision, you’ve overall raised the chances that if you’re hit by a car, it’ll be an SUV, which will do much more damage than a smaller car. Everyone is better off if everyone else backs off and drives smaller cars.

You buy a gun because other people have guns. Then other people do, because they want to be safer too. Then… you see where I’m going with this. Perhaps you’ve made yourself safer in some limited way, but you’ve decreased the overall safety of the system.

This is not safety, it’s mutually assured destruction.


Sugar may be toxic, but that NYT article doesn’t demonstrate it.

The NYT magazine ran this article on how sucrose is probably a poison that causes cancer and a whole raft of other ailments.

Unfortunately, the article is so poorly written and presents so little actual evidence that I’m shocked at the number of otherwise rational people who are simply taking it at face value. John Gruber, whose analysis I usually respect, writes “It’s not often that a magazine article inspires me to change my life. This is one.“.

Here are a few specific comments:

  • The article still perpetuates the assumption that high fructose corn syrup is identical to sucrose because they’re both made up of fructose and glucose. Setting aside the obvious difference that a 50% split between fructose and glucose is not the same as 45% glucose and 55% fructose (oh, but right – it’s “nearly” the same), sucrose is a disaccharide and HFCS is a mixture. Sucrose does easily break into glucose and fructose in the presence of sucrase, but the fact that there’s an enzymatic reaction there means that the rate at which it happens can be regulated. Sucrose and HFCS are different things, in much the same way that a cup of water is different from a balloon filled with hydrogen and oxygen, or a pile of bricks is different from a house. Every subsequent opinion in the piece that sugar is bad is doubly applicable to HFCS.
  • The article doesn’t actually cite any concrete evidence to support its hypothesis that sugar is toxic. It doesn’t even cite any sketchy evidence to support its hypothesis. Meanwhile, here’s a bit of recent research that suggests the opposite: “Female mice [getting 25% of their calories from sugars] that had been reared on the unbound simple sugars [(fructose and glucose mixture)] experienced high rates of mortality, beginning 50 to 80 days after entering the enclosure. Their death rate was about triple that of sucrose-treated females”.
  • Lustig’s Youtube presentation on which the article is based is fairly interesting. As far as I can tell, all it does it make the case that fructose is a poison in large quantities, that excessive amounts of sugar are worse for you than excessive amounts of fat, and that juice, soda, and “low-fat” processed crap that substitutes sugar (but primarily in the form of HFCS) for fat are responsible for the obesity and diabetes epidemics. Most of which is completely reasonable, although I think he ignores the sucrase regulation pathway, which is probably the most critical factor. But nowhere does he say that the body can’t metabolize _any_ sugar safely, which is the main thrust of the NYT piece, based on exactly, as far as I can tell, zero evidence. Lustig’s conclusion is exactly what it’s stated as at the beginning of the article: “our excessive consumption of sugar is the primary reason that the numbers of obese and diabetic Americans have skyrocketed in the past 30 years. But his argument implies more than that. If Lustig is right, it would mean that sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them”. It’s a long leap from there to the position that any sugar consumption is bad, which his argument doesn’t actually imply. Drinking a few cups of water a day is good for you. Drinking a few gallons is probably not so good.
  • Here’s an example of the kind of “argument” in the article: ”In animals, or at least in laboratory rats and mice, it’s clear that if the fructose hits the liver in sufficient quantity and with sufficient speed, the liver will convert much of it to fat. This apparently induces a condition known as insulin resistance, which is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity, and the underlying defect in heart disease and in the type of diabetes, type 2, that is common to obese and overweight individuals. It might also be the underlying defect in many cancers.” Of course, it completely ignores that the fructose does not hit the liver in sufficient quantity and with sufficient speed under normal circumstances, and it even flat out includes the counter-hypothesis that the liver is perfectly capable of metabolizing sugar up to a certain point with no detrimental effects.

Excess sugar is clearly bad. I accept that it’s probably even worse than excess fat. I don’t see even a small shred of evidence to accept the logical leap presented in this article that eating a cookie will increase your cancer risk in any meaningful way. Absolutely, we need to study this more. Concluding that sugar is toxic in normal quantities based on the available evidence is ridiculous. Despite the indecision in the article, it’s not hard to define “normal quantities”. I’m the first to agree that the current “sugar in everything” trend in packaged food is bad, and it’s important to check the nutritional labels. HFCS has no business being in bread. The brands you grew up with are not indicators of quality. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if your food has a nutritional label at all, you’re already at a disadvantage.

