August 9, 2018
[life] Cognitive Biases and the Human Brain … A look at the many ways our brain deceives itself and how we can improve our thinking. ‘When people hear the word bias, many if not most will think of either racial prejudice or news organizations that slant their coverage to favor one political position over another. Present bias, by contrast, is an example of cognitive bias—the collection of faulty ways of thinking that is apparently hardwired into the human brain. The collection is large. Wikipedia’s “List of cognitive biases” contains 185 entries, from actor-observer bias (“the tendency for explanations of other individuals’ behaviors to overemphasize the influence of their personality and underemphasize the influence of their situation … and for explanations of one’s own behaviors to do the opposite”) to the Zeigarnik effect (“uncompleted or interrupted tasks are remembered better than completed ones”).’
August 7, 2018
[comics] Weimar America … Howard Chaykin on the 35th Anniversary of American Flagg! among other things. ‘What little talk about the book in this anniversary year often refers to how much I “got right…” in regard to the dystopic future portrayed in the series. Computer generated imagery, ecological devastation, reality television, the decline of the United States, the (imminent) desertion of the country by the people responsible for the decline…there’s likely more, but you get the picture. For the record, I got plenty wrong, too—but to my mind, neither is relevant. The motivation behind FLAGG! was my young man’s outrage at the triumph of Reagan’s administration, which for me was the exhumation of Herbert Hoover and his plutocratic shmuckery, here to dismantle and demolish everything Franklin Roosevelt did to create a truly modern America.’
August 6, 2018
[tv] Harvey Pekar Collection on Late Night, Late Show, 1986-1994 … Interesting compliation of Harvey Pekar’s appearances on Letterman especially if you’ve read his comics but never seen the shows.
August 3, 2018
[comics] The 10 Best Alan Moore Comics of All Time … A good attempt at picking a list of Alan Moore’s best work. ‘There’s a contingent of Moore fans who prefer to view him as a purveyor of dour, gothy culture. But that’s a limited perspective. For starters, Moore made his bread in a daily comic about a magic cat. That was his go-to; that’s how he began the business. Honestly, once you start reading all of Moore, it’s amazing how often the goofy and absurd shows up in his work. Outside of the serious books, Moore is surprisingly funny. Put simply, D.R. & Quinch is his guilty pleasure, and The Bojeffries Saga is his account of childhood.’
August 2, 2018
[comics] The Beano at 80: How a British institution is keeping the kids chuckling … it was The Beano’s 80th Birthday earlier in the week. ‘What made The Beano stand out at the beginning as the most exciting entertainment product available to children, says Stirling, is what has kept it alive even after its stablemate the Dandy – launched in 1937 – has gone (although the hardback Dandy annual is still a bestseller). “The Beano was the first comic to have all kids as their main core of characters, and this core has lasted until today,” he says.’
August 1, 2018
[history] On the Hunt for the Lost Wonders of Medieval Britain … A modern search for the location of some lost wonders of Ancient Britain. ‘Standing on the 2,000-year-old stones of the Roman baths, however, and dipping a finger into the warm mineral water did transmit a touch of awe. But the experience of standing in Caerwent, looking out from the port wall to see the one-time path of the River Severn and finding the dips of the dried-up Whirlyholes, while not spectacular, had its own power. The wonders list can act as a decoder for the landscape, revealing secrets in a nondescript underpass, a featureless field, an ordinary intersection. These places might seem like they have no history, but once they were remarkable.’ [via As Above]
July 31, 2018
[comics] Go Look: Stanley Kubrick by Katsuhiro Otomo.
July 30, 2018
[brexit] That sinking feeling … Charlie Stross on Brexit. ‘A Hard Brexit, on its own, would be a very dubious but probably long-term survivable scenario, with the UK economy taking a hit not much worse than the 10% downsizing Margaret Thatcher inflicted on it in 1979-80. But a hard Brexit, coinciding with the worst harvest failures in decades, ongoing climate destabilization, a fisheries collapse, and a global trade war being started by the Tangerine Shitgibbon in the White House is … well, I’m not optimistic.’
July 27, 2018
[brexit] From anxiety to Zuckerberg: an A-Z of Brexit … ‘Hard Brexit – As the Pet Shop Boys presciently asked: which do you choose, the hard or soft option? The metaphor of a “hard Brexit” appealed to soft-fleshed types who dream of being manly and thrusting, while a “soft Brexit” still sounds altogether too submissive. Having newly discovered a concern for hygiene, Tory rebels now say they want a “clean Brexit”, not the filthy, presumably French kind.’
July 26, 2018
[life] The Secret Facebook Groups for Shocking DNA Tests … A look at how people cope when DNA Tests reveals huge surprises about parentage. ‘In conversations and correspondence with more than two dozen people for this story, I heard of DNA tests that unearthed affairs, secret pregnancies, quietly buried incidents of rape and incest, and fertility doctors using their own sperm to inseminate patients. These secrets otherwise would have—or even did—go the grave. “It’s getting harder and harder to keep secrets in our society,” says CeCe Moore, a prominent genetic genealogist who consults for the television show Finding Your Roots. “If people haven’t come to that realization, they probably should.” St Clair told me she sees it as a generational shift. The generation whose 50-year-old secrets are now being unearthed could not have imagined a world of $99 mail-in DNA kits. But times are changing, and the culture with it. “This generation right now and maybe the next 15 years or so, there’s going to be a lot of shocking results coming out. I’d say in 20 years’ time it’s going to dissipate,” she predicted. By then, our expectations of privacy will have caught up with the new reality created by the rise of consumer DNA tests.’
July 25, 2018
[religion] Why Is Google Translate Spitting Out Sinister Religious Prophecies? … Is Google Translate’s AI a Prophet? ‘In Somali, for instance, strings of the word “ag” translate into missives about the “sons of Gershon,” the “name of the LORD,” and references to Biblical terminology like “cubits” and Deuteronomy.’ [via jwz]
July 24, 2018
July 23, 2018
[moon] How the Earliest Images of the Moon Were so Much Better than we Realised … The story of how images taken by a Moon Orbiter in 1966 were saved from obsolete analog media. ‘Since 2007 the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project has brought back 2000 images from 1500 analog tapes. The first ever picture of an earthrise. As Keith Cowing said “an image taken a quarter of a fucking million miles away in 1966. The Beatles were warming up to play Shea Stadium at the moment it was being taken.”’
July 22, 2018
[space] First contact: what if we find not organic life but ET’s AI? … More interesing hypotheticals on alien hunting. ‘The most challenging task for a nursery-room AI would be how to expose its collective of savants to the complexity of the real-world environment. Nature isn’t just about meeting fixed goals; it’s full of noise, randomness and trillions upon trillions of interacting pieces. For example, from the very instant an embryo forms, it is exposed to constant variation. First just a few cells, it senses the world purely from a molecular point of view. As the embryo develops organs to register light, sound, touch and smell, the portals to experience – and their complexity – expand. In short, the way for a species to make a better AI is to let that AI and its components explore the messy Universe. As complex and nourishing as a single planet can be, a cosmos filled with worlds offers millions, billions, even trillions of natural test tubes, each with its own tale of natural selection and chance. Spreading savant AI pieces across the stars offers a way to exploit these endless natural experiments and sensory inputs.’
July 21, 2018
[space] NASA astronaut Ellison Onizuka’s soccer ball that survived the Challenger explosion … the moving story of a long forgotten football from the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and the family that sent it back into space.
Clear Lake High School principal, Karen Engle, got an email from a parent. He was leaving a booster club meeting and stopped to look at the ball, remembering it from so long ago. He figured it should have its own display case, and he offered to build it.
July 20, 2018
[spaceships] On the Taxonomy of Spaceships … An attempt to classify types of fictional spacecraft. ‘There are lots of different ship classes in science fiction, and I’m not talking about the designated name for a particular frame (like Victory-class or Firefly-class). I’m talking about classification of ship roles; or ship types. You have your cruisers, your destroyers, your frigates and corvettes, your dreadnoughts, and all sorts of other roles. But something that always confused me is exactly what the differences are between them. If you had shown me two ships and claimed one was a destroyer and one was a cruiser I wouldn’t have really understood what that actually means and what roles they employ in a battle. How is a battleship different from a battlecruiser? Is there any difference between a star cruiser and an assault cruiser, and if so what is it?’
July 19, 2018
[space] For all we know, aliens could be as careless with space junk as us … Interesting approach to discovering aliens by looking for evidence their garbage in space. ‘However, while it is looking like humankind may soon be able to spot the biomarkers of exolife, spotting a technologically advanced civilisation continues to present a challenge. Astroboffin Hector Socas-Navarro proposes that rather than looking at the exoplanet itself, researchers turn their attention to the “Clarke Exobelt” (CEB). This is an area around the planet touchingly named after Arthur C Clarke, who proposed using a geostationary orbit around the Earth for satellite communications in a 1945 paper.’
July 18, 2018
[aliens] Fermi paradox: why haven’t we found aliens yet?… An attempt to answer a (currently) unanswerable question.
…the idea that intelligent life is extremely rare in the universe feels completely counterintuitive. We exist, along with other intelligent life like dolphins and octopi, so we assume what we see must be extrapolatable beyond Earth.
July 17, 2018
[books] 55 Essential Space Operas from the Last 70 Years … Great list of Sci-fi books… ‘Use of Weapons, by Iain M. Banks – Though it technically kicked off in the late ’80s, Iain M. Banks Culture novels could be said to be the genesis of what came to be known as the New British Space Opera in the ’90s and 2000s. An twist on utopian space operas, The Culture presents a future where benevolent AIs govern everything, genetic engineering has resulted in immortality and perfected human design, and the most powerful faction in the universe (next to the energy beings) is the Culture, a group of cheerful collectivists with massive, heavily armed sentient starships. Banks’ imaginative world design and massive scope is paired with an iconoclastic and anarchic sense of humor for a modern classic.’
