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I have an idea that could, dare I say it, CHANGE THE WORLD! Someone with better coding skills than I will be needed to actually implement it, and reap the profit thereof, but I don't care, as long as I get credit for the idea itself. Being known as the Savior of Western Civilization will be enough for me, I don't need the money.*

... Oh, you want to read about what the idea actually _is_, and not just take my genius on faith. How demanding of you. Fine, then, here it is: A simple program, preferably for a PDA, but could work for any computer, that keeps track of how much money you owe on your credit cards (and other debts), what the various interest rates and other fees are, and most importantly of all, _your_own_payment_history_, and from this data, will tell you how much that $1.29 donut you're about to charge to your visa card is likely to actually cost you by the time it's paid off. If (Insert Appropriate Gender Neutral Name Here) sees that that donut really _is_ going to cost them $1.29, that's all well and good. But if said consumer notices that said donut is ACTUALLY going to cost them, 3, 10 or 20 dollars before it's paid off (which is not at all unlikely, given how much the average American consumer has hanging over their head), maybe they will rethink their spending habits. For more expensive items, even more so (though personally, I find myself more impressed by the higher price of the little things). If such a program gets written, and comes into common use by "high-risk" consumers, I really think the level of human misery in our society would plummet. Or at least that particular misery caused by chronic indebtedness.

Now, the data used in the program (balances, interest rates, late fees, etc.) could simply be entered manually, but for the impulse buyers who most desperately need this sort of reminder, that might be a deal breaker. Luckily, almost all credit cards and banks these days have web sites, so it would be more convenient to simply have an option to enter in your account numbers and passwords, and let the program monitor this sort of thing for you. Now, this _is_ a potential security flaw, but provided rudimentary precautions are taken, not any riskier than banking online in general. A more likely problem would be that it's not really in the credit card companies' interests for their "best customers" (a.k.a., the poor dupes who get suckered into living beyond their means) to be able to easily see how much they're actually paying, so they're probably going to want to block access. Let them! If enough customers get annoyed at them for putting stumbling blocks in their way, maybe they'll start to realize that the legal loan sharks are not their friends.

I can also see some idiots making a "Moral Hazard" argument, that having an electronic nanny doing the financial thinking for people will make them lazy. To which I say, Bite me! It doesn't matter whether people develop good financial habits through arduous mental effort, or by pushing a few keys when they shop, what matters is that they do it.

*Not that I'll turn money down, if a grateful world decides to shower me with it. But come to think of it, it would be even better if this project was undertaken by unpaid hobbyists, on a open-source, ad hoc basis. If only for the irony value.
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And it will be even better if the cable company actually gets our internet connection working again today. Cool as this phone is, typing on it gets tedious real quick.
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And it is YAY! Pictures will ensue at some point.

Edit: And here they are!

Photobucket

Photobucket
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Doctors in India have begun operating on a two-year old girl who was born with four arms and four legs.

Lakshmi Tatma is joined to what is known as a "parasitic twin" which stopped developing in the mother's womb.

The operation to correct the rare condition - known as isciopagus - is expected to take up to 40 hours.


Now I don't feel so bad about not being able to spend Thanksgiving with family. At least none of them are ever likely to need operations that last 2 days.
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Radio Frequencies Help Burn Salt Water.

ERIE, Pa. - An Erie cancer researcher has found a way to burn salt water, a novel invention that is being touted by one chemist as the "most remarkable" water science discovery in a century.

John Kanzius happened upon the discovery accidentally when he tried to desalinate seawater with a radio-frequency generator he developed to treat cancer. He discovered that as long as the salt water was exposed to the radio frequencies, it would burn.

Excellent, we finally have a suitable deterrent against the Squid Invaders.

In other news, Shrubya Snubs War Widow, Trans-Simianism debunked, and Anarchy Explained. I'm also adding a link to Chugworth Academy, the strip is currently on hiatus, but you can start reading the archives here. Also, can anyone recommend a good, cheap, preferably free photo-editing program?
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Is it "Theft" to use someone's unsecured wireless network without their permission? Morally, I mean, not legally. Second moral dilemma: Is it "theft" if the owner copies any passwords, credit card numbers, and interesting porn that send over _his_ network? Personally, I'd have to say "No, not really" "Kinda sorta" "Well, you were pretty much asking for it, so quit whining" to both questions, which is why it's the height of stupidity to either run or use an unsecured network, IMO.
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According to the current Vice President of the Science fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, authors who put their work online for free are "Webscabs" who are stealing food from the mouths of the children of those writers who don't chose to "give away their work".

