Things 43: Indian Superman, Pub Quiz Physics, Star Wars Collection

(Originally sent March 2009)

The joy of cultural differences – Indian Superman (sound essential for when they get to the musical number):

(Note that their superman does not wear red pants on the outside – clearly they thought that would just be silly)

A link to the non-text bit of another video, also showing the joy of cultural differences – a hard-hitting realistic portrayal of modern warfare featuring large-headed anthropomorphised animals, with a dramatically incongruous title:

[Video has been removed – try this link and make a cup of tea or something while the 90s pre-roll advert happens – T.M. 16/4/11]

[That video was removed too, try this search on Youtube – T.M. 17/5/22]


H. G. Wells: “History is the race between education and catastrophe.”

Last Week’s Puzzle
Last week
I asked how much longer a string stretched around the earth’s equator would need to be if it were to be raised by one meter (or indeed metre). Since the circumference of a circle is 2*pi*r, the new circumference would be 2*pi*(r+1) = 2*pi*r + 2*pi*1, i.e. 2*pi longer – under 7 metres.

This is counterintuitive since it seems very small, and it also doesn’t depend on what the radius of the earth is. A way to comprehend this intuitively is to imagine a square instead of a circle – to extend a string wrapped around a square of any size by one metre would always need two metres of string to be added at each corner.

This week
: pub quiz physics. The most abundant element in the universe is Hydrogen which has 1 proton. The next most abundant is Helium with 2 protons. What is the third most abundant element in the universe?

Apparently some people didn’t know about my Star Wars collection. Here it is – click to view full size:


Things 22: Transplant Problem, Fantastic Contraption, Profile Pictures

(Originally sent August 2008)

This week’s… thing
Didn’t end up seeing any films last week, but I did end up getting my thesis bound for submission.

Next Week’s films
I’ll be watching the new X-Files movie.   6.8/10 | 32%

I’ll be trying to get a ticket for the preview of Hellboy II.   7.9/10 | 88%

I’ll be seeing The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.   unrated | 11%


Last week we considered the ‘trolley problem’. If the people concerned are indistinguishable, then the vast majority of people choose to divert the trolley and kill one to save the many. (The few that disagree with this generally consider the action of diverting the trolley makes you culpable for the death, whereas not doing anything leaves you inculpable even though more people die).

This week it’s time for the follow up!

A brilliant transplant surgeon has five patients, each in need of a different organ, each of whom will die without that organ. Unfortunately, there are no organs available to perform any of these five transplant operations. A healthy young traveller, just passing through the city the doctor works in, comes in for a routine checkup. In the course of doing the checkup, the doctor discovers that his organs are compatible with all five of his dying patients. Suppose further that if the young man were to disappear, no one would suspect the doctor.

In the doctor’s place, would you kill the young man to save the five, or spare him and let the five die?

Overheard conversation as I got on the tube the other day:

Man: “Go on then, what did you do that was really evil.”
Woman: “Well, I killed my daughter.”
Man: “Yeah, I guess that is pretty evil.”
[slightly awkward pause]
Woman: “I also killed two other main characters.”

A brilliant game to test your inventiveness:

Usually I filter out the things that I know will only really appeal to me and are unlikely to be of interest to anyone else. But I enjoyed this video so much I had to share it anyway.

It’s a great example of today’s collaborative culture – the videogame music from Final Fantasy 4 was originally composed by one guy, then some other (Japanese) nutters remade it with lyrics for the bad guys that the music was the theme for, then some artist made a video version using their illustrations to illustrate the song, then someone else took that and added English subtitles! Copyright law has a lot of catching up to do.

A picture
PhD comics came up with this insightful segmentation of profile pictures.


Things 72: Art

Flaubert: “Art is born of restraint and dies of freedom”

Dorothy Gambrell (Cat and Girl): “Great stuff is usually made within very set boundaries […] the importance of a medium lies in its limitations.” (link)

Antony Gormley: “A lot of public art is gunge, an excuse which says, ‘we’re terribly sorry to have built this senseless glass and steel tower but here is this 20-foot bronze cat'”

Kanji that transform into the animal they represent. A brilliant example of art within tight boundaries.

