Inglourious Basterds DEC 18
This is pretty much the point at which I knew I was going to love Inglourious Basterds:
Although I can sure see why someone might hate it; the film rode that razor's edge all the way through.
This is pretty much the point at which I knew I was going to love Inglourious Basterds:
Although I can sure see why someone might hate it; the film rode that razor's edge all the way through.
If you play carefully by not stomping enemies, not collecting coins, not eating mushrooms or flowers, and hopping on the flagpole at the very last second, you can rescue the princess in Super Mario Bros with only 500 points.
One bit is surprisingly tricky:
How tough is that jump in 8-1? Well, the timing of the liftoff, the duration of holding the jump button, and the timing of the wall jump are all frame perfect. NES games run at 60 frames per second, which means all the necessary inputs need to be timed within 1/60 of a second. In addition, the starting position before running I used not only has to be on the right pixel, but also the x sub-pixel has to fall within a certain range (technical stuff blah blah blah). In short, it's a pretty annoying jump.
When I was a kid, I left my NES on for three straight days to flip the score in SMB, using the 1UP trick and another spot in the game to get many lives and points. Scoring lower would have been a lot quicker.
McDonald's Canada continues their series on how their business works with a video on how Chicken McNuggets are made.
Best part of the video: the casual reveal that McNuggets come in four standard shapes: the ball, the bell, the boot, and the bow tie:
I had a McNugget over the weekend, the first one in probably more than 10 years, and it tasted and felt like chicken. Not bad for fast food. See also how McDonald's fries are made and how McDonald's photographs their food for advertising.
Unlike many wines, which improve with age, extra virgin olive oil is perishable: like all natural fruit juices, its flavor and aroma begin to deteriorate within a few months of milling, a decline that accelerate when the oil is bottled, and really speeds up when the bottle is opened. To get the freshest oil, and cut out middle-men who often muddy olive oil transparency and quality, buy as close to the mill as possible. If you're lucky enough to live near a mill -- common around the Mediterranean, and more and more so in other areas of the world with a Mediterranean-like climate, like Australia, S. Africa, California, Texas, Georgia -- visit it during the harvest to see how olives are picked, crushed, stirred, and spun into olive oil.
Mueller is also author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, which was published a few years after his olive oil exposé in the New Yorker.
In 1997 and 1998, olive oil was the most adulterated agricultural product in the European Union, prompting the E.U.'s anti-fraud office to establish an olive-oil task force. ("Profits were comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks," one investigator told me.) The E.U. also began phasing out subsidies for olive-oil producers and bottlers, in an effort to reduce crime, and after a few years it disbanded the task force. Yet fraud remains a major international problem: olive oil is far more valuable than most other vegetable oils, but it is costly and time-consuming to produce-and surprisingly easy to doctor. Adulteration is especially common in Italy, the world's leading importer, consumer, and exporter of olive oil. (For the past ten years, Spain has produced more oil than Italy, but much of it is shipped to Italy for packaging and is sold, legally, as Italian oil.) "The vast majority of frauds uncovered in the food-and-beverage sector involve this product," Colonel Leopoldo Maria De Filippi, the commander for the northern half of Italy of the N.A.S. Carabinieri, an anti-adulteration group run under the auspices of the Ministry of Health, told me.
Futurist Ray Kurzweil reviews Spike Jonze's Her.
I would place some of the elements in Jonze's depiction at around 2020, give or take a couple of years, such as the diffident and insulting videogame character he interacts with, and the pin-sized cameras that one can place like a freckle on one's face. Other elements seem more like 2014, such as the flat-panel displays, notebooks and mobile devices.
Samantha herself I would place at 2029, when the leap to human-level AI would be reasonably believable. There are some incongruities, however. As I mentioned, a lot of the dramatic tension is provided by the fact that Theodore's love interest does not have a body. But this is an unrealistic notion. It would be technically trivial in the future to provide her a virtual visual presence to match her virtual auditory presence, using, lens-mounted displays, for example, that display images onto Theodore's retinas.
According to Jonze in interviews, Kurzweil's work on the singularity was a definite influence on the movie.
In a clip from The CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite in 1981, a man in a hooded sweatshirt yelling about the Viet Cong threatened to jump from the 9th story of a building in Los Angeles. Out of nowhere, like a freaking superhero, appears Muhammad Ali, who manages to coax the man back into the building.
A poster on Reddit asks: What are two events that took place in the same time in history but don't seem like they would have? A few of my favorite answers (from this thread and a previous one):
When pilgrims were landing on Plymouth Rock, you could already visit what is now Santa Fe, New Mexico to stay at a hotel, eat at a restaurant and buy Native American silver.
