I've posted quite a few skateboarding videos here over the years and they all have their share of amazing tricks, but the shit Bob Burnquist pulls on his massive backyard MegaRamp in this video is crazy/incredible. My mouth dropped open at least four times while watching. I rewatched the trick at 2:50 about 10 times and still can't believe it's not from a video game. (via @bryce)
Bill Rankin of radicalcartography picks his five favorite maps. The historical meanderings of the Mississippi River map from an Army Corps of Engineers report is a favorite of mine too:
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.
Underworld put out their seminal record, Dubnobasswithmyheadman, 20 years ago. To celebrate, they've released a "Super Deluxe / 20th Anniversary Remaster" version of the album with the original tracks, remixes, alternate versions, live versions, and other stuff, 6 hours and 15 minutes of music in all.
Tony Zhou of Every Frame a Painting looks at the constraints David Fincher chooses to operate under while shooting a film. For instance, he very rarely uses hand-held cameras.
The last half of the video featuring a breakdown of how some of Fincher's scenes were shot is fascinating.
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.
Christine Muhlke talks to several different chefs and writers about how they approach writing recipes.
The goal should be that the reader can make the recipe his or her own -- that the instructions are clear and good enough that after a few tries, he or she can improvise to please themselves. The chef gives ideas so that the cook can profit. It's not dictation; it's inspiration.
Speaking of Mark Alan Stamaty, the illustrator did a pair of drawings in the late 1970s for the Village Voice: one of Times Square and one of Greenwich Village. They're packed with details of how those areas were perceived in the 70s.
Prints of both are available.
Rex Sorgatz wonders what sort of robots we'll build, R2-D2s or C-3POs.
R2-D2 excels in areas where humans are deficient: deep computation, endurance in extreme conditions, and selfless consciousness. R2-D2 is a computer that compensates for human deficiencies -- it shines where humans fail.
C3-PO is the personification of the selfish human -- cloying, rules-bound, and despotic. (Don't forget, C3-PO let Ewoks worship him!) C3-PO is a factotum for human vanity -- it engenders the worst human characteristics.
I love the chart he did for the piece, characterizing 3PO's D&D alignment as lawful evil and his politics as Randian.
Very quickly, here's how a computer works at the simplest level.
Want to see how computers store data? This next device is called a 'D-Latch'. It holds a binary bit. The top switch is the value to be stored, the bottom switch enables storage. Eight of these devices can be used to store a byte in memory.
Alex Wellerstein took all of the badge photos of the people who worked on the atomic bomb project during World War II at Los Alamos and made a huge image out of them.
I just finished reading Genius, James Gleick's excellent biography of Richard Feynman. Here's Feynman (left) and his friend Klaus Fuchs, whose car he used to borrow on the weekends to visit his ailing wife in Albuquerque.
After the war, Fuchs was revealed to be a Soviet spy. If you're at all interested in the Manhattan Project and the espionage surrounding it and somehow have not read Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb and Dark Sun, do so now...they are two of my all-time favorite books. (via greg.org)
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.
Lockheed Martin is in the process of developing a compact fusion reactor they say could revolutionize the world's energy industry.
Dubbed the compact fusion reactor (CFR), the device is conceptually safer, cleaner and more powerful than much larger, current nuclear systems that rely on fission, the process of splitting atoms to release energy. Crucially, by being "compact," Lockheed believes its scalable concept will also be small and practical enough for applications ranging from interplanetary spacecraft and commercial ships to city power stations. It may even revive the concept of large, nuclear-powered aircraft that virtually never require refueling-ideas of which were largely abandoned more than 50 years ago because of the dangers and complexities involved with nuclear fission reactors.
The key difference in Lockheed's approach seems to be the configuration of the magnetic field containing the reaction:
The CFR will avoid these issues by tackling plasma confinement in a radically different way. Instead of constraining the plasma within tubular rings, a series of superconducting coils will generate a new magnetic-field geometry in which the plasma is held within the broader confines of the entire reaction chamber. Superconducting magnets within the coils will generate a magnetic field around the outer border of the chamber. "So for us, instead of a bike tire expanding into air, we have something more like a tube that expands into an ever-stronger wall," McGuire says. The system is therefore regulated by a self-tuning feedback mechanism, whereby the farther out the plasma goes, the stronger the magnetic field pushes back to contain it. The CFR is expected to have a beta limit ratio of one. "We should be able to go to 100% or beyond," he adds.
Charles Seife, who wrote a book about the history of fusion, is skeptical of Lockheed's claims.
This week, Lockheed Martin supposedly managed to achieve a "breakthrough" in nuclear fusion that has gotten a lot of media attention. As Charles Seife points out, it did so "without having built a prototype device that, you know, fuses things on an appreciable scale. It's a stunning assertion, even by fusion-research standards. But a quick look at the defense contractor's ambitious plan-a working reactor in five years-already shows the dream fraying around the edges. A year and a half ago, the company promised that fusion was four years away, meaning that the schedule is already slipping. Negative one years of progress in 20 months is, sadly, business as usual for fusion. At this rate, it'll take Lockheed Martin at least a decade before the natural endpoint: desperately spinning victory out of an underwhelming result generated by a machine whose performance comes nowhere near predictions-and which brings us no closer to actually generating energy from a fusion reaction."
