Category: Programming

A little Processing experiment I created: 5,000 bouncing balls that make weirdly mesmerizing patterns. (Caution: Maybe don’t leave it open for too long on your laptop browser; it hoovers browser processing-power, particularly in Firefox.) The 1959 brochure introducing the “FLOW-MATIC” programming language. Superb long essay on the post-Weinstein uncorking of decades of professional women’s stories about, and fury over, workplace treatment. Why watch hands run clockwise (and why some don’t). What it’s like to take LSD while listening to Brian Eno’s latest generative-music app. What happens to an open-source code base when its chief author dies? US neo-Nazis are unhappy with the latest Castle Wolfenstein game. A BBC radio drama you interact with via Amazon’s Alexa. Letting the Iphone’s predictive-text write your epitaph.  A new John Donne manuscript, replete with scatalogical humor, has surfaced. How to build computer logic using relays, in the 1941 book “Giant Brains, or, Machines That Think”.

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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 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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An animated gif by the artist Kim Albrecht showing how a phone sense its environment

Animated gifs that show what it’s like to be a mobile phone. An app that reads text back to you in a sarcastic voice. Why “routine biased technological change” strikes most heavily during recessions. The stilt-walking shepherds of France. The illustrations in the 1898 book “On the Disposition of Iron in Variegated Strata” look like gorgeous modern art. The best layperson’s explanation of blockchain I’ve ever read. Can you use regex to parse HMTL? An unexpectedly apocalyptic answer. Hunting for alien life by looking for rocket exhaust. Basque “arborglyphs”.

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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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Bremen Drop Tower

Enjoy 9 seconds of microgravity via Bremen Drop Tower. An in-the-weeds autopsy of why “Gangnam Style” broke Youtube’s counter. How different programming languages change what’s possible to make. A subreddit devoted to highly compressed code. (I learned of it via @Beschizza’s posting about a 218-byte spreadsheet, written in a single, convoluted line of Javascript.) A path to “quantum supremacy.” How a petticoat led to the first “man-lifting balloon” in 1783. VR goggles for the Commodore 64, via @gnat.

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Photo of a whale tail emerging from the water
This year’s winners of Scuba Diving Magazine‘s photography contest.
“Are Inventions Inevitable?” A parrot that orders stuff using Alexa, by imitating its owner’s voice. I’ve been digging surfing the web using w3m, an old-school all-text browser; here’s how to instal it on a Mac. Hey, they’ve found two new deep-sea crustacean species! (“Two eyeless species of millimetric proportions,” to be precise.) Ur-drone-photography: A 1920 book on taking photos from biplanes. Here’s “The Coming Software Apocalypse“, a good long piece about how to manage increasingly complex code bases. What do you call a city of octopuses? A Stanford psychologist on the art of dealing with assholes. A wonderful tale of hunting a strange, gnarly software bug.

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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.

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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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