Prisoners began to arrive to Auschwitz a few days after McDonald's was founded.
The first wagon train of the Oregon Trail heads out the same year the fax machine is invented.
Nintendo was founded in 1888. Jack the Ripper was on the loose in 1888.
1912 saw the maiden voyage of the Titanic as well as the birth of vitamins, x-ray crystallography, and MDMA.
1971: The year in which America drove a lunar buggy on the moon and Switzerland gave women the vote.
NASA's Gemini program was winding down at the same time as plate tectonics, as we know it today, was becoming refined and accepted by the scientific community.
Spain was still a fascist dictatorship when Microsoft was founded.
There were no classes in calculus in Harvard's curriculum for the first few years because calculus hadn't been discovered yet.
Two empires [Roman & Ottoman] spanned the entire gap from Jesus to Babe Ruth.
When the pyramids were being built, there were still woolly mammoths.
The last use of the guillotine was in France the same year Star Wars came out.
Oxford University was over 300 years old when the Aztec Empire was founded.
Love these voxelated animal sculptures by New Zealand artist Ben Foster.
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.
Great book cover design alert:
What would happen if a tiny black hole the size of a marble were placed at the center of the Earth? Rest assured, the Earth won't completely be swallowed up by the black hole but that's really the only good news to offer.
First of all, not all of the Earth would simply be sucked into the black hole. When the matter near the black hole begins to fall into the black hole, it will be compressed to a very high density that will cause it to be heated to very high temperatures. These high temperatures will cause gamma rays, X-rays, and other radiation to heat up the other matter falling in to the black hole. The net effect will be that there will be a strong outward pressure on the outer layers of the Earth that will first slow down their fall and will eventually ionize and push the outer layers away from the black hole. So some inner portion of the core will fall into the black hole, but the outer layers, including the crust and all of us, would be vaporized to a high temperature plasma and blown into space.
This would be a gigantic explosion -- a significant fraction of the rest of the mass of the Earth matter that actually fell into the black hole will be converted into energy.
FYI, that marble-sized black hole would have about the same mass as the Earth. Not that they exist, mind you. Maybe, maybe not. Blackish holes? Dark grey holes? Anyway, really heavy.
Hold onto yer butts, you can use the computer interface from Jurassic Park right in your web browser.
It may look a little confusing but just remember: this is a Unix system and you know this.
A young-ish Christopher Walken appears in Annie Hall but his name is misspelled in the credits as "Christopher Wlaken". Were this 1990, I might have invented a eastern European backstory for Wlaken, who, perhaps, Americanized his name sometime after appearing in the film. But as we live in the future, a cool hunk of glass and metal from my pocket told me -- before the credits even finished rolling -- that the actor was born Ronald Walken in Astoria, Queens.
The future isn't any fun sometimes.
I don't care if all of this vocabulary of NYC's best bars is made up (it sure sounds made up), I still loved reading it. You can totally tell which places are about the drinks, which are about hospitality, which are bitchy, and which are all about the benjamins.
Sipper: A small pour (typically Mother's Milk) gifted to a colleague, loved one, regular, etc.
Amuse-booze (experimental term): A tiny sipper to acknowledge a guest an reassure them they will be served soon.
The Cousins: Affectionate term for other cocktail bars (after the British secret service's name for the CIA in Le Carre's Smiley novels).
Even if it's fake, it's real.
In a post on his great blog, The Year in Pictures, James Danziger discusses some of the photography featured in a forthcoming book, The Final Four of Everything, including Danziger's own selections for Iconic American Photographs. The Final Four of Everything seems to be a sequel of sorts to The Enlightened Bracketologist by the same authors...or perhaps just the same book with a much better title.
That's a movie poster for Argo, the fake movie that the CIA "made" as a cover for getting six American diplomats out of Iran in 1980. Ben Affleck's Argo, which cements the former prettyboy actor's status as one of the best young American directors, is somewhat loosely based on The Master of Disguise, a book written by the guy Affleck plays in Argo, and a 2007 Wired magazine article by Joshuah Bearman called The Great Escape. Argo is up for several Oscars and is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
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.
Been reading Crabtree with the kids lately and they really like it. Reminds me of Richard Scarry's books a bit...lots of different and often humorous objects to discover on each page.
Alfred Crabtree has lost his false teeth. But don't worry, he'll find them if he can just get his things organized! Alfred's world is cluttered with surprising objects. Some are very uncommon, and some are probably not where they ought to be. There are a lot of pencils and small yapping dogs.
