Tag Archives: google

Things 124: Puzzles & Polaroids, Bond is now Bourne, Cooking Tips

OctopusFruitbat Game Write-upPuzzles & Polaroids at the British Museum
Clare and I were asked by Stubble & Glasses (who I also happen to work for) to design and run a company game event in a professional capacity, because some of them had enjoyed some of our earlier game events. So we formed a company called OctopusFruitbat, came up with something that combined puzzle-solving with creative instant-photo-taking, and it went a bit like this. If you’re ever looking for someone to come up with a similar event, of if you want advice on doing something yourself, please do get in touch!

Also don’t forget, this Friday I’ll be running Competitive Sandwich Making (which last year went like this) as part of the amazing all-weekend festival of gaming that is Hide&Seek’s Weekender at the Southbank Centre.

Quote
I’ve been nurturing the idea that films that follow the “They Made Him, Then Tried To Kill Him, Now He Must Fight Them” storyline are rising to such prominence that it must be some kind of Hero’s Journey for the modern age (I’m thinking Bourne, Hitman, Grosse Pointe Blank, Kill Bill, Blade, Ultraviolet…). The closest I could find on TV Tropes was Contract on the Hitman, which doesn’t quite nail it.

On metafilter, wuwei draws it out more explicitly by contrasting James Bond with Jason Bourne:

Who is our generation’s James Bond? Jason Bourne. He can’t trust his employer, who demanded ultimate loyalty and gave nothing in return. […] Bourne survives as a result of his high priced, specialized education. He can do things few people can do […] and like the modern, (sub)urban professional, Bourne had to mortgage his entire future to get that education. They took everything he had, and promised that if he gave himself up to the System, in return the System would take care of him. It turned out to be a lie.

(You can read the post in full here).

Is there any evidence that there really has been such a transition, that corporations are now violating the social contract in some way that they weren’t before? The three charts in this article do seem to actually endorse this idea – Corporate Profits Just Hit An All-Time High, Wages Just Hit An All-Time Low.

Pictures
Here are some pictures with captions that have some amazing food-preparation tips, for example:

Previous PuzzleThe Shrinking Empires
Last time I asked why Empires seemed to be getting geographically smaller. I’ve actually asked this question when interviewing analysts, and get two kinds of answers.

The most common answer is that population density is increasing, and apparently human political power tends to stabilise around the 10m-50m range. For example, the Roman Empire was pretty big, but probably only covered ~60 million or so people, ten times fewer than those living in the same geographical area today (according to Citation Needed, but hey, it sounds about right).

A more interesting idea is that it has something to do with technology and inequality. I once heard it said that technology is not politically neutral – for example, Nuclear Power requires greater centralisation of government power than, say Wind Power – and I find this an appealing idea. Perhaps, for example, improved forms of communication give greater power to the people, who are then better able to resist tyrants with aspirations of empire-building through war.

But the more I dig into this, the more it starts to look like post-rationalisation, because I can imagine giving examples to prove the opposite. If everyone can manufacture guns cheaply, is it easier to terrify your populace with asymmetric power you can give your enforcers, or is “a well armed population the best defense against dictatorship”? If you improve transport, is it easier to avoid conscription, or easier to wage war? If you combine Moore’s law with the internet to create continuous public surveillance, do you end up creating a single global culture with no crime, or do you permanently enforce the power structures that exist at the point of implementation? Well, that’s a question for another day.

PuzzleGoogle Correlations
Google Correlate lets you find closely correlating Google search term trends, which sometimes gives silly results by coincidence, and sometimes reveals something very interesting. The question is, how many of these correlations can you explain?

Things 51: Beatles Rock Band, Google Squared, Ingenious Comics

(Originally sent June 2009)

Things now returns after a brief hiatus during which I revised for and took my IDM Diploma exams. They seemed to go okay.

Movies
I saw Terminator Salvation, which I can’t particularly recommend, and Blue Velvet (on DVD), which I can.

Video
The intro to the Beatles specific Rock Band game is a wonderfully conceived and animated potted history of the band.

