homeaboutarchives + tagsshopmembership!
aboutarchivesshopmembership!
aboutarchivesmembers!

Teachers have personalized handshakes for every single one of their students

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2018

These two teachers, Jerusha Willenborg of Mueller Elementary in Wichita, KS and Barry White Jr. of Ashley Park Elementary School in Charlotte, NC, both greet each of their students with a personalized handshake every day.

I love watching these. I can barely remember to shake with my right hand…no idea how the teachers memorize all that.

Mona, Vincent, and The Girl with the Pearl Earring hit the beach

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2018

Art At The Beach

Photo collage by Dan Cretu.

Photo of a single atom wins science photo contest

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2018

Single Atom Photo

The UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council just announced the winner of their annual science photography contest: a photo of a single strontium atom suspended in an electric field taken by David Nadlinger. The atom is that tiiiiny dot in the middle of the photo above.

‘Single Atom in an Ion Trap’, by David Nadlinger, from the University of Oxford, shows the atom held by the fields emanating from the metal electrodes surrounding it. The distance between the small needle tips is about two millimetres.

When illuminated by a laser of the right blue-violet colour the atom absorbs and re-emits light particles sufficiently quickly for an ordinary camera to capture it in a long exposure photograph. The winning picture was taken through a window of the ultra-high vacuum chamber that houses the ion trap.

Laser-cooled atomic ions provide a pristine platform for exploring and harnessing the unique properties of quantum physics. They can serve as extremely accurate clocks and sensors or, as explored by the UK Networked Quantum Information Technologies Hub, as building blocks for future quantum computers, which could tackle problems that stymie even today’s largest supercomputers.

Are these photographs of moons or pancakes?

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2018

Pancake Moons

Pancake Moons

Pancake Moons

Nadine Schlieper and Robert Pufleb have published a book called Alternative Moons. The book is filled with photographs of pancakes that look like moons.

See also Christopher Jonassen’s photos of frying pans that look like Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. Oh, and don’t forget about the world’s best pancake recipe.

Why speeding is so dangerous

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2018

Let’s say you’re doing 100 mph in a car and suddenly a downed tree, stopped car, or person appears in the road up ahead and you need to slam on the brakes. How much more dangerous is that situation than when you’re doing 70 mph? Your intuition might tell you that 70 mph is only 30% less than 100 mph. But as this video shows, the important factor in stopping a car (or what happens to the car when it collides with something else) is not speed but energy, which increases at the square of speed. In other words, going from 70 mph to 100 mph more than doubles your energy…and going from 55 to 100 more than triples it. (thx, david)

The official painted portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 12, 2018

Obama Portraits

Obama Portraits

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery commissions paintings of each outgoing President and First Lady. The Obamas selected a pair of black artists, Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, to paint their portraits, which were unveiled today. From Colossal:

Wiley’s depiction of President Obama features the artist’s signature style of richly-hued background patterns setting a vibrant symbolic environment for the portrait’s subject. President Obama is surrounded by a carefully selected variety of foliage: jasmine, which represents Hawaii; African blue lilies for his father’s Kenyan heritage; and Chicago’s official flower, the chrysanthemum. For Mrs. Obama’s portrait, Sherald engaged her distinctive combination of depicting skin tone in grayscale, offset by the sharply rendered full-color fabric of Mrs. Obama’s floor-length dress.

Even a cursory glance at other Presidential portraits shows how different the Obamas’ portraits are.

Composer Johann Johannsson has died

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 12, 2018

I was very sad to hear about the death of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson at the age of 48. Jóhannsson’s soundtrack to Arrival is one of my favorite soundtracks in recent years.

He also scored Sicario & Prisoners for director Denis Villeneuve as well as The Theory of Everything, earning a pair of Oscar nominations for his work. Back in 2016, Jóhannsson did a breakdown of one of his Arrival tracks for Song Exploder.

Update: This is a great little story about Jóhannsson from musician Ólafur Arnalds:

My favorite Jóhann story is when he had spent a year writing the score for Darren Aronofsky’s “Mother” and at some point realised that the film was better with no music at all. He proceeded to convince Darren to delete everything. It takes a real, selfless artist to do that. To realise the piece is better without you.

The most important part of creating art is the process, and Jóhann seemed to understand process. The score needed to be written first in order to realise that it was redundant. So in my view, Mother still has a score by Jóhann. The score is just silence… deafening, genius silence.

A map of the world after four degrees of warming

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 12, 2018

Four Degrees World Map

In this speculative world map published in 2009, New Scientist imagines what the world might look like if (or more likely, when) the Earth warms by 4ºC. Many current coastal areas would be underwater and much of the most heavily populated areas of the Earth would be desert or otherwise uninhabitable while the northern parts of Canada and Russia would become the new bread baskets of the world. But on the plus side, western Antartica would be habitable and possibly “densely populated with high rise cities”. In an article that accompanied the map, Gaia Vince wrote:

Imagine, for the purposes of this thought experiment, that we have 9 billion people to save — 2 billion more than live on the planet today. A wholesale relocation of the world’s population according to the geography of resources means abandoning huge tracts of the globe and moving people to where the water is. Most climate models agree that the far north and south of the planet will see an increase in precipitation. In the northern hemisphere this includes Canada, Siberia, Scandinavia and newly ice-free parts of Greenland; in the southern hemisphere, Patagonia, Tasmania and the far north of Australia, New Zealand and perhaps newly ice-free parts of the western Antarctic coast.

