The sounds of TarantinoFEB 18

A montage of hundreds of sounds from Quentin Tarantino's movies, from Zed drumming his fingers on top of the gimp's head in Pulp Fiction to the schiiiiing of The Bride's Hattori Hanzo sword in Kill Bill.

What are the Coen brothers trying to say?FEB 18

From Steven Benedict, a short video essay featuring the characters from different Coen brothers' films talking to each other. According to Benedict, the dialogue reveals three main themes of their movies.

While other essays have assembled several recurring visual tropes: elevators, dogs, dream sequences, bathrooms etc., this essay has the characters talk to one another across the films so we can more clearly hear the Coens' dominant concerns: identity, miscommunication and morality. Taken as a trinity, these elements indicate that the Coens' true subject is the search for value in a random and amoral universe.

(via @khoi)

"Did I marry a pathological liar?"FEB 17

In his new book, Love and Lies: An Essay on Truthfulness, Deceit, and the Growth and Care of Erotic Love, Clancy Martin argues that loving someone requires lying to them. His third wife, Amie Barrodale, recently interviewed Martin about his assertions.

Amie: What if this woman who cheated finds herself fantasizing about it a lot. She's never contacted the guy, and she never will, but she thinks about him every time she sleeps with her husband.

Clancy: Wow, good one. For the record, you're my wife, and if this happens, please lie to me about it.

Amie: Wait, that's a good answer. Why?

Clancy: Because I don't think I could handle the truth, but I want us to stay married. So I'm asking you to be the strong one, since it's your deal, your mental affair. If you feel like it's starting to threaten the relationship -- if the only way for us to continue to be happily married is for you to get the truth out -- well, then I'd ask you to find a gentle, caring way to do it. Don't just say: "I can't stop thinking about this guy I slept with, he was fantastic and had a huge --"

Amie: How come you didn't go into detail about our marriage, or your previous two marriages, in the book?

Clancy: Two reasons: respect for you and my two previous wives, and respect for my daughters. And also, I guess, fear that you guys would all love me less if I were too bluntly honest. But truthfully there are some things I would love to say, but can't, because I know they would really hurt people I love.

(via the morning news)

Living the dreamFEB 17

After seeing the Homer Simpson coma theory the other day, a reader sent me this story from an anonymous poster on Reddit who lived 10 years of "a different life" entirely in his head while he was briefly unconscious after being hit by a car.

I met a wonderful young lady, she made my heart skip and my face red, I pursued her for months and dispatched a few jerk boyfriends before I finally won her over, after two years we got married and almost immediately she bore me a daughter.

I had a great job and my wife didn't have to work outside of the house, when my daughter was two she [my wife] bore me a son. My son was the joy of my life, I would walk into his room every morning before I left for work and doted on him and my daughter.

One day while sitting on the couch I noticed that the perspective of the lamp was odd, like inverted. It was still in 3D but... just.. wrong. (It was a square lamp base, red with gold trim on 4 legs and a white square shade). I was transfixed, I couldn't look away from it. I stayed up all night staring at it, the next morning I didn't go to work, something was just not right about that lamp.

No idea if this is actually true, but if so, that's one of the most terrifying things I've ever heard. I had a similar but far less scary experience. A few years ago, I fainted. I was told I was out for about 8-10 seconds, but within that time, I had a dream that lasted for ~30 minutes. The details have faded but at the time, the dream felt very real and super vivid and I was pretty freaked out by it. I can't imagine what feeling like you've lived 10 years in an instant would feel like. (via @monsur)

Sophia, The Smart Jump Rope

By now, fitness tracking apps and devices for running and cycling are an established way of helping people achieve their fitness goals. The seamless tracking of steps or miles or calories, especially when done together with friends, can be powerful motivation in establishing healthy routines that might otherwise be difficult to initiate. A small team is bringing this same thinking to jumping rope. Meet Sophia, the smart jump rope.

The product consists of a durable jump rope with tracking and communication electronics embedded in the handle combined with a smartphone app. When you jump with the rope, the accelerometer and an optical sensor keep track of how much you jump. Then you can sync your phone to the rope via Bluetooth and pull your stats into the app. The app charts your workouts, but you can also use the arcade mode or challenge your friends from within the app for that extra motivation.

When watching the video, one detail jumped out at me: the team moved to Shenzhen in order to work more closely with their hardware manufacturer. That shows how dedicated they are in getting it right. The companion app seems similarly ambitious; it would be easier to leave out the challenge-a-friend feature, but it will be so much better with that peer motivation built in. So go check out Sophia on Kickstarter...there are still a few available at early bird pricing.

The Katering ShowFEB 17

About a minute into The Katering Show, I already knew it was going to be my favorite cooking show of all time. In this episode, the toothsome twosome with the Beatlesesque names of McCartney and McLennan make risotto hot wet rice using a Thermomix.

