Ben Thompson’s analysis of social networks along the axes of ephemerality and symmetry is pretty interesting. Nothing you couldn’t have thought of if you’d set out to do the exercise yourself, but I sure hadn’t. I found this especial novel:
The companies towards the top of the graph – the more permanent type of content – were founded in the PC era. The PC itself has always been a destination-type device; normal people weren’t using a PC most of the time, but rather made a point to use it.
It’s the exact same with the type of content created for these PC-originated services: more permanent, thoughtful content is intentional; ephemeral content is much more whimsical and meaningful only at a specific moment in time. It follows that this type of content is really only possible in mobile on a device that is always with us.
On second thought, one thing to add: here’s the link straight to the fullscreen slideshow. It makes a quick and beautiful pseudo-screensaver. Throw on some seasonal music, put that up on a screen and you’ve got a quick holiday party.
99% Invisible is a great podcast about design. If you don’t regularly listen, you really should. This episode was so great I couldn’t let it go by unnoted: a musical exploration of the way we relate to nature, based on a book I’d not heard of but feel I really must read now. Roman Mars explains the episode:
But then I saw Jon perform stories from the book live with musical accompaniment from the band Black Prairie. And that changed everything. I accosted Jon and the band in the dressing room and told them they had to let me share it with the 99% Invisible audience.
You’ve probably, by now, heard that bees are disappearing. It turns out, the monarch butterfly is too:
[The migrating butterflies] began to straggle in a week later than usual, in record-low numbers. Last year’s low of 60 million now seems great compared with the fewer than three million that have shown up so far this year. Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be near collapse.
The article goes onto articulate the problem more thoroughly, though there’s no clear an simple solution to any of it. This wasn’t an issue I’d thought about recently, though its obviousness makes saying that a bit embarrassing:
Farm fields are not the only problem. Around the world people have replaced diverse natural habitat with the biological deserts that are roads, parking lots and bluegrass lawns. Meanwhile, the plants people choose for their yards are appealing for showy colors or shapes, not for their ecological role.
It’s a bit of an old saw here by now, but I think there’s a lot of “science”, especially as reported to popular culture that’s utterly bogus. In the guise of helping politicians, the Nature blog has a good piece about how to be intelligently skeptical of scientific claims. This is “publication bias” looms large in my mind:
Because studies that report ‘statistically significant’ results are more likely to be written up and published, the scientific literature tends to give an exaggerated picture of the magnitude of problems or the effectiveness of solutions.
The list does go much deeper, too. Here’s a harder issue I’d nearly forgotten about (my last experience with sample size significance is nearing a decade ago):
Effect size matters. Small responses are less likely to be detected. A study with many replicates might result in a statistically significant result but have a small effect size (and so, perhaps, be unimportant). The importance of an effect size is a biological, physical or social question, and not a statistical one. In the 1990s, the editor of the US journal Epidemiology asked authors to stop using statistical significance in submitted manuscripts because authors were routinely misinterpreting the meaning of significance tests, resulting in ineffective or misguided recommendations for public-health policy.
Well, actually this video which is posted on YouTube some fifteen years after it was created around 1998, doesn’t have an nuclear explosions in the last 15 years. Still, I’m a sucker for maps and history, and this is a member of both of those sets. I learned that France did a lot of their nuclear testing in Africa, which I’d never thought of.
The poster’s description:
Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto has created a beautiful, undeniably scary time-lapse map of the 2053 nuclear explosions which have taken place between 1945 and 1998, beginning with the Manhattan Project’s “Trinity” test near Los Alamos and concluding with Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May of 1998.
Malcolm Gladwell seems to have ever more detractors, but his success and appeal is undeniable. I appreciated John Gray’s explanation of that appeal, most strongly manifest in his latest book:
Pretending to present daringly counterintuitive views to his readers, he actually strengthens the hold on them of a view of things that they have long taken for granted. This is, perhaps, the essence of the genre that Gladwell has pioneered: while reinforcing beliefs that everyone avows, he evokes in the reader a satisfying sensation of intellectual non-conformity.
I read this essay over the summer, but then forgot about it until I saw a tweet from Paul Ford. It’s an interesting consideration of the economics of bike theft. The heart of the issue, as you may already recognize, is this:
For all practical purposes, stealing a bike is risk-free crime. It turns out there is a near zero chance you will be caught stealing a bike (see here) and if you are, the consequences are minimal.
Without telling anyone I sold this blog to Grantland, and now I’m only going to link to their videos. Hope you don’t mind.
I kid, but two-in-a-row is something I’d typically avoid. But I have two and so you’re going to go watch a video about a coach of a small private Arkansas high school called Pulaski Academy whose strategy is to never — with very very few exceptions — punt away the football. He credits the strategy, along with his unconventional almost-all-onside-kick strategy, with allowing his small school to win so many state championships.
This isn’t the only such building to ever have existed in the world, but this short film about erstwhile fate of Johannesburg’s Ponte Tower — constructed for luxary in the wrong part of town immediately before a period of white flight — is well-shot and compelling.
I think this very point is not only true of the old televisions series — which I recommend even as many of the special effects themselves are laughable and some of the science today out-of-date — but all of Carl Sagan’s work. He truly was a unique figure with unique things to say.
Whereas radio kids represent the “get practical” approach to science education and motivation, Sagan kids represent the “life, the universe and everything” strategy. Such a strategy taps into one’s “spiritual” or “religious” brain, getting at one’s romantic desire to figure out “what it all means” and “why there is anything…at all.” That’s the kind of motivation that can redirect a life into a science.
David Cain presents an interesting argument about the power and implications of self-control. A quite novel framing.
Right Now David has a considerable preference for himself, and in fact he is already eating the banana. As I mature, I notice Right Now David getting better at sharing with his Future-based colleague, and I hope one day he is able to treat all other Davids as he treats himself.
An interesting argument I can earnestly say I’d never spent a moment of time considering. Tressie McMillan Cottom argues for value of spending on high-price, high-fashion goods even especially as a poor person:
I do not know how much my mother spent on her camel colored cape or knee-high boots but I know that whatever she paid it returned in hard-to-measure dividends. How do you put a price on the double-take of a clerk at the welfare office who decides you might not be like those other trifling women in the waiting room and provides an extra bit of information about completing a form that you would not have known to ask about? What is the retail value of a school principal who defers a bit more to your child because your mother’s presentation of self signals that she might unleash the bureaucratic savvy of middle class parents to advocate for her child? I don’t know the price of these critical engagements with organizations and gatekeepers relative to our poverty when I was growing up. But, I am living proof of its investment yield.
A serious Reddit thread about how people who used to be racist had their mind changed. Interesting, powerful stuff:
I thought about how his son is going to become a lousy shit and rape white women. I started to get mad and decided to beat him up, I was going to follow him when he got off the bus.
I saw him press the button and got ready at the next stop, and just before we stopped I was about to get up and the man turned to his son and said something in a heavy accent that I will never forget in my life.
Some scientists are claiming that all mammals pee for exactly 21 seconds. I don’t know that I believe it, but it’s an interesting idea.
Combining this with data on mass, bladder pressure and urethra size, they were able to create a mathematical model of urinary systems to show why mammals take the same time to empty their bladder, despite the difference in bladder size.