Interesting Reading #685 - JCPenny's fools Google, Transformer motorcycle, Paint that saves gas, Vacuum has friction and much more!

by | Feb 13, 2011 09:51 PM ET

The Dirty Little Secrets of Search - "J. C. Penney. The company bested millions of sites — and not just in searches for dresses, bedding and area rugs. For months, it was consistently at or near the top in searches for “skinny jeans,” “home decor,” “comforter sets,” “furniture” and dozens of other words and phrases, from the blandly generic (“tablecloths”) to the strangely specific (“grommet top curtains”). This striking performance lasted for months..."

A novel vehicle generates polarizing opinions - "On a frigid morning just before Christmas, Andrew Keefe slipped on a white motorcycle helmet and black jacket, and took a three-wheeled vehicle for a spin along Memorial Drive. Powered by a quartet of batteries, the all-electric “Uno'' starts out as a kind of unicycle, balancing on two back wheels like a dog begging for a treat, then transforms into a more traditional-looking motorcycle, with a wheel on the front and two in the back, which move close enough together to look like a single, wide wheel...."

The Dark-Horse Lab That Just Might Figure Out Fusion - "Everything was ready. The lab's blast walls were up; sheets of Kevlar hung to catch shrapnel; banks of capacitors on the co-opted Air Force experiment primed to unleash 12 million amps of current; X-ray detectors set to snag bursts of photons; bottles of celebratory champagne chilled. If all went as planned, Glen Wurden would be a very happy man, and one experiment closer in his long-shot effort to exploit a nearly limitless source of energy...."

Animal obesity: canary in the coal mine? - "There are a number of factors, both behavioural and environmental, which are thought to play important roles in the current epidemic of obesity. These range from things like increased soft-drink consumption and decreased physical activity, which are at least nominally under our personal control, to more external factors like viruses, light pollution, and environmental contaminants, over which we have little or no control. How much of a role do these external factors play in the obesity epidemic? No one knows. But if these external factors are playing a role in the human obesity epidemic, then we would also expect to see similar increases in body weight and obesity rates among animals who live with or near humans, since they would be exposed to many of these same factors. To this end, a fascinating new paper by Yann Klimentidis and colleagues examines the body weight and risk of obesity in 8 different species, and the results suggest that external factors may be playing a larger role in obesity rates that previously thought...."

Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc preview (video) - "The first thing to note is that the Xperia Arc will be shipping globally in March and Sony Ericsson is aiming for the broadest possible operator coverage. Focusing on the handset itself, we've been wildly impressed by its design since first laying eyes on it, there's something fundamentally attractive about the Arc's look, something less tangible than its ridiculously slim profile...."

Easyjet paint job makes fuel bills less of a drag - "Now Easyjet, one of Europe's largest airlines, thinks it has found a way to save even more money using a technology you cannot even see: a new paint job. From Monday, it will be the first commercial airline to trial what it calls a "revolutionary nano-technology coating"...."

Stephen Wolfram: Can he topple Google? - "Stephen Wolfram had a dream: to invent a search engine that could work stuff out for us. Alex Bellos meets the scientist who might just change the way we use the internet..."

Vacuum has friction after all - "A BALL spinning in a vacuum should never slow down, since no outside forces are acting on it. At least that's what Newton would have said. But what if the vacuum itself creates a type of friction that puts the brakes on spinning objects? The effect, which might soon be detectable, could act on interstellar dust grains...."

Reaching for the kill switch - "THE timing was dire. On January 25th American senators reintroduced a bill granting the president emergency powers to shut down parts of the nation's internet as a defence against cyber-attack. Three days later Egypt's embattled autocrats took their country offline...."

Anonymous Hackers Launch Wikileaks for Normal People - "Last week, the loose-knit hacking collective Anonymous stole over 50,000 emails from security researcher Aaron Barr. Now they're launching the Wikileaks-style Anonleaks.ru, to make it easy for anyone to browse Barr and his colleagues' private emails. Want to read the excruciating love letter a security company executive sent her husband?"

