Monthly Archives: January 2018

The painting "The Way We Shook" by Ryan Crotty

I dig these minimalist paintings by Ryan Crotty, and am gonna try to visit the NYC gallery to see them IRL. “Chickens Prefer Attractive People.” Nearly half the times we open our phones to use an app, it’s one created by Facebook or Google. Why it’s good to play video games with your kids. A fabulous example of octopus color-and-shape-changing. The corporate slogans of CES are a study in awfulness. How Charles Schulz introduced the first black character into Peanuts. Training a neural net to classify online articles as either “news” or “not-news”. A gorgeous photographic tour of one of America’s last pencil factories. And my latest Boing Boing posts: i) the history of “badday.mpg”, one of the Internet’s first viral videos; ii) logic gates made purely from rods and levers; and iii) a study finds municipal broadband is up to 50% cheaper than comparable telco service.

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Camouflage sweaters knitted by the artist Nina Dodd

Hand-knit sweater camouflage. This is big: NASA discovers there’s a lot of easy-to-access ice on Mars. A computer language where you code in Filipino. A twitterbot that tweets whenever the New York Times uses a word for the first time. An analog split-flap display that I want sooooo bad. Why UV-sensing tech might encourage us to get more sun, not less. A superb thread on Trump’s “s**thole” comment, and its deep historical context. How to make an anonymous, collaborative Google spreadsheet. How to fold a circle into an ellipse. A flower that never blooms. And … my latest Boing Boing posts: i) The secret physics behind the ultrablack feathers of “birds of paradise”; ii) Frankenstein considered as a novel about climate catastrophe; iii) a study finds that ocean waves can hurl ashore boulders 2.5X the weight of the Statue of Liberty.

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A photo from the book "Things Organized Neatly", of dozens of locks laid out in a rough grid

A book of photos of things organized neatly. Yet another weird signal from space, which quite certainly isn’t aliens even though wow yeah isn’t that precisely what the heat-signature of an interstellar spacecraft would look like? How Leibniz tried to create a 17th-century machine that would calculate pure reason. A set of robot hands that listen to your speech, autotranscribe it, then type it out on a manual typewriter. I’m gonna build this Arduino-powered stompbox and program it to deliver a different random effect every time you step on it. What’s it like to be a bee? Being curious about science may make you more open to changing your mind politically. Meditation glasses.

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A photo of a 60s desk telephone covered in needlepoint by artist Ulla Stina Wikander

A artist who takes modern domestic objects and wraps them in needlepoint. A tiny, USB-mountable computer. Behold Sunday Magazine, which each week posts “the most interesting articles from the New York Times Sunday Magazine from exactly 100 years ago, with a little bit of commentary or context.” According to a Facebook study, people who use the Internet a lot are less likely to click on spam. Ancient rock art may have captured a supernova that was visible during the day. On the delightful readability of 1980s-era BASIC programs. I notice a curious phenomenon — that when I’m reading deeply on my phone, I often forget it is a phone — and a good Twitter discussion emerges. And my latest Boing Boing posts: i) A 3d-printable “measuring cube” for cooking; ii) a terrific piece on the “stowaway” craze of the 1920s; iii) in the 1970s, the CIA created a tiny dragonfly-shaped drone to fly around as a remote spy microphone; iv) what it’s like mining bitcoins by hand, with pencil and paper; v) Blackbeard’s pirates apparently enjoyed reading novels; and vi) this gentleman has figured out how to use the data from his rooftop solar panels as a crude way to photograph the nearby landscape.

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A screenshot of a 1924 New York Times article on the "4,000 most important words"

A 1924 New York Times story on “The 4,000 Most Essential Words” a foreigner must know to become a US citizen. (It’s on page 140. From the ms: “Milliner, million, mind”.) Why do we have pom-pom balls on our winter hats? A slightly different Fire and Fury becomes a bestseller. The current use of “Clive” in English-language books, according to Google’s ngram, is slightly below the historical mean. An analysis finds that Haskell is disproportionately a language coders learn for fun on the weekend. “Blattidae”, “chandala”, “chrestomathy”: H.L. Mencken had an epically wide-ranging vocabulary. Ophthalmologists who were trained in art observation became better at their jobs.

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A Randall Munroe XKCD strip entitled "New Sports Created from Random Emoji"

After seeing this awesome XKCD strip, Julia Slige created a little script to generate “new sports from random emoji”. Behold Darkwire, a web site that generates on-the-fly encrypted chat-rooms. How people who are actually smart think, and talk, about themselves. Using a metaphor of waiters and wine to understand the huge new chip insecurity. Mining cryptocurrency in the dorm room. The Center for the Study of Existential Risk releases a video-game mod that simulates the rise of killer AI. It turns out that humans might be immune to the protein that allows for CRISPR genome editing. Cool: Listly.io is a tool that scrapes web sites and puts their content into a spreadsheet. More ridiculously great news about the plunging cost of renewable energy. Why it’s so hard to predict the size of a dump of snowfall. And my latest Boing Boing posts: i) How the American healthcare resembles a post-apocalyptic landscape, ii) an eight-year-old boy discovers data suggesting that wild pigs mourn their dead, and iii) how to preserve a snowflake for decades.

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A google ngram chart showing lines for clown fear searches

The recent rise of coulrophobia — the fear of clowns. (Via  @TSchnoebelen) The “heart gambit” was a proposal to embed the nuclear codes in a capsule inside the chest of a White House staffer; to launch a strike, any president would have to kill the staffer themselves first and extract it. A “snow day calculator.” It’s 110 pounds in weight and 16 feet across, on average: Behold the newest species of octopus to be discovered, the “frilled giant pacific”. (Via @harryallen) How adding iodine to US salt may have have boosted the IQ of Americans. There’s an uncanny valley for food, something I once wrote a column about for Wired. The path to $100 LIDAR, or, self-driving everything. Piano hacking.

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A illustration of NASA's proposed Dragonfly quadracopter exploring Titan, Saturn's moon

A new NASA project would land a quadracopter on Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon. A fidget spinner turned into a brushless motor. “Enjoy screens. Not too much. Mostly with others.” “Fifteen Minutes of Unwanted Fame”, an analysis of doxing. An acoustic analysis finds that Botswana appears to have the most unique music in the world. What it’s like adopting an electric bike as your main mode of transport. A study finds that people who know more about how journalism is produced are less likely to believe in conspiracy theories. A piece in praise of American infrastructure. “Hidden camera captures rare pig thought extinct” is a pretty great headline. D’Arcy Thompson’s Victorian quest to answer the question, “are all fish the same shape if you stretch them?”

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