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David Kramer’s high-entropy blog

I Know What I Want To Come Back As

I’ve actually felt this way for a very long time.  If I died and got to come back as something else besides a human, my (presumably non-traditional) choice would be to come back as an octopus.

  • They are very well adapted to their environment, and do pretty well in some other environments
  • They have ample appendages to manipulate their environment
  • They have the ability to live in many places and eat a variety of foods, which makes them resilient to hard times.
  • They have turbo boost!  And [some have] camoflage!

This article I found on Wired’s website talks about new examples of some species of octopus which have shown real tool use!  Not just real tool use, but carrying around tools for later use.  And that’s the part that distinguishes intelligent tool use from instinctive behavior.  I’ve seen documentaries on them solving various physical puzzles, but this is even cooler.  They even have a Beatles song about them.

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So Much For DNA Evidence

From Slashdot: Scientists Learn To Fabricate DNA Evidence.  This article covers two techniques that can now be used to falsify a crime scene with planted DNA.

On the one hand, this was probably inevitable.  There’s very little man can understand but not control.  On the other hand, this is truly a shame, as DNA evidence has been used frequently in the past few years to free wrongly-accued long-term inmates who were convicted before DNA tests were common.

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New Research On Itching

This is a subject very important to me right now.  I recently spend some time in a rainy part of Maine, and came back with at least two dozen mosquito bites.  They’re finally starting to ease up a little, but I’ve lost a lot of sleep from waking up scratching myself.

I found this article on Slashdot: Neuron Path Discovery May Change Our Conception of Itching.  It turns out that itching isn’t really just another form of mild pain.  There are separate circuits of nerve cells to convey itchiness and pain, and their studies suggest that itch and pain signals are transmitted along different pathways in the spinal cord.

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Sticky Tape Found To Emit Terahertz Radiation

From Slashdot: Sticky Tape Found To Emit Terahertz Radiation.  Reading through the comments, this is more of an interesting curiosity than a practical discovery, but I find the explanation fascinating.  Terahertz-range radiation can be used for imaging, like C-rays.  Denser objects absorb more of the energy, so looking at the “shadow” from the other side of the object can show hidden weapons, etc.  Unlike C-rays, though, terahertz-range radiation does not harm the body.

Read on…

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100 Essential Skills for Geeks

From Wired: 100 Essential Skills for Geeks.

I found this list fun, but a lot of the skills on their list are either too esoteric for even a mid-level geek (lock picking, bypassing passwords), or to specific to be be general geek knowledge (steganographics, robotics).  But it is fun.

I’ll update this post tonight with my score.  I welcome comments with yours.

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Chicken Feathers May Hold Key To Hydrogen Storage

From Slashdot: Chicken Feathers May Hold Key To Hydrogen Storage. While what they say is plausible (in the MythBusters sense of the word), the original article is from Oregon Live.com, a source I know nothing about.A practical hydrogen car has been elusive for decades. Before the announcement this week by University of Delaware engineers, a nonstop trip from Portland to Eugene in a hydrogen car would need a tank bigger than 100 gallons to store liquid or gaseous fuel, even under high pressure.

Treated chicken feathers work like a sponge. They soak up large amounts of hydrogen and hold it in a small space so the tank can be a conventional size and the fuel won’t need to held under dangerously high pressures….

“It’s the most energy-rich material we have,” says Roger Ely, an Oregon State University professor who specializes in hydrogen, “It’s three times the energy content of gasoline on a pound-for-pound basis.”

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