Tag Archives: infographic

Things 104: Power of Music, Misleading Impressions, Two Envelopes

Video
The effect of music on the brain is a very interesting thing that varies tremendously by individual. Last year I discovered a track that has an incredibly powerful mood-altering effect on me: Olympians, by a band with a potentially offensive name. It took a couple of initial slightly bemused listens before it properly seeped into my brain, but now as soon as I hear this track, I feel unbelievably positive, and become filled with an absurd confidence.

Unfortunately I suspect the fact that this track is so resonant for me also suggests that it’s very specific, and it will seem really quite boring to most others. But I find it so amazing I just have to share it anyway. So first, here’s a short version with a video to slightly entertain you while you wonder what on earth I’m going on about:

And if you are so inclined, here’s the full length version:

Tim Link
I saw The Lion King in 3D at Edinburgh International Film Festival, and reviewed it here. The short version of my review would essentially be this:

Quote special: Misleading Impressions
Thanks to Last.fm recommendations I discovered Brian Transeau (BT)’s album This Binary Universe, which turns out to be a bit different to his other albums. As I listened to his back-catalogue I thought I detected an incredible sense of optimisim and positivity. When I later found Brian Transeau was on Twitter, I found this impression was entirely correct. Sample tweet:

5am and time for our first ever sunrise, father daughter bike ride. Today is already #WIN Good Morning!

My favourite musician is probably Jon Hopkins who I now listen to instead of any other Chill Out music since for me he somehow trumps pretty much the entire genre. He is behind some of the most relaxing and beautiful tracks I know, so I was curious to see what he was like on Twitter. The answer: actually a bit different. Brilliantly, this was the first Tweet of his that I read:

I wish one of James May’s Big Ideas was to FUCK OFF

Finally, moving away from music, I referenced Mitch Hedberg’s famous escalator line in my Lion King 3D review:

An escalator can never break – it can only become stairs.

Realising I was unfamiliar with his work, I ended up reading through his Wikiquote page, and found much to like, such as:

My belt holds up my pants and my pants have belt loops that hold up the belt. What the fuck’s really goin on down there? Who is the real hero?

and:

When you go to a restaurant on the weekends and it’s busy they start a waiting list. They start calling out names, they say “Dufresne, party of two. Dufresne, party of two.” And if no one answers they’ll say their name again. “Dufresne, party of two, Dufresne, party of two.” But then if no one answers they’ll just go right on to the next name. “Bush, party of three.” Yeah, what happened to the Dufresnes? No one seems to give a shit. Who can eat at a time like this? People are missing! You fuckers are selfish. The Dufresnes are in someone’s trunk right now, with duct tape over their mouths. And they’re hungry. That’s a double whammy. Bush, search party of three, you can eat when you find the Dufresnes.

So after that I naturally looked him up on YouTube, and at that point discovered him to be completely different to what I had imagined:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2491LucLa1g

Gone, try this one:

Picture
A lot of infographics annoy me, but I like the idea of bringing together the data that drives this one so much I don’t mind its shortcomings.

Puzzle – The Two Envelopes
I can’t believe I haven’t put this one in Things before.

In a standard abstract setting with no distracting details, you and another person are presented with two envelopes. One envelope contains some money (but you don’t know how much). The other envelope contains twice as much money. You get to select an envelope, and you get to keep however much money is in it. The other person gets the other envelope. There isn’t anything to go on, so you choose one of the envelopes for arbitrary reasons.

Before you get to open it, you are offered the chance to change your mind, with the following reasoning:

You don’t know how much money is in your chosen envelope, but for the sake of argument let’s say it’s £10. That means you either have the envelope with twice as much money (so the other contains £5) or you don’t (so the other must contain £20). So if you decide to swap, there’s a 50% chance you get that £5, and a 50% chance you end up with the £20. Since you currently have £10, that means there’s a 50% chance of effectively losing £5 and a 50% chance of gaining another £10. Imagine if the universe split into two at the moment you made that decision – one of you loses £5, the other gains £10, so on average you gain (£10 + (-£5) )/2 = £2.50. Since the average gain is positive, clearly that’s a gamble worth taking, and you should definitely swap.

This is of course a strange conclusion. You effectively chose an envelope at random, so how does swapping it improve your odds of getting more money? The paradox is even more stark if we consider the fact that the other person could be convinced to swap by exactly the same argument.

