Archive for April, 2010

Suspended animation is within our grasp

April 26, 2010

Amazing research. It seems almost too simple.
It’s hard to believe the low oxygen conditions kills you, but much lower oxygen conditions would not. It’s also hard to imagine what is happening in the suspended body, as it is not quite alive, but also not dead, and appears a little more immortal.

How flies fly

April 18, 2010

This is a computer reconstruction of a fly beating its wings, from images captured by a set of high-speed cameras in an experimental setup. It shows the aerodynamics of flying and turning, which are similar to that of a rowboat.
These findings may help design more maneuverable flying robots.

Google Cloud Print

April 16, 2010

Interesting architecture choice for printing in Chrome OS.
Since Chrome OS is meant to be lightweight and reliable, it cannot deal with the complexity of a printing sub-system and drivers. So instead, it goes from the device through the cloud and back to the printer.

This is an intriguing and original technical design, but I am not quite convinced about the feature.
Printers need to be made cloud-aware, either directly or through some adapter (like a PC). Would printer makers adopt this new standard?
Would users really care about printing remotely (you still need to be physically present to pick up the print out)?
What about privacy, security and usability implications of connecting your printer to the internet?

Update: Schneier shares similar concerns over security and spam of HP’s email-to-print design.

Standing Cat

April 9, 2010

Policymakers, behavioral economists succumb to own “predictable irrationality”

April 5, 2010

In The Rise of the New Paternalism, Glen Whitman warns of the insidious nature of “new paternalism” policies spawned by behavioral economics studies (Predictably Irrational, Nudge). He points out the flaws, biases and arbitrariness in the “nudge” policy proposals, and cleverly uses the findings of behavioral economics themselves for his analysis.

In short:
Overall, the proposed “soft-paternalism” policies constitute a slippery slope towards hard-paternalism.
Policies derived from behavioral economics are presented to take advantage of the identified weaknesses and “irrationality” of people and policymakers (framing effects, extremeness aversion, small-change tolerance)
If people display inconsistent preferences in different situations, which is the “true” or “rational” preference? This line of thinking invites arbitrary selection to please the tastes of policymakers and lobbyists.
Finally, policymakers themselves suffer from irrationality, from temptation, short-term thinking and influence. There is no indication that they are more “rational”.

Update: the debate goes on, with Fear of Falling and The Dangers of Letting Someone Else Decide.


April 4, 2010

Flash Forward

April 2, 2010

Flash Forward is a pretty good TV show so far, but like any sci-fi related to time travel and free will it suffers from logical inconsistencies.
Given that the investigators know the window of time visible in the flash, they should be able to write all the relevant information and plan to review it during the few minutes covered by their premonition. This would effectively be handing their past selves the keys to solving the case.
But, of course, this would not make for a very entertaining show…