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February 19 2014

November 29 2013

Four short links: 29 November 2013

  1. Huaqiang Bei Map for Makers — excellent resource for visitors to an iconic huge electronics market in Shenzhen. (via Bunnie Huang)
  2. A 16th Century Dutchman Can Tell us Everything We Need to Know about GMO PatentsThere’s nothing wrong with this division of labor, except that it means that fewer people are tinkering. We’ve centralized the responsibility for agricultural innovation among a few engineers, even fewer investors, and just a handful of corporations. (and check out the historical story—it’s GREAT)
  3. Polymath Projects — massively multiplayer mathematical proving ground. Let the “how many mathematicians does it take” jokes commence. (via Slashdot)
  4. Stats on Dying TV — like a Mary Meeker preso, accumulation of evidence that TV screens and cable subscriptions are dying and mobile-consumed media are taking its place.

November 11 2013

Four short links: 11 November 2013

  1. Living Light — 3D printed cephalopods filled with bioluminescent bacteria. PAGING CORY DOCTOROW, YOUR ORGASMATRON HAS ARRIVED. (via Sci Blogs)
  2. Repacking Lego Batteries with a CNC Mill — check out the video. Patrick programmed a CNC machine to drill out the rivets holding the Mindstorms battery pack together. Coding away a repetitive task like this is gorgeous to see at every scale. We don’t have to teach our kids a particular programming language, but they should know how to automate cruft.
  3. My Thoughts on Google+ (YouTube) — when your fans make hatey videos like this one protesting Google putting the pig of Google Plus onto the lipstick that was YouTube, you are Doin’ It Wrong.
  4. Presto: Interacting with Petabytes of Data at Facebooka distributed SQL query engine optimized for ad-hoc analysis at interactive speed. It supports standard ANSI SQL, including complex queries, aggregations, joins, and window functions. For details, see the Facebook post about its launch.

August 23 2013

Four short links: 23 August 2013

  1. Bradley Manning and the Two Americas (Quinn Norton) — The first America built the Internet, but the second America moved onto it. And they both think they own the place now. The best explanation you’ll find for wtf is going on.
  2. Staggering Cost of Inventing New Drugs (Forbes) — $5BB to develop a new drug; and subject to an inverse-Moore’s law: A 2012 article in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery says the number of drugs invented per billion dollars of R&D invested has been cut in half every nine years for half a century.
  3. Who’s Watching You — (Tim Bray) threat modelling. Everyone should know this.
  4. Data Mining with Weka — learn data mining with the popular open source Weka platform.

July 29 2013

June 26 2013

Four short links: 26 June 2013

  1. Memory Allocation in Brains (PDF) — The results reviewed here suggest that there are competitive mechanisms that affect memory allocation. For example, new dentate gyrus neurons, amygdala cells with higher excitability, and synapses near previously potentiated synapses seem to have the competitive edge over other cells and synapses and thus affect memory allocation with time scales of weeks, hours, and minutes. Are all memory allocation mechanisms competitive, or are there mechanisms of memory allocation that do not involve competition? Even though it is difficult to resolve this question at the current time, it is important to note that most mechanisms of memory allocation in computers do not involve competition. Does the dissector use a slab allocator? Tip your waiter, try the veal.
  2. Living Foundries (DARPA) — one motivating, widespread and currently intractable problem is that of corrosion/materials degradation. The DoD must operate in all environments, including some of the most corrosively aggressive on Earth, and do so with increasingly complex heterogeneous materials systems. This multifaceted and ubiquitous problem costs the DoD approximately $23 Billion per year. The ability to truly program and engineer biology, would enable the capability to design and engineer systems to rapidly and dynamically prevent, seek out, identify and repair corrosion/materials degradation. (via Motley Fool)
  3. Innovate Salone — finalists from a Sierra Leone maker/innovation contest. Part of David Sengeh‘s excellent work.
  4. Arts, Humanities, and Complex Networks — ebook series, conferences, talks, on network analysis in the humanities. Everything from Protestant letter networks in the reign of Mary, to the repertory of 16th century polyphony, to a data-driven update to Alfred Barr’s diagram of cubism and abstract art (original here).

