Taking inspiration from the opening sequence of Contact, lightyear.fm is a musical journey away from the Earth. As you get farther out (say, 10 light years away, just past star Ross 154 in the constellation of Sagittarius), you hear music that was broadcast on the radio at that time (Gold Digger by Kanye West).
Radio broadcasts leave Earth at the speed of light. Scroll away from Earth and hear how far the biggest hits of the past have travelled. The farther away you get, the longer the waves take to travel there -- and the older the music you'll hear.
This is the coolest.
If you divide 1 by 999,999,999,999,999,999,999,998,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999 (that's 999 quattuordecillion btw), the Fibonacci sequence neatly pops out. MATH FTW!
At the end of Carl Sagan's Contact (spoilers!), the aliens give Ellie a hint about something hidden deep in the digits of π. After a long search, a circle made from a sequence of 1s and 0s is found, providing evidence that intelligence was built into the fabric of the Universe. I don't know if this Fibonacci division thing is on quite the same level, but it might bake your noodle if you think about it too hard. (via @stevenstrogatz)
Update: From svat at Hacker News, an explanation of the magic behind the math.
It's actually easier to understand if you work backwards and arrive at the expression yourself, by asking yourself: "If I wanted the number that starts like 0.0...000 0...001 0...001 0...002 0...003 0...005 0...008 ... (with each block being 24 digits long), how would I express that number?"
This video was shot in NYC on July 18, 1990, mostly in Times Square and Central Park.
The first 30 seconds of the video (stumbling drunk, trash digger, overheating car) is pretty much a perfect representation of how NYC felt to many at the time. A squeegee man can also been seen at work near the end of the video.
I went to the beach yesterday and it was the best thing ever. But today is slightly less great because my back is sunburned. I stupidly didn't reapply after swimming. I need to do better. Shannon Palus of The Sweethome recently surveyed the sunscreen landscape and picked the best sunscreen: NO-AD Sport SPF 50.
At 56 cents per ounce, the NO-AD sunscreens cost half as much as their closest competitors. We liked this one best because it has no added fragrance, is water resistant, and consistently placed among the top three during blind application tests by our six-person panel.
But the main takeaway from the article is that people aren't using enough sunscreen. We don't apply it liberally enough nor do we reapply as often as you should.
Related: how to identify and avoid rip currents at the beach so you don't die.
Update: On the other hand, EWG's Guide to Sunscreens rates the NO-AD Sport very poorly, mainly because of chemicals that "pose a HIGH health concern". They recommend buying something like Coola Classic Sport SPF 50 or Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30 instead. The Sweethome review addresses such chemicals, saying that protection from the Sun is much more important:
If you are using a sunscreen that is paraben- or oxybenzone-free because you're concerned about these chemicals, stop letting those be a factor in your decision-making. As we'll explain in our ingredients section, there's far too much alarm out there about the supposed harm sunscreens will do to you if you apply it to your skin. We will work through all the reasons why you shouldn't be worried below. You should be much more worried about the sun exposure that can result from poor and infrequent application.
A couple of years ago, I bought a sunscreen listed on EWG's guide. It was expensive, gross-feeling, and difficult to use...the bottle actually ended up breaking with about 1/3 of the contents still trapped inside. The Sweethome review hits on something that seems superficial but is really important: buying sunscreen that works, is affordable (so you will actually reapply), and that you'll actually use is essential. Buying a more expensive sunscreen with fewer potentially harmful chemicals that feels gross, smells weird, and doesn't make you want to reapply is going to result in skin damage that will far exceed any potential damage done by chemicals. (thx, brian & tom)
For the first time since 2005, Pixar didn't release a movie last year but are doubling up this year with Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur. Here's the trailer for The Good Dinosaur, which looks like much more of a just-for-kids movie than Inside Out.
Chris Umson is the Director of Self-Driving Cars at Google[x] and in March, he gave a talk at TED about the company's self-driving cars. The second half of the presentation is fascinating; Umson shows more than a dozen different traffic scenarios and how the car sees and reacts to each one.
It will be interesting to see how roads, cars, and our behavior will change when self-driving cars hit the streets. Right now, street markings, signage, and automobiles are designed for how human drivers see the world. Computers see the road quite differently, and if Google's take on the self-driving car becomes popular, it would be wise to adopt different standards to help them navigate more smoothly. Maintaining painted lines might be more important, along with eliminating superfluous signage close to the roadway. Maybe human-driven cars would be required to display a special marking alerting self-driving cars to potential hazards.1 Positioning of headlights and taillights might become more standard.
Human drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians will necessarily adapt to self-driving cars as well. Some will take advantage of the cars' politeness. But mostly I suspect that learning to interact with self-driving cars will require a different approach, just as people talk to computers differently than they do to other humans -- think of how you formulate a successful search query, speak to Siri, or, more to the point, manipulate a Wii remote so the sensor dingus on top of your TV can interpret what you're doing.
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.
No hunger. No pollution. No disease. Wired's Amy Maxmen welcomes you to the age of copy and paste DNA editing and the end of life as we know it.
Genome editing started with just a few big labs putting in lots of effort, trying something 1,000 times for one or two successes. Now it's something that someone with a BS and a couple thousand dollars' worth of equipment can do. What was impractical is now almost everyday. That's a big deal.
[I recently listened to Radiolab's show on Crispr. Recommended. -jkottke]
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I had no idea Ol' Dirty Bastard and medieval paintings had something in common. One of ODB's AKAs was also the reason why babies in medieval paintings looked like ugly middle-aged men: Big Baby Jesus.
I mean, this baby looks like he wants to tell you that a boat is just a money pit.
That's it. That's the joke.
The Met recently cleaned and repaired a 1660 painting by Charles Le Brun called Everhard Jabach and His Family. It took ten months of painstaking work, as this video shows:
Colossal has some before-and-after shots of the painting.
Casper Christensen cut together footage from dozens of movie car chases into one big coherent chase. Well, as coherent as you can get when you're dealing with car chases.
There's some fun and clever editing in here...I particularly enjoyed the stitching together of Indiana Jones and Axel Foley. And I loved the brief clip of C'était un rendez-vous, which if you haven't seen it, is a quick and thrilling watch.
Clips of Peggy Olsen from Mad Men set to Drake's Started From the Bottom.
(via av club)
CERN's LHC (Large Hadron Collider) has discovered a new subatomic particle, the pentaquark.
"The pentaquark is not just any new particle," said LHCb spokesperson Guy Wilkinson. "It represents a way to aggregate quarks, namely the fundamental constituents of ordinary protons and neutrons, in a pattern that has never been observed before in over fifty years of experimental searches. Studying its properties may allow us to understand better how ordinary matter, the protons and neutrons from which we're all made, is constituted."
Here's the paper, with more than 680 authors. Between New Horizons zipping past Pluto earlier today (look at this pic!) and this, what a day for science.
Photographer Clayton Cubitt started a project in 2012 called Hysterical Literature. In each of the project's resulting videos, a female participant is filmed from the waist up reading a story of her choosing while she is stimulated to orgasm with a vibrator by Cubitt's partner, Katie James. His first subject was adult film star Stoya; her thoughts on the experience are here.
Vanity Fair recently sent writer Tony Bentley to participate in an HL session. Her reading choice? The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James.
With Katie now in position under the table, takeoff is imminent and the stakes are high: the sessions are a one-shot deal, no retakes, and no editing of the footage after the fact. It was not lost on me that a perfect triangulation between Clayton (auteur, cameraman), Katie (Hitachi artist), and me (the canvas) was in play, and it mirrored my internal mixture of curiosity, exhilaration, and stage fright. I couldn't help wondering if this adventure qualified as having a threesome with two strangers. But soon enough such intellectualizing sexualizing was rendered naught.
"Rolling," says Clayton, and everything instantly disappeared except the book in my hands and the words on the page. The world was out and I was on.
By the time I'd read two pages, I was struggling mightily to keep my countenance. "She spent half her time in thinking of beauty, bravery and mag-nan-nnn-im-im-ity..."
There's no nudity in the videos, but you might still find them NSFW.
The New Yorker did a short feature on Charlie Pellett, the voice of the NYC subway.
This deep, sometimes vexing voice -- which also apologizes for "unavoidable delays" -- belongs to a man named Charlie Pellett. A radio anchor for Bloomberg News, Pellett was raised in London but cultivated an American accent by listening to the radio. His work for the M.T.A., which is done on a volunteer basis, is the only non-reporting voice-over work that he's done.
When they were launched in 1977, the two Voyager spacecraft each carried with them a 12-inch gold-plated copper record containing images and sounds of Earth for the viewing pleasure of whichever aliens happened across them. NASA has put the sounds of the Golden Record up on Soundcloud. Here are the greetings in 55 different languages (from English1 to Hittite to Polish to Thai):
And the sounds of Earth (wild dogs, Morse code, trains):
What's missing from the two playlists is UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim's greeting:
...as well as several other UN greetings overlaid with whale sounds:
Due to copyright issues, also missing are the 90 minutes of music included on the record. Among the songs are Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry, The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky, and Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground by Blind Willie Johnson. Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles was originally supposed to be included, but their record company wouldn't allow it, which is pretty much the most small-minded thing I have ever heard.
