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Krypto-Nate

Kryptonite killed Superman. In basketball. (HT: Comics Should be Good)

Yup, we are talking about none other than this past weekend’s NBA/Sprite slam dunk contest. Where the New York Knick’s own Nate Robinson decked out in all green triumphed over last year’s winner “Superman” Dwight Howard.

Here’s Superman winning last year:

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And here’s Krypto-Nate crushing his foe:

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Awesome.

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Robbing a store with a Klingon weapon

I consider myself, unabashedly, a big Star Trek fan. Being a big fan means a lot of things. It means that I can quickly engage another Star Trek fan in a myriad of conversation about alien races and science fiction scenarios and debates about “which captain was the greatest”.

It also means that I can recognize a Klingon Bat’leth, a traditional weapon of the Klingon race:

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What being a fan doesn’t mean, however, is that I take said Bat’leth and use it to rob a store:

COLORADO SPRINGSA surveillance picture released by police Wednesday afternoon shows a man armed with what appears to be a small Klingon sword, holding up a 7-Eleven convenience store.

That same man robbed another 7-Eleven store store a half-hour later, and remains at large, Colorado Springs police Lt. David Whitlock said.

The first robbery was reported at 1:50 a.m., at 145 N Spruce St. The clerk told police a white man in his 20s, wearing a black mask, black jacket, and blue jeans, entered the store with a weapon the clerk recognized from the Star Trek TV series.

The robber demanded money and left with an undisclosed amount.

A half hour later, police received a call from a 7-Eleven at 2407 N. Union Blvd., where a man matching the previous description entered the store with a similar weapon. He also demanded money from the store clerk. The clerk refused and the robber “transported” himself out of the store on foot.

Both clerks described the weapon as a Star Trek Klingon-type sword, called a “bat’leth.”

Neither clerk was injured in the robberies.

It especially means that I wouldn’t try to rob a store with a Bat’leth that is too small for even a child Klingon warrior to use:

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Now, this is a bat’leth that you might be able to rob a store with:

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(Image credit) (Image credit)

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Eternal youth

The “holy grail” of aging research is the ability to actually reverse the aging process. Or in other words, turn the clock back on this aged fellow on the left and transform him back into the handsome young thing on the right:

Of course, as with all things biological, nature figured this out long before any pharmaceutical/cosmetics company or scientist did. The creepy thing though, is that the solution nature came up with comes in the form of a jellyfish. An immortal jellyfish.

Turritopsis nutricula has a magical gift which countless celebrities would kill for — it has the ability to become young after each round of mating. As far as I know, no other species can do this, and as far as scientists can tell — this little jellyfish can “become young again” (as in return to its “juvenile” polyp form) as many times as it wants.

The consequence? It’s spreading like a cancer — where it once was only in the Caribbean, it’s now everywhere. Imagine if Paris Hilton never died because she never aged. But, she kept reproducing. Yeah, that’s how intense this is.

So, pick how you want the world to end:

collision with an asteroid in 2036
black hole from the Large Hadron Collider
– or invasion of immortal unstoppable jellyfish creatures

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Times are changing

I’m a bit late to this story, but it’s about time Presidential portraits were brought into the 21st Century.

Mr. Obama goes to Washington – and gets the first presidential portrait taken with a digital camera

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And what camera took this sharp photo? Thanks to the photo’s EXIF data, we know (according to Engadget) it was a 21.1 mega-pixel Canon EOS 5D Mark II taken with no flash, using a 105mm lens stopped to f/10 at a 1/125 exposure with an ISO of 100.

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Scienc-norance

From Slate (HT: Marginal Revolutions):

The world of scientists remains distant and bizarre to most Americans. Only 18 percent of Americans know a scientist personally, according to a 2005 survey (subscription required), and when asked in 2007 to name scientific “role models,” the results were dismal. Forty-four percent of Americans couldn’t come up with a name at all, and among those few who did, their top answers were either not scientists or not alive: Bill Gates, Al Gore, Albert Einstein.

Its a tragedy that, despite living in a society that depends so much on science and technology for its wealth and position in the world, there are a surprising number of Americans who pay it little attention and an even larger group of people who seem woefully uneducated about it.

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Taken

My good friend and Bench Press partner-in-crime Anthony pointed me to this trailer which casts the perfect voice for what must be the most awesome over-the-phone threat of all time:

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SUND-ay terror

I’m a big fan of House, not only because the lead character is someone we all (or maybe just me) wish we could be (someone so brilliant that he can get away with saying and doing just about anything), but because of their use of bizarre medical cases showing off some of the extreme things that one’s body is capable of when sick.