I remember at DragonCon a few years ago, there was a panel on the "Future of Ebooks", and right after John Ringo gave a spiel about how every book that was put up for download on the Baen Free Library sold more paper copies afterwards, one of the other writers on the panel made the same argument. John's face went through such amazing contortions, I wish I'd had a video camera...
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Via [livejournal.com profile] weirdnews:

"Credit Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally with saving the leader of the free world from self-immolation. Mulally told journalists at the New York auto show that he intervened to prevent President Bush from plugging an electrical cord into the hydrogen tank of Ford's hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid at the White House last week. "

While this would have been the Mother of All Darwin Awards, it would also put the general public off of hydrogen fuel technologies for another 7 decades. So on the whole, it's probably a slight positive that this self-immolation didn't occur...

On a serious note, if this sort of accident is even possible at all, then Ford is guilty of severe negligence, and the company richly deserves any lawsuits they get if they _don't_ fix the design flaw immediately. So, I'm kinda skeptical of this article, and fully expect to see a Snopes rebuttal within a few days.

Update: Whaddayaknow, it _was_ a joke that got taken at face value after all. The news media who reported it as fact have all retracted it, not that that will stop them from jumping the gun next time or anything. Now, all of the bloggers who spread the story should do so too. I mean, I like slamming Bush as much as the next godless lib'rul, but fair's fair. There's no justice in taunting him for something that he didn't actually do; It's not as if there's any shortage of _true_ stories to mock him for.
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In the not too distant future, genetic screening will become cheaper and cheaper, until the cost of the procedure will be outweighed by the average medical costs of _not_ using it, and it will probably become routine. When they figure out how to culture oocytes and spermatocytes outside the body, it won't even require that an embryo be created first to test for genetic defects*. Once the screening becomes routine, congenital deafness will become increasingly rare, as most hearing parents (and many, maybe even most deaf ones) will make sure that their children are born with (or more precisely, have the genes for) normal hearing.

Now, here's the dillemma: Some Deaf parents are going to want to ensure that their children are Deaf, like them. Should this be permitted as well? Hmm...

*How this will work is, you would isolate a single oocyte or spermatocyte, induce it to divide, then examine(destructively) either the polar body, or one of the sperm, and by process of elimination see what the genetic makeup of the egg or other sperm is likely to be. Of course there's always the possibility of mutation or chromosomal abnormality, so creating an embryo and destructively examining one cell will continue to be more accurate, and probably a lot cheaper. This method will eliminate the current ethical problem for those who believe that life begins at conception, though.

Of course, once that part is out of the way, it will probably be a hell of a lot easier and cheaper to induce the fertilized egg to divide into twins, quadruplets, octoplets, etc, than it would be to repeat the first procedure until you have enough embryos to ensure one of them gets implanted. So do they all share the same soul?
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The song itself _would_ be fairly innocuous, but watching the video forces it into your brain, where it latches on and takes control. I don't WANT to post this, but the parasitic meme is forcing me to. Yessiree, one'a them teddy-robots crawled into my brain, like the beetle in that one Star Trek movie...



And here's the antidote. Like many counter-agents, it _would_ be toxic if taken in isolation, but if you get two poisons fighting each other, health can result!

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"Aussie Tan-inducing Implant Tested. Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals is currently working on a rice-grain sized implant that when placed under the skin induces a tan and provides increased UV protection."

Truly, we are living in the future. In other news, I broke down and brought a new beard-trimmer. Alas, evil spirits intervened and caused the adjustable comby-piece to slip into the lowest setting, right when I was doing the middle of my chin. Evil Genius that I am, I still don't think a forked beard would fit me. So, I had to trim the whole thing down. Oh well, in another two weeks or so, it should grow out to a proper length.
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"Space-elevator tether climbs a mile high

A slim cable for a space elevator has been built stretching a mile into the sky, enabling robots to scrabble some way up and down the line.

LiftPort Group, a private US company on a quest to build a space elevator by April 2018, stretched the strong carbon ribbon 1 mile (1.6 km) into the sky from the Arizona desert outside Phoenix in January tests, it announced on Monday."
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Actually, an Oil Industry talking point, if that makes any difference:
"Ethanol Fuel More Advantageous Than Thought

Producing a gallon of ethanol gas from corn requires 95 percent less petroleum than producing a gallon from fossil fuels, a new study finds.

...

The study refined results from several previous studies by comparing the total energy that goes into making ethanol gas from corn, such as harvesting and refining, and comparing it to the energy needed to produce gasoline from fossil fuels. Kammen's team looked into levels of greenhouse gases produced by both the production and the use of each fuel.

They found inconsistencies and errors in the previous work, which had suggested ethanol gas might not be beneficial.

After correcting the errors—which ranged from incorrect unit conversions to reliance on data from outdated methods more than a century old—the researchers arrived at a very different conclusion: not only does corn-based ethanol gas reduce petroleum use by 95 percent, it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions about 13 percent, although that decrease is within a range of uncertainty for the imprecise data involved."

