May 28th, 2013
A Twitter bug report pivots into a spooky little science fiction story:
Subject: Twitter API returning results that do not respect arrow of time.
This will take some explaining.
It started as an afternoon hacking project with your Twitter API. [...]
[Via nielsenhayden.com Sidelights]
May 25th, 2013
Don't be fooled by the preview image, this gorgeous time lapse video of the Danang International Fireworks Competition 2013 is worth seeing for more than just the fireworks:
May 22nd, 2013
President Barack Obama reveals What Happens To Us When We Die?, from Patrick Farley's sketchblog.
[Via homunculus, commenting at MetaFilter]
May 19th, 2013
Tsundoku, a Japanese word for buying books and letting them pile up rather than reading them.
May 19th, 2013
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Mr. Wesson Goes to Church:
When does life begin for a gun? Is it first casting, first barrel boring, first test fire? Is it before the gun is formed when the metal is mined, or the carbon fiber manufactured?
A thoroughly mischievous little piece.
[Via The Browser]
May 17th, 2013
Google's Larry Page bids us Welcome to Google Island (as related by Wired's Mat Honan):
"I hope my nudity doesn't bother you. We're completely committed to openness here. Search history. Health data. Your genetic blueprint. One way to express this is by removing clothes to foster experimentation. It's something I learned at Burning Man," he said. "Here, drink this. You're slightly dehydrated, and your blood sugar is low. This is a blend of water, electrolytes, and glucose."
I was taken aback. "How did you…" I began, but he was already answering me before I could finish my question.
"As soon as you hit Google's territorial waters, you came under our jurisdiction, our terms of service. Our laws – or lack thereof – apply here. By boarding our self-driving boat you granted us the right to all feedback you provide during your journey. This includes the chemical composition of your sweat. Remember when I said at I/O that maybe we should set aside some small part of the world where people could experiment freely and examine the effects? I wasn't speaking theoretically. This place exists. We built it." [...]
May 15th, 2013
The Luck of the Listserve:
The Listserve is a mailing list lottery. Sign up for the Listserve, and you're joining a massive e-mail list. Every day, one person from the list is randomly selected to write one e-mail to everyone else. That's it. As of this writing, the Listserve has 21,399 subscribers. There has been one email per day since April 16th, 2012.
[Via The Morning News]
May 13th, 2013
Two spectacularly colourful images: one looking up into the sky, the other one looking down from space:
May 13th, 2013
Coming soon: The Congress, a film inspired by Stanislaw Lem's The Futurological Congress. The trailer looks intriguing:
Judging by comments I've read the trailer doesn't give the impression that it's a particularly faithful adaptation, which may or may not be a problem. If we're really lucky it'll turn out like when Ridley Scott adapted Philip K. Dick. If we're unlucky, it'll end up more like Lee Tamahori or Christian Duguay.
May 13th, 2013
Paul Ford on How Bing Crosby and the Nazis Helped to Create Silicon Valley:
The nineteen-forties Bing Crosby hit "White Christmas" is a key part of the national emotional regression that occurs every Christmas. Between Christmases, Crosby is most often remembered as a sometimes-brutal father, thanks to a memoir by his son Gary. Less remarked upon is Crosby's role as a popularizer of jazz, first with Paul Whiteman's orchestra, and later as a collaborator with, disciple to, and champion of Louis Armstrong. Hardly remarked upon at all is that Crosby, by accident, is a grandfather to the computer hard drive and an angel investor in one of the firms that created Silicon Valley. [...]
Ford mentions one other technical innovation in broadcasting that Crosby allegedly inspired, but you'll have to read the article to the end to find out about that one. It's worth it.
May 10th, 2013
Artist Patricia Piccinini has created a hot air balloon she's christened The Skywhale, in honour of the centenary of the founding of Canberra:
Artist Patricia Piccinini says her inspiration came from the wonder of nature.
"My question is what if evolution went a different way and instead of going back into the sea, from which they came originally, they went into the air and we evolved a nature that could fly instead of swim," she said. [...]