Atul Gawande's best selling Being Mortal is getting the Frontline treatment on PBS this January. Here's the trailer:
The sound made by the Krakatoa volcanic eruption in 1883 was so loud it ruptured eardrums of people 40 miles away, travelled around the world four times, and was clearly heard 3,000 miles away.
Think, for a moment, just how crazy this is. If you're in Boston and someone tells you that they heard a sound coming from New York City, you're probably going to give them a funny look. But Boston is a mere 200 miles from New York. What we're talking about here is like being in Boston and clearly hearing a noise coming from Dublin, Ireland. Travelling at the speed of sound (766 miles or 1,233 kilometers per hour), it takes a noise about 4 hours to cover that distance. This is the most distant sound that has ever been heard in recorded history.
A much much smaller eruption occurred recently in Papua New Guinea. From the video, you can get a tiny sense of the sonic damage unleashed by Krakatoa:
Holy smoking Toledos indeed. On Reddit, a user details how loud a Saturn V rocket is and what the effects would be at different distances. At very close range, the sound from the Saturn V measures an incredible 220 db, loud enough to melt concrete just from the sound.
At 500 meters, 155 db you would experience painful, violent shaking in your entire body, you would feel compressed, as though deep underwater. Your vision would blur, breathing would be very difficult, your eardrums are obviously a lost cause, even with advanced active noise cancelling protection you could experience permanent damage. This is the sort of sound level aircraft mechanics sometimes experience for short periods of time. Almost twice as "loud" as putting your ear up to the exhaust of a formula 1 car. The air temperature would drop significantly, perhaps 10-25 degrees F, becoming suddenly cold because of the air being so violently stretched and moved.
Even at three miles away, the sound is loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage. But that's nothing compared to the Krakatoa sound. The Saturn V sound is ~170 db at 100 meters away while the Krakatoa explosion was that loud 100 miles away! What happens at 170 db?
...you would be unable to breathe or likely see at all from the sound pressure, glass would shatter, fog would be generated as the water in the air dropped out of suspension in the pressure waves, your house at this distance would have a roughly 50% chance of being torn apart from sound pressure alone. Military stun grenades reach this volume for a split second... if they are placed up to your face. Survival chance from sound alone, minimal, you would certainly experience permanent deafness but probably also organ damage.
The word "loud" is inadequate to describe how loud that is. (thx, david)
When he was 17, Eric Kester was a ball boy for the Chicago Bears and saw all the stuff you don't hear about on TV or even on blogs.
I lay awake at night wondering how many lives were irreparably damaged by my most handy ball boy tool: smelling salts. On game days my pockets were always full of these tiny ammonia stimulants that, when sniffed, can trick a brain into a state of alertness. After almost every crowd-pleasing hit, a player would stagger off the field, steady himself the best he could, sometimes vomit a little, and tilt his head to the sky. Then, with eyes squeezed shut in pain, he'd scream "Eric!" and I'd dash over and say, "It's O.K., I'm right here, got just what you need."
And from Vice, the story of former NFL running back Gerald Willhite:
Memory loss is just one of the problems that plague Gerald Willhite, 55. Frustration, depression, headaches, body pain, swollen joints, and a disassociative identity disorder are other reminders of his seven-season (1982-88) career with the Denver Broncos, during which he said he sustained at least eight concussions.
"I think we were misled," Willhite said from Sacramento. "We knew what we signed up for, but we didn't know the magnitude of what was waiting for us later."
When Willhite read about the symptoms of some former players who were taking legal action against the NFL, he thought "Crap, I got the same issues." He decided to join the lawsuit that claimed the league had withheld information about brain injuries and concussions. He feels that the $765 million settlement, announced last summer and earmarked for the more than 4,000 players in the lawsuit, is like a "Band-Aid put on a gash."
Still haven't watched any NFL this year. (via @arainert)
With A Little Help From My Fwends is The Flaming Lips full-length cover of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. NPR has a first listen to it. ft. Foxygen, Miley Cyrus, Moby, Tegan And Sara, and others.
Last year's pulverizing and strangely pretty The Terror was often punishingly uncompromising, but With A Little Help From My Fwends tackles its impossible task with a comparatively light touch. That lightness is clear from the title alone, and yet The Flaming Lips' audaciously playful streak (required in order to cover Sgt. Pepper's in the first place) still gets undercut with moments of abrasiveness, aggression and detours down strange side roads.
If you're at all interested in cooking at home, you've likely got one of Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbooks on your shelf: Jerusalem, Plenty, and Ottolenghi. I don't cook much myself, but from everything I've heard from friends, this guy is a wizard with vegetables. Now Ottolenghi is out with a new cookbook: Plenty More.
Yotam Ottolenghi is one of the world's most beloved culinary talents. In this follow-up to his bestselling Plenty, he continues to explore the diverse realm of vegetarian food with a wholly original approach. Organized by cooking method, more than 150 dazzling recipes emphasize spices, seasonality, and bold flavors. From inspired salads to hearty main dishes and luscious desserts, Plenty More is a must-have for vegetarians and omnivores alike. This visually stunning collection will change the way you cook and eat vegetables.
Watch and listen as Anna-Maria Hefele demonstrates polyphonic overtone singing, a technique where it sounds as though she's singing two different notes at the same time.
This blew my mind a little, particularly starting around the 3:00 mark, where she actually starts to be more fluid in her singing. (via @anotherny)
Update: See also Tuvan throat singing, Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq (who posted a photo online of her infant daughter next to a dead seal, a "sealfie"), and many other cultures who practice overtone singing. (thx, @bmcnely, @ChrisWalks1 & james)
I somehow didn't know or forgot that PT Anderson was doing a movie based on Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice. It turns out he totally is and here's the first trailer:
That looks entirely goofy and good.
How do you pick just 10 essays for a list of the best essays since 1950? You exclude any New Journalism, non-American writers, and even so, it must have been difficult. Here's Robert Atwan's full list and a few of his choices:
Susan Sontag, "Notes on 'Camp'"
David Foster Wallace, "Consider the Lobster"
Annie Dillard, "Total Eclipse"
John McPhee, "The Search for Marvin Gardens"
Many of the essays are available online...ladies and gentlemen, start your Instapapers.
Speaking of PBS shows, Steven Johnson's How We Got to Now starts on PBS tonight with two back-to-back episodes. The NY Times has a positive review.
The opening episode, for instance, is called "Clean," and it sets the pattern for the five that follow. We tend not to acknowledge just how recent some of the trends and comforts of modern life are, including the luxury of not walking through horse manure and human waste on the way to the post office.
The episode turns back the clock just a century and a half, to a time before our liquid waste stream was largely contained in underground pipes. Mr. Johnson then traces the emergence of the idea that with a little effort, cities and towns could have a cleaner existence, and the concurrent idea that cleanliness would have public health benefits.
But his examination of "the ultraclean revolution," as he calls it, doesn't stop at the construction of sewage and water-purification systems. He extends the thread all the way to the computer revolution, visiting a laboratory where microchips are made.
The show is based on Johnson's book of the same name, which enters the NY Times bestseller list at #4 this week. Also, I keep wanting to call the book/show How We Got to Know, which strikes me as a perfectly appropriate title as well.
Update: The first two episodes are available online until 10/30.
Like it says on the tin: a collection of Beautiful Maps. I wish there was some attribution attached to each map though. The map above is by Claude Bernou circa 1681. (via @khoi)
Using the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, Vocativ analyzed more than 600 speeches from all the American Presidents for ease of comprehension. What they found was a trend toward simpler language as speeches needed to appeal to a wider range of people, not just super-educated white men.
I think President Obama, no more or less than President Bush, tries to pack a lot of nuance and subtext into language that is as plain and straightforward as possible. While President Bush was often inarticulate off the cuff, Bush's speeches were underestimated. There was a crisp formality to a lot of his best speeches, particularly the ones he delivered shortly after Sept. 11.
Definitely click through for their analysis of the data.
This is the design that Norway has chosen for their banknotes starting in 2017:
From now on, I'm paying for everything with kroner. (via co.design)
You can mine Bitcoin by hand with a pencil and paper.
The SHA-256 algorithm is surprisingly simple, easy enough to do by hand. (The elliptic curve algorithm for signing Bitcoin transactions would be very painful to do by hand since it has lots of multiplication of 32-byte integers.) Doing one round of SHA-256 by hand took me 16 minutes, 45 seconds. At this rate, hashing a full Bitcoin block (128 rounds) would take 1.49 days, for a hash rate of 0.67 hashes per day (although I would probably get faster with practice). In comparison, current Bitcoin mining hardware does several terahashes per second, about a quintillion times faster than my manual hashing. Needless to say, manual Bitcoin mining is not at all practical.
You know how the old saying goes: When life hands you rising sea levels due to anthropogenic climate change, build canals. The city of Boston is considering such a scenario.
By 2100, climate scientists predict, sea levels around Boston will rise as much as 7.5 feet; in just a few decades water levels will be 2.5 feet higher than they are today. That could mean significant flooding not only during big storms but twice daily during high tides, as well as at times of normal rainfall.
The precise amount of sea-level rise is uncertain, but state and municipal leaders say they are taking the threat seriously, even if they are not yet at the stage of redesigning whole neighborhoods.
"We're not going to start digging the canals tomorrow," said Brian Swett, Boston's chief of energy, environment, and open space. "But the report makes the important point that you can't solve 6 feet of sea level rise simply by building a bigger dam on the Charles River."
This is fun...Aatish Bhatia maps out the forces and motions involved in doing an ollie on a skateboard.
