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Update…But Not Today.

Rdng is Fndmtl.



“[W]hat Spritz does differently (and brilliantly) is manipulate the format of the words to more appropriately line them up with the eye’s natural motion of reading. The ‘Optimal Recognition Point’ (ORP) is slightly left of the center of each word, and is the precise point at which our brain deciphers each jumble of letters. The unique aspect of Spritz is that it identifies the ORP of each word, makes that letter red and presents all of the ORPs at the same space on the screen. In this way, our eyes don’t move at all as we see the words, and we can therefore process information instantaneously rather than spend time decoding each word.”

Whoa…I’ve read about kung-fu. An intriguing new app aims to turn everyone into speed readers. “Spritz is about to go public with Samsung’s new line of wearable technology.”

Fools and Their Money.

“What Nigerian scams are to your grandfather, Bitcoin exchanges are to the 20-30 semi-tech-savvy libertarian demographic. Even if the Bitcoin protocol were perfect, and it isn’t, our computing infrastructure is not up to the task of handling high-value transactions…While the underlying cryptocurrency is quite interesting and the wallet software is fairly good, the [Bitcoin] exchanges are based on layers upon layers of bad software, run by shady characters.”

Making the rounds today: Cornell professor Emin Gün Sirer gives his take on Bitcoin and what happened with Mt. Gox, the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange, where over $400 million recently disappeared. “Human history is full of people who were entrusted with valuables, who then absconded with them…Chances are that this is a simple case of theft, involving at least one insider.”

Also note the conclusion: “If one must pick a cryptocurrency, the lowly dogecoin, of all things, is doing everything right. It’s based on economic principles that provide the right incentives for a healthy economy. The community does not take itself seriously. Most importantly, no one pretends that Doge is an investment vehicle, a slayer of Wall Street, or the next Segway. No one would be stupid enough to store their life savings in Dogecoins. And people freely share the shiba goodness by tipping others with Doge. So, young people who are excited about cryptocurrencies and want to get involved: Dogecoin is where the action is at. Much community. So wow.”

Step Aside, Human.

“It is an invisible force that goes by many names. Computerization. Automation. Artificial intelligence. Technology. Innovation. And, everyone’s favorite, ROBOTS. Whatever name you prefer, some form of it has been stoking progress and killing jobs — from seamstresses to paralegals — for centuries. But this time is different: Nearly half of American jobs today could be automated in ‘a decade or two,’ according to a new paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, discussed recently in The Economist. The question is: Which half?”

A Prelude to WALL-E: In The Atlantic, Derek Thompson looks at the coming robotic takeover of the job market, whereby 47% of jobs could soon be automated. I for one welcome our new robot overlords — all the more reason why we need to start rethinking a social contract founded primarily on having full-time, two-income employment. We’re entering a new phase of human existence — we’d best start preparing for it. (Bionic man image via here.)

River of Song.

“The Music Timeline shows genres of music waxing and waning, based on how many Google Play Music users have an artist or album in their music library, and other data (such as album release dates). Each stripe on the graph represents a genre; the thickness of the stripe tells you roughly the popularity of music released in a given year in that genre.” Some click-bait fun for a slow day: Google Research’s Music Timeline.

Make it Better Do It Faster.

“Before now, the record for storing quantum data at room temperature was two seconds. One. Two. Done. But researchers in Canada announced they’ve now hit 39 minutes. That’s right — they’ve raised the bar from 2 seconds to 39 minutes…The advance clears a major hurdle in developing powerful new supercomputers and has outside experts excited about the not-so-distant future of the field.”

(Our work is never over.) In more promising future-tech news, scientists figure out a way to store quantum data for much longer than ever before. “Though surviving for 39 minutes may not sound like very long, it only requires one-hundred-thousandth of a second to perform an operation on a single qubit. So theoretically, over 20 million operations could be performed before the qubits’ data decayed by 1 percent.”

The Wheel of Pain…for Dogs.

“The Turnspit Dog, 1500-1900 – A dog specifically bred to run on a small wheel in order to turn meat so it would cook evenly. This took both courage, to stand near the fire, and loyalty, to not to eat the roast. Due to the strenuous nature of the work, a pair of dogs would often work in shifts. This most likely led to the proverb ‘every dog has his day.'”

Time to raise Berk’s retirement age? By way of the re-designed Quiddity, which has tons of intriguing posts up at the moment, a curious history of dog-powered engines. “The last illustration displays a very unique, but now extinct, dog called the Turnspit…bred in Britain for hundreds of years to help with cooking and is the original ‘working dog.'”

“You’ve Only Made 0 Friends.”

Sometimes your computer, cellphone, and whatnot just don’t know how to let you down easy: Screenshots of Despair, the Tumblr.

A Better Cloaking Device.

“Whilst previous cloaking studies have used metamaterials to divert, or bend, the incoming waves around an object, this new method, which the researchers dub ‘mantle cloaking’, uses an ultrathin metallic metascreen to cancel out the waves as they are scattered off the cloaked object.”

Physicists get ever closer to a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak with a new, less-bulky metascreen that scatters nano-particles. “Moving forward, one of the key challenges for the researchers will be to use ‘mantle cloaking’ to hide an object from visible light.”

The Other Space Program.

‘The mission is ongoing,’ Air Force Maj. Eric Badger, a spokesman for the X-37B program, told SPACE.com. ‘As with previous missions, the actual duration will depend on test objectives, on-orbit vehicle performance and conditions at the landing facility.'” From the the bottom of the ocean to low-earth orbit: The Air Force’s classified X-37B space drone enters its third month in space. “The X-37B looks a bit like a miniature space shuttle. The vehicle is 29 feet (8.8 meters) long and 15 feet (4.5 m) wide, with a payload bay about the size of a pickup truck bed.”

