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50 Years Ago in Photos: A Look Back at 1974. Gas shortages, Hank Aaron, streakers, Skylab, Vietnam, Nixon’s resignation, desegregating schools, gay pride, the Troubles, and the Rumble in the Jungle.

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80 Iconic Piano Intros, Played Back-to-Back From Memory
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The Coming Birth-Control Revolution. "Researchers have taken massive steps toward developing simple, convenient, and effective...
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American English "invisible letters" include the t in pizza, the r in colonel, and the extra b in cummerbund. Maybe this is a Midwestern...
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A Few Lessons from Roger Federer's Dartmouth Commencement Speech
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Mel Brooks is producing a sequel to Spaceballs with Josh Gad starring. Please say they are getting Rick Moranis to come back for this...
4 comments      Latest:

An Apple Watch reimagined in the style of a Newton. Love the app icons for Bluesky, BBEdit, and Marathon.
3 comments      Latest:

The Science of Having a Great Conversation. "The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard. Some of the best...
4 comments      Latest:

How heat affects our brains: it makes us dumber, irritable, impulsive, and aggressive (i.e. don't blame me if the site sucks today, it...
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Are You an NPC? (Or Do You Have Free Will?)
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Excellent news: according to David Simon, Homicide: Life on the Street will finally be available on streaming soon. I loved this show as...
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Are the "World's 50 Best Restaurants" Even Restaurants?
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57 Sandwiches That Define New York City. Never mind if you don't live in or near NYC...this list is chock full of sandwich inspiration....
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The Models for American Gothic

In 1930, Iowa artist Grant Wood painted American Gothic. The models he used for the painting were his sister Nan Wood Graham and his dentist, Byron McKeeby. Here they are next to the painting:

American Gothic Models

Wood made the painting after spotting a small house in Eldon, Iowa:

American Gothic House


80 Iconic Piano Intros, Played Back-to-Back From Memory

In this video, pianist David Bennett plays 80 of the best piano intros from the past 120 years, back-to-back and all from memory. This was lovely to listen to while I was eating my lunch.

Some of the intros I particularly enjoyed were Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer, Nina Simone’s My Baby Just Cares For Me, Let It Be by The Beatles, Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, Children by Robert Miles, Clocks by Coldplay, A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton, and Breathe Me by Sia. a song I still cannot listen to without tearing up because of the series finale of Six Feet Under.

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A photographer entered a real photo of a flamingo in an AI image contest and was disqualified after winning the People’s Vote Award. “I wanted to show that nature can still beat the machine.”

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A Few Lessons from Roger Federer’s Dartmouth Commencement Speech

Two weeks ago, Roger Federer gave the commencement speech at Dartmouth. After asserting that he’d graduated (and not retired) from professional tennis, Federer shared what he learned from his years on the pro circuit. Some excerpts from the transcript:

“Effortless”… is a myth.

I mean it.

I say that as someone who has heard that word a lot. “Effortless.”

People would say my play was effortless. Most of the time, they meant it as a compliment… But it used to frustrate me when they would say, “He barely broke a sweat!”

Or “Is he even trying?”

The truth is, I had to work very hard… to make it look easy.

I spent years whining… swearing… throwing my racket… before I learned to keep my cool.

The wakeup call came early in my career, when an opponent at the Italian Open publicly questioned my mental discipline. He said, “Roger will be the favorite for the first two hours, and then I’ll be the favorite after that.”

I was puzzled at first. But eventually, I realized what he was trying to say. Everybody can play well the first two hours. You’re fit, you’re fast, you’re clear… and after two hours, your legs get wobbly, your mind starts wandering, and your discipline starts to fade.

It made me understand… I have so much work ahead of me, and I’m ready to go on this journey now. I get it.

On talent:

Yes, talent matters. I’m not going to stand here and tell you it doesn’t.

But talent has a broad definition.

Most of the time, it’s not about having a gift. It’s about having grit.

In tennis, a great forehand with sick racquet head speed can be called a talent.

