Things 38: Cat Lift, 999 transcripts, Atheist Paradox

(Originally sent January 2009)

A Video
Whenever people talk about not being able to keep a cat because they live in a flat with no ground floor access, the same idea always pops into my head. Here’s a video of someone actually doing that idea:

A link
Transcripts and audio of incredible 999 calls:

A quote, or rather, a Latin saying
“de gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum”

– “There’s no arguing about tastes and colours.”

A puzzle
Last week I asked about the Paradox of Value. Wikipedia covers it rather well:

This week, it’s time for another Paradox:

The Atheist’s Paradox
1) DNA is not merely a molecule with a pattern; it is a code, a language, and an information storage mechanism.
2) All codes are created by a conscious mind; there is no natural process known to science that creates coded information.
3) Therefore DNA was designed by a mind.

It’s supposed to be a paradox in the sense that an Atheist is unable to refute the logic but also unable to accept that DNA was designed. My question is of course: what is wrong with this argument?

A picture
Although it’s a bit against the spirit I intended for Things, I am forced to link to the same site as last week, since the Big Picture has a marvellous satellite shot of this week’s big inauguration:


Things Christmas Special 2008

(Originally sent… okay, you can probably guess)

It’s Christmas and Things has been running for over a year. I’m taking that as an excuse to break with the usual format, and also to highlight what I (and some others) consider to be the best of the year’s Things.

Urgent matters first
I bought 10 tubs of Celebrations chocolates, discovered the average distribution of the different types, then created tubs of each kind and put them on eBay for charity to determine their value. I wrote up the initial results in my new blog:

The auctions end AT LUNCHTIME TODAY!

Check out how they are doing, or bid if you are so inclined, here:

[It’s long over now, read the final results here – T.M. 22/1/11]

Here are some videos that I like.

1) Tim ‘Speed’ Levitch is an extraordinary fellow that speaks in paragraphs that would take most other people hours to come up with. In the following video he holds forth on the New York grid plan and builds to a brilliant conclusion.

To sell you his style just a bit more, here’s his spontaneous introduction to a comment on a homeless person he passes while walking down the street: “[that person], under the white comforter, cuddled up with 34th street and Broadway, existing on the concrete of this city, hungry and dishevelled, struggling to crawl their way onto this island, with all of their machinated rages and hellishness and self-orchestrated purgatories…”

2) Somebody put a few frames of an anime featuring a woman spinning a leek around to a brilliantly loopy sample from an obscure band. A massive internet meme was born. Here’s where it all started (reposted).

Wikipedia article on the phenomenon.

3) This is my favourite tune and music video right now, and the intro guy is awesome too:

This guy makes armour for cats and mice. Or perhaps more accurately, scale sculptures that resemble such things:

Best of Things 2008

Worst translated menu in the world

XKCD on dreams and possibilities.

Acoustic Resonance – rice is used to illustrate standing acoustic waves on what I presume is a metal plate:

Analemma (click for big):

If you don’t know what an Analemma is, try to work it out from the photo.

The rainbow paradox, remains one of my favourite and (as far as I am concerned) unresolved puzzles:

Soundwaves can vary in frequency across a vast range, part of which we can hear. The lowest part we perceive as a deep bass, the highest as a high squeak.

Similarly, the electromagnetic spectrum consists of a vast range of frequencies, a small range of which we are able to see. The lowest frequency we can see is what we call red, and the highest frequency is what we call violet.

However, while we perceive the ends of the audible sound spectrum to be very different, the ends of the visible light spectrum, red and violet, seem very close to one another, and we even have a colour we call purple that is a mix of the two yet does not actually appear anywhere in the spectrum between them. In fact, we can draw a circle of the colours we perceive and it is not at all clear where the ‘ends’ are.

Why is this?

That’s it for Things until 2009.

Happy Thingking!



Things 77, Time Slices, Innovative Pricing, Trigger’s Broom

Imagine frames of a video printed on the side of a sequence of decks of cards. Then imagine all of those decks combined with a perfect n-riffle shuffle. What would the result look like if played back as a video? Something like this:

Surfing the 4th Dimension from Don Whitaker on Vimeo.

A bunch more, by phyrworks, can be viewed here.

I love the idea that seemingly obvious things that work pretty well are actually only local maxima, and if you move far away enough from the norm you can actually find something far more effective.

The nicest example of this I’ve come across so far can be found here; some great data to show that under some circumstances combining the two pricing strategies of pay-what-you want with half-goes-to-charity produces a significantly better outcome than either option alone, or standard pricing. (This was anecdotally demonstrated by the Humble Indie Bundle back in May, but that clearly lacked a fair “control” for comparison).

As suggested by Angela last week, the problem of Trigger’s Broom, more conventionally known as the Ship of Theseus Paradox:

Trigger: And that’s what I’ve done. Maintained it for 20 years. This old broom’s had 17 new heads and 14 new handles in its time.
Sid: How the hell can it be the same bloody broom then?

Is Trigger’s broom still the same broom? If so why, if not why not?

Jeremey’s Place fake food emporium finds a clever way of shifting their otherwise fleetingly-entertaining spilled-food novelty items: