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Moral Madness 

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Blackstone’s Formulation suggests that “[i]t is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”. It’s a founding principle of America, and our own John Adams expanded upon it thusly:

We are to look upon it as more beneficial, that many guilty persons should escape unpunished, than one innocent person should suffer. The reason is, because it’s of more importance to community, that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt should be punished; for guilt and crimes are so frequent in the world, that all of them cannot be punished; and many times they happen in such a manner, that it is not of much consequence to the public, whether they are punished or not.

But when innocence itself, is brought to the bar and condemned, especially to die, the subject will exclaim, it is immaterial to me, whether I behave well or ill; for virtue itself, is no security. And if such a sentiment as this, should take place in the mind of the subject, there would be an end to all security what so ever.

Former Vice President and current national disgrace Dick Cheney must have missed those classes in history and ethics.

Rogue Toilets 

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Japan has ridiculously fancy toilets, some of which are controlled via Bluetooth. Because these fancy toilets all use the classic Bluetooth pairing code of 0000, these fancy toilets can be hacked. When an attacker has control of a toilet, they can flush it over and over, open or close the lid, or even activate the bidet function. Woo boy.

CV Dazzle 

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Earlier this year, writer Robinson Meyer spent some time wearing face paint known as “CV dazzle” in public, in an effort to conceal himself from the current surveillance state. While the effect it had on technology is difficult to track, Meyer did learn a great deal about its effect on humans, and his interactions with them.

Five Mannequins or Possibly Six
Five Mannequins…or Possibly Six?

Near the end of the article, Meyer says:

Because here is the essence of CV dazzle’s strangeness: The very thing that makes you invisible to computers makes you glaringly obvious to other humans.

It’s clear that this is not a real solution to prevent tracking. However, as a performance piece and a commentary, it’s very interesting.

Genocide City 

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Despite the fact that it includes another bastardization of the meaning of “Sophie’s Choice”, the rest of this piece on lost video game levels and game design is a fun ride. Heidi Kemps was able to track down the roots of a mysterious Sonic the Hedgehog cartridge which contained levels that never saw the light of day, before ultimately returning a copy to its creator.

Bring Back the Guillotine 

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Though their reasons differ, both Conor Friedersdorf and Sonny Bunch want to see America bring back execution via the guillotine. I favor the outright abolition of the death penalty, and long time readers will know I’m an outspoken supporter of The Innocence Project. I think Friedersdorf’s plan just might get us there.

Update (May 6th, 2014): The second episode of John Oliver’s new show “Last Week Tonight” featured a fantastic summary of the death penalty.

Blue Bloods 

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

It’s likely you will learn at least two things from this article on blood and horseshoe crabs. First, horseshoe crab blood is harvested in massive quantities for use in medical tests. And second, that blood is blue.

Horseshoe Crab Blue Blood
Crazy.

Things Are Looking Up Already 

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Though the Winter solstice isn’t for another 11 days, many of us in the Northern Hemisphere have already experienced our earliest sunset of the year. How can that be? The Atlantic explains, with science.

Women Smiling With Turkeys 

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

The Atlantic is doing fine work this Thanksgiving.

Where US Currency Goes to Die 

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Rottin’ in Denmark has an interesting look at where some tattered American currency winds up: Zimbabwe. I was unable to find more information on this, but I did stumble upon this post detailing how the US generally disposes of worn-out currency.

A Soggy Dutch Dog 

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

A satellite image looked like two people looking over a bloody scene, and the Internet was all over it.

Speaking of the poor efficacy of crowdsourcing, The Atlantic covers the anatomy of a misinformation disaster from last week’s hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers, while the Washington Post has in-depth coverage of exactly how expert analysis is carried out.