Cool Links

Duct tape, or duck tape if you are old school (1), can fix anything, according to the public. Well, according to men in the public who are often too lazy to do it right.

But it has to have limits and engineers love to find out where things go from linear to nonlinear.

So if you give engineers the same amount of duct/duck tape, who could make their friends stick to the wall the longest?  The answer, found a Lockheed team, is about 15 minutes. Team "Ron Made Us Do It" won. Naturally, they suspended a systems engineer, because 15 minutes of wasted time there makes little difference (I kid, I kid).
At a young age, I gave up on trying to master the latest high-fives, hand signs and generally trying to be cool. 

I couldn't do the math.

But math geeks can, and Ben Orlin at Math With Bad Drawings is apparently the coolest. He can show you how all of the various high fives relate to math.

Just one sample, since I put germaphobes in the title:



The Asymptote. This representation of one of the coolest behaviors a function can have is also good for germaphobes afraid of physical contact.

And he has 13 more!
In the early part of the 13th (XIII) century, Europe was still using Roman numerals. You can imagine what that did to advance math education.

Fibonacci is famous for the number sequence that bears his name today (I am not certain, but I believe the first program I wrote in Fortran on a Univac 1100/60 was for Fibonacci squares) but the Plus magazine team says he would be surprised by that; rather being famous for the famous sequence 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, ... he might expect to be remembered for helping to popularize a modern number system in a Latin-speaking world.
How would you do homework at night if you don't have electricity? 

As much as one fifth of the world may not have regular access to electricity but 16-year-old Ann Makosinski of Victoria, Canada may have helped solve part of the problem; she created a flashlight that is powered solely from hand heat.
RIP Perl?

RIP Perl?

Feb 26 2014 | 0 comment(s)

Perl or Python? It used to be that you could learn as much about a computer programmer asking that question about scripting languages preferences as I could learn by asking a racing fan if they liked Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson.

Not any more. Perl, which was regarded as really good for 'non-programmers' has lost a lot of ground, while Python is still popular.  Python, which had once been kind of an also-ran, except for cutting-edge female programmers (no, I am not kidding - women embraced Python well before men), stole the show.
When I was a young guy, there were predictions of doom based on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. 

Weirdly, it is still discussed in media reports every single day, even though it doesn't tell us anything at all about peoples' lives.

Do most Americans feel like the economy is doing well, even though the DJIA has gone up a lot? The president certainly claims the economy is better now than when he came into office, even though outside government, unemployment is still really high, and if we factor in the full-time jobs that are now part-time and people no longer on unemployment because they have been on it too long, things look really bad.
Do you know the difference between throughput and speed?

If you don't, you certainly would not after reading TechCrunch (the deal “may be legally outside of the traditional net neutrality rules”) or NPR or plenty of other places, who are rushing to use jargon like peering, capacity and transit all wrong.

Oh, and cost. It isn't going to cost you more, notes Dan Rayburn at Streaming Media

Bandwidth exchanges, confusing speed and throughput, they get a lot wrong. But Rayburn gets it right, so that's where you should go.
Teach For America is a national group that recruits recent college graduates to teach in poorer public schools. Presumably the students would be better served than they would be by regular substitute teachers in those areas.

But it is never going to be an easy process. Evangelism is just that, for a college student it would mean being a true believer, the same way an intern for a politician or Sierra Club would be. 
If you have talked with a left-wing person who is against food science, vaccines or energy, or a right-wing person who is against climate science or evolution, you may have thought they learned just enough science to be wrong. They seem to bookmark talking points that affirm their confirmation bias and just rehash them over and over.

But in business, the saying goes that the best way to learn about the flaws of your product is to find out what competitors say about it. So skeptical claims have some value, they tell scientists what weaknesses in context are involved in their results discussions.
Recently, it was claimed that all of the big questions in science had been answered and it was now just about filling in the details.

