I keep waiting to get sick of seeing photos of huge flocks of birds flying around like they share a brain, but it hasn't happened. Alan Taylor has collected a bunch of starling murmuration photos at In Focus.
They're even better in motion.
From The Avant/Garde Diaries comes a brief lesson in Japanese sword fighting from master kendo sensei Shozo Kato.
Western beauty is radiance, majesty, grandness and broadness. In comparison, eastern beauty is desolateness. Humility. Hidden beauty.
Somehow -- science? magic? pelican snacks? -- someone found a way to affix a GoPro camera to a pelican's beak and the view of him flying around a lake in Tanzania is pretty awesome.
I have to admit, this alternate Harry Potter ending would have been pretty great.
Harry Potter would, forever, be The Boy Who Lived.
Love these voxelated animal sculptures by New Zealand artist Ben Foster.
Very aesthetically (but perhaps not conceptually) New Aesthetic. (via colossal)
Stefano Maggiolo made a map of how much the time zones of the world vary from solar time. The darker the color, the more the deviation.
Looking for other regions of the world having the same peculiarity of Spain, I edited a world map from Wikipedia to show the difference between solar and standard time. It turns out, there are many places where the sun rises and sets late in the day, like in Spain, but not a lot where it is very early (highlighted in red and green in the map, respectively). Most of Russia is heavily red, but mostly in zones with very scarce population; the exception is St. Petersburg, with a discrepancy of two hours, but the effect on time is mitigated by the high latitude. The most extreme example of Spain-like time is western China: the difference reaches three hours against solar time. For example, today the sun rises there at 10:15 and sets at 19:45, and solar noon is at 15:01.
Something to note: China is about as big across as the continental United States and has only one huge time zone. (via slate)
Pop Chart Lab has produced a print of grammatical diagrams of the opening lines of notable novels. Here's Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea:
There are also sentences from DFW, Plath, and Austen. Prints start at $29.
Like Ukraine, Venezuela has been experiencing anti-government protests over the past few weeks. In Focus has a selection of photos from the protests.
Moisés Naím has an article that explains what's behind the protests.
This is the half of the country whose sons and daughters have taken to the streets to protest against a repressive regime that treats them as mortal enemies. And maybe they are. After all, they represent the vanguard of a society no longer willing to tolerate an abusive government with disastrous results to show for its 15-year grip on power: Venezuela is now the world champion of inflation, homicide, insecurity, and shortages of essential goods-from milk for children to insulin for diabetics and all kinds of indispensable products. All this despite having the greatest oil reserves in the world and a government with absolute control of all state institutions and levers of power. Sadly, that government has used its immense wealth and authority to push through unsustainable populist policies, buy votes, jail opposition leaders, and shut down television channels. Daily shortages of basic goods, fear of crime, and hopelessness have become unbearable.
Richard Lenski and his team of researchers utilize a clever technique to observe and study evolution of bacteria in realtime. Periodically freezing a sample of the bacteria every few generations allows them to go back in time to study particular traits and to pinpoint when differences occur.
After 30,000 generations, researchers noticed something strange. One population had evolved the ability to use a different carbon-based molecule in the solution, called citrate, as a power source.
Researchers wondered whether it was the result of a rare, single mutation, or a more complex change involving a series of mutations over generations. To find out, one of Lenski's postdocs, Zachary Blount, took some of the frozen cells and grew them in a culture lacking glucose, with citrate as the only potential food source.
After testing 10 trillion ancestral cells from early generations, he got no growth. But when he tested cells from the 20,000th generation on, he began to get results, eventually finding 19 mutants that could use citrate as a power source. The results showed that the citrate-eating mutation was most likely not the result of a single mutation, but one enabled by multiple changes over 20,000 generations.
Nice short video tour of the U.S. Naval Observatory with Dr. Demetrios Matsakis, Chief Scientist for USNO's Time Services.
I refer to my clocks as my babies...and that I must take care of them.
According to an article in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the obesity rate of American 2- to 5-year-old children has dropped from 14% in 2004 to 8% in 2012.
Children now consume fewer calories from sugary beverages than they did in 1999. More women are breast-feeding, which can lead to a healthier range of weight gain for young children. Federal researchers have also chronicled a drop in overall calories for children in the past decade, down by 7 percent for boys and 4 percent for girls, but health experts said those declines were too small to make much difference.
Barry M. Popkin, a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has tracked American food purchases in a large data project, said families with children had been buying lower-calorie foods over the past decade, a pattern he said was unrelated to the economic downturn.
He credited those habits, and changes in the federally funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, for the decline in obesity among young children. The program, which subsidizes food for low-income women, reduced funding for fruit juices, cheese and eggs and increased it for whole fruits and vegetables.
Kevin Drum calls the drop "baffling".
Love this concept cover for Fahrenheit 451 by designer Elizabeth Perez...the 1 is a match and the spine is striking paper for lighting it.
Fahrenheit 451 is a novel about a dystopian future where books are outlawed and firemen burn any house that contains them. The story is about suppressing ideas, and about how television destroys interest in reading literature.
I wanted to spread the book-burning message to the book itself. The book's spine is screen-printed with a matchbook striking paper surface, so the book itself can be burned.
