Robert Scoble offers a review of Google Glass following two weeks of use - he loves it:
I’ve been telling people that this reminds me of the Apple II, which I unboxed with my dad back in 1977. It was expensive. It didn’t do much. But I knew my life had changed in a big way and would just get better and better.
Dean Takahashi, VentureBeat, writes about the making of Pixar’s Monsters University. Most impressive is the computing power required to render the film - 24,000 cores and 29 hours for a single frame:
Rendering means that the computers build the 3D world in its full colors as the scene is meant to be viewed in a theater. The machines create the frame and it is then captured as one of thousands of frames in the movie. When you watch the movie, you see anywhere from 24 frames to 60 frames per second.
All told, it has taken more than 100 million CPU hours to render the film in its final form. If you used one CPU to do the job, it would have taken about 10,000 years to finish. With all of those CPUs that Pixar did have, it took a couple of years to render.
(via: Stephen Hackett)
Stephen Wolfram analyzed Facebook data from over one million users of their Wolfram|Alpha Personal Analytics for Facebook:
Some of this is rather depressingly stereotypical. And most of it isn’t terribly surprising to anyone who’s known a reasonable diversity of people of different ages. But what to me is remarkable is how we can see everything laid out in such quantitative detail in the pictures above—kind of a signature of people’s thinking as they go through life.
There’s too much to cover here in a small post. Just go read the article - Wolfram’s work is always pretty interesting to follow.
Dave Stopera, BuzzFeed:
Nathan Fielder, star and creator of one of the funniest shows on television, Comedy Central’s Nathan for You, asked his Twitter followers to text their parents saying they had weed for sale. And the results are as good and as painful as you’d imagine.
Hilarious. I particularly enjoyed this exchange:
Kid: Dad leave me alone, I didn’t mean to text u.
Dad: I didn’t mean to have you.
Those were the words of Alexander Graham Bell in a newly released recording, as detailed by Charlotte Gray of Smithsonian Magazine:
Today, however, a dramatic application of digital technology has allowed researchers to recover Bell’s voice from a recording held by the Smithsonian—a breakthrough announced here for the first time.
Be sure and check out both the audio clip and the video that details how they extracted the recording. If you close your eyes, it’s as if you are transported back in time. So cool.
Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times:
The bill, known as the Marketplace Fairness Act, is that rare piece of legislation that has turned Democrat against Democrat, Republican against Republican and business against business, while uniting states as different as New Hampshire, Montana and Oregon — which have no sales taxes — against virtually every other state.
An odd confluence of events has swung the political momentum to one side. Less than a week after the Senate could not muster 60 votes to expand gun background checks supported by a vast majority of voters, lawmakers from both parties are poised to steamroll opponents and greatly broaden the imposition of sales taxes on the Internet.
Say goodbye to those tax-free purchases on Amazon. I’m surprised it took so long. States will receive increased tax revenue and brick-and-mortar stores hope for improved sales. However, I think these stores misunderstand why people shop online. Except for the occasional large purchase, I bet most consumers don’t really care about sales tax. The truth is, that for a comparable price, buyers get a fast and convenient sales experience - all while avoiding busy stores and pushy salesmen.
We’ve compiled a list of over 50 Extra-Strong Beers that will knock you flat on your ass. Each beer on this list was specially chosen for one reason, and one reason only, a minimum of 10% alcohol by volume (ABV).
No mamby-pamby light beer here. With names like Korruptor, Devil’s Milk and Double Bastard Ale you can bet these bad-boys will deliver a swift kick and leave you crawling to bed on the bathroom floor.
No DNR? For shame.
Saturday’s Red Sox game was filled with emotion following the arrest of Boston Marathon bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. David Ortiz concluded the pre-game celebration, ending with this statement - aired on live television:
This is our fucking city. And no one is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.
Despite the emotional origin of Ortiz’s statement, one had to wonder how the usually prude FCC would respond. To my surprise, they (correctly) turned a blind eye.
Kudos to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski.
Another winner from The Onion:
“Our research shows that, while many Americans would like nothing more than to make sweeping, insensitive generalizations about these two individuals based purely on their ethnic identity, this process is largely impeded by the fact that 9 out of 10 Americans truly know next to nothing about Chechnya, including even the very barest details of what or where Chechnya is,” said lead researcher Dr. Tim Kinane
The best thing about The Onion is how much truth exists in jest.
As Dr. James Correia correctly pointed out to me, the data contained in The New Yorker subway inequality map did not match the words in the description. Specifically, this line (emphasis mine):
New York City has a problem with income inequality. And it’s getting worse
The problem is that only 2011 data is shown. The New Yorker’s statement is passed along as if the reader should know this fact - the presentation is sloppy. It wasn’t my intent to post information that self-confirmed some economic worldview. Instead, I was mainly intrigued to see how much the local economy changed across various subway lines. In fact, the graphic shows that there is a link between commute time and income (income decreases as one moves away from downtown Manhattan). To that end, I agree with Dr. Correia that a more apt title would have been “Financial Melting Pot And The New York Subway.”
