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Tag Archives: science

  • What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team
    What did Google find when it did research on finding the perfect that worked well together and delivered? I’ll save you the trouble of reading the article and quote the answer. However, I think creating teams that can foster these types of environment is difficult in practice.

    When Rozovsky and her Google colleagues encountered the concept of psychological safety in academic papers, it was as if everything suddenly fell into place. One engineer, for instance, had told researchers that his team leader was ‘‘direct and straightforward, which creates a safe space for you to take risks.’’ That team, researchers estimated, was among Google’s accomplished groups. By contrast, another engineer had told the researchers that his ‘‘team leader has poor emotional control.’’ He added: ‘‘He panics over small issues and keeps trying to grab control. I would hate to be driving with him being in the passenger seat, because he would keep trying to grab the steering wheel and crash the car.’’ That team, researchers presumed, did not perform well.

  • You won’t believe how Nike lost Steph
    There’s two stories in this article. How Nike lost Steph, and how Under Armor was able to convince Steph to come across to their world. Here’s a quote from the former:

    The pitch meeting, according to Steph’s father Dell, who was present, kicked off with one Nike official accidentally addressing Stephen as “Steph-on,” the moniker, of course, of Steve Urkel’s alter ego in Family Matters. “I heard some people pronounce his name wrong before,” says Dell Curry. “I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that I didn’t get a correction.”

    It got worse from there. A PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant’s name, presumably left on by accident, presumably residue from repurposed materials. “I stopped paying attention after that,” Dell says. Though Dell resolved to “keep a poker face,” throughout the entirety of the pitch, the decision to leave Nike was in the works.

  • What it’s like when your Tinder date lives across the U.S.-Mexico border
    This is an interesting problem faced by people who live near borders. I guess Niagara Falls/Buffalo could have similar things. Although, in this example there are some cultural hangups as well.

    Like Daniel, Jesús can tell from a profile where a girl is from, but it isn’t about language. He says a Mexican girl typically has a profile pic that’s a selfie set in a restroom with bad resolution: “American girls, you see them doing something, like going outdoors or to the beach or going clubbing or having lunch with their friends.” The key difference: “In Mexico, it’s ‘How hot are you?’ In America it’s more ‘What do you do, what are your interests, what do you like?’”

  • World Heat Record Overturned–A Personal Account
    This is a bit esoteric, but I found this to be interesting and convincing. The world heat record used to be 58°C (136.4°F) measured on September 13, 1922 at Al Azizia, Libya. Now the record has returned back to Death Valley!

    In any case, Randy picked up the ball and created an ad-hoc evaluation committee for the World Meteorological Organization to evaluate the record for the WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes (http://wmo.asu.edu/). After this positive response from Randy, I asked El Fadli if Libya officially accepted the Azizia figure. He responded that they did not. Since records like this are, to a degree, the provenance of national interest and El Fadli responded that Libya did not officially accept the colonial-era data from Azizia (measured by Italian authorities at that time in Tripolitania), this became the catalyst to launch an official WMO investigation.

  • ‘How Much Suffering Can You Take?’
    I’m never going to do a marathon, or a triathalon, or an Ironman competetion. But these people do five consecutive Ironmans within 5 days! Is that crazy? Their bodies think they are.

    Ultra-endurance athletes appear to have an increased rate of cardiac arrhythmias, or unusual heartbeats, most likely because of scarring of the heart known as fibrosis. But what, if any, danger that poses has been hard to pin down, Hoffman said.

    “Exactly why the fibrosis occurs probably isn’t understood, but seems to be an adaptive response to this sort of exercise,” he said.

    These ultratriathletes, however, tend not to dwell on the wear and tear of their bodies, at least once the race is done.

    “I know this is not good for my body,” said Jay Lonsway, a urologist who completed the quintuple. “But it is good for my soul.”


  • It’s Tough Being Over 40 in Silicon Valley
    I don’t think my situation will be exactly the same (since I don’t work “in” the Valley), but at some point I’ll end up with the same predicament. Everyone in tech will. So it’s interesting to hear stories about how older people are coping.

