April 1, 2009
Around the World in 80 Telescopes Starting at 09:00 UT on April 3 (figure out what time that is for you here) join in for a 24 hour webcast visiting 80 of the world's astronomical observatories. What are the astronomers up to? What is it like to spend a night at a telescope? [more inside]
The Worst Homemade Star Wars Costumes for nerd conventions, nerd parties and any other nerd-based gatherings.
If you're like me, you are not a top computer science researcher, and you haven't written a classic book about programming and made it available online for free. Let's review who we're not. We're neither Abelson nor Sussman, and we haven't written Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (previous proof). We're not part of TeachScheme and we had no hand in the writing of How to Design Programs (not even the second edition, natch). Shriram Krishnamurthi didn't need our help to write Programming Languages: Application and Interpretation. We wish we were Simon Peyton-Jones and had a hand in The Implementation of Functional Programming Languages. [more inside]
A philosophy professor takes on the financial system. Or perhaps that should read - a philosophy professor's take on the financial system. Daniel Cloud, teacher of philosophy at Princeton University and a founding partner in two hedge funds, makes the case in a recent opinion piece that "... complicated explanations about derivatives, regulatory failure, and so on are beside the point. ... The truth is that ... models are most useful when they are little known or not universally believed. They progressively lose their predictive value as we all accept and begin to bet on them."
The Belfer Cylinders Digital Connection is a collection of old cylinder records at Syracuse University. The library has started to digitize them, both in mp3 and wav format. They have only 293 online yet but aim to have 6000 cylinders digitized by the end of next year. It can be searched either by genre, keyword or Here are a few that I really like: Bedtime at the Zoo, That Syncopated Boogie-boo, Mary, You're a Little Bit Old Fashioned, Fifty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong, Phoebe Brown, Was zu Gott ist zu Gott und was zu leute ist zu leute, Aberystwyth, Glada na lusch, I Love a Lassie and Pussy's in the Well.
New physics research: Time variation of a fundamental dimensionless constant
My April 1st spidey sense was tingling like crazy, but I guess it's true if it was in Time Magazine, that bastion of serious journalism, where Time 100 nominee LeBron James nominated Ohio businessman Jay Schottenstein for the next Time 100 because he, "supported the translation and elucidation of the Talmud Bavli into English, Hebrew and French." Now if only Jews could play basketball...
Poetry at Tech, a poetry program at Tech University in Georgia, presents readings (on YT) by a number of fine contemporary poets. Some of my favourites: Thomas Lux (pt. 1, 2, 3), David Kirby (pt. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), Tony Hoagland (pt. 1, 2, 3) and Illya Kaminsky. Complete list of videos so far.
The British Expeditionary Force first faced the German troops at the Battle of Mons on August 23rd of 1914. The British forces accounted well for themselves, despite being heavily outnumbered. This miraculous victory was due to the aid of shining angelic figures which held the Germans back during the retreat, according to numerous accounts of those who saw the event. There is just one problem with this wonderful story. [more inside]
The Big Picture has photos taken during Earth Hour 2009. Click the photos to go from "lit" to "unlit." (Earth Hour home, wiki, previously)
Complete Mars Vacation Guide More April-first-day goodness. Link from the site's main page is at bottom right.
Warren Mercer Oates was one the greatest character actors to ever appear in American film. A fascinating biography of the actor's life and career was published this week, and is titled Warren Oates: A Wild Life [more inside]
There was no way to simply say, "I read a really bad description in this book last night." I had to scan it and share it for you to understand just how bad it truly, truly was. It is the sort of bad that causes pain and must be shared with other people so you can feel better. Part 1, Part 2. This really is prose so purple that it verges into the infra-red. Some NSFW descriptive naughtiness.
Protests against today's G20 summit in the UK turn predictably bloody. The main financial hub, the City, is closed off as a retail bank is broken into and dismantled. Another street, in contrast, is taken over and turned into an encampment.
"Get a grip, man. you can't let this wash over you. You have no control over what happens right now. But you can do one thing. Get up on top of the fear. Get above it. " Louis C.K. ( previously ) is writing about his recent experience on a USO tour in the Middle East. It's funny and genuine, and he's a decent photographer. Also, Dino Stamatopoulos was there.
Sometimes a blog to lead to more writing work: a book deal, maybe a movie. Carol Blymire (previously) started a blog and seems to have been offered one of the most coveted positions in professional cooking. (via)
The Curious Case of Alex Latifi. "We don’t care if Latifi is innocent. Our goal is to put him out of business." Feds knock; a business is lost: all charges dropped years after the company was charged with violating U.S. export law by sending to China classified drawings of an Army Black Hawk helicopter part and falsifying related tests. "It appears that the principal offense committed by the defendant, Alex Latifi, was breathing while being of Middle Eastern extraction.” [more inside]
"The idea that the state is an unwarranted assault on individual freedom is not a progressive one. This kind of libertarianism works to protect privilege by cloaking the advantages of the rich in the garb of personal autonomy, individual freedom and the “human right” to privacy." Or so says Professor Gearty in an article in the New Statesman. Via David Miliband's blog, in which he also salutes the debunking of the 'myth' that people in Britain are captured "300 times a day on CCTV"
On Sunday, Karmanoia, one of Berlin's most interesting underground clubs, closed its doors for the last time. Although not as storied or well-known as Tacheles - also facing tough times - and easy to pass without noticing, Karmanoia had a loyal crowd of oddballs frequenting it, and was notable not just for its pirate-ship-like interior, but also for the full Labyrinth built into its upper portions. The club's funeral took place directly after locking the doors at midnight on Sunday, with an orchestra dressed like skeletons leading a parade to a nearby canal to bury the key in a watery grave. [more inside]
Part short story forum, part attempt to reach out to isolated teens struggling with their sexuality. I'm from Driftwood; true stories by gay people all over.
Legends of Zork. Opening today is the latest incarnation of the venerable Zork franchise, a Kingdom of Loathing-style browser game set in the Great Underground Empire. Free to play but does sell 'perks', requires registration.
NYT Guesstimation Quiz. Enrico Fermi estimated the yield of the Trinity A-bomb test by dropping some shredded paper. He also asked his students to estimate unusual quantities like the number of piano tuners in Chicago - to show that just about anything can be estimated without detailed knowledge.
The Guardian is moving entirely to Twitter. "Sceptics have expressed concerns that 140 characters may be insufficient to capture the full breadth of meaningful human activity, but social media experts say the spread of Twitter encourages brevity, and that it ought to be possible to convey the gist of any message in a tweet."
Random word stimulation is a technique for generating ideas by associations with random words. You'll find more about it at this site and the relevant Wikipedia article. (Previously)