An argument in favor of the proprioceptic value of seesaws, which are fast vanishing from playgrounds around the country. The Turing Test for classical music: An AI is able to harmonize with Bach so well half of human listeners think Bach himself composed it. Pokemon Go made players more physically active, but not very much, and not for long. Behold Z1ffer, an open-source hardware random-number generator! “Reports on the rise of fascism in Europe was not the American media’s finest hour.” Apparently the phrase “no can do” emerged around 1900 and has seen four spikes in popularity. What makes for a good news tip to the New York Times? Harsh: A piece of ransomware that goes away if you infect two other people.
A version of Lode Runner, done in HTML5, and better yet — here’s a strategy guide: “You can use enemies’ heads as stepping stones, even when they are falling.” The Cassini probe approaches its death on Saturn, and is taking gorgeous “ring grazing” shots. This woman discovered the greenhouse-gas effect 1856, but her contribution (the original here) was forgotten. “Literai” is a website that publishes AI-authored fiction, and has docs on how to generate your own. Behold a credit-card-sized synthesizer you can fit in your pocket. Bold.io is like Medium, except with anonymity, and background sounds (“a cafe in Paris”; “a relaxing storm”) for while you write. This device turns butter into mist; migod, what it must be like to clean the inside after a few months …
“Bat men discovered on the moon”, an original piece of fake news, from 1865. Cloud life: About 20% of the bigger-sized particles in clouds are microbes, and they’re probably responsible for a lot of rain. What’s it like for a kid who grows up living in a NYC library? The ozone hole seemed like a terrifying threat to humanity, but international co-operation mostly repaired it. Stephen Wolfram wrote a fantastic account of being the scientific advisor to the movie Arrival; among other things, he wrote on-screen equations and his son wrote Wolfram code that appeared on-screen and actually, in real-life, analyzed the alien communications.
A design tool for making wind instruments that have nearly any external shape. “Enclothed cognition”, or, why wearing a white lab coat makes people more attentive in their work. So, who has actually read all four volumes of Donald Knuth’s The Art of Computer Programming? Historical data suggests that pop music predominantly hovers around 120 BPM, but science can’t yet explain why this tempo is so seductive to us.
Why are writers such terrible procrastinators? Wow, footage shot on the 1987 Fisher-Price PXL-2000 camera is creepy. Here’s “The Imperial March” from Star Wars, and the “Cups” song from Pitch Perfect, scored for a cello. In 1826, Mary Shelley followed up Frankenstein by publishing The Last Man, a book about a 21st-century global pandemic. Only a few large cities are driving the US’s rising murder rate, or, “why it’s good to know the difference between median and mode”.
How to use a rubber band to produce a sketch with 2-point perspective. The grey goo of climate change will be insect infestations — as Tehran is currently discovering. Hurricane Sandy tore a huge scar in the New York coastline, but it turns out ecologically to be have been a boon. Oh, and that malware that’s been infecting Internet-of-Things devices worldwide? Here’s the source code.
The art of Atari. A one-page Linnean tree of species, exquisitely zoomable and fractal. “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” by Donald J. Trump (a parody, bien sur). Whoa: Skylab had private suites for each astronaut!
Why is there a Nobel Prize for chemistry and physics, but not for ecology? Behold the super unsettling, Cronenbergian art of Simon Stålenhag. The history of grep! On Dec. 28, 1973, the three astronauts aboard Skylab went on strike, protesting their brutal workload. “Cahoots” is a great word, and here’s the Google ngram chart of its usage. A useful and unsettling coinage: “climate redlining“.
A breathtaking closeup view of a comet, taken just before the Rosetta probe crashes into it. Cross-stitched isometric “3D” blocks. A cute little robot that can open a door handle, then nudge the door open like a dog. In 2008, I reported on how electronic touch-screen voting machines were a buggy, crufty mess; it’s even more true today. A book on “video games as a spiritual pursuit”.
People tell political pollsters that the economy is going down the tubes; but with economic pollsters, they’re much cheerier. A Polish auto-body shop still uses a Commodore 64 (via boing boing). Here’s the “hello, world” example of the Google Books API, which I’m playing around with to make a potentially weird, fun toy. A hacker in Cairo makes a DIY robot for inspecting IEDs. Behold Cryptpad, a text editor where only the people collaborating on the document can see the plaintext; it’s inscrutable from any interlocuters and even the server itself. (Thanks to Nat Torkington for this latter one!)