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?”
Bitcoin uses so much electricity it is equal to 45% of the energy used in the Czech Republic, and about 6% of that used in Canada. NASA just commanded Voyager 1 to fire up its thrusters for the first time in 37 years; they worked perfectly. “Appeals to Passion, Venom, Sensationalism, Attacks on Honest Officials, Strife, Distorted News, Personal Grievance, [and] Misrepresentation”: The shoddy journalism of 1910. A philosopher makes the case the virtues of never being born. A study finds most Redditors vote on a link without reading the article. A majority of millennials now reject capitalism, though they’re not as sure what the alternate should be; intriguing and subtle stuff here. Ten years of Kindle design. I am going to make this lovely angled origami box.
“Desert Necklace” is a lovely and haunting 1995 work by the Dutch artist Peter Hoogeboom. A smartphone-shaped fidget gadget. NYC has genetically distinct “uptown” and “downtown” rats. Is life inevitable, as dictated by the laws of physics? Behold The California Review of Images and Mark Zuckerberg. Why social media traps in the eternal present: My latest essay for THIS magazine. Why analog circuits could make for faster, better neural nets. A Greenland Shark that may be over 500 years old. I dig Write.as, a new, stripped-down blogging engine. Amazon parody reviewers strike again! On War Primer, Bertolt Brecht’s multimedia book of antifascist poetry. On the cognitive impact of spreadsheets. Flash-photography powder, invented in Germany in 1887, was originally dubbed “Blitzlichtpulver”, or “lightning light powder”. NASA’s 1981 history of ball bearings.
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)”.
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.
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.
“Hacker Madness”, a wonderful article from issue 8 of Limn magazine, devoted to “Hacks, Leaks, and Breaches.” The answer to this mathematical question turns out to be insanely interesting. Is a Sharknado actually possible? According to the Washington Post … “It could happen.” Some in-depth, on-the-scene reporting of a small-factory line employees getting used to their new workmates: Robots. Over at Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow notes some unexpected reasons why so many stories today are dystopic. Indians are spending less on salty and sugary snacks, and instead using the money to buy data on their mobiles. The engineers piloting the 1970s Voyager probes are still on the job, four decades later. Behold the New Optimists.
A terrific story on how inmates use transparent-plastic typewriters made by Swintec; here’s where you can get one yourself. The CIA’s guide to clear writing. A gorgeous and moving one-minute sci-fi film. A neural network that translates pictures of food into recipes. A command-line app for Slack. Talk about geo-engineering is getting more serious. NASA puts up a trove of video of experimental test flights.
(Pic above from this Etsy listing of a Swintec!)
What Windows 93 would have looked like, had it been released. (Interactive! Double click on the programs!) I got that link from this piece in the New York Times about the vogue for retro-90s digital design aesthetics. The third-leading cause of death in the US is now “medical error” (via @boingboing). After 10 years of analyzing the Enron email corpus, linguists have found some pretty cool stuff: Tons of baseball metaphors, and the mundane language of “deception theory”. The “Al Capone theory of sexual harassment.” A terrific appreciation of Maryam Mirzakhani’s mathematical genius. NASA’s “advanced concepts” program is currently funding experiment designs for the airships of Mars, soft robots to disassemble asteroids, and a probe that would explore Pluto by bouncing around.