Increasingly, what counts as a fact is merely a view that someone feels to be true. Many newsrooms are in danger of losing what matters most about journalism: the valuable, civic, pounding-the-streets, sifting-the-database, asking-challenging-questions hard graft of uncovering things that someone doesn’t want you to know. Serious, public-interest journalism is demanding, and there is more of a need for it than ever. It helps keep the powerful honest; it helps people make sense of the world and their place in it. Facts and reliable information are essential for the functioning of democracy – and the digital era has made that even more obvious.
The Best Facts I Learned from Reading books in 2015. "Last year, I learned a piece of information so startling that I spent months repeating it to anyone who would listen."
In case you missed it Ethereum announced its first developer release a week ago. What is Ethereum? According to the video it's a "planetary scale computer powered by blockchain technology." Given the breathlessness, some skepticism is in order, but what if it purports to do on the tin is true? [more inside]
Overloaded by too many happy animals on the internet? Enjoy some sad animal facts.
The 4 most intelligent things you can read on Ebola today? 1) This week I received a "monograph" for review from an unlikely, politically removed scientist. It was plainly titled "Summary of Ebola Virus Disease," and written in exhaustive scientific detail. The author was Steven Hatfill. If the name rings a bell—I don’t want to dwell on this, but it's germane to the context of his perspective I'm sharing here—it’s because he was very publicly, very falsely accused of killing several people with anthrax in 2001... What he does know, at a depth that can rival any scientist’s knowledge, is Ebola. An interview, with Steven Hatfill and more: 21 Days. [more inside]
A new(ish) podcast from the QI elves, No Such Thing As A Fish serves up a delicious selection of facts, including that someone in Japan has patented curry, that certain octopuses eat their own arms when stressed and that a blow-up doll once saved a man's life. Binge-listen on SoundCloud.
The uncommonly well-moderated and researched Ask Historians subreddit answers the question: What common medieval fantasy tropes have little-to-no basis in real medieval European history?
Economists and the theory of politics - "why unions were often well worth any deadweight cost" [more inside]
If you want my opinion, what we need are experts, not windbags (SLG*) *G for Guardian [more inside]
Random Article. Bunny Ultramod likes hit "random page" on Wikipedia and sometimes he reports what he finds there. [via mefi projects]
TruthTeller is an ambitious new automated application built by the Washington Post, which fact checks political speeches, ads and interviews "in as close to real time as possible." The prototype is intended to be a complement to the paper's Fact Checker Blog. More on the project from TechCrunch and Poynter.
"What facts about the United States do foreigners not believe until they come to America? In the episode "True Urban Legends" [originally aired 4.23.2010] of This American Life, Mary Wiltenburg asks refugees to share the rumors they'd heard about America but didn't think were true, only to discover on arrival that they were. Examples include homelessness and Christmas lights." Quora members weigh in. [more inside]
"Note (January 26, 2012): Some people have complained that this site has been sending them texts. If you're one of them, then someone else might be playing a prank on you. This Cat Facts page does not gather people's emails or phone numbers and has no technology capable of sending out messages. Sorry, there is nothing we can do to help since we aren't the ones sending the messages."
"Apparently you can't hack into a government supercomputer and then try to buy uranium without the Department of Homeland Security tattling to your mother."
TV Fact Checkers "Behind every smart TV show, there is a tireless script coordinator, technical adviser, researcher or producer who makes sure the jargon is right, the science is accurate and the pop culture references are on-point." This week, Wired "is speaking with fact-checkers behind the fall TV season’s geekiest shows." [more inside]
Did you know that two guys once flew a Cessna for 64 days, without landing? They apparently refuelled from a moving pickup truck with a hose. Did you also know of the monks from Mt. Hiei, Japan who run 900 marathons in 6 years? To qualify, they do 30 km. a day for 100 consecutive days. I did not know these things when I woke up on Friday, but Now I Know. [more inside]
The Destruction of Economic Facts - "Renowned Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto argues that the financial crisis wasn't just about finance—it was about a staggering lack of knowledge" (via) [more inside]
Short Film: Facts About Projection [SLYT]
In Sizing Up Sperm, people dressed in all white literally act out the role of sperm in the race to become one with the egg, running through valleys, squeezing through spirals, battling Leukocytes and much more. The results are stunning and the program airs this Sunday, March 14 on National Geographic. It just so happens that Slate also got in on the ejaculation meme, and delivered an article on a story of sperm donors and DNA tracing in Are Sperm Donors Really Anonymous Anymore? [via] [more inside]
Health Insurance Reform Reality Check. The White House has just launched a new site to attempt to counter concerns arising from the various factual distortions, misrepresentations and wild-eyed fears that some participants in the ongoing health care reform debate have loudly been voicing lately. [more inside]
Now that we can dispense with trivia about the U.S. elections, it's time for everyone to get better acquainted with President-Elect Obama: 50 things you should know about Barack Obama vs. Barack Obama: The 50 facts you might not know. (via Buzzfeed) [more inside]
Who are Muslims? Gallup has conducted a poll "in 40 predominantly Muslim nations and among significant Muslim populations in the West. It is the first set of unified and scientifically representative views from 1.3 billion Muslims globally." They'll be parsing and interpreting this data for years, but for the time being, they've offered some of their key results online and in print. See also, the Muslim-West Facts Initiative. (via) [more inside]
An old professor of mine used to ask graduating students, "What is the single most important true proposition or fact (not theory) that you learned in university?" This question has been aimed at many fields, and social scientists have long and famously struggled to find good answers, while scientists have had a large number of options, and those who study the humanities wonder if they can even answer similar questions. What is your most important (or interesting) fact?
