Category: Literature

Photos of hurricane clouds, from US government fly-throughs

Photos of hurricane clouds, taken by government fly-throughs. The “Knight TouchBar 2000”, an implementation of KITT’s chaser hood-animation on the Macbook TouchBar. Our corner of the universe increasingly appears to be “weird”, and possibly unrepresentative of the rest of reality. “Empathy produces data on what it is like to be other people.” A history of the idea of Purgatory. Bird feeders appear to be creating evolutionary pressure that makes bird-beaks longer. Tim Carmody on the experience of time in Dante’s Inferno, and how it relates to our last Trumpian year. Debugging a program by listening to the PCM data-dump in Audacity, to locate the memory leak. Contented hippos. What actual government policies could respond to mass-employment-by-automation? “Edgar Allan Poe is dead … but few will be grieved by it.”: A positively brutal obituary.

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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 mesmerizing “water droplet” kinetic sculpture. A study of the culture of IMDB’s old discussion boards, which were shut down last winter. Deep learning considered as “woodworking without physics”. An attempt to train a neural net to understand the emotional import of a hurricane. Deep inside his hacky, serialized novel Jack Engel, Walt Whitman tucked a short exuberant passage that presaged Leaves of Grass. I want to get better at regex and am gonna buy this book. The phrase “killer app” is dreadful; here are some better replacements. The problems you get when trolls try to intentionally contaminate big, open data sets. The fascinating lineage of philosophers who defend extravagance. The story of why I’m @pomeranian99.

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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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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.

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What Cassini will look like plunging to its death in Saturn. (Start at 2:50 for the fun stuff!) Malaysia has banned “Faith Fighter”, a game where gods from Jesus to Odin duke it out. “The Eighteenth Century Custard Recipe That Enraged Trump Supporters.” The Voynich Manuscript might be a tightly-compressed compendium of guides to women’s health. A 2.5-year-long study finds that “predictive policing” is a crapshow of hunches mathwashed into apparent objectivity. A good Twitter thread on how AI is being used by states for enforcement. Henry Fielding’s 1732 play “The Lottery” is a slashing attack on the idiocy of lottos, and the gullibility upon which they play. Car telemetry can figure out whether you’re texting while driving. The $70 PocketChip considered as a burner laptop for hacker conferences. Why dolphins love hurricanes.

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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.

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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.

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