So "what is a Thermomix?" I hear anyone under the age of 33 ask. It's a blender, a microwave, an ice bucket, and a set of kitchen scales. It's a gangbang of kitchen appliances that's created a futuristic robot saucepan. It's the kind of appliance that your rich mother-in-law gives you as a wedding gift because she doesn't think you can cook. Or something that you buy yourself because you've always wanted to join a cult, but you don't have the energy for the group sex.

(via digg)

Happy Presidents' DayFEB 16

On the intersection of Presidents' Day and Black History Month, Erica Armstrong Dunbar highlights an uncomfortable truth about George Washington: he was a proud and fervent slave owner.

During the president's two terms in office, the Washingtons relocated first to New York and then to Philadelphia. Although slavery had steadily declined in the North, the Washingtons decided that they could not live without it. Once settled in Philadelphia, Washington encountered his first roadblock to slave ownership in the region -- Pennsylvania's Gradual Abolition Act of 1780.

The act began dismantling slavery, eventually releasing people from bondage after their 28th birthdays. Under the law, any slave who entered Pennsylvania with an owner and lived in the state for longer than six months would be set free automatically. This presented a problem for the new president.

Washington developed a canny strategy that would protect his property and allow him to avoid public scrutiny. Every six months, the president's slaves would travel back to Mount Vernon or would journey with Mrs. Washington outside the boundaries of the state. In essence, the Washingtons reset the clock. The president was secretive when writing to his personal secretary Tobias Lear in 1791: "I request that these Sentiments and this advise may be known to none but yourself & Mrs. Washington."

(via mr)

The cast of SNL, rankedFEB 13

The SNL 40th Anniversary Special will air this Sunday. From Rolling Stone, a list of all of the regular cast members of SNL, ranked from worst to best. The worst is Robert Downey Jr. ("Making him unfunny stands as SNL's most towering achievement in terms of sucking") and the top 10 are:

10. Chevy Chase
9. Gilda Radner
8. Amy Poehler
7. Phil Hartman
6. Bill Murray
5. Dan Aykroyd
4. Mike Myers
3. Tina Fey
2. Eddie Murphy
1. John Belushi

I disagree with Norm MacDonald's placement near the bottom of the barrel...I always liked his stuff. And Dratch at #16? Was never a fan. Most of the original cast ranks too high...I would have preferred Eddie at #1 over Belushi. My favorites: Dana Carvey and Phil Hartman.

FYI, the guest list for the special is kind of incredible. So far, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Alec Baldwin, Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Kristen Wiig, Chevy Chase, Chris Rock, Dan Aykroyd, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and about 80 other bold-faced names (Hanks, Taylor Swift, Spielberg, etc.) are all scheduled to appear. (via digg)

Theory: Homer Simpson has been in a coma for 20 yearsFEB 13

On Reddit, a fan of The Simpsons recently outlined his theory that Homer Simpson has been in a coma for the past 20 years and everything on the show since mid-1993 has taken place in Homer's head. Here's the argument...

In the series' first clip show, which aired in the fourth season, Bart pranks Homer by shaking up his beer can in a paint shaker. The beer explodes and knocks Homer into a coma. At the end of the episode, Homer is shown waking up from the coma. But maybe he didn't? As possible evidence, the theorist suggests that's why the Simpsons never age:

This is why the characters don't age. Homer remembers Bart, Lisa, and Maggie as 10, 8, and 1 year old, so they will always appear that way in his dreams. He is subconsciously aware of time passing, so his mind will often "update" his memories so that the year they occurred matches up with the age he thinks he is.

And it's also why the plots on the show became more outlandish after the coma episode:

This is clearly Homer's imagination running wild. With no real world restrictions, Homer's mind is able to dream up scenarios of him and his family in fantasies involving him winning a Grammy, his father fighting his boss for buried WW2 treasure, his wife getting breast implants, his infant daughter saving him from drowning, etc.

That's pretty clever. It immediately reminded me of two things:

1. The entirety of St. Elsewhere took place inside the mind of an autistic kid named Tommy Westphall. And since St. Elsewhere was referenced on other TV shows like Homicide: Life on the Street, that means those shows (and the shows referenced on those shows) also took place in Westphall's mind.

2. From 1991 to 1994, a show called Herman's Head aired on Fox. The show took place partially in the main character's head. Among the cast are two regular Simpsons cast members: Hank Azaria (Moe, Chief Wiggum, Apu, Comic Book Guy, etc.) and Yeardley Smith (Lisa). Super-crazy theory: perhaps Herman's Head inspired Homer's coma?

The DWR Champagne Chair ContestFEB 13

The winners have been announced in the 2015 edition of the always-charming DWR Champagne Chair Contest in which contestants compete to build the coolest little chairs using only a single champagne cork. The winner and the runner-up:

Champagne cork chair

Champagne cork chair

I actually like the second place chair more than the winner. You can check out all of the submissions to the contest on the main contest page, including this fantastic swiveling chair:

Champagne cork chair

(via @fromedome)

The coming American megadrought of 2050FEB 13

Megadrought

A recent paper by three climate scientists concludes there's a high risk of an unprecedented drought in the Southwest and Midwest United States later this century, even if we manage to get our carbon emissions under control. The scientists say it'll be drier in the Western US than at any point in the past 1000 years.

