Things 100: Spaceship Earth, Fake Hacking, List, Scientific Method, Owlbears

It’s Things 100. Time for some particularly epic Things.

I remember reading (in Critical Path, lent to me by John) that Buckminster-Fuller felt it was very difficult to watch a sunset or sunrise and intuitively apprehend that what you see is due to the earth turning – but that if we could succeed at doing so, we would come to better appreciate our place in the universe, and perhaps make wiser long-term decisions.

Even though I’ve seen plenty of night-sky time-lapse before, for some reason this video is the first I’ve seen that really gives me that feeling:

The Mountain from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

A while ago I thought it would be neat to make a program that took as input random keyboard mashing and produced as output  the appearance that you were doing some movie-style hacking, complete with big secret-service logos and password fields that flash up “ACCESS DENIED”, “ACCESS DENIED” and then “ACCESS GRANTED”, and obviously lines and lines of clever-looking code, but I didn’t have the know-how to make it happen.

Fortunately, the internet provides – it doesn’t do the whole window thing I imagined, but you do get to mash the keyboard while apparently producing reams of commented hacking-type code (none of which I understand). If you want a version that also makes bleeping noises for no reason, just like in the movies, you can use this one instead.

Tim Link
I blogged my responses to the first 10 questions in the “30 Days of Video Games Meme”. Probably worth reading if you’re interested in games, or in gamers, or the formative life experiences of me.

Quote kind of thing
Diving back into my own archive, I was quite pleased with this list of self-referential things I collected and created on my old Geocities self-referential page:

Imagine a world with no hypothetical situations.
This sentence has cabbage six words
There are no redundant redundant words in this sentence.
This statement is false
This statement is not provable by me. (Useful illustration of Godel’s incompleteness theorem)
The smallest number that cannot be stated in fewer than 22 syllables
Consider the set of all sets that have not yet been considered.
The ‘pre’ in prefix
Illiterate illiteration
“All clichés should be avoided like the plague” (attributed to Arthur Christiansen, found in “The Joy of Clichés” by Nigel Rees)
This is not the last example on the list.
Aibohphobia (credited to Imre Leader, although the Wikipedia cites the Wizard of Id)
Grammar message in Microsoft Word: “This may not be a complete sentence”
This sentence contains three a’s, three c’s, two d’s, twenty seven e’s, four f’s, two g’s, ten h’s, eight i’s, thirteen n’s, six o’s, ten r’s, twenty fives’s, twenty three t’s, three u’s, three v’s, six w’s, three x’s, and four y’s.
In order to understand the theory of recursion, one must first understand the theory of recursion.
I don’t speak English (Je ne parle pas Francais, etc…)
Stretching a metaphor to breaking point, then snapping it, shredding it into small pieces and mashing them into a pulp.
There are 3 kinds of people in the world; those that can count, and those that can’t.
Actually, there are 10 kinds of people in the world; those that can count in binary, and those that can’t.
“a7H.4hwJ?22i” is an example of a good password.
A rag man
This is the last example on the list.

What is going wrong with the scientific method? That’s a very long article, but it’s a very big question, so worth a read and a ponder. (And hey, this is Things 100 after all.)

And finally… what do Owlbears look like? The ArtOrder asked, and a bunch of different artists came up with a really fantastic range of answers.


Things 76: Bikes, Polaroids, Kanye Tweets

For some reason it’s the most pointless things that make me feel most encouraged about the human race:

I am naturally drawn to extremely long term, incremental projects. This probably explains why I have chosen to serialise 50+ issues of old Things on this blog at a rate of one a week; why I have spreadsheets tracking my sleep data going back nearly 10 years; and perhaps why it took me 6 years to complete a PhD. But as the title suggests, “He Took a Polaroid a Day” takes that kind of thing to a whole new level.

Leonard Bernstein: To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.

Last Week’s Puzzle
Last week I asked why buses come in clusters. I think the main problem is the feedback loops – any traffic fluctuation that causes a bus to become slightly delayed means a longer wait at the next bus stop, which means more people are likely to turn up. More people take longer to get on board, and as Xuan points out make it more likely the bus will need to stop more often. Meanwhile, when the next bus turns up there has been less of a wait since the last bus left, so fewer people board, and by the same token the bus can make faster progress, so the gap between buses is closed by feedback loops at both ends.

One answer is to hold buses to “even out gaps in the service” as does indeed sometimes happen. Xuan also suggests better data on how crowded imminent buses are would encourage people to wait for the next, more empty bus, easing the feedback loop. I also think the surfacing of real time public transport data – as could be viewed a few weeks ago – will help us collectively improve efficiency in a similar way.

Kanye West begins tweeting in a rather ostentatious way. In a stroke of inspiration, someone thought to use his tweets to re-caption New Yorker cartoons. Examples below; full story here.