Category Archives: Technology

Living Doll

Where we’ve got to with humanoid robots, here.

Rights For Robots?

In today’s newsletter (which I recommend again to you all), we find a link to the following story: Incident of drunk man kicking humanoid robot raises legal questions We read: A few weeks ago, a drunk man in Japan was arrested for kicking a humanoid robot that was stationed as a greeter at a […]

The EM Drive

OK, this is interesting: ‘Impossible’ rocket drive works and could get to Moon in four hours Some details here.

May Cause Flashbacks

Making the rounds today is a neural-network project from Google called DeepDream. It’s an open-source effort to train neural networks to recognize images (for you programmers, the code is here). I haven’t had any time to give this a close look, but if I understand correctly, when the system is presented with an unfamiliar image […]

Killing Them Softly

The Supreme Court ruled today on a case about the constitutionality of lethal injection. From the Washington Post: The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 on Monday to uphold a procedure used by states to carry out executions by lethal injection. The justices were considering a challenge brought by death-row inmates in Oklahoma, who allege […]

This Is The Future You Chose

We’ve been hearing a lot, lately, about Rachel Dolezal, Bruce Jenner, and other stories of historic magnitude, but awfully little about China’s “hack” of the Office of Personnel Management’s records — which, in this Information Age, is roughly on a par with Pearl Harbor. Why put “hack” in scarequotes? Because — wait for it — […]

I Can’t Do That, Dave

There’s an item in the Independent today announcing that “Self-driving cars may have to be programmed to kill you“. As is so often the case, dear Readers, you heard it here first. Related content from Sphere


This should worry you: The Shaming of Cheryl Rios Because the world has got so small, everything collides with everything else. Attention from all parts of this flattened, shrunken system can swivel to focus on any node at any time — and attention can exalt or destroy. In this case, it is like stereotactic radiosurgery: […]

This Thing All Things Devours

On February 26th, a five-member panel of FCC commissioners will vote on adopting a plan to apply government regulation to various aspects of the operation of the Internet. This will undoubtedly have far-reaching effects — and given the scale of the Federal government, of the Internet, and of the conflicting interests that will be affected, […]

Is Digital Civilization Sustainable?

Here’s something else that the Sony hacking story has me thinking about: the ‘arms race’ between hackers and cybersecurity. There have been a lot of high-profile cyberattacks lately, and if anything, they seem to be getting more frequent, and more damaging. What’s worse, more and more of every aspect of our lives, and of every […]

Ethics, Engineering, And Driverless Cars

There’s a lot of buzz lately about self-driving cars. They were the focus of a couple of sessions when I was at Singularity University a couple of years ago, and while I was there Google sent one over so we could get a look at it. The consensus at SU was that they confer so […]

The Womaniferous Aether

I’ve just read an outstanding essay on the paucity of women in high-tech jobs, and the stubbornly persistent (and demonstrably counterfactual) belief that it is caused, not by natural differences between the sexes, but by an invisible fog of sexism. I’d sum up its arguments for you, but it’s so good you should go and […]

Space Porn

I have to say, this is pretty titillating. It’s also the first I’m hearing about this sort of thing as a realistic possibility, and I wonder how seriously to take it. (The article says this rig can get to Alpha Centauri and back in a month. I assume that’s ship’s time, and so we’d still […]


Google’s just revealed its workplace demographics. The breakdown for tech workers: 60% white, 34% Asian, 2% Hispanic, 1% black. Pass the popcorn. Addendum, 5/29: I neglected to add above that the breakdown by sex is: women 17%, men 83%. Nobody should be surprised by any of this. To get through the multilevel Google tech interview, […]

Pedal To The Metal. Headlamps Off.

Writing at The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald reports on an item from the collection of classified material leaked by Edward Snowden: a report on the ways that “Western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction”. I can’t say that any of it should come as a […]

What STEM Shortage?

We’ve been hearing for years that the only way America can stay ‘competitive’ is to admit hordes of foreign engineers to supplement our inadequate supply of homegrown STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) workers. The constant influx of these workers on H-1B visas has kept wages in these fields from rising for many years now. But […]

Do The Right Thing

Just in case, loyal Readers, you happen to be looking for a fat tax write-off; and supposing also that you’ve been troubled lately by how hard it is for aging, pallid reactionary male bloggers just to get around without being interfered with by resentful Progressive mobs, here’s the perfect way to kill two birds with […]

How Heartbleed Works

A simple explanation from Randall Munroe.

