bugshot

Some amazing bug photography. Why passcodes are more secure for locking your phone than facial recognition. The ergonomics of astronaut cameras are awesome. How to re-engineer the Iphone so it’s less of an addictive time-suck. Amazing fossil: A 200-million-old baby ichthyosaur that died with “a belly full of squid”. How Google used the “cruising” behavior of cars to predict where parking is, and isn’t, available. Among the articles in this 1937 issue of Your Life magazine are “The Frigid Wives of Reno” and “What I Learned From An Old Man”. A new theory of how deep learning actually works: The most important part is “forgetting”. Shapeshifting, programmable synthetic skin that’s inspired by octopus muscle.

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A dog with a high-tech speedometer wrapped around its torso

A speedometer for dogs. A sudoku solver, using machine-learning, that works in AR. A brilliant web game based on the “AI paperclip problem” posed by Nick Bostrum. (The Reddit thread of gamers playing the game is pretty epic, too.) 30,000 bees, hidden in the walls of a house. An interactive map showing how hot your corner of the US will get by 2100. Why Canada should annex America’s blue states. The annotations on Genius for Alexander Pope’s “Essay on Criticism”. The first x-rays were super unsettling to observers. “Eyes and teeth are sort of a hundred times more scary than other objects.” A reboot of the Commodore 64! Access to USB devices via Javascript: Yeeeeiiiiikes. The decline and fall of high-school debating.

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A mesmerizing “water droplet” kinetic sculpture. A study of the culture of IMDB’s old discussion boards, which were shut down last winter. Deep learning considered as “woodworking without physics”. An attempt to train a neural net to understand the emotional import of a hurricane. Deep inside his hacky, serialized novel Jack Engel, Walt Whitman tucked a short exuberant passage that presaged Leaves of Grass. I want to get better at regex and am gonna buy this book. The phrase “killer app” is dreadful; here are some better replacements. The problems you get when trolls try to intentionally contaminate big, open data sets. The fascinating lineage of philosophers who defend extravagance. The story of why I’m @pomeranian99.

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An animated gif by the artist Kim Albrecht showing how a phone sense its environment

Animated gifs that show what it’s like to be a mobile phone. An app that reads text back to you in a sarcastic voice. Why “routine biased technological change” strikes most heavily during recessions. The stilt-walking shepherds of France. The illustrations in the 1898 book “On the Disposition of Iron in Variegated Strata” look like gorgeous modern art. The best layperson’s explanation of blockchain I’ve ever read. Can you use regex to parse HMTL? An unexpectedly apocalyptic answer. Hunting for alien life by looking for rocket exhaust. Basque “arborglyphs”.

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A screengrab of the video game Cuphead, showing Cuphead fighting a massive cigar

omg I want to play Cuphead, a game animated in the style of early Disney. A mobile phone with removable screens, for passing around and sharing. An argument, based on quantum mechanics, that claims to prove we’re not living in a simulation. Apple considered as being terrible at design. On the glory of Webster’s 1828 dictionary. A bookmarking tool specifically for developers. The challenge of translating the very first line of The Illiad. Utterly mesmerizing: A band uses the buffering delay on Facebook Live as a looping mechanism. Seriously, go watch that now.

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Bremen Drop Tower

Enjoy 9 seconds of microgravity via Bremen Drop Tower. An in-the-weeds autopsy of why “Gangnam Style” broke Youtube’s counter. How different programming languages change what’s possible to make. A subreddit devoted to highly compressed code. (I learned of it via @Beschizza’s posting about a 218-byte spreadsheet, written in a single, convoluted line of Javascript.) A path to “quantum supremacy.” How a petticoat led to the first “man-lifting balloon” in 1783. VR goggles for the Commodore 64, via @gnat.

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Photo of cab driver and passengers from 1980s
A cab driver took photos of himself and his passengers in San Francisco in the 80s, long before Uber. Inspired by Edward Tufte’s “Sparklines”, here’s a font that can quickly generate a tiny chart for display inside a line of text. Analyzing game-controller movements to study what types of play happen inside a video game. Here’s my recounting of what it’s like to read War and Peace on your phone. A DIY open-source wheelchair.

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Photo of a whale tail emerging from the water
This year’s winners of Scuba Diving Magazine‘s photography contest.
“Are Inventions Inevitable?” A parrot that orders stuff using Alexa, by imitating its owner’s voice. I’ve been digging surfing the web using w3m, an old-school all-text browser; here’s how to instal it on a Mac. Hey, they’ve found two new deep-sea crustacean species! (“Two eyeless species of millimetric proportions,” to be precise.) Ur-drone-photography: A 1920 book on taking photos from biplanes. Here’s “The Coming Software Apocalypse“, a good long piece about how to manage increasingly complex code bases. What do you call a city of octopuses? A Stanford psychologist on the art of dealing with assholes. A wonderful tale of hunting a strange, gnarly software bug.

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The word “dotard” is back. The original VR was the wildly popular 19th century stereoscope. (Here’s a fantastic collection of old stereoscope images at the New York Public Library, and via @kevinmarks, here’s an app that let you look at some of them Google Cardboard.) “The Wadsworth Constant is an axiom which states that the first 30% of any video can be skipped because it contains no worthwhile or interesting information.”  Twitter bots crafted for social good appear to work. Why a poem ought to be considered as a kind of machine. The first Western literary reference to “white people” as a category appears to be in a 1613 play by Thomas Middleton. The dying art of globe-making. If two countries had rovers on the moon and they crashed, who’s legally at fault? Find out in Space Law Moot Court!

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Screenshot of a 1930s newspaper story about exploding pants in New Zealand
In the 1930s, New Zealand had an epidemic of exploding pants. FlightAware has a “misery map” showing flight delays across the country; the legend, bottom right, is pure poetry. “Transmission of Sound Through Voice Tubes”, a comprehensive 1926 governmental study of some fascinating acoustic physics; check out the gorgeous charts and data. Chinese voice-translation apps are getting remarkably good. Reddit’s 2015 ban of several hate-filled forums appears to have had an overall effect of reducing abuse, site-wide. Jellyfish have no brains, but appear to sleep, and to need sleep. “Love discovered me all weaponless”: These free translations of Petrarch are lovely.

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