And who knew McSweeney's made children's books?
Ok quiet down, we're going to science right now. (That's right, I verbed "science".) If you take a long chain of beads, put them in a jar, and then throw one end of the bead chain out, the rest of the beads will follow *and* this bead fountain will magically rise up into the air over the lip of the glass.
As the guy's face in the video shows, this is deeply perplexing. For an explanation, slow motion video, and a demonstration of a preposterously high chain fountain, check this video from the NY Times out:
The fountain, said Dr. Biggins, which he had never seen before the video, was "surprisingly complicated." The chain was moving faster than gravity would account for, and they realized that something had to be pushing the chain up from the container in which it was held.
A key to understanding the phenomenon, Dr. Biggins said, is that mathematically, a chain can be thought of as a series of connected rods.
When you pick up one end of a rod, he said, two things happen. One end goes up, and the other end goes down, or tries to. But if the downward force is stopped by the pile of chain beneath it, there is a kind of kickback, and the rod, or link, is pushed upward. That is what makes the chain rise.
A few months ago, the site featured the BMX tricks of Tim Knoll, which were some of the most unusual tricks I'd seen. (That semi trailer limbo!) Tate Roskelley's tricks are even weirder, so much so that they seem more like an artistic statement on tricks than tricks themselves:
I think the "artist's statement" on YouTube is spot on:
Tate's got just about the most original perspective on BMX you can imagine. I think years ago when Jim C said "I just want to see what's possible", Tate took his words at face value. His riding is less about making a statement and more about asking questions. What is a bike trick? What is a street spot? The answers aren't always pretty (I'm sure he isn't going to start riding around with his stem bolts loose full time) but they're always interesting and Tate is always having fun.
About 250 million years ago, Earth suffered its fifth (and worst) mass extinction event. Nearly seventy percent of land species disappeared. And they got off easy compared to marine species. Are we headed for another mass extinction on Earth? I'm not ready to break that news. But something unusual is definitely going on and extinction rates seem to be speeding up. Here's an interesting chat with Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction.
The worst mass extinction of all time came about 250 million years ago [the Permian-Triassic extinction event]. There's a pretty good consensus there that this was caused by a huge volcanic event that went on for a long time and released a lot of carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere. That is pretty ominous considering that we are releasing a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere and people increasingly are drawing parallels between the two events.
Huzzah! Long unavailable (or at least not widely available), Errol Morris' documentary film on Stephen Hawking and his work, A Brief History of Time, is now available for rent or purchase on iTunes. Or if you can wait a little bit, there's a Criterion Blu-ray edition coming out in mid-March. Bonus: score by Philip Glass!
Flappy Bird Space Program is my favorite Flappy Bird riff yet. Instead of maneuvering through pipes, the object is to get as many birds as you can orbiting a tiny planet.
Love how the demise of this game has prompted such a burst of creative exploration of simple game mechanics. Flowers growing in Flappy Bird compost.
After writing The Cat in the Hat in 1955 using only 223 words, Dr. Seuss bet his publisher that he could write a book using only 50 words. Seuss collected on the wager in 1960 with the publication of Green Eggs and Ham. Here are the 50 distinct words used in the book:
a am and anywhere are be boat box car could dark do eat eggs fox goat good green ham here house I if in let like may me mouse not on or rain Sam say see so thank that the them there they train tree try will with would you
From a programming perspective, one of the fun things about Green Eggs and Ham is because the text contains so little information repeated in a cumulative tale, the story could be more efficiently represented as an algorithm. A simple loop would take the place of the following excerpt:
I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam I am.
But I don't know...
foreach ($items as $value) doesn't quite have the same sense of poetry as the original Seuss.
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."
BBC Radio 1 recorded David Attenborough doing nature-style commentary for curling, but the YouTube video isn't available in the US, but luckily there's a copy on LiveLeak:
For the curious, here are the rules of and other assorted information about curling.
Already infamous in Portland, Love was holding court in a booth when she saw Kurt walk by a few minutes before his band was set to appear onstage. Courtney was wearing a red polka-dot dress. "You look like Dave Pirner," she said to him, meaning the remark to sound like a small insult, but also a flirt. Kurt did look a bit like Pirner, the lead singer of Soul Asylum, as his hair had grown long and tangled -- he washed it just once a week, and then only with bar soap. Kurt responded with a flirt of his own: He grabbed Courtney and wrestled her to the ground.
