[life] Kevin Kelly – We Are Stardust:‘Where did we come from? I find the explanation that we were made in stars to be deep, elegant, and beautiful. This explanation says that every atom in each of our bodies was built up out of smaller particles produced in the furnaces of long-gone stars. We are the byproducts of nuclear fusion. The intense pressures and temperatures of these giant stoves thickened collapsing clouds of tiny elemental bits into heavier bits, which once fused, were blown out into space as the furnace died. The heaviest atoms in our bones may have required more than one cycle in the star furnaces to fatten up. Uncountable numbers of built-up atoms congealed into a planet, and a strange disequilibrium called life swept up a subset of those atoms into our mortal shells. We are all collected stardust. And by a most elegant and remarkable transformation, our starstuff is capable of looking into the night sky to perceive other stars shining. They seem remote and distant, but we are really very close to them no matter how many lightyears away. All that we see of each other was born in a star. How beautiful is that?’
[funny] Buying This Thing Will Make Me Happy … ‘It’s really cool. They just started making it and not many people have one yet. It does all sorts of stuff and can fit in my pocket, but it can also get bigger than that if I want it to. Plus it’s made by a company I trust to put out things that will make me happy.’
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December 24, 2011
[weird] Fan death … ‘Fan death is a widely held belief in South Korea that an electric fan left running overnight in a closed room can cause the death of those inside. Fans sold in Korea are equipped with a timer switch that turns them off after a set number of minutes, which users are frequently urged to set when going to sleep with a fan on.’
[weird] The Lazarus Sign … ‘The Lazarus sign or Lazarus reflex is a reflex movement in brain-dead or brainstem failure patients, which causes them to briefly raise their arms and drop them crossed on their chests (in a position similar to some Egyptian mummies).’ [via YMFY]
[tags: Life][permalink][Comments Off on History Of The Universe In A Nutshell]
November 30, 2011
[life] What are the chances of your coming into being? … ‘So what’s the probability of your existing? It’s the probability of 2 million people getting together – about the population of San Diego – each to play a game of dice with trillion-sided dice. They each roll the dice, and they all come up the exact same number – say, 550,343,279,001…’
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November 18, 2011
[science] Richard Feynman on Curiosity … ‘The world is strange. The whole universe is very strange, but you see when you look at the details that the rules of the game are very simple – the mechanical rules by which you can figure out exactly what is going to happen when the situation is simple. It is like a chess game. If you are in a corner with only a few pieces involved, you can work out exactly what is going to happen, and you can always do that when there are only a few pieces. And yet in the real game there are so many pieces that you can’t figure out what is going to happen – so there is a kind of hierarchy of different complexities. It is hard to believe. It is incredible! In fact, most people don’t believe that the behavior of, say, me is the result of lots and lots of atoms all obeying very simple rules and evolving into such a creature that a billion years of life has produced.’
[books] Is Reading On The Toilet Bad For You? … ‘No writer owned the arena of toilet reading more than Henry Miller. He read truly great books on the lavatory, and maintained that some, Ulysses for instance, could not be fully appreciated elsewhere. The environment was one that enriched substantial works – extracted their flavour, as he put it – while lesser books and magazines suffered. He singled out Atlantic Monthly. Miller went so far as to recommend toilets for individual authors. To enjoy Rabelais, he advised a plain country toilet, “a little outhouse in the corn patch, with a crescent sliver of light coming through the door”. Better still, he said, take a friend along, to sit with you for half an hour of minor bliss.’
[life] Why Fingernails on Blackboards Sound So Horrible … ‘Much time has been spent, over the past century, on working out exactly what it is about the sound of fingernails on a blackboard that’s so unpleasant. A new study pins the blame on psychology and the design of our ear canals…’
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October 31, 2011
[life] Baby Sharks Birthed in Artificial Uterus … ‘After mating, a female produces as many as 40 fertilized embryos, separated between two separate wombs. The embryos take nearly a year to fully develop, but they begin hunting long before that. After about two months, their own yolk sacs go dry. Hungry, they start eating their brothers and sisters. After the rampant in utero cannibalization, only one shark — the biggest and strongest — is left in each womb.’ [via jwz]
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I came to the conclusion that the brain, in sectioned form, was still in the possession of the pathologist who removed it from the Einstein head, Dr. Thomas Harvey. I tracked him down in Wichita, Kansas. At first he didn’t want to tell me anything, but after a while he finally admitted that he had the brain. After a longer while, he sheepishly told me it was IN THE VERY OFFICE WE WERE SITTING IN. He walked to a box labeled “Costa Cider” and pulled out two big Mason jars. In those were the remains of the brain that changed the world.
