Monthly Archives: December 2017

Hacking a Furby Connect. Meet the men who are convinced we live in a simulation. Smartphone keyboards designed specifically for coding, Android and iOS. An online tool that translates a MIDI file into JSON; very useful for a project I’m currently working on. How video games harness the Zeigarnik Effect. Belgium’s aesthetically gorgeous telegram service is finally shutting down. “Aerial transit will be accomplished because the air is a solid if you hit it hard enough”: The final sentence from the 1894 book The Problem of Manflight. It turns out that “Classic Nintendo Games are (NP-)Hard”. We’re getting closer to cracking the secret of how porpoise sonar works. Google’s new voice-synthesis is unsettlingly lifelike.

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A screenshot of an anime show, with people waiting at a bus stop beneath power lines

Why are there so many shots of power lines in anime? I confess I’m probably going to blow money on this heat-regulating coffee mug. Why shame doesn’t scale. When we participate in surveys, we may overstate our negative feelings. Frankenstein was published in a small anonymous edition of 500 copies; it became famous because of theatrical adaptations a few years later. A self-propelled nose-wheel for airplanes could dramatically reduce their energy use while taxiing. “I Pretended To Be Emily Dickinson on an Online Dating Site.” A 2,000-year-old twenty-sided die. My old piece on “how to tell when a robot has written you a letter” — inside the world of automated generation of pen-written letters. Behold Radio.garden, a fun globe you can spin and tune into live radio broadcasts from around the world. How to build a new internet.

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A picture of "The Asthma Quilt"

“The Asthma Quilt”, which uses scraps of industrial fabric to map out the incidence of asthma in NYC (via @auremoser). A programming language designed to function, and be read, like a comic strip. It seems the question “what is consciousness?” has become a hot subject in the field of consumer-psychology research. Veblen’s conspicuous consumption, updated for the humblebragging world of I’m sooo busy with work: “Conspicuous Consumption of Time”. The art-game Humanity: Think Lemmings, except with hundreds of thousands of faceless humans; and beatings; and guns. “Antipodal words” perform a semantic U-turn, and contain their opposite. Teaching robots not just to see, but to predict what they’re about to see.

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Photo of a Hagelin CD-57 pocket cipher machine

Man, I’d love to get this pocket cipher machine at the upcoming Sotheby’s “History of Science and Technology” auction. (It’s $3,500, though.) Using an algorithm to co-write a sci-fi short story. How Linneas invented the index card (and thus, ultimately, the database). A book on the science of jellyfish (which, under global warming, may wind up ruling the planet). They may have found the bones of the original Saint Nicholas. LED traffic lights are so energy-efficient they don’t emit enough heat to melt the snow that gathers on them. Wow, when Time picked the computer as “Machine of the Year” in 1983, the cover illustration was creepy. Some proof that lightning creates antimatter.

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How NASA tests its most powerful rocket ever; gorgeous photos by Vincent Fournier. Everyday women in the early Neolithic and Bronze Age were likely stronger than today’s athletes. A guitar tuner designed for blind musicians. A good discussion of the question “Is it ethical to work for online casinos?” Behold the 1739 book Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy Explain’d for the Use of the Ladies. Building a regex engine in 40 lines of Javascript. The first text-message ever sent, 25 years ago, said “Merry Christmas”. A 1913 manual on the construction of swimming pools. Storytelling considered as an evolutionary survival skill. A DIY muon detector that costs only $100 in parts.

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A row of "Lixie" tubes

The Lixie, an inexpensive and open-source update on the famous “Nixie” numerical tube-displays. “Subsurface Exolife”, a paper that analyzes “the prospects for life on planets with subsurface oceans”.  CSS Grid is pretty cool. A poem by Leonard Cohen that explains what one ought not to find surprising about nazis. Here’s the 1753 book on how to annoy people: An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting (subhead: “With some General INSTRUCTIONS for Plaguing all of your Acquaintances”). The arrival of the first giraffe in Paris in the 1820s caused quite a sensation. An animated gif that can produce, in some, an illusion of sound. Using sensors in mobile phones to predict how drunk you are by analyzing changes in your gait.

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A chart at Digiconomist showing the power usage of Bitcoin compared to that of several countries
Bitcoin uses so much electricity it is equal to 45% of the energy used in the Czech Republic, and about 6% of that used in Canada. NASA just commanded Voyager 1 to fire up its thrusters for the first time in 37 years; they worked perfectly. “Appeals to Passion, Venom, Sensationalism, Attacks on Honest Officials, Strife, Distorted News, Personal Grievance, [and] Misrepresentation”: The shoddy journalism of 1910. A philosopher makes the case the virtues of never being born. A study finds most Redditors vote on a link without reading the article. A majority of millennials now reject capitalism, though they’re not as sure what the alternate should be; intriguing and subtle stuff here. Ten years of Kindle design. I am going to make this lovely angled origami box.

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"La Liberté Triomphante", a 1792 illustration from the French revolution, showing Liberty brandishing a thunderbolt in one hand and a Phrygian cap on a stick in the other

Why the French revolution adopted the lightning bolt as the symbol for “the will of the people”. How to tell if you’re a jerk. “Scurryfunge,” “mogshade”, “popple”, and 363 other English words that we have sadly stopped using. Science has determined you can drink as much damn coffee as you like. The use of “meritocracy” soared from its invention in 1958 until today, except for a big dip in the 80s. Meet the New York Times“super commenters”. Why China is building the world’s hugest dish to look for extraterrestrial life. The last people in the US still using iron lungs. A Javascript punch-card emulator. Tearing a book apart and reassembling it, letter by letter: A gorgeous art project!

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