One of the films up for the Best Animated Short Oscar is called Logorama. It's a Pulp Fiction-inspired ditty composed almost entirely of inventively used corporate logos. A screenshot is instructive in illustrating what I'm talking about:
Take, for instance, the way Google's engine learns which words are synonyms. "We discovered a nifty thing very early on," Singhal says. "People change words in their queries. So someone would say, 'pictures of dogs,' and then they'd say, 'pictures of puppies.' So that told us that maybe 'dogs' and 'puppies' were interchangeable. We also learned that when you boil water, it's hot water. We were relearning semantics from humans, and that was a great advance."
But there were obstacles. Google's synonym system understood that a dog was similar to a puppy and that boiling water was hot. But it also concluded that a hot dog was the same as a boiling puppy. The problem was fixed in late 2002 by a breakthrough based on philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's theories about how words are defined by context. As Google crawled and archived billions of documents and Web pages, it analyzed what words were close to each other. "Hot dog" would be found in searches that also contained "bread" and "mustard" and "baseball games" -- not poached pooches. That helped the algorithm understand what "hot dog" -- and millions of other terms -- meant. "Today, if you type 'Gandhi bio,' we know that bio means biography," Singhal says. "And if you type 'bio warfare,' it means biological."
Or in simpler terms, here's a snippet of a conversation that Google might have with itself:
A rock is a rock. It's also a stone, and it could be a boulder. Spell it "rokc" and it's still a rock. But put "little" in front of it and it's the capital of Arkansas. Which is not an ark. Unless Noah is around.
In his columns, Krugman is belligerently, obsessively political, but this aspect of his personality is actually a recent development. His parents were New Deal liberals, but they weren't especially interested in politics. In his academic work, Krugman focussed mostly on subjects with little political salience. During the eighties, he thought that supply-side economics was stupid, but he didn't think that much about it. Unlike Wells, who was so upset when Reagan was elected that she moved to England, Krugman found Reagan comical rather than evil. "I had very little sense of what was at stake in the tax issues," he says. "I was into career-building at that point and not that concerned." He worked for Reagan on the staff of the Council of Economic Advisers for a year, but even that didn't get him thinking about politics. "I feel now like I was sleepwalking through the twenty years before 2000," he says. "I knew that there was a right-left division, I had a pretty good sense that people like Dick Armey were not good to have rational discussion with, but I didn't really have a sense of how deep the divide went."
I don't know what took me so long, but I finally tracked down the soundtracks for both Moon and Sunshine...hiding in plain sight on iTunes. They are both great in their entirety. If you just want a taste, at least get Welcome to Lunar Industries from Moon and Sunshine (Adagio in D Minor) from Sunshine.
Update: Forgot to add that the Sunshine soundtrack is only available through iTunes and the Moon soundtrack is available in the US as an expensive import (and not on Amazon's mp3 site or anything like that) so your best bet is iTunes there as well.
Atlas Obscura is organizing a worldwide event on March 20th called Obscura Day, "a day of expeditions, back-room tours, and hidden treasures in your own hometown". Events include tours of a pneumatic tube system in Palo Alto, an underground salt museum in Kansas, a Icelandic museum of phalluses, a Cuban perfume museum, and a hikaru dorodango demonstration in Albuquerque.
I work in the film business, where schmoozing is an art form, lunch hour lasts from 12:30 until 3, and every meeting takes an hour whether there's an hour's worth of business or not. Not so at Vogue, where meetings are long if they go more than seven minutes and everyone knows to show up on time, prepared and ready to dive in. In Anna's world, meetings often start a few minutes before they're scheduled. If you arrive five minutes late, chances are you'll have missed it entirely. Imagine the hours of time that are saved every day by not wasting so much of it in meetings.
There's something dystopic about the place generally, and CityCenter is starting to feel like the world of Blade Runner come to life. I head back to my room, shut the black-out curtains and lie in bed. More people commit suicide in Las Vegas than in any other city in the United States.
But then, upon his return to NYC:
Drinks at Prime Meats, in Brooklyn, with my wife. Realistically, this place is as much an artifice as anything on the Strip, a re-imagining of a 19th-century saloon, complete with polished bar, antique typography, Edison bulbs. Why, then, does it feel so much more honest? Because its aesthetic is filtered through a contemporary sensibility? Because it seems a natural part of a vibrant neighborhood? Is this all bullshit I invent to make myself feel more comfortable?