It's a neat piece of science art, and it also tells us something interesting. The arrows show us that the force on the skateboard is constantly changing, both in magnitude as well as in direction. Now the force of gravity obviously isn't changing, so the reason that these force arrows are shrinking and growing and tumbling around is that the skater is changing how their feet pushes and pulls against the board. By applying a variable force that changes both in strength and direction, they're steering the board.
From Errol Morris and the NY Times, Three Short Films about Peace. Morris interviewed Nobel Prize winners and nominees Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, the former Polish president Lech Walesa and rock star Bob Geldof.
I interviewed five of the world's greatest peacemakers, and chose to feature the three who told the most compelling stories on camera. But it was a privilege to meet and to interview every one of them. David Trimble, whose participation in the Good Friday Agreement helped bring an end to Northern Ireland's Troubles, and Oscar Arias Sanchez, who brokered the Esquipulas peace agreement that ended decades of internecine strife in Central America, were no less inspiring than the three included here.
It's the easiest thing to say: that each of these stories is inspiring. They are. I was inspired by them. Can one person make a difference? In most cases, no. But every now and again something seemingly miraculous happens. And one person changes the world. Or as Bob Geldof puts it, tilts the world on its axis.
This is the most delightful restaurant review I've read in quite awhile. In it, Jay Rayner disembowels the "hilariously silly" London restaurant Beast and its presumed clientele, "men with teeny-weeny penises". I have no idea how to pick just one of the great passages from this review so I'll do two:
"I'm sorry sir, we don't serve bread." Eh? What's all that about? I could see this as some stand for a bang-on-trend, carb-free Palaeolithic diet, were it not for the fact they serve chips. Mind you, they're crap chips, huge fat things that could exclude drafts. Who actually likes their chips this way? They're advertised as coming with truffle and foie-gras salt, which is like getting a gold-plated, diamond-encrusted case for your smartphone because you've run out of things to spend money on. It's a spoilt person's version of luxury; the pillowy "chips" do not taste either of goose liver or truffle.
The corn-fed, dry-aged Nebraskan rib-eye, with a carbon footprint big enough to make a climate-change denier horny, is bloody marvellous: rich, deep, earthy, with that dense tang that comes with proper hanging. And at £100 a kilo it bloody well should be. At that price they should lead the damn animal into the restaurant and install it under the table so it can pleasure me while I eat.
Reminiscent of Pete Wells' review of Guy Fieri's place in Times Square. Some restaurants become immortal and immune to criticism but I don't think Beast and Guy Fieri's are quite there yet.
Given what we know now about how anthropogenic climate change is contributing to rising sea levels, Miami will be one of the first major American cities to find itself completely under water in the next century.
That inevitability is fueling a fledgling secessionist movement. And it's not some crackpot grassroots effort either...the mayor and city commission of South Miami passed a resolution earlier this month that South Florida should break away and form the nation's 51st state.
Whereas, South Florida's situation is very precarious and in need of immediate attention. Many of the issues facing South Florida are not political, but are now very significant safety issues; and
Whereas, presently, in order to address the concerns of South Florida, it is necessary to travel to Tallahassee in North Florida. Often South Florida issues do not receive the support of Tallahassee. This is despite the fact that South Florida generates more than 69 percent of the state's revenue and contains 67 percent of the state's population; and
Whereas, the creation of the 51st state, South Florida, is a necessity for the very survival of the entire southern region of the current state of Florida.
Look for more of this type of thing in the years to come. The fight over fossil fuels has already shaped a great deal of the modern global political structure and the coming shifts in climate will almost certainly do the same.
European suits of armor always look so impractical when you see them in museums, but how did they perform in combat? Well enough for the wearer to do jumping jacks and move quickly on the battlefield.
(via the kid should see this)
I don't think he's talked about it on his site yet, but Tyler Cowen has a new book coming out called Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World.
As economist Tyler Cowen boldly shows in Create Your Own Economy, the way we think now is changing more rapidly than it has in a very long time. Not since the Industrial Revolution has a man-made creation -- in this case, the World Wide Web -- so greatly influenced the way our minds work and our human potential. Cowen argues brilliantly that we are breaking down cultural information into ever-smaller tidbits, ordering and reordering them in our minds (and our computers) to meet our own specific needs.
Create Your Own Economy explains why the coming world of Web 3.0 is good for us; why social networking sites such as Facebook are so necessary; what's so great about "Tweeting" and texting; how education will get better; and why politics, literature, and philosophy will become richer. This is a revolutionary guide to life in the new world.
I never properly reviewed Cowen's last book (sorry!), but I found it as enlightening and entertaining as Marginal Revolution is. (via david archer)
From her recent memoir, Sheila E. recounts the first time she met Prince.
I never did make it down to the studio to meet "the kid," but a few months later, in April 1978, I was at Leopold's record store in Berkeley browsing through records when I looked up to see a new poster. It featured a beautiful young man with brown skin, a perfect Afro, and stunning green eyes. The word Prince was written in bold letters at the top. That was the guy Tom was talking about!