June 24 2013

Four short links: 24 June 2013

  1. Reading Runes in Animal Movement (YouTube) — accessible TEDxRiverTawe 2013 talk by Professor Rory Wilson, on his work tracking movements of animals in time and space. The value comes from high-resolution time series data: many samples/second, very granular.
  2. Best Science Writing Online 2012 (Amazon) — edited collection of the best blog posts on science from 2012. Some very good science writing happening online.
  3. Designing Effective Multimedia for Physics Education (PDF) — Derek Muller’s PhD thesis, summarised as “mythbusting beats lectures, hands down”. See also his TED@Sydney talk.
  4. Melomics — royalty-free computer-generated music, all genres, for sale (genius business model). Academic spinoff from Dr. Francisco J. Vico’s work at UMA in Spain.

May 21 2013

Four short links: 21 May 2013

  1. Hyperinflation in Diablo 3 — interesting discussion about how video games regulate currency availability, and how Diablo 3 appears to have messed up. several weeks after the game’s debut a source claimed that there were at least 1,000 bots active 24/7 in the Diablo 3 game world, allegedly “harvesting” (producing) 4 million virtual gold per hour. Most of the gold generated by the ruthlessly productive, rapidly adapting bots found its way to third party vendors in a black market which undercut the prices in the sanctioned, in-game auction houses.
  2. Dell Project Ophelia (PC World) — $100 USB-stick-sized Android computer.
  3. Call Me Maybe (Kyle Kingsbury) — a series on network partitions. We’re going to learn about distributed consensus, discuss the CAP theorem’s implications, and demonstrate how different databases behave under partition.
  4. OpenWorm (The Atlantic) — simulating the c. elegans nematode worm in software. OpenWorm isn’t like these other initiatives; it’s a scrappy, open-source project that began with a tweet and that’s coordinated on Google Hangouts by scientists spread from San Diego to Russia. If it succeeds, it will have created a first in executable biology: a simulated animal using the principles of life to exist on a computer.

April 26 2013

Glowing Plants

I just invested in BioCurious’ Glowing Plants project on Kickstarter. I don’t watch Kickstarter closely, but this is about as fast as I’ve ever seen a project get funded. It went live on Wednesday; in the afternoon, I was backer #170 (more or less), but could see the number of backers ticking upwards constantly as I watched. It was fully funded for $65,000 Thursday; and now sits at 1340 backers (more by the time you read this), with about $84,000 in funding. And there’s a new “stretch” goal: if they make $400,000, they will work on bigger plants, and attempt to create a glowing rose.

Glowing plants are a curiosity; I don’t take seriously the idea that trees will be an alternative to streetlights any time in the near future. But that’s not the point. What’s exciting is that an important and serious biology project can take place in a biohacking lab, rather than in a university or an industrial facility. It’s exciting that this project could potentially become a business; I’m sure there’s a boutique market for glowing roses and living nightlights, if not for biological street lighting. And it’s exciting that we can make new things out of biological parts.

In a conversation last year, Drew Endy said that he wanted synthetic biology to “stay weird,” and that if in ten years, all we had accomplished was create bacteria that made oil from cellulose, we will have failed. Glowing plants are weird. And beautiful. Take a look at their project, fund it, and be the first on your block to have a self-illuminating garden.

April 11 2013

Four short links: 11 April 2013

  1. A General Technique for Automating NES Gamessoftware that learns how to play NES games and plays them automatically, using an aesthetically pleasing technique. With video, research paper, and code.
  2. rietveld — open source tool like Mondrian, Google’s code review tool. Developed by Guido van Rossum, who developed Mondrian. Still being actively developed. (via Nelson Minar)
  3. KPI Dashboard for Early-Stage SaaS Startups — as Google Docs sheet. Nice.
  4. Life Without Sleep — interesting critique of Provigil as performance-enhancing drug for information workers. It is very difficult to design a stimulant that offers focus without tunnelling – that is, without losing the ability to relate well to one’s wider environment and therefore make socially nuanced decisions. Irritability and impatience grate on team dynamics and social skills, but such nuances are usually missed in drug studies, where they are usually treated as unreliable self-reported data. These problems were largely ignored in the early enthusiasm for drug-based ways to reduce sleep. [...] Volunteers on the stimulant modafinil omitted these feedback requests, instead providing brusque, non-question instructions, such as: ‘Exit West at the roundabout, then turn left at the park.’ Their dialogues were shorter and they produced less accurate maps than control volunteers. What is more, modafinil causes an overestimation of one’s own performance: those individuals on modafinil not only performed worse, but were less likely to notice that they did. (via Dave Pell)