They include mood, group size, authority, and social approval.
People use conformity to ingratiate themselves with others. Conforming also makes people feel better about themselves by bolstering self-confidence. Some people have a greater need for liking from others so are more likely to conform.
Have you noticed that nonconformers are less likely to care what other people think of them? Nonconformity and self-confidence go hand-in-hand.
Showing at MoMA next month, a documentary based on the NY Times' relentless and intrepid street photographer Bill Cunningham. From the press release:
The opening night feature of this year's New Directors/New Films is the world premiere of Bill Cunningham New York (USA, 2010) on Wednesday, March 24, at 7:00 p.m. at MoMA. Director Richard Press' documentary is a heartfelt and honest film about the inimitable New York Times photographer, who has for decades lovingly captured the unexpected trends, events, and people of Manhattan for the Styles section of the newspaper. The film shows Cunningham, an octogenarian, riding his Schwinn bicycle to cover benefits, galas, and fashion shows around Manhattan, and illustrates how his camera has captured the looks that have defined generations.
I couldn't really find any other information online about this film. They should at least get a trailer up on YouTube or something.
In this 28-minute presentation, Jesse Schell talks about the psychological and economic aspects of Facebook games and what that means for the future of gaming and living. If you make products or software that other people use, this is pretty much a must-see kinda thing...the last 5 or 6 minutes are dizzying, magical, and terrifying.
The Guardian asked a bunch of writers to share their tips for writing fiction. The responses appear in twoparts. Elmore Leonard:
Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said"... he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs".
Here's Philip Pullman's response in full:
My main rule is to say no to things like this, which tempt me away from my proper work.
Yitta Schwartz died last month aged 93. It's estimated she may have had over 2000 living descendants, including more than 200 grandchildren.
In 1953, the Schwartzes migrated to the United States, settling into the Satmar community in Williamsburg. She arrived with 11 children -- Shaindel, Chana, Dinah, Yitschok, Shamshon, Nechuma, Nachum, Nechemia, Hadassah, Mindel and Bella -- and proceeded to have five more: Israel, Joel, Aron, Sarah and Chaim Shloime, who died in summer camp at age 8. Sarah came along after Mrs. Schwartz had already married off two other daughters.
To start with, only simple tissues, such as skin, muscle and short stretches of blood vessels, will be made, says Keith Murphy, Organovo's chief executive, and these will be for research purposes. Mr Murphy says, however, that the company expects that within five years, once clinical trials are complete, the printers will produce blood vessels for use as grafts in bypass surgery. With more research it should be possible to produce bigger, more complex body parts. Because the machines have the ability to make branched tubes, the technology could, for example, be used to create the networks of blood vessels needed to sustain larger printed organs, like kidneys, livers and hearts.
The Bloom box is a new kind of fuel cell that produces electricity by combining oxygen in the air with any fuel source, such as natural gas, bio-gas, and solar energy. Sridhar said the chemical reaction is efficient and clean, creating energy without burning or combustion. He said that two Bloom boxes - each the size of a grapefruit - could wirelessly power a US home, fully replacing the power grid; one box could power a European home, and two or three Asian homes could share a single box.
But the article says that several commercial Bloom boxes are already in use at Google, eBay, FedEx, and Wal-Mart and VC John Doerr and Colin Powell are on board, so who knows? (via @daveg)
"When I planned to ski Everest, the first thing I faced was 'How can I return alive?'" he recalls. "All the preparation and training was based on this question. But the more I prepared, I knew the chance of survival was very slim. Nobody in the world had done this before, so I told myself that I must face death. Otherwise, I am not eligible."
Do you ever get time to visit museums? I used to go a lot with my kids. Donald Trump is a great friend, and he has four or five Picassos on his plane. And that's where I would look at them. One time, I was at a museum and tried touching a Picasso. You break it, you buy it, they said. I was told it would cost $2 million.
Over at Worldchanging, Alex Steffen calls Bill Gates' talk about climate change the most important speech ever given at TED. Gates said that the number one priority for him and the Gates Foundation (the world's largest philanthropic organization) is to combat human-driven climate change.
