Things 63: Avalanche, The Universe, Russian Ablum Covers

(Originally sent December 2009, maybe)

This is what it looks like to cause an avalanche, get buried in it, struggle to breathe for four long minutes, and then get dug out. Now that’s what I call reality television.

An awesome bit of flash to help you comprehend the scale of everything in the universe. I recommend zooming out by scrolling to the right, then slowly zooming in all the way to the left, in order to really comprehend the insane smallness of the Planck length:

From the transparently sourced Twitter account @ShitMyDadSays:

“It’s never the right time to have kids, but it’s always the right time for screwing. God’s not a dumbshit. He knows how it works.”

Puzzle Answer
Last week I asked how a day could last 48 hours. It’s not really much of a puzzle because if you can follow the reasoning in the initial statements it’s pretty clear what’s going on. I just thought it was interesting to meditate on!

In a wonderful tribute to cultural differences (and similarities), here’s a great gallery of album covers from Soviet Russia.

Everyone should go and see The Princess and the Frog. Here’s why.

Pixar worked incredibly hard to prove the viability of CG as a storytelling medium, and as a result had a string of huge successes. Meanwhile Disney made some pretty bad 2D animations from 2000-2004 and were making serious losses (failing even to create characters that made for good merchandise). Making a classic confirmation bias correlation/causation error, Disney execs concluded that the public preferred 3D to 2D (when in fact everyone just prefers good films to bad), and officially gave up on it in 2004.

John Lasseter, a driving force behind Pixar’s creative success, became ‘Chief Creative Officer’ for both Pixar and Disney animation when Disney purchased Pixar in 2006. He understood what was happening and reversed the decision. The first real fruit of that realisation is The Princess and the Frog, which has been out for a couple of weeks now.

I highly recommend everyone goes to see it. Not just because it’s a good film (and a superb showcase of the strength of the 2D medium), but as a vote for the very medium itself.

[I later expanded on this argument, with charts, over on Tower of the Octopus – T.M. 8/10/11]


Things 89: Human Towers, Retroactive Prayer, Local Universe Map

I saw Monsters at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and it’s now on general release. As I said back in my big EIFF review post:

What: Low budget yet well-realised alien invasion as setting for semi-romantic road movie
Good: Beautifully shot, atmospheric, with an incredibly realistic-feel for its budget and a beautifully understated soundtrack from Jon Hopkins. And giant alien octopi.
Bad: Weakness in the development of the female character betrays a male gaze bias, undermining the main dynamic of the film
Conclusion: Essential viewing for anyone interested in what can be achieved on a budget, giant alien octopi, or Whitney Able’s legs


Human Towers, some of which alarmingly do fall down:

Casteller from Mike Randolph on Vimeo.

Martin Bland, paraphrased by Peter Norvig in an excellent article on the shortcomings of evidence for prayer healing:

An ethical study proving the efficacy of retroactive prayer is logically impossible.

Since physical attractiveness has at least some part to play in our evolution, why does the perceived attractiveness of any given individual vary so much depending on who you ask?

I had previously wondered what the ‘local’ area of the universe looked like, for varying values of ‘local’, but some idle Googling didn’t produce an answer at the time. Just recently I came across a really nice image on Wikipedia giving the answer across some interesting different scales. Check out the file on Wikipedia, where you can also download a 7MB, not-very-compressed jpg of the image. (If that’s gone for some reason I’ve put a slightly more compressed version (2.5MB) of the image here).

Here’s a snapshot of just part of it:

Last Week’s Puzzle
Last week I asked why bedsprings make a ‘pyoing’ noise out of nowhere. Either this was too easy, too hard, or no one had any idea what I was talking about, because nobody had an answer. Consequently I turned to my not-very-secret research alter ego and asked the internet, as I did before on the shampoo question. The internet said springs get squinched down sometimes and will later pop back up. If that was the case, I would expect to usually hear these noises very soon after getting off a bed, with just a few rare occasions when it was released later. I remain unsure.