But in tennis… like in life… discipline is also a talent. And so is patience.

Trusting yourself is a talent. Embracing the process, loving the process, is a talent.

Managing your life, managing yourself… these can be talents, too.

Some people are born with them. Everybody has to work at them.

On “it’s only a point”:

In tennis, perfection is impossible… In the 1,526 singles matches I played in my career, I won almost 80% of those matches… Now, I have a question for all of you… what percentage of the POINTS do you think I won in those matches?

Only 54%.

In other words, even top-ranked tennis players win barely more than half of the points they play.

When you lose every second point, on average, you learn not to dwell on every shot.

You teach yourself to think: OK, I double-faulted. It’s only a point.

OK, I came to the net and I got passed again. It’s only a point.

Even a great shot, an overhead backhand smash that ends up on ESPN’s Top Ten Plays: that, too, is just a point.

Here’s why I am telling you this.

When you’re playing a point, it is the most important thing in the world.

But when it’s behind you, it’s behind you… This mindset is really crucial, because it frees you to fully commit to the next point… and the next one after that… with intensity, clarity and focus.

The truth is, whatever game you play in life… sometimes you’re going to lose. A point, a match, a season, a job… it’s a roller coaster, with many ups and downs.

And it’s natural, when you’re down, to doubt yourself. To feel sorry for yourself.

And by the way, your opponents have self-doubt, too. Don’t ever forget that.

But negative energy is wasted energy.

And “life is bigger than the court”:

I worked a lot, learned a lot, and ran a lot of miles in that small space… But the world is a whole lot bigger than that… Even when I was just starting out, I knew that tennis could show me the world… but tennis could never be the world.

I knew that if I was lucky, maybe I could play competitively until my late 30s. Maybe even… 41!

But even when I was in the top five… it was important to me to have a life… a rewarding life, full of travel, culture, friendships, and especially family… I never abandoned my roots, and I never forgot where I came from… but I also never lost my appetite to see this very big world.

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The Coming Birth-Control Revolution. “Researchers have taken massive steps toward developing simple, convenient, and effective contraceptive options for men with virtually zero side effects.” And it could “transform women’s contraception too”.

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Trolley Problem Variations for Dads. “As he begins to think it over, he keeps saying, ‘This is exactly like the Kobayashi Maru!’ He then spends so much time explaining how Captain Kirk cheated to win the scenario that he never pulls the lever.”

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Photographer Sue Kwon Captured the New York Hip Hop Scene in Its Infancy. Biggie Smalls, Jay Z, Eminem, Method Man, De La Soul, Nas, Pusha T, and more.

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How a Bicycle Is Made

From British Council film, a short film from 1945 that shows how a bicycle is designed and manufactured.

(via stellar)


“Historical fanfiction” and the dangerous intellectual dishonesty of originalism. “If you want to know what rights you have, originalism commands you to consult a time capsule.”


Mel Brooks is producing a sequel to Spaceballs with Josh Gad starring. Please say they are getting Rick Moranis to come back for this…

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A Massive Trove of Aerial Photos of Glaciers

Over at Beautiful Public Data, Jon Keegan shares some details about two huge collections of aerial photos of glaciers.

aerial b&w photo of a glacier

aerial color photo of a glacier

As scientists study the effects of global warming, one of the most visible and alarming indicators is the rapid shrinking of glaciers. Government scientists have been documenting the size, shape, and movement of glaciers since the 1950s employing techniques ranging from direct field observations to aerial photography.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has one of the largest collections of aerial glacier photographs. Over 40 years, the USGS’ North American Glacier Aerial Photography (NAGAP) project captured thousands of striking high-resolution photos of glaciers and their surroundings.

From 1960 to 1983, self-taught glaciologist Austin Post used a 63-pound World War II-era Fairchild K-17 aerial reconnaissance camera to shoot over 100,000 glacier photos in the western US and Alaska. One of the bush pilots Post teamed up with was William R. Fairchild, who flew a Beech 18 twin engine airplane equipped with five K-17 cameras-one mounted on the nose, two in the belly of the plane, and one on each side.

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How heat affects our brains: it makes us dumber, irritable, impulsive, and aggressive (i.e. don’t blame me if the site sucks today, it feels like 97° here and I don’t have A/C).

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It’s always worth reading Timothy Snyder on fascism: The Shamans (SCOTUS) and the Chieftain (Trump). “To contemplate ‘presidential immunity,’ as the shamans are now doing, is to cast aside the rule of law and summon up the ghost of revenge culture.”


The Science of Having a Great Conversation. “The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard. Some of the best talkers are, on this account, the worst company.” (Excerpted from David Robson’s The Laws of Connection.)

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Excellent news: according to David Simon, Homicide: Life on the Street will finally be available on streaming soon. I loved this show as a kid and am looking forward to watching it again.

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Are the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” Even Restaurants?

Pete Wells wonders if the immersive experiences, theatrical spectacles, and endurance tests on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list are even restaurants.

Gaggan, in Bangkok, was named not just the ninth-best restaurant in the world but the single best restaurant in Asia. The chef, Gaggan Anand, greets diners at his 14-seat table facing the kitchen with “Welcome to my …” completing the sentence with a term, meaning a chaotic situation, that will not be appearing in The New York Times. [The word is shitshow. Or clusterfuck. Or shitstorm. Any of which should be printed in The New York Times because it’s a fact relevant to a story. This writing around swearing has gotten as ridiculous as these restaurants. -ed]

What follows are about two dozen dishes organized in two acts (with intermission). The menu is written in emojis. Each bite is accompanied by a long story from Mr. Anand that may or may not be true. The furrowed white orb splotched with what appears to be blood, he claims, is the brain of a rat raised in a basement feedlot.

Brains are big in other restaurants on the list. Rasmus Munk, chef of the eighth-best restaurant in the world, Alchemist, in Copenhagen, pipes a mousse of lamb brains and foie gras into a bleached lamb skull, then garnishes it with ants and roasted mealworms. Another of the 50 or so courses — the restaurant calls them “impressions” — lurks inside the cavity of a realistic, life-size model of a man’s head with the top of the cranium removed.

I love going to restaurants and putting myself in their talented hands1 but just reading about some of these high-wire acts dressed up as restaurants leaves me cold. (thx, yen)

  1. I’m not just talking about tasting menus here… In many places, you can ask your server what their favorites are, if there are dishes that the chef is particularly proud of, or which special is 🔥🔥🔥 tonight, and order those. If you’re a regular, you can just ask the kitchen to surprise you.
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American English “invisible letters” include the t in pizza, the r in colonel, and the extra b in cummerbund. Maybe this is a Midwestern thing, but I recently noticed that I add an l to both: bolth. (My daughter does it too but not my son.)

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NASA’s Voyager 1 probe is fully online again after months of spouting gibberish. “The spacecraft has resumed gathering information about interstellar space.”

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An Apple Watch reimagined in the style of a Newton. Love the app icons for Bluesky, BBEdit, and Marathon.

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57 Sandwiches That Define New York City. Never mind if you don’t live in or near NYC…this list is chock full of sandwich inspiration. My mouth was legit watering as I scrolled.

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I have zero interest in invite-only restaurants, but I love this sentence: “What made Frog Club great is what made it awful is what made it irresistibly fascinating: its exclusivity, its gleeful snobbishness, its ostentatious secrecy.”

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Report: Every Place On Earth Has Wrong Amount Of Water. “In every case, there is either too much or too little water, with zero exceptions.”

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Yes, everyone really is sick a lot more often after COVID. “At least 13 communicable diseases, from the common cold to measles and tuberculosis, are surging past their pre-pandemic levels in many regions, and often by significant margins.”

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Abstract Swirls

black and white painting with thick swirls of paint

black and white painting with thick swirls of paint

black and white painting with thick swirls of paint

Cat Spilman’s swirly abstracts caught my eye the other day on Instagram.

