Measles cases in the U.S. just hit a two-decade high. In case you can’t already guess why, assistant surgeon general Dr. Anne Schuchat explains:
The current increase in measles cases is being driven by unvaccinated people.
From Aeon, Polio whack-a-mole:
The great allies of infectious diseases are no longer poverty, nor dirt, but the global anti-vaccination movement.
The moves that expert chess players use to open a game have changed significantly since the 1850s.
It’s a well-known fact that White has a small advantage at the beginning of the game. To maintain this advantage, White should press their advantage to take over the middle of the board as quickly as possible. The most popular first White moves from 1850-2014 are shown below. Note that all of these are fairly aggressive openings that build toward control of the middle of the board.
In 1850, White openings were fairly homogeneous: Most chess experts played King’s Pawn. Chess players didn’t begin to explore variants of the King’s Pawn in earnest until the 1890s, when Queen’s Pawn (moving a Pawn to d4) started to replace King’s Pawn in some player’s repertoires. The 1920s saw another burst of innovation with the rising popularity of the Zukertort Opening (moving the Knight to f3) and the English Opening (moving a Pawn to c4), which completed the set of staple first-turn openings that are really ever used nowadays.
In racing video games, a ghost is a car representing your best score that races with you around the track. This story of a son discovering and racing against his deceased father’s ghost car in an Xbox racing game will hit you right in the feels.
Update: This story was originally shared in the comments of a YouTube video about gaming as a spiritual experience. (via dpstyles & @ryankjohnson)
Update: See also this story about rediscovering a loved one’s presence (and presents) in Animal Crossing. (via @shauninman)
Ran across one of my favorite little pieces of writing the other day: Sixty Men from Ur by Mark Sumner. It’s about how short recorded human history really is. The piece starts out by asking you to imagine if you view the history of life as the Empire State Building, all of human history is a dime on top.
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., one the United States’ great historians, is less than two lifetimes removed from a world where the United States did not exist. Through Mr. Schlesinger, you’re no more than three away yourself. That’s how short the history of our nation really is.
Not impressed? It’s only two more life spans to William Shakespeare. Two more beyond that, and the only Europeans to see America are those who sailed from Greenland. You’re ten lifetimes from the occupation of Damietta during the fifth crusade. Twenty from the founding of Great Zimbabwe and the Visigoth sack of Rome. Make it forty, and Theseus, king of Athens, is held captive on Crete by King Minos, the Olmecs are building the first cities in Mexico, and the New Kingdom collapses in Egypt.
Sixty life times ago, a man named Abram left Ur of the Chaldees and took his family into Canaan. Abram is claimed as the founder of three great religions. A few lifetimes before that, and you’ve come out the bottom of that dime. You’re that close to it.
See also human wormholes and the Great Span, unlikely simultaneous historical events, and timeline twins.
Update: From Wired last year, Sam Arbesman writes about Kevin Kelly’s concept of touch generations.
I was recently listening to a lecture by Kevin Kelly where he introduces the concept of touch generations, the idea of a list of people based on when one person died and when the next was born: one person is in the next touch generation of someone else if they were born when the other person died. So Galileo and Newton, while unrelated, are in successive touch generations because Newton was born the year that Galileo died. Essentially, it’s a way of connecting lifetimes across the years.
From Stephen Locke, a time lapse video of thunderstorm supercells forming near Climax, Kansas.
Jiminy, that’s breathtaking. I didn’t know there was so much rotation involved in thunderstorms…the entire cloud structure is rotating. (via bad astronomy)
What if Ayn Rand had written Harry Potter? It might go a little something like this.
Professor Snape stood at the front of the room, sort of Jewishly. “There will be no foolish wand-waving or silly incantations in this class. As such, I don’t expect many of you to appreciate the subtle science and exact art that is potion-making. However, for those select few who possess, the predisposition…I can teach you how to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses. I can tell you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even put a stopper in death.”
Harry’s hand shot up.
“What is it, Potter?” Snape asked, irritated.
“What’s the value of these potions on the open market?”
“Why are you teaching children how to make these valuable products for ourselves at a schoolteacher’s salary instead of creating products to meet modern demand?”
“You impertinent boy-“
“Conversely, what’s to stop me from selling these potions myself after you teach us how to master them?”
“This is really more of a question for the Economics of Potion-Making, I guess. What time are econ lessons here?”
“We have no economics lessons in this school, you ridiculous boy.”
Harry Potter stood up bravely. “We do now. Come with me if you want to learn about market forces!”
The students poured into the hallway after him. They had a leader at last.
Video of the growth of London from Roman times to the present, with a focus on the structures that have been protected from each era.
London was the most populous city in the world from the 1830s, a title it took from Beijing, until the 1920s, when New York City took the crown.
From 2009, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s modern-dress production of Hamlet, featuring David Tennant as Hamlet and Patrick Stewart as Claudius.
The site the BBC produced for the show contains more information on the production. (via @mulegirl)
Professional dancers from the Washington Ballet show off their most difficult moves, filmed in slow motion.
The New Yorker and First We Feast each has an account of a talk given by NYU professor George Solt, who presented some of his research on the history of ramen.
World War II all but destroyed ramen’s first wave of popularity. Thanks to food shortages and famine, the government placed tight regulations on food supplies, and earning a profit via restaurants or pushcarts was strictly prohibited until 1949. Some wheat flour made it onto the black market, though, and many of the country’s unemployed turned to hawking ramen. Which means, Solt points out, that selling future all-nighter fuel could and did land people in jail.
Holt is the author of The Untold History of Ramen: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze.
Yesterday I posted a video looking at the influence of Akira Kurosawa on Star Wars. Well, Michael Heilemann has posted an amazing feature-length exploration of Star Wars and the films that influenced it.
It’s not Heilemann talking about anything…it’s a sort of meta-Star Wars comprised of dozens of elements from other films that influenced Lucas in making it. For instance, here’s the opening crawl from Forbidden Planet (1956):
Heilemann also includes a crawl from a 1936 Flash Gordan serial. For more, check out Kitbashed, particularly the extensive ebook on Star Wars sources.
Steven Johnson has been working on a six-part series for PBS called How We Got to Now. (There’s a companion book as well.) The series is due in October but the trailer dropped today:
And here’s a snippet of one of the episodes about railway time. I’m quite looking forward to this series; Johnson and I cover similar ground in our work with similar sensibilities. I’m always cribbing stuff from his writing and using his frameworks to think things through and just from the trailer, I counted at least three things I’ve covered on kottke.org in the past: Hedy Lamarr, urban sanitation, and Jacbo Riis (not to mention all sorts of stuff about time).
Nine-year old Sabre Norris started skating three years ago because she couldn’t have a bike. Here she lands her first 540 after 74 straight failed attempts.
My favorite trick is a 540. I watched Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins do it on the internet, and I just had to do it. That was my 75th attempt of the day. Every time I tried one and didn’t land it I put a rock on the table. It ended up being my 75th rock. I was frothing. I did some 720s too. Not proper. I called it 540 to revert to splat. I didn’t cry though. My goal is to do 100 of them before this Saturday. I’m up to 75. I still can’t ride a bike, but I can do a 540.
See also a nine-year-old’s first big ski jump. (via @torrez)
From a book by Hartmut Esslinger, a collection of photographs of prototypes his company Frog Design worked on for Apple Computer.
The portables and phones are especially interesting.
There are a couple of different ways you can construct a stable solar system with a maximum number of habitable worlds. One includes 36 habitable worlds in a single solar system.
We can fit the orbits of four gas giants in the habitable zone (in 3:2 resonances). Each of those can have up to five potentially habitable moons. Plus, the orbit of each gas giant can also fit an Earth-sized planet both 60 degrees in front and 60 degrees behind the giant planet’s orbit (on Trojan orbits). Or each could be a binary Earth! What is nice about this setup is that the worlds can have any size in our chosen range. It doesn’t matter for the stability.
Let’s add it up. One gas giant per orbit. Five large moons per gas giant. Plus, two binary Earths per orbit. That makes 9 habitable worlds per orbit. We have four orbits in the habitable zone. That makes 36 habitable worlds in this system!
This video looks at the influence of Akira Kurosawa and his films (especially The Hidden Fortress) on George Lucas and Star Wars.
How are Samurai films and a car crash responsible for Star Wars? How did World War II affect the global film industry in the 20th century? Why are Jedi called Jedi?? Give us 8 minutes, and we’ll explain it all…
In Brazil’s National Air and Space Museum, there is a golden globe containing the preserved heart of Alberto Santos-Dumont, a man who thought he beat the Wright Brothers in building and flying the first heavier-than-air flying machine. Santos-Dumont’s first success was with dirigibles; at the turn of the century, he would regularly use his personal airship to fly to dinner or to visit friends.
Imagine the frenetic pace of life in belle époque Paris. Automobiles appearing on the streets, attracting huge crowds. The telegraph bringing news from all over the world. Cafés playing phonographs while their patrons drank absinthe and cocaine wine. Now imagine a Parisian walking the streets in the early morning, in a time where an automobile was still a fascinating novelty, and then suddenly, a small airship appears floating just above the street. A crowd would gather to see the aviator driving his Baladeuse (The Wanderer), a personal sized dirigible, over the streets as if it were a carriage or automobile. Santos-Dumont would then land in front of his favorite café, tie the guide rope much like one might tie a horse to a hitching post, and walk in for a meal. It must have been quite a sight. Going to the café was not the only time Santos-Dumont used his Baladeuse — he was also fond of surprising his friends by landing in front of their porches with his airship.
Paul Hoffman wrote a well-reviewed book about Santos-Dumont called Wings of Madness.
Using Edgar Wright as a positive example, Tony Zhou laments the lack of good visual comedy in American comedies and provides examples from Wright’s films (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, etc.) to show how it’s done properly.
Hot Fuzz is one of my favorite comedies…the scene Zhou shows of the Andys sliding off screen and then quickly back in consistently leaves me in stitches. (via digg)
Let’s talk cultural mesofacts. You likely recall 50 Cent as a rapper In Da Club but much has happened since then. 50 diversified like crazy: started a record label, parlayed a possible Vitaminwater endorsement into an investment worth $100 million, and, relevant to the matter at hand, wrote several books, including a pair of self-improvement books: Formula 50: A 6-Week Workout and Nutrition Plan That Will Transform Your Life and The 50th Law. Zach Baron recently recruited 50 Cent to be his life coach for a GQ piece and it ends up going way better than he expected.
50 Cent thinks for a minute. Actually, he says, my girlfriend — the one I just mentioned, the one I’d just moved in with? 50 Cent would like her to make a vision board, too. Then we’re going to compare. “Take things out of your folder and things out of her folder to create a folder that has everything,” he says. “Now the vision board is no longer your personal vision board for yourself: It’s a joint board.” That joint board will represent what we have in common. It will be a monument to our love.
But there will be some leftover unmatched photos, too, in each of our folders. And that’s what the joint board is really for — what it’s designed to reveal. “The things that end up on your vision board that aren’t in hers are the things that she has to accept,” 50 Cent says. “And the things that she has that you don’t are the things that you have to make a compromise with.” In a healthy relationship, he explains, your differences are really what need talking about. This is how you go about making that conversation happen.
This article just keeps getting better the more you read it. (via @ystrickler)
Speaking of WWI, the landscape of the Western Front in Europe still shows the scars from the war 100 years on.
The latest installment of the In Focus series on WWI is Aerial Warfare.
Great series so far, really enjoying it. Start from the beginning if you haven’t seen it yet.
I didn’t really read this whole thing, but the gist of it is that increasingly people have no problem discussing the cultural events of our day without actually knowing anything about them.
What we all feel now is the constant pressure to know enough, at all times, lest we be revealed as culturally illiterate. So that we can survive an elevator pitch, a business meeting, a visit to the office kitchenette, a cocktail party, so that we can post, tweet, chat, comment, text as if we have seen, read, watched, listened. What matters to us, awash in petabytes of data, is not necessarily having actually consumed this content firsthand but simply knowing that it exists - and having a position on it, being able to engage in the chatter about it. We come perilously close to performing a pastiche of knowledgeability that is really a new model of know-nothingness.
A giant in the world of design, Massimo Vignelli, passed away this morning at the age of 83. Michael Bierut, who worked for Vignelli, has a nice remembrance of him.
Today there is an entire building in Rochester, New York, dedicated to preserving the Vignelli legacy. But in those days, it seemed to me that the whole city of New York was a permanent Vignelli exhibition. To get to the office, I rode in a subway with Vignelli-designed signage, shared the sidewalk with people holding Vignelli-designed Bloomingdale’s shopping bags, walked by St. Peter’s Church with its Vignelli-designed pipe organ visible through the window. At Vignelli Associates, at 23 years old, I felt I was at the center of the universe.
Photographer Alec Soth is interviewed by his young son Gus about his job, art, and leaving his family for work.
This is completely charming and awesome and heartbreaking. (via @polan)
Clayton Cubitt took photographs of The Beautifully Frightful Wooden Children of Gehard Demetz, now on display at Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea. From the gallery’s description of the project:
With impeccable craftsmanship, Demetz builds figures and reliefs of children and rural, often religious, architectural forms. While his subjects often take the forms of adolescent or very young children who are at the precipice of self-realization, their grave expressions and powerful stances suggest something much less innocent than their ages might suggest. Situated on plinths, these life-size works are elevated above their natural stature, allowing them to confront adults at eye level with a fierce or introspective gaze far beyond their years. Rather than being carved from a single large block of wood, these sculptures are built up from smaller rectangular units-mimicking classic building blocks-with gaps in their structures like pieces missing from their bodies or lost fragments of their being.
From the team at The Atlantic Video, a tour of the Fire Lab in Missoula, Montana, where they basically just set stuff on fire to better understand the behavior of fire.
Massive wildfires cost billions of dollars and burn millions of acres in the U.S. every year, but we know surprisingly little about the basic science of how they spread. At the Fire Lab in Missoula, Montana, researchers reverse-engineer spreading fires using wind tunnels, fire-whirl generators, and giant combustion chambers. They’re finding that fire is a mysterious phenomenon, and the physics behind it is often counterintuitive.
As a borderline pyromaniac, I will watch slow motion fire all day, especially when it involves fire tornadoes.
If you look at the Washington Monument in Google Maps, the monument’s shadow follows the motion of the Sun throughout the day.
The utility of this feature is unclear, but that is some impressive attention to detail. (via @sippey, @kennethn, @chrisfahey)
Internet mega-retailer Amazon is trying, mob-style, to pressure Hachette for better terms on ebooks by disappearing the publisher’s book from amazon.com.
The retailer began refusing orders late Thursday for coming Hachette books, including J.K. Rowling’s new novel. The paperback edition of Brad Stone’s “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” — a book Amazon disliked so much it denounced it — is suddenly listed as “unavailable.”
In some cases, even the pages promoting the books have disappeared. Anne Rivers Siddons’s new novel, “The Girls of August,” coming in July, no longer has a page for the physical book or even the Kindle edition. Only the audio edition is still being sold (for more than $60). Otherwise it is as if it did not exist.
No question about it: this sucks on Amazon’s part and demonstrates the degree to which the company’s top priority isn’t customer service. Better customer service in this case would be to offer these books for sale. I noticed another less nefarious instance of this the other day: because Amazon is offering a streaming version of The Lego Movie (which presumably has a high profit margin), they are not currently taking pre-orders of the The Lego Movie Blu-ray (out on June 17), even though Barnes and Noble has it for pre-order and Amazon has no problem offering for pre-order a Blu-ray of The Nutty Professor that isn’t out until September. I guess it makes sense to drive sales to the high-margin streaming offering but not letting people pre-order what is likely to be a very popular Blu-ray is baffling.
Anyway, if this trend continues, I’d look for Amazon to start more aggressively promoting the Kindle editions of books, to the point of manipulating available inventory as with Hachette. That is, if they’re not doing it already.
This is the Fridayest link of all time: Morgan Freeman talking while on helium.
I’m not even gonna Kottke this up by explaining why helium makes your voice all high. Just sit back and enjoy this perfect Friday nothing. (via @DavidGrann)
Back in January, an astronaut on the International Space Station took this photograph of the Korean Peninsula, which shows the stark difference in nighttime light levels in North Korea compared to the neighboring countries of South Korea and China.
I remember seeing a satellite photo several years ago, thought it was fake, then heard it had been photoshopped to accentuate the darkness, and dismissed the whole thing as a hoax. I can’t believe the whole country is that dark. (via in focus)
No idea if this is for sale anywhere (I couldn’t find it) or if it’s just a design exercise, but this cover for Peter Benchley’s Jaws designed by Tom Lenartowicz is inspired. (via ★interesting)
Through a series of unlikely events, Steven Frank was able to master the near-unwinnable Dragon’s Lair when he was a kid. And for one day, it made him a God amongst kids.
I was obsessed with Dragon’s Lair, and its spiritual science-fiction sequel Space Ace. (A true sequel, Dragon’s Lair II, is lesser known as it arrived almost exactly as the last remaining arcades were being shuttered. I only ever saw it in the wild once.) I was an animation nerd, and a video game nerd, and here were these games right at the intersection.