I found his album For You in the rack and immediately looked at the credits: "Produced, arranged, composed, and performed by Prince."
The staff at the store, whom I'd known for years, let me take the poster home. Before I'd even listened to his record, I'd taped the poster above my waterbed. Then I lowered the needle onto the album on my record player, sat on the floor, and listened to it in its entirety. Tom was right. I immediately heard that funky rhythm guitar part he'd been talking about. It wasn't only on one song, but the whole album. I stared up at the poster and told him, "I'm gonna meet you one day."
(via @anildash, probably)
Gorgeous videos of chemical reactions (precipitation, bubbling, crystallization, etc.). I think the metal displacement reaction video is my favorite:
Czech photographer Dita Pepe takes portraits of herself integrated into the lives of other people.
The soundtrack for David Fincher's adaptation of Gone Girl is out and as with his last two films (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), the music is by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
Whenever the words "Reznor", "Fincher", "Atticus", and "soundtrack" get into a sentence together, you know it's good news for your earholes. (via @arainert)
ps. Speaking of Fincher, he spoke to Disney about directing a Star Wars movie and had an interesting take on the original trilogy:
I always thought of Star Wars as the story of two slaves [C-3PO and R2-D2] who go from owner to owner, witnessing their masters' folly, the ultimate folly of man.
When's the last time I let you down? Ok, maybe don't answer that. But, when I tell you that a short film about the hand gestures used by a quarry boss guiding massive excavators harvesting marble is well worth watching, you're gonna go ahead and watch it, right? Because this is a beautiful little film.
I was so taken by the chief, watching him work. How he can move gigantic marble blocks using enormous excavators, but his own movements are light, precise and determined.
Notice the tips of two fingers are missing. That's how you get to be the boss. More hand gestures: hand signals used by traders on the floor of the NY Mercantile Exchange, nightclub hand signals, hand signals at Eleven Madison Park, and church usher hand signals. (via digg)
Every year, evolutionary biologist and professor David Barash gives his students The Talk about how evolution and religion do and do not get along.
It's irresponsible to teach biology without evolution, and yet many students worry about reconciling their beliefs with evolutionary science. Just as many Americans don't grasp the fact that evolution is not merely a "theory," but the underpinning of all biological science, a substantial minority of my students are troubled to discover that their beliefs conflict with the course material.
Until recently, I had pretty much ignored such discomfort, assuming that it was their problem, not mine. Teaching biology without evolution would be like teaching chemistry without molecules, or physics without mass and energy. But instead of students' growing more comfortable with the tension between evolution and religion over time, the opposite seems to have happened. Thus, The Talk.
This is the sort of thing Barash talks about:
The more we know of evolution, the more unavoidable is the conclusion that living things, including human beings, are produced by a natural, totally amoral process, with no indication of a benevolent, controlling creator.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at Greg Maddux is not really a story about Greg Maddux. Or sports. It's about Jeremy Collins' friend Jason Kenney, demons, self-control, determination, friendship, competitiveness, and loss.
Jason kept a picture of Maddux above his desk in our dorm room at Young Harris College in the north Georgia mountains. A beautiful athlete, the best on campus, Jason played only intramurals and spent serious time at his desk. A physics workhorse and calculus whiz, he kept Maddux's image at eye-level.
Shuffling and pardoning down the aisle to our seats, Jason stopped and squeezed my shoulder. "Look," he said.
Maddux strode toward home, hurling the ball through the night.
It's 2014. I'm thirty-seven. My wife and daughter are both asleep. I'm a thousand miles from the stadium-turned-parking-lot. On YouTube, Kenny Lofton of the American League Champion Cleveland Indians looks at the first pitch for a ball. Inside, low. I don't remember the call. I remember all of us standing, holding our breath. Then I remember light. Thousands of lights. Waves of tiny diamonds. The whole stadium flashing and Jason, who would die five months later on the side of a south Georgia highway, leaning into my ear and whispering, "Maddux."
Great, great story. As Tom Junod remarked on Twitter, "Every once in a while, a writer throws everything he's got into a story. This is one of those stories."
John Gruber's tweet last night reminded me I'd never written up a review for Room 237, the documentary about Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Gruber writes:
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."
Actress Tippi Hedren and her family (including her then-teenage daughter Melanie Griffith) lived with a pet lion named Neil for a while back in the 1970s. Here's Neil and Melanie catching a few winks together:
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.
Last week, Emily Dreyfuss wrote a piece at about Why I'm Giving Wikipedia 6 Bucks a Month.
"Give me money, Emily," Wales begged, "then go back to researching Beyonce lyrics."
"Excuse me, Jimmy," I wanted to say, "I don't appreciate being watched as I read about how her song "Baby Boy" includes a lyrical interpolation of "No Fear" by O.G.C."
Later, Wikipedia replaced Wales with other employees of the Wikimedia Foundation, which maintains Wikipedia with grants and donations. They moved me about as much as Wales did, which is to say not at all.