I was listening to some music with the kids the other day and Ollie saw the cover for Nevermind in my iTunes and asked, "hey Daddy, what's that one with the floating baby?" So we played some songs and tried to explain what that album had meant to so many people, but I didn't do it justice. How do you explain culture shifts to kindergarten-age children? "Everything was the same as it was before, except that everything was different. Does that make sense?" In the end, I pulled a power-dad move and said, "I guess you just had to be there." ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
When you get a kidney transplant, they usually just leave your original kidneys in your body and put the 3rd kidney in your pelvis.
IPv6 would allow every atom on the surface of the earth to have its own IP address, with enough spare to do Earth 100+ times.
The Ottoman Empire still existed the last time the Cubs won the World Series.
The United States in World War 2 created a bomb that used bats. The bats would be carrying small incendiary charges and would be released from the bomb in mid air, causing them to fly and scatter to different buildings in the area. The charges would then detonate and set all the buildings on fire. It was tested and proven to be very effective.
Russia is bigger than Pluto. (Surface area of Pluto: 16.7x10^6 km^2; Surface area of Russia: 17.1x10^6 km^2)
If you melted down the Eiffel Tower, the pool of iron would be less than 3 inches deep (in a square area the same dimensions as the tower base).
John Tyler, who became president in 1841, has 2 living grandchildren.
Mammoths were alive when the Great Pyramid was being built.
If an atom was the size of our solar system, a neutrino would be the size of a golfball, to scale.
Humans share 50% of their DNA with... bananas.
That first one still has me shuddering. Also, I have no idea if all of these things are actually true (because internet) but if so, amazing. (via @dunstan)
Hassan Hajjaj's photos of female motorbike enthusiasts from Morocco are fun.
On display at the Taymour Grahne Gallery in NYC through March 7.
Broke down and watched "Room 237". It was bad. Really bad. Boring bad. Crazy people.
Just watch "The Shining" again instead.
I agree. I watched it earlier this year and disliked the film so much, I didn't even finish it, which is rare for me. As I hinted at on Twitter, I'm exposed to enough anti-vaccine, anti-evolution, anti-anthropogenic climate change, anti-science, and religious fundamentalist "theories" in my day-to-day reading that are genuinely harmful to humanity that an examination of how the minds of conspiracy theory crackpots take the smallest little details and weave them into fantastical stories that make no sense is not how I want to spend my time.
As if to underscore my dislike of the film, the following arrived in my inbox shortly after I watched it.
To: Jason Kottke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Prospective Story: Re: Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining"
i'm not good at salesmanship so i'll get right to the point. i've solved the mystery of room 237 in stanley kubrick's 'the shining' i'm shopping this information to various media sources. here's the deal:
*** the price is $13,000.00
*** i'm aware of the documentaries, the scholarly analyses and the terrabytes of web space dedicated to the topic
*** nobody has gottten it right
*** i guarantee satisfaction
*** there's no risk. either you think the solution to the greatest cinematic mystery of all time is worth 13k or you don't. all i require beforehand is a conditional agreement protecting me from ip theft
*** i remain anonymous. once the transaction is complete the information is yours. i don't care who receives credit or what you do with it
it's been over 30 years. this information should be public. YOU can be the first.
i look forward to your response
Putting on my tin foil hat for a minute, DONT YOU SHEEPLE UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS? That someone is watching what I'm watching! How did this person know I had just watched Room 237?! I bet it's the NSA! Or something! They are watching for people with large audiences to plant lies about Kubrick to deflect attention away from the faked Moon landing! For some reason! THIS IS THE PROOF WEVE BEEN WAITING FOR!??
Yep: "Really bad. Boring bad. Crazy people."
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.
Watch Ferrari's F1 pit crew do a pit stop in a bit over two seconds:
I wish this were in slow motion because I've watched this three times now and I still cannot understand how it's done. My favorite part is how calm they all are about it. Here's a longer video that shows the process over and over from several points of view, including from a GoPro mounted on the chest of the wheelgun man:
Watch for the guy on the front jack pirouetting out of the way. I would love to read a long piece on how F1 pit crews train and practice. There are tantalizing bits in shorter articles, like this one from Autosport.com:
With three people per wheel, two jack operators, and a handful of mechanics fulfilling other functions, each pit crew comprises nearly 20 people.
Each is trained for a specific role and teams take their preparation as seriously as drivers', managing crewmen's fitness and diet.
They are drilled incessantly at both the factory and during race weekends, with hundreds of pitstop practices until the process is instinctive.