And with that he’s off again. Of Salman Rushdie, who once gave him a terrible review in the New York Times, he says: “That flaccid fuckhead. He was detestable. I called up the Ayatollah, nobody knows that.” Roald Dahl: “The cruelty in his books is off-putting. Scary guy. I know he’s very popular but what’s nice about this guy? He’s dead, that’s what’s nice about him.” Stephen King: “Bullshit.” Gwyneth Paltrow: “I can’t stand her.”
I’m thinking about the great American physicist, Richard Feynman, sitting in New Mexico, at the bed of his dying wife. He’d been called, and told that she had only hours to live; he’d hitchhiked from Los Alamos, where he was working on the top secret atomic bomb project. It was 1945.
He walks to her bedside, kisses her; she is breathing shallow breaths. We are still at war and six weeks later, America will explode its first atomic bomb. He stands there, sits there, watches her, kisses her, and very quietly, the Hodgkin’s disease that had attacked her young body takes her. She was in her 20s, he was 27. They’d been married only two years. The nurse records the time of death: 9:21 p.m. He is empty with loss. What few things she had, he packs up; he arranges for a cremation, walks back into her room and sees that the clock had strangely stopped ticking. The hands are frozen at 9:21, the very moment of her death.
I know how this story would feel to me. It would be as though the universe had somehow noticed what had happened, that some invisible hand slipped into my world and pointed, as if to say, “We know. This is part of the plan.”
So many of us, I think, would have this sense. Lawrence Krauss, in his new biography of Feynman, Quantum Man, says, “We seem to be hard-wired to find that what happens to each of us naturally appears to take on a special significance and meaning, even if it’s an accident.” But Feynman, he says, was unable to think that way. He couldn’t and he wouldn’t.
What he did was, he remembered that the clock had been fragile. He had been asked to fuss with it; he’d fixed it several times. In his memoirs (that is, in his version of this story), he says the nurse must have picked up the clock to determine the time of death, unsettled the workings inside, and the clock stopped. No miracle. Just an ordinary, accidental jostle. Here he is, describing a moment of enormous significance, and he won’t allow a Signifier.
[life] Modern Love – When an Ex Blogs, Is it O.K. to Watch? … a NYT writer on blog stalking … ‘I knew all the daily ups and downs of someone I had not laid eyes on in two decades. And let’s face it, at this point that kind of intimacy usually comes only with someone you live with, someone you have to listen to, someone with whom you have no choice. But I had a choice. I pictured myself as ex’s shrink, the old-fashioned kind who doesn’t say much as you lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling. The undercurrent of despair in his posts was real. Was he asking for help?’
[life] Hugging: fear the feel and do it anyway … a Guardian writer visits a Cuddle Workshop … I’ve never been a hugger. As far as I’m concerned, the words “hello” and “goodbye” are perfectly valid ways to tell people that you’ve a) arrived and b) decided to leave. Smooshing your bodies together on top of that seems like overkill. The process is fraught with unanswered questions. What if I go in for a hug but the recipient expects only a peck on the cheek? What if I miscalculate my approach and end up burying my face in their neck? What if it’s a warm day? Should I draw attention to my sweaty back?
[books] The Book Collection That Devoured My Life … ‘I do have a few hundred books that I reread or consult fairly regularly, and I have a lot of books pertaining to whatever current or future projects I have on the fire, and I have many, many books speculatively pointing toward some project that is still barely a gleam in my eye. I have a lot of books that I need for reference, especially now that I live 40 minutes away from the nearest really solid library. I have some books that exist in the same capacity as the more recondite tools in the chest of a good carpenter — you may not need it more than once in 20 years, but it’s awfully nice to have it there when you do. Primarily, though, books function as a kind of external hard drive for my mind — my brain isn’t big enough to do all the things it wants or needs to do without help.’