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A Brief History of Time Travel. “Today, of course, time travel is a normal part of everyday life. Teachers take their students to witness the Gettysburg Address firsthand, while teens flock to the sparse settlements of Ancient Mesopotamia to hook up.”

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Adam Conover interviewed Zoë Schlanger for his podcast: Your Houseplants Can Think. “Plants can store information, solve problems, and develop complex social networks.”

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Colorful DIY Lego Millennium Falcon

a Lego Millennium Falcon made out of all sorts of different color bricks

Using the official instructions and bricks from their own collection, a father & son team built a colorful DIY version of Lego’s massive Millennium Falcon (7541 pieces, $830 MSRP, kitty for scale).

I love this — much better than that dingy gray. I know it’s not quite the same, but the colorful Falcon harkens back to when Lego was more about throwing together whatever kaleidoscopic Franken-creations you could from your pile of bricks instead of completing just-so kits. (via @migurski)

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A modern approach to habitat restoration: Leave It To Beavers. “At their very most basic, beavers store water. They build dams; think of them sort of as speed bumps in the stream. The pools and eddies they create are entire new spawning areas for fish.”

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The Worst Dads in All of Literature, including Abraham (the Bible), Pretty Much Any Dad in Shakespeare, and Pap Finn from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

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Wallace & Gromit: Vengeance Most Fowl

Wallace & Gromit are returning for a feature-length film later this year — and so is Feathers McGraw, the scofflaw penguin that made off with the wrong trousers in, um, The Wrong Trousers. Here’s the premise of Vengeance Most Fowl:

In this next installment, Gromit’s concern that Wallace is becoming too dependent on his inventions proves justified, when Wallace invents a “smart” gnome that seems to develop a mind of its own. When it emerges that a vengeful figure from the past might be masterminding things, it falls to Gromit to battle sinister forces and save his master … or Wallace may never be able to invent again!

Timely! Vengeance Most Fowl will debut on BBC in the UK in late December and at some later date on Netflix in the US and elsewhere.

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Auriea Harvey’s pioneering site Entropy8 has been restored as part of a retrospective of her work at the Museum of the Moving Image. Harvey’s work was a huge inspiration for me — like, you can do that on the web?!

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From Palestinian-American Mo Husseini, a list of 50 Completely True Things, including “You can advocate for Palestine without being a racist, antisemitic piece of shit” and “You can advocate for Israel without being a racist, anti-Arab piece of shit.”

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The kids who were 1st graders when 20 of their classmates were murdered in Newtown, CT are graduating from high school. “There is a whole chunk of our class missing.” More than 4200 mass shootings in the US since then, several of them at schools.

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Seven Samurai’s 4K Restoration

A 4K restoration of Akira Kurosawa’s epic Seven Samurai is heading to theaters this summer. The film screened at Cannes in May and screenings in the US start in July:

Janus will open the restoration on Friday, July 5 in New York at Film Forum after which a Los Angeles premiere will take place at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre on Sunday, July 7. The film will open wide on Friday, July 12 in Los Angeles at Laemmle Royal.

Here’s the official poster for the restoration:

poster for the 4K restoration of Seven Samurai

On a personal note, I’m pretty disheartened there’s a 99% chance this won’t be playing anywhere near me in Vermont. Run Lola Run was rereleased in theaters last week and I couldn’t find it anywhere within a reasonable drive. And the nearest IMAX is 2h15m away. I’m thankful that I can get all sorts of culture pumped into my house at gigabit speeds, but per contemporary wisdom, “we’ve got Seven Samurai’s 4K restoration at home” is just not the same.

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Boston Should Rename Its Airport for Bill Russell. “He was Boston’s greatest sports champion, and as a brave and steadfast civil-rights leader across half a century, an even greater man.”

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Gone Swimming, With Tara Booth

who else is ready to get beat tf up by the ocean?

“who else is ready to get beat tf up by the ocean?” asks artist Tara Booth on Instagram. (If you click through, it’s a whole mini-story.)

More of Booth’s awesome work can also be found on her website. Is this the day I buy her art on a tote bag? Or a hoodie? Or a pillowcase?

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Paul Theroux: “In the short run, criticism seems to have merit; in the end, criticism is useless—a good book has a long life in spite of anything said about it.” I’m not sure I agree, but I did find this idea somewhat thrilling.

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Is everyone really taking steroids? Rosecrans Baldwin says yes: “Someone in your life is using performance-enhancing drugs. I feel comfortable making that bet because I recently discovered how many people in my life are using performance-enhancing drugs.”

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What Does ‘Havering’ Mean?


“If I haver, well I know I’m gonna be — I’m gonna be the man who’s haverin’ to you.”

It’s only the 9,000th time I’ve heard this perfect song, but for whatever reason today was the day I looked it up. (Apologies to everyone who already knows.) Per Wikipedia:

In Scottish English, haver (from the Scots havers (oats)) means “to maunder; to talk foolishly; to chatter,” as heard in the song “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers

This song rules so much. It came on the other day while my daughter and I were goofing around — sorry, while we were havering (?) — and it was such a joy to watch her get into it.

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Pretty dark but also fascinating: “ancient DNA extracted from 64 of the children is offering new insights into the religious rituals of the ancient Maya and their ties to modern descendants.

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Diary Comics, Jan. 2 & 11

Hello, and welcome to another Thursday Afternoon With Edith! I was off for a while in part because everyone in my family got Hand Foot and Mouth Disease, which was horrible. I’m also going through some crises of purpose and trying to figure out what to do with my life. 🤔 Solution forthcoming. But here are a couple comics from earlier this year; I’m skipping around a bit because the journal itself became pretty disjointed. (Previously.)

jan2introC.png
jan2update2.jpg
jan11a.jpg

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An analysis of the easiest & hardest puzzles from the NY Times’ Spelling Bee. (The highest-possible Spelling Bee score is 2061 with 26 pangrams! WAT?!)

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“How the Fridge Changed Flavor”

In an adaptation from her forthcoming book, Frostbite: How Refrigeration Changed Our Food, Our Planet, and Ourselves, Nicola Twilley shares how refrigeration changed the food we eat and even how it tastes (you tomato and strawberry lovers know what I’m talking about):

The opportunity to consume frosty drinks and desserts opened up an entirely new vocabulary of sensation. Some found the cold shocking at first. “Lord! How I have seen the people splutter when they’ve tasted them for the first time,” a London ice-cream vender recalled in 1851. One customer — “a young Irish fellow” — took a spoonful, stood statue still, and then “roared out, ‘Jasus! I am kilt. The coald shivers is on to me.’” The earliest recorded description of brain freeze seems to have been published by Patrick Brydone, a Scotsman travelling in Sicily in the seventeen-seventies. The victim was a British naval officer who took a big bite of ice cream at a formal dinner. “At first he only looked grave, and blew up his cheeks to give it more room,” Brydone wrote. “The violence of the cold soon getting the better of his patience, he began to tumble it about from side to side in his mouth, his eyes rushing out of water.” Shortly thereafter, he spat it out “with a horrid oath” and, in his outrage, had to be restrained from beating the nearest servant.

And I wasn’t aware of this:

Leaving aside its suggestion that one serve “Molded Lamb with Fruit,” Kelvinator wasn’t wrong to claim that refrigeration could make leftovers taste better. After all, chemical reactions continue in the cold, albeit slowly, and some of them improve flavor. Several years ago, Cook’s Illustrated investigated this process by serving fresh bowls of beef chili, in addition to French onion, creamy tomato, and black-bean soups, alongside portions that had been made two days earlier. Testers preferred the fridge-aged versions, describing them as “sweeter,” “more robust-tasting,” and “well-rounded.”

Twilley also recently shared a preview on the podcast she co-hosts, Gastropod: The Birth of Cool: How Refrigeration Changed Everything. Frostbite is out on June 25 and is available for preorder on Amazon or Bookshop.