Well, at least one branch of our government is well-funded enough to take on these sorts of projects, I guess. Too bad the research is classified and likely highly iffy. Consider, similarly, the two “other” Hubbles found lying around in a Pentagon warehouse last year. “[S]top and think about this for a moment. The Department of Defense has the kind of funding needed — hundred of millions to billions of dollars, presumably — to build not one, but two, Hubble-like optical telescopes and then never use them.”

Run Silent, Run Deep.

“This is the driving idea behind DARPA’s Upward Falling Payloads (UFP) program, which seeks to create technologies that would allow the Navy to leave unmanned systems and other distributed technologies hidden in the ocean depths for years on end and deploy them remotely at the push of a button when the need arises. Think: unmanned aircraft that travel to the surface and launch into the sky to provide reconnaissance or to disrupt or spoof enemy defenses, or perhaps submersible or surface sub-hunters that launch from the seafloor during times of heightened alert in a particular maritime theater.”

You know what the world really needs? A system of dormant underwater drones, which apparently DARPA is hard at work on. If you want to use this type of tech to explore the oceans of Europa or Titan, fine. For the Taiwan Strait? Sounds like a terrible idea. SKYNET aside, glitches happen.

The Blogosphere’s Baby Pics.

They shut down the factory in 2009, but old Geocities home page find a (brief) new life at the One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age Photo Op tumblr, dedicated to researching the Geocities days of the web. The Ghost’s old Geocities days are still captured here. There was also a time before then when my personal site was crufted over with embedded MIDIs and other embarrassing late-90’s artifacts. I’m sure it’s somewhere in the Wayback Machine.

Aperture Science.

“With a portal at each university, students can stand in front of a vertical 50-inch high-definition monitor and communicate with the help of a webcam, microphone, speakers and a computer running a video communication service. A backlit booth will house the portal.” Look at them still talking when there’s science to do — Now Duke and UNC are playing with portals. (I just hope the Duke side is red.)

HAL’s acting squirrely.

“Deception is not something that comes very naturally to today’s artificial intelligence programs. For most robots, it’s hard enough to navigate the world the way it is without introducing fantasies about the way it’s not into the equation. So to help robots get the hang of misleading others, the team has turned to the squirrel, or ‘forest liar,’ to give robots the tools they need to learn the subtle arts of deception.”

It can only be attributable to human error: Also in the “This will end badly someday” department, programmers at Georgia Tech teach robots how to lie. No way this will cause problems. Wait, just a moment…just a moment…I’ve just picked up a fault in the AE35 unit. It’s going to go a hundred percent failure within seventy-two hours.

Secrets of the Supercut.


“Many supercuts provide hard evidence of the existence of tropes long suspected but never quite proved: imperiled characters fretting that they have no cellphone signal; high-tech investigators asking their imaging software to “enhance“; action movie toughs girding for battle by announcing, “We’ve got company.” But what motivates the supercutter to slog through hours of footage to compile these minute observations? And what distinguishes the masters of the form?

In Slate, old friend Seth Stevenson surveys the practice and methodology of supercuts. At the very least it’s both funny and instructive to see how many times, to take the example of ST:TNG, Worf gets denied and bad things happen to Geordi.

Going Up, Sir?

If we are to use the death of the old generation of explorers to spur on a revival in the idea for this generation, let’s also learn from their mistakes. Don’t follow a paradigm which results in 0.0000003 per cent of the planet making it out of orbit; create a new one, which lets this massive achievement change the lives of many, rather than a lucky (or foolhardy) few.

In the wake of Neil Armstrong’s passing, The New Statesman‘s Alex Hern makes the case for moving in the direction of a space elevator. The political argument aside, serious forays into space are clearly hindered by the prohibitive costs of leaving orbit more than anything else. If we are going to get serious about this, a space elevator is a technology that’s worth looking into. Right now, only Japan is on the case.

The Ruin of Many a Poor Bit.


Speaking of SKYNET, witness here some very old-school technology deriving a binary understanding of the blues: “House of the Rising Sun,” covered by various oscilloscopes. Shades of Sam and Max‘s C.O.P.S. (Computer Obsolescence Prevention Society.)

The Man in the Iron Mask.

As seen in the comments of this strange story, writer, inventor, and science-fiction pioneer Hugo Gernsback shows off The Isolator, a Spaceballs-like contraption designed to allow someone to read and write in peace, in the July 1925 issue of Science and Invention. What could possibly go wrong?

International Ballet Machines.


Ballet pointe shoes are not typically thought of as technological artifacts, but they certainly are…Dancers on this pointe regimen developed characteristically long, lean leg muscles. Balanchine also encouraged dancers to let the shoes remake their bodies, including developing bunions that gave the foot just the right line.Speaking of shoes and from the Atlantic, a new paper examines pointe shoes within the history of technology. “[I]n 1980 dancers threatened to strike — not over hours or pay, but for better pointe shoes, and better management of them.

For the Long Haul.


Look back 100 years. If you could have had James Clerk Maxwell and Guglielmo Marconi and Albert Einstein sit around a lunch table in the early 1900s, they would have had all the math necessary to create an iPhone. But there’s nothing that they could have done to characterize the integrated circuits, the satellites, the communication links or the Internet, to draw a plan that would have led them to an iPhone until Apple introduced it 100 years later. That’s how I see where we are with this.

From the folks who brought you the Internet, DARPA announces the 100-Year Starship Study, offering $500,000 in seed money to whomever comes up with the best plan for developing the technology needed for interstellar travel. “To stimulate discussion on the research possibilities, DARPA officials will hold a symposium that brings together astrophysicists, engineers and even sci-fi writers so they can brainstorm what it would take to make this starship enterprise a success.

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