There’s a lot of bots on twitter. […] A prime example is @StealthMountain, which searches for people using the phrase “sneak peak” and replies with “I think you mean ’sneak peek’”. Effectively, a coder somehwere has used twitter to greatly leverage his ability to be a grammar Nazi. But worse, it appears that the bot exists just to rile people. While most people seem to take this correction in stride, @StealthMountain’s favorites list (which is linked from his bio line) is populated with some of the recipients’ more colorful reactions. You too, dear reader, can laugh at those victims, and their absurd, futile anger towards the machine. At the most outrightly hostile end of the spectrum, we find the now defunct bot @EnjoyTheFilm, which searched for mentions of particular films or television shows, and replied with plot spoilers. [ Aaron Beppu]
Our ability to exhibit self-control to avoid cheating or lying is significantly reduced over the course of a day, making us more likely to be dishonest in the afternoon than in the morning, according to findings published in Psychological Science. [EurekAlert]
that is, no one is embarrassed anymore to be sharing things with no intention of informing the other […] people are ok w/ others sharing stuff solely meant to impress rather than inform: result is empty "viral" content that only signals identity [Rob Horning]
Shares of Internet companies are soaring again, and signs of pre-2000 exuberance can be seen in Silicon Valley and the nearby area. […] Pinterest, an electronic-scrapbook service that began testing ads this month, said Wednesday that it had raised $225 million from venture-capital firms. Pinterest didn’t need the money; the company said it hadn’t spent any of the $200 million it raised in February when it was valued at $2.5 billion. The new investment values the three-year-old company at $3.8 billion, a 52% jump in eight months. [WSJ]
With every quarterly earnings call, my Twitter feed lights up with jokes about how Amazon continues to grow its revenue and make no profits and how trusting investors continue to rewards the company for it. The apotheosis of that line of thoughts is a quote from Slate’s Matthew Yglesias earlier this year: “Amazon, as best I can tell, is a charitable organization being run by elements of the investment community for the benefit of consumers.” It’s a great quote, one that got so much play Amazon even featured it in its Annual Letter to Shareholders. But like much of the commentary about Amazon, it’s a misreading of Amazon’s business model. […] If Amazon has so many businesses that do make a profit, then why is it still showing quarterly losses, and why has even free cash flow decreased in recent years? Because Amazon has boundless ambition. It wants to eat global retail. [Eugene Wei]
What pilots spend a lot of time doing is monitoring screens and keying in data. They’ve become, it’s not much of an exaggeration to say, computer operators. And that, many aviation and automation experts have concluded, is a problem. Overuse of automation erodes pilots’ expertise and dulls their reflexes, leading to what Jan Noyes, an ergonomics expert at Britain’s University of Bristol, terms “a de-skilling of the crew.” […] Doctors use computers to make diagnoses and to perform surgery. Wall Street bankers use them to assemble and trade financial instruments. Architects use them to design buildings. Attorneys use them in document discovery. And it’s not only professional work that’s being computerized. Thanks to smartphones and other small, affordable computers, we depend on software to carry out many of our everyday routines. We launch apps to aid us in shopping, cooking, socializing, even raising our kids. We follow turn-by-turn GPS instructions. We seek advice from recommendation engines on what to watch, read, and listen to. We call on Google, or Siri, to answer our questions and solve our problems. More and more, at work and at leisure, we’re living our lives inside glass cockpits. [ The Atlantic]
Almost all rich countries are rich because they exploit technological progress. They have moved the bulk of their labor force out of agriculture and into cities, where knowhow can be shared more easily. Their families have fewer children and educate them more intensively, thereby facilitating further technological progress. Poor countries need to go through a similar change in order to become rich: reduce farm employment, become more urban, have fewer children, and keep those children that they have in school longer. If they do, the doors to prosperity will open. And isn’t that already happening? Let us compare, for example, Brazil in 2010 with the United Kingdom in 1960. Brazil in 2010 was 84.3% urban; its fertility rate was 1.8 births per woman; its labor force had an average of 7.2 years of schooling; and its university graduates accounted for 5.2% of potential workers. These are better social indicators than the United Kingdom had in 1960. At that time, the UK was 78.4% urban; its fertility rate was 2.7; its labor force had six years of schooling on average, and its university graduates accounted for less than 2% of potential workers. Brazil is not a unique case: Colombia, Tunisia, Turkey, and Indonesia in 2010 compare favorably to Japan, France, the Netherlands, and Italy, respectively, in 1960. […] So today’s emerging-market economies should be richer than today’s advanced economies were back then, right? Wrong – and by a substantial margin. Per capita GDP at constant prices was 140% higher in Britain in 1960 than in Brazil in 2010. It was 80% higher in Japan back then than in Colombia today, 42% higher in old France than in current Tunisia, 250% higher in the old Netherlands than in current Turkey, and 470% higher in old Italy than in current Indonesia. [Project Syndicate]
Fishing operations have expanded to virtually all corners of the ocean over the past century. […] How badly are we overfishing the oceans? Are fish populations going to keep shrinking each year — or could they recover? Those are surprisingly contentious questions, and there seem to be a couple of schools of thought here. The pessimistic view […] is that we may be facing "The End of Fish." One especially dire 2006 study in Science warned that many commercial ocean fish stocks were on pace to “collapse” by mid-century. […] Other experts have countered that this view is far too alarmist. […] Overfishing isn't inevitable. We can fix it. Both sides make valid points — but the gloomy view is hard to dismiss. […] One reason the debate about overfishing is so contentious is that it's hard to get a precise read on the state of the world's marine fisheries. [Washington Post]
15 years ago, President Clinton signed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which retroactively extended copyright protection. As a result, the great creative output of the 20th century, from Superman to "Gone With the Wind" to Gershwin’s "Rhapsody in Blue" to Mickey Mouse, were locked down for an extra 20 years. Will they do it again?
Moreover, the broom by no means removes the dust perfectly even from the carpet to which it is assiduously applied. At any rate, when suction is applied to the swept carpet a good deal more dust is seen to be extracted. This is very well illustrated in the application of the simple dust extractor known as the “Witch,” a model of which has recently been submitted to us for trial by the Witch Dust Extractor Co. of Temple Row, Birmingham. [The Lancet, 1904 | via Neurocritic]
According to the Standard Model of particle physics, the universe should be empty. Matter and antimatter, which are identical except for their opposite electric charges, seem to be produced in equal parts during particle interactions and decays. However, matter and antimatter instantly annihilate each other upon contact, and so equal amounts of each would have meant a wholesale annihilation of both shortly after the Big Bang. The existence of galaxies, planets and people illustrates that somehow, a small surplus of matter survived this canceling process. If that hadn’t happened, “the universe would be void,” Schönert said. The explanation for the survival of some matter may lie in subatomic particles called neutrinos. These particles might have a special property that would give rise to neutrino-less double beta decay. [Quanta]
Say you’re a supervillian. Your goal is not to take over the world, but to create more unpleasantness. So you set out to create a device that would ensnare normal, rational people and turn them into ranting lunatics. What would your Argument Machine look like? How would it work?
On Malcolm Gladwell's recent book, David and Goliath, which promotes the idea that apparent disadvantages are often actually advantages, and in particular suggests that dyslexia might be Good For You.
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana, katakana, Hindu-Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet.
Which is healthier - coffee or smoothies? It seems obvious that the answer must be a smoothie. But when you look into the scientific studies they reveal something much more surprising.