Stephen Wolfram (of Mathematica and A New Kind of Science fame) says the upcoming Wolfram Language is his company's "most important technology project yet".
We call it the Wolfram Language because it is a language. But it's a new and different kind of language. It's a general-purpose knowledge-based language. That covers all forms of computing, in a new way.
There are plenty of existing general-purpose computer languages. But their vision is very different -- and in a sense much more modest -- than the Wolfram Language. They concentrate on managing the structure of programs, keeping the language itself small in scope, and relying on a web of external libraries for additional functionality. In the Wolfram Language my concept from the very beginning has been to create a single tightly integrated system in which as much as possible is included right in the language itself.
The demo video is a little mind-melting in parts:
Not sure if this will take off or not, but the idea behind it all is worth exploring.
The best chess player in history, 23-year-old Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, has released an iOS app where you can play simulated games against Carlsen at various stages of his career, from age 5 up to the present. The Telegraph has the details.
Anyone who wants to find out more about his playing style can do so with Mr Carlsen's new app, which allows users to play him at the different levels he has achieved since the age of five.
The app is built on hundreds of thousands of different positions from Mr Carlsen's games, be they classical, rapid or blitz, to determine what moves he would make at those ages.
The aim is to promote chess among as many people as possible to make the sport more popular and accessible.
"The good thing is that you can play me at any age. At age five, anyone has a chance to beat me," Mr Carlsen said.
So what is it like for Mr Carlsen to play against his younger self?
"He is really tricky," the champion said. "Even Magnus at 11 years old was a very gifted tactician. A while ago I played as a test Magnus [aged] 14. I outplayed him at some point positionally. And just boom, boom, he tricked me tactically.
"But he makes mistakes as well, so I just have to be patient."
NASA announced the discovery of 719 new planets today. That brings the tally of known planets in our universe to almost 1800. 20 years ago, that number was not more than 15 (including the nine planets orbiting the Sun). Here's a rough timeline of the dramatically increasing pace of planetary discovery:
4.54 billion BCE-1700: 6
2006: -1 [for Pluto :( ]
Last year, Jonathan Corum made an infographic of the sizes and orbits of the 190 confirmed planets discovered at that point by the Kepler mission. I hope the Times updates it with this recent batch.
Planet Money: always buy the bigger pizza because geometry.
The math of why bigger pizzas are such a good deal is simple. A pizza is a circle, and the area of a circle increases with the square of the radius.
So, for example, a 16-inch pizza is actually four times as big as an 8-inch pizza.
And when you look at thousands of pizza prices from around the U.S., you see that you almost always get a much, much better deal when you buy a bigger pizza.
In celebration of its 20th anniversary, Fast Company presents an oral history of the SXSW Interactive Festival.
Within SXSW Interactive's march from obscurity to prominence is the story of digital culture itself. SXSW was a hive of activity for early web denizens and hackers around the turn of the century, and a birthing ground for the social media revolution that reshaped modern life in the second half of the '00s. Its emergence from the shadow of the music festival it grew out of mirrors the transformation of geeks into modern society's newest rock stars.
I went to SXSW a handful of times (maybe five?), met my wife there, and even keynoted (w/ Dooce) in the big room (which was, in my memory, a disaster of Zuckerpudlian proportions). Paul Ford noted on Twitter:
Wow this is just a tiny bit The Oral History of Talking About Yourself.
Totes get that, but South By1 distinguished itself in the early days by being a conference where anyone could participate. Attendees took ownership of this conference as they could not at the other big web conferences of the era. Everyone was someone, everyone was nobody. (I mean, not literally -- the Jeffreys (Zeldman and Veen) couldn't walk three feet without someone engaging them in conversation. But you get my drift.) As on the personal web of the late 1900s and early 2000s, you were the focal point of SXSW, for better or worse.
 There was an effort back in my day to refer to the conference as "sick-sow" but thankfully that didn't stick. I mean, Jesus. ↩
The sheng is a free-reed wind instrument dating back to 1100 BCE in China. Using a modern sheng, Li-Jin Lee makes the ancient instrument sound remarkably like Super Mario Bros., including coin and power-up sounds.
And I know the Olympics are over and good riddance and all that, but this Mario Kart speedskating bit is great. Baby Park was one of my favorite tracks on Double Dash.
If you're having Downton Abbey withdrawals, may I suggest Robert Altman's Gosford Park? Written by Downton creator Julian Fellowes, it's a proto-Downton of sorts: lots of upstairs/downstairs with a dash of mystery. And the cast! Clive Owen, Emily Watson, Stephen Fry, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Kelly Macdonald, Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillippe...and Maggie Smith plays a witty countess.
Watch it on Netflix Instant, at Amazon, or on iTunes.
My mind is so tiny these days it doesn't take much to blow it, so grain of salt and all that. But, this theory that Andy's mom in Toy Story is Jessie's original owner is popping my fuse right now.
Several months ago, one of my anonymous Pixar Theory Interns (that's a thing on a resume) came to me with a crazy proposition: Andy's mom is Emily, Jessie's previous owner.
I laughed. I then agreed.
Previously: a grand unified theory of Pixar.
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