Today, while scanning my third Wikipedia article in as many hours, I saw the beggi.... er, note was back. It's at the bottom now, without the pleading visage of a Wikipedian, and now includes an option to pay monthly.
I was annoyed, again. That's the first instinct of anyone who spends time on the Internet and is constantly bombarded by pleas for money. But then I realized something: My annoyance was a symptom of my dependence on Wikipedia. I rely on it utterly. I take it completely for granted.
I found her argument persuasive, so much so that I just signed up to give Wikipedia a monthly amount as well. I consider it a subscription fee to an indispensable and irreplaceable resource I use dozens of times weekly while producing kottke.org. It's a business expense, just like paying for server hosting, internet access, etc. -- the decision to pay became a no-brainer for me when I thought of it that way.
Do other media companies subscribe to Wikipedia in the same fashion? How about it Gawker, NY Times, Vox, Wired, ESPN, WSJ, New York Magazine, Vice, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post? Even $500/month is a drop in the bucket compared to your monthly animated GIF hosting bill and I know your writers use Wikipedia as much as I do. Come on, grab that company credit card and subscribe.
For the past year, Joanna Goddard has been running a series on her blog called Motherhood Around the World. The goal of the series was to tease out how parenting in other countries is different than parenting in the US. From the introduction to the series:
We spoke to American mothers abroad -- versus mothers who were born and bred in those countries -- because we wanted to hear how motherhood around the world compared and contrasted with motherhood in America. It can be surprisingly hard to realize what's unique about your own country ("don't all kids eat snails?"), and it's much easier to identify differences as an outsider.
The results, as Goddard states upfront, are not broadly representative of parenting in the different countries but they are fascinating nonetheless. I've picked out a few representative bits below. On parenting in Norway:
Both my kids attended Barnehage (Norwegian for "children's garden"), which is basically Norwegian pre-school and daycare. Most kids here start Barnehage when they're one year old -- it's subsidized by the government to encourage people to go back to work. You pay $300 a month and your kids can stay from 8am to 5pm. They spend a ton of time outside, mostly playing and exploring nature. At some Barnehage, they only go inside if it's colder than 14 degrees. They even eat outdoors-with their gloves on! When I was worried about my son being cold, my father-in-law said, "It's good for him to freeze a little bit on his fingers." That's very Norwegian -- hard things are good for you.
The Democratic Republic of Congo:
No one thinks twice here about sharing breastmilk. Why let something so valuable go to waste? Not long after my second daughter was born, I went on a work trip to Kenya. I pumped the whole time I was there and couldn't bear to throw away my breast milk, nor imagine the nightmare scenario of leakage in my luggage. So I saved it all up in the hotel fridge in Ziploc bags. On the day I left, I took all the little bags to the local market and said, "All right, ladies. Who's got babies and wants breast milk?!" Not a single Kenyan woman at the market thought twice about taking a random white woman's breast milk. My driver even heard I was handing out milk and asked if I could pump some extra to take home to his new baby.
There are no car seat or seatbelt laws here. You will regularly see toddlers with their heads peeking out of sunroofs or moms holding their infants in the front seat. The government and the car companies are trying to educate people about the dangers, but the most locals (Emiratis as well as people from countries like India and Egypt) believe that a mother's arms are the safest place for her child.
In a country in which space comes at such a premium, few parents would dream of allocating a separate room for each child. Co-sleeping is the norm here, regardless of class. Children will usually sleep with their parents or their ayah until they are at least six or seven. An American friend of mine put her son in his own room, and her Indian babysitter was aghast. The young children from middle class Indian families I know also go to sleep whenever their parents do -- often as late as 11pm. Our son sleeps in our bed, as well. He has a shoebox of a room in our house where we keep his clothes and crib, and he always starts the night in there, falling asleep around 8pm. That way Chris and I get a few hours to ourselves. Then, around 11pm, Will somehow senses that we are about to fall asleep and calls out to come to our bed. It's like clockwork, and he falls right back into a deep sleep the second his head hits the pillow.
On sleep camps: Government-subsidized programs help parents teach their babies to sleep. I haven't been to one (though I did consider it when we were in the middle of sleep hell with our daughter) but many of my friends have. The sleep camps are centers, usually attached to a hospital, that are run by nurses. Most mums I know went when their babies were around six or seven months old. You go for five days and four nights, and they put you and your baby on a strict schedule of feeding, napping and sleeping. If you're really desperate for sleep, you also have the option of having a nurse handle your baby for the whole first night so you can sleep, but after that you spend the next few nights with your baby overnight while the nurses show you what to do. They use controlled crying and other techniques. I have friends who say it saved their lives, friends who left feeling "meh" about the whole thing, and a friend who left after a day because, in her words, "they left my baby in a cupboard to cry."
