Categories

## Things 111: Malady X, Stretching Cat, 3 Panels

Question
(Thanks to Simon for reminding me of this important probability lesson!)

At random, you are tested for Malady X. Alarmingly (particularly given that you don’t even know what Malady X is) the test comes back positive. But you know these tests are not always perfect – there’s a chance that it’s wrong, and you don’t really have Malady X at all. So you ask how accurate the test is. You are told that if someone really does have Malady X, there’s a 99% chance the test will come back positive; for someone that doesn’t have it, there is a 99% chance the test will come back negative.

What is the probability that you actually have Malady X?

Animated Gif
Here is the best animated gif of a cat I have seen in a long time:

(via Silv3r): A huge and (I think?) growing collection of street fliers that play with the form, some okay and others quite, quite brilliant, can be found here (browse the other pages if you like what you see).

Picture
I am proud to be able to say that I know James White, the author of this perfect 3-panel comic, personally.

Last time I asked about what people really mean when they claim “change is accelerating”.

The most direct and plausible answer came from John B, who suggested that the scope of human knowledge is the thing that is really growing, and the subjective change we experience is what arises from these discoveries. While it’s only a proxy, one way to measure this is to track how many patents are granted over time, and on a logarithmic scale this does look kind of linear (indicating acceleration).

Bex has an alternative view. The perception of change seems to generally accelerate with age (which in itself is already enough to explain why people claim this all the time). The population of the UK (at least) is ageing. Therefore, the speed-of-change will be reported to be, on average, faster over time. Sneaky!

As the Wikipedia article on the subject currently notes, another confounding factor could be the growth of the human race itself. For example, if a fixed proportion of humans files patents, exponential growth in human race will directly lead to exponential growth in patents filed.

In any field, taking any trend and extrapolating it arbitrarily far into the future is generally unwise. If we don’t know exactly what we’re measuring, and we don’t understand the factors governing the change, even less so. Given the potential disruptions of the technology we’re seeing already, if anything it seems just as likely to me that sudden power imbalances become more likely, which could lead to large swathes of humanity being wiped out, or global human society turning into a dead-end all-powerful dictatorship with no desire to change the status quo.

Categories

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

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

Video
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:

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.

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.
Mispeltt
Ptyo
Repetition
sdrawkcaB
The ‘pre’ in prefix
Quinquesyllabic
Self-referential
Word
Ineffable
Recherche
Sesquipedalian
Non-phonetic
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.
Inelegantness
Pseudo-Greek
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”
TLA
Abbr.
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.
Illegitimate
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.
Repetition
A rag man
Penultimate
This is the last example on the list.

Puzzle
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.)

Picture
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.