Po-Chih Lai's eight-wheeled skateboard#

It’s a beautiful video, and an even more beautiful skateboard, whose eight wheels allow it to go smoothly down (certain) sets of stairs. I kind of want one, not necessarily because it can go down stairs, but because it just looks so damn cool, almost like it belongs, somewhat anachronistically, in Minority Report.

Also, if you’re thinking this thing is anything like the Freebord, well, you’re wrong.

It happens#

This article—on the prevalence of uncontrolled bowel movements among elite athletes—is one of the most entertaining I’ve read in a long while, if only because of the amazing, and seemingly endless euphemisms used for “shitting your pants.” For example:

Radcliffe had been losing time for several miles because of gastrointestinal disturbances – the kind that, according to one study, affect 83 percent of marathoners and that are usually preceded by gaseous outbursts that runners call walkie-talkies.

Pretty Eight Machine#

This is [NIN's] Pretty Hate Machine, re-imagined in its entirety on eight different 8-bit systems, so I’ve named it “Pretty Eight Machine”. Sound configurations include: SID/6581 (Commodore 64), POKEY (Atari 800), straight 2A03 (NES), AY/SCC+ (MSX+Metal Gear 2 or Snatcher cartridge), SN76489 (Sega Master System), 2A03+VRC6 (Famicom+Castlevania 3 cartridge), LR35902 (Game Boy), and OPLL (MSX-MUSIC or Japanese Sega Master System).

I love every aspect of this project—the album title, the names of the songs, the album cover, and of course the music.

So immediately purchased.

Hueless, a b&w-only camera app for the iPhone#

Powered by our revolutionary live b&w preview, the image you see in the viewfinder is the image you see in the Photo Roll. No post-processing required. [...] Adjust exposure for varying light, under/over-expose your photo to dramatic effect and apply color filters to create the image you desire. All on the fly, as you shoot.

I’m kind of in love with this app. Does this portend the purchase of a Leica M Monochrom? No, but damn if it doesn’t make me think about that system a bit more.

Use Drafts to maintain SMS/iMessage unread status

June 03, 2012

In "iOS 5 has SMS mark-as-unread, sort of" I described how the Notification Center can be used to review SMS/iMessage messages without marking them as read, so that you can reply to them at your leisure, without having to remember that you need to reply to them.

Even with this strategy you still run the risk of marking a message as read if you need to to jump into the Messages app for any reason (e.g., to send a message to someone other than the person(s) to whom a reply is due). This becomes especially tricky when you've a single person with unread messages, because jumping into the app almost always takes you straight to that thread, subsequently marking those messages as read.

Enter Drafts--which, immediately upon on its release, completely obviated Birdhouse for me--a fantastic app that allows you to shuttle your drafts to, well, damn near anywhere, including the Messages app.

The rub though with sending messages through Drafts is that it doesn't throw you into the Messages app. You type your message, select the "Message" action, fill in the "To:" line and hit "Send." Your message is sent, and the Messages app is never activated, thus leaving all of your "unread" messages unread.

How science-fiction futures have changed over time#

We wanted to know whether there are historical trends in how far in the future we set our science fiction -- and there definitely are. Here we present our data, as well as some preliminary conclusions about why the future changed so much from decade to decade over the past 130 years.

The future of moral machines#

[T]he project of designing artificial moral agents has the potential to revolutionize moral philosophy in the same way that philosophers' engagement with science continuously revolutionizes human self-understanding. New insights can be gained from confronting the question of whether and how a control architecture for robots might utilize (or ignore) general principles recommended by major ethical theories. Perhaps ethical theory is to moral agents as physics is to outfielders -- theoretical knowledge that isn't necessary to play a good game. Such theoretical knowledge may still be useful after the fact to analyze and adjust future performance. [...]

Does this talk of artificial moral agents overreach, contributing to our own dehumanization, to the reduction of human autonomy, and to lowered barriers to warfare? If so, does it grease the slope to a horrendous, dystopian future? I am sensitive to the worries, but optimistic enough to think that this kind of techno-pessimism has, over the centuries, been oversold. Luddites have always come to seem quaint, except when they were dangerous. The challenge for philosophers and engineers alike is to figure out what should and can reasonably be done in the middle space that contains somewhat autonomous, partly ethically-sensitive machines.