Advertise here with Carbon Ads

This site is made possible by member support. ❤️

Big thanks to Arcustech for hosting the site and offering amazing tech support.

When you buy through links on kottke.org, I may earn an affiliate commission. Thanks for supporting the site!

kottke.org. home of fine hypertext products since 1998.

🍔  💀  📸  😭  🕳️  🤠  🎬  🥔

Data Visualization of the Most Common PIN Numbers

Based on an analysis of leaked PIN numbers by Nick Berry, Information is Beautiful made this visualization of the most common PINs.

Data Visualization of the Most Common PIN Numbers

According to the analysis, just 20 4-digit numbers account for 27% of all PINs: 1234, 0000, 7777, 2000, 2222, 9999, 5555, 1122, 8888, 2001, 1111, 1212, 1004, 4444, 6969 (nice), 3333, 6666, 1313, 4321, 1010. The diagonal line is people using repeated pairs of digits (e.g. 2727 or 8888) while the horizontal line near the bottom is people who are presumably using their (19xx) birth year as a PIN. (You can see the beginning of a 20xx line on the left side.)

The best causally unguessable PINs would seem to be unrepeated pairs of numbers greater than 50 — so 8957, 7064, 9653, etc. Choose wisely.

Reply · 5

Data Visualization of the Most Common PIN Numbers
5 comments      Latest:

Slow Publishing With Arion Press
1 comment      Latest:

An Open Letter to Wyna Liu, the New York Times' Connections Editor. "But on those days when I don't solve it... well, let's just say...
9 comments      Latest:

How to get Google search results without the AI garbage. "It's essentially Google, minus the crap. No parsing of the information in the...
11 comments      Latest:

Two dairy workers have caught the H5N1 virus from cows, "the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu...
1 comment      Latest:

Do We Live in an Infinite Nesting Doll of Black Hole Universes?
3 comments      Latest:

The true story behind the kid who went 1940s viral for his week at the cinemas in San Francisco. "Richard said he had spent $20 on 16...
3 comments      Latest:

Ayo Edebiri Settles Your Petty Disputes
6 comments      Latest:

Have You Seen A Cybertruck Yet? I saw one yesterday driving through the small town I live in and just burst out laughing. It is a...
17 comments      Latest:

The Evolution of Hokusai's Great Wave
8 comments      Latest:

Love this: an old mid-century TV cabinet from Zenith, retrofitted with a contemporary smart TV.
1 comment      Latest:

The wind phone is an unconnected telephone booth in Japan where people can hold conversations with deceased loved ones. It was built by...
4 comments      Latest:


Two dairy workers have caught the H5N1 virus from cows, “the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal”. We are just playing with fire with this stuff, aren’t we? 🫣

Reply · 1

Slow Publishing With Arion Press

San Francisco’s Arion Press still uses decades-old machines to make beautiful books by hand. They’re one of the few remaining presses in the world that do everything from start to finish — they even cast their own type.

Arion dwells in an almost extinct corner of the book world: Call it Slow Publishing. It produces only three books a year, each a unique art object reproduced in editions of less than 300. Art is so important, in fact, that the illustrators-art-world luminaries-drive the title selection process.

“We learned that the projects went a lot more smoothly when we said to the artist, ‘What do you want to do?’” Blythe said.

Anthony Bourdain visited Arion in 2015 for a online series called Raw Craft — it’s a great look at how and why they produce books this way:

Business Insider’s Still Standing series recently profiled Arion as well:

(thx, stephen)

Reply · 1

If I were in NYC this July, I’d go see this Uptown Shakespeare in the Park production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (by way of the Harlem Renaissance).

Reply · 0

The editors of Scientific American: There Is Too Much Trash in Space. “It’s time for nations — and the billionaires commoditizing space — to clean up Earth’s near orbit.”

Reply · 0

The Budapest Children’s Railway

The Gyermekvasút (Children’s Railway) is a 7-mile-long rail line in Budapest that’s operated by children aged 10-14 (aside from the train’s driver).