Phase Transition

A story that’s making the rounds today concerns trending changes in the way people read. Here’s the lede, from today’s Washington Post: Claire Handscombe has a commitment problem online. Like a lot of Web surfers, she clicks on links posted on social networks, reads a few sentences, looks for exciting words, and then grows restless, […]

Creative Destruction

My Android phone just had a stroke, and I had to do a factory reset. I lost all my applications, which meant I had to go rummaging around to replace them. It’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because I’ve found some nifty new ones, and after blasting away all the cruft that […]


In a Takimag article called Useless Mouths, John Derbyshire looks at the road ahead, as technology displaces more and more workers. I recall that this sort of gloomy forecast was common when I was a boy, but I think this time round it’s more on the mark. (Barring a Butlerian Jihad, that is.) Things have […]

This Isn’t Rocket Science

According to the New York Times, the “prolonged” execution of one Dennis McGuire — who had been condemned for the brutal murder of a young pregnant woman — has raised, once again, questions about the humaneness of various methods of execution. In Mr. McGuire’s case, the technique was lethal injection: As the lethal drugs flowed […]


Today we have an interesting piece by Nick Land on John Smart’s novel approach to the Fermi Paradox (see here for more about the Fermi Paradox, if you aren’t familiar with the term): that advanced civilizations, rather than expanding into space, relentlessly turn inward. We read: John M. Smart’s solution to the Fermi Paradox is […]


Speaking of NASA, here’s their latest robot. Seeing that they’ve given it a female shape and name, I’d have thought ‘Fatima’, or perhaps ‘Ayisha’, would have been far more appropriate — but ‘Valkyrie’ it is, at least pending a little re-education amongst the staff. Related content from Sphere

Pale Blue Dot

On October 13th, NASA’s Juno probe, which is scheduled to arrive at Jupiter on Independence Day 2016, made a ‘slingshot’ flyby of Earth in order to boost its velocity. Using some low-res calibration cameras, it took a time-lapse movie of its approach to the Earth-Moon system. I don’t know why NASA is bothering with Jupiter, […]

You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

Back in July, I wrote the following: To the conservative, traditions arise naturally from the workings of human nature, as part of the ontogeny and organic development of societies. They are not the result of scientific planning or sociological theorizing — and like biological species themselves, they only come into view in retrospect. They are, […]

The Toothpaste Has Left The Tube

Here’s a 3D-printed 1911. In metal.


This is brilliant. Investors take note.

It’s Not A Bug, It’s a Feature

I’ve been preoccupied, so just a pair of related links for tonight. The topic is ‘biobots’ — i.e., remote-controlled cockroaches — and new ways to use them. Related content from Sphere

Just One Word

Forward-looking, tech-savvy investors knew a while back that 3-D printing was going to be a Big Deal. (Those farsighted speculators have already made handsome returns with companies like 3-D Systems and Stratasys.) The technology is still in its infancy, though — about where personal computing was in 1980 or so — and its truly transformative […]

The Droids We’re Looking For

Here’s another, from DARPA: WildCat. See also: RoboSimian.


A clever idea, this.

Nothing To Do, But What A View

I wish Carl Sagan were alive to see this: a gigapixel panoramic view of the surface of Mars. Don’t forget to click the “full screen” button.

More, More, More

If this is for real, it is a major innovation. Call your broker.

Arms Race

It was inevitable: given that surveillance cameras are everywhere these days, and that facial-recognition software is increasingly cheap and reliable, “privacy” freaks (who obviously have “something to hide”, or why make such a fuss?) are fighting back with a high-tech countermeasure, in the form of goggles that emit a cloaking glare of low-infrared radiation. There’s […]

O Brave New World

This is very impressive indeed.

Ticker Symbol, Please

This is quite a story, if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.


Wow, I love this little guy.


CERN has restored the world’s very first website to its original URL. Here.

Brave New World

This caught my eye: US plan calls for more scanning of private Web traffic, email Non-electronic communication will soon be a thing of the past. It’s interesting that the simplest of technologies — a packet of paper, a drop of wax — made possible, for thousands of years, something that for most people will soon […]

Battery, Parked

Attentive readers may recall that a few years ago we U.S. taxpayers lent $465 million to Tesla, a maker of electric cars. More recently we restructured the loan so that Tesla wouldn’t run out of money. (It is now, after all, a matter of vital national interest that Elon Musk’s entrepreneurial speculations actually pay off.) […]

Spot The Bug

Here’s an clever idea: crowdsourcing of malaria diagnosis, using a simple video game. Have a look.

Machines Making Machines

This is fantastic: Japanese robots making German cars. Hat tip: William Gibson.

Fun With Science

How to make a rail gun. Here.

Down In The Valley…

The Uncanny Valley, that is. Here.

Tech Talk

Forgive me, readers, but I have to make a brief technical digression: for some time now I’ve been grappling with a common but perplexing computer problem, one that appears to have vexed and confounded an awful lot of people. I’ve just found the solution, and I must share it here so that others Googling the […]

The Panopticon Is Here

With a hat tip to the indefatigable JK, here’s the latest on micro-drones. When I was at Singularity University this past April, a recurring theme was that the coming ubiquity of tiny, cheap and efficient sensors will soon have a seismic effect on the technological, and therefore the human, landscape. We like to think that […]

Auxetic Material

Never heard of it? Neither had I. It has a negative Poisson ratio. Here. See also here and here.


A reader brings to our attention a fantastic Google-Maps-based application. Here.

New York To London In 0.00186 Seconds

Here’s another edgy little item: warp drives might be feasible after all. Sharpens up the Fermi paradox even more, if so.