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Riemann Hypothesis proved?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 23, 2018

Mathematician Michael Atiyah claims that he’s solved the Riemann hypothesis, one of the great unsolved problems in math, and will deliver a talk about the proof on Monday.

In it, he pays tribute to the work of two great 20th century mathematicians, John von Neumann and Friedrich Hirzebruch, whose developments he claims laid the foundations for his own proposed proof. “It fell into my lap, I had to pick it up,” he says.

The Riemann hypothesis, which is one of the $1 million Millennium Prize problems, deals with prime numbers. Even though it was suggested back in 1859 and “has been checked for the first 10,000,000,000,000 solutions”, no one has yet come up with a proof.

Here’s an educated guess about a part of Atiyah’s proof.

Olive is a portal for virtual machines developed at Carnegie Mellon to run old, archived software on today’s computers. “Think of it as a Wayback Machine for executable content.”

Not every book or writer speaks to us in the same way over time. “On outgrowing David Foster Wallace”

How Mister Rogers created “a week of programs to explain superheroes to children, to help them separate fact from fantasy,” beginning a second phase in the creation of his show

Tony Hawk Keeps Tweeting When People Don't Recognize Him And It's Freaking Hilarious

An Oral History of Infinite Loop, Apple's old HQ. Lots of great anecdotes in here.

"We can't have a Supreme Court on which a third of the men have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct."

Amazon's new microwave oven works with Alexa voice control, costs only $60, and will automatically order more popcorn if you run low

Season 3 of the Serial podcast is underway.

"20 percent of Congress is women. Only 5 percent of CEOs are."

This Saturday is Museum Day and over 1000 US museums are offering free admission. Get your tickets here:

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Putting the Talmud online

posted by Tim Carmody   Sep 21, 2018

Babylonian_Talmud,_Seder_Zera'im.jpg

Sefaria is a free online resource for Jewish texts, specifically the Talmud, which (amazingly) wasn’t previously easily available online. This Washington Post article describes the effort behind getting the texts and their translations up and on the web.

The Talmud is notoriously hard to follow, even if you understand Aramaic. For most readers, a straight translation will not be useful, as additional, contextualizing information, based on expertise with the tradition and text, is necessary to follow the arguments.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz created one of the three seminal works in this regard, but it was under copyright and being published by Koren Publishers.

After a prolonged negotiation process, and a substantial gift from the William Davidson Foundation, Sefaria was able to secure the copyright. Then, they ceded their rights and made it available free to the public, a move common to nature conservancies but vanishingly rare in the publishing world, since copyright and exclusivity are major guarantors of revenue.

“Sefaria argues that these texts are our collective heritage; therefore they should be available to everyone for free,” Sarna said.

“You have access to something that Jews, for hundreds of years did not, whether it was banned, or they didn’t understand, or they couldn’t buy books,” said Rabbi Levitansky.

Making the texts available in digital form, for free, enables a lot of new use cases for the Talmud, from using code to find “fuzzy links” between different bits of the texts, to democratizing the audience. Younger, less observant readers now have access to a wider range of textual material and discussion than they did before. The text also serves as a discussion platform: its most-viewed “source sheet” is called “Is One Permitted to Punch a White Supremacist in the Face?

I don’t know whether, as Joshua Foer has it, a digital version of the Talmud is an “advance akin to the writing down of the oral tradition after the fall of the Second Temple in A.D. 70 and the advent of the printing press.” It is, however, a very welcome transformation of a text that’s accustomed to great transformations.

And it also gets back to something I remember from the great In Our Time episode on the Talmud: that Talmud isn’t a book you read so much as a thing you do — or as Foer says, a “giant, unending conversation that spans millennia, continents, and is very much still going on to this day.”

The oral history of OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

posted by Tim Carmody   Sep 21, 2018

On Sunday, September 23, OutKast’s double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below will be fifteen years old. About ready for a learner’s permit. Damn.

Okayplayer assembled an short oral history of both albums, with fresh input from contributors like Cee-Lo Green and engineer Neal Pogue as well as digging into the archives for commentary from Andre 3000 and Big Boi. Just like the albums, it’s a lot of fun.

Cee-Lo Green: They don’t make physical copies of physical CDs anymore. So basically, streaming is just like, “We like this a lot” It’s like analytics. I don’t know what else actually did Diamond or better. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below will probably be one of the last albums in history that will have moved physically over 10 million copies. That ain’t never gonna happen again.

Khujo Goodie: That was the biggest thing it Atlanta, man, because along with Goodie Mob, those guys are the pioneers of Atlanta, Georgia music! They’re the pillars. Just to have some guys representing where you stay, it wasn’t nothing but love when Speakerboxxx/The Love Below dropped, man. And you got a double album, that was just icing on the cake right there!

Big Boi [via MTV News, 2017]: When you’re inside of [the creative process], you don’t know [the impact], you know what I mean? You just go in and try to create something new. One thing that we do is never revisit what we’ve done, although we stand on it and we know it’s there.

I would never go back and try to create a song like “The Rooster”, or “Unhappy”, or “The Way You Move” — That’s too easy, you know what I’m saying? That’s what I could dig about the younger generation. I like to see who’s gonna play it safe and who’s gonna evolve into that other thing.

We really could use a full documentary about OutKast, digging into each of their albums, both principals, and the development of the scene/family around them. Someone should make that happen.

The geometric zen of solving Rubik’s Cubes

posted by Tim Carmody   Sep 21, 2018

rubik's cube.jpg

I’ve never been a great fan of Rubik’s Cubes (or chess, or crossword puzzles, or Scrabble, or most obsession-rewarding, intelligence-test-ish popular puzzle games), but it is rewarding for me to read about the cubes and the people who find themselves in solving the puzzle. (It’s still a $250-million-a-year product! The greatest selling single toy of all time.)

Once you’ve defined your goal—“I want to align this orange face with this other orange face”—you can follow a series of steps to accomplish it. An ease with algorithms, they note, is increasingly important in a world dominated by science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM. The logic of the Rubik’s cube has, after all, been used by software developers to craft encryption schemes for software for decades. It has 43 quintillion possible combinations—and only one solution.

Puzzling out this 3-D game can also help students hone their spatial thinking skills, according to the presenters. And spatial thinking skills are intimately connected to success in any STEM field. “To think spatially,” the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine write, “entails knowing about” space, representation, and reasoning. This is the kind of knowledge we tap into every day, when timing our commutes or taking detours, reading maps, and, yes, solving Rubik’s cubes.

Maybe I should give that old cube another try.

Google Pays Tribute to Mister Rogers with an Animated Short

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 21, 2018

In partnership with Fred Rogers Productions and The Fred Rogers Center, Google is honoring Mister Rogers today with a stop motion animated short as part of their Google Doodle program.

On this date, September 21, 1967, 51 years ago, Fred Rogers walked into the television studio at WQED in Pittsburgh to tape the very first episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which would premiere nationally on PBS in February 1968. He became known as Mister Rogers, nationally beloved, sweater wearing, “television neighbor,” whose groundbreaking children’s series inspired and educated generations of young viewers with warmth, sensitivity, and honesty.

What’s interesting is that on his show (unlike his stop motion counterpart in the short), Rogers deliberately didn’t show himself travelling to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe because he didn’t want his young viewers to confuse reality and fantasy. He wanted kids to know he and the people he visited with were in the real world, dealing with real situations.

P.S. And a further interesting tech note: this is the first YouTube video I’ve seen where the number of views isn’t displayed. I’m assuming that’s a Google-only God Mode feature?

The Fish Copter, Cactus Binky, and Other Clever Visual Mashups

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 20, 2018

Visual Mash

Visual Mash

Visual Mash

Visual Mash

Visual Mash

Visual Mash

I love these fun visual mashups created by French creative agency Les Créatonautes. (via colossal)

First Man

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 20, 2018

I don’t know why I’m so skeptical about First Man, the upcoming biopic about Neil Armstrong and the first Moon landing. Oh wait, yes I do: Apollo 11 holds a special place in my heart, as does Armstrong and his role in the historic landing, and I’m very protective of it. It would be so easy and, in my opinion, wrong to load this story up with unnecessary drama when there’s already so much there in the story, even though it might not be naturally cinematic.

On the other hand, the trailer looks great, Ryan Gosling is a terrific actor, director Damien Chazelle’s previous films are really good (Whiplash and La La Land), and the film is based on the authorized and well-received biography by James Hansen. Ok fine, I just talked myself into it!