He reckons that because population is going to continue to grow for at least four decades, because billions of poor people want more equitable prosperity, and because (as he sees it) improvements in energy efficiency are limited, we have to focus on the last element of the equation, the carbon intensity of energy. Simply, we need climate-neutral energy. We need to use nothing but climate-neutral energy.
Using the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, particle physicists have succeeded in creating quark-gluon plasma, the temperature of which is 4 trillion degrees Celsius (about 250,000 times hotter than the center of the Sun). The plasma is believed to be the state the universe was in a microsecond after its creation.
The departure from normal physics manifested itself in the apparent ability of the briefly freed quarks to tell right from left. That breaks one of the fundamental laws of nature, known as parity, which requires that the laws of physics remain unchanged if we view nature in a mirror.
This happened in bubbles smaller than the nucleus of an atom, which lasted only a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second. But in these bubbles were "hints of profound physics," in the words of Steven Vigdor, associate director for nuclear and particle physics at Brookhaven. Very similar symmetry-breaking bubbles, at an earlier period in the universe, are believed to have been responsible for breaking the balance between matter and its opposite antimatter and leaving the universe with a preponderance of matter.
The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy is finally coming out on Blu-ray on April 6th, but more than 1800 angry Amazon commenters would like to remind you that these are the theatrical versions and not the extended versions that true LOTR fans have canonized.
Some confusion among other reviewers that somehow we're obligated to post a five star recommendation for the movie. This is an incorrect understanding of the review process. If I were reviewing the movie itself it would get a five. This review is for the product, as listed -- in other words, I DO NOT RECOMMEND BUYING THIS PRODUCT/DVD. This product is being created FOR NO OTHER REASON than to dupe people into buying this movie twice...again. Those of us who were huge fans bought the original DVDs of the theatrical releases. THEN the studio FINALLY released the extended editions, even though they could have released both at the same time. Now that Blu Ray has won the High Def battle, the studios are salivating at screwing us all again the same way! Please do not let them get away with holding the extended edition hostage until everyone buys the theatrical versions.
Or, to put it in a way that Gandalf would understand:
New Line/WB need to learn a lesson from the movies themselves and realize that evil never prevails. Greed has a grip on them stronger than the Ring itself.
An archeological find in Turkey, believed to be a temple built 11,500 years ago that predates "villages, pottery, domesticated animals, and even agriculture", suggests religion created civilization and not the other way around.
Most startling is the elaborate carving found on about half of the 50 pillars Schmidt has unearthed. There are a few abstract symbols, but the site is almost covered in graceful, naturalistic sculptures and bas-reliefs of the animals that were central to the imagination of hunter-gatherers. Wild boar and cattle are depicted, along with totems of power and intelligence, like lions, foxes, and leopards. Many of the biggest pillars are carved with arms, including shoulders, elbows, and jointed fingers. The T shapes appear to be towering humanoids but have no faces, hinting at the worship of ancestors or humanlike deities.
When an insect brushes against a hair on the leaf of a Venus flytrap, the bending triggers a tiny electric charge. The charge builds up inside the tissue of the leaf but is not enough to stimulate the snap, which keeps the Venus flytrap from reacting to false alarms like raindrops. A moving insect, however, is likely to brush a second hair, adding enough charge to trigger the leaf to close.
Volkov's experiments reveal that the charge travels down fluid-filled tunnels in a leaf, which opens up pores in cell membranes. Water surges from the cells on the inside of the leaf to those on the outside, causing the leaf to rapidly flip in shape from convex to concave, like a soft contact lens. As the leaves flip, they snap together, trapping an insect inside.
Since then I've downloaded a lot of games and educational apps for my daughter (who is now four and a half) and I've been meaning to write up the ones I think are worth a few bucks and have stood the test of time, and here they are.
He found that over half of the species he examined demonstrated changes over time with boreal birds developing more pointed wings and temperate birds developing rounder wings. These results support the hypothesis that habitat isolation is spurring evolutionary changes in birds.
Boreal forests have suffered severe deforestation over the past century, and so Desrochers had predicted that increased distances between habitat patches would select for more pointed wings in birds. Pointed wings are associated with more energy-efficient sustained flight.
Another fantastic feature from Pictory: The One Who Got Away features lost loves, hard choices, and former friends.
My friend and I grew up together: went through big losses early, endured school, survived through everything. This is her writing her final essay for law school, in late summer. I used to love this photo because it meant that we made it, at last. Then, after she became a lawyer, she helped my neighbor sue my family. We just got the letter from her, no warning. If I try hard, I understand her point of view. Business is business. As another good friend said: Welcome to adult issues.
Unlike previous racist dictatorships, the North Korean one has actually succeeded in producing a sort of new species. Starving and stunted dwarves, living in the dark, kept in perpetual ignorance and fear, brainwashed into the hatred of others, regimented and coerced and inculcated with a death cult.
But now everything he says must be written, either first on his laptop and funneled through speakers or, as he usually prefers, on some kind of paper. His new life is lived through Times New Roman and chicken scratch. So many words, so much writing -- it's like a kind of explosion is taking place on the second floor of his brownstone. It's not the food or the drink he worries about anymore -- I went thru a period when I obsessed about root beer + Steak + Shake malts, he writes on a blue Post-it note -- but how many more words he can get out in the time he has left.
I've always liked Ebert and I consider this version an upgrade...he's doing his best work. (thx, david)
Archaeologists and experts on early nautical history said the discovery appeared to show that these surprisingly ancient mariners had craft sturdier and more reliable than rafts. They also must have had the cognitive ability to conceive and carry out repeated water crossing over great distances in order to establish sustainable populations producing an abundance of stone artifacts.
Chef Keller looked down at the magazine and spoke softly: Read this tonight when you go home. His food really sounds interesting, and right up your alley. I think you should go stage there this summer....I will arrange it for you.
The pessimistic dig on Apple, says Gruber, is that it's a supremely well-organized company organized around one irreplaceable guy. The optimistic view is that Jobs has structured it to run like his other company, Pixar, which manages to turn out hit after hit, year after year, without a charismatic celebrity leader.
In 2014 we will serve meals, but we will consider the format used and the booking system. But still two years of operation of El Bulli and four years to open the doors again.
Or perhaps the restaurant is moving to Austria? Or will become a McDonald's franchise? Who knows what El Bulli news tomorrow holds! Stay tuned. (thx, susan)
Update: Here's some clarification from The Guardian. The restaurant will cease to be a commercial enterprise and will instead be a non-profit foundation "similar to those that run museums and art centres".
Adrià has given himself two years to think about what the new foundation will do. "We are open to suggestions," he said. But he is absolutely sure it will involve cooking and serving food on El Bulli's hallowed premises.
Update:The NY Times clarifies (is that even a word we can apply to this mess at this point?) Adrià's earlier statements about closing the restaurant permanently...it sounds as though he doesn't exactly know what he's doing with it:
"There is nothing defined except that when El Bulli opens in 2014 it will be as a foundation," he said. "We have not decided what the structure of that foundation will be,'' he continued, noting that many culinary foundations "serve food to the public.''
One man's chickens have taught him much about "behaviour, ethics, evolution and the psychopathic nature of modern 'efficiency'"
The longer you watch chickens, the more you think of them as people rather than some strange alien species with feathers, beady eyes and a strange language. Squint a little as you watch them enact their various roles and you can see a brood of Sainsbury's retail managers jockeying to maintain position.
Some scientists have developed a promising method for targeting and destroying individual cancer cells without harming the tissue around them. Tiny (like nano tiny) gold-plated iron-nickel discs are attached to cancer-seeking antibodies. The antibodies attach themselves to the cancer cells and when an alternating magnetic field is applied, the metal nano-discs vibrate and literally shake the cancer cells to death.
Since the antibodies are attracted only to brain cancer cells, the process leaves surrounding healthy cells unharmed. This makes them unlike traditional cancer treatment methods, such as chemotherapy and radiation, which negatively affect both cancer and normal healthy cells.
Cars only steer in one dimension; planes steer in two. Even a level turn is hard in a plane, you have to coordinate two controls, except sometimes you deliberately uncoordinate them. Managing engine power is harder in a plane: two or three controls in a piston, not just a single pedal. And then there's auxiliary controls you have to use occasionally: flaps, carburetor heat, fuel tank selector, etc. Even starting a plane requires carefully using four controls in the proper relationship.
My dad was a pilot and used to let me fly when I was little, like 5 or 6. It was easy in clear weather, easier than driving a car in fact...just keep it level. I actually didn't even need to touch the yoke much of the time...the plane just flew itself. When I got older, I realized that what made it so effortless was that my dad was taking care of the hard part, the 95% of flying that doesn't involve moving any of the controls. What made it look so effortless for him, even when things got tough1, was the 10,000+ hours in the cockpit of a plane, flying.
 Like when he made a crosswind landing in a Cessna 172 ahead of an oncoming storm which we later learned had spawned some tornadoes while running a bit lower on gas than was generally acceptable by the plane's captain. He'd already attempted one landing, aborting after the wind dropped us like 10 feet in half a second while about 30 feet from the ground. The sensation of that crosswind landing -- of gliding over the runway twenty feet off the ground at ~60-80 mph while pointed about 30 degrees off axis and then, just before touching down and presumably tumbling down the runway wing over wing, straightening out for a surprisingly gentle landing -- was one of the freakiest things I've ever experienced, partly because I wasn't scared at all...I knew he'd get us down safely. ↩
I was really into fractals in college (I know...) when I was making rave flyers (I know!) for a friend's parties in Iowa (I know! I know! Shut up already!). Anyway, the thing that I really used to love doing with this fractal application that I had on my computer was zooming in to different parts of the familiar Mandelbrot set as far as I could. I never got very far...between 5 or 6 zooms in, my Packard Bell 486/66 (running Windows 3.11) would buckle under the computational pressure and hang. Therefore, I absolutely love this extremely deep HD zoom into the Mandelbrot set:
Just how deep is this computational rabbit hole?
The final magnification is e.214. Want some perspective? a magnification of e.12 would increase the size of a particle to the same as the earths orbit! e.21 would make a particle look the same size as the milky way and e.42 would be equal to the universe. This zoom smashes all of them all away. If you were "actually" traveling into the fractal your speed would be faster than the speed of light.
After awhile, the self-similarity of the thing is almost too much to bear; I think I went into a coma around 5:00 but snapped to in time for the exciting (but not unexpected) conclusion. Full-screen in a dark room is recommended.
Update: This 46-minute video seems to be the deepest fractal zoom out there right now, with a zoom level of 10^10000.
The magnification factor is so much less in the video above but that one's more fun/artistic. And 10^10000 is such an absurdly large number1 that there's no way to think about it in physical terms...the zoom factor from the size of the universe to the smallest measurable distance (the Planck length) is only about 10^60.
This article about spray-on glass reads almost like a press release -- "liquid glass spray is perhaps the most important nanotechnology product to emerge to date" -- but even if half the claims are true, this stuff is going to be amazing.
The liquid glass spray produces a water-resistant coating only around 100 nanometers (15-30 molecules) thick. On this nanoscale the glass is highly flexible and breathable. The coating is environmentally harmless and non-toxic, and easy to clean using only water or a simple wipe with a damp cloth. It repels bacteria, water and dirt, and resists heat, UV light and even acids. UK project manager with Nanopool, Neil McClelland, said soon almost every product you purchase will be coated with liquid glass.
They're even taking about spraying it on clothes as an anti-stain mechanism and on plants to keep pests and such away. Spray-on condom, anyone? (via @daveg)
I am an expert. I have sliced off thumb tips and fingernails. I have shaved paper-thin wafers of my knuckle and buried a breaking/cimeter knife an inch and a half into my forearm. If it weren't for the stainless steel chainmail "butcher bra" that Josh from Fleisher's bought me for Christmas last year, I might not be alive to write this essay, having perhaps bled out from one of the many horrible chest wounds averted by its Mithril magic.
Were you to be close to a black hole, this program shows you what you might observe.
The optical appearance of the stellar sky for an observer in the vicinity of a black hole is dominated by bending of light, frequency shift, and magnification caused by gravitational lensing and aberration. Due to the finite apperture of an observer's eye or a telescope, Fraunhofer diffraction has to be taken into account. Using todays high performance graphics hardware, we have developed a Qt application which enables the user to interactively explore the stellar sky in the vicinity of a Schwarzschild black hole. For that, we determine what an observer, who can either move quasistatically around the black hole or follow a timelike radial geodesic, would actually see.
For Linux and Windows only, although there are sample videos for non-downloaders or those on other machines.