July 16, 2018
[space] Cinema Space Tribute …
July 13, 2018
[movies] The meaning of the ending of 2001 according to Stanley Kubrick … Two Kubrick interviews where he explains 2001: A Space Odyssey collected together.
The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by god-like entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form. They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. It just seems to happen as it does in the film.
July 12, 2018
[movies] My Incredible, Agonising Quest to Find the Worst Movie on Netflix … ‘But my quest hit a snag. Though there were many truly awful sounding movies listed, every single thing I looked up seemed to have been removed from Netflix. InAPPropriate Comedy, a sketch comedy show directed by the Shamwow Guy that was widely accused of being racist? Gone. Avalanche Sharks, a horror film about, well, what it sounds like it’s about? Also gone. I was beginning to worry that, due to the constant reduction in the number of movies on Netflix, all the real garbage had been purged.’
July 11, 2018
[politics] What If Trump Has Been a Russian Asset Since 1987? … Long, plausible scenario about Trump’s collusion with Russia. ‘Then there is Trump himself. While the president’s character has never been exactly deemed above reproach, some doubts have lingered about whether he would really hire prostitutes to defile a bed merely because Obama had slept there and whether a tape of such a thing would truly shame him. These questions have been answered in the affirmative. Trump’s payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels and other women proves that he holds his sexual privacy dear. And the obsessive hatred of Obama that grew out of Trump’s humiliation at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner has blossomed into a perverse and often self-destructive mania. People both inside and outside the administration report that Trump will ultimately pick whatever option he believes is the negation of Obama’s legacy.’
July 10, 2018
[movies] Doctors Diagnose The Injuries In Home Alone … Doctors give their opinions on the injuries the criminals in Home Alone would have received if the movie was set in the real world.
July 9, 2018
[true crime] The Queasy Verdict of ‘The Staircase’ … A spoiler filled examination of the true-crime documentary “The Staircase”. ‘It’s tempting to call the story of Michael Peterson a tragedy. Not just because his protestations of innocence and grief are pitiable (although they are), or because he summarizes his life with a quote from Romeo and Juliet, “All are punished” (although he does). It’s tempting because, in The Staircase, it’s Peterson—as opposed to his dead wife—who’s unfailingly presented as the victim. After a short news brief detailing how Kathleen Peterson’s body has been found in the couple’s mansion in Durham, North Carolina, the series begins in earnest with Peterson walking the camera crew around the home, describing the events on the evening of Kathleen’s death. He’s calm and detailed in his account of how the couple watched a movie, talked about their kids, and drank a first bottle of wine, followed by a second. Then, he explains, the couple went down to the pool on their property. In Peterson’s telling, Kathleen went upstairs to bed while he stayed by the pool with his wine. It was the last time he saw her alive. What happened next was so bizarre, so unpredictable, that it made the Peterson murder investigation a national story…’
July 6, 2018
[life] Prick from school now describing himself as an ‘influencer’ … ‘Tom Booker, a devious little shit you assumed was going to be an letting agent, is instead putting a lot of selfies on Instagram and referring to himself ‘a brand ambassador in waiting’.’
July 5, 2018
[funny] Mattel Master of the Universe Spoof Advert … ‘NICE GUY – Why Won’t You Ladies Just Give Him a Chance?’
July 4, 2018
[comics] Creator of Milk & Cheese Talks About a Weird, Brilliant Career … Evan Dorkin Interviewed. ‘In general, these stories that go too far, after a while, it’s just diminishing returns. In wrestling, with pornography, in horror movies, in horror comics, you always end up reaching this point of no return. So you have to do three women getting their heads cut off, or five guys stitched together into a centipede, or whatever the fuck. And when you save the Earth and everybody dies every three months in Marvel and DC Comics, where do you go from there? You can’t have bank robberies anymore. Everybody goes bigger all the time, and nobody cares about what’s going on with anybody other than the top five wrestlers…’
July 3, 2018
[comics] The ‘Lost’ Alan Moore interview … a little-known pre-Watchmen interview from 1985. ‘My basic theory is that I’ve got a single world that I’m writing about in three dimensions. I want to get that over to the artist, but I don’t want to imprison the artist. Especially since it’s quite likely that he’s got a better visual imagination than I have. I try to give them as much detail as they possibly need, but also explain in the script that if there’s a panel that they want to change or if they think they have a better idea, they should follow it up. The script’s not, engraved in stone. I want to give them maximum freedom and, with the amount of detail, maximum support as well. WATCHMEN, in particular, has been really, really thick, like I’ve said. I’m capable of spending two or three typed pages just on one panel, especially if I’m talking about the lighting, and the camera angles, and the positioning of the figures, the atmosphere, the expressions on their faces… when you try to describe reality, there’s quite a lot to talk about.’
July 2, 2018
[people] Ask Reddit: What drama is currently going down in the world of your hobby that the rest of us probably haven’t heard about? … Large collection of amusing posts about some huge dramas in small worlds. ‘Cockygate – A lucrative erotica e-author tried to trademark the word “cocky” and was going after romance authors. Romance Writers of America hired a lawyer to contest that nonsense.’