What Would a Truly Representational US Congress Look Like?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 20, 2018

Even though the diversity of the US Congress has increased in recent years, a trend that looks to continue after the midterm elections in November, overall the 538 people who serve in Congress are not actually that representative of the US population as a whole. Congress is still way more white, male, and Christian than the US as a whole.

In 2016, Ken Flerlage looked at the gender, religious, and racial diversity of the United States and compared it to that of Congress.

Congress has 104 women (19%) and 431 men (81%) while the United States population is 51% female and 49% male. In order to be truly representative, in terms of gender, 168 seats currently held by men would need to be won by women (taking the number to 272 women and 263 men). It is also worth noting that, of the 104 women, 76 are Democrat (73%), while only 28 are Republican (27%).

And here is the visualization for religion:

Religion Diversity Congress

7.1% of the population are atheist or agnostic and 2.4% ascribe to “other” religions (this includes “don’t know”, other world religions, Pagan, Wiccan, Native American religions, and numerous others), yet not a single member of Congress falls into any of these categories.

When you hear people saying that America is still largely a patriarchal & white supremacist society, this is what they are talking about. It’s not just people being hyperbolic.

You could easily expand on this analysis by breaking it down by age, income, education, urban vs rural, sexual orientation, and occupation. You could guess that a truly representational Congress would be younger, waaaay more poor, less accredited, more urban, less straight, more working class, and, when you consider the gender & racial factors, much more politically progressive, but it would be illuminating to see the actual numbers. I’d love to see the NY Times (maybe The Upshot?), FiveThirtyEight, or The Pudding tackle this analysis.

P.S. It’s also worth noting a truly representational Congress would include full voting members from Puerto Rico and Washington DC as well as from other US territories. And maybe separate Native American representation?

Meet Feng E, an 11-Year-Old Taiwanese Ukulele Prodigy

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 20, 2018

Feng E started playing the ukulele when he was just five years old. His father pushed him into it by saying that he wouldn’t play Legos with the boy unless he took up the instrument. Six years later, he can casually slay Zombie by The Cranberries in the back of a car:

Or Michael Jackson’s Beat It on the streets on London:

Or Classical Gas in the park:

Ok, get this kid a duet with this guy’s washing machine.

Stan & Ollie

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 20, 2018

Stan & Ollie is an upcoming film about the legendary comedy duo of Stanley Laurel and Oliver Hardy in the twilight of their career, starring Steve Coogan as Laurel and John C. Reilly as Hardy. I would not necessarily have picked those two actors — I’m not sure who I would have picked instead…perhaps the latter day Stan and Ollie (Tucci & Platt) — but damned if they don’t fill out those roles well.

I’m excited for this one. As kids, we didn’t watch a lot of TV aside from Sesame Street and Mister Rogers, but we did watch all sorts of stuff from the black & white era that my dad was into: Abbott & Costello, Flash Gordon, The Lone Ranger, Buster Keaton, The Three Stooges, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd. But my favorite was always Laurel and Hardy. I don’t remember laughing harder at anything as a kid than The Music Box:

A Short Tour of the Manufacturing Might of China

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 19, 2018

“Commodity City” is a short documentary directed by Jessica Kingdon about a huge wholesale market in China with 75,000 vendors selling everything from flowers, pens, and clocks to dolls, rope, and Santas.

Ultimately, Kingdon decided to focus on what she describes as “the quieter, more subtle moments” amidst the chaotic atmosphere of the five-mile-long consumer metropolis. Comprised of mostly static shots, her short observational documentary, Commodity City, is a mesmerizing window into the daily lives of some of the 75,000 individual vendors who exhibit more than 400,000 products at Yiwu.

“I saw directly how lives are built around market forces,” Kingdon said of her experience shooting the film. “It’s similar to most other places in the world participating in global capitalism, but in China, it’s more obvious right now.”

I know this is pretty slow in spots — It’s meditative! Why are you in such a dang hurry? — but there are great little moments sprinkled in here and there (at 7:10 for one). It also weirdly reminded me of Koyaanisqatsi.

Law & Order: Martian Victims Unit

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 19, 2018

I loved this imaginative and clever piece by Geoff Manaugh called How Will Police Solve Murders on Mars? about how a future human settlement on Mars would handle matters of law and order. For one things, crimes might be more difficult to investigate.