[life] The Digital Storage of Analog Memories … how to let go of keepsakes and tchotchkes … ‘Do you have a bunch of physical items stuck in storage? Objects you’ve kept over time that you can’t get rid of because you have a set of memories attached to them? Objects are keystones of memory, but pictures of those objects are still adequate keystones…’
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August 15, 2011
[funny] Ineffective Pick-Up Lines for the Modern Internet Persona … ‘My Klout score is an 83, which makes me a Thought Leader. There’s a lot of pressure to stay relevant and forward thinking, when you’re that influential. A few sub-par tweets and I could be downgraded to Specialist. I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with being a Specialist… you’re not a Specialist, are you?’
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July 7, 2011
[life] A Field Guide To Bullshit … Intellectual black holes are belief systems that draw people in and hold them captive so they become willing slaves of claptrap. Belief in homeopathy, psychic powers, alien abductions – these are examples of intellectual black holes. As you approach them, you need to be on your guard because if you get sucked in, it can be extremely difficult to think your way clear again. [via YMFY]
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[life] 9-eyes … A collection of captured moments from Google Streetview.
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May 17, 2011
[tech] The Art of Endless Upgrades … Kevin Kelly on an issue I’ve noticed too – I spend far to much time maintaining a few simple websites … ‘Keeping a website or a software program afloat is like keep a yacht afloat. It is a black hole for attention. I can kind of understand why a mechanical device would break down after a while — moisture rusts metal, or the air oxidizes membranes, or lubricants evaporate — all of which require repair. But I wasn’t thinking that the intangible world of bits would also degrade. What’s to break? Apparently everything.’
[books] Balancing The Books … Ed Stourton’s Book Storage Crisis … ‘Our dilemma is a middle-aged one but I suspect, on the basis of conversations with like-minded friends, a common one. Our books are taking over our house and, it sometimes seems, our lives…’ [via Feeling Listless]
[nyc] The Terminal: The Roughest Bar In New York City … a brief and fascinating look with video … ‘I used to poke my head into the Terminal back in the late 70s. Its notoriety drew artists and punks and the curious. But, it wasn’t welcoming to slumming hipsters or bush league Bukowskis. It was an enclosed society with it’s own brutal code, not easily cracked by the voyeuristic aesthete.’
[life] Born Digital … some anecdotes from Kevin Kelly on what it means to be born in a digital world …
Another acquaintance told me this story. He has a son about 8 years old. They were talking about the old days, and the fact that when my friend was growing up they did not have computers. This fact was perplexing news to his son. His son asks, “But how did you get onto the internet before computers?”
[life] Average Brit Has Three Mysterious Keys … ‘British people carry an average of nine keys around with them, but can identify only six of those, with no idea what the other three came from, or what they unlock…’
Lustig pointed me to a recent corporate study that identified “chief memory officer” as a kind of unofficial role taken on by someone (often mom) in many families — the person who is paying attention to the idea that there may be no physical scrapbook or set of journals to hand down to future generations and that bits-and-bytes memory objects need to be preserved somehow.
Is Facebook Making Us Sad? … ‘Facebook is, after all, characterized by the very public curation of one’s assets in the form of friends, photos, biographical data, accomplishments, pithy observations, even the books we say we like. Look, we have baked beautiful cookies. We are playing with a new puppy. We are smiling in pictures (or, if we are moody, we are artfully moody.) Blandness will not do, and with some exceptions, sad stuff doesn’t make the cut, either. The site’s very design—the presence of a “Like” button, without a corresponding “Hate” button—reinforces a kind of upbeat spin doctoring.’
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January 25, 2011
[internet] Five Emotions Invented By The Internet … ‘The state of being ‘installed’ at a computer or laptop for an extended period of time without purpose, characterized by a blurry, formless anxiety undercut with something hard like desperation.’
The recent tragedy where two hot air balloonists were killed was quite rightly headline news.” revealed one British reporter.
“But if it had been two prostitutes flying that balloon it wouldn’t have got anywhere near the same coverage, though it might have made page 5 of The Sun, with a headline something like Slag, Bang, Wallop!”
“It would take about twelve prostitutes to die in a balloon crash to make headline news. I’m not sure why twelve prostitutes would be flying a balloon, but I guess if you had enough money and a fetish for that sort of thing then anything is possible.