Prosopagnosia is a disorder where you're unable to recognize faces. Neurologist Oliver Sacks and artist Chuck Close are both face-blind. This is a really interesting interview with a woman who suffers from prosopagnosia so completely that she cannot recognize her own daughter or even herself (sometimes).
The researchers concluded that I'm profoundly face-blind. One thing I find very difficult to get across is that it's not as if I can't recognize anybody at all -- it's that it can take me up to five minutes before I can figure out who they are. I have to wait for the signs. The other thing I have discovered is that there is a specific expression people have when they see somebody they know.
I call it the "I know you face" -- it's sort of a surprised micro expression. I'm convinced that it's completely involuntary. It looks a little like surprise. The eyebrows go up, and usually the mouth opens like they're about to say something. When I see it, I say hello, and then when I start interacting with them, I'll remember who they are. That's just one of a whole set of observational skills I've developed. Another is when I'm meeting somebody in public, I'll arrive early so they'll approach me.
I'm always looking for visual hooks. My daughter has a particular thing she does with her mouth. If there's several people who could be her, I look for the mouth thing. If she's nervous, or she's irritated, one side of her mouth goes up. She's done it since she was a baby. She doesn't like having her photograph taken, so when I look at a group photo, I look for the kid with the smirk and I know it's my daughter.
But her face-blindness is sometimes an advantage:
I'm also a very good listener because the tone of voice and body language are what I always pay attention to. I'm good at calming people down, because I can tell when they're starting to freak out.
And she's also less quick to notice things like race or gender:
When I worked at a homeless shelter, I was often praised for the way I interacted with my African-American clients. I couldn't figure out what I was doing differently from the other white workers, but I was allowed into their circle and they bonded with me. When we lived in Louisiana, I was always being asked by African-American women if my husband was black.
When I was tested at Dartmouth, I scored low on unconscious racism. Apparently babies show a preference for their own race at about nine months because that's when they start being able to recognize faces. My head doesn't do this.
Former convicts Roby So and Carlos Cervantes pick up inmates on the day they get released from prison to help ease their reentry into society.
By now, Carlos and Roby -- officially, A.R.C.'s Ride Home Program -- have done about three dozen pickups, either together or individually, waking up long before dawn and driving for hours toward prison towns deep in the desert or up the coast. Then they spend all day with the guy (so far they've picked up only men), taking him to eat, buying him some clothes, advising him, swapping stories, dialing his family on their cellphones or astonishing him by magically calling up Facebook pictures of nieces and nephews he's never met -- or just sitting quietly, to let him depressurize. The conversation with those shellshocked total strangers doesn't always flow, Roby told me. It helps to have a wingman.
"The first day is everything," Carlos says -- a barrage of insignificant-seeming experiences with potentially big consequences. Consider, for example, a friend of his and Roby's: Julio Acosta, who was paroled in 2013 after 23 years inside. Acosta describes stopping for breakfast near the prison that first morning as if it were a horrifying fever dream: He kept looking around the restaurant for a sniper, as in the chow hall in prison, and couldn't stop gawking at the metal knives and forks, "like an Aztec looking at Cortez's helmet," he says. It wasn't until he got up from the booth and walked to the men's room, and a man came out the door and said, "How you doin'?" and Acosta said, "Fine," that Acosta began to feel, even slightly, like a legitimate part of the environment around him. He'd accomplished something. He'd made a treacherous trip across an International House of Pancakes. He'd peed.
Using images found on the internet through Google's visually similar images feature, NASA, U.S. Geological Survey, and various mapping services, Kelli Anderson recreated part of the Eames' iconic Powers of Ten as a flipbook. Watch a video here:
Or play around with a virtual flipbook at Anderson's site. This could not possibly be anymore in my wheelhouse. Here's the nitty gritty on how she made it happen.
The inspiration for making discontinuous-bits-of-culture into something continuous goes back to 2011. Some of my friends camped out on a sidewalk to see Christian Marclay's The Clock. Like a loser with a deadline, I missed out-only catching it years later at MoMA. In the day-long film, Marclay recreates each minute of the 24-hour day using clips from films featuring the current time-on a clock or watch. It runs in perfect synchronization with the audience's day (so: while a museum crowd slumps sleepily in their chairs at 6am, starlets hit snooze on the clocks onscreen.)
In the mid-90s, Stewart Brand published a fantastic book called How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built.
Buildings have often been studies whole in space, but never before have they been studied whole in time. How Buildings Learn is a masterful new synthesis that proposes that buildings adapt best when constantly refined and reshaped by their occupants, and that architects can mature from being artists of space to becoming artists of time.
From the connected farmhouses of New England to I.M. Pei's Media Lab, from "satisficing" to "form follows funding," from the evolution of bungalows to the invention of Santa Fe Style, from Low Road military surplus buildings to a High Road English classic like Chatsworth-this is a far-ranging survey of unexplored essential territory.