The evidence comes from a study of how energy travels across the light-harvesting molecules involved in photosynthesis. The work has culminated this week in the extraordinary announcement that these molecules in a marine alga may exploit quantum processes at room temperature to transfer energy without loss. Physicists had previously ruled out quantum processes, arguing that they could not persist for long enough at such temperatures to achieve anything useful.
Sales of CJ Corporation's snack sausages are on the increase in South Korea because of the cold weather; they are useful as a meat stylus for those who don't want to take off their gloves to use their iPhones.
Update: More than one person has suggested that this whole thing is a hoax. Video or it didn't happen? Feast thine eyes on someone playing a rhythm game on the iPhone with two of the meat sticks in question:
If your special lady place is looking a little dusty, spruce it up with My New Pink Button, the genital cosmetic colorant. There are four different shades, just like lipstick. The site really isn't NSFW unless people can see your thoughts; this whole concept packs quite a visual wallop in the spotless mind.
Grant McCracken quotes Kay Ryan, reigning US Poet Laureate and sharer of my birthday, on community colleges.
I simply want to celebrate the fact that right near your home, year in and year out, a community college is quietly -- and with very little financial encouragement -- saving lives and minds. I can't think of a more efficient, hopeful or egalitarian machine, with the possible exception of the bicycle.
A "jiffy" actually has a formal definition. More than one, in fact.
In electronics, a jiffy is the time between alternating current power cycles, 1/60 or 1/50 of a second in most countries.
In astrophysics and quantum physics a jiffy is the time it takes for light to travel one fermi, which is the size of a nucleon.
In computing, a jiffy is the duration of one tick of the system timer interrupt. It is not an absolute time interval unit, since its duration depends on the clock interrupt frequency of the particular hardware platform.
In 1905, Einstein came up with the concept of special relativity, published his paper on the photoelectric effect, finished his doctoral dissertation, devised the E=mc^2 concept, published a paper on Brownian motion, was approved for his doctorate, and turned 26.
A young-ish Christopher Walken appears in Annie Hall but his name is misspelled in the credits as "Christopher Wlaken". Were this 1990, I might have invented a eastern European backstory for Wlaken, who, perhaps, Americanized his name sometime after appearing in the film. But as we live in the future, a cool hunk of glass and metal from my pocket told me -- before the credits even finished rolling -- that the actor was born Ronald Walken in Astoria, Queens.
David Heinemeier Hansson has some thoughts on "quality control without the quality part" nature of Apple's App Store.
In fact, lots of software has lower quality because of the App Store process. Developers can't easily get bug fixes out and they certainly don't release new versions as often as they otherwise would. This harks back to the era where software was really cumbersome to release on CDs, so you did it much less frequently.
Stretching from New York to Minnesota, [Stayathomia's] defining feature is how near most people are to their friends, implying they don't move far. In most cases outside the largest cities, the most common connections are with immediately neighboring cities, and even New York only has one really long-range link in its top 10. Apart from Los Angeles, all of its strong ties are comparatively local.
Stewart Butterfield and his ex-Flickr co-founders have revealed what their company, Tiny Speck, has been working on for the past few months: a game called Glitch. A CNET reporter has been embedded at Tiny Speck for the past few months and has more than you probably want to know about the new company and game.
I've posted about hikaru dorodango a couple times before but they're always worth another look. Dorodango start out as sloppy mud balls but through careful shaping and polishing with dirt and sand, they end up perfectly round and shiny. Here is a particularly beautiful and unusual example, made from some yellow soil in New Mexico:
That totally looks like leather! Here is a more traditional (and shiny!) example:
The printing happened on large sheets of paper which were then folded into rectangles the size of the finished pages and bound. The reader then sliced open the folds. Paper knives, variants of letter openers, were used for this purpose.
The deckle edge on modern books is an imitation of what those sliced open books looked like.
Celebrity photographer Terry Richardson has a blog to which he posts quick snaps. Sorta like everyone else on the planet except that oh, there's Kate Moss and there's Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and there's Justin Theroux and there's Doutzen Kroes and there's Tracy Morgan.
I spent about 30 minutes on Friday night on Chatroulette (very NSFW). You push the start button and you're instantly in a video chat with some random person. During my session, the average "chat" lasted about 5 seconds and I observed several people drinking malt liquor, two girls making out, many many guys who disconnected as soon as they saw I wasn't female, several girls who disconnected after seeing my face (but not before I caught the looks of disgust on theirs), 3 couples having sex, and 11 erect penises. In a Malkovichian moment, I was even connected to myself once...and then the other me quickly disconnected. In short, Chatroulette is pretty much the best site going on the internet right now.
One such story was our earlier case about the old lady and her troubles with the Revenue Department official over a land title. Fed up with requests for bribes and equipped with a zero rupee note, the old lady handed the note to the official. He was stunned. Remarkably, the official stood up from his seat, offered her a chair, offered her tea and gave her the title she had been seeking for the last year and a half to obtain without success.
Andy Baio is back with his annual report on how many Oscar nominated films have shown up online prior to the awards ceremony (ripped from screeners, DVDs, etc.). For some reason, fewer films have been leaked this year and they are taking longer to show up online.
Are studios doing a better job protecting screeners and intimidating Academy members? Or was this year's crop of films too boring for pirates to bother with? I can't tell if this is a scene-wide trend or localized to the Oscars only.
Timothy McSweeney, after whom the McSweeney's literary magazine and web site are named, died late last month.
As a young man, Timothy was an artist of tremendous talent. The canvases he leaves behind are filled with haunting and beautiful imagery. They are also filled with a palpable desire-to be heard, to connect, to be understood better by others and himself. The letters that inspired this journal's name were a continuation of that same lifelong effort to more intimately know the world and his place within it.
If this doesn't blow your socks off, then Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, has an even bigger shock in store: "If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram." [...] Our everyday experience might itself be a holographic projection of physical processes that take place on a distant, 2D surface.
Recent evidence of horizontal gene transfer -- in which genes are exchanged from other organisms, not from ancestors -- has some scientists thinking that the dominant form of evolution for most of the Earth's history was between non-related organisms and not among ancestors.
In the past few years, a host of genome studies have demonstrated that DNA flows readily between the chromosomes of microbes and the external world. Typically around 10 per cent of the genes in many bacterial genomes seem to have been acquired from other organisms in this way, though the proportion can be several times that. So an individual microbe may have access to the genes found in the entire microbial population around it, including those of other microbe species. "It's natural to wonder if the very concept of an organism in isolation is still valid at this level," says Goldenfeld.
Read on for their hypothesis about how horizontal evolution drove innovation -- development of a universal genetic code and genetic innovation-sharing protocols -- in life forms early on in the Earth's history. Fascinating.
A snail that lives near the hydrothermal vents in the Indian Ocean has developed an unusual defense mechanism: it uses the iron sulfide in the surrounding water to make an iron-plated shell with some interesting properties.
Part of its ability to resist damage seems to be the way the shell deforms when it's struck: It produces cracks that dissipate the force of the blow, and nanoparticles that injure whatever is attacking it
Several times when Subject 23 was asked to imagine playing tennis, Monti said, the region of the brain most closely associated with complex motor planning became highly active, and stayed active for 30 seconds after researchers prompted such imagery by saying "tennis."
Similarly, when researchers asked the patient to imagine walking through the house where he grew up and then said the word "navigate," Subject No. 23 responded with bursts of activity in the region of the brain involved in constructing and navigating a mental map.
The young, French-speaking man was the only subject who was then trained to answer simple yes or no questions -- whether his father's name was Paul (yes) or Alexander (no), whether he had siblings and how many -- using the imagery technique he had already learned.
Checking the patient's responses for accuracy and comparing them to the yes-no brain responses of a group of healthy volunteers, researchers discerned that Subject No. 23 was not only still "in there," but capable of purposeful thought and communication.
Three out of the top 40 Hollywood earners for 2009 are the 20-something stars of the Harry Potter films...Daniel Radcliffe is sixth on the list, below James Cameron but above Jerry Bruckheimer. Robert Pattinson makes the list at #35 (Kristen Stewart is at #37)...I expect those totals will go up if the Twilight films continue to do well.
Delsaux's Burj image comes from a project called The Dark Lens, which features images of Star Wars characters populating the circa-2008 Earth. I believe that's the Millennium Falcon docking at the Burj:
Omar Hammami was a fairly normal kid from a small town in Alabama -- "as a teenager, his passions veered between Shakespeare and Kurt Cobain, soccer and Nintendo" -- who is now in Somalia, leading terrorist attacks for a group called Shabab, which is loosely affiliated with Al Qaeda.