In regard to the statement of worsening income inequality, it is true. One has to click through several levels of links to actually find supporting data (again, a sloppy presentation). The U.S. Census Bureau does track income inequality through the Gini Index. In the latest report, published in 2012, the Gini Index is described as:
Summary measure of income inequality. The Gini Index varies from 0 to 1, with a 0 indicating perfect equality, where there is a proportional distribution of income. A 1 indicates perfect inequality, where one household has all the income and all others have no income.
According to the report, there was an increase in income inequality across the entire country between 2010 and 2011. The Gini Index increased during that time for 20 states, while the remaining 30 states and Washington, D.C. showed no statistically significant change. One of the states that demonstrated a widening income gap was New York. In fact, New York is one of only five states to have a Gini Index higher than the U.S. value.
In short, the New Yorker presented a cool graphic, but in a sloppy manner. With a little more work, it could have been great. For instance, it would have been more meaningful to see how the economic disparity for each subway line changed between 2010 and 2011.
This is just something to consider when viewing the New Yorker’s inequality subway map.
The New Yorker made a cool interactive map that compares median incomes associated with different lines of New York’s subway system:
New York City has a problem with income inequality. And it’s getting worse—the top of the spectrum is gaining and the bottom is losing. Along individual subway lines, earnings range from poverty to considerable wealth. The interactive infographic here charts these shifts, using data on median household income, from the U.S. Census Bureau, for census tracts with subway stations.
Update: I posted an update that takes issue with The New Yorker’s presentation
Neetzan Zimmerman, Gawker:
For her husband Oren’s latest birthday animator Leigh Lahav decided not just to give him the best gift he’s ever gotten, but the best gift anyone has ever gotten.
“A compilation of re-created TV show intros/opening themes centered around my hubby Oren’s life, for his birthday,” showoff Leigh writes in the video’s description.
Check out the video - it’s pretty great.
Kevin Roose, writing for New York Magazine, profiles Thomas Herndon, a 28-year-old Ph.D. student in economics. Herndon found a data error in an influential economics paper, entitled “Growth in a Time of Debt”. The mistake dampens the paper’s findings - results that have been used to advocate global austerity:
Herndon was stunned. As a graduate student, he’d just found serious problems in a famous economic study — the academic equivalent of a D-league basketball player dunking on LeBron James. “They say seeing is believing, but I almost didn’t believe my eyes,” he says. “I had to ask my girlfriend — who’s a Ph.D. student in sociology — to double-check it. And she said, ‘I don’t think you’re seeing things, Thomas.’”
I’ll give the authors, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, the benefit of the doubt here. As a scientist, I am fearful of such mistakes whenever I perform numerical analysis. Even people who devote their life to such work are human. Kudos to Herndon for finding the mistake.
Gabby Giffords, in an op-ed for The New York Times, on today’s defeat of the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act:
This defeat is only the latest chapter of what I’ve always known would be a long, hard haul. Our democracy’s history is littered with names we neither remember nor celebrate — people who stood in the way of progress while protecting the powerful. On Wednesday, a number of senators voted to join that list.
The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, or so-called Manchin-Toomey Amendment1, was a bill that aimed to make illegal gun purchases more difficult for criminals.
The legislation attempted to extend existing background checks to online and gun show sales, while exempting private purchases. The bill did not: infringe Second Amendment rights, take away anyone’s firearms, or ban/restrict any firearm, bullet, or magazine. Despite blatant lies from the gun lobby, the bill would not create a national gun registry. In fact, the act explicitly criminalized the creation of such a registry by any government agency - punishable by a prison sentence of 15 years. That’s it - a simple, common-sense, bipartisan compromise.
Don’t take my word for it. Actually read the bill yourself instead of taking the word of your partisan news network of choice. 2
It is true that such a law would not have prevented the Sandy Hook tragedy. But that’s not the point. The point is to make it more difficult for criminals to obtain weapons through existing loopholes, while preserving the rights of law-abiding citizens. There is nothing controversial about such a plan.
It is truly an embarrassing day for Congress when Senators fear the rating of a lobby group to the point that they ignore the will of over 90% of Americans - all while the grieving family members of gun victims were forced to watch. It’s no wonder Congress enjoys a paltry 15% approval rating. As Giffords said:
if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress
Let’s put it another way. As John Gruber writes:
The 56 senators who voted in favor of the new legislation represent 76 percent of the nation’s population; the 44 who voted against it (and thus blocked it, as it needed 60 votes to break a filibuster) represent 24 percent of the population.
That’s not how democracy is supposed to function. Our current national leaders have no resolve, they fear big decisions, they choose brinkmanship over the well-being of their nation, and they fail to execute the job for which they were elected - they are cowards. Shameful. Cowards.