It isn't the first time the concept has taken hold; Lord Kelvin said the same thing about physics and then a few years later a young man named Einstein turned the world upside down: General relativity was special, special relativity was general and we found out that gravity doesn't work the way it should for the very large and the very small, and those concepts are the engine of physics today.

But what about science overall? 
Sorry sociologists, playing Everquest is not science. And OK Cupid knows everything they need to know about their audience, that is what they do, so you spending NSF money to sift through some data and making weak observational claims isn't really a valid use of research funding.
Every parent has an idea of where there child is on a normal growth chart. It's an easy barometer for knowing if there are developmental problems because so much about normal range of height, weight, and head circumference across age is known for kids.

Is a similar tool for cognitive and emotional development or for the development of select brain pathways on the horizon?
Since its discovery in the early 1990s, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) contrast has become the mainstay of human brain imaging. Today, the BOLD fMRI) signal is a widely-accepted marker of brain activity. 
A journal that published papers on something called 'ethical leadership' wouldn't seem to need any strong evidence basis, just a lot of surveys and weak observational claims with pretty words attached, so if it gets so many complaints it retracts five of your papers, you must really be out there.

Fred O. Walumbwa of the College of Business at Florida International University seems to be that guy. He is the common denominator in articles on the "impact of spiritual leadership on unit performance", "the mediating role of follower positivity in extreme contexts", "employee citizenship" and more.
Modern environmentalism is more about promoting distrust and fear than it is protecting the environment. Even when it comes to something basic like Golden Rice, activist groups take the demonize and ban approach. They hate science more than they love children.

In the apolitical segment of science media - yes, it exists, albeit smaller than its corporate face leads people to believe - the running joke is that the only science environmentalists accept is climate change, and only then because it feeds into their Doomsday narrative and says that humanity stinks.
We have noted in the past that smart kids are often sacrificed first on the altar of politics, funding and social engineering. The claim is that 'they are smart, they will succeed anyway'. Which is like saying Olympic athletes will be fine without training.

Regardless, when politicians want to put on a show, they cut firefighters and special needs budgets for schools and blame the public for not wanting a tax increase. But gifted programs are whacked for all kinds of crazy reasons, even when budgets are fine.
During the last few years, if you had a renewable energy idea, Germany embraced it. They already have a lot of protests about science - food, cell phones - and the time was right to say goodbye to nuclear protests as well.

So they trotted out "studies" showing a 20 percent return on wind power and solar and said those businesses just needed a boost in the short term. And people bought the hype. Writing in Spiegel, Anne Seith and Gerald Trauffetter outline the fall of Prokon, which had promised investors a 6 percent return (or your money back!) on green energy. $2 billion and a bankruptcy later and 75,000 investors who believed they were investing in the future are out in the cold.
Maxim Marketing Corp. of Los Angeles business writes in a 24-page Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit that Trader Joe’s peanut butter filled pretzels are a monopolistic effort by ConAgra and Trader Joe’s and claim breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations and violation of California antitrust law.

“ConAgra and Trader Joe’s have engaged in an unlawful conspiracy to eliminate competition in, and ultimately to monopolize, the peanut butter filled pocket pretzel market,” Maxim wrote in the court filing.

H/T Morning Cup. Thanks, Bob!
If you ask most people what Froot Loops taste like, they will give you a litany of flavors, based on the colors they remember, it seems. 

It's all in their heads, just like buying organic food or homeopathy flu medication. In reality, Froot Loops all taste the same. 

This is not news, it's been well documented since at least the 1990s but it got mentioned in TIME a few days ago and so the blogosphere has been engaged in faux outrage. Not the kind of hyper outrage a Nature editor gets if he uses a real person's name after being insulted over and over on Twitter, but outrage just the same.
The administration has never gotten tired of the idea that money is just something they print and so the solution to the student debt problem - which government created decades ago by declaring a college education a 'right' and making student loans unlimited - is to start forgiving student loans.

This is the wrong approach. Writing in The Atlantic, Jordan Weissmann notes Department of Education data showing that undergraduate tuition at public colleges for the entire United States was under $63 billion.