    At ProMatch, a state-funded job counseling and networking program in Sunnyvale, Calif., Robert Withers advises his mostly middle-aged or older clients to cut anything on their résumés that’s more than 10 years old, to use a professional photographer for their LinkedIn headshots, and to hang out in the parking lots of places where they’ll be interviewing to see what the people there wear.

  • Is there a ceiling on what our brains can understand?
    I’ve wondered about this before and am on the side of the fence that thinks there is a ceiling. The genesis for my ideas is the Star Trek TNG episode where they encounter a 2D civilization – they couldn’t comprehend 3D. Could we ever comprehend something in 4D (and I don’t mean some trivial cases).

    Say we could create a group of chimps that could live for a million years, and we have the best human teachers spend the whole million years trying to teach the chimps to understand quantum mechanics well enough that they’d be able to, on their own, build a working particle accelerator. It wouldn’t happen. Not possible. A chimp brain is simply not capable of learning something of that complexity, because there’s a ceiling on what a chimp brain can understand.

  • Why Do Tourists Visit Ancient Ruins Everywhere Except the United States?
    I approached this article with an for finding interesting things to visit in the US (i.e., via road trip instead of flying) but this article seems to only suggest 2 places: Cahokia in St Louis and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico

    Cahokia is mysterious to historians because North America did not have writing systems, and Cahokia’s population disappeared suddenly and mysteriously in the late 1300s. By the time Europeans found the site, even Native Americans knew little about it.

    What we do know is that a village was razed in 1050 to rebuild Cahokia on a grid, with a grand plaza and ceremonial structures built on two hundred huge, earthen pyramids. The population increased so rapidly—Dr. Pauketat writes that walking from the edge of Cahokia’s territory to the city center would have taken two days at its peak—that Cahokia must have drawn thousands of immigrants inspired by its religion, culture, or politics.

  • Research suggests being lazy is a sign of high intelligence
    I’ve been using the Pocket Recommendation feed to find articles and end up with a lot of short scientific articles that have an interesting hypothesis but not much substance in the article (almost not worth spending the time to blog as I’m more interested in long reads). Here’s one example, although it has this mind twister:

    Researchers suggested the findings could lend weight to the idea that non-thinkers get bored more easily, so need to fill their time with physical activity.

    But the downside to being brainer – and lazier – warned Mr McElroy was the negative impact of a sedentary lifestyle.

  • Why Do Famous People Get Paid $250,000 to Give a Speech?
    A look at the speaking circuit, how it works, and how much money people make. It’s not that great of a gig even if you’re super famous. The story of Up In The Air comes to mind.

    “We’ve essentially had every former president since Ronald Reagan,” says Chuck Carr, the Vice President for Convention, Education & Training at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), “and most of the secretaries of state.” As a professional association, ISRI not only wants to sell tickets to its annual conference. It wants good attendance from recycling professionals so they benefit from the networking opportunities. And people like Stanley McChrystal and Bill Clinton help them do that.


  • This is what life would actually be like without processed food
    If you’re pedantic about not having any processed food, then this is what you’re going to get:

    The second and considerably more problematic consequence is that even the earliest form of food processing has probably contributed to obesity. When you process food, whether by cooking it or simply cutting it into smaller pieces, you tend to get more energy out of it relative to the energy expended processing and digesting it. So we now get more calories from the same amount of food than we used to, even though it’s no more satiating. Surely, Lieberman said, that helps explain why we’re eating so many more calories than we used to.

  • Handcuffed to Uber
    Here is a side you typically don’t hear about – early employees of Uber can’t leave the company because they can’t pay the tax on their options!

    In a completely hypothetical example, let’s say an early, top Uber engineer was given .5 percent of the company. Now let’s say this person was awarded options in 2011, when Uber raised $11 million in Series A funding at a reported $60 million valuation. His ownership stake at the time would have been $300,000. Yet today, that same stake (undiluted) would now be worth $300 million at Uber’s reported current post-money valuation of $60 billion. That’s a paper gain of $299,700,000.

  • A Bird’s-Eye View of Nature’s Hidden Order
    Fascinating introduction to the idea of hyperuniformity and how it appears in Nature. This is something you inherently know about, but haven’t ever formalized.