Like everyone else, I wasted a lot of my parents’ quarters playing Dragon’s Lair and lasting for about 2 minutes before losing all five lives. Fortunately, the local grocery store had a Dragon’s Lair cabinet, as well as a couple of other games, so I got many occasions to practice.
One day I was sitting in our apartment reading a video game magazine (nerd!), and in the back was a little section of classified ads. My eye was caught immediately by the words “Beat Space Ace and Dragon’s Lair!” For a few bucks, you could send away for this random guy’s strategy guide, which listed all the moves and when to make them.
Please realize there was no residential internet. We had a computer, but no modem. There was no just going to Google for an FAQ or walkthrough. If you didn’t know the moves, you just didn’t know them, unless you knew someone else who knew them, which of course you didn’t.
I begged my parents. Weeks later, my strategy guide arrived (a few black and white photocopied sheets of paper stapled together), and I began studying.
The feeling Frank had at the end of the story, of awing the crowd and then walking away from that machine like Will Smith walking away from an exploding alien spaceship, is a sensation that 1980s nerds didn’t often feel. When the web came around in the 1990s, it provided a similar, but much larger, opportunity for nerds. On the very public stage of the web, the nerds of the world finally had something to offer the world that was cool and useful and even lucrative. The web has since been overrun by marketers, money, and big business, but for a brief time, the nerds of the world had millions of people gathered around them, boggling at their skill with this seemingly infinite medium. That time has come and gone, my friend. (via df)
My friends at Tinybop have unleased their second app for kids: Plants.
Unearth the secrets of the green kingdom! Explore the world’s biomes in this interactive diorama: conduct the seasons, rule the weather, ignite a wildfire, and burrow down with critters and roots. Temperate forest and desert biomes are featured in the first release of Plants. Buy now and get the next two biomes-tundra and temperate grasslands — for free when they’re released.
Can’t wait to explore this with the kids…Tinybop’s Human Body was a hit in our household. Oh, and don’t miss the making of video for the trailer above…Kelli Anderson knocks it out of the park again.
If you missed it in the theater (like us), The Lego Movie is available to buy on Amazon right now. I mean, you could wait until mid-June for the DVD/Blu-ray, but one of your kids’ friends is going to see it this way and come to school and lord it over your kid that he saw THE LEGO MOVIE AT HOME and then your kid is going to feel bad and why would you want that so you should just buck up and watch it already so your kid can have the cool cred at school for once and parlay that into greater social & academic success and then she’ll get into Harvard and have a fantastic life. What I’m saying is, watch The Lego Movie now and your child will become President basically. Why wouldn’t you want that? Are you history’s greatest monster? Ok, I’m calling child services…
The trailer for the documentary about Roger Ebert is out:
Two thumbs up, way up. (thx, david)
This slideshow on The Emerging Global Web shows how people in the rest of the world, particularly in countries with emerging economies, use the internet. Talks about things like selling sheep on Instagram, mobile-only internet use, online marketplaces in China like Tmall, a Chinese eBay for services, lifestyle bloggers as retailers, and mobile-only banking and payments.
This may be the strangest parenting book I’ve ever come across: Parentology by Dalton Conley, a sociologist at NYU. In an interview with Freakonomics, Conley explains what makes his parenting approach so unconventional:
As an immigrant society with no common culture, we Americans have always made things up as we go — be it baseball, jazz or the Internet. Parenting is no different, whether we admit it or not. If we want to keep producing innovative kids who can succeed in today’s global economy, we should be constantly experimenting on them.
For example, I read the latest research on allergies and T-cell response and then intentionally exposed my kids to raw sewage (in small doses, of course) to build up their immune systems. I bribed them to do math thanks to an experiment involving Mexican villagers that demonstrated the effectiveness of monetary incentives for schooling outcomes. I perused a classic study suggesting that confidence-boosting placebos improved kids’ actual cognitive development, fed my kids vitamins before an exam, told them that they were amphetamines — and watched their scores soar.
And in this excerpt of the book from Salon, Conley explains why he and his wife named their kids E and Yo.
Unlike having fewer kids, birthing them in the Northern Hemisphere during October of a year when not many others are having kids, avoiding the mercury in fish (while still getting enough omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids), and being rich, well-educated, and handsome to boot, there is one thing you can bequeath your kids that is entirely within your control. I’m talking about selecting their names. We may not control what race or gender we bequeath our offspring (unless, of course, we are utilizing a sperm bank in the Empire State Building for IVF), but we do have say over their names. If you play it safe with Bill or Lisa, it probably means your kids will be marginally more likely to avoid risk, too. If you’re like us and name them E or Yo, they are likely to grow up into weirdoes like their parents-or at least not work in middle management.
Early studies on names claimed that folks with strange ones were overrepresented in prisons and mental hospitals. But the more recent (and in my professional opinion, better) research actually comes to the opposite conclusion: Having a weird name makes you more likely to have impulse control since you get lots of practice biting your tongue when bigger, stronger, older kids make fun of you in the schoolyard. This study makes me happy, given the growing scientific literature around the extreme importance of impulse control and its close cousin, delayed gratification. These two, some argue, are even more important than raw IQ in predicting socioeconomic success, marital stability, and even staying out of prison.
Today’s the day the Amazon/HBO deal kicks in, whereby Prime subscribers can stream huge swaths of HBO’s back catalog of shows for free. Currently available shows include Deadwood, The Wire, The Sopranos, and Boardwalk Empire.
If distillers can’t keep up with the current and growing worldwide demand for bourbon, we may have to turn to rum instead.
You can buy some old-ass rum, which, after being distilled from molasses or sugar cane, has sat around in barrels for long periods of time, for relatively small sums of money: El Dorado 15 is, as you might expect, made with a blend of rums that have sat in a barrel for at least fifteen years. Is it slightly sweet and rounded with a “full nose packed with dark coffee, candied orange, almonds, dark chocolate, pepper and rich vanilla.” It is only thirty-six dollars. Barbancourt 15 is kind of soft and woody and fruity and other things you might say about a bourbon, but instead of corn it’s like molasses. It’s about forty bucks. Ron Zacapa 23, which is a blend of rums between six and twenty three years old, is probably the first rum that made a lot of people go, “Oh, rum isn’t just that stuff that goes in a daiquiri or a mojito or that made me vomit pieces of my intestines into a urinal while I was wearing a silver crown.” Here are some tasting notes for it: “Nose full or apricots, citrus fruits, vanilla, cocoa and bourbon.”
These incredibly tiny bonsai are amazing. They are called cho-mini bonsai, or ultra-small bonsai. Look at these tiny pots:
Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing and Make Magazine recently published Maker Dad, a book full of father-daughter DIY projects. I haven’t dug too far into my copy yet, but the projects seem appropriate for kids and parents of all genders.
As the editor in chief of MAKE magazine, Mark Frauenfelder has spent years combing through DIY books, but he’s never been able to find one with geeky projects he can share with his two daughters. Maker Dad is the first DIY book to use cutting-edge (and affordable) technology in appealing projects for fathers and daughters to do together. These crafts and gadgets are both rewarding to make and delightful to play with. What’s more, Maker Dad teaches girls lifelong skills-like computer programming, musicality, and how to use basic hand tools-as well as how to be creative problem solvers.
Projects run the gamut from “Easy and Quick” to “Challenging” and include silkscreening tshirts, a lunch box guitar, custom rubber stamps, and programming in Scratch.
If there wasn’t life on Mars before, there might be now. Before NASA sent Curiosity to Mars, it was thoroughly cleaned of all traces of contaminants. But swabs of rover’s surfaces taken before it was sent to Mars have revealed 377 different strains of bacteria that potentially could have made the trip. Some of them may have even survived.
A study that identified 377 strains found that a surprising number resist extreme temperatures and damage caused by ultraviolet-C radiation, the most potentially harmful type. The results, presented today at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, are a first step towards elucidating how certain bacteria might survive decontamination and space flight.
Ira Glass doesn’t have any idea who Jill Abramson was or that she was fired.
Jill Abramson was fired.
I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Jill Abramson got fired from the New York Times.
Okay. And she was who?
The executive editor.
Okay. I read the newspaper, but I live in my own little bubble. When did that happen?
Wednesday. And it’s been a massive … the blogosphere is going wild.
I hate reading media news so I actively sort of - I’m not interested in someone getting fired. No disrespect to people that are, but I literally had no idea who she was, or that she got fired until this moment.
I love this. Not like ironically or in the sense that I think Glass is a moron for being a media person who doesn’t know what’s going on with the media; I actually love it. There is very little about the Times’ story that isn’t just straight-up gossip. And for someone like Glass who traffics in ideas and is busy producing something of high quality like This American Life, media gossip just isn’t that important.