In 1997, Brand and the BBC did a six-part TV series based on the book. Brand has put the series on his YouTube channel; here's the first part to get you going:
(via open culture)
Most everyone in the United States swears, but the specific words used vary by region. For example, "fuck" is popular in California but not so much in Oklahoma, which is the "crap" epicenter of America. "Motherfucker" is unusually popular in Maine, as is "shit" in the Southeast, "douche" in Iowa, and "fuckboy" in Jersey.
Eater's Nick Solares accompanies the proprietor of Peter Luger Steakhouse to one of the few remaining butchers in the Meatpacking District1 to see how she selects meat for the restaurant.
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.
While the members of On A Friday, the band that later became Radiohead, were on a break as they attended college, Thom Yorke was a member of a band called Headless Chickens. This is a video of a circa-1989 performance by the band of "High and Dry", a song that later on Radiohead's second album, The Bends, released in 1995.
From the August 1968 issue of Computers and Automation magazine, the results of their Sixth Annual Computer Art Contest (flip to page 8).
It's also worth paging through the rest of the magazine just for the ads.
Update: Looks like The Verge saw this post and did a followup on the history of the Computer Art Contest.
In any given issue, Computers and Automation devoted equal time to the latest methods of database storage and grand questions about the future of their "great instrument," but the Computer Art Contest was soon a regular event. A look back through old issues of the journal (available at Internet Archive) shows how the fledgling discipline of computer art rapidly evolved. At the time, computers were specialized tools, most commonly used by individuals working in research labs, academia, or the military -- and this heritage shows. Both the first and second prizes for the inaugural 1963 competition went to designs generated at the same military lab.
In Pitchfork, Susan Shepard writes about how Magic Mike XXL uses strip club music to full advantage.
MMXXL functions more like a musical in that it uses the dance sequences deliberately to advance the plot; Mike doesn't talk about wanting to get the band back together, he dances about it when "Pony" comes on in his workshop. Big Dick Richie finds the heart of his stripper character dancing to "I Want It That Way". Malik challenges Mike to "Sex You". And ultimately, they all find out something about themselves when they create new routines to new songs for the finale. It could transition seamlessly to the stage. They're even already acting out the lyrics, which are for the most part of "this is what I want to do to you" tradition of R&B.
The film gets at the heart of strip club culture with its scenes at Domina, the exclusive club run by Mike's former lover and working partner, Rome. All the best strip club ideas come from black clubs, specifically those in the South. Every good innovation in strip club dancing, music, and costume styles started in Atlanta or Houston or Miami clubs. The way the Florida dancers feel when they walk in and see Augustus, Andre, and Malik outdance and outperform them is exactly what it feels like to walk into Magic City from the Cheetah. Here is the future, here is how far behind it you are with your fireman routines and Kiss songs.
Having never been to a strip club in my entire life (WHAT?!! I know! I know!), I had no idea that Nine Inch Nails' Closer was a strip club staple.
My very first stage performance was to the Revolting Cocks' version of "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" and Nine Inch Nails' "Closer", about a month after it had come out. It is one of those songs strippers fight over performing to because it's that good and gets such a crowd response. "Closer" might as well be strip club furniture.
But it makes sense. Closer is one of the catchiest pop songs ever made. Shortly after it came out, I remember going to an on-campus party at which a friend of mine was DJing. He was playing mostly dance music -- some club, some top 40ish, and some electronica -- but threw on Closer for the benefit of a friend of ours who was a big industrial and NIN fan. Everyone loved it and got out onto the dance floor: the jocks, the ravers, the sorority girls, the physics club geeks. Our friend wasn't too happy about it though. Somehow, Nine Inch Nails now belonged to everyone. Cultural appropriation is a biiii....
The Iron Giant has been remastered and burnished with a pair of extra scenes for a re-release in US theaters scheduled for the end of September.
Warner Bros. and Fathom Events are teaming up to bring The Iron Giant back to life. The beloved 1999 animated film is being remastered and augmented with new footage, and it's coming to select American theatres as what the studio's calling the "Signature Edition" on September 30th. There'll also be an encore presentation in select theatres a few days later on October 4th.
The movie earned a respectable $23 million at the box office and critical acclaim, but failed to recoup its $70 million production budget. After reading a bunch of positive reviews, including one from my cinematic divining rod Roger Ebert, I was one of the brave few souls to see The Iron Giant in the theater. Hope to catch it again in September. (via @anildash)
The Waffle House Index is an informal metric used by FEMA administrator Craig Fugate to evaluate how bad a storm is. Basically, whether the Waffle House in town is open or serving a limited menu can tell you something about how bad the storm was and how much recovery assistance is necessary.
If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That's really bad. That's where you go to work.
