Archive for January 2011

#  Schelling’s Chessboard →

January 26th, 2011 at 16:49 // In Worth Knowing 

Or: how mild (racial) preference can, in time, cause near complete segregation. This concept was new to me, and Tim Hartford’s video explains it beautifully.

(via Wehr, twice actually)

#  Cash Cow Disease →

January 24th, 2011 at 11:45 // In Worth Reading 

This brief article is ostensibly about Google and Microsoft, but it’s a cogent attack on the inefficiencies of any sufficiently complacent bureaucracy.

How did Microsoft manage to acquire a relatively hip and happening company like Danger and turn it into a complete flop of a product launch with the Kin? To oversimplify: by having all the money the world. When your development decisions affect your ability to meet payroll quite directly, you see them in a very different light than when they affect nothing more than perhaps your next annual review or your status in the latest internecine company struggle. The economic discipline of the marketplace is lost for those afflicted with cash cow disease. A CEO can embark on a cellphone project for little better reason than that some obnoxious guy in a black turtleneck is doing well with his own cellphone.

(via DF)

#  Experience Fiction →

January 23rd, 2011 at 9:51 // In Worth Knowing 

Holy cow, there’s actually a company that offers you something akin to what Michael Douglas’s character experienced in The Game. That is: become a protagonist in a story of your choosing.

#  The Decline Effect →

January 22nd, 2011 at 11:36 // In Worth Reading 

Some scientific researchers are worried that the strength of experimental effects seem to decline over time. And I know science’s fallibility is something of an old saw around here, but until I see more smart people taking it seriously I doubt that will change. Jonah Lehrer’s conclusion pretty well captures what I want more people to realize:

We like to pretend that our experiments define the truth for us. But that’s often not the case. Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe.

(via reddit)

#  Movies I Don’t Remember →

January 21st, 2011 at 15:27 // In Worth Distraction 

Short synopses of films someone saw a while ago and doesn’t remember well. It’s a cute idea, executed well, and has essentially no value beyond diversion. But still, 5 minutes of fun.

(via zefrank)

#  How Oil Exploration Works →

January 17th, 2011 at 19:15 // In Worth Knowing 

I really liked this look at the realities of how and where exploratory geology for oil is done, and how it’s changing. Not massively exciting, but it’ll tell you things you didn’t know and might be interested to. Things like this:

According to United States Geological Survey data, the earth, as it was before oil companies started drilling, held between five trillion and six trillion barrels of oil, most of which has been discovered or remains inaccessible. In 2000, the U.S.G.S. estimated that there were around 650 billion barrels on the planet yet to be found, and most analysts say that the estimate is a pretty good one.

#  The Ultimate GTD Hack →

January 13th, 2011 at 14:07 // In Worth Knowing 

Don’t wait until you feel like doing something.

Seriously, just start doing it. Even if “it” seems like it requires a new idea that you’re sure you don’t have. I’m still trying to learn this.

P.S. I have a crush on Burkeman’s book’s subtitle.

#  The Pale Blue Dot →

January 12th, 2011 at 15:10 // In Worth Watching 

Inspired by this post from John Gruber, I searched for the title of one of Carl Sagan’s books and came up with multiple amazing things.

My two favorites are from different parts of the text. One from palebluefilms — which uses the same audio as most videos this search yields — is about our significance, the one from thelostproductionsUS — that Gruber highlighted — is about our potential.

#  Better Living Trough Science →

January 11th, 2011 at 11:54 // In Worth Reading 

Proving that my love for David Brooks is stronger than my distaste for the self-indulgence of The New Yorker, I thought that this piece — which I presume to be adaptation from his forthcoming book — was fantastic. The style took a little warming up to, but I come away thinking even that was a good choice. A choice sentence:

The gifts he was most grateful for had been passed along to him by teachers and parents inadvertently, whereas his official education was mostly forgotten or useless.

#  The Argument for Soundbites →

January 10th, 2011 at 19:54 // In Worth Knowing 

This isn’t so much pro-soundbite as a serious reckoning with why political reporting has gone this way and what it means. This seems plausible to me:

For the first time, network executives saw their news operations as potential profit makers, and viewers and marketing analysts both agreed that, to get the biggest audiences, they needed more glitz, structure, and speed. Meanwhile, reporters, influenced by Vietnam and Watergate, were becoming more skeptical and more cynical. It all added up to a more active journalism — which meant, on TV, a journalism that was more interested in exposing and analyzing political image-making than in passively transmitting those images.