[Video Link]There are roughly 80,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 unique ways to order 52 playing cards. “Any time you pick up a well shuffled deck, you are almost certainly holding an arrangement of cards that has never before existed and might not exist again.” (Via Adafruit Industries)
I almost pity them. First there’s the discovery of gravitational waves that confirm a set of models for the origin of the universe — I can tell they’re trying to spin that one (it confirms the universe had a beginning, just like the Bible says!), but it’s obvious which perspective, scientific or religious, has the greater explanatory power.
Then there’s Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos, in which every episode so far has taken a vigorous poke at creationist nonsense. I think they cry every Sunday after church, because they know that later that evening they will be
attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture. It’s been great.
For years, the motto among astrobiologists — people who look for life in distant worlds, and try to understand what life is, exactly — has been “follow the water.” You have to start the search somewhere, and scientists have started with liquid water because it’s the essential agent for all biochemistry on Earth.
Now they’ve followed the water to a small, icy moon orbiting Saturn. Scientists reported Thursday that Enceladus, a shiny world about 300 miles in diameter, has a subsurface “regional sea” with a rocky bottom.
This cryptic body of water is centered around the south pole and is upwards of five miles deep. It has a volume similar to that of Lake Superior, according to the research, which was published in the journal Science.
There is hope yet for Space Squid! Or maybe space progenotes. Isn’t it wonderful that we keep finding gloriously natural discoveries in the universe?
The tears will flow again in a few weeks, when Neil Shubin’s new series, Your Inner Fish, premieres on PBS. I’m really looking forward to this one.
It is a good time to be passionate about science.
Stay classy Internet. :/
Some dudebros are doing a fundraiser for a camera attachment that makes it easy to take upskirt photos. Besides just the general disgustingness of the concept, they make one of the most remarkably oblivious marketing statements ever.
If you want to take sneaky pictures of people without them knowing, this is the way to do it. Just don’t be creepy about it.
I think, by definition, taking sneaky photos of others is creepy. And a marketing campaign full of photos of closeup shots of women’s legs and cleavage is an admission that the entire purpose of the device is creepy.
Just a thought that those kinds of ad campaigns might just contribute to this kind of feeling.
Thanks, dudebros. It makes me sad that my presence can make women feel oppressed, thanks to you.
Sailing Hay Bales
Summer Toboggan Run
Isar Nuclear Power Plant
Stock of Wood
River Vils At Schalkham, Bavaria
Autumn In The Vineyard
Perched at the window of his Cessna 172, photographer Klaus Leidorf crisscrosses the skies above Germany while capturing images of farms, cities, industrial sites, and whatever else he discovers along his flight path, a process he refers to as “aerial archaeology.” Collectively the photos present a fascinating study of landscapes transformed by the hands of people—sometimes beautiful, sometimes frightening. Since the late 1980s Leidorf has shot thousands upon thousands of aerial photographs and currently relies on the image-stabilization technology in his Canon EOS 5D Mark III which is able to capture the detail of single tennis ball as it flies across a court. You can explore over a decade of Leidorf’s photography at much greater reslution over on Flickr. All images courtesy the artist.
Writing in the Financial Times, Tim Harford (The Undercover Economist Strikes Back, Adapt, etc) offers a nuanced, but ultimately damning critique of Big Data and its promises. Harford's point is that Big Data's premise is that sampling bias can be overcome by simply sampling everything, but the actual data-sets that make up Big Data are anything but comprehensive, and are even more prone to the statistical errors that haunt regular analytic science.
What's more, much of Big Data is "theory free" -- the correlation is observable and repeatable, so it is assumed to be real, even if you don't know why it exists -- but theory-free conclusions are brittle: "If you have no idea what is behind a correlation, you have no idea what might cause that correlation to break down." Harford builds on recent critiques of Google Flu (the poster child for Big Data) and goes further. This is your must-read for today.
Test enough different correlations and fluke results will drown out the real discoveries.
There are various ways to deal with this but the problem is more serious in large data sets, because there are vastly more possible comparisons than there are data points to compare. Without careful analysis, the ratio of genuine patterns to spurious patterns – of signal to noise – quickly tends to zero.
Worse still, one of the antidotes to the multiple-comparisons problem is transparency, allowing other researchers to figure out how many hypotheses were tested and how many contrary results are languishing in desk drawers because they just didn’t seem interesting enough to publish. Yet found data sets are rarely transparent. Amazon and Google, Facebook and Twitter, Target and Tesco – these companies aren’t about to share their data with you or anyone else.