See the rest of the series here (although beware potentially NSFW imagery at the bottom of the page, after the polls, depending on what they have posted recently).

Here’s a really amazing example of art vs limitations: using only the ramblings of a reluctant drunk man for the audio, make a video about the story of a historical figure. Somehow, moderately famous actors are involved in the project. The result is fascinating (although does contain moments of the more unpleasant consequences of drunkenness):
Drunk History – Nicola Tesla

Putting captions on pictures of cats is an emerging art form I have been monitoring for some time. I previously put together my top 10 cats from 2007 and 2008; here, belatedly, are my top 10 cat images spotted in the first half of 2009.

Roger Ebert asserts that “Video games can never be art” Why is he wrong?
(See these posts on Penny Arcade for context and their own responses).

Last week’s Puzzle
Last week I asked what would be the best thing I could buy that would maximise hours saved per pound spent. This produced a wide range of responses, largely depending on which assumptions people chose to question.

  • Yasmin suggests Red Bull (and similar) to save time by needing less sleep.
  • Alam suggests a clone of myself
  • Xuan suggests slaves and a washing machine.
  • Angela suggests two books that could improve one’s efficiency and so save time – The Miracle of Mindfulness and Making Time. (Funnily enough I already own the latter… but I haven’t found time to read it yet).
  • John suggests grated cheese.
  • Phil points out anything free that saves any time would maximise the metric, such as DropBox. This technically lies outside the “buy” requirement. He also suggests a combi-microwave and a smartphone, and then finally a device to prevent time-wasting by cutting off internet access between certain hours.
  • Simon specifically attempted to address the “I” part of the question by recommending an iPad as being a particularly good purchase for me, by switching to digital goods (music, movies, comics, books); “Imagine all that time not wasted, going to shops, ordering physical products online and searching for things you can’t find.” I don’t exactly agree, but that’s a huge discussion for another time.

Finally, Laurence suggests a Time Machine, and insightfully adds:

The inevitable complexity of all the proposed solutions reminds me of
the following quote:

“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create
the universe.”
– Carl Sagan

I had planned to make simple estimates for the “hours saved per pound spent” for each answer and declare a winner, but due to the range and complexity of answers this now falls out of the remit of Things and will instead be posted over on my analytical blog, Tower of the Octopus (which now has its own domain) once I find time to make such estimates.


Things 1: Chintz, Time Travel, Human Tetris

(Originally sent in November 2007)

I like the culture of sharing interesting things by email, but my obsessive nature makes me want to formalise the process. So here is the first edition of what may become a weekly thing. [My obsessive nature later drove me to create this blog in order to document historic ‘Things’ emails; these will now be republished here on Tuesdays – metatim, 25/03/10]

This week’s film – one line review:
American Gangster was an amazing story very well put together, that just fell a little short of being a true classic.

Next week’s film:
Sleuth (2007)
Imdb rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating (summary of critics’ reviews): 33%

Sleuth Trailer:

[I originally linked to wherever I had found a trailer – now I’m posting on a blog I’m embedding whichever seems like the most canonical YouTube video – metatim, 25,03/10]

Prognosis: Looks like a bad version of a good story.

A Puzzle:
The following words all share a certain property:
Almost, Biopsy, Chintz

Can you find a number with that property?

A Quote:
From when I was about 14:

Me: “Wow! I feel like I’m going faster than I really am!”
My sister: “You are!”

A Link:
Cat and Girl is a very intelligent comic about hipsters, literature, life and science. Here’s one of my favourite ones:
[archive has been recombobulated, here’s the new link – metatim, 25/03/10]

A video:
From the great tradition of Ridiculous Japanese Game Shows:

[original video removed – here’s an alternative – metatim, 25/03/10]
[replacement video removed – here’s another alternative – metatim, 22/11/12]
[replacement video removed – here’s another alternative – metatim, 06/12/13]

[Keeping up with takedowns clearly futile, so try searching like this – metatim, 02/08/15]

A picture: