That Little Bubble Holds Some Trouble

New Research Result: Bubble Forms Not So Anonymous

How you fill in the bubble has a personal touch.

If bubble marking patterns were completely random, a classifier could do no better than randomly guessing a test set’s creator, with an expected accuracy of 1/92 ≈ 1%. Our classifier achieves over 51% accuracy. The classifier is rarely far off: the correct answer falls in the classifier’s top three guesses 75% of the time (vs. 3% for random guessing) and its top ten guesses more than 92% of the time (vs. 11% for random guessing).

The Market Won't Take Care of That?

Video: They Sure Don’t Make Pyrex Like They Used To

When World Kitchen took over the Pyrex brand, it started making more products out of prestressed soda-lime glass instead of borosilicate. With pre-stressed, or tempered, glass, the surface is under compression from forces inside the glass. It is stronger than borosilicate glass, but when it’s heated, it still expands as much as ordinary glass does. It doesn’t shatter immediately, because the expansion first acts only to release some of the built-in stress. But only up to a point.
One unfortunate use of Pyrex is cooking crack cocaine, which involves a container of water undergoing a rapid temperature change when the drug is converted from powder form. That process creates more stress than soda-lime glass can withstand, so an entire underground industry was forced to switch from measuring cups purchased at Walmart to test tubes and beakers stolen from labs.

The video in the link has some slo-mo goodness, and explains that there are two categories of pyrex: consumer-grade and lab-grade. So the labware theft is not of vintage materials no longer available, possibly it occurs in order to avoid being tracked by actually purchasing it; there are fewer suppliers of lab-grade apparati than there are department stores selling the cheap stuff.

Taking this idea to the illogical extreme is Texas (surprise!), where it is illegal to buy/sell an Erlenmeyer flask (among other labware) without the proper paperwork, as it is considered an aid to making illegal chemicals. (I happen to own one, along with some beakers — they comprised my bar glassware back in the days when I had housemates and we threw parties; I could mix some pretty precise cocktails, and a 600 ml beaker is a good size for such drinks. The Erlenmeyer flask’s role was that of a wine decanter.) I wonder if this is a “shall-issue” permit. Regardless, it appears easier to get a handgun in Texas than lab glassware. Or Sudafed, since Pseudoephedrine is on the list as well, without mention of a threshold below which it’s not necessary to get a permit. I’d love to hear if anyone in the Lone Star State has applied to buy (or better yet, transfers/furnishes to someone else) a cold-remedy pill.

My Boys Can Swim Bike

The Sperm Bike in Copenhagen

The bike is more than just a rolling billboard for the company aimed at increasing awareness of the need for donors to help childless children around the world. Inside the head of the giant sperm cell is a cooler compartment designed so that the metal containers with sperm donations can fit snugly inside and be kept cold.

The rider should be wearing a bike helmet … with a protruding reservoir at the top … and he should have clear plastic raincoat for inclement weather. Just sayin’

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Citizen activist grates on state over traffic signals

Cox has not been accused of claiming that he is an engineer. But Lacy says he filed the complaint because the report “appears to be engineering-level work” by someone who is not licensed as a professional engineer.

This seems rather silly, and I suspect it’s just payback. I can tell you when some piece of work is done by a professional engineer: it has a stamp on the document, and it’s signed. I am at a loss as to why it would take “three or four months” to figure this out. Because if simply using engineering equations is illegal without professional certification (as if you need an engineering safety course to handle them correctly), then anyone training to be a professional engineer is breaking the law.

Thtuck! Thtuck!

You either need to learn about the concepts of thermodynamics, or you can watch A Christmas Story

Boy’s Tongue Stuck to Frozen Pole After ‘Christmas Story’ Dare

You’ve seen this scene before — every Christmas.

An 8-year-old Oklahoma boy got his tongue stuck on a frozen stop sign pole after his brother dared him to lick it.

No mention of an escalation from a double-dog to a triple-dog dare, however.

Anthony Michael Hall Effect, 2010

The weirdest of 2010’s Weird Science

First you fight, then you protest, and then you just stop going: This story gets extra Weird Science credit for the Orwellian-sounding journal name: The Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions. The topic is quite good too: a large study of precisely why kids get sent to the principal’s office, enabled by the fact that over 1,500 schools used an electronic system to track this stuff. The data reveals a clear trend: in the early years of school, kids mostly get sent for fighting with each other. By middle school, they’re getting sent in for (verbally) fighting with their teachers. And, by the time they hit high school, apathy has set in, and most of the incidents are because they’re late for or skipping class.