Tastes Like Chicken

Saturday, February 17, 2001
_Atom Optics
Okay, this was on Memepool and Slashdot, but my interest was sparked by the tiny mention of "atom holography" and I spent a good while trolling through the net to find out what was out there on this topic. Come on, how could I resist something that resonates in the imagination the same way the Star Trek replicators do?

The most specific information I found on this aspect of atom optics (the practice of forcing atoms into states with extremely long wavelengths, allowing them to be manipulated in ways analogous to light beams) indicates that atom holography is only used to place atoms upon flat surfaces, suggesting uses in the creation of computer chips crafted to with single-atom precision. However, another article seems to imply the possibility of more generalized uses, saying:

Perhaps even more exciting was the prospect of atom holography, by which interfering beams of atoms would be used to build tiny solid objects atom by atom (analogous to the use of interfering light beams in conventional holography to create images). Such structures, which could be as small as nanometres (billionths of a metre) in size, would have myriad uses in electronics, biomedicine, and other fields.
As slight as these references are to the potential of atom holography, these two are by far the most informative of the roughly 50 hits returned by Google. In sifting through those hits, I also found this primer, itself by far the most detailed and informative resource on the net regarding the whole field of long-wavelength atoms not intended for an audience of physics PhD's. I highly recommended reading it if you want a solid understanding of what's going on when physicists talk about Bose-Einstein condensates, atom optics, laser cooling, etc.

_The end of privacy
Now we know why Sun's Scott McNealy tells people to "Get over it," namely that his company is in the forefront of an effort to assualt any hope of buying and using anything with privacy. Read here about the broad push to tag all consumer items with transmitting radio tags that uniquely identify individual products. Not blue sweatshirts, the one blue sweatshirt you bought a Wal-Mart and wore on Tuesday, washed on Friday and wore again to McDonald's and DisneyWorld on Saturday, where you spent a suspicious proportion of your time in the bathroom.

...he found that coil antennas could be replaced with conductive carbon ink printed on paper which would pick up the electrostatic charges from the reader and create a current across the chip. The silicon chip—itself less than three millimeters square—could be mounted atop a sheet of paper lined with the special ink.

Without the metal coil, the cost of the tag dropped to less than 50 cents. The added flexibility of the paper material also meant Eberhardt's prototype tag could function when bent, cut or crumpled, as long as a remnant of the carbon ink-based antenna remained connected to the chip.
The aim is sub-penny radio-transmitter tags carrying 96-bit numbers uniquely identifying every product produced for consumer sale. These are not the rantings of some whack job wearing an aluminum foil beanie, this is a detailed technical article from MIT.

Gillette's (the razor company) next goal: using readers to track consumer use of its products at home. Gillette sees the technology engaged in direct consumer marketing, which would rely on personalized information obtained from readers installed where products are actually used—in your refrigerator, say. While this scenario may be decades away, the coming era of ubiquitous computing could bring Internet access to every household appliance. "Smart" fridges could monitor tagged products, learn your food preferences and shopping schedule, and then buy all your groceries for you.
Stay the fuck out of my fridge!

Listen people: cash is your friend. In this scenario, cash is the only defense against an effortless alignment between the product and the identity of its user.

One more thing: fuck you, too, Giant.

_The real Hannibal Lecters
A tantalizing look at a British documentary on modern human cannibals, especially the criminally motivated.

Sagawa told the programme makers he had been obsessed with cannibalism from the age of three, when his uncle used to play a game pretending to be a flesh-eating giant.

He said killing and eating his friend was the fulfilment of a lifelong desire.
This person is a free man in Japan today.

_Introduction to Demos & The Demo Scene
A love letter to the demo scene, a community devoted to producing artistic computer experiences.

I lost track of the demo scene when that branch of the online world made the transition from BBS's to the internet, so my collection of old code ends before the adoption of 3D acceleration, a tech so powerful it fills me with wonder to contemplate what the scenesters have done with it. Thanks to Jorn for pointing to this article. I have a lot of catching up to do.

For old timers from the leading edge of the 90's: Triton created a game called Into The Shadows which, tech-wise, was a fearsome competitor to it's big-name contemporary, Quake. I played the game at the second E3 (hah, no relation to F2) and was blown away. Some of the talent from Triton landed at Starbreeze Studios, which has a page dedicated to their Triton past.

I tried to get Gamasutra to do one of their Post Mortem features on this remarkable game a while back, but only one of the editors seemed interested.

_A skater's shadow

Actually, MSNBC's whole set of pictures for this week is particularly strong. Check them out.

_Caption of the day
"Day In Pix continues to be the world leader in artistic duck photos."

_Giant jellyfish
Check out the human legs and torso in the immediate background for scale:

_Scientists close to finding a vaccine for dementia
Wow, this looks tremendously promising. Some excerpts:

Three independent teams of scientists have demonstrated in animal experiments that a vaccine can prevent the build-up of protein deposits in the brain which are believed to cause Alzheimer's.

The vaccine was developed from a small protein, or peptide, that builds up in the brain of Alzheimer's patients to produce the tell-tale deposits or "plaques" that were thought to cause dementia.

Vaccinated mice had fewer plaques and were much better than unvaccinated animals at performing and remembering how to find an underwater platform when swimming in an enclosed tank – a classic test of mental ability in mice.

This could have a profound impact on societies, not just individuals, altering both personal and social attitudes toward aging and the elderly. Outstanding, hope-giving news.

And, in local news, I finally hipped to the blockquote tag.

Friday, February 16, 2001
_Bueno Arbusto?
After a slow start, this article turns into an interesting account of the author's conversion from hirsute nature-woman into another real smoothie, thanks to a Brazilian wax, the thoroughly painful way to rid oneself of the hair down there. Unlike the author of this earlier look at Brazilian waxes (also a good read), this woman goes for a little artistic flair with the small patch of remaining bush. I think my favorite detail from the main article is that the author's friend got her resulting "landing strip" made into an exclamation point!

These stories inspired me to track down a picture of one of my favorite tattoos, which is just barely not safe for work, but maybe worth it anyway. Quick, while no one's looking!

_Reporters at the controls of a submarine--a firsthand account
A personal account of one of the Navy's show-off sessions aboard a sub of the same class as the one that collided with the Japanese ship. This trip also put untrained civilians at the controls of the sub in busy waters.

"Emboldened, I moved it the other way, and felt the boat pull steeply up. Papers began to slide. Somebody said something like, Ohhhhkay, sir, that's a little too much."

_Polygamy Thrives Despite Ban
Polygamy: It's not just for Mormons anymore! This is an article about those whacky Thais and their carazy kooky families with a 57 year old man who marries a stable of young women and puts them to work in his factory. Oh, those nutty Thais!

_You old smoothie...
This needs to be right by the subway picture below:

_Herpes virus helps kill skin cancer cells
...and rounding out the list of medical trials I will not be participating in is...

_The new happy hooker
An extremely candid, though not particularly graphic, Q&A with a prostitute. Very happy, thouroughly content with the profession. Addresses physical and emotional aspects of the trade.

_How low can you go?
The waistline of girls' jeans are being cut lower and lower, a trend a I whole-heartedly support (anything but the baggies). "If these jeans were any lower, you would have to call them chaps."

For the record: the visible underwear deal is fine with me, too.

Thursday, February 15, 2001
_Soft drinks linked to obesity
I was going to give this a glib tagline, given the obviousness of the link between a beverage carrying hundreds and hundreds of calories and weight gain, but the strength of the relationship caught me off gaurd: "An extra soft drink a day gives a child a 60 percent greater chance of becoming obese, new research suggests." The deal seems to be that people automatically correct for calories that they eat, but not that they drink.

I've got to tip my hat to Nicole for getting me off of sodas a couple years back.

Update: There's a more detailed article over at CNN which includes gems such as "We found that for every additional serving per day of soft drink consumed, the risk of becoming obese increased by about 50 percent," and "Even when they accounted for factors like physical activity and other diet choices, the relation between obesity and drinking sodas remained."

_What quantum physics needs is a good metaphor
A rewarding (though occasionally demanding) article about a scientist who has developed a new intellectual framework for thinking about quantum physics based upon binary information systems. The article proceeds from the argument that the biggest barrier to the broader understanding of the quantum nature of the universe is the lack of a familiar metaphor, and it looks like this guy is on to something.

_A Plastic That 'Heals' Itself
Polymers are embedded with both microcapsules of the raw components of the polymer and catalyst particals to foster the formation of new polymer chains when the capsules are opened by stress fracturing in the main polymer structure. "As a result, the longevity of a virtually endless list of polymer products could be easily doubled or quadrupled." Update: I beat /. by about 12 hours, so there!

_Avoid botching the big question
Tips and horror stories from people that witness the popping of the question hundreds of times, restaurant folk.

_Greenpeace begins the painful process of growing up
Greenpeace deigns to allow genetically engineered rice to save the eyesight of 50,000 children per year.

But they decry the rice development as propaganda and PR. Greenpeace, upset at PR. Teehee.

_Dave McKean
I'm really burnt from being grilled by 5 different people for more than 2 hours in a job interview I had less than 24 hours notice for, so you're probably going to get lots of pictures.

Wednesday, February 14, 2001
_Super-Snappy Snapshots
Okay, so the pic is skinny and screws up my layout, but it's still spiffy to see the liquefaction of a bullet as it hits the target thanks to a camera system that can capture exposures five billionths of a second long, 200 million times a second:

_Ebony and ivory...
Why dark people are dark and light people are light: vitamins and historical levels UV light exposure.

The article makes a pretty good case for it's central premise, but it does leave things hanging a bit as far as why the Inuit are so dark compared to what the UV light they receive. The article mentions possible reason (lots of vitamin D rich fish in their diet) but doesn't explicitly connect the dots. Maybe it's also increased exposure from snow-reflected UV? Hard to tell.

_Paperwork makes the world go 'round
An economist's intriguing theories that the key to making the currently poor of the world into full participants in capitalism is to give the poor official, and therefore transferable, title to their possesions, especially real estate.

_Woman has Nokia surgically removed from bottom
"We guessed it's because some cellphones have a vibrating function."

Monday, February 12, 2001
_Risks of LASIK often overlooked
The article on the risks of eye surgery is decent, but what gets it 'blogged is that rarity of rarities, an informative and valuable flash presentation:

_Kids died because the Navy was showing off
There's really no way around that conclusion when faced with information like this:

"The Greeneville's rapid ascent drill occurred in waters with heavy traffic from pleasure vessels and ships traveling among the Hawaiian islands. There also were 15 civilians aboard the submarine for what Hammerschmidt said the Navy called an 'orientation tour.'

"The 'emergency main ballast blow' sends the submarine rocketing through the water and then breaching like a whale. But the maneuver is filled with potential danger for other ships in the area and must be exercised with extreme caution, according to current and former submarine commanders.

"Taking riders on a quick training mission is a Navy tradition that keeps the public, the news media and dignitaries informed of the Navy's capabilities and lets it display its expensive hardware. Former submarine officers said it is not unusual to perform such a drill with civilians aboard because the experience is so dramatic."

(I've pruned the above excerpts for brevity)

_Texan drowns in vegetable oil at Frito-Lay plant
I had a room mate in college who swore that the 70's oil crisis was caused by Fritos. He also clued me in to the ongoing Mormon eugenics program to breed gorgeous blondes as a recruiting technique (Hi, Maren!).

_Favorite Loopholes and Courtroom Chicanery
More than once I've seen people shake there heads and wonder aloud why I am not a lawyer. I know the answers, but I also know why they ask the question; it's related to my unhealthy level of appreciation for maneuvering such as this:

"Prosecutors always delight in addressing police witnesses as 'officer'. Sometimes a cop makes the mistake of taking this appellation too seriously. If so, cross examination intended to 'clarify' the meaning of 'officer' can chip away at the intended image of detached professionalism. A chain of questions that establishes the witness is not a police captain and has not passed the captain's examination, nor is he a police lieutenant nor passed the lieutenant's examination, nor is he a 'non-commissioned' sergeant nor has he passed the sergeant's examination, but he is actually at the entry level rank of patrolman which he has held for 20 years. It is not decisive. But it does a little harm to the prosecution's witness, and is fun to do."

"Specter Hints at Clinton Impeachment"

Take satisfaction in what you have "achieved" and move on. Just amazing.

_I see dead people
An exhibition in Germany of bodies cut, sawed, broken and flailed open for the onlookers benefit.

Other sources have covered this as well such as The Stranger's "The End Of Art", a BBC article, a very strong article at the site run by Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation, and Scientific American's "Plastic Bodies On Display", which includes several valuable links on topics such as the technical details of the plastination process and the homepage of the exhibit itself, which features this image:

Is this art? Exploitation? Education? Is it wrong to take a dead body and do this:

One thing is clear: plastination is a powerful tool. The question of what are its proper uses seems far from settled, especially since this embraces some ideas previously found lurking in horror movies. The "artist" hardly makes it easier to trust his motives with statements such as "I have already designed quite a few other specimens, but I wouldn't show them here because they would be misunderstood."

Check out the entry on a related project with a more historical focus.

Sunday, February 11, 2001
_Men Are Crazy for Women Who Are, Too
"'You're young, you're crazy, you're in bed and you've got knives.'
— Angelina Jolie, in a newspaper interview, explaining her scars."

I'm here for the class on dating head cases. Yes, um, what time should I start the lecture?

_Rewriting the book of love
An excursion into the various pick-up scenes of Monterey, CA.

"The best thing to do at a bar, says the sleaziest man in Monterey, is to hook your thumbs into your pockets and point at your penis with your fingers. This, he says, is a trick he picked up in a book on body language. So I immediately follow suit, just to see what will happen. The results are staggering."