While SUND (Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death) will probably never show up on House (given the sudden, inexplicable death of the patient preventing House and company from being able to do or say much of anything), it is definitely one example of an extremely bizarre condition which doctors still don’t have a good handle on.

I first read about it in an article on Forbes covering bizarre sleep disorders. The craziest thing about this “condition” is that it seems the victims die of nightmares!?:

Since 1977, more than a hundred Southeast Asian immigrants in the U.S., primarily ethnic Hmong from Laos, have died from a mysterious disorder known as Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome, according to reports by the U.S. Center for Disease Control. The victims were mostly imagemen in their 30s or older, who were apparently in good health when they died in their sleep for no apparent reason.

“The victim has no known antecedent illnesses, and there are no factors  that might precipitate cardiac arrest,” the Cambridge History of Disease notes. “At autopsy, no cause of death can be identified in the heart, lung or brain. Postmortem toxicologic screening tests reveal no poisons.”

Shelley Adler, a professor of integrative medicine at the University of San Francisco, California School of Medicine, speculates that the cataclysmic psychological stress caused by war, migration and rapid acculturation created such wrenching nightmares among Hmong refugees that they died. In other words, nightmares killed them.

Doing some additional research on Wikipedia reveals that the current operating hypothesis appears to be cardiovascular – mainly that SUNDS victims could all have potentially died of ventricular fibrillation (a lethal heart arrhythmia where the heart ceases to pump normally). There’s even a syndrome named for this – Brugada syndrome – with 6 associated genes which show a higher risk for the condition.

Now, in all honesty, I’m not sure how you diagnose a patient who’s already dead (esp. when autopsies and histories reveal nothing significant), but that leads us to the prognosis:

  1. If no one you know died suddenly in their sleep, you probably won’t either (it’s at least partially genetic)
  2. If someone you know did die suddenly in their sleep, go bulk up on Thiamine (Vitamin B-1), get routine heart monitoring, and maybe get a cardiac defibrillator implanted into your chest.

On that note, happy holidays everyone!

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Paradigm Shift@Home

I recently made a post on Bench Press about the potential for distributed computing (projects like Folding@Home and SETI@Home which combine the computing power from volunteers over the internet to do supercomputer style calculations) to help any initiative needing extra number-crunching power, as well as steps that the scientific and distributed computing communities can take to help get us there, as well as what I think is a valuable paradigm shift in science that the distributed computing approach represents:

What impresses me the most about projects like Folding@Home and SETI@Home is that they have defined some brilliant new ways to do science:

  • Use the internet – It’s a common theme on Bench Press, but with more and more people having faster and faster access to the internet, the potential for distributed computing becomes greater and greater. As Folding@Home demonstrated, such approaches can produce computing systems as powerful (or potentially more powerful) as leading supercomputer systems at a fraction of the cost.
  • Mobilize the public – We’ve discussed ways for the scientific community to reach out to the public like using social media and creating interactive applications/tools for the public to use, but efforts like Folding@Home illustrate a way to not only reach out to the public but to get them vested in science. In a world where high school science teachers find it difficult to get teens interested in science, initiatives like Folding@Home have created a system where teams of individuals compete on who can contribute the most to the effort! Instead of simply hoping that the public will continue to fund and listen, why not borrow a page from the many existing cancer-walk-a-thons and make it easy for the public to get involved?
  • Leverage new technology – It may not come as a surprise to our readers that a significant amount of the computational power at Folding@Home comes from graphics cards and Playstation 3’s. But, while many “mainstream” supercomputers ignored the new power afforded by these new chip types, Folding@Home developed software so that volunteers could quickly and easily use these powerful chips to boost their Folding@Home scores. The Folding@Home initiative also developed software to take advantage of innovations AMD and Intel included in their chips (new multi-core architectures and special instructions to speed up calculations). Is it any wonder, then, that Sony, NVIDIA, and AMD have all publically announced support for the initiative with their products?

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For more details on distributed computing and some of my thoughts on how the scientific community can better adopt these, check out the post at http://blog.benchside.com/2008/12/distribute-compute/

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Dilbert does subprime

If you’ve ever wondered just how the decision-making process which caused countless (supposedly) intelligent financial analysts to buy into securitized subprime mortgages and then cause the global economy to tank, a recent Dilbert might just have the answer:

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I think “it’s called math” and “I feel all savvy” pretty much wrap it up.

The logic behind securitization is basically just as Dogbert explained (buy up a lot of bad mortgages/cows and expect at least some of them to make it). The cartoon does leave out one (very dangerous) assumption which, if true, almost makes the whole scheme make sense (but just almost): mainly that the price of cows/homes is always increasing – so much so that even if one sick cow dies, you can still make a fair amount selling the carcass. That this entire scheme depended on being able to sell dead cows (foreclosed homes/re-financed mortgages) for more than they were originally worth is still mindboggling to me.

