Cool Links

Until last week, I worked at a food truck downtown. We sold grilled cheese and milkshakes. One of the unusual things about this particular food service job was that the owner used customer comments and pictures on social media—especially Twitter and Instagram—to monitor his workers. Grilled cheese: gamified.

And it was explicitly framed as a game for workers. Members of whichever 'crew' got the most positive feedback on social media each month would win a $25 iTunes gift card.

But compliments are hard to track online. Even if a customer thinks she is paying a compliment online, she might not be. Like if you enjoyed your sandwich enough to Instagram it, but the color of the grilled bread wasn't exactly right, we’d hear about it.

Verification Junkie is a growing directory of apps, tools, sites and strategies for verifying, fact checking and assessing the validity of social media and user generated content.

Says creator Josh Stearns:
In the upside-down is back-and-forth and cows-can-whinny department, we present the new head of the EPA saying that by taking over control of CO2 emissions and allowing unelected partisan officials to bypass Congress and directly implement the personal policies of the president, they can help the economy.

Honestly, as we approach 5 years into this presidency, do we really think anyone in the White House is helping the economy?  Good guy and all, funny, smart about most things, but bonkers when it comes to money. 
Over the last few years, you may have noticed more "no smoking" signs have cropped up on parks and beaches. They're part of a larger trend banning smoking at outside, public areas. In fact, smoking has been banned in 843 parks and more than 150 beaches in the last two decades.

In California, where a law was passed banning smoking in bars and restaurants without a vote, they are now trying to can smoking on outdoor patios of bars and restaurants. And in cars. And in private homes.

Public health officials have long argued the bans are meant to eliminate dangers from secondhand, or "sidestream smoke," reduce the environmental impact of cigarette butts and to keep young, impressionable children from picking up on bad habits. Makes sense, right?
80 percent of Americans don't trust big banks and almost two-thirds think that corporate corruption is widespread. 

This loss of trust is costly. Though it is said that market competition is an efficient substitute for trustworthiness and integrity, economists have claimed for years that it is expensive and wasteful to monitor and regulate a system when trust is lost. 
The American media loves hackers - well, sometimes. Julian Assange releasing dirt on the Bush administration - yayyyyyy - but then Edward Snowden releasing dirt on the Obama administration was a big no-no. The media were suddenly to the right of Richard Nixon when it came to national security when President Obama looked bad.
Are you a lemon cowboy?  

You might soon be. While savvy consumers are spending less on food with organic labels (though the market is growing, due to un-savvy  consumers) and no one believes in 'natural' claims any more, "authentic origins" is just vague and healthy-sounding enough to resonate in marketing campaigns. It will surely be the cliché of 2013 in food circles.

Wyoming-based Dust Cutter Beverage Co. sells all-natural, Western-style lemonades - I don't know what western style is and it doesn't matter because it has "authentic origins". The company's founder, Eric Green, saw his grandparents, who owned the Warm Springs Ranch in Jackson Hole, give lemonade-and-whiskey "Dust Cutters" to guests coming off the trails of the dude ranch.
We've talked about it a lot here: bugs are a great protein source, usually for someone else. Starbucks customers, for example, cheered when the company announced it was removing an artificial coloring in its Frappuccino - until they learned that the organic coloring alternative, long used throughout history, was ground up cochineal bugs.
This might come as a surprise, given everything Cracked has written about them, but they acknowledge that not every scientist is evil. Instead, they say, most are just lucky idiots. 

Imagine that you're a scientist, and you just thought of something really crazy, like an experiment that will only work if you irradiate half the planet. You obviously can't do that, or at least you can't get caught doing that. Your only option then is to look around to see if someone's already done the crazy part for you, to find some serendipitous accident of man or nature that left a perfectly designed experiment in its wake. Something like ...
As we have discussed here numerous times, 'organic' mostly means what you want it to mean. The list of synthetic ingredients that the organic lobby has gotten the FDA to add is truly dizzying, with exceptions as simple as 'there is no non-synthetic alternative'.
John Rosemond has a master's degree in psychology and is a licensed psychologist. He is also a syndicated advice columnist who has been doing it since 1976, one of the longest-running syndicated columns in the U.S.

