Monthly Archives: August 2017

Painting of an eclipse, originally published in the New York Times

How to paint an eclipse. (Pro tip: Work quickly!) How the military changed food science, with the MRE. Audio recordings from the 1930s and 40s of former slaves, reflecting on their lives during and post-slavery. A short anthropological history of human sleep arrangements. A short history of communist bookstores. Border collies can “fast-map” (infer the name of a new, unfamiliar object) with the acumen of a three-year-old human. A graveyard of software. Datacrunch of the lexical complexity and affective metrics of YA fiction. The problems of, in the digital age, having the last name “Null.

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Screenshot of "Ten Bullets", an online browser game. “10 Bullets”, an addictively simple one-button browser game. First-person stories from religious protestors in Charlottesville. How the Internet has changed the work of being a private detective. Blockchain considered as foundational technology, like TCP/IP. (The analogy: TCP/IP -> blockchain as Early email -> bitcoin.) Typely, an online-proofreading tool, is very good at catching my consistent overuse of clichés in first drafts. (Man, if I had a nickel for every time I used a cliché!) What is technology? “How My Instagram Hacker Changed My Life.” Here’s some nifty browser-fu for sorting Chrome tabs. “Fuck”: That’s the title of this academic paper, on the legal implications of the word. So, Amazon’s new “2 minute” delivery system is basically just … an Automat?Turn old ASCII art into nicely-formatted HTML with Retrotext. Dataviz infoporn of Chicago’s tree canopy.

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After encountering this wonderful factoid, my twitter followers began offering some other fun translations for “computer”: In Chinese it’s “electric brain”, in Spanish it translates as “sorter”, and another way to render the Icelandic version? “Prophetess of numbers.” Oh, and consider “ikiaqqivik”, the Inuit word for “Internet”, which translates as “traveling through layers.” In other linkstuff: A supernova so huge it takes out a nearby giant star. Using smilies at work “may decrease perceptions of competence”. “Icebox” is a Chrome extension that fights impulse-purchasing by replacing the “buy” button on e-commerce sites, and imposing a purchase delay. A paper computer from 1958.

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Plants in beakers, genetically altered to try and improve their rates of photosynthesis

Hacking photosynthesis to improve agriculture. A delightful and illustrated introduction to compilers. The volcanos of the Antarctic. The Internet Archive has put up a huge collection of HyperCard projects, viewable in an online emulator. Luuuuunngs … innnnnnnn … spaaaaaaaaceHow big can a planet be? Gender-enforcement #1: A kid’s entertainer reflects on why parents won’t let their boys put “girly” stuff on their face. Gender-enforcement #2: Why won’t men work as health-care aides? Not only do they think it’s unmanly, but their wives do too. Yes, we should teach our kids to code: MORSE CODE, that is. Drive over a “non-Newtonian” speed bump slowly, and it’s soft; drive fast, and it’s hard.

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Scan of the cover of Galaxy magazine
Full-text scans of the sci-fi magazine Galaxy, courtesy the wonderful Internet Archive. The US government’s official page on how to prepare for a nuclear attack. A 17th-century “traveling library”. Behold tenyearsago.io, which shows you how various major sites — Amazon, CNN, the New York Times — looked, ten years ago from today. A human-to-elephant translation device. A machine that lays out dominos with precise spacing, for quick toppling. A history of the Sidekick, the best-designed mobile phone I ever owned. Using visual-recognition to play “Rock, Paper, Scissors” in your webcam.

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Picture of a Walmart in MadAllen, Texas, that has been turned into a huge library

When WalMart shut down in McAllen, the townspeople turned it into a mammoth, gorgeous library. “Pussy and Her Language”: an 1895 book on how to talk cats. (Via the superb Atlas Obscura!) The inner-ear mechanism that may lie behind some out-of-body experiences. An essay-length biography of Keats, who, TIL, was quite a brawler as a youth. “8 rabbits, aka 1 rabbyte“. How cheap paper led to the moral panic over 19th-century dime-store novels. A ghostly Russian radio station that has been broadcasting weird tones for three decades. (Also, as @BWJones pointed me to, there’s “The Conet Project”, online audio archives of shortwave “numbers stations”.) Writing a 2D game in Nim. The science behind recursive sadness. Goldfish survive frozen winters by producing alcohol. Via @gnat, here’s Wick, a cool tool for scripting interactive thingies.

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CGI model of what the first flower might have looked lke

A recreation of what the first flower might have looked like, 140 million years ago. A carbon-nanotube random-number generator. A comic strip about Lyft’s experiment in charging its employees to park at work. Why do porn sites have social-media “share” buttons? A cool list of coders’ side-projects. A guide to JOVIAL, a 60s-era embedded language the US military used for embedded systems. A hacker who has made a living, for twenty years, via exploits of the economics of online games. Quantum tunneling appears to not be instantaneous.

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An xray turned into a vinyl record, from the former USSR

Music-lovers in the USSR subverted censorship by turning old x-rays into vinyl-style albums. Which is better for communicating something, video or text? I have inadvertently created an A/B test on this. Why nature prefers hexagons. The Best of Byte, Vol. I, for free at the Internet Archive. A fascinating look at how to brute-force that math problem I posted about yesterday. omg I am going to buy this lighthouse and live in it and be a minor character from Myst (via Boing Boing). “There is a feral cat on the platform”: The NYC subway system experiments with extremely honest announcements. Once you hear about the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, you’ll see it everywhere. How the “demo or die” ethos helped danah boyd. Kitchen sponges teem with some seriously bad-ass bacteria. The guy who invented crazy-letter-character-string passwords recants. Behold Fangle, a fun framework for quickly making interactive text on web sites. “Deepmoji”: Using emoji to help AI detect sarcasm.

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Image of an old National Enquirer article claiming that "Hackers can turn your home computer into a bomb"

“Hacker Madness”, a wonderful article from issue 8 of Limn magazine, devoted to “Hacks, Leaks, and Breaches.” The answer to this mathematical question turns out to be insanely interesting. Is a Sharknado actually possible? According to the Washington Post … “It could happen.” Some in-depth, on-the-scene reporting of a small-factory line employees getting used to their new workmates: Robots. Over at Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow notes some unexpected reasons why so many stories today are dystopic. Indians are spending less on salty and sugary snacks, and instead using the money to buy data on their mobiles. The engineers piloting the 1970s Voyager probes are still on the job, four decades later. Behold the New Optimists.

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Panel from an old comic book with a finger pressing the "hate ray" button

A surreal collection of hilarious panels from vintage comics. A proposal to make an emoji of an oyster with a pearl. An R2D2 translator. Speaking of which, here’s a budgie that makes R2D2 noises! A study finds that students who lose access to legal marijuana do better in school. (Here’s the original paper itself, entitled “‘High’ Achievers?”.) A small Vermont utility is embracing solar and battery storage. An algorithm that takes a sentence and finds a single word that sounds like like its average sound. Via @boingboing, a lovely typewriter from the 1950s for composing musical scores. Judged by historical mortality rates, nuclear is — by far and away — the safest form of energy. A cool-looking coffee table made from Ikea magazine holders, via Ikeahackers. The best bars in Brooklyn at which to code. Fourteen of Picasso’s self-portraits show the evolution of his style. QZ interviews me about the much-misunderstood Luddites.

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