Previous Puzzle – Co-operating with yourself
Last time I asked how well you would get on with yourself.

Xuan said:

They say that people you dislike/hate are likely to be people who’s characteristics are most like yours. People are most critical of what they see in the mirror. My clone better not have the same taste in clothes.

Which reminded me of a problem the sci-fi stories don’t tend to go into – if there’s suddenly two of you, you’re going to need some more clothes, and one of you will probably have to find another job, and probably somewhere else to live. Marriages get complicated. Phil suggested David Gerrold’s time-travel sci fi story The Man Who Folded Himself for an in-depth dissection of this kind of problem.

Richard observed that he tends to like people with whom he shares attractive personality traits, and dislike those that share his negative personality traits, suggesting that the latter may be because they serve as a reminder of these aspects of himself. This potentially makes the question even harder to answer, although one might guess that a negative would trump a positive and ultimately lead to the kind of confrontations that usually crop up in sci-fi versions of this problem (and endorsing Xuan’s observation).

I think the question raised by The Man Who Folded Himself of co-operating with a version of yourself in the future is a clue to how we can actually ask this question of ourselves. In a very real sense, we really do choose how much to co-operate with our future selves every day: will you do a chore now, or will you force your future self to do it instead? Will you eat all of the cake, or will you save some for your future self? If you know how you generally answer those questions, I suggest this gives you an idea of how well you would get on with yourself.

In practical terms, just thinking of these kinds of questions in this framework makes me more likely to co-operate with my future self, which is probably a good thing. Well, I’m glad that my past self thinks that way, anyway.

Things 99: Rules for Stories, Sci-Fi Map, Movie Bar Codes

Video
When an important character first appears in a movie, it’s generally good practice to have the first few things they do give a strong indication of what kind of person they are. I think this is why people get so upset about the “Han shot first” debacle, since it was such a character-defining moment.

Occasionally, real life can give us the same speedy insight into a person, such as these 14 seconds:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoYpJqFNj40

Quote
In screenwriter Todd Alcott‘s series of insightful and fascinating posts analysing The Shining and how it fits the standard three-act structure set against a driving need of the protagonist, provided that you consider the hotel itself to be the protagonist (which is actually quite a compelling argument; read it in full in parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), he has the following aside:

[I]n order for a protagonist/antagonist dyad to work dramatically, the protagonist must be aware that the antagonist exists, and is acting upon things, and vice versa. This is why […] fantasy stories always have magical characters who can see the future and know what’s going on in distant lands – because otherwise, the protagonist and antagonist would never know that the other exists.  If Gandalf is just some guy who tells Frodo to throw the ring into a volcano and Frodo says “okay” and sets out, there is no drama to Lord of the Rings.  It must be that Gandalf is a wizard and that Frodo can have visions when he puts on the ring and that Sarumon has a magic ball that sees things, or else everybody is just kind of doing things.

I wasn’t so sure about that when I first read it, but ever since then I’ve seen it more and more. I think it’s actually more the case that when a writer has a story in mind it’s very difficult for them to separate their omniscient knowledge of events from the far more limited knowledge held by the individual characters. If you have some kind of fantasy setting, it’s almost irresistably tempting to get around this by including some kind of magical information transfer. Harry Potter leans on this story crutch particularly heavily (although to be fair Rowling does fold the implications back into the narrative).

Picture
Ward Shelley’s History of Science Fiction, originally posted at scimaps.org:
(click for big)

Puzzle
Imagine taking a frame from a movie, and squashing it horizontally to produce a thin vertical line. Now imagine doing that to every frame of the movie, and putting those lines next to one another in sequence. While I’m not sure of the precise transformation used, this is what Movie Barcodes essentially does.

For many movies, this will tend to produce a set of incomprehensible stripes that show little more than the general color grading of the film. The Matrix is a perfect example (click for big on this or any of the others in this post):

Films using distinctive palettes at different times reveal their underlying pattern, for example the distinct striations of Hero:

This begs the question: are there any movies which you could recognise from their “bar code” alone? I suspect this is only reasonable if you’re given a subset of movies to guess from, or if the movie is particularly distinctive. So for this week’s Things, see if you can guess the following movies (the answers are in the filenames of the images):

A famous Disney movie:

Another famous Disney movie:

A film I like:

New movies are regularly added to the Movie Barcode Tumblr, and most excellently they sell a variety of prints of some of the most popular!

