Category: History

The urls for the New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, shortened into emoji

An emoji URL shortener. (Above, the URLs for the New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.) A Chinese village trims a forest into the shape of a QR code. “He is to persuasive as she is to ditzy / kittenish / motherly”: Behold the gender madness of Word2Vec. For decades in the early 1900s, the New York Public Library music librarian saved request slips from famous musicians; the scrapbook is scanned here. An origami-inspired solar-powered lantern. How to clone Twitter using Bubble, a drag-and-drop app-maker. “JSLinux”, emulating various flavors of Linux in the browser. What happens when a country decides to switch which side of the road cars drive on? Why flies see time move in slow motion. The vantablack of planets: It eats all light that touches it.

Share

A medieval painting of people killing someone

Why do people in medieval paintings look bored, even when killing someone — or being killed? An appreciation of the neglected Windows Phone. An exploration of the polarized IMBD review for “An Inconvenient Sequel” (men voted far more often than women, and were the group most likely to hate the movie) provokes an interesting question: Why don’t review sites behave like pollsters, and adjust their sample to match reality? The “law” of exponential growth in tech is nonsense, as Rodney Brooks notes in this essay on AI. Software updates can change the range-mileage of a Tesla. “Lenny” is a voice chatbot designed to talk to telemarketers and waste their time. Speaking of medieval times, a historian of that period ponders the fact that white-supremacists are in love with it. “Why and When Your Code Starts to Smell Bad“. When OCR errors afflict The Illiad.

Share

A picture of "Plimpton 322", a 3,700-year-old clay tablet

A 3,700-year-old clay tablet may contain the earliest evidence  of trigonometry, according to a new theory. A truly gorgeous electric car, by Jaguar. A javascript emulation of bpNichol’s work First Screening, a group of poems he originally in 1984 wrote in BASIC. Home videos shot using the Fisher Price PXL 2000 camera — which recorded in black-and-white onto cassette tape — are stylish and weird. How Popular Science covered the launch of the Voyager probes, back in 1977. So, it turns out that floating balls of fire ants thrive in hurricanes; GREAT. Behold “twistron” yarn, woven with carbon nanotubes, which generates electricity when twisted. “DolphinAttack” is a wickedly clever exploit for voice-activated agents like Siri and Alexa: You take control of the device by issuing verbal commands in frequencies inaudible to humans, but which the hardware accepts. In truly great science writing, “the gradual realization that you are falling behind the author is part of the thrill.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

A dataviz of

A lovely animated dataviz of all the Citibike rides in NYC in one day. And hey, more Citibike dataviz: Tracking the progress of a single bike, and comparing how different demographics use the cycles. Pictures of women weaving magnetic-core memory for computers in the 1950s. Follow @trumphop, which shows what Trump tweeted on this day, in years past. The guy who made the amazing web-story 17776 explains his inspiration. A good Twitter thread of tech folks talking about how they unplug after work. Electric cars are moving to one-pedal control, and changing the rhythms of driving. How the erosion of job security produced “the quitting economy”. “Why I’m learning Perl 6.”

Share

Dataviz of which links are dead in the Million Dollar HomepageA 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.

 

Share

Black and white archival photo of an automat in New York City

Automats were invented partly because turn-of-the-20th-century diners hated waiters. Speaking of automation, this piece ponders the effects of Venmo on friendships. There are 17 kinds of ice? Now you can register a domain with an emoji in its URL. (Several services exist, in fact.) Wikipedia as a text adventure. Firefox 55 is now fast enough that it can reopen 1,691 tabs in 15 seconds. An interactive map of The Odyssey. The Washington Post has been really owning the goat beat lately. (Previously.) Salvador Dali’s mustache, nearly 30 years after he was embalmed, is still in perfect shape.

Share