New, large, cheap data sets and powerful analytical tools will pay dividends – nobody doubts that. And there are a few cases in which analysis of very large data sets has worked miracles. David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge points to Google Translate, which operates by statistically analysing hundreds of millions of documents that have been translated by humans and looking for patterns it can copy. This is an example of what computer scientists call “machine learning”, and it can deliver astonishing results with no preprogrammed grammatical rules. Google Translate is as close to theory-free, data-driven algorithmic black box as we have – and it is, says Spiegelhalter, “an amazing achievement”. That achievement is built on the clever processing of enormous data sets.
But big data do not solve the problem that has obsessed statisticians and scientists for centuries: the problem of insight, of inferring what is going on, and figuring out how we might intervene to change a system for the better.
Big data: are we making a big mistake? [Tim Harford/FT]
(Image: Big Data: water wordscape, Marius B, CC-BY)
This space suit was first seen in the1966 episode of Doctor Who, entitled The Tenth Planet on Earl Cameron as Glyn Williams. The costume seems to be one in a set of other similar space suits that show up along side it in The Tenth Planet, as well as another episode entitled The Wheel in Space, though the exact same suit does not re-appear in The Wheel in Space.
The exact same costume does, however, appear in the 1980 film Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back on Alan Harris as the Trandoshan bounty hunter Bossk. Since filming for Star Wars took place partly in England, it was likely hired out from the same costume house that provided suits to Doctor Who fourteen years earlier. A close inspection of the detailing on the costume reveals them to be the same, though some minor additions have been added for Empire Strikes Back.
Costume Credit: Jesse, Tim
E-mail Submissions: firstname.lastname@example.org
The more you know…
The IPCC has been issuing climate change warnings for 25 years. Here’s the net result:
But if we go back to brass tacks, it’s worth asking how the world has reacted to these repeated warnings.
Since 1990, annual global greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels have gone up 60 per cent.
Or perhaps you’d rather get it in cartoon form?
This is what happens when you ignored the scientists and instead obey the self-serving lies of industry.
Until August, the university had resisted going back further than 2007 to investigate other potential academic problems in the department, so it’s difficult to assess exactly what was happening before then.
Difficult, that is, except in the case of Julius Peppers, whose transcript sat unnoticed on UNC’s website until this summer. Peppers had D’s or F’s in 11 of 30 classes, the transcript showed, and was barely eligible for football and basketball only because of a string of better grades in courses he took in the AFAM Department.
AT&T Senior Executive Vice President of Legislative Affairs James Cicconi has written a monumentally stupid attack on Reed Hasting's call for Net Neutrality. Cicconi says, "there is no free lunch, and there’s also no cost-free delivery of streaming movies. Someone has to pay that cost. Mr. Hastings’ arrogant proposition is that everyone else should pay but Netflix."
What Cicconi ignores is that Netflix is paying its ISPs to be connected to the Internet. And AT&T's customers are paying to be connected to the Internet. And AT&T's customers are asking to havethe service they are paying for to be connected to the service Netflix is paying for. AT&T is then demanding that Netflix pay it a bribe in order to carry out the service that its customers are paying for.
If you're an AT&T customer paying for a 4MB/s DSL line, you have entered into a commercial arrangement whereby AT&T delivers you the bytes you ask for as quickly and efficiently as it can. You're not entering into an arrangement whereby AT&T can, if it notices that many of its customers really like a service, charge that service for the privilege of giving AT&T customers what they're already paying for.
Imagine if AT&T was a city-bus with an exclusive contract to serve your town, and it noticed that a lot of passengers were getting off at a certain stop every day to visit a restaurant. What AT&T is doing is saying "We will no longer stop near that restaurant unless it pays us a bribe," (and they're hinting, "We will stop at a competing restaurant if they do pay a bribe"). When the restaurant objects, AT&T says, "Hey, there's no such thing as a free lunch."
This isn't "just business" -- it's extortion.
When Netflix delivered its movies by mail, the cost of delivery was included in the price their customer paid. It would’ve been neither right nor legal for Netflix to demand a customer’s neighbors pay the cost of delivering his movie. Yet that’s effectively what Mr. Hastings is demanding here, and in rather self-righteous fashion. Netflix may now be using an Internet connection instead of the Postal Service, but the same principle applies. If there’s a cost of delivering Mr. Hastings’s movies at the quality level he desires – and there is – then it should be borne by Netflix and recovered in the price of its service. That’s how every other form of commerce works in our country. It’s simply not fair for Mr. Hastings to demand that ISPs provide him with zero delivery costs – at the high quality he demands – for free. Nor is it fair that other Internet users, who couldn’t care less about Netflix, be forced to subsidize the high costs and stresses its service places on all broadband networks.