Did You Know 2.0 (Youtube 08:19) Facts about education, population, globalization.
...GE had long done business with the bin Ladens. In a misguided attempt at corporate synergy, I called GE headquarters...
"You Don't Understand Our Audience" --what John Hockenberry (formerly of NBC, now at MIT Media Lab) learned about network news--good guys and bad guys, the "emotional center", synergy, facts, and why fewer and fewer watch nowadays.
Politifact is brought to you by the St. Pete Times and the Congressional Quarterly (excellent domain name, btw!) to help you sift through all the bullshit that comes out of politicians' mouths. [more inside]
FBI 101 -- "Essentials for Writers," an "exciting and informative" interactive workshop for writers being offered to members of my union -- the Writers Guild of America, East - by the FBI Office of Public Affairs and FBI New York. ... -- Very interesting account of a workshop the FBI puts on for writers in NY. What's in it for the FBI? ...The only question we have for you is 'Will it show us in a good light?'" ...
Discover Magazine's 20 Things You Didn't Know About... Short, interesting and occasionally witty facts about Aliens, Lab Accidents, Nobel Prizes, Meteors, Death, Sleep and more.
TriviaFilter: 100 things we didn't know last year --a roundup of the best? of the year from BBC News' 10 things weekly column. ...20. Sex workers in Roman times charged the equivalent price of eight glasses of red wine.... 57. The word "time" is the most common noun in the English language, according to the latest Oxford dictionary. ...
US Census Bureau Facts & Figures: Holiday Edition says that more than 20 billion letters, packages and cards will be delivered this holiday season and 12 million packages a day through to Christmas Eve. Also check out the Special Edition for comparison data from 1915, 1967 and 2006, the African-American History Month Facts & Features and more data going back to 2000.
Modern contract law, which frames and defines our modern economy, is shaped by old and rather mundane disputes. Consider some of the seminal cases: Hadley v. Baxendale (1854); Hamer v. Sidway (1891); Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. (1892); Mills v. Wyman (1825). These cases, while minor in their actual factual footprint, still shape the world of contracts over a century later. (more about the cases inside)
Some facts about Latinos and immigration, and chances are good they haven't been mentioned at all during coverage of the "immigration crisis" . (and take a stroll down memory lane to past GOP platform statements on the issue)
Sometimes Friday Fun doesn't have to involve Flash. Take, for example, the Random Vin Diesel Fact Page, or other existing ones, some serious, some not so serious. There's also random news generators and even random band name generators. Plenty of reloading, time-wasting fun for your Friday.
47. A "jiffy" is 10 milliseconds in computer science terms. and 99 other things 2004 taught us
Learn to love cannibals, hear from a cat about pet diets, discover some facts about bottled water, or create your own tornado (flying cow included) ... all this and more at the Why Files.
As American As
Apple Pie What Exactly? What food is truly American? Professor Louis Grivetti, of the University of California at Davis, provides a set of excellent, discussion-settling answers, packed with reliable and curious facts. (Be sure to click on the fascinating "Did You Know?" links at the bottom of each of the 10 classic American food groups.) How many Europeans know, for instance, that tomatoes, potatoes, corn, peppers, artichokes and lima beans all came from America? Not much supposedly ancestral Mediterranean cooking could get by without tomatoes, potatoes and peppers...