See also The Economist's Big Mac Index and other odd economic indicators. (via @naveen)
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.
Hold onto your butts, gang... I just found out, via Pixar's Michael B. Johnson, that the 3D file manager that Lex uses in Jurassic Park -- "It's a Unix system, I know this" -- was a real thing. FSN (File System Navigator) was a demo tool for Silicon Graphics' IRIX operating system that you could download from their web site.
P.S. In that same thread, Johnson shares that his office was the inspiration for Dennis Nedry's work area.
Pixar: The Design of Story is an upcoming exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum here in NYC.
Through concept art from films such as Toy Story, Wall-E, Up, Brave, The Incredibles and Cars, among others, the exhibition will focus on Pixar's process of iteration, collaboration and research, and is organized into three key design principles: story, believability and appeal. The exhibition will be on view in the museum's immersive Process Lab -- an interactive space that was launched with the transformed Cooper Hewitt in December 2014 -- whose rotating exhibitions engage visitors with activities that focus on the design process, emphasizing the role of experimentation in design thinking and making.
More details are available in the press release. Definitely going to check this out and take the kids.
James Hansen, NASA's former top climate scientist, is joined by 16 other leading climate scientists in a paper with some alarming conclusions. The gist is that the glaciers in Antartica and Greenland are melting so much faster than previously predicted that the global sea level will rise more than 10 feet in as little as 50 years, rendering many coastal cities uninhabitable. From Eric Holthaus in Slate:
The study -- written by James Hansen, NASA's former lead climate scientist, and 16 co-authors, many of whom are considered among the top in their fields -- concludes that glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt 10 times faster than previous consensus estimates, resulting in sea level rise of at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years. The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, brings new importance to a feedback loop in the ocean near Antarctica that results in cooler freshwater from melting glaciers forcing warmer, saltier water underneath the ice sheets, speeding up the melting rate. Hansen, who is known for being alarmist and also right, acknowledges that his study implies change far beyond previous consensus estimates. In a conference call with reporters, he said he hoped the new findings would be "substantially more persuasive than anything previously published." I certainly find them to be.
That's the thing about nonlinear systems like the Earth's climate: things happen gradually, then suddenly. This is much more terrifying to me than the Pacific Northwest earthquake. BTW, as a reminder, here's what NYC and the surrounding area looks like with 10 more feet of water. Goodbye JFK Airport.
Update: The paper is now available online.
Update: In the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert provides a bit more explanation and context about Hansen's paper.
What the new paper does is look back at a previous relatively warm period, known as the Eemian, or, even less melodically, as Marine Isotope Stage 5e, which took place before the last ice age, about a hundred and twenty thousand years ago. During the Eemian, average global temperatures seem to have been only about one degree Celsius above today's, but sea levels were several metres higher. The explanation for this, the new paper suggests, is that melt from Antarctica is a non-linear process. Its rate accelerates as fresh water spills off the ice sheet, producing a sort of "lid" that keeps heat locked in the ocean and helps to melt more ice from below. From this, the authors conclude that "rapid sea level rise may begin sooner than is generally assumed," and also that a temperature increase of two degrees Celsius would put the world well beyond "danger."
"We conclude that the 2°C global warming 'guardrail,' affirmed in the Copenhagen Accord, does not provide safety, as such warming would likely yield sea level rise of several metres along with numerous other severely disruptive consequences for human society and ecosystems," Hansen and his colleagues wrote.
Unlike the Earth, Mars and the Moon don't have strong directional magnetic fields, which means traditional compasses don't work. So how did the Apollo rovers and current Mars rovers navigate their way around? By using manually set directional gyroscope and wheel odometers.
While current un-crewed rovers don't have to return to the comfort of a lunar module, some aspects of the Apollo systems live on in their design. Four U.S. Martian rovers have used wheel odometers that account for slippage to calculate distance traveled. They've also employed gyroscopes (in the form of an inertial measurement units) to determine heading and pitch/roll information.
One of the fun things about reading The Martian is you get to learn a little bit about this sort of thing. Here's a passage about navigation on Mars where astronaut Mark Watney is trying to get to a landmark several days' drive away.
Navigation is tricky.
The Hab's nav beacon only reaches 40 kilometers, so it's useless to me out here. I knew that'd be an issue when I was planning this little road trip, so I came up with a brilliant plan that didn't work.
The computer has detailed maps, so I figured I could navigate by landmarks. I was wrong. Turns out you can't navigate by landmarks if you can't find any god damned landmarks.
Our landing site is at the delta of a long-gone river . NASA chose it because if there are any microscopic fossils to be had, it's a good place to look. Also, the water would have dragged rock and soil samples from thousands of kilometers away. With some digging, we could get a broad geological history.
That's great for science, but it means the Hab's in a featureless wasteland.
I considered making a compass. The rover has plenty of electricity, and the med kit has a needle. Only one problem: Mars doesn't have a magnetic field.
So I navigate by Phobos. It whips around Mars so fast it actually rises and sets twice a day, running west to east. It isn't the most accurate system, but it works.
I wonder why the rovers in the story weren't outfitted with directional gyroscopes and wheel odometers? (See also the operations manual for the lunar rovers.) (via @JaredCrookston)
Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children, from Jane Brody in the NY Times:
Parents, grateful for ways to calm disruptive children and keep them from interrupting their own screen activities, seem to be unaware of the potential harm from so much time spent in the virtual world.
In reply, John Hermann writing at The Awl:
The grandparent who is persuaded that screens are not destroying human interaction, but are instead new tools for enabling fresh and flawed and modes of human interaction, is left facing a grimmer reality. Your grandchildren don't look up from their phones because the experiences and friendships they enjoy there seem more interesting than what's in front of them (you). Those experiences, from the outside, seem insultingly lame: text notifications, Emoji, selfies of other bratty little kids you've never met. But they're urgent and real. What's different is that they're also right here, always, even when you thought you had an attentional claim. The moments of social captivity that gave parents power, or that gave grandparents precious access, are now compromised. The TV doesn't turn off. The friends never go home. The grandkids can do the things they really want to be doing whenever they want, even while they're sitting five feet away from grandma, alone, in a moving soundproof pod.
As a writer for screens, someone who spends a tremendous amount of time each day staring at screens, and an involved parent of two grade-schoolers, this is precisely where my professional and personal lives meet, so I've done a bit of thinking about this recently. Here's what I've come up with and am attempting to actually believe:
People on smartphones are not anti-social. They're super-social. Phones allow people to be with the people they love the most all the time, which is the way humans probably used to be, until technology allowed for greater freedom of movement around the globe. People spending time on their phones in the presence of others aren't necessarily rude because rudeness is a social contract about appropriate behavior and, as Hermann points out, social norms can vary widely between age groups. Playing Minecraft all day isn't necessarily a waste of time. The real world and the virtual world each have their own strengths and weaknesses, so it's wise to spend time in both.
Robert Wright has a new book out soon called The Evolution of God. Andrew Sullivan has a review.
From primitive animists to the legends of the first gods, battling like irrational cloud-inhabiting humans over the cosmos, Wright tells the story of how war and trade, technology and human interaction slowly exposed humans to the gods of others. How this awareness led to the Jewish innovation of a hidden and universal God, how the cosmopolitan early Christians, in order to market their doctrines more successfully, universalised and sanitised this Jewish God in turn, and how Islam equally included a civilising universalism despite its doctrinal rigidity and founding violence.
Last month's issue of The Atlantic contained an excerpt.
For all the advances and wonders of our global era, Christians, Jews, and Muslims seem ever more locked in mortal combat. But history suggests a happier outcome for the Peoples of the Book. As technological evolution has brought communities, nations, and faiths into closer contact, it is the prophets of tolerance and love that have prospered, along with the religions they represent. Is globalization, in fact, God's will?
I loved two of Wright's previous books, The Moral Animal and especially Nonzero. (via marginal revolution)
With the pace of the excellent Sherlock series slowing down a bit because of scheduling (Cumberbatch, Freeman, Moffat, and Gatiss are increasingly busy), they still somehow found time to shoot a Christmas special that will air in December 2015. Here's a short teaser scene:
This four-minute bit by Louis CK puts me on the floor every time I watch it and then makes me feel really horrible.
Everybody has a competition in their brain of good thoughts and bad thoughts. Hopefully, the good thoughts win. For me, I always have both. I have like the thing I believe, the good thing, that's the thing I believe and than there's this thing. And I don't believe it, but it is there. It's always this thing and then this thing. It's become a category in my brain that I call "of course, but maybe".
I love his gestures throughout this bit...the material is great but the physical comedy really sells it. So so good. (And, of course, terrible.)
Paul Cezanne's The Large Bathers is the subject of the second video in The Nerdwriter's series, Understanding Art. (The first was on Jacques-Louis David's The Death of Socrates.)
The Large Bathers is part of a series of similar paintings by Cezanne. The one used in the video is housed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art:
Other pieces include those from (top to bottom) The National Gallery, The Art Institute of Chicago, and The Barnes Foundation:
A nice short animated video on the power of empathy and how it differs from sympathy.
Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.
Related: Empathy is a Choice.
Some kinds of people seem generally less likely to feel empathy for others -- for instance, powerful people. An experiment conducted by one of us, Michael Inzlicht, along with the researchers Jeremy Hogeveen and Sukhvinder Obhi, found that even people temporarily assigned to high-power roles showed brain activity consistent with lower empathy.