As we all know, there is no free lunch, and there’s also no cost-free delivery of streaming movies. Someone has to pay that cost. Mr. Hastings’ arrogant proposition is that everyone else should pay but Netflix. That may be a nice deal if he can get it. But it’s not how the Internet, or telecommunication for that matter, has ever worked.
Who Should Pay for Netflix? [James Cicconi/AT&T Public Policy Blog]
In this fun series of photos from the streets of Milan and Paris, artist Etienne Lavie imagines what the world might be like if invasive street advertisements were replaced with classical paintings. If instead of waiting for the bus next to a back-lit ad for a new car, you were given the opportunity to stare at Marco d’ Oggiono’s The Three Archangels. Lavie has shared very little about the tongue-in-cheek project titled “OMG who stole my ads?,” but art triumphing over consumerism in an urban utopia is pretty clear message. You can see much more of the series here. (via Colossal Submissions)
The normal explanation would be that the graphics are clumsy and out of date, the character animation is creepily unhuman, the plot is inane, and the preachy moralizing and weird evangelism is off-putting. But to the people at Phoenix Interactive, who are having a hard time getting funding for a game called Bible Chronicles: The Call of Abraham, those factors are not to be acknowledged. It’s because of SATAN.
"I need to be clear on this point: Are you telling me that Satan is literally working to confound your plans to release this game? You’re saying that the actual Devil is scheming against you?"
I’m sitting in a nondescript office in an unremarkable neighborhood in Bakersfield, CA, interviewing three men about their plans for a Biblical game based on the life of Abraham.
I believe that, 100 percent,replies Richard Gaeta, a co-founder of Phoenix Interactive. He argues that since the launch of the Kickstarter for Bible Chronicles: The Call of Abraham, trouble has come into all their lives.
It’s very tangible,adds his business partner Martin Bertram.From projects falling through and people that were lined up to help us make this a success falling through. Lots of factors raining down on us like fire and brimstone.
Nobody is winking or joking or pulling my leg. There is no irony here. They are absolutely serious.
It’s an interesting rationalization. None of their problems are their fault, it’s all the work of a malignant supernatural entity. But what I found particularly intriguing is the extent to which they’ve taken it: failure is a sign of their importance.
If Satan is rallying some of his resources to forestall, delay, or kill this project, I think, this must be a perceived threat to his kingdom,adds Ken Frech, a religious mentor to the project.I fully would expect something like this to have spiritual warfare. Look at the gospel accounts of demons and so forth. That’s reality. Many Americans don’t believe it anymore. That doesn’t change reality.
Since I’m a nice guy, and very sympathetic, I propose that we all shun every product from this company and the wackaloons running it, just so they’ll all feel very, very important. And if we all point and laugh at them, their self-esteem will skyrocket, because it can only mean that Satan is paying a lot attention to them.
We atheists live lives of sacrifice, working so hard at the request of our master Satan to make Christians feel important.
The State of the Discordant Union: An Empirical Analysis of DMCA Takedown Notices , a paper publishing in Virginia Journal of Law and Technology by Stanford/NUS's Daniel Seng, documents the vast, terrifying increase in the use of DMCA takedown notices, which are self-signed legal notices that allow anyone to demand that material be censored from the Internet, with virtually no penalty for abuse or out-and-out fraud. The increase is driven by a small number of rightsholders who have automated the process of sending out censorship demands, industrializing the practice. The three biggest players are RIAA, Froytal and Microsoft, who sent more than 5 million notices each in 2012, and at least doubled their takedowns again in 2013. In the four years between 2008 and 2012, the use of takedown notices against Google grew by an eye-popping 711,887 percent.
Where copyright holders previously listed only one work per notice, there are now sometimes dozens of movies or tracks bundled in each. This is a worrying development according to Seng.
“It is disturbing to see the trend where more claims and more takedown requests are packed into each takedown notice. Up until 2010, each notice contained only one claim. But in 2011, the average number of claims per notice is 2.18, and in 2012, this average is 5.05,” Seng writes.
More copyrighted works per notice also means that the number of URLs per notice is increasing too. For example, between 2011 and 2012 the average number of URLs listed in each notice increased from 47.79 to 124.75.
According to Seng, these changes can be attributed to a small number of copyright holders. In fact, most copyright holders still submit only one notice.
“These increasing averages paint a slightly misleading picture. More than 65% of all reporters have only issued one notice, and almost 95% of all reporters have issued no more than 10 notices in 2012,” Seng writes.
Google Takedown Notices Surge 711,887 Percent in Four Years [Ernesto/Torrentfreak]
I want a pet owl!
Fred Phelps is out at Westboro Baptist. He’s off dying in a hospice. Apparently his sin was asking for more kindness. The former big voice of WBC, Shirley Phelps-Roper, has fallen out of favor. She has been replaced by a Council of Elders…all men, of course.
Pastor Fred Waldron Phelps Sr. was excommunicated from the Westboro Baptist Church after advocating a kinder approach between church members.
The excommunication occurred after the formation of a board of male elders in the church. The board had defeated Shirley Phelps-Roper, the church’s longtime spokeswoman, in a power struggle, and Fred Phelps Sr. called for kinder treatment of fellow church members.
The board then ejected Fred Phelps Sr., who founded the church in the 1950s.
Amazing. Yet, somehow, entirely unexpected. How could a woman be expected to run a Bible-based organization? How could kindness be tolerated in a church supposedly built around the teachings of Jesus? That goes against the entire history of Christianity!
If making a really nice modern architecture building wasn’t hard enough, Andreas has taken it one step further and decided to add unbelievably realistic damage.
The transition from clean lines to rubble is nothing short of amazing.
Here's a funny fake-news video reporting on the mass-migration of teens from Facebook (where their parents have migrated) to the comments section of a slow-motion Youtube video of a deer running. While I don't think there's going to be mass-migration of all the world's teens to one comment board, there's a grain of truth here. My old Informationweek editor, Mitch Wagner, once discovered some young girls holding a gossipy chat in the comments section of an old blog post of his; when he asked them what they were doing there, they told him that their school blocked all social media, so every day they picked a random blog-post somewhere on the Internet and used it as a discussion board for the day.
The fact that some TSA employees are idiots does not mean they are all idiots. But wow, some of them are utter and complete idiots.
Last week's idiocy, or at least the one on Friday, was the confiscation of a bottle of Jimmy Choo perfume that, to an idiot, looks kind of like a grenade. At least I infer that from the reaction of TSA agents at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, who—and you realize I don't make any of this stuff up, but I still feel the need to mention that I'm not making this one up—shut down a checkpoint for an hour and called in a bomb expert to examine a bottle of perfume.
See, here's what an actual grenade looks like, or at least what one looked like in World War II. This is probably the kind that most of us think of when we think "grenade." The shell of the grenade has grooves in it to make sure there are lots of deadly fragments when it explodes [edit: or maybe to make it easier to grip], which gives it the distinctive "pineapple" shape. Not all grenades have that—most today are round and smooth—but I'm guessing this is what confused the idiots.
A bottle of Jimmy Choo perfume also has grooves in it, sort of, and is also sort of vaguely grenade-shaped. But there's no pin to pull, no lever to keep it from blowing up before you throw it, and it's made of glass. I did a little research, and I didn't find any other grenades made of glass, possibly because that would be a stupid *$%@ing thing to make a grenade out of. But probably the easiest way to distinguish a bottle of Jimmy Choo perfume from a grenade is this: grenades typically do not come with a spray top THAT SQUIRTS OUT SOMETHING THAT SMELLS NICE.
It's a pretty good rule of thumb. Really.
Lois Lewis, whose perfume caused the crisis, is a record promoter for country-music acts. She probably is not with al Qaeda; for one thing I doubt any of them could tolerate country music for long. (Although Osama bin Laden did have a cowboy hat.) She is a member of another questionable organization, though: PreCheck, the extortion scheme program where the TSA will let you pay it $85 to be groped less often. According to this TSA report, $14.50 of that fee pays for the FBI to run a criminal-records check, and the other $70.50 (83%) goes to the TSA for administration. What is the TSA actually doing, besides paying itself to administrate? Hard to say. There are several major line items here that have something to do with "vetting" applicants. But shouldn't the FBI be doing that, not these numbskulls? And if the FBI is doing that, why does the TSA get most of the fee?
Anyway, here's the thing: the TSA estimates it will collect $65 million over five years for the PreCheck program, about $54 million of which it will keep, and at least based on Lewis's experience that money will get you exactly nothing at all. If they won't even trust you with a glass bottle of perfume, what the F did you pay 85 dollars for?
The TSA's position is apparently that this was not a case of mistaking a perfume bottle for a grenade. No, it was about the policy of excluding items that look like weapons not because they are dangerous but because they could be perceived as such. "They said if as a passenger you were to get on an airplane and you were to wave this around," Lewis said, "that people could maybe construe that as you making some sort of a threat." First, if that's what really happened, why the bomb expert? Was he a replica-bomb expert? Please. Second, what the TSA is evidently saying now is that they're not the idiots—it's you. If someone were to get up and start waving a bottle of Jimmy Choo perfume around, they seem to think, you will panic because you are too stupid to distinguish between that bottle and a grenade. And so they must protect you (at your expense) from your own stupidity.
They may also relieve you of your valuables while they're at it, of course. The "bomb expert" kept the bottle of perfume, which cost $83. Probably running a bunch of tests on it right now.