Category: Music

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.


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.


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?”


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, a fun globe you can spin and tune into live radio broadcasts from around the world. How to build a new internet.


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)”.


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.


An xray turned into a vinyl record, from the former USSR

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.


Panel from an old comic book with a finger pressing the "hate ray" button

A surreal collection of hilarious panels from vintage comics. A proposal to make an emoji of an oyster with a pearl. An R2D2 translator. Speaking of which, here’s a budgie that makes R2D2 noises! A study finds that students who lose access to legal marijuana do better in school. (Here’s the original paper itself, entitled “‘High’ Achievers?”.) A small Vermont utility is embracing solar and battery storage. An algorithm that takes a sentence and finds a single word that sounds like like its average sound. Via @boingboing, a lovely typewriter from the 1950s for composing musical scores. Judged by historical mortality rates, nuclear is — by far and away — the safest form of energy. A cool-looking coffee table made from Ikea magazine holders, via Ikeahackers. The best bars in Brooklyn at which to code. Fourteen of Picasso’s self-portraits show the evolution of his style. QZ interviews me about the much-misunderstood Luddites.


Locating the narrator of “Hey There Delilah”


The other day I was working in a cafe when “Hey There Delilah”, the cute little love song by the Plain White T’s, came on. I’ve probably heard that tune — with its earwormy chorus (Oh it’s what you do to me-eeee-eeee) — a bazillion times.

But this time, for some reason, I was struck by the first verse:

Hey there Delilah
What’s it like in New York City?
I’m a thousand miles away
But girl, tonight you look so pretty

There are two interesting data points here: a) Delilah is in New York City, and b) the singer is precisely 1,000 miles away. You don’t typically find that level of geographic specificity in a pop song!

So I started thinking, hmmm, with those two pieces of info you could actually generate a good — and exact — list of the singer’s possible locations. After all, there are a finite number of towns/cities that are exactly 1,000 miles away from New York City. As @can pointed out to me, the real location is a google-search away, but hey: It’s more fun to try and figure this out for myself.

If I had any skills in GIS, I could create a nice table of all those cities, but I don’t, so I can’t. The next best thing, I figured, would be to do a brute-force visual inspection. So I took Google Maps and wrote a little script to draw a circle around the lat-long for NYC, with a radius of 1,000 miles.

Le voila:

If we stick to the USA, a quick glimpse reveals that there are only eight possible states in which the singer resides: Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. If you zoom in closely and drag the map around a bit, you can follow the circumference and find some possible towns where he lives. (It’s best to use the plus and minus keys on your keyboard for zooming; Codepen puts a “rerun” button right over the map’s “-” icon, so it’s hard to mouse-click.)

So here’s one likely area he lives — the outskirts of Minneapolis!

Closeup of map showing the outskirts of the twin cities

Though if you zoom in really close, you can spot some much smaller possible towns, like … New Franklin, Missouri (population 1,089):

Map showing New Franklin, Missouri

Actually, if you zoom in really closely and follow the circumference, you can actually spot individual houses that the line intersects, which is kind of nuts. I’m not screenshotting any because it feels weirdly invasive to speculate at that level of granularity, but it’s sort of mesmerizing to zoom down really far.

Of course, it’s also possible he’s not in the US at all. The circle goes way up into Canada, so maybe he’s in a shack on the shore of Lobstick Lake in Northern Quebec?

Map of Lobstick lake in Northern Quebec

Or in the Bahamas?

Map of two of the Bahamas islands

Or maybe he’s off in the middle of the Atlantic, on some inflatable libertarian seasteading bitcoin-acquired pseudocountry?

Closeup of empty area in Atlantic ocean



Randy Gibson, the composer of “The Four Pillars Appearing From the Equal D Under Resonating Apparitions of the Eternal Process in the Midwinter Starfield,” at his home studio in Brooklyn.
Three hours of music played with a single note — “D”, in seven octaves — is weirdly mesmerizing; I’ve been listening to it while I write my book. (Composer picture above from The New York Times; player above has the album.) A startup that makes paper out of … stone.Before he was shot, Philando Castile was buried in “a mountain of fines”; this is a good NPR investigation of how racism and poverty are worsened by endless niggling fines. Spooky action at great distances: Chinese scientists appear to have successfully entangled two particles that were 1,200 km apart. Cell.js is an intriguing new way to create web apps, with each element containing its own “self driving” DOM. Tarot cards aren’t as old as you might think; they’re an invention of occult-obsessed Paris in 1781.