Former trademarksAPR 10

From Wikipedia, a list of former trademarks and brands that have become generic terms. Some surprises: Heroin, Videotape, Zipper, Laundromat, Kerosene, Dry Ice, and Escalator.

Years of Living DangerouslyAPR 09

Years of Living Dangerously is a 9-part documentary series on climate change which features celebrity correspondents like Harrison Ford, Oliva Munn, Jessica Alba, and Matt Damon reporting from around the world on different aspects of our changing climate.

The series combines the blockbuster storytelling styles of Hollywood's top movie makers, including James Cameron and Jerry Weintraub, with the investigative skills of 60 Minutes veterans Joel Bach and David Gelber and a team of leading national news journalists and scientists.

Each YEARS correspondent -- including top Hollywood stars recognized for their commitment to spotlighting and acting on the biggest issues of our time -- delves into a different impact of climate change. From the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy in the tri-state area to political upheaval caused by droughts in the Middle East to the dangerous level of carbon emissions resulting from deforestation, the series takes the viewer on a journey to understand the current and intensifying effects of climate change through vivid stories of heartbreak, hope and heroism.

The show starts airing on Showtime on April 13, but the entire first episode is available on YouTube right now:

The show is getting great reviews so far; I hope it helps move the needle. (thx, tobin)

Mercedes is dominating F1 so far this yearAPR 09

Coming into this season, Formula One made a lot of rule changes: new engines, better turbo systems, two different power sources (fuel & electrical), fixed-ratio gearboxes, etc. The cars had to be redesigned from top to bottom. Whenever a situation like this occurs, there's an opportunity for technical innovation (rather than the gradual improvements that tend to occur when the environment remains mostly unchanged). This year, the Mercedes team built their engines to get more out of the new turbo system than the other teams.

What Mercedes' boffins have done, according to Sky Sports F1 technical guru Mark Hughes, is split the turbo in half, mounting the exhaust turbine at the rear of the engine and the intake turbine at the front. A shaft running through the V of the V6 engine connects the two halves, keeping the hot exhaust gases driving the turbo from heating the cool air it's drawing into the engine.

Aside from getting cooler air into the engine and extracting more power (maybe as much as 50 horsepower), this setup also allows Mercedes to keep drivetrain components closer to the center of the car. It also allowed the team to use a smaller intercooler, which cools off the heated air before going into the engine, compared to the rest of the cars.

And the result so far? Utter Mercedes domination. Out of the three races this year, the two drivers for the Mercedes team (Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg) have three first-place finishes and two second-place finishes (Hamilton had to retire with engine issues in the first race). Mercedes was certainly competitive last year, finishing second, but Red Bull-Renault easily beat them in the points race and one of their drivers finished 1st in 13 out of 19 races. More relevant to the discussion here is how easily these races are being won by Mercedes. In each of the three races, a member of the Mercedes team qualified in pole position, recorded the fastest lap, and beat the other teams' drivers by more than 24 seconds in each case. To put that last stat in perspective, last year the winning team beat the second place team by more than 20 seconds in only three races, with the margin typically in the 3-10 second range.

So yeah, Mercedes is killing it so far. And the other teams aren't happy about it. Shades of the situation over Speedo's LZR Racer swimming suit.

Update: I said earlier that one of the changes was "no refueling during races" which has been the case for a few years now (hence the 2-second pit stop). Also, this video is a great explanation of how Mercedes turbo is designed and how it helps make their car go faster:

(thx, @coreyh & @gazbeirne)

Human Barbie dollsAPR 09

Let's get right to it. This is a real photo of a real human being:

Human Barbie doll

It hasn't been dramatically retouched or anything. Valeria Lukyanova has made herself into a human Barbie doll.

Her brand-new hair extensions, the color of Chardonnay, hang straight down, reaching her nonexistent hips. Her mouth is frozen in a vacant half-smile; the teeth are small and almost translucent. She's holding a handbag shaped like a lantern. A one-eyed smiling-skull pin perches on her sky blue top, pushed to the side by the veritable shelf of silicone around which her whole body seems arranged. In the flesh -- the little of it that she hasn't whittled away with what she says is exercise and diet -- Valeria looks almost exactly like Barbie. There might be some Loretta Lux-style postproduction to her photos, sure, but it's not crucial. This is live. This is happening.

