E-readers get heavier with each book

Years back a classmate asked if flash drives get heavier the more you use it. I laughed at her. I stand corrected.

E-readers get heavier with each book

Using Einstein’s E=mc² formula, which states that energy and mass are directly related, Prof Kubiatowicz calculated that filling a 4GB Kindle to its storage limit would increase its weight by a billionth of a billionth of a gram, or 0.000000000000000001g.

It’s quite amazing how books have evolved.

Entire Japan coast shifted 2.4 metres

Often ignored facts:

Japan earthquake factbox: Entire Japan coast shifted 2.4 metres, earth axis moves ten inches


  • Tsunami waves that hit California earlier today washed three onlookers out to sea. Two have been recovered.
  • St Louis, Missouri media outlets report that city has moved an inch as a result of the quake.
  • Waves from the ensuing tsunami reached 32 feet high.

Read more: Vancouversun.com

In related news:

Fukushima nuclear reactor has exploded:

Fukushima, Japan – Nuclear Reactor Explosion – March 12, 2011

There is a possible meltdown. This is Japan’s first nuclear emergency. More at BBC.

Black American kids are cheaper

Did you know it is, in average, $8,000 cheaper to adopt a black baby than a white one? And that boys are cheaper by $2,000?

Discount babies

THE market is not politically correct. It often assigns lower values to humans (their wages) based on their race or sex, even after controlling for education and experience. It’s just as cruel to children. A few years ago I was disturbed to learn that it’s cheaper to adopt black American children than white. I recently had lunch with NYU Stern School economist Allan Collard-Wexler, who has estimated adoption price sensitivity. He found just how much adoption fees are sensitive to the race and gender of a baby. It’s about $8,000 cheaper to adopt a black baby than a white or Hispanic child and girls tend to cost about $2,000 more than boys.

What can explain the preference for non-black girls? The preference for girls is interesting because people tend to favour male biological children. The authors speculate this may be because girls are considered “safer” in terms of dysfunctional behaviour. The data also includes same-sex couples, which tend to favour girls (both male and female partners), even more than heterosexual couples. (Source: The Economist)

Ah, sensitive issues. Still interesting though.

Why some dates are missing in year 1752

An interesting tidbit, when you enter any dates on or between September 3, 1752 and September 13, 1752, you get some sort of error and this is the reason why:

The Julian Calendar was built on the premise that the year was 365.25 days long and consisted of normal 365-day years interspersed with a 366-day leap year every fourth year. In 730 A.D., the Venerable Bede (an Anglo-Saxon monk) announced that the Julian year was 11 minutes, 14 seconds too long, building a cumulative error of about 1 day every 128 years. Nothing was done about this for 800 years.

By 1582, the error had grown to about 10 days. That year, Pope Gregory XIII decreed that Thursday, October 4, 1582 would be followed by Friday, October 15, thus correcting the calendar by 10 days. This began the Gregorian Calendar that is in use today. It uses a four-year cycle of leap years, and eliminates each leap year that occurs on three of every four centesimal years. Only centesimal years that are evenly divisible by 400 are leap years. Thus, the year 1600 was a 366-day leap year, but 1700, 1800, and 1900 were each 365 days. The year 2000 is also a leap year, as will be the year 2400. (Source: IBM)

Did you know there’s an ISO for sex?

Turns out that there is an ISO standard for sex. Man is 1 and woman is 2. But why man precedes woman? The standard explicitly states that no significance is to be placed on the fact that male is encoded as 1 and female as 2. The encoding merely reflects existing practice in the countries that initiated this standard.

More information at ISO.

International standard ISO 5218 defines a representation of human sexes through a language-neutral single-digit code. It can be used in information systems such as database applications. (Source: Wikipedia)

The four codes specified in ISO 5218 are:

  • 0 = not known,
  • 1 = male,
  • 2 = female,
  • 9 = not applicable.

Did you know the ‘Referer’ in HTTP is spelt wrongly?

Well it is. Here is what’s written in the RFC 2616 – Hypertext Transfer Protocol — HTTP/1.1:

The Referer[sic] request-header field allows the client to specify, for the server’s benefit, the address (URI) of the resource from which the Request-URI was obtained (the “referrer”, although the header field is misspelled.) The Referer request-header allows a server to generate lists of back-links to resources for interest, logging, optimized caching, etc. It also allows obsolete or mistyped links to be traced for maintenance. The Referer field MUST NOT be sent if the Request-URI was obtained from a source that does not have its own URI, such as input from the user keyboard.