January 24 2013

Four short links: 24 January 2013

  1. Google’s Driverless Car is Worth Trillions (Forbes) — Much of the reporting about Google’s driverless car has mistakenly focused on its science-fiction feel. [...] In fact, the driverless car has broad implications for society, for the economy and for individual businesses. Just in the U.S., the car puts up for grab some $2 trillion a year in revenue and even more market cap. It creates business opportunities that dwarf Google’s current search-based business and unleashes existential challenges to market leaders across numerous industries, including car makers, auto insurers, energy companies and others that share in car-related revenue.
  2. DIY BioPrinter (Instructables) — Think of it as 3D printing, but with squishier ingredients! How to piggyback on inkjet printer technology to print with your own biomaterials. It’s an exciting time for biohackery: FOO Ewan Birney is kicking ass and taking names, he was just involved in a project storing and retrieving data from DNA.
  3. Parsley — open-sourced forms validation library in Javascript.
  4. ADAMS — open sourced workflow tool for machine learning, from the excellent people at Waikato who brought you WEKA. ADAMS = Advanced Data mining And Machine learning System.

September 06 2012

Four short links: 6 September 2012

  1. ENCODE Project — International project (headed by Ewan Birney of BioPerl fame) doxes the human genome, bigtime. See the Nature piece, and Ed Yong’s explanation of the awesome for more. Not only did they release the data, but also the software, including a custom VM.
  2. 5 Ways You Don’t Realize Movies Are Controlling Your Brain — this! is! awesome!
  3. RC Grasshoppers — not a band name, an Israeli research project funded by the US Army, to remotely-control insects in flight. Instead of building a tiny plane whose dimensions would be measured in centimeters, the researchers are taking advantage of 300 million years of evolution.
  4. enquire.js — small Javascript library for building responsive websites. (via Darren Wood)

August 09 2012

Four short links: 9 August 2012

  1. Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy (Amazon) — soon-to-be-released book by Bill Janeway, of Warburg-Pincus (and the O’Reilly board). People raved about his session at scifoo. I’m bummed I missed it, but I’ll console myself with his book.
  2. Cell Image Librarya freely accessible, easy-to-search, public repository of reviewed and annotated images, videos, and animations of cells from a variety of organisms, showcasing cell architecture, intracellular functionalities, and both normal and abnormal processes. The purpose of this database is to advance research, education, and training, with the ultimate goal of improving human health. And an excellent source of desktop images.
  3. Smartphone EEG Scanner — unusually, there’s no Kickstarter project for an iPhone version. (Designs and software are open source)
  4. Feynman — excellent graphic novel bio of Feynman, covering the science as well as the personality. Easy to read and very enjoyable.

August 08 2012

Four short links: 8 August 2012

  1. Reconstructing Visual Experiences (PDF) — early visual areas represent the information in movies. To demonstrate the power of our approach, we also constructed a Bayesian decoder by combining estimated encoding models with a sampled natural movie prior. The decoder provides remarkable reconstructions of the viewed movies. These results demonstrate that dynamic brain activity measured under naturalistic conditions can be decoded using current fMRI technology.
  2. Earth Engine — satellite imagery and API for coding against it, to do things like detecting deforestation, classifying land cover, estimating forest biomass and carbon, and mapping the world’s roadless areas.
  3. Microlives — 30m of your life expectancy. Here are some things that would, on average, cost a 30-year-old man 1 microlife: Smoking 2 cigarettes; Drinking 7 units of alcohol (eg 2 pints of strong beer); Each day of being 5 Kg overweight. A chest X-ray will set a middle-aged person back around 2 microlives, while a whole body CT-scan would weigh in at around 180 microlives.
  4. Autistics Need Opportunities More Than Treatment — Laurent gave a powerful talk at Sci Foo: if the autistic brain is better at pattern matching, find jobs where that’s useful. Like, say, science. The autistic woman who was delivering mail became a research assistant in his lab, now has papers galore to her name for original research.