Eat more whole foods. Stop taking your calories in liquid form. Cooking at home is different. Change your food chain.



Possibly the perfect omelet pan

Filed under: — adam @ 9:13 pm

I’ve long been looking for a good replacement for teflon for making classical french omelets, and I’d pretty much given in to the idea that it needed to be teflon or nothing. Cast iron (enameled or not) gets a nice big hotspot in the middle from the gas flame, and anodized aluminum isn’t non-stick enough. Even teflon is substandard for that, because to do it right, you need to use high heat and a metal fork.

Enter this new item in Cuisinart’s “Green Gourmet” line, a ceramic alternative to teflon for non-stick pans, which is made with no PFOA or PFTE. It’s not too expensive, and has anodized aluminum on the bottom for good heat distribution. I did a Pepin-style omelet with a little butter and a metal fork in it this evening. It has nary a scratch and the omelet came together perfectly. The surface of the pan feels very slick and hard, and the handle is comfortable. Major bonus points for this phrase in the instructions: “Never use Cuisinart Green Gourmet cookware on high heat or food will burn”.

Credit to the estimable Mr. McGee for a) scientifically confirming my assertion that cast iron has terrible distribution properties and b) mentioning some new non-stick coatings I hadn’t heard of (but not the one above, which may or may not be Thermolon, but which seems to be higher quality than the one he covered).


Shifting the Debate

My company (Morningside Analytics) has just launched our Political Video Barometer, which tracks the movement of YouTube videos through conservative and liberal blogs:

The Barometer is updated 4 times a day and allows you to see which new videos are starting to break through within either the conservative or liberal blogs and which ones are breaking through to non-political audiences. We identify influential blogs through a unique cutting edge clustering approach – the underlying technology was also used earlier this year to produce this detailed report on Iran’s blogosphere for the Berkman Center at Harvard.

We are also running a blog at which will examine interesting findings from the barometer.

It’s always fun to launch a new product. We worked very hard on this, and I’m proud of it.



Cool photo roundup


Museum of Natural History:

400+ forms used by the NSA:

London Bananas:

How to make an inkjet print that will last 10000 years:


PS3s used for science

It’s just extraordinary to me what a boon the PS3 is to the scientific community.

“Overall, a single PS3 performs better than the highest-end desktops available and compares to as many as 25 nodes of an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer. And there is still tremendous scope left for extracting more performance through further optimization. More on that soon.”

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Open letter to Apple asking for help improving medical design

Filed under: — adam @ 3:22 pm

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Software radio is here, and it’s open source

Filed under: — adam @ 2:15 pm

I’ve been talking about software radio for a while, and wondering when it would become cheap. Basically, all wireless devices are just radios of different kinds, and there’s no theoretical reason why one device couldn’t talk to them all. Except that it was prohibitively expensive, but apparently it’s not anymore.,70933-0.html

This is very very cool.

The software’s open source, and the hardware is cheap:

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Autonomous robot does heart surgery!

Filed under: — adam @ 9:28 am

Wow, the future is now!

The Italian expert has used the robot surgeon for at least 40 previous operations, some of which have been described in detail in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The novelty of this latest experience is that the robot was able to conduct the entire procedure by itself. In the past it needed specific orders from its operator along the way.

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Au-16 is a golden buckyball-like cage

Filed under: — adam @ 10:46 am

Wow. That’s pretty.

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Towards the zero-energy home

Filed under: — adam @ 10:30 am

A developer in Oklahoma has built a zero-energy home prototype for $200k. It’s a combination of energy efficiency, and photovoltaic and geothermal power production, mostly built with readily available off-the-shelf components. That’s fantastic.

“Ideal Homes built the first zero energy home in the country priced under $200,000. The modest one-story, three-bedroom, two bathroom home produces as much energy as it consumes in a year, achieving net zero energy consumption.”

