Category: Psychology

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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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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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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Historical description of a region, from 1916, written in emoji
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.

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After encountering this wonderful factoid, my twitter followers began offering some other fun translations for “computer”: In Chinese it’s “electric brain”, in Spanish it translates as “sorter”, and another way to render the Icelandic version? “Prophetess of numbers.” Oh, and consider “ikiaqqivik”, the Inuit word for “Internet”, which translates as “traveling through layers.” In other linkstuff: A supernova so huge it takes out a nearby giant star. Using smilies at work “may decrease perceptions of competence”. “Icebox” is a Chrome extension that fights impulse-purchasing by replacing the “buy” button on e-commerce sites, and imposing a purchase delay. A paper computer from 1958.

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Picture of a Walmart in MadAllen, Texas, that has been turned into a huge library

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.

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Image of an old National Enquirer article claiming that "Hackers can turn your home computer into a bomb"

“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.

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Black and white archival photo of an automat in New York City

Automats were invented partly because turn-of-the-20th-century diners hated waiters. Speaking of automation, this piece ponders the effects of Venmo on friendships. There are 17 kinds of ice? Now you can register a domain with an emoji in its URL. (Several services exist, in fact.) Wikipedia as a text adventure. Firefox 55 is now fast enough that it can reopen 1,691 tabs in 15 seconds. An interactive map of The Odyssey. The Washington Post has been really owning the goat beat lately. (Previously.) Salvador Dali’s mustache, nearly 30 years after he was embalmed, is still in perfect shape.

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Animated charts showing how the age of marriage has changed over time

Animated charts showing how the age of marriage has changed in the US over the last century. The myth of drug expiration dates. The obituary for the inventor of the first — and only — “self-cleaning house”. (Her patent is here.) Data considered as a gift. From 1908: “School is largely concerned with the transformation of a playing child into a working man with some of the play still left in him.” The long history of mocking Thoreau. Experiments, some successful, to evoke emotions in psychopaths. A video showing the patient, lovely restoration of an old two-person saw.

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Graphics from the Washington Post calculating how many jobs goats will steal from humans
Forget robots: Goats are coming for our jobs — in landscaping! But how many jobs? The Washington Post tries to calculate this. The multimillion-dollar sound-engineering quest to produce the perfect golf-club “thwack”. Inside Winston Churchill’s quest to build an aircraft carrier out of ice. People like straightforward braggarts better than humblebraggers. Rooftop solar is under attack by utilities, who complain it’s reducing demand for coal/gas-fired power. How to make natural-language AI less sexist and racist. “Please buy some greenfish:” A 400-year-old shopping list is found under floorboards in a house.

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