Archive for January 2014
How Much Snow Cancels School?
The US has been cold and snowy for weeks, so this map passes as quite topical.
- Urban areas like Chicago and New York have more resources to clear snow and often need more to cause closings.
- Clarification: The lightest green says “any snow” but also includes merely the prediction of snow.
It’s kind of expected, but I still think it’s worth a second: maps of milk consumption and lactose intolerance are nearly inverts of each other. At a quick glance South America seems to be an odd exception.
Stephen Hawking, who’s perhaps the most famous physicist of black holes, believes that it’s inaccurate to think of them as objects from which nothing can escape. Because of “Hawking radiation”, things escapes eventually. The idea that black holes have a boundary from within which nothing can escape, but that they also leak radiation, is a paradox Hawking attempts to reconcile in a new paper:
In place of the event horizon, Hawking invokes an “apparent horizon”, a surface along which light rays attempting to rush away from the black hole’s core will be suspended. In general relativity, for an unchanging black hole, these two horizons are identical, because light trying to escape from inside a black hole can reach only as far as the event horizon and will be held there, as though stuck on a treadmill. However, the two horizons can, in principle, be distinguished. If more matter gets swallowed by the black hole, its event horizon will swell and grow larger than the apparent horizon.
As a (too infrequent) reader and internet user, I’ve never really like the whole “long reads” phenomenon. Marco Arment distills its problem pretty well:
The problem is that long doesn’t mean good — it just doesn’t look like most of the junk. Too many people now ask for (and produce) “long-form” when they really want substantial. It’s entirely possible to be substantial without being long, and good editors have helped writers strike that balance for centuries. Emphasizing and rewarding length over quality results in worse writing and more reader abandonment.
Maria Konnikova pens a nice think-piece about virality on the internet. And while it’s fitting that the New Yorker would name a piece like it would be easy to digest and then not deliver, it is honestly annoying me a little bit that not only does the piece lack a list, but it even lacks something approximating it within the structure. But this is intersting:
First, he told me, you need to create social currency—something that makes people feel that they’re not only smart but in the know. “Memes like LOLcats, I think, are a perfect example of social currency, an insider culture or handshake,” Berger told me. “Your ability to pass it on and riff on it shows that you understand. It’s the ultimate, subtle insider signal: I know without yelling that I know. When your mom sees an LOLcat, she has no idea what it is.”
I’ve needed to transcribe some audio recently, and found it quite a bear of a task. Transcription services aren’t error-free, and they typically take at least 24 hours to turn around. But YouTube videos get free machine transcription, and while it’s more error-full than a human transcription it’s probably faster.
Andy Baio explain:
How’s the quality? Pretty mediocre! It’s about as good as you’d expect from a free machine-generated transcript. The caption files have no punctuation between sentences, speakers aren’t broken out separately, and errors are very common.
But if you’re transcribing interviews, it’s often easier to edit a flawed transcript than starting from scratch. And YouTube provides a solid interface for editing your transcript audio and getting the results in plaintext.
These aren’t so much tricks as interesting tidbits, but more than a few were novel to me. And I was working in a supermarket just last year… This one I’d not thought about at all, but seems obviously to have happened in the US on reflection:
Shopping carts are getting bigger so you’ll put more in them: “We doubled their size as a test, and customers bought 19% more,” explained Martin Lindstrom, marketing consultant and author of Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy.
Bill and Melinda Gates are trying to “bust” three myths about poverty in their annual letter this year, which is novel and cool. The design of the page itself is also something worth a look, in its own right.
To be self-serving for a second, I just published my personal annual review for the first time. I’ve unfortunately got nothing to say about how we solve large international issues, but you might be interested.