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Updated: 2017-11-17T20:45:22Z

 



Cutaway illustration of a film camera reveals iconic movie scenes

2017-11-17T20:45:22Z

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This might be Dorothy’s best print yet: a cutaway view of the Arriflex 35 IIC camera used extensively by directors like Stanley Kubrick but the guts of the camera has been replaced with some of the most iconic movies scenes of all time. The full print contains 60 scenes, but even in the small excerpt above, you can see The Wizard of Oz, Dr. Strangelove, The Empire Strikes Back, Forrest Gump, and The Godfather.

Tags: art   illustration   movies



A mesmerizing animation of the repeating elements of a medieval cathedral

2017-11-17T18:43:08Z

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I barely know how to describe this so maybe you should just watch it. Animator Ismael Sanz-Pena took a single image of a medieval cathedral and used the facade’s repeating elements to find the movement within, kind of like a zoetrope. (Ok, I guess that’s a pretty good description. I still think you should just watch it though.) See also Sanz-Pena’s earlier attempts of the same effect. (via colossal)

Tags: Ismael Sanz-Pena   mesmerizing   video



How today’s animals would look if drawn like dinosaurs

2017-11-17T16:16:07Z

It’s difficult to know how a particular animal might have looked if you only use its skeleton as a guide. For example, we used to think dinosaurs were mostly scaly like lizards until evidence was uncovered that many kinds of dinosaur were more birdlike with feathers.

Artist C.M. Kosemen, in his book All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals, illustrated some present-day animals like many dinosaurs are typically drawn, based only on their skeletons.

Most serious paleoart bases itself on the detailed findings of paleontologists, who can work for weeks or even years compiling the most accurate descriptions of ancient life they can, based on fossil remains. But Kosemen says that many dinosaur illustrations should take more cues from animals living today. Our world is full of unique animals that have squat fatty bodies, with all kinds of soft tissue features that are unlikely to have survived in fossils, such as pouches, wattles, or skin flaps. “There could even be forms that no one has imagined,” says Kosemen. “For example there could plant-eating dinosaurs that had pangolin or armadillo-like armor that wasn’t preserved in the fossil. There could also be dinosaurs with porcupine-type quills.”

Here are Kosemen’s drawings of a baboon and swans:

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Tags: C.M. Kosemen   dinosaurs



OMG, Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot can do an f-ing BACKFLIP!

2017-11-17T00:09:33Z

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So, the jumping from box to box seemed cool. Hey, robot parkour! It seemed awfully agile for something that looks like it weighs quite a bit, but ok. But the casual gymnastics about 20 seconds in broke my brain. Holy. Crap.

Tags: robots   video



Emergence: how many stupid things become smart together

2017-11-16T21:45:24Z

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A nice overview of emergence by Kurzgesagt. I continue to find the concept of emergence endlessly fascinating — order from disorder, complexity from simplicity, more is different. As a society, we tend to underestimate how much emergence plays a role in why things happen the way they do and are therefore often wrong-footed in our analysis and response.

For a good primer on emergence and other related phenomena, check out Steven Johnson’s Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software.

Tags: books   Emergence   Steven Johnson   video



The top 10 bestselling Kindle books of all time

2017-11-16T19:00:43Z

The Kindle debuted 10 years ago this month and Amazon marked its anniversary with top 10 lists of the bestselling fiction and nonfiction books for the device. The fiction list is fairly predictable (I’ll get to it in a moment), but the nonfiction list is a little more interesting in spots: 1. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand 2. Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, and Lynn Vincent 3. Wild by Cheryl Strayed 4. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown 5. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson 6. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman 7. Bossypants by Tina Fey 8. American Sniper by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice 9. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey 10. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot It’s really nice to see The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on there…I would not have guessed that one, although with HBO and Oprah involved, perhaps I should have. Here’s the fiction list, dominated by Shades of Grey and Katniss Everdeen. 1. Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James 2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 3. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins 4. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins 5. Fifty Shades Darker by E L James 6. Fifty Shades Freed by E L James 7. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 8. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins 9. The Help by Katherine Stockett 10. The Fault in our Stars by John Green There are some fine books on both lists, but looking at them, you get an inkling of why the IRL Amazon stores are a bit lackluster. Tags: Amazon   best of   books   Kindle   lists [...]



The Road Movie, a feature-length compilation of Russian dashcam videos

2017-11-16T17:06:51Z

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The Road Movie, out in theaters in January, consists of nothing but videos taken from Russian dashboard cameras. There are car accidents, animal hijinks, fistfights, high/drunk people, meteors, and fires. The trailer is really entertaining…I’m curious to see the entire film to see how it’s stitched into something resembling a narrative that can sustain a viewer’s attention for more than 20 minutes.

Tags: movies   Russia   The Road Movie   trailers   video



Monster thunderstorm supercell in Montana

2017-11-16T15:32:07Z

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This photo of a storm supercell in Montana taken by Ryan Wunsch? Wowza. I can see why people get hooked on chasing these storms about western North America…I’d love to see something like that in person. (via @meredithfrost)

Tags: clouds   photography   Ryan Wunsch   weather



The populism of Amazon’s real-world bookstores

2017-11-15T21:36:15Z

Voracious reader Tyler Cowen recently visited an Amazon Store for the first time and posted some impressions.

1. It is a poorly designed store for me, most of all because it does not emphasize new releases. I feel I am familiar with a lot of older titles, or I went through a more or less rational process of deciding not to become familiar with them. Their current popularity, as measured say by Amazon rankings, does not cause me to reassess those judgments. For me, aggregate Amazon popularity has no real predictive power, except perhaps I don’t want to buy books everyone liked. “A really smart person says to consider this again,” however, would revise my prior estimates.

6. I consider myself quite pro-Amazon, still to me it feels dystopic when an attractive young saleswoman says so cheerily to (some) customers: “Thank you for being Prime!”

Some of his observations match those of other reviewers from when the store opened back in May. On my last trip to NYC, I visited the same store as Cowen (also for the first time) and it didn’t change my opinion about the visibility of the data in the store:

Other bookstores have books arranged according to best-seller lists, store-specific best-sellers, and staff recommendations, but I’ve never seen any store layout so extensively informed by data and where they tell you so much about why you’re seeing each item. Grocery store item placement is very data driven, but they don’t tell you why you’re seeing a display of Coke at the end of the aisle or why the produce is typically right at the entrance. It’ll be interesting to see if Amazon’s approach works or if people will be turned off by shopping inside a product database, a dehumanizing feeling Frommer hints at with “a collection of books that feels blandly standard” when compared to human curated selections at smaller bookstores.

Walking around, I half-expected to see SQL queries accompanying some of the displays — “SELECT * FROM books WHERE rating > 4.8 AND pub_year = 2017 ORDER BY number_sold”. Amazon definitely needs to figure out how to get a little weird into their stores, a little of the human touch. Toning down the data talk would help. A more casual typeface might work too — not Comic Sans but perhaps something at least approaching handwritten? They’ve got so so much data about how people buy books…they just need to be more clever about how they slice and dice it. Maybe look for books that exhibit the Napoleon Dynamite Problem? Find people with interesting wishlists?

Ultimately, I didn’t buy anything either.

Tags: Amazon   books   business   Tyler Cowen



Become a member of kottke.org today

2017-11-15T21:08:01Z

Hello! Jason Kottke here. If you’re a regular reader of this RSS feed, please consider supporting my efforts on kottke.org by becoming a member today. The revenue from memberships is critical to keeping one of the best independent websites running at its full capacity. There are several membership options to choose from; you can check them out here or read about why I’m doing this here.

And if you’re already a member, thank you! You are the best.




Physics lessons using simple homemade marble tracks

2017-11-15T19:11:12Z

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Bruce Yeany teaches physical science to 8th graders in Annville, PA and he is very enthusiastic about it. On his popular Homemade Science YouTube channel, Yeany highlights all sorts of physics experiments and demonstrations without using any special equipment. In one of his latest videos, he shares a bunch of marble tracks that he’s built to demonstrate motion and momentum.

The “identical track race” starting at 1:43 might blow your noodle a little bit unless you’re familiar with Galileo’s pendulum research. (via digg)

Tags: Bruce Yeany   physics   science   video



Join me in supporting Tim Carmody’s writing on Patreon?

2017-11-15T16:48:10Z

Over the past few years of doing kottke.org, I’ve been lucky enough (with your support) to be able to take some time off now and again to relax, spend time with my family, and recharge the batteries. My vacations are also a chance to introduce different voices and perspectives to the site in the form of guest editors. For my last few absences, Tim Carmody has stepped into the guest editor role and has done an incredible job. It’s a win-win…I get some time off and the site improves while I’m gone. Most recently, he organized the creation of a time capsule for the internet and wrote an amazing collection of posts about love letters and time machines.

If you enjoy and appreciate what Tim does here (and elsewhere), I hope you’ll join me in supporting his independent “rogue writing” efforts on Patreon.

Can I tell you a secret?

I don’t know what my work is any more.

Or rather: I don’t know what to call it. Not anything that makes sense.

There was a time when that would have been a very easy question to answer. I’m a reporter who writes about the intersection of technology and media. Or: I’m a scholar who studies the history of comparative media and the stories we tell about it going back forever. Or: I’m a blogger who’s trying to figure out what the liberal arts are in a networked age.

I think all of those things are still true, but how and where I’m doing them have changed. I don’t have a university job like I used to at Penn. I don’t have a regular gig at a fancy magazine like Wired or The Verge (or Newsweek or National Geographic or The Atlantic or the few dozen other places I’ve written). I don’t even have a sweet collective blog like Snarkmarket or The Message to call home.

Like a lot of us, I’m adrift, a planet flung out of its orbit into some other new system: strange, unfamiliar, ready at any moment to collide with another planet and make something new.

So that’s what I am. A rogue writer trying to put things together again and figure them out. I’m using all the tools I can find to do it: anything I can learn, anything I can leverage.

I’m proud that kottke.org has been a frequent venue for Tim’s writing, but the web could use more of it and I’m happy to support him in that effort.

P.S. Tim and I are also plotting how he can contribute more regularly here. No promises, but stay tuned!

Tags: kottke.org   Tim Carmody



Jimmy Iovine and most bomb record in the solar system

2017-11-15T15:03:05Z

While preparing for a conference talk/conversation I’m doing in Amsterdam this weekend, I was reading about the Golden Record that NASA sent along as a potential greeting from Earth to alien civilizations who might run across the Voyager probes in interstellar space millions of years from now. For the 40th anniversary of the Voyager launches, science writer Timothy Ferris (author of the Pulitzer-nominated Coming of Age in the Milky Way) wrote about the production of the Record for the New Yorker.

In the winter of 1976, Carl was visiting with me and my fiancee at the time, Ann Druyan, and asked whether we’d help him create a plaque or something of the sort for Voyager. We immediately agreed. Soon, he and one of his colleagues at Cornell, Frank Drake, had decided on a record. By the time nasa approved the idea, we had less than six months to put it together, so we had to move fast. Ann began gathering material for a sonic description of Earth’s history. Linda Salzman Sagan, Carl’s wife at the time, went to work recording samples of human voices speaking in many different languages. The space artist Jon Lomberg rounded up photographs, a method having been found to encode them into the record’s grooves. I produced the record, which meant overseeing the technical side of things. We all worked on selecting the music.

Carl Sagan was project director, Ann Druyan the creative director, and Ferris produced the Record. And the sound engineer for the Golden Record? I was surprised to learn: none other than Jimmy Iovine, who was recommended to Ferris by John Lennon.

I sought to recruit John Lennon, of the Beatles, for the project, but tax considerations obliged him to leave the country. Lennon did help us, though, in two ways. First, he recommended that we use his engineer, Jimmy Iovine, who brought energy and expertise to the studio. (Jimmy later became famous as a rock and hip-hop producer and record-company executive.)

Lennon, Springsteen, Tom Petty, Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks, Interscope, Dre, Snoop, Death Row Records, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Beats By Dre, Apple, *and* The Golden Record? Iovine is like the record industry’s Forrest Gump or something. How was this not in The Defiant Ones?

Tags: Ann Druyan   audio   Carl Sagan   Jimmy Iovine   music   NASA   space   Timothy Ferris   Voyager



Envisioning Chemistry, beautifully stunning videos of chemical reactions and processes

2017-11-14T22:51:46Z

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As a follow-up to Beautiful Chemistry, the Beauty of Science and the Chinese Chemical Society have teamed up to showcase the natural beauty of chemical reactions in Envisioning Chemistry.

To achieve this goal, we took two approaches. The first was the artistic approach, in which we used chemical reactions as an essential element in the film media, together with music and editing, to explore the new possibility of film-making. The second was the technical approach, in which we took advantages of the state-of-the-art photography equipment, including high-resolution microscopes, infrared thermal imaging cameras, high-speed cameras, and 4K Ultra HD cameras, to reveal beauty of chemical reactions like never before.

You’ll notice while watching some of these videos how alive these reactions look and how common the growing/branching structures of crystals & skeletons & trees & circulatory systems are in nature, on all scales.

Tags: science   video



What did 17th century food taste like?

2017-11-14T21:43:16Z

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Can art history help us understand how food tasted in the 1600s? Not really, but it can shed some light on what people cooked and what kinds of foods were available.

What can we learn about how people ate in the seventeenth century? And even if we can piece together historical recipes, can we ever really know what their food tasted like?

This might seem like a relatively unimportant question. For one thing, the senses of other people are always going to be, at some level, unknowable, because they are so deeply subjective. Not only can I not know what Velazquez’s fried eggs tasted like three hundred years ago, I arguably can’t know what my neighbor’s taste like. And why does the question matter, anyway? A very clear case can be made for the importance of the history of medicine and disease, or the histories of slavery, global commerce, warfare, and social change.

By comparison, the taste of food doesn’t seem to have the same stature. Fried eggs don’t change the course of history.

Maybe fried eggs don’t, but spices did. Coffee beans did. Cacao beans, potatoes, and tomatoes did. Europe was in such a hurry to upgrade the flavor of its bland, rotten food that it colonized most of the world, waged wars, enslaved millions, and invented the multinational corporation.

See also Tom Standage’s An Edible History of Humanity and Charles Mann’s 1493. (via @robinsloan)

Tags: art   food



How generative music works

2017-11-14T19:42:20Z

From software developer and writer Tero Parviainen, an interactive presentation on how generative music works. (Roughly speaking, generative music is “about making music by designing systems that make music”.)

width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_ib8Fdmp1hE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

The presentation includes many examples — Terry Riley’s In C, Brian Eno’s recent app, Listen to Wikipedia, Steve Reich’s work, neural nets for generating music — and a few interactive generative music toys you can play around with. (via waxy)

Tags: music   Tero Parviainen   video



Entrepreneurship, inequity, and throwing darts at the carnival

2017-11-14T17:58:34Z

In a reply to an article called Entrepreneurs Aren’t A Special Breed — They’re Mostly Rich Kids, Hacker News commenter notacoward wrote:

Entrepreneurship is like one of those carnival games where you throw darts or something.

Middle class kids can afford one throw. Most miss. A few hit the target and get a small prize. A very few hit the center bullseye and get a bigger prize. Rags to riches! The American Dream lives on.

Rich kids can afford many throws. If they want to, they can try over and over and over again until they hit something and feel good about themselves. Some keep going until they hit the center bullseye, then they give speeches or write blog posts about “meritocracy” and the salutary effects of hard work.

Poor kids aren’t visiting the carnival. They’re the ones working it.

That’s a pretty succinct summary of the “born on third base and thinks they hit a triple” effect…and it doesn’t just apply to entrepreneurship or being rich.

Update: In response to Forbes’ most recent 30 Under 30 feature, Helen Rosner replied:

My take is: all 30 Under 30 lists should include disclosure of parental assets

Tags: business   Helen Rosner



Elevator scenes in movies debunked & fact-checked

2017-11-14T15:43:55Z

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How realistic are the elevator scenes in movies? Cinefix enlists the help of elevator technician John Holzer to fact-check and debunk scenes featuring elevators from movies like Die Hard, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and Speed. True true: there’s actually an elevator now that can travel sideways, a la the Wonkavator.

Tags: elevators   John Holzer   movies   video



Google’s impractical voice experiments

2017-11-13T22:37:41Z

Google has launched a series of voice experiments that work with Google Home and also in the browser. For example, Mystery Animal is a 20 questions style game in which you attempt to guess the identity of a particular animal. Here’s how it works:

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Another of the experiments, MixLab, helps you make music with simple voice commands (“add a club beat”, etc.). The experiments use AI to understand what people are asking them.

Nicole He, who worked on Mystery Animal and another experiment called Story Speaker, explains why it’s an interesting time to be goofing around with voice technology.

Talking out loud to computers has always felt more science fiction than real life. But speech recognition technology has come a long way, and developers are now making lots of useful things with voice devices. These days, you can speak out loud and have your lights turn on, or your favorite music played, or the news read to you.

That’s all nice and good, but there’s something clearly missing: the weird stuff. We should make things for voice technology that aren’t just practical. We should make things that are way more creative and bizarre. Things that are more provocative and expressive, or whimsical and delightful.

We’re in what I’m going to call The 1996 Web Design Era of voice technology. The web was created for something practical (sharing information between scientists), but it didn’t take very long for people to come up with strange and creative things to do with it.

I am terrible at 20 questions, so of course Mystery Animal stumped me. My last guess was “are you a zebra?” when the animal was actually a panda bear.

Tags: audio   games   Google   music   Nicole He   video



These conjoined twins can share each other’s thoughts & vision

2017-11-13T18:30:46Z

Tatiana and Krista Hogan are conjoined twins. But not only that, they are joined at the head, an extremely rare occurence that’s resulted in the girls sharing parts of their brains with each other.

Neurological studies have stunned the doctors. Tatiana can see out of both of Krista’s eyes, while Krista can only see out of one of Tatiana’s. They also share the senses of touch and taste and the connection even extends to motor control. Tatiana controls 3 arms and a leg, while Krista controls 3 legs and an arm.

Amazingly, the girls say they also know one another’s thoughts without needing to speak. “We talk in our heads” is how they describe it.

Despite their unique connection, the twins remain two distinct people. Tatiana is talkative, outgoing and high-strung, while Krista is quieter, more relaxed and loves to joke. But she has a temper and can be aggressive if she doesn’t get her way.

When they were little, they used to try to pull their heads apart. Their mother always told them they were stuck, so they would have to work things out. But as they’ve gotten older and the frustrations mount, they still fight. As they freely admit, some days they don’t like being together. “She’s annoying,” says Tatiana, who promptly gives her twin a reassuring hug.

That’s from a writeup of a CBC documentary about a year in the twins’ lives. The doc is only viewable in Canada, but there are several clips that anyone can watch.




Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches by John Hodgman

2017-11-13T16:13:11Z

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John Hodgman, formerly of The Daily Show and those Apple commercials, is out with a memoir of his middle-aged wanderings through New England called Vacationland.

Disarmed of falsehood, he was left only with the awful truth: John Hodgman is an older white male monster with bad facial hair, wandering like a privileged Sasquatch through three wildernesses: the hills of Western Massachusetts where he spent much of his youth; the painful beaches of Maine that want to kill him (and some day will); and the metaphoric haunted forest of middle age that connects them.

Vacationland collects these real life wanderings, and through them you learn of the horror of freshwater clams, the evolutionary purpose of the mustache, and which animals to keep as pets and which to kill with traps and poison. There is also some advice on how to react when the people of coastal Maine try to sacrifice you to their strange god.

Some of this hits remarkably close to the bone:

Though wildly, Hodgmaniacally funny as usual, it is also a poignant and sincere account of one human facing his forties, those years when men in particular must stop pretending to be the children of bright potential they were and settle into the failing bodies of the wiser, weird dads that they are.

I don’t know about wiser, but weird dad with a failing body is pretty much right on the money. And I love that cover by Aaron James Draplin. *kisses fingers*

Tags: Aaron Draplin   books   John Hodgman   travel   Vacationland



Mirror, a short story of similar objects

2017-11-13T13:54:58Z

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A snack-sized video look at objects which have similar shapes, like a soft-serve ice cream cone and a compact fluorescent light bulb, a giraffe and a light pole, and an Oreo cookie and a manhole cover. (via colossal)

Tags: video



“How Picasso Bled the Women in His Life for Art”

2017-11-10T21:24:12Z

From Cody Delistraty in the Paris Review, a timely article on Pablo Picasso, his artwork, and how he treated the women in his life (spoiler alert: quite poorly). Sixteen years ago, Marina Picasso, one of Pablo Picasso’s granddaughters, became the first family member to go public about how much her family had suffered under the artist’s narcissism. “No one in my family ever managed to escape from the stranglehold of this genius,” she wrote in her memoir, Picasso: My Grandfather. “He needed blood to sign each of his paintings: my father’s blood, my brother’s, my mother’s, my grandmother’s, and mine. He needed the blood of those who loved him.” After Jacqueline Roque, Picasso’s second wife, barred much of the family from the artist’s funeral, the family fell fully to pieces: Pablito, Picasso’s grandson, drank a bottle of bleach and died; Paulo, Picasso’s son, died of deadly alcoholism born of depression. Marie-Therese Walter, Picasso’s young lover between his first wife, Olga Khokhlova, and his next mistress, Dora Maar, later hanged herself; even Roque eventually fatally shot herself.”Women are machines for suffering,” Picasso told Francoise Gilot, his mistress after Maar. After they embarked on their affair when he was sixty-one and she was twenty-one, he warned Gilot of his feelings once more: “For me there are only two kinds of women: goddesses and doormats.” At the same time, his granddaughter has curated a show in Paris of Picasso’s art celebrating his relationship with his daughter Maya. Diana Widmaier-Picasso, who is the daughter of Maya Widmaier-Picasso and Pierre Widmaier, a shipping magnate, and the granddaughter of Picasso and Marie-Therese, curated the exhibition. She is well aware of the usual misanthropic, misogynistic characterizations of Picasso. “He’s a man of metamorphoses,” she tells me carefully in Paris, a few days before the vernissage of her exhibition. “A complex person to grasp.” When I was in Paris recently, I went to the Picasso Museum, where one of the exhibitions showcased his art from 1932, the artist’s “année érotique”. The Guardian described the show thusly: Achim Borchardt-Hume, the gallery’s director of exhibitions and co-curator of the 2018 show, said the challenge facing curators was: “How can you get close to Picasso as an artist and a person? How can you get beyond the myth?” Their answer was to focus on one period in Picasso’s long life. They chose 1932, a time called Picasso’s “year of wonders”. It was a year when he cemented his superstar status as the world’s most influential living artist, producing some of his greatest works of art and staging his first retrospective, which he curated. It was also a year when his passion for Walter almost boiled over. Picasso was 45 when, in 1927, he spotted the 17-year-old Walter as she exited a Paris Metro station. He approached her, grabbed her arm and declared: “I’m Picasso! You and I are going to do great things together.” At this point, the quality of the art is undeniable but so too is Picasso’s treatment of women: he beat them, verbally and emotionally abused them, cheated endlessly on his wives, and entered into at least one sexual relationship with a girl under the age of consen[...]



Mosaic, Steven Soderbergh’s app/HBO TV series thingie

2017-11-10T19:13:19Z

width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Km_u51OE3VA" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Steven Soderbergh’s latest project, Mosaic, takes two forms. The first is a free iOS app that contains an interactive miniseries with over seven hours of footage that you can move through in the style of Choose Your Own Adventure, with “DVD extras” built right into the story. Mosaic will also air in a more conventional linear form on HBO in January. Both versions star Sharon Stone, Beau Bridges, and Garrett Hedlund. Wired has the story of how Mosaic came to be. Where they ended up was a smartphone-enabled story, developed and released by Silver’s company PodOp, that lets viewers decide which way they want to be told Mosaic’s tale of a children’s book author, played by Sharon Stone, who turns up dead in the idyllic ski haven of Park City, Utah. After watching each segment — some only a few minutes, some as long as a standard television episode — viewers are given options for whose point of view they want to follow and where they want to go next. Those who want to be completest and watch both options before moving on can do so, those who want to race to find out whodunit can do that too. Because each node, filmed by Soderbergh himself, feels like a TV show, launching Mosaic can be akin to sneaking a quick show on Netflix while commuting to work or waiting on a friend; but because it’s long story that’s easily flipped through, it can also enjoyed like the pulpy crime novel on your nightstand, something you chip away at a little bit at a time before bed. It’s concept isn’t wholly original — Soderbergh himself notes that “branching narrative has been around a long time” (the most obvious analogue is a Choose Your Own Adventure book, but Soderbergh cringes at that analogy) — but that it finds a way to appeal to both fans of interactive storytelling, and people who just want to watch some decent TV. Matt Zoller Seitz also interviewed Soderbergh about the app/show for Vulture. It’s a really good interview (not surprising with Seitz at the helm); they inevitably got into the question of Hollywood and abuse of power: MZS: Do you believe that in order to make memorable art, you have to be disturbed in some way? SS: Not at all. MZS: That’s what’s often raised as a defense of Roman Polanski, Mel Gibson, and others. SS: No, I don’t believe that at all. It takes a lot of energy to be an asshole. The people I admire most just aren’t interested in things that take away from their ability to make stuff. The people I really respect, and that I’ve met who fit this definition, have a sense of grace about them, because they know that there is no evolving and there is no wisdom without humility. You can’t get better if you behave in a way that shuts people off. You can’t! You don’t have all the ideas necessary to solve something. You don’t! I’m sure if you spoke to Harvey in his heyday and said to him what I just said to you, he would believe that he accomplished all that he had because of the way he behaved. MZS: Meaning, like a bully. SS: Yes, and I would argue instead, “You’re 50 percent of what you could have been, because of the way you behave.” Ultimately, there is a large group of people who are talented, who you want to b[...]



The Future Library

2017-11-10T16:56:14Z

width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/D2BUq2Q8_6M" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> A few years ago, in a forest just outside of Oslo, 1000 trees were planted. In 2114, after a century of growth, the trees will be cut down and made into paper for an anthology of books. Meet the Future Library, an artwork by Katie Paterson. Between now and then, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished, until the year 2114. Tending the forest and ensuring its preservation for the one hundred year duration of the artwork finds a conceptual counterpoint in the invitation extended to each writer: to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future. The first three writers to contribute texts are Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell, and Icelandic novelist Sjón. Atwood said of her participation: How strange it is to think of my own voice — silent by then for a long time — suddenly being awakened, after a hundred years. What is the first thing that voice will say, as a not-yet-embodied hand draws it out of its container and opens it to the first page? See also the John Malkovich movie that no one will see for 100 years. The Future Library also has something in common with the (possibly apocryphal) story of the grove of oak trees specifically planted to replace the massive ceiling beams in the dining hall at Oxford hundreds of years in the future. Stewart Brand told the story in the TV adaptation of How Buildings Learn. width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YqH4eWR7jDQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> One of the Junior Fellows stuck his neck out and suggested that there might be some worthy oaks on the College lands. These colleges are endowed with pieces of land scattered across the country which are run by a college Forester. They called in the College Forester, who of course had not been near the college itself for some years, and asked him if there were any oaks for possible use. He pulled his forelock and said, “Well sirs, we was wonderin’ when you’d be askin’.” Upon further inquiry it was discovered that when the College was founded, a grove of oaks had been planted to replace the beams in the dining hall when they became beetly, because oak beams always become beetly in the end. This plan had been passed down from one Forester to the next for over five hundred years saying “You don’t cut them oaks. Them’s for the College Hall.” Tags: art   books   Katie Paterson   Margaret Atwood   Stewart Brand   video [...]



