Tag Archives: tim

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:

The Mountain from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

Link
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.
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.
Adjectival
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.

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:

http://toweroftheoctopus.com/2008/12/the-celebrations-experiment/

The auctions end AT LUNCHTIME TODAY!

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

http://www.tinyurl.com/TimEbay

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

Videos
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…”

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9awJCyjt550

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:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGDlCViI6k8

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

Best of Things 2008

Link:
Worst translated menu in the world

Quote
XKCD on dreams and possibilities.

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

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zkox6niJ1Wc

Picture
Analemma (click for big):

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

Puzzle
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!

Tim

Things 90: Inception Diagram, Clay Shirky on Wikileaks, United States of Autocomplete

Tim Link
After a lot of research and a second viewing with a lot of note-taking, I felt like I had got to the bottom of Inception. My diagram and explanation of what I think is really going on can be found on Tower of the Octopus.

Link
Clay Shirky’s view of the Wikileaks situation seems much more balanced and reasonable than anything else I’ve read on it.

Also, see the Wikipedia article on the Streisand Effect.

Quote
I can’t actually find who said this first on Twitter:

Pissing off 4chan: free. Botnet hire: $1000/month. For everything else, there’s Mast– oh, wait, not any more there isn’t.

Puzzle
We are told that your ears go ‘pop’ in a plane after take-off because of the air pressure changing with altitude. But we also know that the cabin has to be airtight, as if air could get out the pressure would equalise and above 17,000 feet everyone would die. So why does the air pressure change in the cabin at all?

Picture
From Dorothy ‘Cat and Girl’ Gambrell’s visualisation site Very Small Array, the United States of Autocomplete gives Google’s autocompleted suggestion of what should come after each state name (note results are regional, we’ll get different results from the UK) (click for full size):

Last Week’s Puzzle
Last week I asked “why does the perceived attractiveness of any given individual vary so much depending on who you ask?”, which provoked quite a bit of discussion on the CC list.

Thomas points out:

It’s not enough for both parents to have ‘good” genes, but they should have “good” genes that are sufficiently different that any child will have the maximum possible genetic advantages.

Or as Xuan put it:

Attractiveness: Relative to your genes and where you want them to go.

Simon adds a practical consideration:

… people of similar levels of attractiveness find each other attractive (because your genes have the best chance of survival if you can maximise some function of beauty x propensity to shag me)

Phil counters:

So many couples look very similar though! Perhaps that is somewhat due to acquired mannerisms, but I’d have thought there’s a strong trend to find people similar to yourself attractive, to help similar genes survive

My summary of the situation was this:

To have the best chance of promoting themselves, your genes want to help others with similar genes (and procreating with them is pretty helpful), but also combine themselves with complementary genes. With both of these pressures in effect, and a distorting lens of nurture on top of the nature, we can’t be too surprised that people disagree on attractiveness.

Finally, Matt raises the logical next question – how to genes actually do this:

I think we may be giving too much credit to genes abilites to recognise similar genes and indeed complementary genes here. And after all, there are a lot of different genes with a vested interest here. I would posit that we decide who would be a good catch based on a set of genes (and so on) that try to recognise success in any form – one of the primary indicators surely being perceived social standing, but also apparent health, virility etc. So, regardless of precise genes, recognising good stuff.
I find the idea of encoding a DNA sequence that will give rise to a brain that will perceive the outside world and detect optimal reproductive opportunities almost completely mindboggling.

Things 30: Evolution Paradox, Ninja Cat, Wobbly Illusion

(Originally sent September 2008)

It’s Things 30, I’m 30. Isn’t that nice.

Films
If I have time, I may watch Taken, because it seems wonderfully up-front about its aim as a film – “They have taken his daughter. He will hunt them. He will find them. And he will kill them.”

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvUxdQ4q-Lg

IMDb: 7.8/10
RT: 50%

Last week’s puzzle
What is the difference between a duck?

One of its legs is both the same.

That’s the official answer. Now for something more serious.

This week’s puzzle
In evolution, the principle of ‘survival of the fittest’ generally means that over time only the most well-adapted versions of a species thrive, and this causes species to develop and improve over many generations. For example, Giraffe’s necks get longer, Lions become better hunters, and so on.

In humans, we look after the sick and the weak and we often have redistributive tax systems. We go to a great effort to help the ‘least fit’, in the evolutionary sense, to survive. In the context of the above, this seems incomprehensible. How did this happen?

Video
More cat video goodness – this time a cat that knows the rules of that childhood game known as ‘Red light/Green light’ in the US, ‘1,2,3 Soleil’ in France, and presumably something else in the UK that I can’t remember. The game also featured to great effect in the movie The Orphanage.
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eG_IcgVb-WM

Link
A very practical link:
http://www.metcheck.com
An excellent site for checking the weather, as it includes how weather changes over the course of the day.

A quote / anecdote
On Saturday in Regents Park (while running a treasure hunt) I think I may been the target of an interesting pick-up strategy. A rather attractive French lady asked if I could take a photo of her, so I agreed. She sat on the grass and posed seductively and I took a sensible picture. She asked me to take another one with the camera looking down at her from above. It seemed unreasonable to say no at that point. Then she said “Now let us check the photos to see if you are a good photographer [she then checked them]… oh, you are fabulous! Now, let us go to Queen Mary’s fountain and take some more photos there.”

It was at this point I explained I was a bit busy and had other places to be. But I was impressed by the general idea. If I actually found the French accent attractive it may even have worked. Or perhaps I just have entirely the wrong end of a very long stick.

A picture
An optical illusion: