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I source my linen from recovering communist states in the remnants of the Soviet Union.

Linen is my preferred material for bedding and towels (except for travel towels, where I still prefer synthetic). When purchased through normal channels, it can be prohibitively expensive. I cut out the middlemen and acquire linen directly from Eastern European makers on Esty, where it is much more affordable. My duvet cover is from Belarus. My sheets and pillow cases also hail from Belarus. My preferred towels are from Lithuania.

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Identifying individuals by using a laser to record the vibrations of their heartbeat is a neat idea.

The Pentagon’s new Jetson laser sounds like a simple concept:

A new device, developed for the Pentagon after US Special Forces requested it, can identify people without seeing their face: instead it detects their unique cardiac signature with an infrared laser. While it works at 200 meters (219 yards), longer distances could be possible with a better laser. “I don’t want to say you could do it from space,” says Steward Remaly, of the Pentagon’s Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office, “but longer ranges should be possible.”

Contact infrared sensors are often used to automatically record a patient’s pulse. They work by detecting the changes in reflection of infrared light caused by blood flow. By contrast, the new device, called Jetson, uses a technique known as laser vibrometry to detect the surface movement caused by the heartbeat. This works though typical clothing like a shirt and a jacket (though not thicker clothing such as a winter coat).

I wonder if they aim center mass, or if they can get a reading off the carotid. If it’s the former, it seems likely to be defeated by wearing plates, which is probably good life advice if the Pentagon is interested in you anyways.

The article also mentions that “[o]ne glaring limitation is the need for a database of cardiac signatures”, but I suspect they can just acquire that data from Apple, Strava, Fitbit, etc.

via Infowarrior

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Houseplants probably don't improve indoor air quality.

In reponse to the oft-quoted NASA Clean Air Study, The Altantic writes:

[T]here’s nothing especially wrong with Wolverton’s 1989 study. Its results “fall right in line with other stuff that’s been measured in the literature.” But taking its results at face value significantly overstates the power of plants, he said. Wolverton measured whether houseplants could remove VOCs from an airtight laboratory environment. But a home is not a hermetic chamber. It has open windows and doors, drafts and leaks, and much more clutter.

Recently, Waring and his colleagues reanalyzed all 195 studies that have examined whether houseplants can filter the air. They found that some types of plants can remove higher amounts of VOCs than others. But once you factor in the effects of working in a large room, none of the plants are able to do much.

Waring told me to imagine a small office, 10 feet by 10 feet by eight feet. “You would have to put 1,000 plants in that office to have the same air-cleaning capacity of just changing over the air once per hour, which is the typical air-exchange rate in an office ventilation system,” he said. That’s 10 plants per square foot of floor space. Even if you chose the most effective type of VOC-filtering plant, you would still need one plant per square foot, Waring said.

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While I appreciate the resurgence of personal email newsletters as an alternative to the toxic walled-gardens of Social Media™, I much prefer consuming that type of content in my feed reader.

For discussion groups, where I’m going to respond to messages and follow threads, email is great. My relationship with the newsletters I subscribe to is that of a consumer, and for that interaction I want good old HTTP and feed syndication. Kill the Newsletter is a free service that generates Atom feeds from the email sent to an address. I use it to keep newsletters in my feed reader where they belong.

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Avian carriers achieved a message delivery rate of 95% in the first World War, and were reported to reach 99% success in an Army study published in 1944.

In an article at At War on the Rocks, Dr. Frank Blazich provides a brief overview of the military use of homing pigeons and argues for their reintroduction as a response to electronic warfare.

Considering the storage capacity of microSD memory cards, a pigeon’s organic characteristics provide front line forces a relatively clandestine mean to transport gigabytes of video, voice, or still imagery and documentation over considerable distance with zero electromagnetic emissions or obvious detectability to radar. These decidedly low-technology options prove difficult to detect and track. Pigeons cannot talk under interrogation, although they are not entirely immune to being held under suspicion of espionage. Within an urban environment, a pigeon has even greater potential to blend into the local avian population, further compounding detection. The latter presumably factored into the use of pigeons to clandestinely smuggle drugs, defeating even the most sophisticated of walls.

Furthermore, pigeons provide an asymmetric tool available for hybrid warfare purposes. The low-cost, low-technology use of pigeons to transport information or potentially small amounts of chemical agents — or even coded cyber weapons — makes them a quick and easy asset to distribute among a civilian population for wider military purposes. During World War II, the British Confidential Pigeon Service of MI14(d) dropped baskets of homing pigeons behind enemy lines for espionage purposes, gathering invaluable military intelligence in the process from a wide array of French, Dutch, and Belgian civilians. Even as a one-way means of communication, the pigeon proved an invaluable military asset.

Via Schneier, who reminds that we have an RFC.

Isaac Arthur argues that O'Neill Cylinders are a more practical option for space colonization than terraforming.

In his video lecture on the subject he points out that the millions of tons of rock below your house are mostly just used to provide gravity, which can be achieved more efficiently by rotating a megastructure such as the previously mentioned O’Neill cylinder.

At some point someone ran the numbers on mass and came in at around 4-6000 megatons for the model 4 version, and if we assumed that was mostly dirt, steel, and water, that means that the number of cylinders with mass equal to our own planet would total over one quadrillion, or over a million billion, each having an internal area equal to bit over a millionth of Earth’s.

So if someone made a planet’s mass worth of those you would have a couple billion planets’ worth of living space. This happens to be about identical to the amount of sunlight the Sun cranks out relative to what hits Earth, a couple billion times more, and another notion that was gaining popularity at the same time was the Kardashev Scale and the Dyson Sphere or Swarm.

So if you found an Earth mass planet you could terraform it and now have a whole extra planet to live on, or your could turn it all into O’Neill Cylinders in a swarm around a star and have a billion extra planets’ worth of living area. And unlike terraforming a planet, which does require about as much work per bit of new living area as just building it from scratch, when you’re done you have a structure with identical conditions to that of Earth, since you can dial it’s gravity up to whatever you want, and light the thing on whatever schedule or temperature you want. You don’t have to mimic Earth’s conditions, but you have that option.

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