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Tamiflu goes open source

Filed under: — adam @ 8:49 pm

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Thoughts on questions every high school student should be able to answer

Filed under: — adam @ 4:29 pm

The Star Tribune wrote a fluff piece asking scientists to come up with their (seemingly) most disappointing question that every high schooler should be able to answer. (via Kottke)

MJD (hey, man – what happened to Advocacy?) rightly savages the list:

The analysis is mostly very strong. My only complaint is that he failed to note that evolution doesn’t actually “choose” anything, and saying that it does is just typical “owning the terminology” ID doublespeak.

And what is up with that last paragraph in the article about family life interfering with remembering things you learned in high school?

My choice for this question would probably have been “What is the scientific method?”.

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An Inconvenient Truth

Al Gore has made a movie about global warming, in case you needed some more convincing.

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An important first step towards unmanufacturing

Filed under: — adam @ 11:08 am

Nokia phones are going to use a heat disassembly process that allows them to be broken down into their constituent materials, which can then be separately recycled. It’s not quite unmanufacturing, but it’s the first thing I’ve heard about a step in the right direction.,6771,27610,00.html

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Pigeon smog blog

Filed under: — adam @ 1:42 pm

Scientists at UC Irvine are planning to equip pigeons with small bird-sized backpacks containing pollution detectors, GPS, and wireless data access, so they can post realtime smog data to a blog.

The mind boggles.

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Filed under: — adam @ 6:35 pm

This is the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

It’s a low-cost portable still for purifying water with a pretty ingenious design.

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They’ve finally figured out how bees fly

Filed under: — adam @ 12:31 pm


Stanford scientists directly monitor RNA polymerase (which is way cooler than it sounds)

Filed under: — adam @ 9:59 pm

They’ve perfected a technique to allow, for the first time, protein activity to be directly monitored. They’ve focused on RNA polymerase, and have proposed a mechanical action theory about how RNAP moves up the DNA chain.

The technique is directly applicable to a whole host of other biochemical processes.

That’s just incredibly cool.


USPTO apparently grants patent for warp drive

I don’t remember who originally sent this to me, but I got it a few times. This is apparently a patent for a warp drive.

” A cooled hollow superconductive shield is energized by an electromagnetic field resulting in the quantized vortices of lattice ions projecting a gravitomagnetic field that forms a spacetime curvature anomaly outside the space vehicle. The spacetime curvature imbalance, the spacetime curvature being the same as gravity, provides for the space vehicle’s propulsion. The space vehicle, surrounded by the spacetime anomaly, may move at a speed approaching the light-speed characteristic for the modified locale.”

They’re off their rocker.,960,975.WKU.&OS=PN/6,960,975&RS=PN/6,960,975


MIT students study tinfoil hats

Conclusion: tinfoil hat makes it easier for the gummint to read your brain. It’s a conspiracy!


Preaching to the Esquire

Long article copied shamelessly from Esquire about”Idiot America”.

“Idiot America is a collaborative effort, the result of millions of decisions made and not made. It’s the development of a collective Gut at the expense of a collective mind. It’s what results when politicians make ridiculous statements and not merely do we abandon the right to punish them for it at the polls, but we also become too timid to punish them with ridicule on a daily basis, because the polls say they’re popular anyway. It’s what results when leaders are not held to account for mistakes that end up killing people.”

Via Novitz:


Ribosome simulated

Filed under: — adam @ 8:26 am

This is incredibly cool. A complete working ribosome has been described in a computer simulation.

Via Perry:


James Doohan’s ashes to be flown into space

Filed under: — adam @ 10:10 am

Scotty’s getting his final wish. A CD with messages from fans will join him. Add yours here:


Something bugging you?

Filed under: — adam @ 2:50 pm

Got a bug, and don’t know what it is?

Ask What’s That Bug:


Cool Guinness ad

Filed under: — adam @ 5:23 pm


Temperature-sensitive wall paint

Filed under: — adam @ 4:34 pm

That’s cool. It’s wall paint that changes color with temperature fluctuations.


More on oil shale extraction

Filed under: — adam @ 8:35 am

Obviously, this won’t be an alternative to oil field extraction, and I believe we should move to alternative energy sources as quickly as possible. But infrastructure shifts like that take time, and this may provide a needed buffer to ease the transition.

Some counter comments on the original article are here:


In Situ Conversion is oil extraction from rock

Filed under: — adam @ 10:41 pm

Um. Holy shit.

Shell has come up with a way to extract oil from oil-bearing rock instead of oil fields.

