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.
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.
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.
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.
A text written using emoji, in 1916. (Courtesy @GlennF!) Why the Mind has a Body: The view from 1903. “Generational clichés are the ultimate zombie idea, easy to refute but impossible to kill.” How mushrooms could create self-healing concrete. How do you herd cattle in flooded Texas? With a helicopter. Comparing the lives of janitors at high-tech firms, one in 1980 and one today. Of fidget spinners and the challenges of modern “fad management”. When merely reporting on hate speech can get you algorithmically banned from Google’s ad network. “Clapping”, on Medium, is quantum. On the ecological biodiversity of Toronto’s urban ravines. An awesome cartoon description of Firefox’s new CSS engine. Young Americans are more likely to read their news than to watch it; older Americans are the reverse. The literary style of Zork.
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 … spaaaaaaaace. How 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.
When WalMart shut down in McAllen, the townspeople turned it into a mammoth, gorgeous library. “Pussy and Her Language”: an 1895 book on how to talk cats. (Via the superb Atlas Obscura!) The inner-ear mechanism that may lie behind some out-of-body experiences. An essay-length biography of Keats, who, TIL, was quite a brawler as a youth. “8 rabbits, aka 1 rabbyte“. How cheap paper led to the moral panic over 19th-century dime-store novels. A ghostly Russian radio station that has been broadcasting weird tones for three decades. (Also, as @BWJones pointed me to, there’s “The Conet Project”, online audio archives of shortwave “numbers stations”.) Writing a 2D game in Nim. The science behind recursive sadness. Goldfish survive frozen winters by producing alcohol. Via @gnat, here’s Wick, a cool tool for scripting interactive thingies.
A recreation of what the first flower might have looked like, 140 million years ago. A carbon-nanotube random-number generator. A comic strip about Lyft’s experiment in charging its employees to park at work. Why do porn sites have social-media “share” buttons? A cool list of coders’ side-projects. A guide to JOVIAL, a 60s-era embedded language the US military used for embedded systems. A hacker who has made a living, for twenty years, via exploits of the economics of online games. Quantum tunneling appears to not be instantaneous.
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.