Although problems such as faulty guns are rehearsed, everyone focuses on their own job -- in a two-second pitstop, there is no time to see what everyone else is doing. By the time an error has been alerted, the car has often already pulled away, as was the case at the Nurburgring.
And this one from the AP:
Teams now spend huge sums to design their own equipment and improve the fitness of their teams who also work as mechanics. McLaren is working with the English Institute of Sport to hone their 24-member team's technique while Williams has partnered with Olympic champion Michael Johnson's Performance Center to work on everything from diet to eye-hand coordination to core strength.
Training has also been ramped up. Most teams have rigs to practice on in the factory and pit stops are practiced as many as 70 times over a typical race weekend. Each stop is timed and videotaped for later review.
"When you had to go from 3.5 seconds down to a lower number, then you really need to be very specific and accurate on how you train because everything needs to be very synchronized to achieve that level of fast time and consistency," said Williams' chief race engineer Xevi Pujolar, whose team had its fastest pit stop this season in Spain after making changes to its crew but still is almost a second behind the top teams.
"There still a lot of room for improvement and we are working hard to catch up to these guys that do close to two seconds," Pujolar said. "If you look at video of pit crew and how they move during pit stop, everything is so well coordinated. To achieve this level of coordination on every pits stop requires a lot of training."
As well as this series about pit stops by Williams on YouTube. (via digg)
I can't stop watching this...watch Imperial AT-AT's attack Olympic mogul skiers on Hoth:
Those skiers are not going to make it past the first marker. (via devour)
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.
The Strange Maps book is out today. The book is based on the awesome Strange Maps blog, one the very few sites I have to exercise restraint in not linking to every single item posted there. The content of the book is adapted from the site, so of course it's top shelf.
My only reservation in recommending the book is the design. When I cracked it open, I was expecting full-bleed reproductions of the maps, large enough to really get a detailed look at them. The maps *are* the book, after all. But that's not the case...only a few of the maps get an entire non-full-bleed page and some of the maps are stuck in the corner of a page of text, like small afterthoughts. The rest of the design is not much better, cheesy at best and distracting at worst. I wasn't expecting Taschen-grade production values, but something more appropriate to the subject matter would have been nice.
You've probably already read this or have at least been urged to read it, but this New Yorker piece by Roger Angell about growing old is lovely, moving, and insightful. Set aside 15 minutes of your day to read it; it's worth it.
"Most of the people my age is dead. You could look it up" was the way Casey Stengel put it. He was seventy-five at the time, and contemporary social scientists might prefer Casey's line delivered at eighty-five now, for accuracy, but the point remains. We geezers carry about a bulging directory of dead husbands or wives, children, parents, lovers, brothers and sisters, dentists and shrinks, office sidekicks, summer neighbors, classmates, and bosses, all once entirely familiar to us and seen as part of the safe landscape of the day. It's no wonder we're a bit bent.
Angell is part of the New Yorker's Great Span: his mother Katharine White worked at the magazine almost from the beginning in 1925, so did his stepfather E.B. White, and Angell himself wrote and edited for every single editor-in-chief the New Yorker has ever had, from founder Harold Ross to current chief David Remnick.
If you're reading this site, you'll probably like watching Charlie Rose interview Bill Murray for nearly an hour. The whole thing is available on Hulu (US only):
The video is recent too: Feb 9, 2014. A clip is available on YouTube...check out that leather vest!
And from a different interview with Murray, we learn that everyone has been drinking champagne incorrectly. Here's the Murray method:
I learned how to drink champagne a while ago. But the way I like to drink champagne is I like to make what we call a Montana Cooler, where you buy a case of champagne and you take all the bottles out, and you take all the cardboard out, and you put a garbage bag inside of it, then you put all the bottles back in and then you cover it with ice, and then you wrap it up and you close it. And that will keep it all cold for a weekend and you can drink every single bottle. And the way I like to drink it in a big pint glass with ice. I fill it with ice and I pour the champagne in it, because champagne can never be too cold. And the problem people have with champagne is they drink it and they crash with it, because the sugar content is so high and you get really dehydrated. But if you can get the ice in it, you can drink it supremely cold and at the same time you're getting the melting ice, so it's like a hydration level, and you can stay at this great level for a whole weekend. You don't want to crash. You want to keep that buzz, that bling, that smile.
Buzz on, you crazy diamond!
From 1977, a video of someone snowboarding on one of the first commercially made boards:
I'm not completely sure who the rider is (probably Dimitrije Milovich), but the board is a Winterstick. A company who owns the Winterstick trademark still makes a version of the split-tail board you see in the video.
From what I can tell, Winterstick was the first modern snowboard company but was quickly eclipsed by rivals Sims and Burton, with Burton emerging in the 1990s as the growing sport's 800 lb gorilla.
Following the film footage of the 1932 Winter Olympics (ice skating on stilts! Keystone Cops ski jumping!), here's a collection of photos from In Focus of the first 12 Winter Games, from 1924 to 1976.
The other day, Bill Nye debated Ken Ham about evolution and creationism. At the event, Matt Stopera asked self-identifying creationists to write question/notes to those who "believe" in evolution. Here's one:
Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy responded to each of the 22 notes/questions from the creationists. Here's his answer to the comment above:
I agree; it is amazing! I've written about this many times. But we know that complexity can arise naturally through the laws of physics. It doesn't take very complex rules to create huge diversity. Look at poker; a simple set of rules creates a game that has so many combinations it's essentially infinite to human experience. We can figure out the rules of nature by studying the way processes follow them, and deduce what's going on behind the scenes. And whenever we do, we see science.
This makes me think of Richard Feynman's ode to the scientific beauty of a flower:
I have a friend who's an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don't agree with very well. He'll hold up a flower and say "look how beautiful it is," and I'll agree. Then he says "I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing," and I think that he's kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is ... I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it's not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there's also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don't understand how it subtracts.
There are too many camels in the Bible. Evidence suggests they were domesticated in Israel centuries after the events in Genesis took place.
Camels probably had little or no role in the lives of such early Jewish patriarchs as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who lived in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and yet stories about them mention these domesticated pack animals more than 20 times. Genesis 24, for example, tells of Abraham's servant going by camel on a mission to find a wife for Isaac.
These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history. These camel stories "do not encapsulate memories from the second millennium," said Noam Mizrahi, an Israeli biblical scholar, "but should be viewed as back-projections from a much later period."
Dr. Mizrahi likened the practice to a historical account of medieval events that veers off to a description of "how people in the Middle Ages used semitrailers in order to transport goods from one European kingdom to another."
Update: Added "in Israel" to clarify the camel domestication timeline...they were domesticated much earlier in the Arabian Peninsula.
Archaeologists have established that camels were probably domesticated in the Arabian Peninsula for use as pack animals sometime towards the end of the 2nd millennium BCE. In the southern Levant, where Israel is located, the oldest known domesticated camel bones are from the Aravah Valley, which runs along the Israeli-Jordanian border from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea and was an ancient center of copper production. At a 2009 dig, Dr. Ben-Yosef dated an Aravah Valley copper smelting camp where the domesticated camel bones were found to the 11th to 9th century BCE.
Soundboart is a Beyonce soundboard. I must have pushed the AH-AH-AH button a thousand times until I discovered the SURFBOARDT button.
Every year, a bunch of folks play a game called Last Man, in which the participants attempt to be the last person to find out the result of the Super Bowl. TLDR did an entertaining podcast on this year's contestants.
The Truman Show delusion is how some psychiatrists are describing the condition of psychotic patients who believe they are filmed stars of reality TV programs.
Another patient traveled to New York City and showed up at a federal building in downtown Manhattan seeking asylum so he could get off his reality show, Dr. Gold said. The patient reported that he also came to New York to see if the Twin Towers were still standing, because he believed that seeing their destruction on Sept. 11 on television was part of his reality show. If they were still standing, he said, then he would know that the terrorist attack was all part of the script.
As for the movie itself, for all its popularity and critical success when released, it's little-remembered today. And unfairly so; the "realness" about our increasingly mediated lives remains a hot topic of debate.
Raffi Khatchadourian's long piece on the construction of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is at once fascinating (for science reasons) and depressing (for political/bureaucratic reasons). Fusion reactors hold incredible promise:
But if it is truly possible to bottle up a star, and to do so economically, the technology could solve the world's energy problems for the next thirty million years, and help save the planet from environmental catastrophe. Hydrogen, a primordial element, is the most abundant atom in the universe, a potential fuel that poses little risk of scarcity. Eventually, physicists hope, commercial reactors modelled on iter will be built, too-generating terawatts of power with no carbon, virtually no pollution, and scant radioactive waste. The reactor would run on no more than seawater and lithium. It would never melt down. It would realize a yearning, as old as the story of Prometheus, to bring the light of the heavens to Earth, and bend it to humanity's will. iter, in Latin, means "the way."
But ITER is a collaborative effort between 35 different countries, which means the project is political, slow, and expensive.