R.I.P. Palm: A History of the Brand that Changed Smartphones and PDAs Forever - "The very first Palm handheld devices came out nearly 15 years ago, in 1996. The Pilot 1000 and Pilot 5000 wowed the world with their 16MHz Motorola processor, 160x160 resolution monochrome LCD touchscreen, and up to 512kB of built-in memory. These "PDAs" (personal digital assistants), and the PalmPilots and Palms that would come after, became popular because of their relatively low prices and ability to easily "HotSync" with computers through a serial cable. Compared to USB connections, serial HotSyncing is downright awkward and archaic, but in the late '90s it was a revolutionary improvement in device-computer connectivity...."

Alternative To Open Heart Surgery - "Interventional cardiologists created an alternative to open heart surgery by developing a mitral valve clip. To alleviate mitral valve regurgitation--a condition where the heart's mitral valve does not close properly, allowing blood to leak back into the heart--cardiologists insert a catheter into the patient's groin that travels up into the mitral valve. The clip is fed through this catheter, where it finally grasps and tightens the valves' leaflets--effectively preventing blood from leaking. The clip remains in place while the catheter is removed, the entire procedure taking approximately two hours and recovery a few weeks. The procedure is good for those with weaker hearts, when traditional surgery is more dangerous...."

$1.5M Robbery of Bellagio Casino Foiled Thanks to RFID Chips - "If you're thinking of robbing a Las Vegas casino, and you're not George Clooney, I have a word of advice: give up now. As Anthony Carleo recently found out, even if you leave the casino in one piece, the chips you stole are going to be worthless long before you make your get away. The 29 year old suspect is accused of robbing the Bellagio on December 14th of 2010, stealing chips whose face value totaled around $1.5 million dollars. Their real value, however, was zero. Thanks to RFID tags embedded inside them, the chips with denominations of $100 to $25,000 could be immediately deactivated rendering them unredeemable for cash value. Watch CCTV footage from the December 14th robbery in the video clip below, followed by the recent press conference from the Las Vegas Police concerning Carleo's arrest. Stealing worthless chips and then getting caught trying to sell them to undercover officers? Danny Ocean this guy is not...."

Chapter 11 for Borders, New Chapter for Books - "Borders Group Inc. is in the final stages of preparing a bankruptcy filing, clinching a long fall for a company with humble beginnings that helped change the way Americans buy books but failed to keep pace with the digital transformation rocking every corner of the media landscape...."

The world's capacity to store information

World's total CPU power: one human brain

Inside IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center

Pizza

Telescopes in Chile

2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal

WNY 3-Year-Old's Rare Condition Changing Medical Science - "Chase appeared to have a condition that is at once incredibly complicated-- and very simple: he was missing his entire cerebellum. The cerebellum is the part of the brain responsible for motor control, balance, coordination, emotional control, and now, doctors believe, it plays a role in language and learning...."

What will cars be like in the future? - "There is nothing quite like a drive on the open road but how people will go about driving in the future could change the motor industry for good...."

Wireless advances could mean no more cell towers - "As cell phones have spread, so have large cell towers - those unsightly stalks of steel topped by transmitters and other electronics that sprouted across the country over the last decade..."

Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz's guide to getting a sitcom cancelled - "Arrested Development, threatened with cancellation throughout its 53-episode run, got the axe eventually, as has Mitch Hurwitz's latest project Running Wilde. So who better to explain how to get the televisual axe?"

When Democracy Weakens - "As the throngs celebrated in Cairo, I couldn't help wondering about what is happening to democracy here in the United States. I think it's on the ropes. We're in serious danger of becoming a democracy in name only. While millions of ordinary Americans are struggling with unemployment and declining standards of living, the levers of real power have been all but completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite. It doesn't really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the tune, and the politicians dance...."

Egypt: Hosni Mubarak used last 18 days in power to secure his fortune - "The former Egyptian president is accused of amassing a fortune of more than £3 billion - although some suggest it could be as much as £40 billion - during his 30 years in power. It is claimed his wealth was tied up in foreign banks, investments, bullion and properties in London, New York, Paris and Beverly Hills...."

