Researchers discovered that DNA encodes two kinds of information, not just one:

Since the genetic code was deciphered in the 1960s, scientists have assumed that it was used exclusively to write information about proteins. UW scientists were stunned to discover that genomes use the genetic code to write two separate languages. One describes how proteins are made, and the other instructs the cell on how genes are controlled. One language is written on top of the other, which is why the second language remained hidden for so long.

There’s still so little we know about how life, and how intelligence, works. If we are just now discovering something as fundamental as what kinds of information DNA encodes, then our understanding of how DNA passes down meaning across generations is inherently dim. Along with a very incomplete understanding of how the brain (not just human brain) functions, both in the micro and macro level, biological life remains very much a mystery.

December 12th, 2013

North Korea executed Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, just days after he was removed from power. Here’s the PRK’s press release:

However, despicable human scum Jang, who was worse than a dog, perpetrated thrice-cursed acts of treachery in betrayal of such profound trust and warmest paternal love shown by the party and the leader for him.

From long ago, Jang had a dirty political ambition. He dared not raise his head when Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were alive. But, reading their faces, Jang had an axe to grind and involved himself in double-dealing. He began revealing his true colors, thinking that it was just the time for him to realize his wild ambition in the period of historic turn when the generation of the revolution was replaced.

Worth reading.

December 12th, 2013

My thanks to Atlassian for sponsoring this week’s RSS feed.

What’s the point of an agile standup meeting?

Gone are the days of 30-minute status meetings where most people are half-asleep or pecking away on their laptops, oblivious to what’s being said. Agile standups are the leaner, more efficient cousin of status meetings where attendees actually stand up. On our feet, we’re more focused, attentive, and concise. It’s science!

Whether you need robust tools for planning and tracking projects, communicating with coworkers, deploying products, or just some general tips on how to run an agile shop (and how to run them Rong?), Atlassian is here to offer you the tools and advice you need to get the most out of your agile practice.

Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

December 12th, 2013

Nisha Chittal:

Not to be the Grinch, but can we consider for a moment the fact that live-tweeting and broadcasting another person’s private conversations to the internet for our own entertainment is actually pretty creepy?

It’s not just creepy. It’s creepy at best, and a passive-aggressive, disgusting form of bullying at worst.

December 3rd, 2013

Ramesh Ponnuru:

From reading the New York Times, you might think that religious conservatives had started a culture war over whether company health-insurance plans should cover contraception. What’s at issue in two cases the Supreme Court has just agreed to hear, the Times editorializes, is “the assertion by private businesses and their owners of an unprecedented right to impose the owners’ religious views on workers who do not share them.”

That way of looking at the issue will be persuasive if your memory does not extend back two years. Up until 2012, no federal law or regulation required employers to cover contraception (or drugs that may cause abortion, which one of the cases involves). If 2011 was marked by a widespread crisis of employers’ imposing their views on contraception on employees, nobody talked about it.

Characterizing opposition to government-forced provision of contraception by employer-provided health insurance plans as an “imposition” of religious views is almost Orwellian; the only imposition being made here is by the government and supporters of the measure, such as the Times’ editors.

December 3rd, 2013

If you’re anything like me, is like being let loose in a toy store.

At, we believe that creativity is the greatest of all virtues. And, with our selection of unique, high-quality pencils, notebooks, and creative tools, we’ve got everything you need to unleash yours.

Whether you’re a pencil nut who knows all the brands (Caran d’Ache, Blackwing, Faber-Castell, we stock them all), or a casual doodler looking for something to inspire you, there’s something for you on Combine that with our legendary customer service and fast, reliable shipping, and you’ve got some serious creative potential.

So, go ahead and read the story of the $40 pencil, learn about the pencil company that has been around since the French Revolution, and find the perfect notebook to capture your ideas. If you’re in the giving mood, we also have gifts for artists, writers, musicians, and anyone else on your shopping list.

Above all else, stay creative.

December 3rd, 2013

Paul Krugman’s latest column, “Obamacare’s Secret Success,” has this to say:

Still, the facts are striking. Since 2010, when the act was passed, real health spending per capita — that is, total spending adjusted for overall inflation and population growth — has risen less than a third as rapidly as its long-term average. Real spending per Medicare recipient hasn’t risen at all; real spending per Medicaid beneficiary has actually fallen slightly.

He argues (and his title makes explicit) that “Obamacare”—ACA—is responsible for health spending declining. Except all he does is point out health costs have declined, and that ACA may be responsible. And he buries something important in a ho-hum “obligatory caveats” paragraph:

O.K., the obligatory caveats. First of all, we don’t know how long the good news will last. Health costs in the United States slowed dramatically in the 1990s (although not this dramatically), probably thanks to the rise of health maintenance organizations, but cost growth picked up again after 2000. Second, we don’t know for sure how much of the good news is because of the Affordable Care Act.

Acknowledging that he has no idea how much ACA is responsible for declining spending seems rather more important than an “obligatory caveat” in a column titled “Obamacare’s Secret Success” which argues that ACA is reducing health spending. It kind of sort of means that the entire column is speculative.

But it’s worse than that. The CMS estimates that ACA will increase national health expenditures.

November 30th, 2013

My thanks to Fracture for sponsoring this week’s RSS feed. Fracture’s glass-printed photos are beautiful, and if you’re for a Christmas gift, or want to frame your own photos, give them a look.

Fracture prints your photo in vivid color directly on glass. It’s a picture, frame, & mount all in one.

It’s a modern, elegant, and affordable way to print and display your favorite memories. Your print comes with everything you need to display your photo, right in the durable packaging.

Fractures come in a variety of sizes and prices, starting at just $12, with free shipping on orders of $100 or more.

Fracture prints make great Christmas gifts and are the perfect way to fill up empty walls in your new home or apartment. Check it out.

Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

November 30th, 2013

My thanks to Voila for sponsoring this week’s RSS feed.

Voila is the most powerful screen capturing software available for your Mac. Voila lets you capture and record content and then easily share it with friends and co-workers or upload it to the web.

Voila is the perfect screen recorder for your Mac. You can easily make high-quality product demos, DIY app simulations, and tutorials. Create interactive content by recording your Mac screen along with audio and all your click streams. Then complete your screencast by annotating your screenshots with professional tools and features. Record like a pro and publish your final project to FTP/SFTP, Tumblr, Dropbox, Evernote, and YouTube with Voila.

Made for Mavericks, Voila is simple and intuitive. With Voila, keep your captures organized and within your reach while enjoying a boost in productivity.

Try Voila today. Download Free Trial.

Sponsorship by the Syndicate.

November 20th, 2013

My thanks to Lootback for sponsoring this week’s RSS feed.

If you’re a web designer, you know how paying full price for resources like stock photos and fonts can have a negative effect on your bottom line. Now there’s a new service that can increase your profits by giving you cash back on these important design components. has found a way to work with merchants such as Thinkstock, iStock, and Envato to help you save money. Lootback’s featured merchants pay the company a small commission for sending customers their way. Instead of keeping it all, Lootback splits its commission with you. The merchant gets a sale, Lootback gets a commission, and you get a great discount on your purchase; everyone wins.

Not only does it offer effortless savings, Lootback makes searching for your creative assets easier. All your favorite merchants’ products are aggregated into one convenient search feature, so you spend less time looking for that perfect file.

Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

November 12th, 2013

In Colorado, voters defeated a measure to raise taxes in order to increase education spending. Here’s how the New York Times characterize the vote:

Had the referendum passed, the current flat state income tax rate of 4.6 percent would have been replaced with a two-tier system. Residents with taxable incomes below $75,000 would have paid 5 percent; taxable incomes above $75,000 would have been taxed at 5.9 percent. The measure would have poured money into poor, rural school districts, expanded preschool, bought new technology and encouraged local innovations like longer school days and school years, supporters said.

But the promise of higher teacher salaries and full-day kindergarten failed to resonate with voters, even in many reliably blue corners of the state and areas where the money would have had the greatest benefit. The state voted 65 percent to 35 percent against the overhaul, known as Amendment 66.

“It was a statement of a loss of faith in government,” said State Senator Mike Johnston, a Democrat and architect of the measure. “The reality may just be that Coloradans just deeply prize being a very low-tax state.”

“…Where the money would have had the greatest benefit.” This is ostensibly a news article about the measure, but it presumes something that isn’t at all a fact. Whether increasing funding would be beneficial is a contention, something that must be supported by a logical argument and evidence. It has no place in being a description of the events. There’s an importance difference between “[where funding] would have had the greatest benefit” and “where much of the funding would have went.”

That’s a subtle framing of the issue that guides readers to a conclusion that isn’t overtly stated by the article’s author, Jack Healy, and for which no evidence is provided.

Which is problematic, especially, because one voter quoted in the article contradicts that entire reasoning for why the measure was rejected, starting with the presumption that increased funding would necessarily benefit their communities:

Erin DeMarco, a political science student at the University of Colorado Boulder, was one of the voters Amendment 66 supporters needed to win over. A registered Democrat who voted for Mr. Hickenlooper and Mr. Obama, she said she wanted to see better schools, but balked when she saw the size of the tax increase.

“I felt a little guilty when I voted against it,” she said. “It tugged at my heartstrings. I just don’t always believe that money solves problems. It’s difficult for me to write a blank check to the government.”

“I just don’t always believe that money solves problems.” That’s a reason for voting against the measure that Healy’s “…where the money would have the greatest benefit” off-handed statement of fact rules out as a reason for why voters rejected it: if the increased funding necessarily benefits the communities, then voting against it because you don’t think increasing spending will solve problems by it’s very nature is not possible.

Words do indeed have meaning, and whether intentional or careless (or just an unintentional reveal of the author’s own viewpoint), his choice of them framed the issue to make one argument for why voters rejected the measure appear more reasonable.

November 7th, 2013

Where Does the iPad Go From Here?

November 4th, 2013

When Apple released the iPad Mini a year ago, I wrote that the Mini wasn’t just a secondary option to the main iPad, but it is the iPad. What I meant is that the Mini fulfilled much of the original iPad’s vision better than it or any of its full-sized successors did. Because the Mini was so much lighter and so much easier to hold, the Mini was not only more enjoyable to use while sitting down on the couch or in bed, but opened up contexts that the full-sized iPad’s size and weight didn’t allow. The iPad’s promise was powerful computing available to you in something you could comfortably hold in your hands, and the Mini fully delivered on it.

With this year’s full-sized iPad, though, the line between the two devices blurred. It’s still discernible, but it’s murkier. The iPad Mini is still superior for reading since it’s lighter, but the difference has narrowed considerably. Forget how many grams each device is; the iPad Air is quite comfortable to hold one-handed. Not as nice as the Mini, but nice.

The Mini narrowed the performance and capability gap as well. The Mini now runs the ridiculously fast A7 processor, same as the iPad Air and iPhone 5S. For many people, the Mini is big enough to write on as well, or make presentations in Keynote. The full-sized iPad is still superior for those tasks, and is especially superior for tasks like sketching which benefit from a larger screen, but the difference really isn’t that large. They are both quite capable devices for whatever task people want to use them for. The comparison is much more akin to a 13-inch Macbook versus a 15-inch than it is to an iPhone versus an iPad.

Which begs the question: where is the iPad going? More specifically, where are iPad applications going?

The original iPad was released in 2010 with the full iWork suite, and along with the iPad 2 in 2011, Apple released Garageband and iMovie as well. Garageband in particular feels like the high water mark for creative applications on the iPad. Not only was Garageband incredibly powerful and feature-deep, but it felt like it was made for the iPad all along.

There are many other applications that are powerful in different ways as well. Paper is a wonderfully simple application, but is capable of remarkably beautiful and intricate work (Paper’s Tumblr makes that clear). Editorial is a well-constructed text editor that is, in some ways, superior to desktop-based text editors. Djay is, appropriately, a DJ application that could only exist on the iPad. And on and on.

I think, though, that we’re beginning to see diminishing returns for increasing the capabilities of existing iPad applications or pushing it into new spaces. Generally speaking, while iPad hardware is dramatically faster and more capable than it was in 2010 (or even last year), applications haven’t increased at anywhere near the same pace. There are a number of obvious reasons for that, of course; faster hardware doesn’t necessarily imply that software—which is dependent on many things, but is especially dependent on good ideas and demand for them—will advance at a similar pace.