High quality video on the dedicated site:

http://www.thebeatlesrockband.com/cinematic.php

YouTube quality if your PC isn’t up to it:

Link Google Squared is like Google’s approach to what Wolfram Alpha does. For example, if you search for planets, it tries to understand what you are looking for and what useful things you might like to know about instances of that thing, using Google algorithmic magic.

When Wolfram Alpha has an answer, it’s right – when it doesn’t have an answer, it has nothing. Google Squared lives in the fuzzy space in between.

As a side effect, this means you can use Google Squared as a kind of I-Ching / astrology / random fortune generator.

Try the following:

1) Go here http://www.google.com/squared/
2) Put in your surname
3) If you get results, use ‘add items’ at the bottom to add the first names of your family – if you don’t get any results you will be given some blank fields in which you can enter the first names directly
4) In the top right you can add additional columns. Type in ‘awards’ and press ‘add’
5) Find out how much your family members have won according to the Google Squared lottery!

Personally I was found to have won HK$0.00, whereas my mum got $517,115.00.

You can see what it thinks about you in other ways – for example, add a column titled ‘orbital period’. Turns out my sister has an orbital period of 1,975.4045670 days!

Quote
‘Newsarse’ [Now NewsThump – T.M. 1/7/11] is like a less polished, UK version of The Onion, providing a satirical take on current events from a UK perspective.

I quite liked their take on YouTube comments:

YouTube’s spokesman states “we are pleased to offer not only graphic images of canine dismemberment, but also a platform for viewers’ irrelevant comments and violent outbursts of racism.”

Pictures
In the past couple of weeks I saw two fascinating ways of doing something different with comics.

Choose-your-own-adventure comic based on reading speed:

http://www.qwantz.com/index.php?comic=1486

One character going left to right, one top to bottom:

http://eruditebaboon.livejournal.com/17849.html

This week’s puzzle – paper
Why do people generally prefer to read writing on paper than on a screen?

Last puzzle – buttons
The puzzle regarding why buttons do up the way they do (one way for male and the other for female) is a difficult one, since answers cannot be proved, and as such it is all too easy to come up with one theory and feel the matter to have been resolved.

Here’s how I broke it down in reply to some suggestions on the CC list:

There are actually two questions bundled up – why is buttoning consistent, and why is it the way it is for the two genders.

Assumptions:
- Buttoning requires both hands to perform a fairly dextrous action and has no particular handedness bias
– Being familiar with buttoning one way will tend to make clothes that button the other way less desirable
– People will tend to wear clothing items for their gender, not so often clothing of the opposite gender

Under these assumptions, we can expect consistency of buttoning to emerge for each sex (but not necessarily opposite to one another) from random starting conditions, and a slight bias one way or the other at the start is likely to have a strong effect on the final outcome.

Arguments could be made in each direction, as it would only take a small effect to tip things one way or the other.

I found an interesting viewpoint on why it should be the opposite way for males vs females in a seemingly well-informed article on a period costume site.

From the last paragraph:

“Since female clothing took on more and more features of male clothing in order to express emancipation […], it became necessary to establish a feature that signalled that an item of clothing was, despite its male appearance, nevertheless female.”

Things 35: Lovefilm, People of the Screen, Chicken Head

(Originally sent December 2008)

I joined LoveFilm last week, mainly so I would know what I was talking about when giving a presentation to them on what I think they should be doing. It turns out they already do a lot of what I had first thought of so I knew to leave that out, and during the presentation I found out that they are planning to do a lot of the stuff I thought of too.

In other words, they do a lot of stuff that I think is good, and are going to do more. My name is Tim Mannveille and I endorse this message.

My Lovefilm profile is here so you can see what I’m doing with the service, and here is my referral link that gives you a 1 month free trial and me a referral bonus!

Films
So, I still don’t have time to see enough films for a Cineworld Unlimited card to be worth it, but the LoveFilm £3.99/month for 2 DVDs is about right. So this week I saw The City of Lost Children, by much the same team as Delicatessen and Amelie. It was visually incredible, inventive and dreamlike, as expected.

IMDb: 7.8/10
RT: 82%

Trailer viewable over at Lovefilm.

