Today’s Cartoon: If You Thought Robocalls Were Bad…

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social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #wired

Dive Into the Existential Escapism of the Fish Tube

The people of Twitter long to be salmon. They ache to join the migrating fish on a speedy, effortless journey over hills and through valleys. They yearn for the frictionless embrace of a soft, pressurized tube capable of firing their (fish) bodies somewhere far, far away. They crave the salmon’s gentle splashdown. In other words, they want to hitch a ride on a device made to transport fish over the dams blocking the way to their spawning grounds. It’s called the Whooshh Fish Transport System, but on Twitter, it’s loving known as “the fish tube.”

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The fish tube’s reign began last week, but also five years ago. The current fish tube mania was sparked by a  [...]  read more

Apple Puts the AR in ‘Art’ (and in ‘Transparent Sky-Being’)

Thanks to a hot desert air mass stalling over San Francisco, the sky was a fogless blue, which made the words stand out even more as they floated upwards past St. Patrick Church in downtown San Francisco. White and uppercase, they rose in perfectly justified blocks, the voice of artist and poet John Giorno intoning them in my headphones: “A vast dome of blue sky / and your mind / is an iron nail in between.” On and on, the uppermost words breaking up and floating away, a Star Wars crawl of Buddhist introspection.

It was breathtaking for its scale—each word was dozens of feet high—yet the lunchtime crowds in Yerba Buena Gardens didn’t even notice. The only people who seemed as rapt as I was, in fact, were the three who were pointing an iPhone XS Plus in the same direction I was and wearing Beats headphones identical to mine. All that Apple was no coincidence: Giorno’s piece, Now at the Dawn of My Life, was one of six pieces in the company’s [AR]T [...]  read more

Amazon Says It Can Detect Fear on Your Face. You Scared?

Amazon announced a breakthrough from its AI experts Monday: Their algorithms can now read fear on your face, at a cost of $0.001 per image—or less if you process more than 1 million images.


p class=”paywall”>The news sparked interest because Amazon is at the center of a political tussle over the accuracy and regulation of facial recognition. Amazon sells a facial-recognition service, part of a suite of image-analysis features called Rekognition, to customers that include police departments. Another Rekognition service tries to discern the gender of faces in photos. The company said Monday that the gender feature had been improved—apparently a response to research showing it was much less accurate for people with darker skin.

Rekognition has been assessing emotions in faces along a sliding scale for seven categories: “happy,” “sad,” “angry,” “surprised,” “disgusted,” “calm,” and “confused.” Fear, added Monday, is the eighth.

Amazon [...]  read more

A Major Proof Shows How to Approximate Numbers Like Pi

The deep recesses of the number line are not as forbidding as they might seem. That’s one consequence of a major new proof about how complicated numbers yield to simple approximations.

Quanta Magazine

author photo
Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication of the Simons Foundation whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research developments and trends in mathematics and the physical and life sciences.

The proof resolves a nearly 80-year-old problem known as the Duffin-Schaeffer conjecture. In doing so, it provides a final answer to a question that has preoccupied mathematicians since ancient times: Under what circumstances is it possible to represent irrational numbers that go on forever—like pi—with simple fractions, like 22/7? The proof establishes that the answer to this very general question turns on the outcome of a single calculation.

“There’s a simple criterion for whether you can approximate virtually every number or virtually no numbers,” said James Maynard of the University of Oxford, co-author of the proof with Dimitris Koukoulopoulos of the University of Montreal.

Mathematicians had suspected for decades that this simple criterion was the key to understanding when good approximations [...]  read more

Robot Coffee Tastes Great, But at What Cost? (About $5)

Airports have robot coffee now.

But first, consider that moment—you’ve experienced this—where your multiply delayed flight finally lands, maybe at the airport you expected and maybe not. Then you realize, taxiing across the tarmac, that it is in fact the middle of the night. So picture the terminal, the one in which you are alone. The Hermès shop is not open. The massage place is kneadless. The food court is no longer in session. Should airports also be shopping malls? I don’t know. Right now this one, which usually is, isn’t.

Let’s say you’re at San Francisco International Airport, Terminal 3, across from the Yankee Pier fish place. There’s a signpost, up ahead. A glowing beacon in the night. Since early August, a touchscreen has offered lonely travelers a mug o’ mud—exuded by the sleek, cargo-container-sized structure looming next to it. This is a “Coffee Haus,” brown, horizontal window on one side, big touchscreen on the other, and in the middle, [...]  read more

A Brief History of Vanity License Plates Gone Wrong

This week, WIRED looked into the plight of Joseph Tartaro, a security researcher whose NULL vanity license plate at one point had him on the hook for $12,049 in fines. The problem? Apparently every time a traffic cop wrote a ticket and left the license plate blank, those citations headed straight for Tartaro’s mailbox, regardless of the actual culprit.

Tartaro has since worked to clear his name; a quick check of the Citation Processing Center’s public online database shows no tickets currently linked to NULL. But while his ordeal was agonizing, it was also far from unique. In fact, Tartaro joins a long lineage of people whose vanity plates backfired in spectacular fashion.

In a way, it’s surprising that this could happen at all. States actively police what vanity plates get approved; Utah alone  [...]  read more

Form Swim Goggles Review: Fitness Tracking at the Pool

When my mother uses an elliptical machine, she covers the screen with a towel. She says she doesn’t want to “become obsessed” with when it will end. For me, numbers are everything.

I have to count down the minutes, seconds, and fractions of a mile as I go. Obsessing over my pace and stats is how I keep my brain busy while I work out. There isn’t much opportunity to do that while swimming, which is why I leapt at the chance to try the Form Swim Goggles, which have a screen built right into them. Boy, are they fun.

The goggles automatically detect the type of stroke, stroke rate, and split times (the times for each lap in a multi-lap interval), while the see-through augmented reality (AR) display in the lens shows you any combination of these metrics you want, in real time. There are several watches on the market that can also measure all this kind of data automatically, but the novelty of not having to wait until the end of my lap or awkwardly glance at my wrist [...]  read more

The Poem on the Statue of Liberty Tops This Week’s Internet News Roundup

The last week of internet madness started, of course, with the death of Jeffrey Epstein, and the numerous resultant conspiracy theories that followed—including one shared on Twitter by the President of the United States. Of course, it didn’t help that Epstein was removed from suicide watch for mysterious reasons before his death, or that two of the guards and the warden of the jail Epstein died in were removed after the fact, because they reportedly slept through his death and falsified records. It’s a story that was built for the age of QAnon and paranoia politics, so it’s no surprise that it’s the story that’s provided the quiet but ever-present heartbeat to the last week.

But this last week also shined a surprising spotlight on CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who threatened [...]  read more

What Does Amazon’s ‘Top Brand’ Badge Actually Mean?

Amazon’s biggest asset can also be a headache for its customers. The so-called “everything store” really does sell almost any item consumers might want, but it’s often cumbersome and time-consuming to sort through them all. To avoid “choice overload,” the retail giant has come up with certain signals designed to help people distinguish high-quality products from the rest. They include star ratings and product reviews, as well as “Amazon’s Choice,” a mysterious badge bestowed on some individual items, which has recently become the subject of scrutiny from lawmakers. Now Amazon is testing a new signifier, called “Top Brand.” But no one seems to know what, exactly, a “Top Brand” is, and Amazon won’t say.

Amazon has long given customers the ability to search by “Top Brands,” but the products previously weren’t distinguished by a special badge in search results. Now, if you search for “swimming goggles,” for instance, Amazon may return several pairs from [...]  read more