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A short oral history of pioneering Chicago house anthem Move Your Body. “It was cooked up in just 30 minutes by four postal workers after a tough shift on the letter-sorting machine.”

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How Tennis Balls Became Yellow, Feat. David Attenborough

Somehow, I didn’t know that until quite recently, tennis balls were white instead of yellow (Wimbledon used white balls until 1985). Here’s a British Pathé film from 1961 that shows how tennis balls were made, along with Wimbledon ball boy training:

I also didn’t know that many people think tennis balls are green when they are actually a color called “optic yellow”. Oh and that David Attenborough had a hand in the switch from white to yellow.

The change in color happened due to the demands of television transmissions. In 1972 television was already in color all over the world (although in Spain it was not generalized until five or six years later). At the end of the 1960s, the person in charge of the BBC broadcasts (which, of course, was in charge of Wimbledon) was the renowned documentary filmmaker David Attenborough. And he noticed that the visibility of the traditional white ball was not perfect, especially if it approached the lines of the rectangle of play.

In that year of 1972, tennis was in full growth: the professional and amateur circuits had unified and women’s professional tennis was also growing. Tennis was becoming a great world spectacle and in this context television was fundamental. The International Tennis Federation, in charge of the rules, commissioned a study which showed that the yellow ball was more visible and therefore easier for viewers to follow. The courts, moreover, began to be multicolored once the use of synthetic materials in official tournaments was approved.

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The Day After Tomorrow turns 20. “Twenty years after its release, it remains a unique specimen: a climate disaster blockbuster that adheres to all the tenets of the genre, while also explicitly attributing its carnage to the greenhouse effect.”

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The Birth of Breaking News

The completion of the US transcontinental railroad in 1869 in Utah was also the birthplace of the newsflash. The news was delivered via telegraph through a clever scheme: the famous golden spike and a silver hammer were each wired to the telegraph so that when hammer struck nail, the circuit completed and the news raced out along telegraph wires to the rest of the nation.1

Where were you when you heard the news of the completion of the transcontinental railroad?

  1. At least, that was the plan. It is said the hammer swingers missed the spike and so the telegraph operator had to message “DONE” instead.


Are You an NPC? (Or Do You Have Free Will?)

Kurzgesagt attempts to answer the question (from the perspective of physics): Do we have free will? Here’s the deterministic perspective (from the show notes):

Now imagine that if right after the Big Bang, a supersmart supercomputer looked at every single particle in the universe and noted all their properties. Just by applying the deterministic laws of physics, it should be able to predict what all the particles in existence would be doing until the end of time.

But if you are made of particles and it’s technically possible to calculate what particles will do forever, then you never decided anything. Your past, present and future were already predetermined and decided at the Big Bang. This would mean there is a kind of fate and you are not free to decide anything.

You may feel like you make decisions, but you are on autopilot. The motions of the particles that make up your brain cells that made you watch this video were decided 14 billion years ago. You are just in the room when it happens. You are only witnessing how the universe inside you unfolds in real time.

And the other side of the argument (in favor of free will):

We know that we can reduce everything that exists to its basic particles and the laws that guide them. While this makes physics feel like the only scientific discipline that actually matters, there is a problem: You can’t explain everything in our universe only from particles.

One key fact about reality that we can’t explain by looking just at electrons and quantum stuff is emergence. Emergence is when many small things together create new fundamental traits that didn’t exist before.

Emergence occurs at all levels of reality, and reality seems to be organized in layers: atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, organs, you, society. Put many things in one layer together and they’ll create the next layer up. Every time they do, entirely new properties emerge.

Having thought about this for all of 20 minutes (or, practically all of my life), the emergence argument against determinism makes a lot of sense to me. Then again, James Gleick’s Chaos and Steven Johnson’s Emergence both made a huge impression on me when I read it more than 20 years ago.

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Some people with insomnia think they are awake but they’re actually asleep. But scientists are discovering that their sleep is not as rejuvenating as normal sleep.

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