Drill shafts into the oil-bearing rock. Drop heaters down the shaft. Cook the rock until the hydrocarbons boil off, the lightest and most desirable first. Collect them.

Please note, you don’t have to go looking for oil fields when you’re brewing your own.

On one small test plot about 20 feet by 35 feet, on land Shell owns, they started heating the rock in early 2004. “Product” – about one-third natural gas, two-thirds light crude – began to appear in September 2004. They turned the heaters off about a month ago, after harvesting about 1,500 barrels of oil.

While we were trying to do the math, O’Connor told us the answers. Upwards of a million barrels an acre, a billion barrels a square mile. And the oil shale formation in the Green River Basin, most of which is in Colorado, covers more than a thousand square miles – the largest fossil fuel deposits in the world.

And it gets much better than that. Go read the whole article.,1299,DRMN_86_4051709,00.html


Flying Spaghetti Monster: The Game


Self-healing Mice

Filed under: — adam @ 10:26 am

“We have experimented with amputating or damaging several different organs, such as the heart, toes, tail and ears, and just watched them regrow,” she said.

Via my friend jdb:,5744,16417002%255E30417,00.html

Blistering observation of the non-science of Intelligent Design

Filed under: — adam @ 10:06 am


Intelligent Falling

Filed under: — adam @ 11:48 am

The Onion weighs in:

“Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, ‘God’ if you will, is pushing them down,” said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.


David Galbraith’s new theory of unintelligent design

Filed under: — adam @ 12:06 pm

“I have a new theory – Unintelligent Design, which is the same as Intelligent Design, except that the creator is either a moron or Satan.”



What does an ID textbook look like?

Here’s what I don’t get. What would it even mean to teach intelligent design in schools?

Chapter 1: Some things are too complicated to have arisen by evolution, specifically people.
Chapter 2: …..?
(Chapter 3: Profit?)

As far as I can tell, there’s nothing to it. It’s the opposite of science.

“I don’t understand this, so there must be no possible answer”.

It says not just that we don’t know, but that we can’t know, so there’s really no point in trying to figure it out.


Scientists named Steve for evolution

Filed under: — adam @ 9:17 am

Project Steve is a collection of scientists named Steve who support evolution, to demonstrate the stupitidy of compiling lists of scientists who don’t. 580 so far!


Bush endorses Intelligent Design

Bush thinks intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in schools -

“I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,” Bush said. ” You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.”

That is, of course, the usual dodging of the real point. ID is not a theory, it is a vague notion. It is the embodiment of saying “we can’t know, so we’re free to imagine whatever we want”. It is as testable as the flying spaghetti monster “idea”. ID is useless as a scientific concept, because it closes off further investigation.

(I might accept ID as a valid theory if it was accompanied by some attempt to identify, and possibly vanquish, said creator.)

All ideas are not equal. ID should not be taught in schools any more than the “idea” that black people are inferior because they have smaller brains should be.

“Because I say so” is not a valid logical argument.

Why haven’t we put this idiocy to rest yet?

[Update: here's some good dissection of this point.]


Planet ten found. Again.

Filed under: — adam @ 6:39 pm

I stopped watching the X-Files after the third or fourth time they found aliens without remembering the previous times.


Reading and Blogging Britannica

A UC Berkeley student is reading the entire Encylopedia Britannica, and blogging the good bits. It’s healthy to have a hobby.


Environmental impact of mass buckyballs is unknown

Filed under: — adam @ 10:29 am

Apparently, it’s just been discovered that buckyballs are water-soluble and antibacterial.


DNA tagging of criminals on the spot

I can’t wait for the nanobots to start fighting over molecule level tagging. Presumably, the coding of the DNA strands is protected by all sorts of interesting copyright law, too.

Bruce Schenier points out this new technology:

The system, called Sentry, works by fitting a box containing a powder spray above a doorway which, once primed, goes into alert mode if the door is opened.

It then sprays the powder when there is movement in the doorway again.

The aim is to catch a burglar in the act as stolen items are being removed.

The intruder is covered in the bright red powder, which glows under ultraviolet (UV) light and can only be removed with heavy scrubbing.

However, the harmless synthetic DNA contained in the powder sinks into the skin and takes several days, depending on the person’s metabolism, to work its way out.

Flying Spaghetti Monster created the Earth

“Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.”


