Category Archives: Scientifica

User Interface Design?

We have a relatively new dishwasher.  It’s very nice, and has a cool display that tells you what’s going on, it’s the only visible control when it’s closed. For instance when it starts the cycle, it tells you that now is a fine time to add that glass you just finished drinking from, and no, you didn’t miss anything yet in terms of washing awesomeness.

Or at least, that’s what it’s trying to do.  It has a fatal user interface flaw that prevented this from happening one memorable time.

Nikki’s Mom and Dad were over watching the boys for us one weekend while we were away, and decided (rather uncharacteristically) that they would run the dishwasher.  The boys helped out, they loaded everything up, and the boys helped to put the soap packet thing in.  They even pushed the right button (a very good choice in user interface) called Start.

The dishwasher then starts to make a few muted sounds, there’s a bit of water running, etc.  On the display, a somewhat tentative pair of grandparents and two young boys looked and saw this:

Add a dish

They looked at each other, and came to the only sensible conclusion:  they must not have put enough dishes into the dishwasher.  “Add a dish” the display says in ominous red.

Needless to say they opened the dishwasher and added a dish, whatever was close at hand, maybe something not yet ready for the wash yet, but hey.  Restart the cycle, close the door, and there it was:

Add a dish

The next logical thing was, we must not have added the right dish.  That’s a bit of a poser of a problem, because at some point they start to wonder how in the hell does the dishwasher know what dishes are in there?  Nevertheless, they gamely try to figure out what dish is missing, what is the special dish the dishwasher needs to run?

You might have figured out that the fatal flaw of this interface is essentially summed up as lacking a single question mark.  If that glowing red message said “Add a Dish?” there would have been no question in anyone’s mind that it was indeed optional, and poor Paul and Darlene would not have stuffed the dishwasher full of every darn dish in the house in an effort to satisfy the implacable smug machine.

Dear 16-year-old Me – YouTube

As far as viral video goes, this one is excellent.  It’s funny and touching at times, but mostly it’s an excellent message about melanoma that people need to hear and understand, especially kids.  It’s long past the time where you could say “maybe you know someone”, instead most of us can probably list several loved ones who have been affected somehow.




Well worth spending a few minutes on today, folks.

Being Drunk and Tired Makes You Smarterer

Apparently being drunk or tired (maybe both?) is really good for making creative, intuitive decisions.  The idea is that an alert brain is bound more closely by logic and reasoning, while being drunk or tired more closely simulates brain damage (I’m not making this up, read the story) and means that you will consider a wider range of solutions.  This is pretty neat.  I can’t decide just how I would apply this knowledge to my regular day job, but if I had a couple of beers I bet you the answer would come to me right away….

I kid.

Enjoy the article, some fun puzzles in there too.

Note that driving a car, operating heavy machinery, open heart surgery, and flying a blimp do not require creative thinking, and should probably continue to be done while sober and rested.  Just a thought.

Let’s see, I’ll take death by asteroid impact.

I’m loving this short post about the common worries that parents have with regards to their kids, and contrasted against the real dangers that exist. 

Based on surveys Barnes collected, the top five worries of parents are, in order:

  1. Kidnapping
  2. School snipers
  3. Terrorists
  4. Dangerous strangers
  5. Drugs

But how do children really get hurt or killed?

  1. Car accidents
  2. Homicide (usually committed by a person who knows the child, not a stranger)
  3. Abuse
  4. Suicide
  5. Drowning

I will readily admit that I have personally had some of these worries from time to time, but the rational part of my brain shouts out and says that’s really stupid.  Usually I listen, because I like to think I’m a rational person.  It’s a difficult voice to ignore, there must be some sort of wiring in my head that makes it so.  One commenter on this post pretty much nails it:

If we were any good at assessing risk, then we would kiss the ground when the taxi dropped us off at the airport instead of clutching the armrest at takeoff.

It’s amazing that we even have these worries, because really how many direct experiences have I had that even come close to any of these?  None.  We are so good at projecting other’s fears onto ourselves that just a news story is enough to chill our souls and instill fear even when the odds are long, long, long of any such thing happening to us.  In fact, I thought it might be fun to look up the odds of death of some regularly occurring nightmares (for some folk).

Heart Disease
Accidental Injury
Motor Vehicle Accident*
Intentional Self-harm (suicide)
Falling Down
Assault by Firearm
Fire or Smoke
Natural Forces (heat, cold, storms, quakes, etc.)
Air Travel Accident*
Flood* (included also in Natural Forces above)
Legal Execution
Tornado* (included also in Natural Forces above)
Lightning Strike (included also in Natural Forces above)
Snake, Bee or other Venomous Bite or Sting*
Earthquake (included also in Natural Forces above)
Dog Attack
Asteroid Impact*

Fireworks Discharge

Finally, just to really quench the good vibes and optimism you had about the odds being that nothing really horrendous will happen to you, the odds of winning the jackpot in Lotto 6/49?

1 in 13,983,816