For the machine's creators, this process-sparking and controlling a self-sustaining synthetic star-will be the culmination of decades of preparation, billions of dollars' worth of investment, and immeasurable ingenuity, misdirection, recalibration, infighting, heartache, and ridicule. Few engineering feats can compare, in scale, in technical complexity, in ambition or hubris. Even the iter organization, a makeshift scientific United Nations, assembled eight years ago to construct the machine, is unprecedented. Thirty-five countries, representing more than half the world's population, are invested in the project, which is so complex to finance that it requires its own currency: the iter Unit of Account.
No one knows iter's true cost, which may be incalculable, but estimates have been rising steadily, and a conservative figure rests at twenty billion dollars -- a sum that makes iter the most expensive scientific instrument on Earth.
I wonder what the project would look like if, say, Google or Apple were to take the reins instead. In that context, it's only $20 billion to build a tiny Sun on the Earth. Facebook just paid $19 billion for WhatsApp, Apple has a whopping $158.8 billion in cash, and Google & Microsoft both have more than $50 billion in cash. Google in particular, which is making a self-driving car and has been buying up robots by the company-full recently, might want their own tiny star.
But back to reality, the circumstances of ITER's international construction consortium reminded me of the building of The Machine in Carl Sagan's Contact. In the book, the countries of the world work together to make a machine of unknown function from plans beamed to them from an alien intelligence, which results in the development of several new lucrative life-enhancing technologies and generally unites humanity. In Sagan's view, that's the power of science. Hopefully the ITER can work through its difficulties to achieve something similar.
A beautifully shot short film about mountains, how they form, how they age, and how they die.
In his own words, Wes Anderson explains different aspects of his visual style.
Nicely edited together by Nelson Carvajal at Way Too Indie.
And if you want a sense of how weird, and how fraught, the relationship between science, politics, and commerce is in our modern world, then there's really no better place to go.
In The Daily Beast Michael Schulson provides a alternate view on Whole Foods: America's Temple of Pseudoscience. (The first time I read this, I nearly spit out my probiotic-infused kombucha, kale, quinoa, coconut water shake.)
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.
Shopping in a supermarket can be visually overwhelming. Designer Mehmet Gozetlik took the packaging of some well-known brands and simplified them (part two). It's interesting how some of these work and some don't. Duracell works really well because the batteries themselves still carry most of the branding:
The simplified branding of Guinness and Evian works pretty well too...the packaging is itself iconic and distinctive enough to carry them. The Pringles and Red Bull are missing something, but in almost all cases, I like one of the simplified options more than the original. (via @dunstan)
For BEAT magazine, Gary Card drew an illustration of every hairstyle worn by Prince since 1978.
While they still represent a small overall number, the popularity in the US of naming children after guns (Colt, Remington, Ruger, Gunner, Beretta) is up in recent years.
In 2002, only 194 babies were named Colt, while in 2012 there were 955. Just 185 babies were given the name Remington in 2002, but by 2012 the number had jumped to 666. Perhaps the most surprising of all, however, is a jump in the name Ruger's (America's leading firearm manufacturer) from just 23 in 2002 to 118 in 2012. "This name [Ruger] is more evidence of parents' increasing interest in naming children after firearms," Wattenberg writes. "Colt, Remington, and Gauge have all soared, and Gunner is much more common than the traditional name Gunnar."
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.
People had assumed that the name of the secretive creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, was a pseudonym designed to protect his anonymity. Newsweek's Leah McGrath Goodman tracked down a man who could be the Bitcoin founder and discovered that his real name is...Satoshi Nakamoto.
Two police officers from the Temple City, Calif., sheriff's department flank him, looking puzzled. "So, what is it you want to ask this man about?" one of them asks me. "He thinks if he talks to you he's going to get into trouble."
"I don't think he's in any trouble," I say. "I would like to ask him about Bitcoin. This man is Satoshi Nakamoto."
"What?" The police officer balks. "This is the guy who created Bitcoin? It looks like he's living a pretty humble life."
I'd come here to try to find out more about Nakamoto and his humble life. It seemed ludicrous that the man credited with inventing Bitcoin - the world's most wildly successful digital currency, with transactions of nearly $500 million a day at its peak - would retreat to Los Angeles's San Bernardino foothills, hole up in the family home and leave his estimated $400 million of Bitcoin riches untouched. It seemed similarly implausible that Nakamoto's first response to my knocking at his door would be to call the cops. Now face to face, with two police officers as witnesses, Nakamoto's responses to my questions about Bitcoin were careful but revealing.
Tacitly acknowledging his role in the Bitcoin project, he looks down, staring at the pavement and categorically refuses to answer questions.
