Nerds get a wake-up call
"A pair of Italian developers have created an alarm clock smartphone app designed to help users wake up with math games and other tasks," says United Press International. "The FreakyAlarm app, created by Enrico Angelini and Gabriele Di Lorenzo, has a basic mode where users must take pictures of objects or barcodes before bed, then photograph the same objects or barcodes to shut the alarm off in the morning. … The app also has an 'evil' setting, which requires users to solve difficult math equations to shut off the alarm."
More work for cameras?
"Could red-light cameras be used to give out parking tickets, too?" asks Theexpiredmeter.com. "The City of Chicago, while searching for a new vendor to operate its controversial red-light camera program, is asking bidders for ideas on how else to use the cameras, including spotting parking violators. The city insists it's just asking at this point. … But one critic said the aggressiveness of the city's camera enforcement 'makes my hair stand on end.' "
Is everlasting ever-boring?
"UC Riverside philosophy professor John Martin Fischer has been besieged with hundreds [of] unusual missives for the last few months as word spread that he had won a $5-million grant to study something that, in the end, is probably unknowable: immortality," says the Los Angeles Times. "Under his direction, scientists and theologians will be digging into such mysteries as whether humans should even aspire to eternal life in this world or another – and whether everlasting might just prove to be ever-boring. … Fischer, an internationally recognized expert on such heady issues as free will and death's meaning, said he and his Immortality Project researchers won't be chasing down the most kooky tips, hunting ghosts or attending séances with the dead. But Fischer emphasized the need to keep an open mind, respect religious traditions and apply strict academic standards to research on near-death experience, possible forms of eternal life and how belief in heaven affects earthbound behaviour."
Useless machines return
"In a world dominated by smarter and smarter gadgets, one of the dumbest machines on Earth is making a quiet comeback," writes Abigail Pesta in The Wall Street Journal. "Invented in the 1950s by an artificial-intelligence expert, the device is known as the 'useless machine.' It is typically a small box with an on/off switch and a hinged lid. Turn on the switch and a lever pops out, turns off the switch, then retreats. That is the machine's sole purpose: You turn it on, and it turns itself off. Largely forgotten for a half-century, the useless machine is now finding a new purpose: entertaining a subculture of people who want to build their own. In the past few years, people around the world have created versions of the machine, boasting of their work with videos online."
Looking for a sixth sense?
"[W]hat kind of sixth sense could you acquire today, if you were in the market?" writes Will Oremus at Slate.com. "Anything from infrared vision to an internal compass to a sort of 'spidey sense' that alerts you when something is approaching from behind. And the cost can run from the tens of thousands of dollars to as little as a few bucks, as long as you have a scalpel and a hearty tolerance for risk and pain. The concept of implanting bionic devices is by no means radical or new in the medical field – just ask anyone with a pacemaker or an insulin pump. But the notion of healthy people sticking gadgets in their bodies for fun, profit, or sensory augmentation is a more recent phenomenon. It's an offshoot of the transhumanist movement, which took root in California in the 1980s."
Thought du jour
We should live and learn; but by the time we've learned, it's too late to live.
-Carolyn Wells, American author (1862-1942)