But such experimental manipulations surely cannot change a person's underlying empathic capacity; something else must be to blame. And other research suggests that the blame lies with a simple change in motivation: People with a higher sense of power exhibit less empathy because they have less incentive to interact with others.
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.
In 2008, Hossein Derakhshan was sentenced to 20 years in jail in Iran for blogging and championing the open web. Released and pardoned late last year, Derakhshan is now wondering why the web he went to jail for is dying and why no one is stopping it. Just as things changed in the real world while he was imprisoned:
Around me, I noticed a very different Tehran from the one I'd been used to. An influx of new, shamelessly luxurious condos had replaced the charming little houses I was familiar with. New roads, new highways, hordes of invasive SUVs. Large billboards with advertisements for Swiss-made watches and Korean flat screen TVs. Women in colorful scarves and manteaus, men with dyed hair and beards, and hundreds of charming cafes with hip western music and female staff. They were the kinds of changes that creep up on people; the kind you only really notice once normal life gets taken away from you.
...so too did the web:
The hyperlink was my currency six years ago. Stemming from the idea of the hypertext, the hyperlink provided a diversity and decentralisation that the real world lacked. The hyperlink represented the open, interconnected spirit of the world wide web -- a vision that started with its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee. The hyperlink was a way to abandon centralization -- all the links, lines and hierarchies - and replace them with something more distributed, a system of nodes and networks.
Blogs gave form to that spirit of decentralization: They were windows into lives you'd rarely know much about; bridges that connected different lives to each other and thereby changed them. Blogs were cafes where people exchanged diverse ideas on any and every topic you could possibly be interested in. They were Tehran's taxicabs writ large.
Since I got out of jail, though, I've realized how much the hyperlink has been devalued, almost made obsolete.
Bummer, film site The Dissolve has shut down. They burned bright for a short time.
For the past two years-well, two years this Friday -- it's been our pleasure to put up this site, a site founded on and driven by a love for movies, alongside a company with passion and talent for creating thoughtful, important work. Sadly, because of the various challenges inherent in launching a freestanding website in a crowded publishing environment, financial and otherwise, today is the last day we will be doing that. We've had this opportunity thanks to Pitchfork, which has been incredibly supportive of our vision. We couldn't have asked for a better partner.
I've linked to a few of their things over the past few months, and the quality was always high. Tony Zhou has collected a few of his favorite pieces from the site.
There's a documentary on Steve Jobs coming out called Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine. The director is Alex Gibney, who directed the excellent Going Clear (about Scientology), We Steal Secrets (about Wikileaks), and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. The trailer:
In 1981, ABC's news program 20/20 aired a segment on the rising phenomenon of rap music called Rappin' to the Beat. It is painful to watch in parts, but ultimately worth it for the footage of street scenes and artist performances.
Here is part 2. (via open culture)
The WNYC Data News Team is looking for the longest possible NYC subway ride. The MTA says the longest direct trip is 38 miles, but WNYC found one that's 148 miles, requiring 45 transfers. They're running a little competition to see who can find a longer ride...check the rules for more details (short version: you can repeat stations but not track segments). This is basically a variant of the travelling salesman problem, yes? Anyone care to take a crack at it? (via @ryandawidjan)
The Venus de Milo's arms are lost to history but that hasn't stopped historians and scholars wondering what exactly she was doing with them when the statue was carved. In order to test out a theory that Venus was spinning thread, Virginia Postrel hired designer and artist Cosmo Wenman to construct a 3D model of Venus de Milo.
Slow motion video of a South Dakota lightning storm shot at 2000 fps.
I love the little tendrils "sent out" by the clouds before a big strike happens. It's like nature is searching for the optimal path for the energy to travel and then BAM!
Artist Sam Van Aken is using grafting to create trees that bear 40 different kinds of fruit. National Geographic recently featured Van Aken's Tree of 40 Fruit project:
The grafting process involves slicing a bit of a branch with a bud from a tree of one of the varieties and inserting it into a slit in a branch on the "working tree," then wrapping the wound with tape until it heals and the bud starts to grow into a new branch. Over several years he adds slices of branches from other varieties to the working tree. In the spring the "Tree of 40 Fruit" has blossoms in many hues of pink and purple, and in the summer it begins to bear the fruits in sequence -- Van Aken says it's both a work of art and a time line of the varieties' blossoming and fruiting. He's created more than a dozen of the trees that have been planted at sites such as museums around the U.S., which he sees as a way to spread diversity on a small scale.
The Associated Press and British Movietone are uploading 17,000 hours of archival news footage, some of dating back to the late 19th century. The videos can be found on the AP Archive and British Movietone channels. Some notable videos from the collection follow. Coverage of the Hindenberg disaster:
The celebration of VE Day in London:
Coco Chanel fashion show from 1932:
Martin Luther King Jr. and marchers being arrested in Selma:
See also British Pathe.
One of my favorite movie/TV critics, Matt Zoller Seitz, is coming out with a book this fall on Mad Men called Mad Men Carousel: The Complete Critical Companion.
Mad Men Carousel, authored by Abrams' bestselling author Matt Zoller Seitz, will gather all of Seitz's widely read (and discussed) Mad Men essays in a single volume. Rather than simply recalling the plot through lengthy summary, Seitz's essays dig deep into the show's themes, performances and filmmaking, with the tone and spirit of accessible, but serious, film or literary criticism. This novel-sized volume will be designed to have a 1970s feel and will be broken into seven sections, one for each season.
Seitz wrote the dreamy The Wes Anderson Collection.
Design Observer and the AIGA have announced the winners of their 50 Books | 50 Covers competition to find the best designed books and book covers published last year. The books are here and the covers are here.
They're publishing a book and putting on an exhibition in New Orleans of the winners and need your help on Kickstarter to make it happen.
As the New Horizons probe nears Pluto, I've been reading a bit more about how it's going to work and what sort of photos we're going to get. Emily Lakdawalla has a comprehensive post about what to expect when you're expecting a flyby of Pluto. The post contains an image of approximations of the photos New Horizon will take, using Voyager images of Jovian and Saturnian moons as stand-ins. The highest resolution photo of Pluto will be 0.4 km/pixel...it'll have this approximate level of detail:
Which is pretty amazing and exciting considering that before the mission started this was our best view of Pluto:
NASA's Eyes app lets you see a simulation of the probe as it approaches Pluto, but if you don't want to download anything, you can watch this video of the flyby instead:
I had no idea the probe spun around so much as it grabs photos & scans and then beams them back to Earth. And the flyby is so fast! New Horizons is currently moving at 32,500 mph relative to the Sun...it's travelling just over 9 miles every second. (via @Tim_Meyer_ & @badastronomer)
According to a model developed by psychologist Jonathan Cheek and his colleagues, there are actually four types of introversion: social, thinking, anxious, and restrained.
Social: Social introversion is the closest to the commonly held understanding of introversion, in that it's a preference for socializing with small groups instead of large ones. Or sometimes, it's a preference for no group at all -- solitude is often preferable for those who score high in social introversion. "They prefer to stay home with a book or a computer, or to stick to small gatherings with close friends, as opposed to attending large parties with many strangers," Cheek said. But it's different from shyness, in that there's no anxiety driving the preference for solitude or small groups.
I took the quiz at the bottom of the article and I'm a mix of roughly equal parts social, restrained, and anxious introversion with a dash of thinking.
A company called Oxitec has genetically modified mosquito eggs so that the mosquitos born from them pass along a gene to their offspring that prohibits the mosquitos from reaching sexual maturity and mating. They release the mosquitos into the wild, they mate with the local population of mosquitos, and those born from those matings will die before mating themselves. Voila! Pest control.
Oxitec has conducted trials with its modified mosquito in dengue-ridden regions of Panama, Brazil, Malaysia, and the Cayman Islands. The results show population suppression rates above 90 percent-far greater than the typical 30 percent achieved with insecticides.
The company is currently planning a trial in Florida using this technique to curb an influx of mosquito-borne illness.
If you are a fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark -- and who isn't? -- then this is your holy grail: a feature-length commentary on the movie by Jamie Benning that includes seemingly every tidbit related to the film, including deleted scenes, audio commentary from the cast and crew, behind the scenes video, and much more. An incredible resource in understanding the film.
Benning has also done similarly excellent commentaries for Jaws, Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. (via @drwave)
Netflix and HBO know what you did last summer. And they know you're still doing it this summer. The sharing of login credentials is so widespread that the big streaming players are losing hundreds of millions a year. So why don't they stop us? Two reasons: It's all about growth at this point. And no one has come up with a way to limit credential sharing without hurting the customer experience.
Amazon is a different kind of movie studio. It's all about getting more people to become Prime members.
You can have the best technology, you can have the best business model, but if the storytelling isn't amazing, it won't matter. Nobody will watch. And then you won't sell more shoes.
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Randall Rosenthal makes amazingly realistic wooden sculptures of everyday objects like newspapers, legal pads, baseball cards, and kitchen scenes. He carves each of his sculptures out of a single block of wood. So, this is carved entirely out of wood:
And so is this:
And this too:
And here's a look at that last sculpture in progress:
From Zerega Pasta, a video that shows, in slow motion, how farfalle (aka bow-tie pasta) is made at their factory.
Incredible combination of precision and quickness.