The citizens of the world’s wealthiest and most populous nations will become climate refugees, which means things are going to get really, really ugly for everyone else.

Really excited for Alto’s Odyssey, the sequel to Alto’s Adventure

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 12, 2018

The long-awaited sequel to Alto’s Adventure is coming out soon! Alto’s Odyssey will be out on Feb 22nd and is available for pre-order on the App Store. The game takes place in the desert and has a very similar vibe to the original, which is one of my top five favorite video games of all time.

I’ve played Alto’s Adventure a lot over the past year and a half. Like very a lot. At first, I played because the game was fun and I wanted to beat it. But eventually, I started playing the game when I was stressed or anxious. It became a form of meditation for me; playing cleared my mind and refocused my attention on the present. Even the seemingly stressful elements in the game became calming. The Elders, who spring up to give chase every few minutes, I don’t even notice anymore…which has become a metaphorical reminder for me to focus on my actions and what I can control and not worry about outside influences I can’t control.

Here’s the trailer for Alto’s Odyssey, which shows many of the new gameplay elements like bounce-able balloons, walls you can ride, water features, etc.:

I’ve been playing the beta version of Alto’s Odyssey for the past few days and while I can’t say much about it, I will share that fans of the original will be very pleased. It strikes a good balance between familiarity and novelty. So go forth and pre-order!

The wonderful sounds of black ice skating

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 12, 2018

Recently frozen lake ice has some interesting properties: it looks completely black and makes some interesting sounds when you skate over it. Swedish mathematician Mårten Ajne is a black ice skating enthusiast and he demonstrates his technique in this National Geographic video. You’ll want to turn up the sound or use headphones…the ice sounds like a cross between sci-fi phaser fire and getting pinged by sonar in a submarine.

The most desirable condition is virgin black ice, when a lake has caught its first ice cover and it has grown just thick enough to bear your joy. In favorable weather conditions this will take two days after freeze-over.

Five centimeters [2 inches] is often the limit [to how thin it can be]. If you’re close to shore, you can go thinner, up to about 3.5 centimeters, before it breaks. That’s for fresh, cold black ice. Brackish ice, which contains salt, needs to be thicker and is more difficult to assess.

At one point, Anje measures the ice with a caliper — it’s only 45 mm thick — but what really illustrates the crazy thinness of the ice is that you can see the surface flex as the water moves under it (wait for him to skate by the camera at ~1:42 in the video) and the ice cracking behind him (at ~2:02). Whaaaaa?!! (via the kid should see this)

The history and lifecycle of CRT television sets

posted by Tim Carmody   Feb 09, 2018

Sony TV Guide.JPG

Adi Robertson at The Verge has a fun, informative history of old cathode ray tube television sets, plus the people who study them, keep them working, and continue to use them. One maybe-surprising constituency: retro gamers.

Old games may look torn or feel laggy on a new TV. That’s in part because LCD screens process an entire frame of an image and then display it, rather than receiving a signal and drawing it right away.

Some games are completely dependent on the display technology. One of the best-known examples is Duck Hunt, which uses Nintendo’s Zapper light gun. When players pull the trigger, the entire screen briefly flashes black, then a white square appears at the “duck’s” location. If the optical sensor detects a quick black-then-white pattern, it’s a hit. The entire Zapper system is coded for a CRT’s super fast refresh rate, and it doesn’t work on new LCD TVs without significant DIY modification.

Old-school arcades, too, need to constantly maintain and replace their old tube monitors. Weirdly, this makes old television sets extremely valuable, even as it’s more and more difficult to have them recycled or thrown away.

“CRTs are essentially the bane of the electronic recycling industry,” says Andrew Orben, director of business development at Tekovery, one of the companies Barcade uses to dispose of irrevocably broken hardware. The tubes contain toxic metals that could leach into a dump site, and 18 states specifically ban sending them to landfills. They’re made of raw materials that are often impossible to sell at a profit, primarily glass that’s mixed with several pounds of lead.

They’re also insanely heavy. Even in 2002, a 40” tube TV would weigh more than 300 pounds. (Bigger TVs used to be rear-projections, remember?)

Buddhist monks on the value of video games

posted by Tim Carmody   Feb 09, 2018

In Thailand, Buddhist monks, and students studying to be monks, play video games sometimes like everyone else. But many of them are ambivalent about the games’ value.

The danger in playing a game is not the game itself, but the desire it may cause—since in Buddhist thought, desire is the cause of suffering. “If you lose or win, you want to do it again and again. You’re always thinking about the game. If you cling to that mindset, it causes mental suffering or physical suffering.”

This danger of competition and desire are why monks are generally not allowed to play sports. (Though, to be honest, I’ve seen more than a few novices playing covert soccer games.) Sports offer many benefits, both men agree, but if they become too much about winning or lead to bad feelings it can damage attempts to attain enlightenment.

Robert Rath, the author, tries to get the monks to dive deep on the connection between spawning, dying, and respawning in video games and an idea of a cycle of life and rebirth, but for the most part, the monks aren’t buying it. Games are fun, they’re challenging, they’re big distractions from study and meditation — and that’s about it. Not a lot of deeper meaning there.

Which to me, is refreshing, and very Buddhist (as I understand it). Why does everything have to mean anything? Most things are just nonsense. Let them be what they are, and be wary of the power you give them.

Olympic athletes talk about their scars

posted by Tim Carmody   Feb 09, 2018

Alana_Nichols.jpg

Zito Madu interviewed eight Olympic athletes to tell stories about their scars, their bodies, and major injuries they’d suffered in competition or training. It’s a fascinating look at how top athletes see their bodies. For example, here’s freestyle skier Devin Logan, on how injuries make athletes smarter:

I have had countless injuries throughout my whole life. Broken bones, sprains, and surgeries. I wouldn’t say the injuries get easier because it is always a hard time dealing with an injury that takes you out of something you love, but I would say injuries make you smarter. They make you smarter with how you train to come back and smarter with knowing what is best for you. You start to know yourself and body better, and that’s the greatest thing to take away from injuries because things that work for you may not work for others.

Or Ashley Caldwell, on how they can make you doubt yourself:

You train your body and your mind to be the best it can be and when an injury presents itself you feel as though your body betrayed you. That all the hard work, dedication and care you took to be a professional athlete was wasted because your body didn’t quite want to do it or couldn’t handle it.

J.R. Celski on the difference between athletes and regular people:

An athlete’s best friend is their body. A regular person’s might be their mind. Athletes spend all day training their bodies, whereas regular people might be required to complete tasks using their minds.

And Alana Nichols, a wheelchair basketball and alpine skier, on her most devastating injury:

Breaking my back and becoming paralyzed wasn’t enough to keep me from skiing, but after I destroyed my right shoulder up at Mt. Hood in June 2013, I seriously considered never skiing again. I was left with one functioning limb for six-plus weeks (legs paralyzed and right arm in a sling) but luckily living at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs. Right dead in the middle of that recovery process, taking medication to manage my pain, and struggling day in and day out to do the simplest tasks of daily living (with my left arm) was when I completely wanted to give up. The doctors at the OTC said I wouldn’t make it back to for the Sochi Games the following March, but my physical therapist thought differently. My rehab was excruciating; seven days-a-week (thankfully) of aggressive soft tissue manipulation, dry needling with STEM, and active mobility stretching. I definitely had moments of doubt, but all I could do was take it one struggle bus day at a time.

Madu, who was a professional soccer player himself, has a philosophical approach to all this, influenced by Dante Aligheri:

My fascination with scars stems from my belief of the body as an integral part of the miracle of human beings. The body, to me, is not a shell a person is trapped in. I see the body and mind as inseparable and do not put the mind as the greater of the two. The body is neither inferior nor a limitation. It is necessary and equally glorious.

Early 90s computing nostalgia

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2018

Ahh, this photo takes me back to the early 90s. Boom box, IBM PC AT (with a 286 processor), NES cartridge, JUST DO IT.

1991 Computer Render

Except that’s not actually a photo. Daniel Karner rendered that scene in 3D using 3ds Max and V-Ray. Here’s the wireframe:

1991 Computer Wireframe

See also celebrities using computers in the 80s/90s (Corey Haim, Shakira, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale) and me using a computer in 1996.

Kottke Computing 1996

DIY doll reconstruction

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2018

Doll Reconstruction

In response to a New Yorker article by Jill Lepore about fashion dolls like Barbie and Bratz, 11-year-old Violette Skilling sent in a letter to the magazine with her take on the dolls. It reads, in part:

I never wanted a Barbie or a Bratz doll until I discovered doll reconstruction. What you do is erase the features of the doll with nail-polish remover, and then remove the hair and make other body modifications. Then you give the doll a new face, new hair, and new clothing. (My favorite part is ripping out the hair, which is very therapeutic.)

What I like about doll reconstruction is that I am in control. I can make them pretty, or not. The two dolls that I have reconstructed represent two parts of me: one nerdy and very unfashionable, and one strong and cool. I make up their stories, and they represent my passions, my hopes, and my feelings.

Doll reconstruction is definitely a thing. Sonia Singh repaints the faces of Bratz dolls in a “down-to-earth style” and displays the results on her blog; that’s one of her doll makeovers pictured above. A profile of Singh on YouTube has been viewed more than 20 million times:

She sells a PDF guide to doll re-styling on Etsy. But you can also find tutorials for removing your doll’s “factory paint” on YouTube.