Archive for the ‘Kottke’ tag
An artful video tour of the facility with the most highly-accurate clock in world with Dr. Demetrios Matsakis, Chief Scientist for USNO’s Time Services.
Oliver Emberton talks about life as it if is literally a video game. I don’t necessarily love all parts of this post, but it’s definitely cool enough — especially the art — to take a look at. This I liked:
Attraction is a complex mini-game in itself, but mostly a byproduct of how you’re already playing. If you have excellent state and high skills, you’re far more attractive already. A tired, irritable, unskilled player is not appealing, and probably shouldn’t be looking for a relationship.
When you get a kidney transplant, they usually just leave your original kidneys in your body and put the 3rd kidney in your pelvis.
Mammoths were alive when the Great Pyramid was being built.
This is a pretty fun little game, and can help train you to recognize languages, which is a skill I’ve always been vaguely interested in.
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.
This is a neat little time suck. It’s not the simplest browsing experience, but people from all over the world read the same paragraph. I pulled out some examples:
- Native Cantonese speaking woman, 23 years old, from Hong Kong who has lived in Canada for 15 years
- English man, 19, from Chester
- Indian woman, 28, who spent seven years in the US
- Israeli man, 24, whose spoken English since he was ten
- Lithuanian woman, 24, who lived in the US for a bit over a year
- Somali woman, 50, who has spent five years in the US
- Male, 23, native Mandarin speaker who lived in Singapore and the UK all his life
- Zimbabwean woman who speaks four languages, and lived in the US seven years
- 42-year-old man from Pittsburgh who also speaks Mandarin
A really neat videos — probably more cool than instructive, unless you already understand more than I do about sorting theory — of various different ways computers can sort data.
It’s snowing here today, so it feels appropriate to link to these amazing photographs. I don’t really have anything to add to Jason Kottke’s post, where I discovered them:
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.
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.
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.
The list isn’t mind blowing, but it is interesting, as is the article that proceeds it. I valued their starting with this point:
Some questions you ask because you want the right answer. Others are valuable because no answer is right; the payoff comes from the range of attempts.
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.
“I love you my son, be good.”
For your weekend enjoyment: a very determined mouse fights to get a very large cracker back from whence he came.
The latest NSA revelations are big, far-reaching, and made me wonder at my recent “don’t do news” policy. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, Kottke’s wrap-up is as good as you could hope for.
But what actually struck me was how apt the phrase “security nihilsim” is to my reaction to all these revelations. All my looking points to the idea that it’s a coinage by Micah F. Lee in the linked article.
(via Chris Hartjes)
An interesting list: the least commonly visited countries in the world. The thing that elevates it beyond mere trivia is that they list the reasons no one goes, the reasons people might want to go, and other interesting details about the counties.
While I hardly love the idea that what’s good for business is automatically good for your life, Greg McKeown manages to get some good ideas out of this observation about companies that fail to build on their successes. The process, for both companies and people:
Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities.
Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.
Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.
You really don’t know yourself until you know how other people see you. Whether or not that’s true, I really enjoyed this brief description of how travel books seek to explain my country to the world.
But maybe the topic that gets the most attention in these books is food, which they praise for its quality and variety (and portion size) in a tone of near-disbelief. As in any culture, the niceties of dining — especially at someone’s home — can get complicated. Here, from Wikitravel, is some sage advice on a ritual that even I did not realize was so complicated until I read this passage:
When invited to a meal in a private home it is considered polite for a guest to ask if they can bring anything for the meal, such a dessert, a side dish, or for an outdoor barbecue, something useful like ice or plastic cups or plates. The host will usually refuse except among very close friends, but it is nonetheless considered good manners to bring along a small gift for the host. A bottle of wine, box of candies or fresh cut flowers are most common. Gifts of cash, prepared ready-to-serve foods, or very personal items (e.g. toiletries) are not appropriate.
This McSweeney’s piece, whether or not it knows it, is about the Buddhist idea that dukkha (“suffering”) in an inherent characteristic of samsara (the flow of life). In English, it’s about how our constant seeking after passions, objects, and experiences causes us a great deal of confusion, frustration, and pain. And finally, to paraphrase Daniel Gilbert, it’s about how the things we think will make us happy rarely do.