Incredible photo of the black ice covering an Antarctic lake

2017-11-10T15:07:48Z

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Hilary Dugan is a limnologist, which means she studies inland bodies of water like rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and marshland. Specifically she studies lakes:

As a limnologist, I study how terrestrial and atmospheric changes, such as warming air temperatures or land use patterns, alter biogeochemical fluxes and aquatic processes in lakes.

Right now, Dugan is in Antarctica on a research trip to Lake Vanda, where she took this amazing photo of the 12-ft sheet of black ice covering the lake. (She also took a video of herself walking on the ice.) Beautiful.

Lake Vanda sounds fascinating btw: three thermal layers of water that don’t mix (the bottom layer is a toasty 73 °F) and it’s one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, more than 10 times saltier than seawater (although very little of that salt is contained in the upper layers). The lake is also home to the The Royal Lake Vanda Swim Club, a largely abandoned tradition of skinny dipping in the lake when the ice melts enough to permit it.

Tags: Antarctica   Hilary Dugan



The tension between creativity and productivity

2017-11-09T22:35:51Z

Cory Doctorow was an early adopter of the lifehacking lifestyle and toolkit, including David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. Allen’s book is a fantastic and inspiring read. The core of his philosophy is to recognize that there are more things in the world that you want to do than you could do, and that, in the absence of a deliberate approach to this conundrum, you are likely to default to doing things that are easy to scratch off your to-do list, which are also the most trivial. After a lifetime of this, you’ll have accomplished a lot of very little. Allen counsels deliberate, mindful prioritization of this list, jettisoning things on the basis that they are less satisfying or important than the other things you’d like to do - even if those other things are harder, more time consuming and less likely to result in a satisfying chance to scratch an item off the list. After living and working this way for more than a decade, Doctorow reports that there’s a conflict between the optimization of your time via getting things done and the sort of experimental playtime you often need to do creative work. The corollary of this is that it gets much, much harder to winnow out activities over time. Anything I remove from the Jenga stack of my day disturbs the whole tower. And that means that undertaking new things, speculative things that have no proven value to any of the domains where I work (let alone all of them) has gotten progressively harder, even as I’ve grown more productive. Optimization is a form of calcification. Quinn Norton wrote an essay called Against Productivity in which she moves to Puerto Rico to focus on working productively but ends up goofing off and discovering a new career & life path in the process. I visited with new friends, and tooled around on the net (albeit always at 2G speeds). I watched rain fall. I cooked. I considered the shape of the buildings a lot, and looked after cats periodically. I walked to old forts and lookouts. At one point I took pictures of doors for no reason I could discern. I berated myself for being unproductive, for wasting this precious time I’d set aside to put my professional life together. I spent hours anxious to craft my time to be quantitatively better for writing. Then it all collapsed, and the only habit I fell into was depressive empty afternoons when I was alone with the cats and the rain. But I also, and wholly by accident, thought the thoughts that would take my career and life in a new and unimagined direction. I was chatting with a friend on the phone today about a talk we’re doing together in a couple weeks and she brought up the same issue, unprompted. She’s a naturally productive person who finds herself with some free time, yet she’s finding it difficult to not stay busy, even though she knows she needs the mind-wandering time to replenish her creative reserves. I struggle with the same thing. I get more done in less time than I ever have, but sometimes I feel like there’s nothing creative about my work anymore. Sure, I make the doughnuts every day but am not inventing the cronut. How do you accomplish your work but also leave ample time for letting your creative mind off the leash? Tags: books   Cory Doctorow   David Allen   Getting Things Done&nbs[...]



A Tapestry of Time and Terrain

2017-11-09T20:54:22Z

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A Tapestry of Time and Terrain is a map from the USGS that shows the topology and ages of rock underneath the surface of the United States. The age scale on the right is difficult to read unless you download the full 45Mb PDF version, but it goes from Precambrian (2.6 billion years ago) at the bottom to more-or-less the present day at the top.

Through computer processing and enhancement, we have brought together two existing images of the lower 48 states of the United States (U.S.) into a single digital tapestry. Woven into the fabric of this new map are data from previous U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) maps that depict the topography and geology of the United States in separate formats. The resulting composite is the most detailed and accurate portrait of the U.S. land surface and the ages of its underlying rock formations yet displayed in the same image. The new map resembles traditional 3-D perspective drawings of landscapes with the addition of a fourth dimension, geologic time, which is shown in color. This union of topographic texture with the patterns defined by units of geologic time creates a visual synthesis that has escaped most prior attempts to combine shaded relief with a second characteristic shown by color, commonly height above sea level (already implicit in the shaded relief). In mutually enhancing the landscape and its underlying temporal structure, this digital tapestry outlines the geologic story of continental collision and break-up, mountain-building, river erosion and deposition, ice-cap glaciation, volcanism, and other events and processes that have shaped the region over the last 2.6 billion years.

(via @robgmacfarlane)

Tags: geology   infoviz   maps   USA



Biomimicry: turning birds into bullet trains

2017-11-09T19:48:09Z

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Nature has amassed 3.8 billion years of R&D on how to engineer and design things and systems. So when designers are looking at how to solve problems, they should pay closer attention to how the evolutionary process dealt with similar situations. For example, an engineer working on a redesign of the Japanese bullet train used his birdwatching knowledge to borrow design elements from birds like a kingfisher, an owl, and a penguin.

Japan’s Shinkansen doesn’t look like your typical train. With its long and pointed nose, it can reach top speeds up to 150-200 miles per hour.

It didn’t always look like this. Earlier models were rounder and louder, often suffering from the phenomenon of “tunnel boom,” where deafening compressed air would rush out of a tunnel after a train rushed in. But a moment of inspiration from engineer and birdwatcher Eiji Nakatsu led the system to be redesigned based on the aerodynamics of three species of birds.

I love the idea of the Shinkansen as a chimerical creature constructed from the bodies of three very different types of birds. (via the kid should see this)

Tags: biology   design   trains   video



How to make an Extremely Large Telescope

2017-11-09T15:41:36Z

The Giant Magellan Telescope, currently under construction at the University of Arizona’s Mirror Lab, will be one of the first of a new class of telescopes called Extremely Large Telescopes. The process involved in fashioning the telescope’s seven massive mirrors is fascinating. This is one of those articles littered with mind-boggling statements at every turn. Such as:

“We want the telescope to be limited by fundamental physics — the wavelength of light and the diameter of the mirror — not the irregularities on the mirror’s surface,” says optical scientist Buddy Martin, who oversees the lab’s grinding and polishing operations. By “irregularities,” he’s talking about defects bigger than 20 nanometers — about the size of a small virus. But when the mirror comes out of the mold, its imperfections can measure a millimeter or more.

Precision of 20 nanometers on something more than 27 feet in diameter and weighing 17 tons? That’s almost unbelievable. In this video, Dr. Wendy Freedman, former chair of the board of directors for the GMT project, puts it this way:

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The surface of this mirror is so smooth that if we took this 27-foot mirror and then spread it out, from coast-to-coast in the United States, east to west coast, the height of the tallest mountain on that mirror would be about 1/2 an inch. That’s how smooth this mirror is.

You need that level of smoothness if you’re going to achieve better vision than the Hubble:

With a resolving power 10 times that of the Hubble Space Telescope, the GMT is designed to capture and focus photons emanating from galaxies and black holes at the fringes of the universe, study the formation of stars and the worlds that orbit them, and search for traces of life in the atmospheres of habitable-zone planets.

The telescope has a price tag of $1 billion and should be operational within the the next five years in Chile.

Tags: physics   science   space   The Giant Magellan Telescope   video



Increasing human healthspans

2017-11-08T23:26:08Z

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Kurzgesagt takes a look at three possible areas of research that may help people live longer and healthier: senescent cells, NAD+, and stem cells. The distinction articulated early on in the video between optimizing for human lifespan versus increasing human healthspan seems particularly important in this search for a cure for aging.

Tags: medicine   video



Cancer survival rates have increased dramatically over the past 35 years

2017-11-08T19:00:08Z

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According to a study published in March 2017 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, cancer death rates continue to fall across most cancer types. From 2010 to 2014 (the most recent year that statistical data is available), overall death rates decreased by 1.8%.

Overall cancer death rates from 2010 to 2014 decreased by 1.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] = -1.8% to -1.8%) per year in men, by 1.4% (95% CI = -1.4% to -1.3%) per year in women, and by 1.6% (95% CI = -2.0% to -1.3%) per year in children. Death rates decreased for 11 of the 16 most common cancer types in men and for 13 of the 18 most common cancer types in women, including lung, colorectal, female breast, and prostate, whereas death rates increased for liver (men and women), pancreas (men), brain (men), and uterine cancers.

But the trends are much clearer when you look at progress over a longer time period. As this graph from Axios shows, the five-year survival rates for most common types of cancer have increased quite significantly in the past 30-40 years. Survival rates from all cancers increased by 16% and jumped 26% and almost 29% for non-Hodkin lymphoma and leukemia respectively. If you have prostate or thyroid cancer, you’re almost guaranteed to survive 5 years at this point and the female breast cancer survival rate is up to almost 91%. (via @Atul_Gawande)

Tags: cancer   medicine   science



The Post

2017-11-08T16:48:44Z

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Directed by Steven Spielberg, The Post is a historical drama about The Washington Post’s publication of The Pentagon Papers in 1971.

Steven Spielberg directs Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in The Post, a thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post’s Katharine Graham (Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents. The two must overcome their differences as they risk their careers — and their very freedom — to help bring long-buried truths to light.

The Post marks the first time Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have collaborated on a project.

The film comes out in December.

Tags: journalism   Meryl Streep   movies   Steven Spielberg   The Pentagon Papers   The Post   Tom Hanks   trailers   video



Ben Saunders embarks on Trans-Antarctic Solo expedition

2017-11-08T14:45:49Z

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In 2013, polar adventurer Ben Saunders, along with his partner Tarka L’Herpiniere, set out from the coast of Antarctica to ski to the South Pole and back again, unsupported (meaning they carried all their food and supplies with them). They completed the 1800-mile journey in just over three months, but fell short of doing it unsupported.

This year, Saunders is back in Antarctica by himself, attempting the first solo, unsupported, unassisted crossing of the continent in the Trans-Antarctic Solo expedition. The really cool part: he’s blogging the whole trip. He’s already completed day one of the 1,024-mile journey, consisting of a short little 45-minute jaunt to set up his tent before hitting it in earnest on day two. Good luck, Ben! I’ll be following along on the blog, via Twitter & Instagram, and tracking your progress on this map.

Tags: Antarctica   Ben Saunders   skiing   sports



Gorgeous computer-generated animation of a nebula

2017-11-07T20:20:15Z

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Designed by Teun van der Zalm, Nebulae is a computer generated nebula set to atmospheric music by Lee Rosevere. Worth seeking out a large screen for viewing. Several of van der Zalm’s other videos are equally beautiful variations on the same theme.