"I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it," he says, dismissing all further queries with a swat of his left hand. "It's been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection."
Nice bit of sleuthing by Goodman. But given the interest around Bitcoin, it's amazing that it took this long, even with Nakamoto's first name change.
Update: The subject of Newsweek's story now denies he was the creator of Bitcoin.
One of the most difficult things to get right in movies about aliens or the future is matching the cultural and technological sophistication of a people with their environment and history. In Avatar, the Na'vi are portrayed as a Stone Age tribe, living in relatively small groups and essentially ignorant or uninterested in technology beyond simple knives and bows. But the Na'vi are also very physically capable, obviously very intelligent, aware of their global environment, well-nourished, healthy, omnivorous, adaptive, and even inventive. They have domesticated animals, are troubled by few serious natural predators, can live in different environments, have easy access to many varied natural resources (for sustenance and building/making), and can travel and therefore communicate over long distances (dozens if not hundreds of miles a day on their winged animals).
And most importantly, the Na'vi have regular and intimate access to a moon-sized supercomputer -- a neural net supercomputer at that -- that connects them to every other living thing on their world and have had such access for what could be millennia.
It just doesn't add up. The Na'vi are too capable and live in an environment that is far too pregnant with technological possibility to be stuck in the Stone Age. Plot-wise it's convenient for them to be the way they are, but the Na'vi really should have been more technologically advanced than the Earthlings, not only capable of easily repelling any attack from Captain Ironpants but able to keep the mining company from landing on the moon in the first place.
It's only around 30 seconds long, but this video showing a standard web maps interface paired with satellite video is pretty mindblowing:
This quick shot by Skybox's SkySat-1 shows multiple planes landing at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) airport in Beijing on December 30, 2013. You can easily see a large plane landing on the runway at right. Using the video's timestamp and public flight logs, Bruno identified this plane as Air China Limited flight 1310, a wide-body Airbus 330 flying from Guangzhou to Beijing. Operating as a codeshare, that flight was also listed as Shenzhen Airlines 1310, United Airlines 7564, SAS 9510, Austrian 8010 and Lufthansa 7283.
I remember when satellite photography first became available in online maps; this feels similarly jawdropping. Gonna be more difficult to stitch video together into seamless interfaces than still images, but once it happens, it'll prove quite useful.
Every day on Earth, an estimated 371,124 people are born and 154,995 people die. When you ask Wolfram Alpha about these rates, the scientifically inclined site returns a curious corresponding quantity: the frequency in hertz (aka the number of cycles/second in a periodic occurrence).
Measurement in hertz is an unusual way to think about living and dying; hertz are typically reserved for things like human-audible sound frequencies (20 to 16,000 Hz), how fast your laptop's CPU runs (1 to 4 Ghz), or the frequency of the power running into your house (50 to 60 Hz). But if you subtract the death rate from the birth rate, you get a net rate of 216,129 new people a day, or about 2.5 Hz. That's the frequency of humanity. While that's a lot slower than your computer, it's in the same frequency ballpark as a human's resting heart rate (1.3 Hz), steps taken while walking briskly (1.8 Hz), or moderately energetic dance music (2.25 Hz).
Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, which has been influential in both halls of business and hip-hop circles, has written a new book with rapper 50 Cent called The 50th Law. Greene was initially skeptical of 50 Cent as a co-author but was impressed by their initial meeting.
He was in the midst of a power struggle with a rival rapper and he talked quite openly about the strategies he was employing, including mistakes he had made along the way. He analyzed his own actions with detachment, as if he were talking about another person. Over the last few years he had witnessed a lot of nasty maneuvering within the music business, and he seemed to want to discuss this with somebody from the outside. He was not interested in myths but reality. Contrary to his public persona, he had a Zen-like calmness that impressed me.
The main theme of the book is about fear and "the reverse power that you can obtain by overcoming [it]".
We found stories from his own life that would illustrate these ideas, many of them culled from his days as a hustler and even highlighting mistakes along the way that taught him valuable lessons. Later, from my own research, I would bring in examples from other historical figures who exemplified this trait. Many of them would be African Americans--Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, Miles Davis, Malcolm X, Hurricane Carter, et al--whose fearless quality was forged by their harsh struggles against racism. Others would come from all periods and cultures--the Stoics, Joan of Arc, JFK, Leonardo da Vinci, Mao tse-tung, and so on.
I needed a good laugh this week and this news report from The Onion about how the Olympic Village in Sochi was built with the athletes' sexual activities in mind was an LOL machine. NSFW.
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