She's also a recent convert to breatharianism (living exclusively on a diet of air), feels that humans are less beautiful now because of "race-mixing", and gets her nails painted with "a fractal pattern from the twenty-first dimension" that came to her in a dream. There is also a human Ken doll, Justin Jedlica, who has achieved his look through more than 100 plastic surgeries:

Human Ken doll

But there's a problem. Ken doen't like Barbie.

But you're not a fan?
I don't really get her. I don't get why people think she's so interesting. She has extensions. She wears stage makeup. She's an illusionist.

You've certainly had more surgeries. What's your favorite one?
My baby is my shoulders, because nobody has anything like them. I divided these so there's six pieces-front, middle, and back. Just like the actual anatomy.

Drones on demandAPR 09

Gofor imagines a future world where drones are cheap and ubiquitous. What sorts of things would we have personal drones do for us? Follow us home in unsafe neighborhoods? Personal traffic copters? Travel location scouting?

How long before someone uses a personal drone for the same purpose as the US government? Just think how easy and untraceable it would be to outfit a drone with a weapon, shoot someone, and then dump the drone+weapon in a lake or ocean. When it happens, the reaction will be predictable: ban personal drones. Guns don't kill people, drones kill people, right?

Radio show story structuresAPR 09

Bradley Campbell drew the story structures of various public radio shows down on cocktail napkins. Here's the structure of This American Life:

This American Life ___! ___! ___!

"Napkin #1'' is Bradley's drawing for This American Life, a structure Ira Glass has talked about ad infinitum: This happened. Then this happened. Then this happened. (Those are the dashes.) And then a moment of reflection, thoughts on what the events mean (the exclamation point).

The description of Radiolab is the most fun to read. That show doesn't quite have the non-linearity of Pulp Fiction, but it's a good example of hyperlink radio (a la hyperlink cinema). (via explore)

A look back at the Sony WalkmanAPR 09

Sony Walkman

Andrew Kim of Minimally Minimal got his hands on an original Sony Walkman and provides an interesting look back at a seminal piece of personal technology. Initially, the Walkman was billed as the "Walking Stereo with Hotline":

Next to the dual headphones is a button labeled "Hot Line". This was another key feature of the TPS-L2. When the user pressed the Hot Line button, the device would would override the music with audio from the built in microphone. It allowed you to listen to Subway announcements or talk to a friend without taking off your headphones. I find it to be a particularly clever idea as it uses existing parts from tape recorders. Hot Line wasn't really a sought after feature though, and was axed in later models.

(via @sippey)

The type foundry district of NYCAPR 08

For the first post on his new blog, Tobias Frere-Jones discovers that most of the type foundries in New York in the 1800s and 1900s were all located within a few blocks of each other in lower Manhattan. Why there? Newspapers and City Hall.

I was able to plot out the locations for every foundry that had been active in New York between 1828 (the earliest records I could find with addresses) to 1909 (see below). All of the buildings have been demolished, and in some cases the entire street has since been erased. But a startling picture still emerged: New York once had a neighborhood for typography.

Gruber beat me to the punch in noting that Frere-Jones' site doesn't use any of the fonts from the company he was recently ousted from but instead a pair of faces (Benton Modern and Interstate) he designed before he formed his partnership with Jonathan Hoefler. Before I discovered Whitney (another Frere-Jones creation), Interstate was my go-to font for graphics for the site. Big TFJ fan, is what I'm saying.

That skydiver meteorite was just a rockAPR 08

After many days of analysis by scientists and internet sleuths alike, it's likely that the thing pictured whizzing by the skydiver in this video is not a meteorite but a plain old rock that got packed in with his parachute. Phil Plait reports:

I actually became convinced last night, when BA Tweep Helge Bjorkhaug sent me a link to a slowed-down version of the video. Immediately before the rock flies past, I saw a second piece of debris just to the right of the skydiver's parachute strap. It was in several frames, and clearly real.

So yeah, bummer, not a meteorite. But as Plait notes, that's how science works.

That's how you get to the truth, folks. Open inquiry, honest investigation, and acceptance of the line of evidence no matter where it leads.

2014 Smithsonian photo contest finalistsAPR 08

Smith Photos

Smithsonian Magazine has announced the finalists in their annual photography contest. The shot above is a finalist in the Mobile category...it was taken with an iPhone 5. (via colossal)

The Prayer of Saint FrancisAPR 08

I am not a religious person, but Reverend Smith spoke a few lines of the Prayer of Saint Francis on an episode of Deadwood I watched recently and I can't stop thinking about it. The prayer in full:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The Reverend put it slightly differently:

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted, to understand, than to be understood, to love, than to be loved...

Believer in eternal life or not, that's a way of living life I can get behind.

Celebrities who look like mattressesAPR 08

Oh, this is the dumbest thing but it made me laugh today: Celebrities that Look Like Mattresses.

Mattress celeb

Mattress celeb

How on Earth did they find these pairings? Has Google perfected their Mattress Recognition technology? (via @Rebeccamead_NYC)

The A-to-Z of danceAPR 07

Super-cool video from i-D of dance styles for each letter of the alphabet.

(via @Han)

UPS trucks don't turn leftAPR 07

Well, they do sometimes but not very often. Left turns cross traffic, which wastes time and causes accidents. So UPS routes are designed with mostly right turns...three rights make a left, you know.

UPS engineers found that left-hand turns were a major drag on efficiency. Turning against traffic resulted in long waits in left-hand turn lanes that wasted time and fuel, and it also led to a disproportionate number of accidents. By mapping out routes that involved "a series of right-hand loops," UPS improved profits and safety while touting their catchy, environmentally friendly policy.

I wonder though, does this make the drivers unhappy?

First episode of Silicon ValleyAPR 07

HBO put the entire first episode of Mike Judge's new show Silicon Valley up on YouTube:

Old masters, new mediaAPR 07

In a five part series called "emoji-nation", Ukrainian Nastya Ptichek mixes the work of well-known painters with graphical elements of new media. In the second part of the series, the works of Edward Hopper are augmented with social media interface icons:

Nastya Ptichek

The first part finds emoji doppelgangers for works of fine art while the third part uses paintings as movie poster imagery for the likes of Kill Bill and Home Alone (paired with Munch's The Scream). For part four, Ptichek places modal dialogs over art works:

Nastya Ptichek

And part five plays around with several Google interface elements:

Nastya Ptichek

Love this kind of thing. Feels like I've seen something like it before though. Anyone recall?

A tour of the accents of the British IslesAPR 07

Using Google Earth, dialect coach Andrew Jack gives a tour of the accents of Great Britain and Ireland.

The audio is originally from this BBC program. See also Peter Sellers doing various English accents. (via devour)

Cobain gone for 20 yearsAPR 06

Saturday was the 20th anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain at the age of 27. Many have written of the anniversary, but I liked Dennis Cooper's piece published in Spin a few weeks after Cobain's death.

Cobain's work nailed how a ton of people feel. There are few moments in rock as bewilderingly moving as when he mumbled, "I found it hard / It's hard to find / Oh well, whatever / Nevermind." There's that bizarre, agonized, and devastating promise he keeps making throughout "Heart-Shaped Box": "Wish that I could eat your cancer when you turn black." Take a look in his eyes the next time MTV runs the "Heart-Shaped Box" video, and see if you can sort out the pain from the ironic detachment from the horror from the defensiveness.

(via NYT Now app)

Watch The Unknown KnownAPR 06

Errol Morris's latest documentary on Donald Rumsfeld, The Unknown Known, just came out in theaters. But it's also available right now to rent/buy on Amazon and iTunes. Here's a trailer if you need convincing.

The anternetAPR 04

Researchers at Stanford have observed that foraging harvester ants act like TCP/IP packets, so much so that they're calling the ants' behavior "the anternet".

Transmission Control Protocol, or TCP, is an algorithm that manages data congestion on the Internet, and as such was integral in allowing the early web to scale up from a few dozen nodes to the billions in use today. Here's how it works: As a source, A, transfers a file to a destination, B, the file is broken into numbered packets. When B receives each packet, it sends an acknowledgment, or an ack, to A, that the packet arrived.

This feedback loop allows TCP to run congestion avoidance: If acks return at a slower rate than the data was sent out, that indicates that there is little bandwidth available, and the source throttles data transmission down accordingly. If acks return quickly, the source boosts its transmission speed. The process determines how much bandwidth is available and throttles data transmission accordingly.

It turns out that harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) behave nearly the same way when searching for food. Gordon has found that the rate at which harvester ants -- which forage for seeds as individuals -- leave the nest to search for food corresponds to food availability.

A forager won't return to the nest until it finds food. If seeds are plentiful, foragers return faster, and more ants leave the nest to forage. If, however, ants begin returning empty handed, the search is slowed, and perhaps called off.

(via wordspy)

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