Category Archives: Miscellanea

Assorted links about science and tech

Some of these links are from last year, but they’re still interesting. Accompanied, as usual, by random comics illustrations.

In one of those “identical resumes/different gender” experiments, women were hired for STEM faculty positions twice as often as men of equal ability. As noted at the link this is not a real world experiment — nobody involved was real or actually hired — and even a slight superiority on the male side made it a slam dunk (despite shrieks online that it’s about women being picked over more qualified men).

“When AI gets attention for recovering lost works of art, it makes the technology sound a lot less scary than when it garners headlines for creating deep fakes that falsify politicians’ speech or for using facial recognition for authoritarian surveillance.” — from an article arguing that AIs researching art history are mostly just PR for the technology.

The kunga of Mesopotamia is the oldest human-created hybrid we know of, a mix of Syrian wild ass and donkey.

How game-theory AI is transforming high-stakes poker.

It’s been said that while fully automated cars are 90 percent of the way to perfection, the last 10 percent is nightmarishly hard. Case in point.

If you’re unvaccinated and catch Covid, CDC guidelines say you’re a priority for life-saving treatment ahead of other pulmonary issues.

Aww, gee, it seems right-wingers on right-wing social media are having trouble attracting followers.

What effect will massive mergers in the gaming industry have on the market?

The female “pudenda” derives from a Latin word for “shame.” Medicine is going to retire the word.

There are also a boatload of female body parts named for men.

If the Earn It Act imposes legal liability on hosting companies for posts harming children, will it also kill encryption?

There are only a few hundred Stradivarious violins. A digital project hopes to preserve their sound before time takes its toll.

“Throughout the pandemic, each time a public safety measure arrives on the scene, some experts fret that the masses will simply use the newfound sense of security as license to behave recklessly, canceling out or even reversing any benefits of the safety measure.” — On the dubious arguments that reducing danger makes the risk greater.

#SFWApro. Covers by Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Mort Meskin and Jack Binder

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Cats and food

Snowdrop has decided to hang out in the planter sometimes.Wisp, meanwhile, has suddenly decided to sleep on the couch next to me or in my lap rather than on her pillow.It’s almost like they’re living creatures who change their preferences rather than wind-up toys.

And here’s the raw apple pie I mentioned planning to make. A mix of nuts, dates, apples and dried apples, it’s quite tasty. Especially with some cheddar on top.#SFWApro

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The horror — the horror!

Did any of you “go fancy” for the holidays with fruit cocktail eggnog pie?Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth would recoil from this.



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Technology and science, with some covers mixed in

Spyware became common in schools during the first year of the pandemic. It isn’t going away now.

“The main challenge is the lack of human imagination; our inability to see a different future because we’re staring down this dystopian path of pandemic, climate change, biodiversity loss” A look at the imagineers who think they can turn deserts green. We’ll need them as North Carolina and other parts of the world may be killing off our forests.

The abandoned oil wells of Texas, and the havoc they wreak.

Abuses of Roma DNA.

And how should we research ancient DNA?

Is seagrass a potential new superfood?

Another reminder that pre-crime software isn’t free of human bias — it builds on it. See here. And here.

When we kill off a significant number of animals, species suffer from a loss of cultural knowledge.

“The world became smaller, simply because we had the horse.”

Some inner voices are more unusual than others.

Releasing millions of honeybees into the wild is not the solution to the decline in pollinators.

Climate change is real — and it’s happening in our gardens.

#SFWApro. Covers by Kelly Freas, unknown, Curt Swan and Swan again. All rights to images remain with current holders.


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Science and tech links

Is the military ignoring an easy tech solution to soldiers dying in friendly fire?

Crocodiles may look like ancient relics of the pre-mammal ages, but they’ve evolved a lot and they’re still evolving.

The challenges of telling a skeleton’s race.Hobby Lobby’s museum has had to give back most of its exhibits because of dubious provenance (in fairness, they’re hardly the only museum with that issue).

The great Cretaceous extinction is more complicated than just the legendary meteor wiping everything out.Lab grown meat is supposed to be the coming thing. But it’s nowhere near financially feasible yet.

A study finds that a single bitcoin transaction creates the equivalent electronic waste to tossing two iPhones in the trash.

#SFWApro. Covers by Ed Hannigan, Nicholas Peter Cardy and Jack Kirby

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Spider webs

I very rarely manage to capture webs when I try to photograph them, but these turned out pretty well.#SFWApro.

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A random shot of my bookshelves

Well, one specific bookshelf. Just because I felt like it. I believe in some quarters of the Internet these are now called “shelfies.”

And what the heck, here’s another.#SFWApro.

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Mostly depressing stuff about global warming, plus other science links

“At its worst, net zero by 2050 is a device for shunting responsibility across both time and space. Those in power today seek to pass their liabilities to those in power tomorrow. Every industry seeks to pass the buck to another industry. ” — a Guardian columnist on how our current goals for fighting global warming fall short.

As the world heats up, air conditioning becomes more vital, but it also makes the problems worse. What are the alternatives?

Air-travel contributes to global warming too. Here are the big problems they need to solve.