Things 98: Weakest Link Puppets, GPS Doom, Visual Metaphors

Video
I really like The Weakest Link Puppets Special. There’s something about the way these worlds collide that just keeps me smiling as I watch – childish responses to adult questions, adult responses to childish questions, and a wonderful willingness of all concerned to make what’s ultimately one of the simplest illusions going really work. If you want to see the rest of the episode, YouTube will show you the way.
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGlBDdsxeUQ

Link
A New Scientist article on how a surprising amount of our technological world is reliant on GPS.

Puzzle
After last week’s question on old-stuff-on-the-internet, I was looking back at my old Geocities site (now living on my own domain after Geocities shut down) and came upon my old Alternative Newsletters. I like to think of these as precursors to the Things email, but they’re really completely different, so I probably shouldn’t.

Anyway, one of them had the following quiz, which I thought I’d adapt for Things:

1) Is the answer to this question yes?
2) Is the answer to this question no?
3) Is the answer to question 4 maybe?
4) Are most of the answers yes in this quiz?
5) Have you stopped worrying about logical yes/no question traps?
6) If you answered maybe to questions 1-5, ask yourself another question in place of this one: If you cyclically rotate ‘maybe’, ‘no’ and ‘yes’ forwards through the alphabet, then answer questions 3 and 5 again, does this change whether or not you have to answer this question?
7) Answer this question last: What is the answer to question 8?
8) Is the answer to this different in comparison with the answer to the last question?

You don’t need answers, you know how many you got right.
Scoring:
0-2 questions correct: congratulations, you could be sane.
3-5 questions correct: bonus question! Did you get more than 3 correct? Answer, mark, and re-score.
6-8 questions correct: you do not need my congratulations, getting this many correct is its own reward (and punishment)
9+ questions correct: See Me.

Picture
A periodic table (actually not really periodic) of metaphors:
(click for big)

Last Week’s Question
Last Week I asked “What is the oldest evidence of your own activity on the internet you can still provide a live link to now”.

For me personally, it’s this review on Amazon dated 24th September 2001. I was active in a few other places before that, but they’re all dead now. Let this serve as a reminder to back up any data you hold dear.

Richard beats this by a long distance, with his usenet post dated 4th February 1992. Nearly 20 years ago! That’s a long time in the world of the internet.

By the way, the natural conclusion of this little game would be to try to find a link to the oldest thing on the internet. I’d have no idea where to begin, but let me know if you do.

Things 9: Statistics Art, Dramatic Prairie Dog, Flag Diagrams

(Originally sent April 2008)

It’s the return of Things!

This week’s film – one line review:
Last night I saw Son of Rambow, which was kind of Beano-like, over the top, strange, and put together with more heart than writing competence much like the film-within-a-film it portrays, and fortunately heart is the most important aspect of a film, so that was rather good.

Next week’s films:
Next week I plan to catch the preview of Happy-Go-Lucky. It’s a film about the power of optimism by Mike Leigh, and Mark Kermode was enthusing about it, so it sounds well worth seeing.

Imdb rating: 8.6 /10 (from 87 votes)
Rotten Tomatoes rating:  N/A (insufficient data)
[Now gets 92% on RT – metatim, 16/5/10]
Clip : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqTlFY84yYU
[Link is dead, I think this is the same one though – metatim, 16/5/10]

The clip doesn’t seem terribly demonstrative given what Kermode was going on about, but it’s the best I could find.

A Puzzle:
In the last Things I left you with the rainbow paradox. I don’t have an answer but I saw a diagram once of the colours the human eye perceives separated by how distinct we perceive them to be, that looked like a clue. If I find it then I’ll use it as the image attachment of a Things one day. [That diagram can be found here, from this Wikipedia article on colour vision – metatim, 16/5/10]

This week: If there are 3 people in a room, what is the probability that at least 2 of them are of the same sex?

A Quote:
Federico García Lorca: The iguana will bite he who does not dream.

A Link:
Chris Jordan has a series called ‘running the numbers’, in which he takes amazing statistics and makes art out of them:

http://www.chrisjordan.com/

A video:
This 5-second video was big in June 2007 but I somehow missed it. It’s an internet classic and it is vital that you see it with sound:

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

A picture:
Below is an image which, like Chris Jordan’s art, also presents statistics in an interesting way.