Children’s Railway, Budapest is one of Budapest’s most unique attractions. Like any other railway, it has ticket offices, diesel locomotives, signals, switches and a timetable. Unlike other railways though, this one is run by children. The line stretches among the Buda hills from Széchenyihegy to Hűvösvölgy, crossing the Cogwheel Railway and serving Normafa as well as the highest point of Budapest: Jánoshegy.

The project, then called the Pioneer’s Railway, was started in 1947 as a part of a three-year Communist plan. This video shows how the railway operates and includes interviews with current workers as well as former workers from the Communist era:

Seems like all the kids are big train nerds…adorable.

Reply · 0

An Open Letter to Wyna Liu, the New York Times’ Connections Editor. “But on those days when I don’t solve it… well, let’s just say those are dark days. I don’t sleep properly anymore. I can’t eat.”

Reply · 9

Do We Live in an Infinite Nesting Doll of Black Hole Universes?

Kurzgesagt is back with another video about black holes; it has the innocuous-seeming title of The Easiest Way To Build a Black Hole. But the main topic of the video is the speculation that universes (like ours!) might exist within black holes.

Black holes might create infinite universes while destroying time and space. Everything in existence could be black holes, all the way down. We might live inside a black hole that is inside a black hole, that is inside a black hole. But let’s start at the beginning and build a black hole out of air.

This one is a bit of a brain-bender. From the show notes:

The first part of the script is based on the empirical fact that, somewhat intriguingly, the observable universe seems to have the exact size and mass that would be required to make a black hole as big as the observable universe itself.

The second, completely independent proposal we explore is the idea that our Universe could be born from the singularity of a black hole, and that in turn the universe that contains that black hole could be born from a black hole itself. If so, universes in later generations of this process could be better fitted to produce an abundance of black holes, in a sort of “natural selection” towards efficient black hole production.

Reply · 3

Joss Fong and Adam Cole introduce their new YouTube channel Howtown, where they will “dig into the evidence behind commonly held facts and claims in the news”. I am excited for this one!

Reply · 0

From Becca Rothfeld’s All Things Are Too Small, an amazing quote on consumer brands’ solution to mass production: “The ideal product was therefore something that a person would go on wanting even when she had it.”

Reply · 0

How Not to Get Screwed Buying a Used Car

This video about how not to get screwed buying a used car crams an astounding amount of good information into three minutes.

Update: Bold claim by Robin Sloan on Twitter:

The calm density of this video is way more “future of visual communication” than 99% of claimants to that title

I agree. That video contained more information than a 44-minute episode of Mythbusters but the pace and energy were more relaxed.


Every Sample from Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys. Plus playlists and downloadable files of all the sampled songs.

Reply · 1

Jon Stewart on Cancel Culture

Jon Stewart is back on The Daily Show on a regular basis and the other day he took on the manufactured outrage that is cancel culture.

Nothing about the right wing reaction is surprising because the idea that there is an all pervasive, all powerful threat to free speech called cancel culture has become a central tenet of modern conservatism. They celebrate their being silenced at conferences. They celebrate their being silenced on podcasts and streaming outlets. They celebrate their being silenced with over 700 book titles about being canceled. Why are there so many of these fucking books?

Conservatives have an entire industry devoted to complaining about not being allowed to say the things they say all the time. Their victimhood is the entire brand.

And:

We are not censored or silenced. We are surrounded by and inundated with more speech than has ever existed in the history of communication.


Love this: an old mid-century TV cabinet from Zenith, retrofitted with a contemporary smart TV.

Reply · 1

A Massachusetts “millionaire’s tax” (extra 4% tax on $1M+ incomes) has earned the state more than $1.8 billion in income for fiscal 2023. That’s about double the estimates and the funds will be spent on education and transportation.

Reply · 2

The true story behind the kid who went 1940s viral for his week at the cinemas in San Francisco. “Richard said he had spent $20 on 16 movies, 15 comic books, six games, 150 candy bars, and a large number of hot dogs.”

Reply · 3

The wind phone is an unconnected telephone booth in Japan where people can hold conversations with deceased loved ones. It was built by Itaru Sasaki to help him feel connected to his recently deceased cousin.

Reply · 4

The Lost Typeface Recovered From the Thames River

This is such a wild story. Two men, Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson & Emery Walker, founded the Doves Press in London in 1900. They made a typeface called Doves Roman:

During its short life early last century, the Doves Press printed and bound some of the finest books ever produced in England and its approach to typography and printing subsequently exerted a major influence over book design in Europe and the United States. Many of Cobden-Sanderson’s ideas would, decades later, find expression or adaptation in both Traditionalist and Modernist circles respectively.

The partnership busted up and Cobden-Sanderson eventually took all of the lead type and dumped it in the Thames River. No more typeface.

The thought of ‘his’ typeface being used by anyone else, and in a manner beyond his control, prompted Cobden-Sanderson’s now infamous course of action. Only the Doves Press, run exclusively by him, could be bestowed the honour of printing his type. And so the mission to destroy it, beginning with the punches and matrices on Good Friday 1913, began. On an almost nightly basis from August 1916 the ailing septuagenarian dumped the type into the Thames, wrapped in paper parcels and tied with string; “bequeathed to the river” as he put it in his personal diary. Every piece of this beautiful typeface, more than a ton of metal, was destroyed in a prolonged ritual sacrifice.

Type designer Robert Green, working from printed materials, made a digital facsimile font of Doves Roman. In a bid to improve the font, he set out to find the lead type dumped in the river, aided by Cobden-Sanderson’s diary entries of the type-destroying mission. He found a few of the metal sorts (i.e. pieces of lead type) and with assistance from the Port of London Authority’s diving team, ended up retrieving 151 metal sorts in all, “out of a possible 500,000”.

a collection of metal sorts from a typeface that's been at the bottom of a river for over a century

Here’s a short film about the recovery of the type:

You can testdrive and buy the text and headline typefaces that Green created using the recovered sorts. (via colossal)

a letter printed in Doves Type

Reply · 3

Registration for the 2024 XOXO Festival is now open! I will be there, performing some sort of indie media circus act. (I do what the Andys tell me.)

Reply · 3

Three Pieces That Prove Bach’s Genius

In this video, pianist David Bennett explains three pieces composed by Johann Sebastian Bach that show how much of a musical genius he was. Two of the compositions are puzzle canons, “a piece of music where the performer has to decode what the composer wants in order to perform the music”.

Reply · 0

“Given the lack of decency they have shown, Genocide Inc. has decided it will not be making job offers to any of these protesters when they graduate.” Gotta have decency to weaponize the Torment Nexus.


The Earth’s rotation rate is changing, in part due to global warming. Melting ice flows away from high latitudes: “a transfer of mass away from the poles towards the equator, which slows down the Earth’s rotation rate”.

Reply · 3

John Green on the tradeoffs of sharing your personal life with strangers. “The thing about selling something of yourself is that that you can’t buy it back.” (I used to share much more of myself online; these days I’m more careful.)

Reply · 5

Contenting Ourselves With Stories

I just started a rewatch of Chernobyl and was struck by the opening lines of the first episode spoken by Jared Harris, who plays Soviet nuclear physicist Valery Legasov:

What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all. What can we do then? What else is left but to abandon even the hope of truth and content ourselves instead with stories? In these stories, it doesn’t matter who the heroes are. All we want to know is: Who is to blame?

Which reminds me of what historian and philosopher Hannah Arendt said in a 1974 interview:

The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie-a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days-but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

And also what On Tyranny author Timothy Snyder wrote a few days after the January 6th attack on Congress:

Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around, and the era of Trump — like the era of Vladimir Putin in Russia — is one of the decline of local news. Social media is no substitute: It supercharges the mental habits by which we seek emotional stimulation and comfort, which means losing the distinction between what feels true and what actually is true.