Global warming and other factors have put the Komodo dragon on the endangered list. There are dangers for vanilla and avocado crops, too.

The world’s largest carbon-capture machine has gone live.

Floating wind turbines could be a great clean energy source, but there are obstacles to overcome first.

“Black cemeteries are now at a disproportionate risk of being lost, some before they have even been officially found.”

The U.S. Army is looking to a cyborg future and worried movies will bias us against cyborgs.

To tighten its grip on the people, the Russian government is deploying its own internet.

Millionaire Julia Davies is helping acres of British farmland go back to nature.

How a rare New Zealand parrot may have removed harmful mutations from its gene pool.

Environmental activism around the world leads to activists being murdered.

“You do pi because everyone else has been doing pi.” — an article on whether there’s any point to calculating pi out to the trillions of digits.

Dogs are amazing — even as covid detectors. I’m sure Plushie could handle it.

What we’re still learning about the asteroid that ended the dinosaur age.

The technical and ethical challenges to resurrecting the woolly mammoth.

The California condor population has gone from 22 to more than 500.

#SFWApro. Comics cover by Mike Sekowsky, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Links about UFOs, nature and science

A physicist argues we shouldn’t try to contact alien life — who knows what the reaction will be (see, for example, Battleship)? And if some astrophysicist or amateur scientist makes contact, what’s to stop them presenting themselves as speaking for the human race?

A journalist argues that we should accept UFOs are real, physical things (as opposed to “real but just a trick of the light”), though not necessarily spaceships.

Here’s a lost of America’s more prominent UFO sightings. And some naval aviators say they see them every day. A fair number of officials in DC are believers, or at least interested enough to push for investigations. But a recent documentary claims the evidence for UFOs is just a government psy-op. A federal report comes to no definite conclusions about UFOs, but does suggest they are physical  objects. But both skeptics and believers agree that talking about it openly is a good thing.

Some scientists say the art of creating crop circles is worthy of serious study, but the UFO association makes that hard.

Are conflicts over “trash fish” surrogates for conflicts over Native American rights?

Speaking of right, here’s how race, oyster fishing and pollution intersect.

Argentinian developers turned wetlands into an upscale gated community. The capybara are fighting back.

The power of seaweed to fight global warming.

Dubai promised to plan one million trees. The reality is less impressive.

Is it sustainable farming if nobody can afford the food?

San Francisco International Airport is saving a snake from extinction.

Beavers have returned to Scotland.

I’ve written before about the problems of relying on algorithms to make judgment calls (also see here). The AP says ShotSpotter software, designed to identify and locate gunshots, is another example: not always accurate, the company won’t let anyone analyze its programs and the techs are willing to rewrite reports if police say the gunshot happened somewhere else.

Well, that’s just the best new (he said sarcastically). The first responders of 9/11 may be slipping into dementia at a much accelerated rate due to the chemicals they were exposed to. But until there’s hard confirmation via research, the responders’ health fund won’t cover it.

#SFWApro. Cover by Gene Colan (t) and Curt Swan (b). All rights to images remain with current holders.


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Little things make a difference, especially if they’re slightly larger

So I got a new phone last weekend.

My old iPhone’s battery was no longer strong enough to withstand a day’s heavy use without recharging. It’s memory was so full, it couldn’t even hold all my apps, and I don’t have that many. As I’m on TYG’s phone plan, we hoped we could upgrade to a slightly better model (mine’s around a 5 or 6) as I don’t need top of the line like she does. As it turned out, they didn’t have the next step up any more, so TYG upgraded me to an 11 (she’s awesome).

I know have all my apps — Goodreads, WordPress for this blog, Slack for Atomic Junkshop communications and a couple more. Still nowhere near full.

Another benefit is that it’s significantly larger, but not so large as to be impractical for carrying around. Much better for watching videos (I downloaded the YouTube app), reading comics (using my library’s Hoopla digital link) and it’s pleasantly surprising to see almost all my Safari bookmarks on the screen without having to scroll down. When we took the dogs to doggie rehab this week, I was free to read stuff without worrying I’d wind up with my phone shutting down.

Mastering the new controls is, as usual, an adjustment, but not a huge one. My biggest objection is that I can’t apparently run the stopwatch app without unlocking the phone — as I use that for exercise and such, it’s much simpler if I don’t have to type in my passcode. And a couple of times I turned it off while trying to take a photograph because the off button is in the “wrong” place.

At TYG’s suggestion I dispensed with the protective case. She says phones are pretty tough (she’s very protective of hers so I’m sure she knows what she’s talking about) and I don’t drop it very often, so I’ll see how it goes without it. Does make  me a little nervous when I pull it out of my pocket, but so far it’s been smooth sailing. Of course, it’s only been a week.

The biggest problem was, ironically, that the AT&T store had poor WiFi so after an hour waiting for my old phone to transfer its data, we headed home and had it done ASAP.

I don’t have a photo of my phone so for eye candy here’s a full-page ad from a 1962 issue of Batman. It makes me want to rush out to 1962 and buy both issues.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holder.


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