In the three years since Hammami made his way to Somalia, his ascent into the Shabab's leadership has put him in a class of his own, according to United States law-enforcement and intelligence officials. While other American terror suspects have drawn greater publicity, Hammami exercises a more powerful role, commanding guerrilla forces in the field, organizing attacks and plotting strategy with Qaeda operatives, the officials said. He has also emerged as something of a jihadist icon, starring in a recruitment campaign that has helped draw hundreds of foreign fighters to Somalia. "To have an American citizen that has risen to this kind of a rank in a terrorist organization - we have not seen that before," a senior American law-enforcement official said earlier this month.
The heavy use of computer analysis has pushed the game itself in new directions. The machine doesn't care about style or patterns or hundreds of years of established theory. It counts up the values of the chess pieces, analyzes a few billion moves, and counts them up again. (A computer translates each piece and each positional factor into a value in order to reduce the game to numbers it can crunch.) It is entirely free of prejudice and doctrine and this has contributed to the development of players who are almost as free of dogma as the machines with which they train. Increasingly, a move isn't good or bad because it looks that way or because it hasn't been done that way before. It's simply good if it works and bad if it doesn't. Although we still require a strong measure of intuition and logic to play well, humans today are starting to play more like computers.
The section about people using computers *during* matches is particularly interesting.
I really can't do a good job, any job, of explaining magnetic force in terms of something else you're more familiar with, because I don't understand it in terms of anything else you're more familiar with.
This is why science is so maddening for some and so great for others.
If you're looking to drive a lot of traffic to your blog with controversial posts, here's your template.
This sentence contains a provocative statement that attracts the readers' attention, but really only has very little to do with the topic of the blog post. This sentence claims to follow logically from the first sentence, though the connection is actually rather tenuous. This sentence claims that very few people are willing to admit the obvious inference of the last two sentences, with an implication that the reader is not one of those very few people.
Update: I've gotten some angry emails saying that I have spoiled the Lost season premiere for people by embedding this video showing the still frame of Jack on an airplane. To rebut:
1. Lost is unspoilable. What you think is happening either didn't happen, won't happen, will happen again, and has nothing to do with with happened previously or afterwards.
2. Seeing the first two minutes of a TV show doesn't spoil the TV show...that's just watching the show.
3. At the end of last season, if you picked the most obvious scenario for season six to open with, it would have been that the bomb reset the timeline and then seeing everyone on Flight 815 headed safely for Los Angeles, oblivious of all that we've witnessed in the past five years. You can't spoil the obvious.
I'll be writing about the elements of mathematics, from pre-school to grad school, for anyone out there who'd like to have a second chance at the subject -- but this time from an adult perspective. It's not intended to be remedial. The goal is to give you a better feeling for what math is all about and why it's so enthralling to those who get it.
More subject blogs like this, please. There are lots of art, politics, technology, fashion, economics, typography, photography, and physics blogs out there, but almost none of them appeal to the beginner or interested non-expert. (thx, steve)
The free afternoon program will consist of four panel discussions: "Zoning Diet," about the hidden corsetry of policy, access, and economics that gives shape to urban food distribution; "Culinary Cartography," a look at the kinds of things we can learn about New York City when we map its food types and behaviours; "Edible Archaeology," about the socio-economic forces, technical innovations, and events that have shaped New York food history, in the context of the present; and "Feast, Famine, and Other Scenarios," an opportunity to collaboratively speculate on changes to the edible landscape of New York in both the near and distant future.
The event takes place in NYC on Feb 27th; it's free and the entire thing will be available online as well.
The interactive map on the NYC govt site has hi-resolution aerial photos from 1924 (click the camera and move the slider to 1924). Check out all the piers, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the old baseball stadiums, the LES (and everywhere else they built housing projects), Penn Station, and the skyscraperless Midtown. This is hours of fun.
Update:The NYC Oasis map features a satellite view from 1996 and an imagined sat view from 1609. (thx, steve)
What happened to my bonus? What happened to my job? What happened to my country? Why can't it all go the way it's supposed to go? You mean having a kid won't solve my marriage problems? Why don't these drugs make me feel better? Where's that goddamn waiter with my salad? Have you seen the stupid weather today? Is this really all there is?