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The first lady of Star Trek

I just discovered, with much sadness, that Majel Roddenberry, wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, the actress who played the ever-memorable Lwaxana Troi, and the voice of all the various incarnations of Star Trek’s “computers” has just passed away.

I just spent the past couple of minutes browsing her Wikipedia page, and found some amusing anecdotes:

image She first appeared in Star Trek’s initial pilot, “The Cage”, as the USS Enterprise’s unnamed first officer. Barrett was romantically involved with Roddenberry, and the idea of having an otherwise unknown woman in a leading role because she was the producer’s girlfriend is said to have infuriated NBC executives who insisted that Roddenberry give the role to a man. In Star Trek Memories, William Shatner noted that women viewers felt she was “pushy” and “annoying” and thought that “Number One shouldn’t be trying so hard to fit in with the men.” Barrett often joked that Roddenberry, given the choice between keeping Mr. Spock (whom the network also hated) or the woman character, “kept the Vulcan and married the woman, ’cause he didn’t think Leonard [Nimoy] would have it the other way around.”

I don’t know what Gene Roddenberry was thinking, but Star Trek would always cast her in the role of women who fell in love with men who could/would never return their affection: first as a woman who fell in love with the non-emotional Spock [on the left] and later as the outrageous mother of Deanna Troi [on the right] who chased Captain Picard and Odo:

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That Mrs. Roddenberry will reprise her role as “the computer” in the new Star Trek movie has just made it a lot more meaningful for me.

RIP.

(Image Credit) (Image Credit) (Image Credit)

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Pride and Prejudice in the 21st Century

I’ve posted before on some hilarious Facebook parodies, like what if the Earth had a Facebook account?, or Hamlet as told through Facebook.

Today, I stumbled on yet another to add to the collection: what if Pride and Prejudice were told through Facebook, brought to you by much-ado.net (cut to focus on the few events I can remember from the story)?


Charles Bingley is buying a house!

Mrs. Bennet became a fan of Charles Bingley.

Charles Bingley is now friends with Mr. Bennet and Sir William Lucas.

11 of your friends are attending Assembly at Meryton.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is dreading this evening.

Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet are now friends.

Elizabeth Bennet is not handsome enough to tempt a certain gentleman. Ha!

Elizabeth Bennet promises never to dance with Mr. Darcy.

Fitzwilliam Darcy became a fan of Fine Eyes.

Caroline Bingley tagged Jane Bennet in her note Visit us at Netherfield.

Elizabeth Bennet is improving her mind by extensive reading.

Charles Bingley created an event: Ball at Netherfield.

Caroline Bingley has suggestions for Mr. Darcy’s domestic felicity.

Elizabeth Bennet and Caroline Bingley are attending the event Take a Turn about the Room.

Fitzwilliam Darcy feels the danger of paying Elizabeth too much attention.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is not pleased to see Wickham in town.

Elizabeth Bennet and George Wickham are now friends.

George Wickham told Elizabeth Bennet about Mr. Darcy’s evil deeds. 😉

15 of your friends are attending Ball at Netherfield.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is dancing with Elizabeth Bennet.

Elizabeth Bennet is trying to make out Mr. Darcy’s character and does not get on at all.

Caroline Bingley tagged Jane Bennet in her note We’re Leaving.

Elizabeth Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam are now friends.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is not afraid of Elizabeth Bennet. Well, maybe a little.

Charlotte Collins thinks she knows why Mr. Darcy visits so often.

Elizabeth Bennet is furious at Mr. Darcy for separating Bingley and her sister.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is proposing to Elizabeth Bennet. It is not going well. :-/

Lydia Bennet and Kitty Bennet joined the group 1,000,000 Strong Against the Officers Leaving Meryton!

Elizabeth Bennet and Georgiana Darcy are now friends.

Lydia Bennet and George Wickham are in a relationship.

Jane Bennet tagged Elizabeth Bennet in her note Bad News About Lydia.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is determined to find Wickham.

Mrs. Bennet left the group Widows of Men Killed in Duels.

Edward Gardiner tagged Mr. Bennet in his note They’re not Married, but They Will Be.

Mrs. Gardiner tagged Elizabeth Bennet in her note Yes, Mr. Darcy Arranged Everything (and I think he likes you).

Charles Bingley is back in Hertfordshire with Darcy.

Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley are now engaged.

Elizabeth Bennet has been insulted in every possible method.

Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy are now engaged.

Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy are now married.

Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley are now married.

Mrs. Bennet KNEW that single men with good fortunes would want wives.

For the whole thing, in all of its literary grandeur, check out much-ado.net’s genius!

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Acronym heaven

I’ve written before about the phenomena of TLAs in consulting (three-letter acronyms – which is itself a TLA), but sometimes the acronyms go beyond three letters. They can range from widely used acronyms acronyms you can sort of pronounce “EBIAT” (Earnings Before Interest After Tax), and sometimes they’re client-specific acronyms which defy all attempts to decipher or pronounce. My client, in particular, is fond of its acronyms – about as fond as scientists (esp. those dastardly biologists who keep coming up with random names for random proteins) are.

No small wonder that I took an immediate liking to this gem from Jorge Chan’s PhD comics:

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Sovereign Wealth Matters

My friend Serena, who you may know as one of the co-founders of My Mom is a Fob and My Dad is a Fob, is currently trying to find a way out of Thailand, something which protests at Bangkok’s two airports has made much more difficult. I wish Serena and her family the best of luck and a safe trip back.

imageWhile a lot of press attention is dedicated to the direct why’s of the protests (demands that the current Prime Minister step down because of his ties to a previously deposed Prime Minister, his brother), less attention is paid to the role that Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings played in the whole ordeal.

The Former Prime Minister made the mistake of selling his large 50% stake in Thai telecommunications company Shin corporation to Temasek, despite:

  • being accused of insider trading only a short while before
  • violating a law banning turning over majority control of telecommunications companies by foreign companies
  • making the sale without paying any capital gains taxes

The result of these accusations were widespread riots, the Prime Minister dissolving Parliament, and, eventually, him being removed by a military coup.

image And so, what have we learned here? Sovereign Wealth Funds are not just mere curiosities whereby oil-rich (Dubai, Mubadala, Norway, etc.) and Asian countries (China, Singapore) buy up HUGE stakes in companies (some of the research I did on these funds back in January put their total global size at about ~$3 trillion). They have serious political consequences, as the world is only beginning to discover:

Yes, we’re in the midst of a global recession right now, but think – what better time for a sovereign wealth fund to buy up companies then when the prices are low and when governments are least likely to raise a fuss about someone willing to inject capital into their struggling businesses?

(Image Source) (Image Source)

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What happens when you don’t accept our $100 bid

Circuit City, Anthony and I reached out to you and countless other troubled firms with our bid of $100. We presented some of our awesome strategy to revitalize your core business. Yet you turned us down. And what happened? You’re now seeking bankruptcy protection.

Circuit City Stores Inc. filed for bankruptcy amid rising competition from Best Buy Co., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and online electronics retailers. The petition for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Virginia, listed $3.4 billion in assets and $2.32 billion in liabilities, driving the shares down 56 percent before the New York Stock Exchange halted trading. The company said it is entering court protection owing Hewlett-Packard Co. $119 million and Samsung Electronics Co. $116 million.

One can only hope that the court recognizes the error of Circuit City’s ways and take us up on our offer…

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Comic book characters choose

The informed voter uncovers all they can about the political candidates’ views and backgrounds and performs an objective and methodical comparison which results in the selection of a particular candidate.

That is, of course, difficult and requires that the voter is actually smart enough to figure out the nuances and economic/social consequences of each candidate’s positions.

Much easier to simply ask – who would my favorite comic book character vote for? (HT: JZG, note: the “Comic Compass” is a play on the Political Compass test where the vertical axis charts how “socially” liberal or conservative you are, and the horizontal axis charts how “economically” liberal or conservative you are; so Ralph Nader is in the lower-left, Mao Ze Dong is in the upper-left, George W. Bush is in the upper-right, and Ayn Rand and her ilk are in the lower-right)

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I had no idea that Apocalypse (Marvel) was more economically liberal than Darkseid – dark God of Apokolips (DC), but comparable in economic views to the Hulk (Marvel).

(Source)

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Smiley

Did you think emoticons are a modern phenomena of the Internet? Think again. A long long time ago (~120 years ago to be more precise), in a place not so far away… a typographist sought a new way to communicate emotion with his people and to thwart the threat of evil cartoonists… (HT: Comics Should be Good)

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You know your economy is in trouble when…

  1. There is a “black market” that evolves to sell currency (b/c they don’t trust the fiat or official currency values)
  2. That black market is being carried out in the Classified ads of your country’s newspapers

In the classifieds on the web of the daily Iceland newspaper Mbl, you find hard currency for sale (US dollar, Danish kroner, and Euro) ranging from USD 300 to USD 12000. With the breakdown of the official exchange rates, the market has emerged.

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