August 07 2012

Four short links: 7 August 2012

  1. Why Toys Make Good Medical Devices (YouTube) — Jose Gomez-Marquez profiled by CNN. His group at MIT is Little Devices.
  2. 3D Printed Exoskeletal Arms for Little Girlresearchers at a Delaware hospital 3D printed a durable custom device with the tiny, lightweight custom parts she needed. Good for iterations, replacements, and an astonishingly high number of “awww” moments in the video.
  3. Figshareallows researchers to publish all of their data in a citable, searchable and sharable manner. All data is persistently stored online under the most liberal Creative Commons licence, waiving copyright where possible. figshare was started by a frustrated Imperial College PhD student as a way to disseminate all research outputs and not just static images through traditional academic publishing. It is now supported by Digital Science, a Macmillan Publishers company.
  4. Zombeeshoney bees that have been parasitized by the Zombie Fly Apocephalus borealis. Fly-parasitized honey bees become “ZomBees” showing the “zombie-like behavior” of leaving their hives at night on “a flight of the living dead.” See also NPR interview.

August 01 2012

Four short links: 1 August 2012

  1. China Hackers Hit EU Point Man and DC (Bloomberg) — wow. The extent to which EU and US government and business computer systems have been penetrated is astonishing. Stolen information is flowing out of the networks of law firms, investment banks, oil companies, drug makers, and high technology manufacturers in such significant quantities that intelligence officials now say it could cause long-term harm to U.S. and European economies. (via Gady Epstein)
  2. Digestible Microchips (Nature) — The sand-particle sized sensor consists of a minute silicon chip containing trace amounts of magnesium and copper. When swallowed, it generates a slight voltage in response to digestive juices, which conveys a signal to the surface of a person’s skin where a patch then relays the information to a mobile phone belonging to a healthcare-provider. (via Sara Winge)
  3. Quantum Mechanics Make Simple(r) — clever way to avoid the brain pain of quantum mechanics and leap straight to the “oh!”. [N]ature is described not by probabilities (which are always nonnegative), but by numbers called amplitudes that can be positive, negative, or even complex. [...] In the usual “hierarchy of sciences”—with biology at the top, then chemistry, then physics, then math—quantum mechanics sits at a level between math and physics that I don’t know a good name for. Basically, quantum mechanics is the operating system that other physical theories run on as application software (with the exception of general relativity, which hasn’t yet been successfully ported to this particular OS). (via Hacker News)
  4. Selectively De-Animating Video — SIGGRAPH talk showing how to keep some things still in a video. Check out the teaser video with samples: ZOMG. I note that Maneesh Agrawala was involved: I’m a fan of his from Line Drive maps and 3D exploded views, but his entire paper list is worth reading. Wow. (via Greg Borenstein)

July 25 2012

Four short links: 26 July 2012

  1. Drones Over Somalia are Hazard to Air Traffic (Washington Post) — In a recently completed report, U.N. officials describe several narrowly averted disasters in which drones crashed into a refu­gee camp, flew dangerously close to a fuel dump and almost collided with a large passenger plane over Mogadishu, the capital. (via Jason Leopold)
  2. Sequel Pro — free and open source Mac app for managing MySQL databases. It’s an update of CocoaMySQL.
  3. Neural Network Improves Accuracy of Least Invasive Breast Cancer Test — nice use of technology to make lives better, for which the creator won the Google Science Fair. Oh yeah, she’s 17. (via Miss Representation)
  4. Free Harder to Find on Amazon — so much for ASINs being permanent and unchangeable. Amazon “updated” the ASINs for a bunch of Project Gutenberg books, which means they’ve lost all the reviews, purchase history, incoming links, and other juice that would have put them at the top of searches for those titles. Incompetence, malice, greed, or a purely innocent mistake? (via Glyn Moody)