A link
While researching quite what is possible in terms of tracking mobile phones, I stumbled upon a bit of real life drama on Google Answers. “I’m trying to locate a friend who has gone missing and may be in a lot of trouble…”

A [long] Quote:
Kevin Kelly knows what he is talking about, and wrote an understated but amazing piece for the NY Times recently. A choice excerpt:

“When technology shifts, it bends the culture. Once, long ago, culture revolved around the spoken word. The oral skills of memorization, recitation and rhetoric instilled in societies a reverence for the past, the ambiguous, the ornate and the subjective.

Then, about 500 years ago, orality was overthrown by technology. […] The distribution-and-display device that we call printing instilled in society a reverence for precision (of black ink on white paper), an appreciation for linear logic (in a sentence), a passion for objectivity (of printed fact) and an allegiance to authority (via authors), whose truth was as fixed and final as a book. In the West, we became people of the book.

Now invention is again overthrowing the dominant media. A new distribution-and-display technology is nudging the book aside and catapulting images, and especially moving images, to the center of the culture. We are becoming people of the screen.”

A Video
Well, this week’s Things has been very serious so far, so it’s time for a video of someone moving a chicken around while the chicken holds its head incredibly still:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dPlkFPowCc

A Puzzle
Last week I asked people to guess why the search term ‘uncertainty’ showed such an odd annual trend. The most likely explanation seems to be students searching for Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle – if you put other terms students might be looking up into Google trends, you see the same annual trend cropping up. [Google Insights for Search also helps as it reveals what people tend to actually be looking for when searching for a given search term – T.M. 2/1/11]

This week, the question is: why do chickens keep their heads so still?

Pictures
It still feels like I’m taking Things too seriously, so here’s an article with pictures of loos with the best views.

Things 34: Uncertainty, Cat on Roomba, Lemurs

(Originally sent November 2008)

Welcome to Things, a weekly email I send around with stuff that I have found or dug out from my archives. This week some new people have been added to the list, so it is now going out to:

6 people at RAPP
2 people that used to be at RAPP
3 members of my family
1 other cool person
1 me

The default is for everyone to receive Things privately. If you are happy to receive it on a CC list so that you can reply-to-all and discuss the contents with similarly interested people, let me know – so far two people from the above list are doing that.

Anyway, on to the Things.

Films
If I had time to see any film this coming week it would be Waltz with Bashir, which apparently breaks new ground both as an animation and as a documentary. (From the trailer it doesn’t actually seem to take rotoscoping much further than Richard Linklater already has with Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, but it’s still cool).

IMDb: 8.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

Trailer:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylzO9vbEpPg

A link
The McCollough effect is a brilliant optical illusion effect which remains unexplained. Try it out here.

A quote
Tycho, Penny Arcade:

“Innovations are just gimmicks you happen to like.”

Last week’s puzzle
Last time I asked that if regular slow zombies represent the inevitability of death, what do fast zombies represent?

My personal answer is that fast zombies are just a distillation of our worst fears about other people – reduced to pure irrational rage and threat. It also unlocks a primal desire to defend yourself with violence, and by reducing other people to zombies we need not feel guilt about doing violent things to them. (Compare Carmageddon, a game in which the aim was to run people over, but since this was considered unacceptable by the ratings board the people were replaced by zombies).

This week’s puzzle
This week, it’s a graph puzzle. Take a look at the trend in search volume for the word ‘Uncertainty’:

It follows a clear annual trend. Why is that?

A Video
A cat riding on a Roomba, which is an autonomous vacuum cleaning robot. Interestingly, 2 out of the 12 people receiving this email own such a device.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQ-jv8g1YVI

Pictures
Google is now hosting the photographic archive from LIFE magazine, including photos that never made it into print. So far they have put up 2 million of an anticipated 10 million images at pleasingly high resolution. You can also buy a print of any image you like, for an only slightly exorbitant cost.

As with all new resources, I tested it out by seeing what it had on lemurs. The answer is: lots. It turns out that from page 2 onwards almost all of the results come from a brilliant photo shoot revolving around a family that has a pet lemur.