Rare Tom Lehrer video

Filed under: — adam @ 10:06 pm

I love Tom Lehrer!


Orgy porn is good for (producing) children

“Men who view pornographic images of two men and a woman produce better-quality sperm than men viewing pornographic images of just women, an Australian study reveals.

The finding suggests that humans may be capable of subconsciously increasing semen quality when faced with the possibility that their sperm will have to outrun those of other men in a womans reproductive tract.”

This does not, however, explain hot girl-on-girl action.


Bacterial control without antibiotics

Filed under: — adam @ 9:09 am

Seems like pretty big news.

‘Only recently has it been discovered that the bacteria assembled in biofilms have a network of communication between them called “quorum sensing,” which controls their collective activity (or lack thereof). These sensing signals control the physiology and pathogenicity of the bacteria in the biofilms. A boron-based molecule that is produced by these bacteria, called auto inducer-2, controls the signals in this quorum sensing process.’


Heroin addiction gene identified and blocked in rats

Filed under: — adam @ 10:36 am

“Scientists have not only identified a critical gene involved in heroin addiction relapse, but they have also successfully blocked it, eliminating cravings for the drug.”

That’s huge.

It sounds like it doesn’t block the effects of the drug, only the cravings. I wonder if that means that more people will be inclined to try heroin. Of course, that’s not a good reason not to do it.

Plotting story vs. interactivity in Prince of Persia

Filed under: — adam @ 8:35 am

Interesting article about how as the plot progresses in the first Prince of Persia game (Sands of Time), and your involvement in the story grows, the amount of control you have over the game events also increases (and then ebbs and flows with the story arcs). I liked a lot of things about both this game and the sequel, and I’m very much looking forward to the third. These games are emblematic of a new kind of platforming that’s very immersive, well-designed, easy to navigate, and just a ton of fun all around.

Many spoilers for the game if you haven’t played it:


As if that’s important.

Filed under: — adam @ 7:55 pm

“Researchers Pinpoint Brain’s Sarcasm Sensor”


Super water kills microbes, harmless to humans

Filed under: — adam @ 3:30 pm

“The solution looks, smells and tastes like water, but carries an ion imbalance that makes short work of bacteria, viruses and even hard-to-kill spores.”,1286,67472,00.html?tw=rss.TOP

Blood spinning

Filed under: — adam @ 7:35 am

Apparently, there’s a way to centrifuge your own blood to concentrate its mystical healing powers, and this is illegal according to some sports.


New fuel cell runs on blood

Filed under: — adam @ 9:33 am

Via jwz:


Non-allergenic latex

Filed under: — adam @ 11:35 pm


20% life increase in mice

Filed under: — adam @ 1:34 pm

“His team made mice that produce high levels of catalase in their mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells. They found that cellular damage, as well as age-related damage in the heart, decreased in comparison to control mice that produced catalase in just cytoplasm or
in cell nuclei. The lifespan of the mitochondria-catalase mice was extended by more than five months – an increase of around 20%.”


Time traveler convention at MIT

Filed under: — adam @ 11:06 am


What is it?

Technically, you would only need one time traveler convention. Time travelers from all eras could meet at a specific place at a specific time, and they could make as many repeat visits as they wanted. We are hosting the first and only Time Traveler Convention at MIT in one week, and WE NEED YOUR HELP!


If you need to start a fire by polishing the bottom of a coke can with chocolate, you’re probably not reading this blog right now

Filed under: — adam @ 10:42 pm

But, you never know when this knowledge might come in handy later.

If, perchance, you need this at some point in the future, and it saves your ass, I expect you to take me out for dinner at Lugers.


Realtime physics accelerator

‘A San Jose startup is building a “physics accelerator” for PCs that will contain hardware optimized for calculating realistic simulations of real-world physics — they hope that this will bridge the gap between general-purpose PCs and the specialized game-graphics cards in consoles.’

Also, as they point out, it will be very useful for realtime weapons calculations, and I’m sure there have to be porn applications as well.


UNH paper on the mechanics of widescale biodiesel production

Filed under: — adam @ 8:52 am

“In the United States, oil is primarily used for transportation – roughly two-thirds of all oil use, in fact. So, developing an alternative means of powering our cars, trucks, and buses would go a long way towards weaning us, and the world, off of oil. While the so-called “hydrogen economy” receives a lot of attention in the media, there are several very serious problems with using hydrogen as an automotive fuel. For automobiles, the best alternative at present is clearly biodiesel, a fuel that can be used in existing diesel engines with no changes, and is made from vegetable oils or animal fats rather than petroleum.

In this paper, I will first examine the possibilities of producing biodiesel on the scale necessary to replace all petroleum transportation fuels in the U.S.”

The history of breast augmentation

Filed under: — adam @ 8:42 am

As told through patent illustrations:


Blue light may replace your toothbrush

Filed under: — adam @ 1:49 pm


Bee population being wiped out by vampire mites

Filed under: — adam @ 7:28 pm


T-rex excavated with soft tissue intact

Filed under: — adam @ 4:41 pm


Evidence that cells may be able to restore from ancestral genetic backups

Filed under: — adam @ 11:55 am


A study was was published this week in Nature that “suggests that plants, and perhaps other organisms including humans, might possess a back-up mechanism that can bypass unhealthy sequences from their parents and revert to the healthier genetic code possessed by their grandparents or great-grandparents.”


13 things in science that make no sense

Filed under: — adam @ 12:29 pm


Astronaut’s dirty laundry

Filed under: — adam @ 2:21 pm

In space, no one can hear you clean.

Interesting story about what astronauts do with their laundry:


Double Happiness

Ancient Chinese bronze dildos.


Prion-inactivating detergent

Filed under: — adam @ 10:01 pm

For cleaning surgical instruments potentially contaminated with vCJD and other prions.


Oh, by the way – yeah, humans cause global warming

Filed under: — adam @ 9:40 pm

“It found that natural variation in the Earth’s climate, or changes in solar activity or volcanic eruptions, which have been suggested as alternative explanations for rising temperatures, could not explain the data collected in the real world. Models based on man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, however, matched the observations almost precisely.”,,3-1489955,00.html


Life on Mars?!?

Filed under: — adam @ 7:15 pm

Apparently, NASA scientists are claiming that they have “found strong evidence that life may exist today on Mars, hidden away in caves and sustained by pockets of water.”

Remember the Eggs?

Filed under: — adam @ 11:37 am

Shortly after 9/11, I sent around a story about a team of scientists with a series of random number generators that they claimed went crazy a few hours before the planes hit.

Turns out they predicted that something big was going to happen 24 hours before the tsunami hit too.


First implantable male contraceptive

Filed under: — adam @ 12:13 am

“Several clinical trials on rats, primates and humans have shown that the IVD effectively stops the flow of sperm, said Pollock, who’s from Vancouver.

Normal sperm flow would resume after the device is removed, he said, compared to reversing a vasectomy, which lowers the chance of pregnancy to about 60 per cent. ”

So… it blocks sperm… which then goes where?


Da Vinci’s hidden lab discovered

Filed under: — adam @ 7:29 pm

Sodium-in-water explosions

Filed under: — adam @ 12:50 pm

I love sodium. It’s a great chemistry demo. (Warning: The movies load very slowly.)


Rats can tell different languages apart

Filed under: — adam @ 1:26 am

Hey, good news! The rat brain plane can be used for international flights.



Filed under: — adam @ 2:53 pm

Circadiana is a new blog about sleep and the impact that technology has had on our sleep patterns. Interesting! (Via boingboing.)


The Future of Concrete

Filed under: — adam @ 1:25 pm

Via boingboing, a nice article about various improvements that have been made to concrete recently.


Physics of BMX

Filed under: — adam @ 1:09 pm

Physicist uses computer models to predict the limits of BMX tricks, then arranges a road show to demonstrate them and get people interested in physics, as part of “Einstein Year”.


‘The stunt was created by Cambridge physicist Helen Czerski in collaboration with professional BMX rider Ben Wallace. Ms Czerski claims the stunt is “pushing the boundaries of what it is humanly possible to do on a bike”.

Mr Wallace, 18, a competitor in extreme sports events around the world, will launch off a 1.8m (6ft) high ramp and spin backwards through 360 degrees while simultaneously folding his bike underneath him in a move known to BMX devotees as a ‘tabletop’.

