Monthly Archives: February 2012


After years of development, Weather Underground replaces NWS forecasts with their own prediction algorithm that incorporates tens of thousands of personal weather stations – like my dad’s – into its forecasts. The algorithm is called BestCast™. The press release talks about 42,000 stations, but I suspect that actual number is a bit less. Wunderground came up with this figuring by summing the total number of stations from each of three different data sets, however a number of stations actually send data to many different sources. For example, thanks to wview, my dad’s station sends to directly to Weather Underground and to the National Weather Service’s MADIS program via CWOP.

Another thing that’s new on (or at least I never paid much attention to it before) is if you scroll down to the “Forecast” section for a location they publish the RMSE for this location both their forecast and the NWS forecast. As a data guy, I find that transparency absolutely wonderful. Also, they link to the predicted hour-by-hour weather for a location (I suspect this is using an NWS model, since it’s reporting for an airport.), and the NWS’s “Area forecast discussion”, which is a conversational and wonky forecast. Personally, I like how it discusses how different models agree or disagree.


The Cryoscope by Robb Godshaw is a solid aluminum connected to a peltier, which is in controlled by a computer. The cube heated and cooled to indicate the temperature forecasted tomorrow. The cube doesn’t directly give the predicted temperature, since at room temperature, the metal cube is perceived as cold. Instead, a 73°F outside temperature is mapped to 85°F on the cube, since that temperature was perceived as neutral.

Continue reading

The Transparency Grenade

The Transparency Grenade by Julian Oliver is a “weapon” for radical transparency. A case modeld after a Soviet F1 hand grenade contains a gumstick linux computer with wifi and an integrated microphone. The gumstick packet sniffs the wireless network while simultaneously streaming the ambient audio to a remote server for analysis. (Essentially, the gumstick is running DriftNet or EtherPEG.) In an interview with We-Make-Money-Not-Art, Oliver says that he wanted to make the “information war” a bit more visual and iconic.

The Transparency Grenade was made for Weise 7, an artist collective in Berlin, and their Labor 8 exhibition. The exhibition features a the nexus of technology and surveillance.

Continue reading

From Our Vat to Your Table

Dr. Mark Post‘s lab at Maastricht University has created meat in a vat. The press is calling it “hamburger,” so I guess it is cloned bovine muscle. In a 2009 Wired interview, Post said that the problems facing in vitro meat is creating the texture. Taste is of little concern because, “The food industry is already expert at enhancing taste.”

Caffeine Zone 2

Frank Ritter and Kuo-Chuan “Martin” Yeh professors in Penn State’s Applied Cognitive Science Lab, have developed a free iOS app Caffeine Zone 2 that tries to help you optimize your caffeine intake. The user enters his/her weight, and then notifies the app every time he/she consumes caffeine. The app estimates how much caffeine is in the user’s blood based what was consumed when, and the user’s mass. The app can warn the user if the amount of caffeine in the user’s system rises or falls below an optimal range, an notification can by pushed to the user. Additionally, the app can warn the user if his/her caffeine density is expected to impact the user’s sleep.


Areoshot is inhalable caffeine. For $2.99 you get 100 mg of caffeine (the same as a cup of coffee) and B vitamins, but divided into four doses. It was invented by a Harvard professor David Edwards, and it’s manufactured in a real factory, so I suspect that it’s safer than freebasing caffeine in your kitchen.

While novel caffeine delivery vectors have been around before, what I love about this is the moral panic that Chuck Schumer is trying to stir up about it. ZOMG! Someone may use it stay awake and drink alcohol! I take it that Chucky isn’t a fan of irish coffee then. There’s two things that bother me about Schumer’s comments. First it’s the alcohol, not the caffeine that’s the problem. Presumably Schumer wouldn’t have a problem with someone staying awake and doing something wholesome. Of course we can’t blame the alcohol here, because alcohol is all-American, this is just letting someone pervert its wholesomeness. The other thing about Schumer’s comment that bothers me is the undercurrent is the old puritan fear that someone is having fun, which is a bit ironic given that Schumer is Jewish. It reeks of the argument medical marijuana that it’s simply a canard, and that people getting the cards aren’t really sick, but rather are just people that want to get high. To which I say, So what? The argument makes pleasure naughty, as if that’s a bad thing. Contrary to the puritans, that’s simply not true.