Giving treats to children is seen as a sign of affection, so strangers will offer candy to kids on the street. I'll sometimes turn around and a stranger will be handing my daughter a chocolate bar! Several months ago, we were on a bus, and a woman near us was eating cookies. She saw my daughter Mia and said "Oh, let me give you some cookies." I said, "No, thank you." But she kept on insisting. Then, a random stranger, who was not even connected to the first woman, chimed in, "You should give your daughter the cookies!" They were very serious about it! I was frustrated at the time, but after the fact I found it funny.
And then more recently, they talked to a group of foreign mothers about how parenting in the US differs from the rest of the world. For one thing, there's the babyproofing:
Here in the U.S., there is a huge "baby industry," which does not exist in Romania. There's special baby food, special baby utensils, special baby safety precautions and special baby furniture. In Romania, children eat with a regular teaspoon and drink from a regular glass. They play with toys that are not specifically made for "brain development from months 3-6." Also, before I came here, I had never heard of babyproofing! Now I'm constantly worried about my daughter hurting herself, but my mom and friends from home just laugh at me and my obsession that bookshelves might fall.
And the more permissive and involved parenting:
I was surprised that American children as young as one year old learn to say please, thank you, sorry and excuse me. Those things are not actively taught in India. Another difference is how parents here tend to stay away from "because I said so" and actually explain things to their children. It's admirable the way parents will go into basic reasoning to let the child know why some things are the way they are. When I last visited Bombay, I explained to my then four-year-old about that we couldn't buy too many things because of weight restrictions in the flight, etc. My relatives were genuinely wondering why I didn't just stop at "no."
Like I said, the whole series is fascinating...I could easily see this being a book or documentary (along the lines of Babies).
From CineFix, their top ten slow motion sequences of all time.
Includes scenes from The Matrix, Hard Boiled, Reservoir Dogs, and The Shining. But no Wes Anderson!?! *burns down internet* (via @DavidGrann)
Over at Trivia Happy, Phil Edwards interviewed Ellen Lampl, who designed the logos for Mike Judge's underrated Idiocracy.
Some logos came from the script, while some came from the designers' brainstorming sessions. Brawndo and Carl's Jr. were written, while Lampl made logos for companies like Nastea and Fedexx once the overall look was approved. For Lampl, it was a great release, because "coming from the past constraints of advertising, it was cathartic to have the liberty to be bawdy and irreverent. Making everything ridiculously over-emphasized with bright colors, outlines upon outlines, and exaggerated drop shadows was my personal jab at the world of branding and in-your-face typography."
I am not a runner so I didn't think I would find this exploration into the conditions under which a 2-hour marathon could occur that interesting. I was incorrect.
Between 1990 (the first year in which data was available) and 2011, the average male marathoner ranked in the top 100 that year shrank by 1.3 inches and 7.5 pounds. Smaller runners have less weight to haul around, yes. But they're also better at heat dissipation; thanks to greater skin surface area relative to their weight, they can sustain higher speeds (and thus, greater internal heat production) without overheating and having to slow down. Despite our sub-two runner's short frame, he'll also have disproportionately long legs that help him cover ground and unusually slender calves that require less energy to swing than heavier limbs.
Runners shed heat through their skin, so bigger runners should have an advantage, right? Indeed, a 6' 3" marathoner can dissipate 32 percent more heat than a 5' 3" athlete with the same BMI. But heat generation rises faster in bigger runners because mass increases quicker than skin area. So at the same effort, the 6' 3" guy ends up producing 42 percent more heat than his shorter peer-and overheating sooner.
The piece includes a favorite old chestnut of mine, man vs. horse:
Horses are still much quicker at distance, but humans are still improving.
Derek Low used a ton of his frequent flyer miles to book passage from Singapore to NYC in Singapore Airlines' better-than-first-class Suites Class and wrote all about it. Suites Class = private cabin, double bed, caviar, foie gras, lounging beforehand in "The Private Room", Dom Pérignon, Givenchy pajamas, etc. etc.
In the Suites, you don't just lie on a seat that has gone flat. Instead, you step aside while the Singapore Airlines flight attendants transform your Suite into a bedroom, with a plush mattress on top of a full-sized bed. When the adjacent suite is empty, the dividing partition can be brought down to create a double bed.
Update: After reports of plagiarism from several sources after Low published his initial version of his piece, he changed the pilfered text and removed photos taken from elsewhere. (thx, all)
In 1959, Lt Colonel William Rankin ejected from his F-8 Crusader at 47,000 feet. He was not wearing a pressure suit, which was a bummer because it was -58 °F outside the cockpit. Frostbite and symptoms of decompression1
immediately ensued. But his troubles were just beginning.
As the parachute opened, he felt the familiar tug upwards. Except instead of a slow descent, he experienced a rapid ascent. The powerful updraft filled his parachute like a sail and rocketed him vertically thousands of feet at a velocity of nearly 100 mph. During his ascent, he could see hail stones forming around him. The lightning was described by him as "blue blades several feet thick" and incredibly close. The thunder was so loud, he could feel it resonating in his chest cavity and remembered this more so than how loud it was. At one point, the lightning lit up his parachute leading him to believe he had died. The rain would pelt him from all directions, and at times was so intense, he had to hold his breath for fear of drowning. But this was only half the agony -- the other half being the downdrafts.