    Torquato and a colleague launched the study of hyperuniformity 13 years ago, describing it theoretically and identifying a simple yet surprising example: “You take marbles, you put them in a container, you shake them up until they jam,” Torquato said in his Princeton office this spring. “That system is hyperuniform.”

    The marbles fall into an arrangement, technically called the “maximally random jammed packing,” in which they fill 64 percent of space. (The rest is empty air.) This is less than in the densest possible arrangement of spheres — the lattice packing used to stack oranges in a crate, which fills 74 percent of space. But lattice packings aren’t always possible to achieve. You can’t easily shake a boxful of marbles into a crystalline arrangement.

  • After three weeks in China, it’s clear Beijing is Silicon Valley’s only true competitor
    I’m curious about how tech is run in China given the everything-goes business mindset and standard sweatshop conditions. Those sound like bad points for the industry, but I think that it actually means that they can compete better than western companies.

    In China, there is a company work culture at startups that’s called 9/9/6. It means that regular work hours for most employees are from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week. If you thought Silicon Valley has intense work hours, think again.

    For founders and top executives, it’s often 9/11/6.5. That’s probably not very efficient and useful (who’s good as a leader when they’re always tired and don’t know their kids?) but totally common.

  • What Are the Odds We Are Living in a Computer Simulation?
    This is a very fascinating article about the idea that we really are in “The Matrix”. It’s fascinating because I’ve thought the idea to be really interesting ever since watching Men In Black when they zoomed out at the end and it turns out that our galaxy was just a marble in a box of some bigger being.

    Bostrom, in his original paper, envisioned a different possibility: if the computational cost of all these nested simulations is too high, he wrote, our simulators might simply click “quit.” The invention of simulation might be the end of the world.


  • A Question of Privilege
    Depending how you write a story, it can be viewed as a privileged or unprivileged life. Here’s one example.
  • The hidden price Steph Curry pays for making the impossible seem effortless
    The first article I read about Steph Curry (so far). I’m sure there will be many more written about him throughout his career.

    Curry has dramatically scaled back his commitments. The offers still come in “on an almost daily basis,” Austin says, but mostly, the answer is no. His deals with State Farm and Express recently concluded, and he won’t renew. Instead, going forward Curry has prioritized a few lucrative contracts that feel true to him and bespeak a clean message. There are no candy or fast food commercials; instead he endorses Brita water filters. And of course Under Armour, which renegotiated to give him equity in the company and a royalty-cut of his sneaker sales. If he takes on anything new it will be something that offers him a stake, and doesn’t require a lot of appearances, or photo and video shoots.

  • The Minecraft Generation
    An article in the NY Times that talks about how Minecraft might be this generation’s garage tinkering for budding engineers.

    Redstone transports energy between blocks, like an electrical connection. Attach a block that contains power — a redstone “torch,” for example, which looks like a forearm-size matchstick — to one end of a trail of redstone, and anything connected to the other end will receive power. Hit a button here, and another block shifts position over there. Persson ingeniously designed redstone in a way that mimics real-world electronics. Switches and buttons and levers turn the redstone on and off, enabling players to build what computer scientists call “logic gates.” Place two Minecraft switches next to each other, connect them to redstone and suddenly you have what’s known as an “AND” gate: If Switch 1 and Switch 2 are both thrown, energy flows through the redstone wire. You can also rig an “OR” gate, whereby flipping either lever energizes the wire.

    These AND and OR gates are, in virtual form, the same as the circuitry you’d find inside a computer chip. They’re also like the Boolean logic that programmers employ every day in their code. Together, these simple gates let Minecraft players construct machines of astonishing complexity.

  • The Ikea Way
    Another IKEA article but this one is focused more on how IKEA does globalization

    Ikea used to be pretty lousy at expansion. When the company first went into the U.S. market in 1985, it forgot it was a retailer. Instead it behaved like an exporter, taking beds and cabinets measured in centimeters and plopping them down in its first U.S. store near Philadelphia. Even sales successes happened for the wrong reasons: Americans bought an inordinate amount of Ikea vases … using them as water glasses. The European-size ones were too small to satiate Americans’ preference for ice.