And of course, the fact that the older studies were funded by oil companies had _nothing_ to do with their impreciseness. Riiiight....
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Transparent Aluminum is a reality! Actually, it's an ceramic made from aluminum, but it's still cool. Soon, they may be armoring vehicles with it. One of the benefits of this, even more important than the lighter weight, is that the Alon panels only have three layers, and not multiple laminated plates. Regular ballistic glass has an unfortunate tendency to delaminate in extreme heat (hmmm, that phrase "extreme heat" sounds vaguely familiar...). This doesn't effect the protective value of the glass, but it destroys visability, which sucks. With the new material, this problem should disappear. Gee, too bad I'll be long gone from the Army by the time this ever gets fielded. :-P
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Moral Debate: Procedure Risks Making Monkeys More Humanlike
By Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Senior Writer

The insertion of human stem cells into monkey brains runs a "real risk" of altering the animals' abilities in ways that might make them more like us, scientists said today.

A panel of 22 experts -- including primatologists, stem cell researchers, lawyers and philosophers -- debated the possible consequences of the technique for more than a year.
.

Can any doubt that the Day of the Squidobo is near? For the ignorant among you, the Squidobo is a hybrid of Squid and Bonobo. It will possess the squid's myriad tentacles and flexability, and the bonobo's warm blood and, er, gregariousness. They will originally be created as living sex toys for rich degenerates; Eventually, they will be recognized as humanity's glorious succesor species, and become the dominant race in the galaxy. Let us all do our part to ensure that these magnificent creatures are born and take their rightful place as Global Overlords!
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U.S.: No billboards in space

Friday, May 20, 2005 Posted: 10:36 AM EDT (1436 GMT)


WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The U.S. government does not want billboards in space.

The Federal Aviation Administration proposed Thursday to amend its regulations to ensure that it can enforce a law that prohibits "obtrusive" advertising in zero gravity.

"Objects placed in orbit, if large enough, could be seen by people around the world for long periods of time," the FAA said in a regulatory filing.

Currently, the FAA lacks the authority to enforce the existing law.

For instance, outsized billboards deployed by a space company into low Earth orbit could appear as large as the moon and be seen without a telescope, the FAA said. Big and bright advertisements might hinder astronomers.

"Large advertisements could destroy the darkness of the night sky," regulators said.

Arrr!

Feb. 6th, 2005 04:11 pm
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The quality of the pirated DVDs and CDs over here has really improved. The packaging looks almost exactly like the real thing; for many of them, the only way to tell that they’re copies is the misspellings on the back. Text scanning programs have trouble with smaller fonts, and the local bootleggers don’t know English well enough to catch the errors.

You know, the rapid advances that the bootleggers have made in the last year give me more hope for the future of this country than all the political posturing of both governments (US and provisional Iraqi) put together.
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http://www.concordmonitor.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041020/REPOSITORY/410200332/1013/NEWS03

" Is every memory worth keeping? New pills stir debate
Drugs can deaden, lessen the effects of bad recollections

By ROB STEIN
The Washington Post
October 20. 2004 8:12AM

K
athleen Logue was waiting at a traffic light when two men smashed her car's side window, pointed a gun at her head and ordered her to drive. For hours, Logue fought off her attackers' attempts to rape her, and finally she escaped. But for years afterward, she was tormented by memories of that terrifying day.

So years later, after a speeding bicycle messenger knocked the Boston paralegal onto the pavement in front of oncoming traffic, Logue jumped at a chance to try something that might prevent her from being haunted by her latest ordeal.

"I didn't want to suffer years and years of cold sweats and nightmares and not being able to function again," she said. "I was prone to it because I had suffered post-traumatic stress from being carjacked. I didn't want to go through that again."

Logue volunteered for an experiment designed to test whether taking a pill immediately after a terrorizing experience might reduce the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study is part of a promising but controversial field of research seeking to alter, or possibly erase, the impact of painful memories - a concept dubbed "therapeutic forgetting" by some and taken to science fiction extremes in films such as this summer's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. "


http://www.rdg.ac.uk/KevinWarwick/html/project_cyborg_2_0.html

"The next step towards true Cyborgs?

On the 14th of March 2002 a one hundred electrode array was surgically implanted into the median nerve fibres of the left arm of Professor Kevin Warwick. The operation was carried out at Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, by a medical team headed by the neurosurgeons Amjad Shad and Peter teddy. The procedure, which took a little over two hours, involved inserting a guiding tube into a two inch incision made above the wrist, inserting the microelectrode array into this tube and firing it into the median nerve fibres below the elbow joint.

A number of experiments have been carried out using the signals detected by the array, most notably Professor Warwick was able to control an electric wheelchair and an intelligent artificial hand, developed by Dr Peter Kyberd, using this neural interface. In addition to being able to measure the nerve signals transmitted down Professor Wariwck’s left arm, the implant was also able to create artificial sensation by stimluating individual electrodes within the array. This was demonstrated with the aid of Kevin’s wife Irena and a second, less complex implantconnecting to her nervous system. "

Ya know, it'll REALLY piss me off if I die too soon to see where all this cool stuff is leading us to.

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