Tags: astronomy   science   space   Teun van der Zalm   video



Alongside mass extinction, humans are also the cause of “a great flourishing of life”

2017-11-07T18:27:17Z

In her book The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert warns that we are in the midst of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction of life, this time caused by humans. Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. This is a mainstream view of humanity’s effect on the Earth flora and fauna…for evidence, you don’t need to look any further than all of the large mammal species that have gone extinct or are endangered because of human activity. A more controversial take is offered by Chris Thomas in his recent book, Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction. Thomas allows that there’s a “mini mass extinction” happening, but he also argues that the extreme evolutionary pressure brought by our increasing dominance of our planet’s ecosystems will result in a “sixth mass genesis”, a dramatic increase in the Earth’s biodiversity. Human cities and mass agriculture have created new places for enterprising animals and plants to live, and our activities have stimulated evolutionary change in virtually every population of living species. Most remarkably, Thomas shows, humans may well have raised the rate at which new species are formed to the highest level in the history of our planet. Drawing on the success stories of diverse species, from the ochre-colored comma butterfly to the New Zealand pukeko, Thomas overturns the accepted story of declining biodiversity on Earth. In so doing, he questions why we resist new forms of life, and why we see ourselves as unnatural. Ultimately, he suggests that if life on Earth can recover from the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, it can survive the onslaughts of the technological age. Vox’s Ferris Jabr recently interviewed Thomas about his views. When asked about the “sixth mass genesis”, Thomas answered: The history of life on Earth is a history of extinctions and ecological failures, but it is also a story of formation of new forms and spread of those new forms around the world. The net result has been a gain in diversity. In the human era we are seeing great losses, but we are also seeing all these biological gains of new animals and plants spreading around the world, new hybrids coming into existence. I am not saying there is yet a balance between the two. I accept the losses, but it is also scientifically, and in terms of our human attitudes to nature, extremely interesting to contemplate the gains simultaneously. If the processes that are going on at the moment continue for a very long time, it is my expectation that the number of species on Earth will grow enormously. We are moving species of existing animals and plants back and forth across the world, so that they are all arriving in new geographic regions. We[...]



Something is wrong on the internet

2017-11-07T16:10:00Z

Writer and artist James Bridle has noticed that something is wrong on the internet. Specifically, algorithmically chosen and produced content is taking over more and more of the internet, including what your young children are watching on YouTube.

Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatise, and abuse children, automatically and at scale, and it forces me to question my own beliefs about the internet, at every level.

By his own admission, there doesn’t seem to be anything egregiously wrong or upsetting about many of the examples Bridle uses. I mean, have you read Grimm’s fairy tales? Some of them are really dark and/or weird, like Black Mirror for children. But the effect in the aggregate is huge, resulting in what he asserts is a system of abuse in which Google is complicit, a technology fueled by advertising and weaponized against its users:

The architecture they have built to extract the maximum revenue from online video is being hacked by persons unknown to abuse children, perhaps not even deliberately, but at a massive scale. I believe they have an absolute responsibility to deal with this, just as they have a responsibility to deal with the radicalisation of (mostly) young (mostly) men via extremist videos — of any political persuasion. They have so far showed absolutely no inclination to do this, which is in itself despicable. However, a huge part of my troubled response to this issue is that I have no idea how they can respond without shutting down the service itself, and most systems which resemble it. We have built a world which operates at scale, where human oversight is simply impossible, and no manner of inhuman oversight will counter most of the examples I’ve used in this essay. The asides I’ve kept in parentheses throughout, if expanded upon, would allow one with minimal effort to rewrite everything I’ve said, with very little effort, to be not about child abuse, but about white nationalism, about violent religious ideologies, about fake news, about climate denialism, about 9/11 conspiracies.

Tags: Google   James Bridle   YouTube



On the origin of time travel in fiction

2017-11-07T14:36:05Z

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Drawing from David Wittenberg’s book, Time Travel: The Popular Philosophy of Narrative, as a guide, Evan Puschak goes in search of the origins of time travel in fiction. Along the way, he connects Charles Darwin’s work on evolution to the largely forgotten genre of utopian romance novels to the depiction of time travel in modern sci-fi.

P.S. While I was in France, I met up with Evan for lunch (we happened to be in Paris at the same time). We’d never met before, and it was really strange hearing the voice of one of my favorite YouTube channels coming out of an actual person.

Tags: books   Charles Darwin   David Wittenberg   Evan Puschak   movies   time   time travel   video



The Crown, season two

2017-11-07T00:56:19Z

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Netflix has released the trailer for season two of The Crown, a historical drama about the rule of Queen Elizabeth II. The excellent Claire Foy returns as Elizabeth. The release date is December 8th. The Crown was TV’s most pleasant surprise last year. I watched with the expectation of another Downton Abbey (which would have been fine) but was rewarded with unexpectedly fine dialogue, acting, and drama…particularly the scenes featuring Elizabeth with her sister and with Churchill (played superbly by John Lithgow). Really looking forward to this second season.

Tags: The Crown   trailers   TV   video



The 100-megapixel Moon

2017-11-06T21:32:50Z

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Seán Doran used images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to create this 100-megapixel image of the Moon (full 10000x10000 pixel image here). Phil Plait explains how Doran made the image:

LRO WAC images have a resolution of about 100 meters per pixel over a swath of about 60 km of lunar surface (using what’s called the pushbroom technique, similar to how a flatbed scanner works). They are usually taken straight down, toward the spacecraft nadir (the opposite of the zenith). To get the correct perspective for the Moon as a globe, Doran took the images, along with altimeter data, and mapped them onto a sphere. That way features near the edge look foreshortened, as they really do when you look at the entire Moon. He also used Apollo images to make sure things lined up. So the image isn’t exactly scientifically rigorous, but it is certainly spectacular.

The image is also available at Gigapan for easier exploration.

Tags: astronomy   Moon   science   Sean Doran   space