Reply · 5

Have You Seen A Cybertruck Yet? I saw one yesterday driving through the small town I live in and just burst out laughing. It is a ridiculous vehicle.

Reply · 17

David Marchese interviews Marlon Wayans about grief & comedy. “I miss my parents dearly, but I’m a different human with my parents gone than I was when they were here. Now I’m a man. I don’t have parents anymore, so I live differently.”

Reply · 1

Today’s music to work to: the solo piano version of Philip Glass’s Tales from the Loop score.

Reply · 5

Ayo Edebiri Settles Your Petty Disputes

Well this is delightful: Vanity Fair set up Ayo Edebiri with a selection of personal beefs and several gavels (and maybe there’s a meat tenderizer in there, I don’t know), she listened to both sides of each argument, and then passed judgment. Listen until at least the second case before you pass judgment on watching the whole thing (verdict: you should)…it involves someone stealing a french fry from a room service tray.

I don’t know how to tell you this…but your father has murdered people before. There are bodies in the ground. ‘I don’t know what she’s so upset about. It’s a victimless crime. Nobody’s gonna miss that fry. Nobody’s gonna miss THAT KID!’

Reply · 6

The benefits of cycling: increased longevity and less likely to have osteoarthritis and experience knee pain. “I was surprised to see how very strong the benefit was.”

Reply · 5

The Evolution of Hokusai’s Great Wave

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai is one of the world’s most iconic pieces of art. Hokusai created the woodblock print in 1831 at the age of 71 as part of his series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. But in some sense, he’d been working on it all of his life.

In 1797, at the age of 37, Hokusai made what could be interpreted as his first wave print, Spring at Enoshima (Enoshima shunbô):

a woodblock print of a wave by Hokusai

Hokusai made his next attempt in 1803 (age 43) with View of Honmoku off Kanagawa (Kanagawa-oki Honmoku no zu):

a woodblock print of a wave by Hokusai

Two years later in 1805 (age 45) came Express Delivery Boats Rowing through Waves (Oshiokuri hatô tsûsen no zu) and it’s starting to look familiar:

a woodblock print of a wave by Hokusai

A few waves show up in Hokusai’s three-volume Quick Lessons in Simplified Drawing (1812).

In 1831 at the age of 71, Hokusai returned to waves with The Great Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa-oki Nami Ura):

a woodblock print of a wave by Hokusai

As others have noted, this version is fantastically impressionistic — it evokes a feeling just as much as it depicts a scene. The others are nice works of art, but this is the work of a master at the peak of his expressive powers.1

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Here’s Fuji at Sea (Kaijo no Fuji) from circa 1834, made at age 74 — it looks great in color:

a woodblock print of a wave by Hokusai

Right around the same period, Hokusai made Kajikazawa in Kai Province (Kōshū Kajikazawa) and Fishing Boats at Choshi in Shimosa (Soshu Choshi). Later on, Hokusai allegedly made a pair of paintings referred to as Feminine Wave and Masculine Wave, but I can’t find any information about them online outside of sites selling prints. [Edit: the Feminine & Masculine Waves are featured in Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave, based on an exhibition in the British Museum. (thx, jody)]

What did Hokusai make of this progression over his career? In a colophon to his series One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku hyakkei), he wrote:

From the age of six I had a penchant for copying the form of things, and from about fifty, my pictures were frequently published; but until the age of seventy, nothing that I drew was worthy of notice. At seventy-three years, I was somewhat able to fathom the growth of plants and trees, and the structure of birds, animals, insects, and fish. Thus, when I reach eighty years, I hope to have made increasing progress, and at ninety to see further into the underlying principles of things, so that at one hundred years I will have achieved a divine state in my art, and at one hundred and ten, every dot and every stroke will be as though alive. Those of you who live long enough, bear witness that these words of mine prove not false.

