Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘life

Friday Links! Soviet Choose Your Own Adventure, World Tetris Competition, Gödel vs. the Constitution, and More

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In 1987, an anonymous team of computer scientists from the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic wrote a series of children’s books based on the popular Choose Your Own Adventure series. The books were hastily translated into English and a small number were exported to America, but the CIA, fearing a possible Soviet mind control scheme, confiscated them all before they could be sold. Now declassified, the books have been lovingly converted to a digital hypertext format and put online for the English-speaking world to enjoy. Via MeFi, which has some highlights from You Will Select a Decision:

“If you follow the bear immediately, turn to page 35.
If you follow the bear after some hesitation, wait for ten seconds and then turn to page 35.”

“If you say yes, turn to page 18
I will not permit you to say no. Turn to page 18.”

Gödel, in his usual manner, had read extensively in preparing for the hearing. In the course of his studies, Gödel decided that he had discovered a flaw in the U.S. Constitution — a contradiction which would allow the U.S. to be turned into a dictatorship. Gödel, usually quite reticent, seemed to feel a need to make this known. Morgenstern and Einstein warned Gödel that it would be a disaster to confront his citizenship examiner with visions of a Constitutional flaw leading to an American dictatorship.

Scenes from the World Tetris Championship.

This week, Europol, the European Union’s criminal-intelligence division, announced that its investigation into match-fixing, codenamed “Operation Veto,” had uncovered 680 suspicious games from 2008 to 2011. It’s huge news, not because the results are particularly surprising — there’s plenty of other evidence, even recent evidence, that match-fixing is rampant in global soccer — but because the sheer extent of the allegations means that we can no longer delude ourselves about what’s happening. This is what’s happening: Soccer is fucked. Match-fixing is corroding the integrity of the game at every level.

* Ted Underwood on text-mining and distant reading: We don’t already know the broad outlines of literary history.

* Hitchcock intended Psycho as a comedy.

* The end of NBC?

* Are Republican elites finally purging the hucksters?

* Does every life form get a billion heartbeats?

Could the Next Doctor Who Showrunner Already Be Chosen?

Should Students Be Encouraged to Pursue Graduate Education in the Humanities?

Historic Blizzard Poised to Strike New England: What Role Is Climate Change Playing?

Fund snidely concludes: “But, of course, as you know there is no voter fraud. Pay no attention to that lightning coming out of Ohio.” While voter fraud does rarely exist, fighting these sorts of “lightning” with strict photo ID laws that disenfranchise legitimate voters is like banning orange juice to prevent jaywalking.

The main point here: Germany doesn’t get all that much sunlight. In fact, it gets about as much direct solar-energy as Alaska does each year. Just about every single region in the continental United States has vastly more solar resources than Germany.

* Top college football prospect Alex Collins spent Wednesday trying to track down his mother, who had intercepted his letter of intent to attend the University of Arkansas. (Apparently she did not want him to attend college far from home.) Colleges cannot accept commitments from players under 21 without the signature of a parent or guardian. Eventually Collins’ father signed the form, but aren’t 18-year-olds legally entitled to make their own decisions?

* And TNI is giving out its weather issue (the one I was in) for free in honor of the blizzard. Enjoy!

Friday Night Links

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* In case you missed it, I was on WUNC’s The State of Things today talking about science fiction and the end of the world. I’m in the second segment, about twelve minutes in. Here’s an MP3.

* Which undergraduate colleges are producing the most PhDs? You might be surprised.

* Game of the night: 3 Slices.

* Ferris Bueller’s Second Day Off? Not so fast, says everyone.

* At the end of Contact, Ellie Arroway discovers a secret message encoded in the digits of pi, presumably from the creator of the universe. With that in mind, check this out.

* The headline reads, “North Korea makes using a cellphone a war crime during 100 day mourning period.”

* The headline reads, “Nicolas Cage used real magic to prepare to be Ghost Rider.”

* The United States now spends some $200 billion on the correctional system each year, a sum that exceeds the gross domestic product of twenty-five US states and 140 foreign countries. An ever-increasing share of domestic discretionary spending, it would seem, is devoted to building and staffing earthly hells filled with able-bodied young men who have been removed from the labor force. If we added up all the money federal, state, and local governments invest in the poorest zip codes through credits and transfer payments—food stamps, Medicaid, teacher salaries, et cetera—and balanced that against all the value the government extracts from those zip codes through sin taxes, lotteries, and the incarceration complex, we might well conclude that the disinvestment outweighs the investment. Any apparent gains made in the last thirty years in narrowing the employment and education gap between African Americans and whites vanishes once you include the incarcerated population. Before asking the government to spend a fortune improving student-to-teacher ratios, it may be prudent to first ask the government to stop devoting public resources to ripping the heart out of inner-city economies. n+1: Raise the Crime Rate.

The earth is alive, asserts a revolutionary scientific theory of life emerging from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. The trans-disciplinary theory demonstrates that purportedly inanimate, non-living objects—for example, planets, water, proteins, and DNA—are animate, that is, alive. With its broad explanatory power, applicable to all areas of science and medicine, this novel paradigm aims to catalyze a veritable renaissance.