At one point, onlookers should see him upside down, travelling at 15mph, with his head almost 4m off the floor.’,3604,1383137,00.html


Extreme Public Monitoring

Interesting post from Cringely, about what it might take to make a grassroots tsunami early warning system.

Obviously, the Government approach is The Cathedral:

“We can’t rely on governments to do this kind of work anymore. They just take too darned long and spend too much money for what you get. Besides, since governments are almost totally reactive, what they’ll build is a warning system for precisely the tsunami we just had — a tsunami bigger than any in that region since the eruption of Krakatoa eruption of 1883. One could argue (and some experts probably will) that it might even be a waste of money to build a warning system for a disaster that might not happen for another 121 years.”

The Extreme in the title of this post is a reference to Extreme Programming (XP), a very interesting and sometimes blindingly effective development methodology based around collaboration, communication, the philosophy of as-little-documentation-as-needed-but-no-less, and frequent testing and rebuilding of small, modular, pluggable pieces. It was designed to accomodate frequently changing requirements in a highly dynamic environment. One of the aims of XP is to be able to walk away from the project at any given release (typically spaced two weeks apart), and still have a working system, even if it doesn’t meet all of the feature requirements. This is exactly what’s needed here – get something up and running quickly, and build on it over time.

Rings made out of your own bone (not that bone).

Filed under: — adam @ 1:30 pm

Biojewelry is a UK company that makes custom jewelry out of cultured bone. Specifically, wedding rings made from the bone of the opposite partner. It’s not clear if this is currently being done, or if this is just a concept.


Very high frame rate cameras

Filed under: — adam @ 1:38 pm

This describes a very (multi-thousand) frame per second camera array made out of cheap 30 fps CMOS cameras, with some software on the backend to synchronize the frames. Theoretically, I’d assume that they could just keep adding cameras to the limit of being able to tell what order the frames go in.


Stem cell research without all the “babykilling”

Filed under: — adam @ 11:33 am

Sleeping less may make you fat

Filed under: — adam @ 1:01 am

“People who habitually slept for 5 hours were found to have 15% more ghrelin than those who slept for 8 hours. They were also found to have 15% less leptin. These hormonal changes may cause increased feelings of hunger, leading to a foraging in the fridge for food.”


Non-realistic photos

Filed under: — adam @ 11:19 am

This describes a new technique for taking non-realistic photos with a digital camera and multiple flash exposures. This is very cool – the images look like detailed illustrations, but they accurately capture the actual full contours of the object. This has pretty serious applications in technical illustration and medical imaging, among other things.


New HIV vaccine shows promise in isolated trial

Filed under: — adam @ 7:37 pm

"After getting three under-the-skin injections of the tailor-made vaccine, the amount of HIV in the patients’ blood (called the viral load) dropped by 80%. After a year, eight of the 18 patients still had a 90% drop in HIV levels. All patients’ T-cell counts stopped dropping."


Apparently, boiling a lava lamp is not a good idea

Filed under: — adam @ 4:36 pm

Ummm… duh.


Stem cell transplant success claimed in S. Korea

Filed under: — adam @ 5:15 pm

"South Korean researchers say they’ve used stem cell therapy to enable a paralyzed patient to walk after she was not even able to stand for the last 19 years."


Rabies survival without vaccine

Filed under: — adam @ 12:51 pm

"A Wisconsin teenager is the first human ever to survive rabies without vaccination, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday, after she received a desperate and novel type of therapy."

Dawkins’s FAQ

Filed under: — adam @ 12:48 pm

I’m a big fan of Richard Dawkins. Evolutionary theory is very widely misunderstood, and I didn’t really grok it until I read The Selfish Gene. I highly recommend it.

These are the questions he gets asked frequently:


Panasonic ultralight vehicle runs on two AA batteries

Filed under: — adam @ 11:52 am

Seems like more of a gimmick, but still pretty cool.

“Weighing 18.5kg, OxyRide can drive for 1.23km with a 50kg passenger, or travel 65m in 74 seconds on fresh cells, claims Panasonic.

Developed to promote the firm’s AA Digital Xtreme Power (DXP) disposable camera batteries, the cells use a modified alkaline chemistry, with nickel hydroxide and other undisclosed ‘active elements’ added to the standard manganese dioxide electrode.”


I hereby decree today to be Mendeleev Day

Filed under: — adam @ 2:06 am

I was just reminded that Dimitri Mendeleev was simply one clever bastard.

I’m open to suggestions on appropriate celebrations.


Some more textbook stickers

Filed under: — adam @ 10:42 am


Today’s laugh comes from Eric Dietiker

Filed under: — adam @ 11:53 pm

I don’t know if the letters make it onto the Wired site, but my print copy arrived this morning, and this rebuttal to Intelligent Design made me laugh:

"I’m designed intelligently? As far as I can see, I was designed by an idiot. My parts are neither interchangeable nor replaceable. I could use a new ankle right now, and almost everything I do injures my
back. Some of my internal organs are useless, and can even kill me. My risk-calculation engine is useless. I am afraid to eat beef, but have no problem catapulting myself down tree-lined roads on my motorcycle. My judgment is so bad I can be convinced to send my life savings to a complete stranger with just one phone call.

The final stake in the heart of ID is that there are people we might
otherwise consider intelligent who, in the face of all this, maintain
we are functioning as intended."

Solar chimney seems like a good idea

Filed under: — adam @ 10:48 am

" It works using the solar chimney to cover a large greenhouse which covers several square miles. As the hot air rises, it would escape up a 990m tower in the centre of the structure. Wind turbo-generators mounted in the chimney would convert this 50km-an-hour rush of hot air into electricity."

California’s getting one.

Everybody needs more floodlights

Filed under: — adam @ 10:41 am

But these are LEDs. 22 watts to get twice the light output of a 100 watt incandescent bulb. They’re more expensive, but they last 50,000 hours. Also, they’re available in warm, neutral, and cool, which is a godsend if you actually care about whether your light is well-balanced or not.

I firmly believe that Edison’s lightbulb is pretty much done for as a technology. It had a good run, but it’s over. I was in the LL Bean outlet store over the summer, and every flashlight there had a regular bulb – they’ve been completely displaced by LEDs in the regular store.


How to tell if your prostitute is an extraterrestrial

Filed under: — adam @ 10:46 am

I mean, consider the source, but this seems like helpful advice, if
you’re into that sort of thing.


Artificial homes for hermit crabs

Filed under: — adam @ 10:34 am

"Right now, 30 percent of all hermit crabs on our shorelines are living in shells that are too small for them. In the springtime, when the animal has its growth spurt, this shortage skyrockets to 60 percent. Hermit crabs, whose own bodies provide only thin exoskeletons, must scavenge and appropriate hard-walled shells abandoned by marine gastropods for shelter. The problem is that there currently are not enough shells left on our beaches for hermit crabs to use. This situation is not only uncomfortable but dire."


So much for peak oil

Filed under: — adam @ 12:27 am

“Researchers at Luca Technologies have made a discovery regarding natural gas production in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin that could lead to a renewable source of energy for generations to come.

The company today announced that laboratory evidence shows that the Powder River Basin (PRB) coals are generating natural gas in real time through the ongoing activity of anaerobic microbes (bacteria that live in the absence of oxygen) resident in those coal fields.”


Is it always snowing?

Filed under: — adam @ 1:02 pm

At any given minute, is it always snowing somewhere on Earth, or are there times when there is no snow falling anywhere on the planet?

Does this answer differ with the time of year?


CJR article on the dynamics between the standards of journalism and science

Filed under: — adam @ 11:39 am

‘[...] After all, the journalistic norm of balance has no corollary in the world of science. On the contrary, scientific theories and interpretations survive or perish depending upon whether they’re published in highly competitive journals that practice strict quality control, whether the results upon which they’re based can be replicated by other scientists, and ultimately whether they win over scientific peers. When consensus builds, it is based on repeated testing and retesting of an idea.

Journalists face a number of pressures that can prevent them from accurately depicting competing scientific claims in terms of their
credibility within the scientific community as a whole. First, reporters must often deal with editors who reflexively cry out for “balance.” Meanwhile, determining how much weight to give different sides in a scientific debate requires considerable expertise on the issue at hand. Few journalists have real scientific knowledge, and even beat reporters who know a great deal about certain scientific issues may know little about other ones they’re suddenly asked to cover.’

CJR November/December 2004: Blinded by Science


Filed under: — adam @ 11:16 am

Via Anne:

Nah, there’s no such thing as global warming

Filed under: — adam @ 10:03 am


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