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.
A study looks at the Million Dollar Homepage, and finds that “link rot” has set in: Of the 2,816 links, only 1,780 are still reachable. In China’s economic view, “Iran is at the center of everything.” Why do people Google words? “Echo Chambers In Investment Discussion Boards.” A study finds that people like analog pens for “drafting”, and digital pens for “crafting”. Yikes: RealDolls with AI “personalities”. “Brotters Common, Normannegg, Twettle Row”: @hondanhon trains a neural net on UK placenames, then generates new ones. At Mozilla’s “Common Voice” project, you can record yourself saying things to contribute to open-source voice-recognition. A report from the procrastination conference. Nintendo’s designers for Mario Kart ponder, but decide against, removing the Blue Shell. A brief history of the closet.
Nobel-prize-winning novelist J.M. Coetzee was a programmer on the 1962 Atlas 2 computer; at night, he used it to algorithmically generate poetry. The total eclipse of 1878 created a stampede of US scientists out west to behold it. To tamp down on bots — in politics, social media, and product reviews — Tim Wu proposes a “Blade Runner” law. Goethe’s 1797 poem “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is a tale for our software-enabled time; here’s a 2013 English translation. A fun retrospective on the “Netflix Prize” of a decade ago. (Back then, I wrote a story for the New York Times Magazine on the contest, where I learned about “the Napoleon Dynamite problem”.) Two AIs, tasked with talking to each other, invented their own language.
A 1935 suitcase of neon samples, carried by a traveling salesman in 1935. 88 years of typewriter sounds, recreated vocally by fx wizard Michael Winslow. The modern-day tomb raiders of China. San Franciscans spend 83 hours a year looking for parking. Does chattiness help or hurt chatbots? A small history of miniature writing.
“Nukemap”: Pick the yield of the bomb, the target … then behold the death and destruction it’ll cause. “Should I beome a radiologist, or will AI take over that job?” A fascinating thread emerges after AI expert Andrew Ng posts this and asks for responses. Duolingo is now offering courses in the language High Valyrian from Game of Thrones. “Bleedwood”, “Clay Cow”, “Barkying White”: AI is still pretty bad at naming paint colors. “Umbrella-sharing startup loses nearly all of its 300,000 umbrellas in a matter of weeks.” Man, making robots is hard. Behold JANUS, a protocol for communicating with and between undersea drones, using acoustically-transmitted data. Meet the humans making (teensy) money to help train self-driving car AI. The most popular words Americans are looking up at Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary? “Collusion, treason, collude, quid pro quo, kakistocracy.”
Newish styles of art, created by a generative adversarial network. “Is it unethical for me to not tell my employer I’ve automated my job?” Amelia Earhart’s hilariously unsentimental prenuptial letter to her fiance. Scientists created an elevator to help eels pass by a dam; they call it the “eelevator”. Roman concrete that has been submerged for 2,000 years is stronger than when it was first made; unpacking its secrets could be useful for climate adaptation. “Grid defection”: As battery tech gets cheaper, McKinsey predicts many households will instal solar arrays and go partially off-grid within a few years. An ancient cuneiform tablet in which a priestess upbraids her brother for not chipping for groceries. A study finds that texting makes you walk funny.
Generate your own O’Reilly book cover. Picking up guys on Tinder using lines generated by a neural net. Palm cockatoos play the drums much like …. humans. (The study; video of a bird drumming right here!) The child of “Tay”: A new Microsoft chatbot says the Qur’an is “very violent”. A hidden underwater forest, 10,000 years old, is discovered! “Jaywalking while black.” Behold the booze requirements for 16th-century performers of mystery plays. What exactly is consciousness good for? Gorgeous library artwork made of bookends.
@TechnicallyRon wrote a resume by using whatever Google-search autocomplete suggested. An HBR study finds that male and female founders are asked very different questions — his are aimed at “promotion” (what cool things will you be able to do?) and hers are focused on “prevention” (how will you keep from screwing up?) “Obituary Notices of Astronomers”, a comprehensive list of how 18th-century ones died. (M. Delaunay perished in “the upsetting of a pleasure-boat near Cherbourg”.) Volvo’s self-driving car is defeated by kangaroos. “How Maps Changed The World,” my latest column for Smithsonian.
Above, a fake, wooden version of a Palm Pilot, made by inventor Jeff Hawkins to figure out whether he’d want to carry around a personal digital assistant all day long; such fakes are known as “preotypes” — “pretend prototypes.” The perils of self-driving cars were predicted in this witty movie from 1911. A list of Mastodon instances looks oddly like lists of BBSes or USENET groups from the early 90s. This guy makes pretty awesome art using Excel. omg I can’t stop playing Flipping Legend! Instructions on how to build an igloo, by an Inuit man trying to preserve this historic skill. Transcriptions of the chitchat on your first date: Some predictions on how high-quality voice dictation might change everyday life.
The physics of overly-warm air: It’s so hot in Phoenix that they’re cancelling flights. Behold Seenapse, a web site where you list weird, serendipitous connections between web pages, and browse the connections of others. (Here’s a synapse I posted about Samuel Morse.) Searching for “chemtrails” on Amazon. A great post describing the current debate over why technology isn’t boosting productivity more. How pneumatic tubes changed the way we communicate, for a brief period. A lovely visual introduction to machine learning. A funny, blistering critique of voice-control AI: “Your spouse, who has lived with you for 20 years is just now getting an inkling of what you mean when you talk. Your computer is likely never going to understand you for the simple reason that the things you say aren’t really understandable.”