But there’s another reason: iOS still hews closely to the one-app-at-a-time, app-as-silo concept that began with the iPhone in 2007. For some purposes, this actually makes the iPad a better tool than the PC; the iPad’s limited ability to multitask makes it easier to focus on writing or other focused tasks like sketching. But it also significantly constrains what’s possible on the device. Writing an email or article that references a website or note, or doing any work that requires looking at one application’s content while working in another, requires flipping back and forth between applications, which makes for an excellent test of patience. And there is virtually no support for allowing two applications to work together on a single task by passing data between them.

Many people have suggested that renaming the iPad the “iPad Air” sets the stage for an iPad Pro, presumably with a larger screen. It’s difficult to disagree with that, but I don’t think an iPad with merely a larger screen would justify a “pro” moniker. The difference between what it is capable of and what the iPad Air is capable of would be fairly small; it would be better at sketching, but not much else. But where it would make sense is if the one-app-at-a-time model is relaxed. Using two applications on screen at once, a la Microsoft’s Metro, would certainly benefit from a larger screen. And building support for allowing applications to work together on tasks and share their data would justify the new name that much more as well.

While conceptually these two changes are fairly simple (I wrote about what applications working together could look like last year), the details are always where it gets difficult. How do you enter “split-screen” mode? How do you get out? What affordances do you provide to users so they understand what’s going on? Do you allow the user to drag content back and forth between applications (I’d hope so!)? How do you indicate what can and can’t be dragged? How do you implement the API to do so? And so on. None of it is easy. It’s inherently complex, and while we all want iOS to become more powerful, these changes are fundamental to iOS’s conceptual design, and a wrong move could endanger what’s made iOS so convincing in the first place: its simplicity.

Nonetheless, if iOS and the iPad are going to continue to progress and become more capable, then these sorts of changes are inevitable. That’s (generally) where we’re going. The rest is details. It’s also, coincidentally, where most of the work is.

My thanks to for sponsoring this week’s RSS feed. is a site dedicated to all things tech. From updates on Sony’s PS4 to reports on Google’s latest acquisition; whether you’re looking for the latest Apple product or looking for views on mobile web, Techi is the site to visit.’s news is sourced from thousands of sites from across the Internet, then curated by an editorial team with their finger constantly on the pulse of the industry’s most vital developments. You also get a quick summary of the news so you save time and read only what interests you most.

In addition to the best news curated from across the Web, also offers exclusive original articles and stories featured in the Drudge Report, Reddit, NYTimes, Google news, and many more.

You don’t even have to visit daily. Just sign up for the daily newsletter and get the latest tech news direct to your inbox—with no fuss whatsoever—in time for that commute or mid-day coffee.

Don’t spend your morning sifting through RSS feeds looking for the hot news. Go for the instant solution: get it all from in less time than it takes to make your coffee.

Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

November 4th, 2013

Austin Carr on Anki Drive’s greater ambitions:

Today, Anki launched Drive to the world, and, even as a stepping stone, it’s an incredibly compelling product. Users can pit their cars against their AI-powered counterparts, zooming around a track and competing in a variety of scenarios–races, battles, and so forth–while using the iPhone as a steering wheel and control center. Sofman and team like to call it “the first video game in the real world.” But the larger promise of Anki is the underlying technology it’s inventing in the process, which could make the startup competitive in a whole host of industries. “This is a way to zigzag through a lot of really compelling products to get to the Holy Grails: full-blown autonomous driving, having [robotic] helpers around the house, health-care applications,” Sofman beams.

Well, that helps explain why Apple allowed Anki to introduce themselves on the center stage. That’s potentially very exciting.

October 22nd, 2013

Ezra Klein argues that consumers restrain costs for consumer goods by being able to “say no”—that is, they can refuse to purchase, say, a television from Sony if they charge too much. Klein continues that because for health care consumers cannot “say no,” market forces cannot restrain health costs. But government can, Klein says, and that’s ACA’s intent.

Reihan Salam responds:

But surely the cost of televisions (and most other things, including many necessities) is kept relatively low not because people can do without them but because people have a huge range of options in a very competitive market. Sony can’t charge you too much because you’ll just buy a television made by someone else. Health insurance (let alone care) can’t always be treated like that kind of commodity in every respect, of course, but I think (as conservatives tend to) that they can be to a far greater extent than most people on the left seem to believe.

October 22nd, 2013
Previously Newer