And as @jess_mc reminded me, this Glass thing isn’t nearly as entertaining as DMX not knowing who Barack Obama was in early 2008.
Wow, Barack! The nigga’s name is Barack. Barack? Nigga named Barack Obama. What the fuck, man?! Is he serious? That ain’t his fuckin’ name. Ima tell this nigga when I see him, “Stop that bullshit. Stop that bullshit” [laughs] “That ain’t your fuckin’ name.” Your momma ain’t name you no damn Barack.
From Annalisa Hartlaub, a series of self-portraits portraying “culture and counterculture for the past 10 decades”. Here is her representation of the 1960s (culture on the left, counterculture on the right):
While not quite exhaustive in scope, Laura Turner Garrison’s piece in Mental Floss about how Manhattan neighborhoods got their names is worthwhile reading.
In recent decades, businesses and real estate agents have tried in vain to clean up the lively reputation of this west side neighborhood by renaming it “Clinton.” Gentrification and expansion from the neighboring theater district have certainly helped the beautification cause. Nonetheless, the area spanning 34th Street to 59th Street and 8th Avenue (or 9th, depending on who you ask) to the Hudson River just can’t shake the nickname “Hell’s Kitchen.”
Not included in the piece is the East Village, which was part of the Lower East Side until the 1960s, when the neighborhood’s new residents (artists, hippies, Beatniks) and real estate brokers recast the area as the eastern outpost of Greenwich Village. (via digg)
If the Moon orbited the Earth at the same distance as the International Space Station, it might look a little something like this:
At that distance, the Moon would cover half the sky and take about five minutes to cross the sky. Of course, as Phil Plait notes, if the Moon were that close, tidal forces would result in complete chaos for everyone involved.
There would be global floods as a tidal wave kilometers high sweeps around the world every 90 minutes (due to the Moon’s closer, faster orbit), scouring clean everything in its path. The Earth itself would also be stretched up and down, so there would be apocalyptic earthquakes, not to mention huge internal heating of the Earth and subsequent volcanism. I’d think that the oceans might even boil away due to the enormous heat released from the Earth’s interior, so at least that spares you the flood… but replaces water with lava. Yay?
NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has made a whopping 400,000 high-resolution digital images of its collection available for free download. You can browse the collection here.
In making the announcement, Mr. Campbell said: “Through this new, open-access policy, we join a growing number of museums that provide free access to images of art in the public domain. I am delighted that digital technology can open the doors to this trove of images from our encyclopedic collection.”
The Metropolitan Museum’s initiative-called Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC)-provides access to images of art in its collection that the Museum believes to be in the public domain and free of other known restrictions; these images are now available for scholarly use in any media.
For instance, here’s a 12-megapixel image of Rembrandt’s 1660 self-portrait…you can see quite a bit of detail:
Update: Wendy Macnaughton on why the high-resolution images released by the Met are such a big deal for art students and art history fans.
For someone who went to art school being able to do this is a revelation. I used to go to the museum with my sketchpad and copy the old masters. I’d get as close as I could to understand the brush strokes, colors, lines. The guards knew who to watch out for and would bark suddenly when we stuck our faces over the imaginary line.
As class assignments we were required to copy hundreds — literally hundreds — of the masters drawings and paintings. for those we mostly worked from images in books — a picture the size of a wallet photo.
Which is one of the many reasons this new met resource is fucking phenomenal.
You can get so, so close — far closer than one could in real life.
Update: Today (Feb 7, 2017) the Met announced that they’re releasing 375,000 images under Creative Commons’ CC0 license, which “allows anyone to use, re-use, and remix a work without restriction”. Previously, those works were restricted to non-commercial use only.
From NPR, a searchable sortable archive of the best commencement speeches, from 1774 to the present. What a resource. Two of my favorites, by David Foster Wallace and Steve Jobs, are represented.
Each speech is tagged by “theme or take-home message”, basically a taxonomy of commencement speech messaging. The most popular themes are:
12. Be kind
10. Make art
7. Remember history
6. Embrace failure
5. Work hard
4. Don’t give up
3. Inner voice
1. Change the world
Trite stuff perhaps, but delivered in the right way and by the right person, it makes people wanna run through walls. Let’s go! (via @tcarmody)
Conor Friedersdorf has published his picks for the best journalism of 2013. This is always a great list. And you’re smart enough not to pooh-pooh it just because everyone else’s best of 2013 list came out in late November, right? Because the stuff on this list is evergreen? Good.
Can I get a McConaugheeeeey? The first trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is out.
io9 called it “thrilling”, but I’m gonna give this one a “hmmmmm.”
Beyonce is mad at Solange for not sticking to the plan. What plan? I don’t want to say too much, but it involves Chipotle.
“You just stood there. I was defending you.”
“Do I need defending?”
“That’s not the point. He is a monster.”
“He is my husband.”
Beyoncé looked away, out the window at the people and the buildings, as they sped across 59th St. “I know who I married. That was my decision and I’ll live with it.”
“Of course you take his side.”
“Excuse me?” Beyoncé turned to face her sister. “Beyoncé is on Beyoncé’s side. Always. Trust that.”
In Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean, Lisa-ann Gershwin argues that the jellyfish are coming on, and they’re coming on strong.
If I offered evidence that jellyfish are displacing penguins in Antarctica — not someday, but now, today — what would you think? If I suggested that jellyfish could crash the world’s fisheries, outcompete the tuna and swordfish, and starve the whales to extinction, would you believe me?
This New York Review of Books review of Stung! by Tim Flannery is well worth a read, with fascinating bits throughout.
The question of jellyfish death is vexing. If jellyfish fall on hard times, they can simply “de-grow.” That is, they reduce in size, but their bodies remain in proportion. That’s a very different outcome from what is seen in starving fish, or people. And when food becomes available again, jellyfish simply recommence growing. Some individual jellyfish live for a decade. But the polyp stage survives pretty much indefinitely by cloning. One polyp colony started in 1935 and studied ever since is still alive and well in a laboratory in Virginia.
One kind of jellyfish, which might be termed the zombie jelly, is quite literally immortal. When Turritopsis dohrnii “dies” it begins to disintegrate, which is pretty much what you expect from a corpse. But then something strange happens. A number of cells escape the rotting body. These cells somehow find each other, and reaggregate to form a polyp. All of this happens within five days of the jellyfish’s “death,” and weirdly, it’s the norm for the species. Well may we ask of this astonishing creature, “Sting, where is thy death?”
(via phil gyford)
The Wordless Music Orchestra will offer live accompaniment of two screenings of There Will Be Blood in NYC in September. The composer of the film’s score, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, will play a musical instrument called the ondes Martenot as part of the performances.
This fall, the Wordless Music Orchestra will once again collaborate with Jonny Greenwood for the U.S. premiere of There Will Be Blood Live: a full screening and live film score to Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 masterpiece, which will be projected onto a massive 50’ movie screen at the historic and absurdly beautiful United Palace Theatre: the second-largest movie screen in all of New York City.
For these shows, the film’s original score — comprising music by Jonny Greenwood, Arvo Part, and Brahms — will be conducted by Ryan McAdams, and performed by 50+ members of the Wordless Music Orchestra, including Jonny Greenwood, who will play the ondes martenot part in both performances of his own film score.
Tickets on sale now. See you there? (thx, gabe)
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is becoming more of a Medium Red Spot. The gas giant’s signature beauty mark was recently measured by the Hubble as spanning 10,250 miles across its widest point, down from a high of 25,500 miles across.
Historic observations as far back as the late 1800s  gauged this turbulent spot to span about 41 000 kilometres at its widest point — wide enough to fit three Earths comfortably side by side. In 1979 and 1980 the NASA Voyager fly-bys measured the spot at a shrunken 23 335 kilometres across. Now, Hubble has spied this feature to be smaller than ever before.
“Recent Hubble Space Telescope observations confirm that the spot is now just under 16 500 kilometres across, the smallest diameter we’ve ever measured,” said Amy Simon of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, USA.
Amateur observations starting in 2012 revealed a noticeable increase in the spot’s shrinkage rate. The spot’s “waistline” is getting smaller by just under 1000 kilometres per year. The cause of this shrinkage is not yet known.
From Grantland, an excerpt from Console Wars, a new book by Blake J. Harris about the video game console battles of the 1990s between Nintendo and Sega. The excerpt is about the rise of Nintendo.
And just like that, the North American videogame industry ground to a halt. Hardware companies (like Atari) went bankrupt, software companies (like Sega) were sold for pennies on the dollar, and retailers (like Sears) vowed never to go into the business again. Meanwhile, Nintendo quietly glided through the bloody waters on a gorilla-shaped raft. The continuing cash flow from Donkey Kong enabled Arakawa, Stone, Judy, and Lincoln to dream of a new world order, one where NOA miraculously resurrected the industry and Nintendo reigned supreme. Not now, perhaps, but one day soon.
Harris is also working on a documentary based on the book. And Sony is making a “feature-film” adaptation of the book as well. Cool!
Update: Medium has another excerpt from the book.
Maybe this Sonic could sell in Japan, but in America he belonged inside a nightmare.
Kalinske got off the phone with Nakayama and took the fax to Madeline Schroeder’s office. “I have good news and I have scary news.” He handed her the artwork. “What do you think?”
She looked it over. “I think we’ll be the first videogame company whose core demographic is goths.”
“Nakayama loves it.”
“Of course he does,” she said. “It’s so weirdly Japanese. I’m surprised the girlfriend’s boobs aren’t hanging out of a schoolgirl outfit.”
Despite his sour mood, Kalinske laughed. “Her name is Madonna.”
Schroeder put the drawing on the desk. After a long silent inspection they both spoke at the same time, saying the exact same thing: “Can you fix it?”
Video game producers utilize music to keep you engaged, increase your achievement, and give you the energy to make it to the next level. So maybe you just found your ideal work soundtrack.
Karltorp has found that music from games he used to play as a kid, such as StarCraft, Street Fighter, and Final Fantasy, work best. Because the music is designed to foster achievement and help players get to the next level, it activates a similar “in it to win it” mentality while working, argues Karltorp. At the same time, it’s not too disruptive to your concentration. “It’s there in the background,” said Karltorp. “It doesn’t get too intrusive, it keeps you going, and usually stays on a positive tone, too, which I found is important.”
In a clinical trial at the Mayo Clinic, a woman with a type of blood cancer called myeloma was given an injection of measles virus large enough to innoculate 10 million people and has been “completely cleared” of her cancer.
So, as part of a two-patient clinical trial, doctors at the Mayo Clinic injected Erholtz with 100 billion units of the measles virus — enough to inoculate 10 million people.
Her doctor said they were entering the unknown.
Five minutes into the hour-long process, Erholtz got a terrible headache. Two hours later, she started shaking and vomiting. Her temperature hit 105 degrees, Stephen Russell, the lead researcher on the case, told The Washington Post early Thursday morning.
“Thirty-six hours after the virus infusion was finished, she told me, ‘Evan has started shrinking,’” Russell said. Over the next several weeks, the tumor on her forehead disappeared completely and, over time, the other tumors in her body did, too.
The cancer of the other person in the trial was unaffected and larger randomized trials still have to be performed, but this is encouraging news. Between this and the remission of cancer using HIV, it looks like viral therapy has a real shot at being a powerful weapon in fighting cancer.
Clive Thompson recently saw the moons of Jupiter with his own eyes and has a moment.
I saw one huge, bright dot, with three other tiny pinpoints of light nearby, all lined up in a row (just like the image at the top of this story). Holy moses, I realized; that’s no star. That’s Jupiter! And those are the moons of Jupiter!
I’m a science journalist and a space buff, and I grew up oohing and aahing over the pictures of Jupiter sent back by various NASA space probes. But I’d never owned a telescope, and never done much stargazing other than looking up in the night unaided. In my 45 years I’d never directly observed Jupiter and its moons myself.
So I freaked out. In a good way! It was a curiously intense existential moment.
For my birthday when I was seven or eight, my dad bought me a telescope. (It was a Jason telescope; didn’t everyone have a telescope named after them?) We lived in the country in the middle of nowhere where it was nice and dark, so over the next few years, we looked at all sorts of celestial objects through that telescope. Craters on the Moon, the moons of Jupiter, Mars, and even sunspots on the Sun with the aid of some filters. But the thing that really got me, that provided me with my own version of Thompson’s “curiously intense existential moment”, was seeing the rings of Saturn through a telescope.
We had heard from PBS’s Jack Horkheimer, the Star Hustler, that Saturn and its rings would be visible and he showed pictures of what it would look like, something like this:
But seeing that with your own eyes through a telescope was a different thing entirely. Those tiny blurry rings, visible from millions of miles away. What a thrill! It’s one of my favorite memories.
NYCgo has an extensive list of all free movie screenings happening around NYC this summer. Most of them are outdoors. Some highlights:
June 22: Coming to America, Habana Outpost
July 9: Jurassic Park, Museum of Jewish Heritage
July 30: The Princess Bride, Riverside Park
July 31: The Hunt for Red October, flight deck of the Intrepid
August 6: The Big Lebowski, McCarren Park
August 8: Groundhog Day, Hudson River Park at Pier 46
Someone should make an iCal/Google Calendar calendar of these screenings.
Update: Tim made a calendar of all the free movie events. (thx, tim!)
Update: And here’s a Twitter account you can follow for summer movie reminders: @nycsummerfilms. (via frank)
Back in March, I wrote about how brand-name mattresses are a scam and how you can buy foam mattresses online for much cheaper with little decrease in comfort and quality. I’ve gotten a few inquiries about how the mattresses are doing after three months of use. I have no complaints. Both the DreamFoam and Tuft & Needle beds are holding up well. Only one word of caution: these beds won’t work that well if you like a firmer mattress. They can be a bit mushy, especially when warm, but I don’t notice/mind it.
I know other people purchased these mattresses after I posted about them. How are they working for you? Let me know and I’ll add your review to this post.
Update: Several people have written in with reviews of their mattresses. Here’s a sampling of some of the feedback. Gwendolyn is a fan:
I’ve been reading your site for years. I bought a Tuft and Needle mattress because of your post. It’s been about a month and great so far. It’s the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept on and about a million times better than the horrible futon I bought in college (for about the same price).
I replaced my ratty old futon with a Tuft and Needle queen-size, and I’m very pleased with it. Note that it was $50 cheaper from the company than from Amazon, free shipping from either one.
Dan echoes what many people wrote about the T&N mattress; it’s too hard not too soft:
We bought a Tuft and Needle mattress, and we were so excited about it. But it is really firm. Probably the firmest mattress we have ever slept on. It is VERY firm. It’s not going to work for us and we have started the refund process. It is high quality and if you don’t mind adding a mattress topper it could work well for you. I’m happy with the company and customer service, if they offered a softer model. I’d buy it.
Rian also thought it was too firm:
I bought the Tuft & Needle after reading your post (we moved countries recently so the timing was right to buy new bedding). We liked it for a while, but since my wife and I are both side sleepers, it turned very uncomfortable very quickly. We solved it by buying the 3” Lucid by LinenSpa Memory Foam Mattress Topper. Wouldn’t recommend Tuft & Needle to any side sleepers, though…
Rob cautions against the non-standard thickness of the mattress:
My only complaint is that the mattress is only 10” thick, which is apparently not standard for the king size sheets I’ve purchased, so I have a lot of extra material that I need to tuck under when making the bed. Small sacrifice.
We went with the 10” DreamFoam Queen Size bed and after a couple of months of use still love it. My wife was very skeptical but our old mattress was terrible and it seemed like these were worth a shot. It’s possible that just about any bed would seem better by comparison, but there’s little else I can do!
This one is from Kevin:
I purchased a Tuft & Needle 10” after reading about them on kottke.org back in March. The infographic on the T&N web site sealed the deal. No complaints at all. The experience of buying the mattress was insanely simple and actually enjoyable. About 5 minutes after hitting the “purchase” button a Sleepy’s commercial came on offering a free 50” LCD TV with the purchase of a mattress. I think that was a sign that we made a good decision on the purchase.
Peter shares another option:
I’m sure you’ve heard about Casper, but I’ve read that they’re a bit firmer than T&N. I haven’t slept in either, but my friends have a Casper in Minneapolis and love it. Just wanted to make sure you were aware.
Barry writes about his T&N bed:
We’re sleeping great. Sleeping through alarms great. And that the amount of time I spent talking with mattress salesmen, waiting for sales, or becoming a faux-expert in new trends in bed design equals exactly zero is awesome.
Plus I spent a third, or less, than I would have. Totally recommend.
Thanks to everyone who wrote in with comments. I am pleased most were happy with their mattresses. I get nervous recommending things to people, which is odd because that’s pretty much all I do here all day, is recommend people read or watch things. I guess when there’s 100s of dollars involved, that’s different? Anyway.
Mike Merrill reimagines the game of Monopoly to better represent the modern financial system by adding the banker as a player, convertible notes, and Series A financing.
Each player starts with only $500. That’s a nice bit of cash, but it’s going to be expensive to build your capitalist empire. Baltic Avenue will cost you $80, States Avenue is $140, Atlantic is $260, and that leaves you just $20. Even if you’re the first to land on Boardwalk you won’t be able to afford the $400 price tag. Another $200 from “passing Go” is not going to last that long. You need more money.
At the start of the game the banker will offer each player a convertible note of $1000 at a 20% discount and 5% interest*. Armed with $1500 the player is now ready to set out on their titan of the universe adventure! (Of course players are not required to take the convertible note.)
That sounds fun? (via waxy)
This short profile of Beats By Dre contains many nuggets of marketing wisdom.
When developing the first Beats headphones, Iovine would lay out various prototypes in his Interscope offices and then poll everyone who came to see him. “It was this incredible parade of the world’s great artists,” says Wood. “M.I.A. or Pharrell Williams or Gwen Stefani or Will.i.am would come around, and I’d ask them, ‘What do you think of this one? What about this? What about that?’ ” says Iovine. “It’s not a numbers thing. I go to people with great taste.” As he and Dre prepared to launch the final version of Beats, Iovine sent a pair to another world-famous guy: LeBron James. Iovine had been hanging out in the editing room with James’s friend and business partner Maverick Carter during the development of a documentary on the basketball star. “Mav called me back and says, ‘LeBron wants 15.’ ” Iovine sent them, and they turned up on the ears of every member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic basketball team when they arrived in Shanghai. “Now that’s marketing,” says Iovine.
It’s easy to see why Apple might want to buy them. See also With Beats, Apple buys the unobtainable: street cred, Why Apple Wants Beats, Why Apple’s Beats buy is genius, and Apple’s Beats Deal Is All About Bringing Music Mogul Jimmy Iovine On Board. Iovine is the new Steve Jobs, basically. *ducks*
You may have previously read about the Citicorp Center. Joe Morgenstern wrote about the Manhattan skyscraper in a classic New Yorker piece from 1995. The building was built incorrectly and might have blown over in a stiff wind if not for a timely intervention on the part of a mystery architecture student and the head structural engineer on the project.
Tells about designer William J. LeMessurier, who was structural consultant to the architect Hugh Stubbins, Jr. They set their 59-story tower on four massive nine-story-high stilts and used an unusual, chevron-shaped system of wind braces. LeMessurier had established the strength of those braces in perpendicular winds. Now, in the spirit of intellectual play, in his Harvard class, he wanted to see if they were just as strong in winds hitting from 45 degrees. He discovered the design flaw and during wind tunnel tests in Ontario learned the weakest joint was at the building’s 30th floor.
The whole piece is here and well worth a read. Last month, the excellent 99% Invisible did a radio show about Citicorp Center and added a new bit of information to the story: the identity of the mystery student who prodded LeMessurier to think more deeply about the structural integrity of his building. (via @bdeskin, who apparently factchecked Morgenstern’s piece back in the day)
Shaq calls it dreamful attraction; if you want something bad enough, it will happen. So in that spirit, I’m calling Kygo’s remix of Younger by Seinabo Sey the song of the summer:
Ok, so the song already has millions of downloads and since it was out in December, you’ve probably already heard it, but it just screams summer. Like, “SUUUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMERRRRRR!!!” The rest of Kygo’s remixes are well worth a listen; I’ve been listening nonstop since Zach tweeted about them. But it’s Sey’s superb vocals that puts Younger over the top; here’s her original version in video form:
Wonderful. Gives one hope for the future.
Programmers tend to be lazy (I speak from experience), and one nice side effect of laziness is really brilliant ways to avoid work. In this case, instead of spending mind-numbing hours manually creating what would likely be pretty lame rocky surfaces, we’ll get spiritual and teach the computer what it means to be a rock. We’ll do this by generating fractals, or shapes that repeat patterns in smaller and smaller variations.
I don’t have any way to prove that terrain is a fractal but this method looks really damn good, so maybe you’ll take it on faith.
You can try it out here…reload to get new landscapes. Callum Prentice built an interactive version. This obviously reminds me of Vol Libre, a short film by Loren Carpenter from 1980 that showcased using fractals to generate terrain for the first time.
A shipwreck believed to be Christopher Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria, has been found off the coast of Haiti.
The evidence so far is substantial. It is the right location in terms of how Christopher Columbus, writing in his diary, described the wreck in relation to his fort.
The site is also an exact match in terms of historical knowledge about the underwater topography associated with the loss of the Santa Maria. The local currents are also consistent with what is known historically about the way the vessel drifted immediately prior to its demise.
The footprint of the wreck, represented by the pile of ship’s ballast, is also exactly what one would expect from a vessel the size of the Santa Maria.
Using marine magnetometers, side-scan sonar equipment and divers, Mr. Clifford’s team has, over several years, investigated more than 400 seabed anomalies off the north coast of Haiti and has narrowed the search for the Santa Maria down to the tiny area where the wreck, which the team thinks may well be Columbus’ lost vessel, has been found.
This is odd: Gary Stewart has written a book about the search for his biological father and through the process discovered his father is the still-uncaught Zodiac Killer. The book’s description promises new “forensic evidence”.
An explosive and historic book of true crime and an emotionally powerful and revelatory memoir of a man whose ten-year search for his biological father leads to a chilling discovery: His father is one of the most notorious-and still at large-serial killers in America.
Soon after his birth mother contacted him for the first time at the age of thirty-nine, adoptee Gary L. Stewart decided to search for his biological father. It was a quest that would lead him to a horrifying truth and force him to reconsider everything he thought he knew about himself and his world.
The book is out today and was kept secret until yesterday. This sounds about as plausible as Jesus’s wife, but who knows?
The NightLight is a Wirecutter-esque site for baby gear: strollers, car seats, bottles, etc. headed by Gawker’s Joel Johnson and his sister, Rachel Fracassa.
Brought to you by brother-and-sister team Joel Johnson-from Consumerist, Gizmodo, and The Sweethome-and Rachel Fracassa, mother of four and doula, with contributors from Parenting, Babytalk and more, The NightLight takes the hand-wringing out of buying baby gear, with in-depth reporting and research that determines the single best product that parents should buy.
As a parent of a young child, you’re plenty busy already. The NightLight’s team of writers and researchers will help you pick the best strollers, carriers, bottles, diapers, car seats, monitors, breast pumps, and-yup-nightlights. We spend between 20 and 40 hours researching and testing on average for each guide, and in ongoing review to make sure our recommendations are always correct.
My kids are thankfully past the baby stage, but this would have been an indispensable resource 3-4 years ago.
From the NY Times Magazine in June 1976, a list of 101 things to love about New York City. Some of the list is evergreen:
1. Being nostalgic about things in New York that were never so great.
11. Hating Con Edison.
25. The best water-supply system in the nation.
42. The little red lighthouse still under the great gray bridge.
And other items on the list, not so much:
8. Dialing 873-0404.
24. A broken parking meter.
43. Page 1,029 of the Manhattan telephone directory under “Ng.”
57. The personals in The Irish Echo.
Scouting New York has an explanation of some of the items on the list. Apparently 873-0404 was the number for the Dial-A-Satellite hotline; you could call it to get information about satellites passing overhead. (via @mkonnikova)
Tyler Vigen is collecting examples of data that correlate closely but are (probably) otherwise unrelated.
Remember kids, correlation != causation.
This was one of my favorite scenes the film…Russell Crowe’s Noah telling his children the creation story, which ends up being half supernatural and half evolution.
Worth watching for the special effects alone.
In the latest installment of his ten-part series on WWI, Alan Taylor covers the technology used in the war.
When Europe’s armies first marched to war in 1914, some were still carrying lances on horseback. By the end of the war, rapid-fire guns, aerial bombardment, armored vehicle attacks, and chemical weapon deployments were commonplace. Any romantic notion of warfare was bluntly shoved aside by the advent of chlorine gas, massive explosive shells that could have been fired from more than 20 miles away, and machine guns that spat out bullets like firehoses. Each side did its best to build on existing technology, or invent new methods, hoping to gain any advantage over the enemy.
It’s fascinating to observe both sides using trial and error with things like tanks, testing out what works and what doesn’t. Look at this kooky German cannon for instance:
Nothing about that looks efficient.
Richard Sherman is a football player for the Seatt…hey, HEY!, you nerds that were about to wander off because I’m talking about sportsball, come on back here. Like I was saying, Sherman plays cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, who won the Super Bowl last year. The thing is, whatever it is you do, Richard Sherman is way better at his job than you are at yours. And he’s able to explain how he does what he does, which, if you’ve ever been to a technology conference or read more than a thing or two linked from Hacker News, you know is even more rare.