But the Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology wants him gone. He does not pay them a fee yet calls himself a psychologist due to having a degree in psychology and being a licensed psychologist.  But that does not count in Kentucky, they have suddenly determined, so they say his newspaper column is practicing psychology illegally.  Rosemond is the author of 11 parenting books and is a licensed psychologist in his home state of North Carolina and his work appears regularly in 200 newspapers nationwide.
How do you know subsidies are a dopey public policy? When it pays to smuggle rice into Thailand, even though Thailand already has enough rice to meet half the world's annual trade in the food staple.

The reason is that the Thai government is subsidizing production so heavily as part of a campaign platform that it is paying its farmers almost double the prevailing prices in Cambodia and Myanmar. Farmers in those neighboring countries are sending their grain across the border to be sold.

The equivalent of 750,000 tons of milled rice is being smuggled into Thailand a year, according to estimates of analysts and traders who have studied the illicit shipments.
Proponents of illegal immigration contend that they are doing jobs no one wants to do. Farmers worry about the cost of labor.

Both immigration and wage problems are solved by just using robots.  The Lettuce Bot, for example, can "thin" a field of lettuce in the time it takes about 20 workers to do the job by hand.

 A new generation of machines targets the last frontier of agricultural mechanization; fruits and vegetables destined for the fresh market, not processing, which have thus far resisted mechanization because they're sensitive to bruising.

And it would solve policy and labor issues too. Bring on the bots!
If environmental doomsday prophets had been around 10,000 years ago you would not exist.

Way back then, as a large tribe of people had begun to run out of food to hunt and berries to forage, some smart scientific person came up with the greatest idea anyone ever had - why don't we grow our own animals and vegetables?

A doomsday prophet in charge would have been talking about who they could kill off. They would have rationed and mitigated and legislated and agonized about who they could kill, preferably a bunch of people they did not like. Reason won out. Like the idea of a 1,500 calorie Big Kahuna Donut Burger? Thank science.
Who says the hard sciences lack female representation?

When it comes to murder using the awesome power of science, there is no gender disparity. 

Tianle Li, 44, a Bristol-Myers Squibb chemist for 10 years, has been found guilty of fatally poisoning her estranged husband, Xiaoye Wang, with thallium she got at work. She faces life in prison when she's sentenced Sept. 30th.

She was convicted of poisoning Wang with the highly toxic thallium while they were in the process of divorcing. He died early in 2011.
Masao Yoshida, 58, former boss of the Fukushima nuclear plant, "died of oesophagal cancer at 11:32am today at a Tokyo hospital," said a spokesman for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), the group that owns the Fukushima plant which had meltdown concerns after towering waves from an earthquake and tsunami swamped cooling systems.

Despite panic stories and concern among the public and the media, Yoshida was a classical stoic Japanese and stayed at his post.  8 months later he was admitted to the hospital and was diagnosed with throat cancer. After surgery for that, he had a brain hemorrhage and surgery again.
In the 1980s, basic science super-advocate President Ronald Reagan got a pitch about creating a futuristic non-lethal way to subdue people without injuring them. He loved the idea and by the end of the decade it was being developed.

Most everyone has a microwave oven in their house. Its 2.45 GHz frequency gives it a long wavelength so it can cook your food by penetrating deeply. Obviously, cooking people is a bad idea so the microwave weapon they proposed had a much higher frequency and thus a shorter wavelength. It would only only penetrate a little, where our layer of skin would absorb the microwaves and turn them into heat.
OTP is slang for One True Pairing, meaning your favorite combination of characters in a fandom.

Sci-ence.org does cool art about science and under the OTP heading they used a neat story about a mammal forerunner and an amphibian that lived (and died) together in an African burrow 250 million years ago
The Voynich manuscript has delighted conspiracy theorists and researchers since book dealer Wilfred Voynich found it in an Italian monastery in 1912. Its illustrations of naked nymphs, unidentifiable plants, astrological diagrams and pages and pages of text in an unidentified alphabet is considered gibberish, part of a Renaissance hoax to bilk rich, dumb people out of some money, by most, but an elaborate code by a persistent minority, mostly people who believe in "Chariots of the Gods" and Loch Ness Monster stuff.
 In what the FBI called “economic sabotage”, genetically modified 6,000 sugar beets from two fields in Southern Oregon’s Jackson County were destroyed this month.

Such modern hysteria makes the quaint clueless charm of the hipsters portrayed in "Portlandia" seem like a hundred years ago. At least in some counties these people are militant now.  The FBI isn't disclosing how the fields were destroyed - they know environmentalists lack imagination but love to copycat each other.