In the Southwest and Central Plains of Western North America, climate change is expected to increase drought severity in the coming decades. These regions nevertheless experienced extended Medieval-era droughts that were more persistent than any historical event, providing crucial targets in the paleoclimate record for benchmarking the severity of future drought risks. We use an empirical drought reconstruction and three soil moisture metrics from 17 state-of-the-art general circulation models to show that these models project significantly drier conditions in the later half of the 21st century compared to the 20th century and earlier paleoclimatic intervals. This desiccation is consistent across most of the models and moisture balance variables, indicating a coherent and robust drying response to warming despite the diversity of models and metrics analyzed. Notably, future drought risk will likely exceed even the driest centuries of the Medieval Climate Anomaly (1100-1300 CE) in both moderate (RCP 4.5) and high (RCP 8.5) future emissions scenarios, leading to unprecedented drought conditions during the last millennium.

Eric Holthaus has the layperson's explanation of the study and its implications.

Smerdon's study is the first to examine the future risk of "megadrought" in the southwest and central United States in the context of historical episodes of drought in the same regions. Smerdon's study suggests that the coming years are likely to see droughts worse than the epic dry periods that are thought to have caused profound changes to human settlement in the region over the last millennium.

"They're 'mega' because they are droughts that lasted in these regions for multiple decades," said Smerdon in an interview with Slate. "We haven't seen anything like this since at least the 1400s." In comparison, the current California drought is four years old, though drought has been present in most of the last 15 years somewhere in the West.

Update: This NASA video provides a quick overview of this study and what it means for our climate.

The Michael Jordan of ________FEB 13

Calling someone "the Michael Jordan of [whatever they're good at]" is a familiar journalistic trope. A team at the WSJ decided to search through the newspapers of the world for mentions of the Jordans and LeBrons of their professions.

Calling someone "the Michael Jordan of..." or, more recently, "the LeBron James of..." is a trope that acknowledges excellence in a way that everyone can understand. So with the NBA getting set to host its annual All-Star Game, the Wall Street Journal went on a hunt for all of the Michael Jordans and LeBron Jameses in newspapers around the world. We found thousands, including the Michael Jordan of bagpipers and private detectives, and the LeBron James of yodeling and midwives.

Some examples:

Jimmy McIntosh, the Scotsman who started Carnegie Mellon's bagpipe program, calls Gillies the Michael Jordan of piping.

We are the Michael Jordan of onion growers, Butch Peri said. "We started off as the smallest onion grower in the state of Nevada, and in 1999, we became the largest producer in the world of fresh market onions, the kind you buy in the grocery store."

If you were to convert him from his importance in science to the sports world, Charles Darwin would be the Wayne Gretzky or the Michael Jordan of biology, says Dr. Greg Bole, a bioscientist from the University of B.C. "He shaped the field."

With a medical cause ruled out, I was forced to accept reality... my son is just really good at screening things out. No, let me rephrase that. The boy is the LeBron James of selective hearing, the Michael Phelps of tuning me out. He's a best-in-class parental ignorer, and actually it would be kind of admirable... if it wasn't so infuriating.

This is surely the Tiger Woods of fun Friday links. (via @lauratitian)

Update: According to Google, describing people as "the Michael Jordan of ________" in books has been on the decline since 1999. (thx, david)

The many causes of America's decline in crimeFEB 12

There's been a decline in crime in America. On the surface, it may seem like that drop is due to the fact that we've locked up so many people. But a new report suggests otherwise. From The Atlantic: The many causes of America's decline in crime.

+ FiveThirtyEight: "Pick a stat, any stat. They all tell you the same thing: America is really good at putting people behind bars." (There are some mind-boggling numbers and charts in this piece.)

+ The Marshall Project: 10 (not entirely crazy) theories explaining the great crime decline.

Syndicated from NextDraft. Subscribe today or grab the iOS app.

A regular expression for finding prime numbersFEB 12

Given that there's so much mathematicians don't know about prime numbers, you might be surprised to learn that there's a very simple regular expression for detecting prime numbers:

/^1?$|^(11+?)\1+$/

If you've got access to Perl on the command line, try it out with some of these (just replace [number] with any integer):

perl -wle 'print "Prime" if (1 x shift) !~ /^1?$|^(11+?)\1+$/' [number]

An explanation is here which I admit I did not quite follow. A commenter at Hacker News adds a bit more context:

However while cute, it is very slow. It tries every possible factorization as a pattern match. When it succeeds, on a string of length n that means that n times it tries to match a string of length n against a specific pattern. This is O(n^2). Try it on primes like 35509, 195341, 526049 and 1030793 and you can observe the slowdown.

Seagull contrailsFEB 12

Using a tiny bit of post-processing, the flight paths of seagulls become visible in this video:

See also the bird contrail videos by Dennis Hlynsky.

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