Orangutan Games

I have seen several articles recently about orangutans using iPads to communicate (1 2 3).  This is awesome.  One point brought up in at least one of the articles though is that the apes can’t actually hold the iPads as the would break them.  This got me to thinking that if someone built a tablet which could withstand an orangutan it could be marketed pretty easily as nearly indestructible and good for travel and use by small children.

Apparently there are groups working on iPad apps specifically for use with the orangutans.  This is also awesome and led me to another thought.  Zoos claim that people who visit and get to see and sometimes interact with the animals are more likely to support conservation efforts.  I think something that could go even further would be to write apps where kids get to play a game against an orangutan opponent.  A well designed game along these lines could go a long way to helping people understand how intelligent these animals are and how close they are to us in many ways.  I don’t think that being similar to us should be a criteria for not being driven into extinction, but at the same time I have no problem with pointing out those similarities to get people’s attention.  A really smart approach would be to use this kind of interaction to show that animals in general have their own interests.  Similar games could probably be written to play against dolphin opponents (who also already use iPads), as well as crows and parrots (which would probably require designing a very tough touch screen).

Duck-Footed Space Ship

I had a dream last night that several of my friends had built working intergalactic space ships.  It was unclear if people would fit in them or not.  They were supposed to be passenger ships but several people were holding the working vehicles in their hands.  All of the ships were fully functional except they lacked landing gear.  I was asked to 3D print some landing gear for the ships (which is really weird as I have done little 3D printing, and don’t have a printer of my own).  Everyone wanted their landing gear to be shaped like lion’s feet.  I refused and said I would only make duck foot landing gear.

I think this means I spent too much time yesterday reading about the SpaceApps challenge and that I have a weird brain.

Multi OS booting USB drive with full disk encryption?

I am trying to figure out how to implement this scheme:
Two persistent linux installations with full disk encryption on a USB drive.
I want this to appear to be a single encrypted volume (i.e. use a hidden volume for one of the installations) for plausible deniability.

I would probably use Tails for the OS in the non-hidden encrypted volume.  There isn’t a specific reason to encrypt Tails since it is designed to forget all sensitive data, but I want it on my USB stick an I don’t want a three OS install if two will do.

The hidden volume would be Debian or Ubuntu.

I would also leave a small FAT32 partition so that the drive could function as a standard USB drive if needed.

I can’t find any written instructions for this kind of installation, anyone have suggestions?

Calling Shenanigans on Nuclear Instruments and Methods, a “Peer Reviewed” Journal

UPDATE at end of post


Original Post-

The journal Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment, or NIM for short, is published by Elsevier and is peer reviewed. Or so I thought. A few months ago several co-workers and I submitted a paper on a Friday evening. Monday morning (yes, three days later over a weekend), we got a reply claiming that the paper was reviewed and accepted for publication.
There were supposedly two reviews, the first saying that everything was great and the paper should be published and the second finding only a single spelling error. This really just isn’t possible. I would be surprised if most editors would even get a paper out to the reviewers in that time. And the time the reviewers have to get their replies back to the editors are weeks to months. I’ve reviewed several papers and the average time I’ve been asked to respond in is six weeks. Although I try to get my reviews done faster than that, it is usually 3-4 weeks.
Beyond that impossible turn around time, the reviews don’t seem realistic. Some lazy reviewers will just respond with a “yes, publish” response, but I’ve had very few of those and I don’t believe it’s common. As for the review that found a single mistake, that seems improbable as well. After submission we found a few more errors, so it seems unlikely that anyone actually gave it a careful reading (although, yes, we had missed these errors ourselves before). Usually the egos of the reviewers come through in the reviews. Even though the reviews are anonymous, most reviewers seem to feel the need to let you know that they are bigger experts in the field than you are, or at least that you missed a reference that really should be in the paper (but of course they wouldn’t happen to be one of the authors on that paper).
So I really don’t think that peer review happened on this paper. But why? I really don’t know. Maybe just laziness. It certainly doesn’t do anything to improve my pre-existing animosity towards Elsevier.
There is a lot more drama and misbehavior surrounding this paper, which I will write about in the future.