Me, I think it looks pretty great. It's partly that goofy grin it has, and partly the sheer incongruity of glancing up and seeing something this strange go by:
May 8th, 2013
I'm never going to be able to unhear this:
[From a MetaFilter discussion of the use of different regional accents used by actors in Game of Thrones]
For everyone complaining about Dinklage's accent, and its terribleness/variability, I think it might be worth watching a couple of clips of Scottish actor Richard Wilson in One Foot In The Grave, because Dinklage's accent is – consciously or not – an almost exact replica. It has that clipped, haughty tone; it's different enough from a standard English RP accent to sound odd to someone not used to the accent; when he raises his voice, it takes on a kind of exaggerated, exasperated character that can sound oddly Transatlantic. And it's completely genuine: it's the accent of a working class, west coast Scot who has had the more guttural elements of his voice trained out of him by RADA, but who still retains strong vestiges of his background. And it's been put to use for the past four decades playing upper (or at least soi-disant upper) class Scots. That's the accent I hear when I watch Dinklage in Game Of Thrones. It may be capital A Acting, but it's not, in and of itself, a dodgy accent. [...]
posted by Len at 11:37 PM on May 7
May 8th, 2013
I know that this is just a bit of slick corporate marketing; carefully designed link bait for geeks of a certain age. I do. But how can anyone expect me not to link to Spock vs Spock?
[Via More Words, Deeper Hole]
May 6th, 2013
Another time-lapse sequence, this time of the US National Science Foundation's icebreaker the Nathaniel B. Palmer, traveling through the Ross Sea in Antarctica. Pink ice. Blue ice. Penguins. What more could you ask for?
May 6th, 2013
One day I'll get tired of sequences of time lapse images taken from the International Space Station. Not today.
[Via Bad Astronomy]
May 4th, 2013
It looks as if when NASA's New Horizons probe arrives at Pluto in 2015 it's going to find weather that is both relatively simple and yet quite difficult to predict:
To establish context: Pluto, like Earth and Titan, has a nitrogen-rich atmosphere. It's a very thin atmosphere, its pressure measured in microbars. Earth's atmospheric pressure is, of course, about one bar. Titan's is 1.6 bars. Mars' is a hundred times more tenuous, less than 10 millibars. Pluto's is about a hundred times more tenuous again, less than 100 microbars. Which is really thin; but it's way thicker than the essentially airless exospheres at Mercury and the Moon. Pluto has plenty enough atmosphere for the world to have wind and weather and clouds, just like Venus and Earth and Mars and Titan.
Nitrogen in Pluto's air is in equilibrium with nitrogen frost or ice on the ground. Broadly speaking, when Pluto warms up, ice sublimates to gas, and the atmospheric pressure goes up. When Pluto cools, you get frost and a lower atmospheric pressure. Changing seasons remove ice from the summer pole, and may re-deposit it at the winter pole.
Emily Lakdawalla's post goes into much more detail about why it's so hard to predict what New Horizons will find, even taking into account what we know from probes to destinations elsewhere in the solar system. Which, as she notes, is exactly why it's necessary to send a spaceship out to Pluto – to tell us which theories are right and which are wrong (and in turn to fuel a couple of decades-worth of scientific papers figuring out whether the theories that gave the right answers did so for the right reasons.)
In the meantime, New Horizons will be heading on out to the Kuiper Belt, which promises to be interesting in an entirely different way.
May 3rd, 2013
I never had much time for the TRON universe: to my mind the original was an impressive technical feat but the story didn't grab me, and I wasn't even slightly tempted by the sequel from a couple of years ago. The animated spin-off from TRON: Legacy was barely on my radar, but I have to admit that this compilation of visually impressive moments from the show, compiled by art director Alberto Mielgo, makes me think that the visual style of the show was a bit special.
I have no idea whether the plot and performances were as strikingly good as the show's look – and judging by some of the comments I see it looks as if the show might not get past a first season so soon it could be a moot question – but it surely was pretty.
April 30th, 2013
James Fallows caught the Times being very naughty in captioning a news photo earlier today.