Consider the basic science of crime-scene analysis. In the dry, freezer-like air and extreme solar exposure of Mars, DNA will age differently than it does on Earth. Blood from blunt-trauma and stab wounds will produce dramatically new spatter patterns in the planet’s low gravity. Electrostatic charge will give a new kind of evidentiary value to dust found clinging to the exteriors of space suits and nearby surfaces. Even radiocarbon dating will be different on Mars, Darwent reminded me, due to the planet’s atmospheric chemistry, making it difficult to date older crime scenes.

The Martian environment itself is also already so lethal that even a violent murder could be disguised as a natural act. Darwent suggested that a would-be murderer on the Red Planet could use the environment’s ambient lethality to her advantage. A fatal poisoning could be staged to seem as if the victim simply died of exposure to abrasive chemicals, known as perchlorates, in the Martian rocks. A weak seal on a space suit, or an oxygen meter that appears to have failed but was actually tampered with, could really be a clever homicide hiding in plain sight.

At a broader level, what sort of political system develops because of the Martian environment might shape how law enforcement happens.

In the precarious Martian environment, where so much depends on the efficient, seamless operation of life-support systems, sabotage becomes an existential threat. A saboteur might tamper with the oxygen generators or fatally disable a settlement’s most crucial airlock. When human life is so thoroughly entwined with its technical environment, we should not consider these sorts of acts mere petty crimes, he explained to me. In a literal sense, they would be crimes against humanity-even, on a large enough scale, attempted genocide.

“I think the fact that tyranny is easier in space is a foregone conclusion,” he explained to me, precisely because there is nowhere to escape without risking instant death from extreme cold or asphyxiation. In other words, the constant presence of nearly instant environmental lethality will encourage systems of strong social control with little tolerance for error. Orders and procedures will need to be followed exactly as designed, because the consequences of a single misstep could be catastrophic.

A few paragraphs after this, the terrifyingly wonderful phrase “politically motivated depressurization” is used. I don’t think we’re super close to the colonization of Mars, but Manaugh says, better to think about it now before we “unwittingly construct an interplanetary dystopia run by cops who shoot first and ask questions later”.

Shoreline Maps of the World

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 19, 2018

In a book called Atlas of the World with Geophysical Boundaries, scientist Athelstan Spilhaus published a series of world maps that emphasized the Earth’s oceans over the continents. The maps turn our familiar continental view of the world inside out. Check out this rendering of one of Spilhaus’ maps by Le Cartographe:

Spilhaus Map

Takes a second to get your bearings on that, right? One big ocean with Antarctica in the middle, surrounded by the stretched-out landmasses of Asia and the Americas. Jason Davies recreated some of the other Spilhaus maps and so did Mike Bostock.

Spilhaus Map

You can see a bunch of Spilhaus’ other shoreline maps by flipping through the pages of his book on Google Books.

Some Cool Projects I’ve Noticed on Kickstarter Recently

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 19, 2018

I seem to have a bunch of links to Kickstarter campaigns up in browser tabs right now so instead of dripping them out over the next few days as Quick Links, I thought I’d do a mini roundup here.

Stardust Explores Earth’s Wonders: Geology & Evolution. The latest in the Stardust series of books authored by 12-year-old Bailey Harris and her father, Douglas. Harris got the idea for the first book watching Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and she was off to the races. Both of her previous books have been enjoyed in our household.

Alexander von Humboldt - Illustrating Nature. This is a reissue of a book from a previous successful campaign. I have a couple of Kronecker Wallis’ beautifully designed books about science, including this one — they do good work.

I Am a Rebel Girl: A Journal to Start Revolutions. We’re massive fans of the Rebel Girls books and podcast in our house, so this is a no-brainer.

DRYP - an app that keeps your plants alive & happy. DRYP is an iOS app that “tells you when to water your plants AND helps you cure them when they’re sick”. Yes, please.

4-Mation: The Interactive 3D Zoetrope. A little tough to explain…watch the first few seconds of the video to get it.

THE SONGULARITY. From Botnik Studios, this is “an impending full-length pop album co-created by humans and machines” with lyrics generated by a predictive text program seeded with “Scottish folk ballads, Amazon reviews, Carrie Underwood, The Elements Of Style and more”.

Our President Was Called Barack. This children’s book about Barack Obama was funded on Kickstarter in 2017 and they still have a few copies left for sale.