Category: Games

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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Illustration of "Amon", a demon from the 1844 Dictionnaire Infernal

Behold “Amon”, a demon from the lavishly-illustrated 1863 Dictionnaire Infernal, a catalogue of demons; here’s a great story about this wild book. A new waterproof Kindle. Homage to the SpaceOrb 360, the weirdest game controller ever. Wait, the Canadian navy invented the trackball? “Your job now has in-app purchases!” Online dating rose in the 90s, precisely the same time as rates of interracial marriage in the US also began to rise; they’re related, this study posits. A lovely and haunting short film about a doomed Mars mission. “Gluggaveður” is an Icelandic word for “window-weather”: Weather that looks appealing from inside, but proves less pleasant in reality (via @RobGMacfarlane) A fascinating study tracked the IRL interactions of men and women at work, and finds that they’re treated differently. Oysters, which have no ears, can hear thunderstorms.

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A photo of the "ghost tree" of Crater Lake

The wandering “ghost tree” of Crater Lake has been moving slowly around the body of water … for 100 years. On “reverse logistics” and “ghost shifting”. Nazi airship dining. Photos of the last moon mission show the astronauts basically having a blast. For a more bracing read, check out the transcripts of the Apollo 13 mission; “Houston, we’ve had a problem” is on page 231. An interesting comparison between twitch/clicker/pattern games like Super Hexagon and the sight-reading of music. Yikes: A 75% drop in insect biomass in Germany over 27 years. Duuuuuude. Behold Cladoxylopsida, the hollow trees of the trilobite era. This year’s trend is the “Dog-o’-Lantern”. Ponder the incomprehensible enormity of the number “TREE(3)”.

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Screenshot of "woebot", a chatbot therapist on Facebook Messenger

Behold “Woebot”, a therapist chatbot that lives on Facebook Messenger. (It does cognitive behavioral therapy.) Twenty years after a prankster put a pumpkin atop Cornell’s McGraw Tower, we still don’t know who did it, or how. The story behind the paperclip-apocalypse game. Behold the online mattress-review wars. Why background chatter in your office distracts you, but not the chatter in cafes. Meet the highest US judge who’s been coding for decades — in BASIC. Patriotic stress balls. What the US would look like divided into concentric rings of equal population. Can fish get depressed? Creating about 40 times the weight of the Earth in gold: When neutron stars collide. Jeremy, “the lefty snail”, is dead. Moo: The programming language “COW” has been implemented in Javascript.

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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 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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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 how air penetrates a whiffle ball

Why the physics of whiffle balls are super complex. Is that avant-garde video art, or a 70s-era Magnavox game with its overlay? A gorgeous example of Cassini’s photography: The “thin blue line” of Saturn’s upper atmosphere. Behold “Octlantis”, a rare social hangout for octopuses. A neural net, trained on video of Super Mario Bros., is able to recreate its game engine. Ah, but AI pioneer Geoff Hinton says for the field to progress further, they’ll need to ditch backpropagation. Fizzbuzz considered as harmful. Here, @ibogost meditates on how the Turing Test and the Turing Machine intersect. Behold Camperforce, a roaming diaspora of seniors in RVs who convene on Amazon shipping facilities to staff up their holiday crunch. I love a good math joke; even a terrible one. Is this typographic document legit? Better call in … The Font Detective. Behold Worldbrush, an app that lets you produce AR paintings embedded in space for others to find. Why does this microwave have “chaos mode”? Harold Innis’ style in The Bias of Communication was so muddy because he wrote using cut-and-paste pastiche from his sources. The concept of “a minute” in time only became common in the 1500s.

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