I have been in email contact with the managing editor, Professor Barletta (who commented on the original post).  I do now believe that the paper was sent out for peer review before being published.  Dr. Barletta himself does appear to have the expertise to evaluate the paper, so I do believe that he could have made a thoughtful decision quickly.  He tells me that a reviewer got back within a day with the one spelling correction review I mentioned.  While this does suggest to me that it probably only got a quick scan by the reviewer it is likely equal to the depth of thought given by many of the reviewers who take longer to reply.  I do wish that that journals required at least three reviewers and that all the reviewers put more time and energy into the process than they seem to.  In summary I don’t believe that the paper was handled outside of the journal’s official peer review standards as I initially thought it might be, but I still believe that it (as mosst other publications), was not as rigorously scrutinized as I would like.


I used to play guitar, keyboards and do a lot of sampling and sequencing.  It has been far too long since I’ve recorded any new music (played a little here and there though).  I’m not sure when I’ll have time again unfortunately.  For now I’ve been listening to some of the stuff I recorded over a decade ago.  I like it more now than I did at the time.



I would really like to re-record this track and go a little lighter on the vocal samples, especially in the second half.  I would also like to extend it a little and put a lot more variation in the clangy sounds near the end.  I don’t know if that will ever happen though.

Biography of O. Hai

I was curious about the authors of the paper I mentioned yesterday.  After looking around the web for a while I was able to find the following biography for O. Hai.


O. Hai was born to a single mother on the same day as two siblings and took an early interest in physical sciences.  From nearly the beginning of her life she was fascinated by string theory, and was the first to suggest investigating the balled up end rather than the unraveled part everyone else had been studying.  Like so many young scientists, her attention span was short and she soon moved on to an interest in bio-mechanical engineering and medicine, becoming an expert on the movement and anatomy of many species of birds and rodents.  She continued on with many more lofty accomplishments in physics before being hired by the Institute for Theoretical Experiments.  It was not her long history of experimental science which eventually won over the hiring committee, however.  On the contrary, they were convinced of her superior intellect by her inscrutable stares and apparent ability to see things no one else could see.  She did not develop an interest in chemistry until meeting I. B. Hakkenshit, who was visiting the Institute on sabbatical.  Together they wrote what is now known as O. Hai’s most influential paper, A Simple and Convenient Synthesis of Pseduoephedrine From N-Methylamphetamine.  While Hakkenshit did most of the experimental work, O. Hai wrote the text of the paper, mostly with her toes.

A Simple and Convenient Synthesis of Pseudoephedrine From N-Methylamphetamine

My favorite journal, Journal of Apocryphal Chemistry, has just published an interesting article.  The authors, O. Hai and I. B. Hakkenshit, describe a synthesis of pseudoephedrine from readily available crystal meth.  Pseudoephedrine is the decongestant in Sudafed, which used to be out on stores shelves.  Now if you want to buy it you have to show your drivers license at a pharmacy.  This synthesis should make it much easier to get this useful medicine.


I believe that this was meant to be farce, not a suggestion of how to run a government.  Interactions with the state of California lead me to believe that many of our politicians didn’t get that distinction.

The Trial


Scientific publications

In general when a scientific paper is published through one of the major publishing houses, the publishers require a transfer of copyright.  The terms transfer almost all rights to the publisher, but most of the agreements include a clause allowing the authors to share the work through their personal websites.

I don’t have the HTML page done yet (will have titles, abstracts, full papers and related links), but I do have the majority of my publications available for download.

I think that if any public funding was used for the research leading a particular paper, then that paper should be freely available to the public.  The publishers aren’t going to encourage this though, so authors of these papers should be sharing them as much as legally possible.


I had a dream last night that I went to a bar called Mroon.  The bar had a sign with the words:

Mroon - we couldn't bring you the moon so we brought you this instead

Inside it was an old west style saloon with lots of astronaut memorabilia and star charts.

The bar seemed to only play Alien Sex Fiend.

I want to make this place real (although maybe a little broader musical selection).