Iran's opposition planning protests - "Amid reports of a low turnout for the annual march commemorating the anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution on Friday, there are calls among opposition leaders for nationwide marches against the government on Monday."

The Republicans' CPAC Misfire - "Conservatives won big in the midterm elections by focusing on big government and soaring deficits—setting aside, for the moment, the usual menu of divisive social issues...."

Completely Impossible Pictures. - "Erik Johansson, a 23 year old student really has become adept using photoshop! I wonder how much time it took to do all of these? "

Sex and Pregnancy on Mars: A Risky Proposition - "Astronauts sent to colonize Mars would be well advised to avoid getting pregnant en route to the Red Planet, according to a review of radiation hazards by three scientists..."

Free Monty Python Videos on Youtube Lead to 23,000% DVD Sale Increase - "Following up on our previous news regarding Monty Python material on iTunes, Mashable is now reporting on a staggering increase of Monty Python DVDs sold on Amazon soon after the Python crew made some of their their more popular material free on Youtube. And by staggering, I mean 23,000% worth. Mashable notes that Monty Python's DVDs climbed to the #2 spot on Amazon's Movie's and TV Bestseller List, and you don't have to be a genius to follow that the sales were probably influenced by the Amazon links found on all of their Youtube clips...."

Why Did 400 People Volunteer for a One-Way Trip to Mars? - "One take-away message from this suite of studies is that many scientists think a privately funded, one-way mission to colonize Mars would be possible within the next 20 years. And it seems plenty of people agree with them...."

A whale of a bad analogy for bandwidth hogs - "Whales, in casino parlance, are the highest of high rollers. They are the super rich who think nothing of dropping a few hundred grand - or a few million dollars - on a single session of their favorite game of chance. The reason casinos give them "free" hotel rooms and lavish extras upon them is not because they are "loyal customers," but because they are - to introduce yet another member of the animal kingdom - cash cows. They don't necessarily show up every weekend, and they may win big once in awhile, but collectively and over time, with gambling being gambling, they are certain to pad the casino's bottom line like no other subset of patrons...."

City tries new tactics in annual fight with potholes - "In a typical year, the city of Boston fills about 19,000 potholes, with much of that work coming in the late winter and spring, when freeze-thaw cycles wreak havoc on pavement. Many of the repairs are only temporary patches, in response to road surfaces that are chewing up automobile tires and axles...."

Google Lets Users Double-Down on Account Security - "The net is getting a little safer for Google users Thursday, as the company unveils an option to lock down their accounts with more than just a password...."

Obama announces plan to free up 500MHz of spectrum, invest in 4G for rural areas, and build out nationwide public safety network - "The plan is to incentivize the current spectrum squatters with a share of the revenue gained from auctioning off the spectrum -- mostly for mobile broadband use -- which only seems fair, and for now it seems those auctions will be voluntary...."

Valentines Day Bait & Switch: Groupon Must Avoid Becoming Just Another Useless Coupon Site - "I assume that “sale!” signs in retail businesses are usually just BS. The stores keep normal prices higher than they should be so they can offer customers a faux discount. Whether it's always true or just often true doesn't matter. People don't really get all that excited about signs that say “HUGE SALE 50% OFF” or whatever. We're desensitized to it...."

The leaked campaign to attack WikiLeaks and its supporters - "There's been a very strange episode being written about the past couple of days involving numerous parties, including me, that I now want to comment on. The story, first reported by The Tech Herald, has been been written about in numerous places (see Marcy Wheeler, Forbes, The Huffington Post, BoingBoing, Matt Yglesias, Reason, Tech Dirt, and others), so I'll provide just the summary. ..."

(Virtually) face to face: how Aaron Barr revealed himself to Anonymous - "Aaron Barr, CEO of security company HBGary Federal, spent the month of January trying to uncover the real identifies of the hacker collective Anonymous—only to end with his company website knocked offline, his e-mails stolen, 1TB of backups deleted, and his personal iPad wiped when Anonymous found out. ..."

[[[Interesting Reading #684 – VERY Human Robots, How fleas jump, deadly sleep problem, Horsewhipping Study and much more!]]]

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