[code lang=”bash”]Referer = “Referer” “:” ( absoluteURI | relativeURI )[/code]


[code lang=”bash”]Referer: http://www.w3.org/hypertext/DataSources/Overview.html[/code]

If the field value is a relative URI, it SHOULD be interpreted relative to the Request-URI. The URI MUST NOT include a fragment. See section 15.1.3 for security considerations.

The referrer, or HTTP referrer — also known by the common misspelling referer that occurs as an HTTP header — identifies, from the point of view of an internet webpage or resource, the address of the webpage (commonly the URL, the more generic URI or the i18n updated IRI) of the resource which links to it. By checking the referrer, the new page can see where the request came from. Referrer logging is used to allow websites and web servers to identify where people are visiting them from, for promotional or security purposes. Referrer is a popular tool to combat cross-site request forgery, but such security mechanisms do not work when the referrer is disabled. Referrer is widely used for statistical purposes. (Source: Wikipedia)

Ubuntu’s bug #1: Microsoft has a majority market share

Ubuntu’s bug number 1 is reported by Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical Ltd. and as of 2009, provides leadership for the Ubuntu operating system.

Bug #1 in Ubuntu: “Microsoft has a majority market share”

Microsoft has a majority market share in the new desktop PC marketplace.

This is a bug, which Ubuntu is designed to fix.

Non-free software is holding back innovation in the IT industry, restricting access to IT to a small part of the world’s population and limiting the ability of software developers to reach their full potential, globally. This bug is widely evident in the PC industry.

Steps to repeat:

  1. Visit a local PC store.

What happens:

  1. Observe that a majority of PCs for sale have non-free software pre-installed.
  2. Observe very few PCs with Ubuntu and free software pre-installed.

What should happen:

  1. A majority of the PCs for sale should include only free software like Ubuntu.
  2. Ubuntu should be marketed in a way such that its amazing features and benefits would be apparent and known by all.
  3. The system shall become more and more user friendly as time passes.

(Source: Launchpad)

Five common misconceptions

Okay apparently the article exists. I was feeling kinda bored today so I start my bad habit of reading trivia on the internet. There’re tons of them and I’m probably completed 0.01% of it.

Here’re some of the more interesting misconceptions (probably controversial) regarding history:

  1. The belief that gunpowder, even though it was a Chinese invention, was first used for war by the Europeans is a misconception. The Chinese used flamethrowers and gunpowder arrows for military purposes from the 900s onward.
  2. Al Gore never said he invented the Internet, rather he stated: “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.”. Vint Cerf, often called ‘the father of the Internet’, has defended the statement: “VP Gore was the first or surely among the first of the members of Congress to become a strong supporter of advanced networking while he served as Senator. As far back as 1986, he was holding hearings on this subject (supercomputing, fiber networks…) and asking about their promise and what could be done to realize them.”
    (So sorry I made more than a thousand Al Gore jokes.)

And health of course:

  1. People do not use only ten percent of their brains. This myth is thought by some to have emerged after the discovery of glial cells in the brain, or it could have been the result of some other misunderstood or misinterpreted legitimate scientific findings, or even been the result of speculation by self-help gurus.
  2. There is no single theory that satisfactorily explains myopia—in particular, studies show that “eyestrain” from close reading and computer games does not explain myopia. There is also no evidence that reading in dim light causes vision to deteriorate.
    (That’s what I keep telling my mom, she doesn’t believe me!)

And this made me check Humpty Dumpty lyrics again:

  1. Nowhere in the actual nursery rhyme is Humpty Dumpty referred to as an egg.

It’s a slow news day.

Character encodings are important!

I’ve been reading about character encoding recently, in particular to the various unicode standards. I’ve been rather pissed off with setting up the wrong collation in MySQL, I just realized that at my other blog, I have posts that are in utf8_unicode_ci, latin1_general_ci and utf_general_ci. This is what you get when you migrate database blindly without knowing what is character set. I regret not reading enough. Now I set everything to utf8_general_ci.

Anyway, something about another encoding set – GB2312 – caught my attention.

Here’s a trivia, the older Chinese encoding GB2312 cannot write the former Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji’s name. His name has often appeared as 朱熔基. Zhu disapproves of this and prefers the correct version, 朱镕基. Continue reading “Character encodings are important!”