Once the updraft exhausted itself, the associated downdraft would ensue. It was during this phase of his journey that he truly thought he would die. His parachute would collapse around him, much like a wet blanket, and plunge him into a rapid free fall towards earth. The odds of his parachute re-inflating correctly were slim, but not only did it do so once, it did numerous times through a multitude of updraft and downdraft cycles.
Under normal conditions, Rankin's trip to the ground would have taken less than 10 minutes, but that thunderstorm kept him hostage for 40 minutes. (via @BadAstronomer)
Update: In 1966, pilot Bill Weaver and his navigator Jim Zwayer were testing an SR-71 Blackbird when something went wrong and the plane disintegrated around its occupants. Weaver was incredibly lucky to make it out alive.
My next recollection was a hazy thought that I was having a bad dream. Maybe I'll wake up and get out of this mess, I mused. Gradually regaining consciousness, I realized this was no dream; it had really happened. That also was disturbing, because I could not have survived what had just happened. Therefore, I must be dead. Since I didn't feel bad -- just a detached sense of euphoria -- I decided being dead wasn't so bad after all. As full awareness took hold, I realized I was not dead, but had somehow separated from the airplane. I had no idea how this could have happened; I hadn't initiated an ejection. The sound of rushing air and what sounded like straps flapping in the wind confirmed I was falling, but I couldn't see anything. My pressure suit's face plate had frozen over and I was staring at a layer of ice.
This video of a giant red leech devouring an earthworm twice its own length is the most disturbing nature footage I've ever seen.
Damn nature, you scary!
Do you want to make a lot of espresso really fast? Enter the The Gatlino®, a machine gun that uses Nespresso capsules in place of bullets.
It was during one bleary break-of-dawn that I found myself slouched over the machine making coffee and drifting into visions of the Nespresso hooked up to a belt of ammunition, or a machine gun being fed by a chain of Nespresso capsules. I'm not sure which. Doesn't matter. What's important is that it led me to wonder how long it would take to fire all the Nespresso cartridges ever made. The environmentally-conscious will be appalled.
Lionel Messi made his debut for FC Barcelona 10 years ago. At Grantland, Brian Phillips assesses his career thus far.
The irony of that goal against Getafe, in retrospect, is that he's not the next Maradona; he's nothing like Maradona. Maradona was all energy, right on the surface; watching Messi is like watching someone run in a dream. Like Cristiano Ronaldo, Maradona jumped up to challenge you; if you took the field against him, he wanted to humiliate you, to taunt you. Messi plays like he doesn't know you're there. His imagination is so perfectly fused with his technique that his assumptions can obliterate you before his skill does.
He has always seemed oddly nonthreatening for someone with a legitimate claim to being the best soccer player in history. He seems nice, and maybe he is. (He goes on trial for tax evasion soon; it is impossible to believe he defrauded authorities on purpose, because it is impossible to believe that he manages his finances at all.) On the pitch, though, this is deceptive. It's an artifact of his indifference to your attention. He doesn't notice whether or not you notice. His greatness is nonthreatening because it is so elusive, even though its elusiveness is what makes it a threat.
Messi is only 27, holds or is within striking distance of all sorts of all-time records, and I'm already sad about his career ending. This is big talk, perhaps nonsense, but Messi might be better at soccer than Michael Jordan was at basketball. I dunno, I was bummed when Jordan retired (well, the first two times anyway), but with Messi, thinking about his retirement, it seems to me like soccer will lose something special that it will never ever see again.
As I've written before, after the World Cup in 2010, I wanted to keep watching soccer but didn't quite know how club soccer worked or anything about the various teams. I wish I'd had this book then: Club Soccer 101. It's a guide to 101 of the most well-known teams from leagues all over the world.
The book covers the history of European powerhouses like Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, and Real Madrid; historic South American clubs like Boca Juniors, Corinthians, Penarol, and Santos; and rising clubs from Africa, Asia, and America, including such leading MLS clubs as LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, and Seattle Sounders. Writing with the passion and panache of a deeply knowledgeable and opinionated fan, Luke Dempsey explains what makes each club distinctive: their origins, fans, and style of play; their greatest (and most heartbreaking) seasons and historic victories and defeats; and their most famous players -- from Pelé, Eusébio, and Maradona to Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, and Ronaldo.
Possible captions for this photo: Honey, I Shrunk the Federer. Federer just drank some of Alice's Drink Me potion. Pocket Roger. Yao Ming is a very large man.
In Focus has a look at some of the early entries in National Geographic's annual photography contest. Good stuff as usual.
Photo by Mehmet Karaca. Love the way the mantis's tail mimics the branch it's standing on.
In the future, people won't want to meet or talk to celebrities, they'll just want to borrow some of their social capital.
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.
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.
Update: Here's a CIA report written by Mendez about the caper. And I'm listening to the soundtrack right now.