Four short links: 25 July 2012

  1. Bank of England Complains About AR Bank NotesAfter downloading the free Blippar app on iPhone or Android, customers were able to ‘blipp’ any ten-pound note in circulation by opening the app and holding their phone over the note. An animated Queen, and other members of the Royal Family, then appeared on the screen and voiced opinions on the latest football matters.
  2. Kittydar — open source computer vision library in Javascript for identifying cat faces. I am not making this up. (via Kyle McDonald
  3. Quantified Mind — battery of cognitive tests, so you can track performance over time and measure the effect of interventions (coffee, diet, exercise, whatever). (via Sara Winge)
  4. Jellyfish Made From Rat Cells (Nature) — an artificial jellyfish using silicone and muscle cells from a rat’s heart. The synthetic creature, dubbed a medusoid, looks like a flower with eight petals. When placed in an electric field, it pulses and swims exactly like its living counterpart. Very cool, but the bit that caught my eye was: the team built the medusoid as a way of understanding the “fundamental laws of muscular pumps”. It is an engineer’s approach to basic science: prove that you have identified the right principles by building something with them.

July 23 2012

Four short links: 23 July 2012

  1. Unmanned Systems North America 2012 — huge tradeshow for drones. (via Directions Magazine)
  2. On Thneeds and the Death of Display Ads (John Battelle) — the video interstitial. Once anathema to nearly every publisher on the planet, this full page unit is now standard on the New York Times, Wired, Forbes, and countless other publishing sites. And while audiences may balk at seeing a full-page video ad after clicking from a search engine or other referring agent, the fact is, skipping the ad is about as hard as turning the page in a magazine. And in magazines, full page ads work for marketers. If you’d raised a kid on AdBlocker, and then at age 15 she saw the ad-filled Internet for the first time, she’d think her browser had been taken over by malware. (via Tim Bray)
  3. The Most Important Social Network: GitHubI suspect that GitHub’s servers now contain the world’s largest corpus of commentary around intellectual production.
  4. Crowdfunded Genomics — a girl with a never-before-seen developmental disorder had her exome (the useful bits of DNA) sequenced, and a never-before-seen DNA mutation found. The money for it was raised by crowdfunding. (via Ed Yong)

June 25 2012

Four short links: 25 June 2012

  1. Stop Treating People Like Idiots (Tom Steinberg) -- governments miss the easy opportunities to link the tradeoffs they make to the point where the impacts are felt. My argument is this: key compromises or decisions should be linked to from the points where people obtain a service, or at the points where they learn about one. If my bins are only collected once a fortnight, the reason why should be one click away from the page that describes the collection times.
  2. UK Study Finds Mixed Telemedicine Benefits -- The results, in a paper to the British Medical Journal published today, found telehealth can help patients with long-term conditions avoid emergency hospital care, and also reduce deaths. However, the estimated scale of hospital cost savings is modest and may not be sufficient to offset the cost of the technology, the report finds. Overall the evidence does not warrant full scale roll-out but more careful exploration, it says. (via Mike Pearson)
  3. Pay Attention to What Nick Denton is Doing With Comments (Nieman Lab) -- Most news sites have come to treat comments as little more than a necessary evil, a kind of padded room where the third estate can vent, largely at will, and tolerated mainly as a way of generating pageviews. This exhausted consensus makes what Gawker is doing so important. Nick Denton, Gawker’s founder and publisher, Thomas Plunkett, head of technology, and the technical staff have re-designed Gawker to serve the people reading the comments, rather than the people writing them.
  4. Informed Consent Source of Confusion (Nature) -- fascinating look at the downstream uses of collected bio data and the difficulty in gaining informed consent: what you might learn about yourself (do I want to know I have an 8.3% greater chance of developing Alzheimers? What would I do with that knowledge besides worry?), what others might learn about you (will my records be subpoenable?), and what others might make from the knowledge (will my data be used for someone else's financial benefit?). (via Ed Yong)

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