Note: Screenshots of a viral tweet from 2018 about this series of prints are going around again. I’m sure it will shock you to learn that some of the math and dates haven’t been fact-checked as well as they could have been. I’ve documented the names of the artworks shown here and relied on primary sources for their dates where possible. I’ve used 1760 as the year of Hokusai’s birth and the dates of works are when they were made, not when they were first published. Please let me know if I’ve made any errors…I’d love for this post to be as correct as possible.

  1. See also an old post (in the old design!) about Old Masters and Young Geniuses.
Reply · 8

La Maison du Pastel

From Business Insider’s series Still Standing, a look at La Maison du Pastel, a 300-year-old French company that makes pastels for artists by hand. Back in its golden age, the company supplied the likes of Monet & Degas but fell into neglect near the end of the 20th century. The newest generation of ownership has restored the company and they now offer over 1,900 different pastel colors.

Seriously, take a look at their online shop…there’s all sorts of amazing stuff in there. Like this antique watercolors set — get a load of these color names: Violet Lake, Burnt Lake, Carmine, Venice Red, Vermilion, Orange Chrome, Gamboge, Zinc White, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, Van Dyck Brown, Lamp Black, Payne’s Gray, Indigo, Celestial Blue, Blue Ash, Prussian. You can even order a full set of their pastels for only €29,450.00 (the set comes with a custom-made chest of drawers).

I am not at all an artist but these colors all look so amazing that I’m eyeing one of the smaller sets for myself… (thx, caroline)

Reply · 6

Can shame help us become better people? “In Confucianism, shame is a crucial tool that leads you toward your best self, and you have more power over it than you know.”

Reply · 1

Queendom

Queendom is a documentary film by Agniia Galdanova about queer Russian activist and performance artist Jenna Marvin and her unusual form of protest against the war in Ukraine and Russia’s treatment of LGBTQ+ people. From a short review in the Guardian:

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, some brave souls took to the streets of Moscow to voice their horror at the war, and were met with batons and police brutality. Radical queer performance artist Gena Marvin took a different approach. Wearing platform boots, body paint and wrapped in barbed wire, she walked the streets of Moscow in a stark, silent statement against the war. To call Gena a drag artist fails to capture just how subversive and courageous are her public “performances”. Her otherworldly costumes, created from junk and tape, show the influence of Leigh Bowery; her fearlessness evokes the punk provocation of Pussy Riot.

Marvin’s performances can be intense — check out this video from Paris in 2022. France had just advanced into the semifinals of the World Cup and she went out on the streets dressed in an all-black costume straight out of Alien or Pan’s Labyrinth:

Queendom opens in theaters and will available on streaming on June 14.

Reply · 0

Ahead of the Paris Olympics, France has released a scratch-and Sniff baguette stamps. “The baguette, the bread of our daily lives, the symbol of our gastronomy, the jewel of our culture.”

Reply · 1

Interesting hypothesis: the aesthetic of Incan stone work was inspired by corn. “The layout of Machu Picchu mirrors the shape of a corn cob, with its terraces resembling the kernels of corn.”

Reply · 1

Future 2024 Bestsellers

book covers for Long Island Compromise, Frostbite, and Hip-Hop Is History

Kirkus’s list of 20 Books That Should Be Bestsellers reminds me that Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s new book, Long Island Compromise, is due out this summer, so yay to that. Yay also to pal Nicola Twilley for making the list with her book Frostbite. And there’s a new-to-me title on there that I’m intrigued by: Hip-Hop Is History by Questlove (with Ben Greenman).

Reply · 1

A recent study estimates that a human pregnancy demands 50,000 calories, “significantly more than the researchers expected.” The fetus only needs 4% of the energy — “the other 96% is extra fuel required by a woman’s own body.”

Reply · 5

How to get Google search results without the AI garbage. “It’s essentially Google, minus the crap. No parsing of the information in the results. No surfacing metadata like address or link info. No knowledge panels, but also, no ads.”

Reply · 11

The History of Tetris World Records

I know a lot of you probably aren’t going to take me up on this, but I recommend watching Summoning Salt’s feature-length documentary on the history of Tetris world records. I started watching in the other night and once I got going, I couldn’t stop. Some of plot points were familiar — Why Are Humans Suddenly Getting Better at Tetris?, A Revolutionary NES Tetris Technique Gaining Steam, The Greatest Classic Tetris Game of All Time, 13-Year-Old Becomes First to Beat NES Tetris, Another Tetris World Record Completely Demolished! What Is Going On?! — but seeing it all put together in one engaging & informative narrative was really compelling.

Watching these videos about Tetris (and also Super Mario Bros), what strikes me most is how clearly you can see, over and over again, how innovation works:

This is a great illustration of innovation in action. There’s a clearly new invention, based on prior effort (standing on the shoulders of giants), that allows for greater capabilities and, though it’s still too early to tell in this case, seems likely to shift power to people who utilize it. And it all takes place inside a small and contained world where we can easily observe the effects.

And it’s a credit to Summoning Salt and other video producers that this process is so clear to the viewer:

In the video analysis of this speedrun, if you forget the video game part of it and all the negative connotations you might have about that, you get to see the collective effort of thousands of people over more than three decades who have studied a thing right down to the bare metal so that one person, standing on the shoulders of giants in a near-perfect performance, can do something no one has ever done before. Progress and understanding by groups of people happens exactly like this in manufacturing, art, science, engineering, design, social science, literature, and every other collective human endeavor…it’s what humans do. But since playing sports and video games is such a universal experience and you get to see it all happening right on the screen in front of you, it’s perhaps easier to grok SMB speedrun innovations more quickly than, say, how assembly line manufacturing has improved since 2000, recent innovations in art, how we got from the flip phone to iPhone X in only 10 years, or how CRISPR happened.

I was talking to my son about this video yesterday and of course he’d already seen it — “I love Summoning Salt’s videos” — and I loved his take on the way in which the NES version of Tetris was unwittingly challenging these players beyond what the game’s makers had ever envisioned. Where the designers may have just kept increasing the speed of the game as the levels got higher (boring!), the game glitches and throws all these interesting challenges at players: tile colors you can barely see, game-ending kill screens that you can pick your way around, a level with 810 lines, and the game resetting after hundreds of levels. So instead of players just having to get faster (which they have definitely done), they’ve had to navigate all of these other obstacles as well. (thx, nathan)

Reply · 7

“A [2022] report adds to a growing line of research showing that police departments don’t solve serious or violent crimes with any regularity, and in fact, spend very little time on crime control.” Instead: “conducting racially biased stops”.

Reply · 0

Here’s something that I believe without any evidence to back it up: chocolate chip cookies taste better without chocolate chips in them. (I do prefer CCCs with sparse chips though.)

Reply · 21

Whoa, classic console emulators work on Apple TV now? (In other words, you can play old school NES/SNES/N64 games on your Apple TV.) You can even connect a controller.

Reply · 1

Danny MacAskill Goes Mountain Biking With Friends in Scotland

Danny MacAskill is known ‘round these parts for his jaw-dropping trials riding (I first posted about him 15 years ago) but this ride is a little bit different. MacAskill and four friends take to the local mountain bike trails around Inverness, Scotland on ebikes and have a grand old time. For me, listening to the banter was just as entertaining as watching the riding — it’s obvious they’re just out there having a blast.

P.S. I was also trying to calculate how fast I would die if I tried riding some of that stuff and the answer is “almost immediately”. Yiiiikes.

Reply · 2

This week in crossword history (1924): Cross-Word Puzzlers to Hold [10-Letter Word Meaning Meet]. “Enthusiastic followers of tiddley-winks, jackstraws, parchesi […] have not yet announced the dates of their respective conventions.”

Reply · 0

In case anyone else is on a bedside lamp acquisition journey, I got some ideas out of this Strategist post, as well as from this Architectural Digest roundup.

Reply · 11

One Strange Side Effect of Parenting

The other day while singing to my daughter, I realized that I can, in fact, sing better than I used to. I think the sheer amount of “Wheels on the Bus” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” did the trick: I enjoy it more now and feel like I’m hitting more of the right notes. I’m still not “good,” but I’m not bad, and I’m less embarrassed to be caught singing in front of other people. It reminds me of the Terry Gross detail that she took voice lessons not to become a better singer but simply so she could sing along more pleasurably to music she loved.

Has anyone else been singing anything fun lately? For their kids, or in any other situation? I’ve been singing a lot of Carrie Anne, by The Hollies.

Reply · 14

Addicted to Exercise?

legsrunning2.jpg
If you don’t like exercise or are getting sick of your workout routine, a few recent essays will keep you in good company. Last fall, Aja Frost wrote I Was (Am?) Addicted to Exercise for the newsletter Platonic Love:

I never deviated from or relaxed my exercise routine; it was sacred. As long as I exercised, my body wouldn’t slip back into its old state. I’d be safe.

And last week, Rod Gilchrist wrote I Was a Running Addict for The Guardian:

The trouble is, once you’ve got the running bug, it’s hard to scale back, even when your body demands it.

And a few days after that, The Guardian also ran I Thought Fitness Was My Superpower. Then I Realized It Was a Ball and Chain, by Sam Pyrah:

I tried to push through it – until, suddenly, neither my body nor my brain could find a reason to carry on. I slowed to a walk. I stopped my watch. I sat down and had a little cry, the sweat drying on my back. Then I walked home.

The essays remind me of a concept called Positive Addiction (and a 1985 book of the same name) — the idea that it’s possible to be truly addicted to things that are good for you. I’m an almost-daily runner, and I do understand how it could be described as addiction, although for now I just love it. Maybe a key is that I don’t run especially long distances. And it’s a relatively new habit. But I guess there’s (hopefully) still plenty of time for it to sour.

Reply · 4

The 40-hour workweek isn’t “a biological necessity,” per a recent episode of History Unplugged. “In fact, for much of human history, 15 hours … was the standard.” I haven’t listened yet, but 15 hours sounds pleasant.

Reply · 7

Diary Comics, Dec. 26-28

It’s another Thursday Afternoon With Edith! In these comics from last winter, our baby was just born. (Previously.)

dec26intro.jpg
dec26.jpg
dec27.jpg
dec28.jpg

Reply · 7

Cicadas and Prime Numbers

You may have heard that this year, for the first time since 1803, two different broods of cicadas will emerge at the same time.

This year, though, will be a rare event. Two groups, or “broods,” are waking up during the same season. There will likely be billions, if not trillions, of the insects.

There’s the 17-year-group called Brood XIII, which is concentrated in northern Illinois (brown on the map below), and the 13-year clutch, Brood XIX, which will emerge in southern Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and throughout the Southeast.

You may have noticed the lengths of both periodicities (13, 17) are prime numbers — and that does not appear to be a coincidence. Scientists haven’t nailed down an exact cause, but one hypothesis has to do with predator cycles:

According to the paleontologist Stephen J. Gould, in his essay “Of Bamboo, Cicadas, and the Economy of Adam Smith,” these kind of boom-and-bust population cycles can be devastating to creatures with a long development phase. Since most predators have a two-to-ten-year population cycle, the twelve-year cicadas would be a feast for any predator with a two-, three-, four-, or six-year cycle. By this reasoning, any cicada with a development span that is easily divisible by the smaller numbers of a predator’s population cycle is vulnerable.

Prime numbers, however, can only be divided by themselves and one; they cannot be evenly divided into smaller integers. Cicadas that emerge at prime-numbered year intervals, like the seventeen-year Brood II set to swarm the East Coast, would find themselves relatively immune to predator population cycles, since it is mathematically unlikely for a short-cycled predator to exist on the same cycle. In Gould’s example, a cicada that emerges every seventeen years and has a predator with a five-year life cycle will only face a peak predator population once every eighty-five (5 x 17) years, giving it an enormous advantage over less well-adapted cicadas.

See also Long-lived insects raise prime riddle.

Reply · 0