Adam B. Kushner, The Atlantic, on the early success of post-Katrina education reform in New Orleans - and its uncertain future:
The theory is that, over time, patterns emerge to tell teachers who is succeeding, where students fall short, how to remediate them, and what correlations might exist between performance and, say, poverty or the length of a commute. Administrators even track their former students through the first year of college to see how they can better prepare their 9th- and 10th-graders for the challenges to come. Sabermetrics suffuse Sci Academy, and every teacher is Billy Beane.
It’s working. Sci, whose student body is representative of most pre-Katrina public schools (92 percent are on free or reduced lunch and 95 percent are black), is a star performer in a reinvented school system obsessed with analytics. After Hurricane Katrina, the city of New Orleans laid off every public-school teacher and started from scratch. It turned over most of the system to the state-run Recovery School District, which began issuing charter licenses that allow schools to operate in whatever way they see fit, as long as they meet certain standards. The RSD is strict about credentialing only ambitious, college-prep schools—and even stricter about closing them after three years if they fall below expectations. Eight years after Katrina, more than 80 percent of the city’s students now attend a charter school. And the early results are amazing.
As I’m sure you’ve heard, two bombs detonated today near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Like you, I am saddened to see the heartbreak and devastation caused by such a heinous act. Having grown up in Oklahoma City during the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, I can’t help but feel some connection with Boston.
Over time, I discovered one important personal takeaway from that tragedy: We should not waste our limited time on Earth trying to extract sense from the senseless, we should not let fear overwhelm our inherent sense of courage, and we should not let hate and revenge extinguish the love we feel in our heart. Instead, we must embrace the things that do make sense, we must live boldly as if today is our last, and we must fiercely love our friends and family as if today is the last time that we will see them.
As time passes, I am hopeful that the words I shared about the Oklahoma City Bombing will equally be true for Boston:
I assure you that no amount of time will remove the indelible mark left by that bomb. It is my hope instead that the shared empathy and sense of community that people exhibited that day are never forgotten - never lost.
Scott Neuman, NPR:
William Mastro of Mastro Auctions admitted to doctoring the 1909 Honus Wagner cigarette card that was once owned by hockey great Wayne Gretzky. The card sold for $2.8 million in 2007.
I’m guessing the return on investment just took a hit.
Famous Apple engineer Andy Hertzfield, writing for Folklore.org, details a story from the early days of the Macintosh, in which Steve Jobs devised a way to out software copiers:
Steve decided that if a company copied the Mac ROM into their computer, he would like to be able to do a demo during the trial, where he could type a few keystokes into an unmodified infringing machine, and have a large “Stolen From Apple” icon appear on its screen. The routines and data to accomplish that would have to be incorporated into our ROM in a stealthy fashion, so the cloners wouldn’t know how to find or remove it.
Lindy West writes a smart article for Jezebel about men’s confusion with “the rules” when it comes to interacting with women - especially in a professional setting:
That might seem silly to you—of course you weren’t doing that!—but if you really want an answer to this question about “rules,” you need to wrap your head around the fact that the world is not balanced. Women’s experiences do not mirror yours. Women’s lives are entirely circumscribed by contemporary standards of beauty in a way that yours is not. If a woman is “too ugly,” she is worthless. If a woman is “too pretty,” she isn’t taken seriously. Every woman you encounter in your professional sphere has fought every day of her life against gendered conditioning (hey, put down your brother’s erector set and play with this pooping baby doll!), relentless othering (know your place, sweetie), sexual objectification and/or victimization (I’m confused—who let this semi-sentient bag of bone-holes into my engineering program?), subtle or not-so-subtle discouragement (are you sure this is the field for you? It’s really hard, and you’re so pretty!), and kneejerk skepticism of her abilities (I think you’d be perfect for the Party Planning Committee!).
Imagine if every day you came into work and your boss said, “Really fillin’ out those pants today, Jerry,” and he never said anything else. Do you think you’d eventually mention it to HR? Well, now imagine that “Really fillin’ out those pants today, Jerry” was built, systemically, into the entire culture’s attitude toward you from birth onward. Do you think you might be annoyed if the President of the United States pulled a “Really fillin’ out those pants today, Jerry,” on one of the only Jerries ever allowed to hold public office? I think you would.
I’m sorry for the long pull quote, but it perfectly illustrates something that I have been thinking about recently. Why do the first modifiers used when discussing men often revolve around wealth and intelligence, yet those used when discussing women focus on appearance and disposition? It’s the same reason that a relentless man in business is “driven”, while the female counterpart is a “bitch” - and it’s bullshit. Guys, stop constructing “rules” like children on the playground and act like competent humans.
West’s concluding paragraphs are equally brilliant. It is worth the read.
John Siracusa on those who spurn technological progress:
Beneath what seems like a reasonable feature request lurks the heart of technological conservatism: what was and is always shall be.
As the famous saying goes, the reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
I just hope that I am as enthused about, and willing to embrace, new technologies. Just think where we’ll be in 10 years. As Siracusa concludes:
Keep moving or get out of the way.