  • A controversial theory may explain the real reason humans have allergies
    Not really controversial, but the theory is new to me and possibly you.

    We know that allergens often cause physical damage. They rip open cells, irritate membranes, slice proteins into tatters. Maybe, Medzhitov thought, allergens do so much damage that we need a defense against them. “If you think of all the major symptoms of allergic reactions–runny noses, tears, sneezing, coughing, itching, vomiting and diarrhoea–all of these things have one thing in common,” said Medzhitov. “They all have to do with expulsion.” Suddenly the misery of allergies took on a new look. Allergies weren’t the body going haywire; they were the body’s strategy for getting rid of the allergens.


  • Chinatown’s Kitchen Network
    I though this was an interesting article about how the various Chinese restaurants in SmallTownUSA get cooks (because owners don’t want to slave in a kitchen forever). I don’t think a similar thing happens in Toronto, although I can’t really tell because I never see the cooks. However, the wait staff at a couple of Chinese restaurants that I frequent are consistent.

    Rain lives with five co-workers in a red brick town house that his boss owns, part of a woodsy development near the restaurant. The house is tidy; there are three floors covered with white carpeting, and each worker has been supplied with an identical cot, a desk, a chair, and a lamp. “Some bosses don’t take care of the houses,” Rain said. “If they’re renting the house, especially, they don’t care. The rooms will actually smell.” Every restaurant worker has a story of sleeping in a dank basement or being packed in a room with five other people. Many complain of living in a house that has no washing machine, and being forced to spend their day off scrubbing their grease-spattered T-shirts in a sink.

    Rain’s boss, in contrast, is fastidious. The house has a granite-countered kitchen, but he forbids the employees living there to use it; instead, a hot plate and a card table have been set up in the garage. Outside, the building is indistinguishable from the other town houses, aside from a tin can full of cigarette butts on the doorstep. The shades are kept drawn.

  • Why do people earn what they earn?
    A look at a couple of professions/industries and trends as to why some people in one job earn more than another.

    But the server-as-secret-weapon tells only part of the story. After sifting through lots of academic papers and speaking to economists, I came to think of the depressed pay for cooks relative to waiters as a sort of “dream penalty” at play.

    Spend a day asking middle schoolers what they want to be when they grow up and I guarantee you’ll never hear “waiter,” “actuary,” or “portfolio manager.” Instead, their dream jobs tend to reflect activities they participate in: the performing arts, writing, teaching, cooking, and sports. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that there are so many underpaid actors, reporters, teachers, cooks, and minor league baseball players out there.

  • Super-Intelligent Humans Are Coming
    A discussion about whether (or more correctly, how soon) we will see humans who have IQs of 1000! No discussion about how they will fit into society though, which I think is another problem.

    Each genetic variant slightly increases or decreases cognitive ability. Because it is determined by many small additive effects, cognitive ability is normally distributed, following the familiar bell-shaped curve, with more people in the middle than in the tails. A person with more than the average number of positive (IQ-increasing) variants will be above average in ability. The number of positive alleles above the population average required to raise the trait value by a standard deviation—that is, 15 points—is proportional to the square root of the number of variants, or about 100. In a nutshell, 100 or so additional positive variants could raise IQ by 15 points.

    Given that there are many thousands of potential positive variants, the implication is clear: If a human being could be engineered to have the positive version of each causal variant, they might exhibit cognitive ability which is roughly 100 standard deviations above average.

  • Detroit State of Mind
    What is it actually like to buy one of those really cheap houses in Detroit and work it back into a liveable state.

    Then we found the tall, red brick home standing just off a grand, tree-lined avenue, a house with (53!) new windows, a newish roof, and all the inner workings spared by the roving bands of scrappers that plague the city. We jumped. It had been on the market for a year and a half at $22,000. We got it for $17,000—three flats’ worth clocking in at some 4,000 square feet, with two fireplaces and a garage to boot. The bar and jukebox and pool table in the basement hinted at a past as a speakeasy, and the icebox delivery door in the back landing charmed me, as did the original built-in cabinets. Hardwood floors waited under the carpet, and a park grill set in concrete in the back yard under a pine tree promised cook-outs under the stars. Updating the plumbing and electric would just take a couple weeks, the contractor said.

  • What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?
    One idea in the scientific community is that you age because you think & believe you are old. There have been some experiments done, but is it true or not?

    She recruited a number of healthy test subjects and gave them the mission to make themselves unwell. The subjects watched videos of people coughing and sneezing. There were tissues around and those in the experimental group were encouraged to act as if they had a cold. No deception was involved: The subjects weren’t misled, for example, into thinking they were being put into a germ chamber or anything like that. This was explicitly a test to see if they could voluntarily change their immune systems in measurable ways.

    In the study, which is ongoing, 40 percent of the experimental group reported cold symptoms following the experiment, while 10 percent of those in control group did. Buoyed, Langer ordered further analysis, looking for more concrete proof that they actually caught colds by testing their saliva for the IgA antibody, a sign of elevated immune-system response. In February, the results came in. All of the experimental subjects who had reported cold symptoms showed high levels of the IgA antibody.


  • Billie Bob’s (Mis) Fortune
    Yet another story about a normal person who won the lottery, only to find his life going sour

    Gerstner says Bonner told her that he had finally hooked up Billy Bob with Stone Street. Bonner told her that Billie Bob would receive $2.25 million in cash in exchange for ten years’ worth of his share of the lottery winnings, worth more than $6 million gross. Gerstner says she immediately knew it was a very bad deal for Billie Bob. She was also concerned about the legality.

  • The Downsides Of Being a Dad
    An article that argues that maybe it doesn’t matter if you spend a lot of time with your kids

    I spoke with roughly a dozen experts and posed an identical scenario to each one. Say you have three fathers: one coaches his kid’s Little League team; one shows up to the games and cheers the kid on from the sidelines; and the other drops his kid off at practice. Is there any data to suggest that a kid’s long-term success is determined or even influenced by which type of father he has?

    And the answer, from each of the experts, was the same: nope, none, zero.

  • What Happens When You Enter the Witness Protection Program?
    I was expecting this article to have all sorts of Hollywood stories about criminals being whisked away, and having to live a new life; but no, the focus is mainly about the program itself rather than interesting plot twists

    The Witness Protection Program does face new challenges since its mob heyday and the period described in WITSEC (Shur retired in the 1990s). The first that most consider is the impact of the Internet. Even if it still seems ordinary for an adult in a small town not to use social networks, risk is amplified by the increasing number of digital traces our lives create. In addition, companies and organizations now have much higher expectations for finding a paper trail (or digital record) for any individual, making it harder to create a credible new identity.

  • Why Chinese patients are turning against their doctors.
    Usually when you read about problems in China, it’s about pollution or free speech. Here’s an interesting look at their medical system.

    I heard countless tales of overwork among Chinese doctors. A leading radiologist in Shanghai told me he’d heard that the record number of patients seen in a day is three hundred and fourteen. “That was at the Shanghai Children’s Hospital,” he said. “One doctor, 8 A.M. to 6 P.M., ten hours, two minutes per patient.” According to a study conducted in Shaanxi province, the average visit to a doctor’s office lasts seven minutes, and physicians spend only one and a half minutes of that time talking to the patient. As a result, patients tend to be pushy, crowding in doorways and entering without knocking. Joe Passanante, a doctor from Chicago who did a stint at Beijing United Family Hospital, told me that he was once performing CPR on a woman when the parents of a girl with a fever walked into the room. “Here I am pushing on a dead person’s chest, trying to revive her, and they’re asking me to see their daughter,” he recalled.

  • Why do we have blood types?
    Interesting article about the evolutionary reasons why we have blood types – and the pitfalls in our civilization before we realized the concept of blood types

    Landsteiner found that the clumping occurred only if he mixed certain people’s blood together. By working through all the combinations, he sorted his subjects into three groups. He gave them the entirely arbitrary names of A, B and C. (Later on C was renamed O, and a few years later other researchers discovered the AB group. By the middle of the 20th century the American researcher Philip Levine had discovered another way to categorise blood, based on whether it had the Rh blood factor. A plus or minus sign at the end of Landsteiner’s letters indicates whether a person has the factor or not.)


I’ve wanted to read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time since the mid 00s but never got around to it as there was always other, more interesting or light (both in weight and comprehension) books available. Thanks to the Kindle, I finally got around to reading it.

It starts out great and interesting. Taking the reader through the annals of history and introduces the major physical and astronomical discoveries that shape our understanding. Everything is at a high school level and explained clearly, although this is probably the fourth (high school, university physics, nuclear science) time I’ve been introduced to everything.

Then things start to go a bit off track. He talks about the big bang and the beginning of the universe, and it’s just plain difficult to explain those concepts in the same layman terms as basic physics. It’s no longer as interesting because I don’t want to read each chapter four times to understand it! After about 2/3rds through the book, I gave up. I have more interesting things to read.


Move over MBTI, there’s a new acronym on the block. Well, I don’t think the HBDI is as useful as the MBTI, but the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument gives another perspective. A person is supposed to primarily think in one of the following ways:

  • Analytical
  • Sequential
  • Interpersonal
  • Imaginative

It’s not entirely obvious to partition the types of thinking into those categories so it takes a bit of thinking (but what type?) to grasp. My 30 seconds of searching didn’t find any online tests to find out my HBDI; although I have a good idea of what I should fit under.


If you’ve ever tried to hide or doctor a photo using photo editing software, then you don’t want to read this breakdown of how your photoshop handiwork can be discovered. It’s quite amazing that all this data is leaked out; I’m surprised there aren’t more exposés of doctored photos from online sources.

Although the dress appears to have a random noise pattern, there is actually one area where there is a well-defined pattern: her chest. Between her breast the dots form a well-organized “stretch” pattern. The modification also appears in a demosaic analysis as a diamond-shape distortion in the middle of her chest, and in the 2nd principal component as a minor color variation. Digital enhancements usually appear in multiple image analysis tests, and this appears in min/max, PCA, and demosaic analysis, among other tests.


Whenever I fly, I buy a magazine. A week ago, I hung out at Chapters to pick one up. Typically I try to go for some current affairs magazine such as The New Yorker, Atlantic, Wired etc, but usually I have already read one or two of the articles online. I haven’t been reading as much recently, but the articles in the current affairs didn’t end up interesting me.

Instead I picked up Scientific American Mind which is a bi-monthly devoted to sciences of the mind (e.g., mental illness). I was surprised by this pick myself, but when I flipped through it, all the feature articles were interesting to me (especially an article about perfectionism, and another about how our brain processes music, and why it affects us).


Literary writing has always been some sort of mystical art to me. I never figured out how authors and writers could write sentences that can evoke an image in your mind.

And that is why I find this article on growing sentences so fascinating. It’s like taking a scientific approach to writing, starting from a base idea/sentence such as Mario had help with his movie. He did a lot of the work himself. and evolving it to

It’s obvious someone else had a hand in the screenplay, but Mario did the choreography and most of the puppet-work personally — his little S-shaped arms and falcate digits are perfect for the forward curve from body to snout of a standard big-headed political puppet — and it was, without question, Mario’s little square Hush Puppies on the H^4’s operant foot-treadle, the Bolex itself mounted on one of the tunnel’s locked lab’s Husky-VI TL tripods across the over lit closet, mops and dull-gray janitorial buckets carefully moved out past the frame’s borders on either side of the little velvet stage.

Pretty crazy eh? I think my blog could be a novel if I wrote like that.


I’ve been reading a bit about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) as a form of understanding my personality. I understand myself pretty well, but I was curious about how I could be classified. The Wikipedia page on MBTI is a good introduction, but it’s not completely clear what each of the classifications mean. I found this page to be much more descriptive and I can classify myself as a INTJ.

The first letter stands for whether you are Extravertive or Introvertive. The second letter determines how you perceive things, either through Sensing or iNtuition. The third describes whether your form judgements through Thinking or Feeling and the finally letter determines whether your attitude is Judgemental or Perceiving. Note that there are specific definitions for these words with respect to MBTI that are slightly different from the regular definitions.

Initially for some of the types, I couldn’t pick one or the other. But further reading the characteristics, I’m not confident that I do belong to the particular classification. I won’t go into how I reached my classification, but it’s an interesting exercise I recommend.