Sherman is, by his own admission, not particularly athletically gifted in comparison to some others in the NFL, but he’s one of the top 5 cornerbacks in the game because he studies and prepares like a mofo. In this video, he explains how he approaches preparing for games and shares some of the techniques he uses to gain an advantage over opposing quarterbacks and receivers.
Sherman is obviously really intelligent, but his experience demonstrates once again the value of preparation, hard work, and the diligent application of deliberate practice.
For the first time, scientists have created a living cell with DNA containing more than just the familiar A, T, C, and G units.
Hailed as a breakthrough by other scientists, the work is a step towards the synthesis of cells able to churn out drugs and other useful molecules. It also raises the possibility that cells could one day be engineered without any of the four DNA bases used by all organisms on Earth.
“What we have now is a living cell that literally stores increased genetic information,” says Floyd Romesberg, a chemical biologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, who led the 15-year effort.
So instead of just using the GATTACA alphabet, scientists may eventually gain the use of an alphabet containing dozens or even hundreds or thousands of different letters. Potentially powerful stuff.
Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the co-authors of the immensely popular Freakonomics, are back with their third book in the series: Think Like a Freak. In it, rather than discussing what they think, they talk about how they think.
Levitt and Dubner offer a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems, whether your interest lies in minor lifehacks or major global reforms. As always, no topic is off-limits. They range from business to philanthropy to sports to politics, all with the goal of retraining your brain. Along the way, you’ll learn the secrets of a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion, the reason an Australian doctor swallowed a batch of dangerous bacteria, and why Nigerian e-mail scammers make a point of saying they’re from Nigeria.
The book is out on May 12, but of course you can preorder, etc.
Update: Excerpt in the WSJ.
One of the greatest designers in the world, Massimo Vignelli, is very sick and “will be spending his last days at home”. His son is requesting that if you were influenced at all by Vignelli’s work, you should send him a letter:
According to Pentagram partner Michael Bierut, “Luca said that Massimo would be thrilled to get notes of good wishes from people whom he’s touched or influenced — whether personally or remotely — over the years. Luca has visions of huge mail bags full of letters. I know that one of Massimo’s biggest fantasies has been to attend his own funeral. This will be the next best thing. Pass the word.”
Here’s the address:
130 East 67 Street
New York, New York 10021
How to Build a Time Machine is a documentary about two men on separate quests to build their own time machines. Here’s a teaser trailer:
Ronald Mallett’s reason for his search for a way to travel through time is quite poignant…he shared his story in a book and on an episode of This American Life back in 2007. (via ★interesting)
According to the National Climate Assessment, climate change has already affected the US in significant ways. This map from the NY Times shows the change in temperatures from around the country, specifically the “1991-2012 average temperature compared with 1901-1960 average”.
Among the report’s findings? As I’ve noted before, weather is getting weirder and more bursty, not just hotter.
One of the report’s most striking findings concerned the rising frequency of torrential rains. Scientists have expected this effect for decades because more water is evaporating from a warming ocean surface, and the warmer atmosphere is able to hold the excess vapor, which then falls as rain or snow. But even the leading experts have been surprised by the scope of the change.
The report found that the eastern half of the country is receiving more precipitation in general. And over the past half-century, the proportion of precipitation that is falling in very heavy rain events has jumped by 71 percent in the Northeast, by 37 percent in the Midwest and by 27 percent in the South, the report found.
Nonlinear systems, man.
The next Ken Burns PBS long thing will be a seven-part series on the Roosevelts (Theodore, Eleanor, and Franklin).
This seven-part, fourteen hour film follows the Roosevelts for more than a century, from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. Over the course of those years, Theodore would become the 26th President of the United States and his beloved niece, Eleanor, would marry his fifth cousin, Franklin, who became the 32nd President of the United States. Together, these three individuals not only redefined the relationship Americans had with their government and with each other, but also redefined the role of the United States within the wider world. The series encompasses the history the Roosevelts helped to shape: the creation of National Parks, the digging of the Panama Canal, the passage of innovative New Deal programs, the defeat of Hitler, and the postwar struggles for civil rights at home and human rights abroad. It is also an intimate human story about love, betrayal, family loyalty, personal courage and the conquest of fear.
Fall 2014. (via @tcarmody)
What do you do when you have a seaplane without wheels, no water, and you need to take off? You put it on a trailer, drag it down the runway until you get the proper speed, and just pull back on the stick:
Damn, that’s cool. I knew it was gonna take off and it still baked my noodle a little bit. I think this is why so many people (myself included) had trouble with the airplane on the treadmill question. All that really matters for takeoff and continued flight is the speed of the plane relative to the air — how it gets to that point or what the surface is doing isn’t really relevant — but when you’re observing it, it seems impossible. (via @deronbauman)
So, this showed up on Vimeo last night and will likely be pulled soon (so hit that “download” button while you can), but here’s the deal. In 2012, actor Topher Grace showed an edit he’d done of episodes I-III of Star Wars to a bunch of friends, trimming the 7 hours of prequels down into 85 action-packed minutes of pure story. This Vimeo edit is longer (2:45) and is “based on the structure conceived by actor Topher Grace”, which you can read about here.
Grace’s version of the film(s) centers on Anakin’s training and friendship with Obi-Wan, and his relationship with Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman). Gone are Trade Federation blockades, the Gungan city, the whole Padmé handmaiden storyline, the explanation of midichlorians, the galactic senate and the boring politics, Anakin’s origins (a backstory which never really needed to be seen in the first place), the droid army’s attack on Naboo, and Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) appears only briefly for only one line of dialogue, used as a set-up to introduce us to the Queen.
Watch this octopus open a jar from the inside:
Octopuses are wicked smart. I like how, after he gets the lid off, he’s content to just hang out in there. (via @tylercowen)
Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using resin mixed with precious metals like gold. The result is often something more beautiful than the original:
There are dozens of examples of kintsukuroi on Pinterest. And as with many Japanese concepts for which there are no corresponding English words, kintsukuroi has many philosophical and metaphorical implications. (via ★interesting)
Update: Here’s a short video that shows the technique and other related techniques:
(via the kid should see this)
Update: When I originally posted this, I forgot to transfer the photo of a bowl repaired through kintsukuroi to my server, resulting in the browser displaying a broken image icon. Rather than just fix it by uploading the photo, I used digital kintsukuroi to fill in the crack in the icon. Not sure the technique works as well as it does with pottery, but it seemed fitting. Here’s the photo I meant to post:
In an item on Ain’t It Cool News about the working title for Star Wars VII (The Ancient Fear!), a pair of comments list fourteen things about the Star Wars movies as bad as or worse than Jar Jar Binks:
1. Dance number added to Jedi
2. CGI Jabba added to A New Hope
3. Han/Greedo scene changed in A New Hope
4. Horrible acting in the prequels even by the good actors
5. Obi-Wan riding around on Yoshi in Revenge of the Sith
6. Anakin/Padme love story
7. Jake Lloyd
8. R2-D2 flying
9. Hayden’s ghost added to end of Jedi
10. Rick McCallum
12. Virgin birth of Anakin
13. Vader as C-3POs maker and R2’s buddy
14. Han/Jabba scene added in ANH
Meesa agree with most of this list.
“Doodie” is a portmanteau of “dude” and “foodie” and a good word to describe the phenomenon of (mostly) male foodies I’ve observed with increasing regularity in the past few years. Jessica Pressler coined the term in Help! There’s a Doodie in My Kitchen.
You see; these are the things you deal with when you live with a food dude. Or, as I have come to call them, doodies. I know, it’s an unfortunate term, but like its antecedent, the dreaded foodie, it is also extremely useful for summing up the characteristics of a certain breed of food enthusiast, the kind whose culinary preferences are intrinsically, classically male.
You know the type. Has Heat or Fergus Henderson’s Complete Nose to Tail on his bookshelf. Can sustain a remarkably long conversation about knives. Is super into his grill. Likes pour-over coffee. Is, at this moment, really excited about ramps. I could go on, but I won’t, because I am sure you know one. New York City in 2014 is rife with doodies: You can find them stalking around Smorgasburg, attending knife-skills classes at the Meat Hook, writing lengthy, tumescent odes to the Bo Ssam Miracle in the paper of record.
Update: Michael Hoffman of Food52 has another name for doodies: assholes.
The food dude is nothing new. He’s just a jerk who learned to cook. He’s taken what could be a force for good — feeding loved ones well — and made it into yet another thing that he can claim to be better at than his wife or girlfriend. (Apparently, food dudes are all heterosexual, too.)
Here’s what the food dude doesn’t do: He doesn’t spend his Sunday afternoon planning practical dinners for the week; he doesn’t make sure there’s milk in the fridge; he doesn’t make something the baby is going to eat. He might as well be building train sets in the basement. Even for people like us who love doing it, getting dinner on the table is, among many other things, a chore. And guess who’s doing the chores at Food Dude’s place? Women.
There is all sorts of advice online about how to do things, but this piece on wikiHow on how to stop your beloved from marrying someone else is easily the best/worst I have ever seen.
If you were not able to contact her before hand, and you are sure that you want to proceed, find out the location of the wedding. Unless you have been invited, you will have to find out where the wedding ceremony is to be held, and the exact time. Ask family members or mutual friends if it doesn’t appear too suspicious, or perhaps check the wedding notices in the local newspaper.
I have never seen something so batshit crazy described in such a calm methodical way. And the photos! The caption for this one is “Enjoy life with your stolen bride or groom”:
Peter Bach, a cancer doctor, writes about losing his wife to cancer.
The streetlights in Buenos Aires are considerably dimmer than they are in New York, one of the many things I learned during my family’s six-month stay in Argentina. The front windshield of the rental car, aged and covered in the city’s grime, further obscured what little light came through. When we stopped at the first red light after leaving the hospital, I broke two of my most important marital promises. I started acting like my wife’s doctor, and I lied to her.
I had just taken the PET scan, the diagnostic X-ray test, out of its manila envelope. Raising the films up even to the low light overhead was enough for me to see what was happening inside her body. But when we drove on, I said, “I can’t tell; I can’t get my orientation. We have to wait to hear from your oncologist back home.” I’m a lung doctor, not an expert in these films, I feigned. But I had seen in an instant that the cancer had spread.
The last sentence here really got to me:
Our life together was gone, and carrying on without her was exactly that, without her. I was reminded of our friend Liz’s insight after she lost her husband to melanoma. She told me she had plenty of people to do things with, but nobody to do nothing with.
Bach’s discussion of treatment options reminded me of Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies, which is one of my favorite books of recent years. I was also reminded of how doctors die.
From the editors of The American Scholar, the ten best sentences. Presumably in all of literature? Here’s one of them, from James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:
I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.
Why are these the ten best sentences?
A fake Paris was partially constructed near the real Paris at the end of World War I in the hopes of confusing German planes who were looking to bomb the City of Lights.
The story of Sham Paris may have been “broken” in The Illustrated London News of 6 November 1920 in a remarkably titled photo essay, “A False Paris Outside Paris — a ‘City’ Created to be Bombed”. There were to be sham streets lined with electric lights, sham rail stations, sham industry, open to a sham population waiting to be bombed by real Germans. It is a perverse city, filled with the waiting-to-be-murdered in a civilian target.
From Max Fisher at Vox, 40 maps that explain the Middle East.
Maps can be a powerful tool for understanding the world, particularly the Middle East, a place in many ways shaped by changing political borders and demographics. Here are 40 maps crucial for understanding the Middle East — its history, its present, and some of the most important stories in the region today.
During the 1930s, animators at Walt Disney Studios developed a list of 12 basic principles of animation through which to achieve character and personality through movement. These principles were laid out in The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. #6 is “slow-out and slow-in”:
As action starts, we have more drawings near the starting pose, one or two in the middle, and more drawings near the next pose. Fewer drawings make the action faster and more drawings make the action slower. Slow-ins and slow-outs soften the action, making it more life-like. For a gag action, we may omit some slow-out or slow-ins for shock appeal or the surprise element. This will give more snap to the scene.
Animator Vincenzo Lodigiani recently visualized the principles using a simple cube shape. You can see them individually here or all together in this video:
In a nod to the increasing prevalence of animation in app design, Khoi Vinh notes:
It’s a good reminder that as the overlap between interface design and animation grows wider, designers would do well to take note of the many decades of insight and knowledge that animators have accrued.
Every week, the Netherlands Bach Society puts up a new recording of one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s works on All of Bach.
Alan Taylor has started doing weekly round-ups of interesting photos at In Focus. This is my favorite from last week’s batch, the head of Mick Jagger, destined for a wax museum in Prague.
Heather Ogden is a principal dancer for the National Ballet of Canada and The Heather Project is a series of short videos shot by Christopher Wahl that shows how beautiful and demanding ballet can be. (via cup of jo)
Homer Economicus is a new book which uses the fictional world of Springfield on The Simpsons to explain the basic concepts of economics.
Since The Simpsons centers on the daily lives of the Simpson family and its colorful neighbors, three opening chapters focus on individual behavior and decision-making, introducing readers to the economic way of thinking about the world. Part II guides readers through six chapters on money, markets, and government. A third and final section discusses timely topics in applied microeconomics, including immigration, gambling, and health care as seen in The Simpsons. Reinforcing the nuts and bolts laid out in any principles text in an entertaining and culturally relevant way, this book is an excellent teaching resource that will also be at home on the bookshelf of an avid reader of pop economics.
The Daily Overview offers up an interesting satellite photo every day. The site’s name is inspired by the Overview Effect:
The Overview Effect, first described by author Frank White in 1987, is an experience that transforms astronauts’ perspective of Earth and mankind’s place upon it. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment. ‘Overview’ is a short film that explores this phenomenon through interviews with five astronauts who have experienced the Overview Effect. The film also features important commentary on the wider implications of this new understanding for both our society, and our relationship to the environment.
The Planetary Collective made a short documentary about the Overview Effect:
I watched the first episode of Band of Brothers last night to see if it held up (it does). The episode centers on the training and deployment to England of Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, led by Lt. Herbert Sobel. In the miniseries, Sobel is played by David Schwimmer and is depicted as a real hardass who earns the hatred of his men while pushing them to be the best company in the entire regiment.
In real life, Sobel rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, fought in the Korean War, was awarded the Bronze Star, married and had three children. The part of Sobel’s Wikipedia entry about his later years is among the saddest things I have ever read:
In the late 1960s, Sobel shot himself in the head with a small-caliber pistol. The bullet entered his left temple, passed behind his eyes, and exited out the other side of his head. This severed his optic nerves and left him blind. He was later moved to a VA assisted living facility in Waukegan, Illinois. Sobel resided there for his last seventeen years until his death due to malnutrition on September 30, 1987. No services were held for Sobel after his death.
Rest in peace, Lieutenant Colonel Sobel.
“My kids used to love math! Now it makes them cry.” So tweeted Louis C.K. earlier this week. His opinion of the new math and standardized tests is echoed by a lot of parents who “have found themselves puzzled by the manner in which math concepts are being presented to this generation of learners as well as perplexed as to how to offer the most basic assistance when their children are struggling with homework.” Rebecca Mead in the The New Yorker: Louis C.K. Against the Common Core.
Photographer David Liittschwager captured the little ecosystem of life contained in a splash of seawater magnified 25 times:
It’s the microscopic equivalent of the Hubble Deep Field image and worth seeing larger. Here’s part of the larger image:
Liittschwager took the photo for National Geographic, but it also might be contained in his book, A World in One Cubic Foot, in which he took photos in locations all over the world of the life that passed through 1 cubic foot of space in 24 hours.
For A World in One Cubic Foot, esteemed nature photographer David Liittschwager took a bright green metal cube-measuring precisely one cubic foot-and set it in various ecosystems around the world, from Costa Rica to Central Park. Working with local scientists, he measured what moved through that small space in a period of twenty-four hours. He then photographed the cube’s setting and the plant, animal, and insect life inside it — anything visible to the naked eye. The result is a stunning portrait of the amazing diversity that can be found in ecosystems around the globe.
Prints of this image are available at Art.com in sizes up to 64”x48”. (via colossal)
What’s your best guess without looking: How many US states are at least partially north of the southernmost part of Canada?
(It’s probably way more than you think.)
Ok, I’ll give you two hints…
1. Wyoming is almost *entirely* north of the southernmost point in Canada.
2. Part of a state that borders Mexico is north of the southernmost point in Canada.
One more big hint: more than 25% of US states are entirely north of Canada’s southernmost point.
So, here’s the answer:
27 US states, more than half, are at least partially north of Canada’s southernmost point. (via @stevenstrogatz)
A Japanese TV show took three expert fencers and pitted them against 50 amateurs.
I honestly didn’t think this would be that interesting and expected the Musketeers to easily get taken out right away or, if they survived more than 30 seconds, to handily finish off the rest of the crowd…nothing in between. But it’s fascinating what happens. The crowd, being a crowd, does not initially do what it should, which is rush the experts and take them out right away with little regard for individual survival. But pretty much every person fights for themselves. And instead of getting easier for the Musketeers near the end, it gets more difficult. The few remaining crowd members start working together more effectively. The survival of the fittest effect kicks in. The remaining experts get sloppy, tired, and perhaps a little overconfident. The ending was a genuine shock. (via digg)
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