* n+1 revists the bad 2000s: Did these bands suck? Was there something that Pitchfork had missed? Although Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, M.I.A., and Animal Collective all produced sophisticated, intelligent music, it’s also true that they focused their sophistication and intelligence on those areas where the stakes were lowest. Instead of striking out in pursuit of new musical forms, they tweaked or remixed the sounds of earlier music, secure in the knowledge that pedantic blog writers would magnify these changes and make them seem daring. Instead of producing music that challenged and responded to that of other bands, they complimented one another in interviews, each group “doing its own thing” and appreciating the efforts of others. So long as they practiced effective management of the hype cycle, they were given a free pass by their listeners to lionize childhood, imitate their predecessors, and respond to the Iraq war with dancing. The general mood was a mostly benign form of cultural decadence.

* And Twitter announces new micro-censorship policy. “Micro-censorship” is an amazing euphemism, isn’t it? Well-coined. It almost doesn’t even sound bad! It’s only micro-censorship…

Monday Reading™

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* Well, that’s one way to do it: Tennessee Tea Party ‘Demands’ That References To Slavery Be Removed From History Textbooks.

* Russian scientist claims to have evidence of life on Venus.

by the 1960s, the American Mariner probes and their Soviet Venera counterparts had revealed Venus was just about the most inhospitable place imaginable, an acidic world with surface temperatures of about 900 degrees Fahrenheit and pressures nearly 92 times that of Earth.

That’s why the new paper by Russian astronomer Leonid Ksanfomaliti, due to appear in the Russian publication Solar System Research, seems to sit slightly outside the scientific consensus. He says that photos taken in 1982 – presumably either by Venera 13 or Venera 14, both of which visited Venus in March of that year – depict a “disk”, a “black flap”, and, perhaps most boldly, “a scorpion.”

Well, it checks out.

* Why a white knight won’t save the GOP from the Mitt-Newt trainwreck.

* Speaking of which: Gingrichmentum!

* Brown and Warren agree to ban third-party ads in Massachusetts. What’s the force of this, if the ads are genuinely third-party?

* Gay rights victories in New Jersey and Washington State.

* Evidence of cooperative play between dolphins and whales.

* …it is now possible to recognize that there are four discrete corridors of cisnormative resistance toward trans people’s readiness to transition.

First corridor, pre-adolescence: “You don’t know any better. You’re too young to understand”;
Second corridor, during adolescence: “It’s a confusing time. Wait until after puberty’s done”;
Third corridor, late development: “You should wait until you’re totally sure. You’ll never pass”; and
Final corridor, maturation: “You’re having a mid-life crisis. What about your kids, spouse, and career?”

* Someone on Facebook just told me Object Lessons from Duke’s Own™ Robyn Wiegman is now out.

* How fluctuations in the academic job market affect time-to-degree.

* And some recent notes on mental health and the Ph.D., via here, via Twitter.

Creation Myths

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Written by gerrycanavan

November 25, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Wednesday Night

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* Scientists prove life down here began up there.

The Isua region of southwest Greenland is home to a number of these mud volcanoes, which researchers at the Laboratory of Geology in Lyon, France believe erupted 3.8 billion years ago. These eruptions forced up to the surface some chemical elements crucial to the formation of biomolecules. This probably wasn’t the first or last time that that sequence of events occur, but the researchers argue that, in this particular instance, conditions were aligned perfectly for the emergence of life…and 3.8 billion years later, here we are.

* It turns out tear gas is a war crime, but still perfectly okay for local police departments.

* More on the lethality of nonlethal weapons. Still more.

* Gawker discovers the Occupy Wall Street “I’m Getting Arrested” app.

Walmart CEO Makes Average Workers Annual Salary Every Hour.

* College tuition is up 8.3% this year, while salaries for college grads are down. Obama has a new plan for student loan relief that will cap loan repayment at 10% of income (as opposed to 15%) and dissolve the debt entirely after twenty years (as opposed to after 25). The Atlantic estimates this will save the average college student… less than $10 a month.

* And totally unrelated to anything above: Young Americans Rapidly Sour on Obama.

Tuesday Links

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* There’s very high turnout in Wisconsin today. Probably good news, but who can say.

* Nick Mamatas says to understand libertarians, we should forget Ayn Rand and read Robert Heinlein.

* The last time CNN polled party approval, the GOP had 44% approval, 43 disapproval. In today’s poll the picture is slightly different: 33% approval, 59% disapproval. This is worse than their numbers during Clinton’s impeachment. So at least Americans have noticed what’s going on.

* Of course, two years later Republicans (kind of) won the presidency anyway. And it could easily happen again.

* A liberal is just a conservative who’s given birth: Fox’s Megyn Kelly comes out in favor of maternity leave. A little sad that this is noteworthy, but there you are.

* Chart of the day: Women Have to have a Ph.D. to Make as Much as Men with B.A.s.

* Life here began out there? NASA Proves Building Blocks Of DNA Come From Space. Naturally, the actual text of the story is a lot less definitive than the headline.

* In Wire news: Felicia “Snoop” Pearson has pled out, and will avoid jailtime if she doesn’t violate a three-year probation.

* Al Gore goes blue.

The model they’re using in that effort was transported whole cloth into the climate debate. And some of the exact same people — I can go down a list of their names — are involved in this. And so what do they do? They pay pseudo-scientists to pretend to be scientists to put out the message: “This climate thing, it’s nonsense. Man-made CO2 doesn’t trap heat. It may be volcanoes.” Bullshit! “It may be sun spots.” Bullshit! “It’s not getting warmer.” Bullshit!

* Meanwhile, Fox News Responds To Record Heat Waves By Predicting Global Cooling. Over to you, Al…

Alter Ego

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Alter Ego is a life simulator. It’s weirdly addicting. Via MetaFilter.

Written by gerrycanavan

December 31, 2010 at 1:26 pm