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Classical music scores as colorful data visualizations

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 20, 2017

Off The Staff

Off The Staff

Nicholas Rougeux, who describes himself as a “designer, data geek, fractal nut”, designed a process to turn musical scores into ultra-colorful images. He outlined his process here.

Rougeux also made video versions where you can see the visualizations form as the songs play. Here’s Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons:

Posters are available.

Jeffrey Tambor will not return to Transparent for a 5th season after multiple sexual harassment allegations

How Politics and Bad Decisions Starved New York's Subways

Another pair of merging black holes found by LIGO. Amazing how quickly this became a normal occurence.

Scientists announced the first confirmed case of CTE found in a living person (a former NFL player)

Podfasters: Meet the People Who Listen to Podcasts at Super-Fast Speeds (up to 3X!!) I recently listened to an audiobook at 1.25X and it was almost too fast for me

Can It Happen Here?: Authoritarianism in America. (I'm going to go with "clearly, yes".)

The title for the Fantastic Beasts sequel announced: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Matt Yglesias: Bill Clinton should have resigned over the Monica Lewinsky affair

For its 25th anniversary, a remastered Automatic for the People by REM. Includes 2 hours of live and demo tracks.

EFF: TSA Plans to Use Face Recognition to Track Americans Through Airports

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The global exercise heatmap

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 20, 2017

Strava Heatmap

Strava Heatmap

Strava, makers of apps that allow people to track and share their athletic activities, have released a global heatmap, a visualization of the humanity’s collective athletic activities. In a recent blog post, the company highlighted some of the most interesting spots on the map, which was created using 27 billion miles of data representing over 200,000 years of hiking, biking, running, skiing, and other sporting activity. Pictured above are the ski areas near Salt Lake City and kiteboarding in Baja, Mexico.

The Periodic Table of Endangered Elements

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 20, 2017

Periodic Table Endangered

Until recently, humanity has treated the Earth as an infinite resource. As the Earth’s population has exploded over the past century however, we’ve learned in many different ways that that’s untrue. We’ve overfished the ocean, pumped too much carbon into the atmosphere and oceans, driven thousands of species into extinction, and terraformed much of the planet’s land. This periodic table produced by the American Chemical Society shows that there are also 44 chemical elements that will face supply limitations in the coming decades. Among those under a “serious threat in the next 100 years” are silver, helium, zinc, and gallium. Robert Silverberg wrote about The Death of Gallium back in 2008:

Gallium’s atomic number is 31. It’s a blue-white metal first discovered in 1831, and has certain unusual properties, like a very low melting point and an unwillingness to oxidize, that make it useful as a coating for optical mirrors, a liquid seal in strongly heated apparatus, and a substitute for mercury in ultraviolet lamps. It’s also quite important in making the liquid-crystal displays used in flat-screen television sets and computer monitors.

As it happens, we are building a lot of flat-screen TV sets and computer monitors these days. Gallium is thought to make up 0.0015 percent of the Earth’s crust and there are no concentrated supplies of it. We get it by extracting it from zinc or aluminum ore or by smelting the dust of furnace flues. Dr. Reller says that by 2017 or so there’ll be none left to use. Indium, another endangered element-number 49 in the periodic table-is similar to gallium in many ways, has many of the same uses (plus some others-it’s a gasoline additive, for example, and a component of the control rods used in nuclear reactors) and is being consumed much faster than we are finding it. Dr. Reller gives it about another decade. Hafnium, element 72, is in only slightly better shape. There aren’t any hafnium mines around; it lurks hidden in minute quantities in minerals that contain zirconium, from which it is extracted by a complicated process that would take me three or four pages to explain. We use a lot of it in computer chips and, like indium, in the control rods of nuclear reactors, but the problem is that we don’t have a lot of it. Dr. Reller thinks it’ll be gone somewhere around 2017. Even zinc, commonplace old zinc that is alloyed with copper to make brass, and which the United States used for ordinary one-cent coins when copper was in short supply in World War II, has a Reller extinction date of 2037. (How does a novel called The Death of Brass grab you?)

Zinc was never rare. We mine millions of tons a year of it. But the supply is finite and the demand is infinite, and that’s bad news. Even copper, as I noted above, is deemed to be at risk. We humans move to and fro upon the earth, gobbling up everything in sight, and some things aren’t replaceable.

As with many such predictions, the 2017 dates didn’t pan out, but the point that these resources are finite still holds. Eventually, we will run out.

Teaser trailer for Incredibles 2

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 20, 2017

I’m posting this mostly for my son. We were talking about this movie the other day and he remembered exactly where we were and what we were doing when I first told him Pixar was making an Incredibles sequel. Like it was the Moon landing or JFK getting shot.

Cutaway illustration of a film camera reveals iconic movie scenes

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 17, 2017

Directors Cut

This might be Dorothy’s best print yet: a cutaway view of the Arriflex 35 IIC camera used extensively by directors like Stanley Kubrick but the guts of the camera has been replaced with some of the most iconic movies scenes of all time. The full print contains 60 scenes, but even in the small excerpt above, you can see The Wizard of Oz, Dr. Strangelove, The Empire Strikes Back, Forrest Gump, and The Godfather.

A mesmerizing animation of the repeating elements of a medieval cathedral

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 17, 2017

I barely know how to describe this so maybe you should just watch it. Animator Ismael Sanz-Pena took a single image of a medieval cathedral and used the facade’s repeating elements to find the movement within, kind of like a zoetrope. (Ok, I guess that’s a pretty good description. I still think you should just watch it though.) See also Sanz-Pena’s earlier attempts of the same effect. (via colossal)

How today’s animals would look if drawn like dinosaurs

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 17, 2017

It’s difficult to know how a particular animal might have looked if you only use its skeleton as a guide. For example, we used to think dinosaurs were mostly scaly like lizards until evidence was uncovered that many kinds of dinosaur were more birdlike with feathers.

Artist C.M. Kosemen, in his book All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals, illustrated some present-day animals like many dinosaurs are typically drawn, based only on their skeletons.

Most serious paleoart bases itself on the detailed findings of paleontologists, who can work for weeks or even years compiling the most accurate descriptions of ancient life they can, based on fossil remains. But Kosemen says that many dinosaur illustrations should take more cues from animals living today. Our world is full of unique animals that have squat fatty bodies, with all kinds of soft tissue features that are unlikely to have survived in fossils, such as pouches, wattles, or skin flaps. “There could even be forms that no one has imagined,” says Kosemen. “For example there could plant-eating dinosaurs that had pangolin or armadillo-like armor that wasn’t preserved in the fossil. There could also be dinosaurs with porcupine-type quills.”

Here are Kosemen’s drawings of a baboon and swans:

Kosemen Dinosaur

Kosemen Dinosaur

OMG, Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot can do an f-ing BACKFLIP!

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 16, 2017

So, the jumping from box to box seemed cool. Hey, robot parkour! It seemed awfully agile for something that looks like it weighs quite a bit, but ok. But the casual gymnastics about 20 seconds in broke my brain. Holy. Crap.

Emergence: how many stupid things become smart together

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 16, 2017

A nice overview of emergence by Kurzgesagt. I continue to find the concept of emergence endlessly fascinating — order from disorder, complexity from simplicity, more is different. As a society, we tend to underestimate how much emergence plays a role in why things happen the way they do and are therefore often wrong-footed in our analysis and response.

For a good primer on emergence and other related phenomena, check out Steven Johnson’s Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software.

The top 10 bestselling Kindle books of all time

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 16, 2017

Top Kindle Books All Time

The Kindle debuted 10 years ago this month and Amazon marked its anniversary with top 10 lists of the bestselling fiction and nonfiction books for the device. The fiction list is fairly predictable (I’ll get to it in a moment), but the nonfiction list is a little more interesting in spots:

1. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
2. Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, and Lynn Vincent
3. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
4. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
5. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
6. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman
7. Bossypants by Tina Fey
8. American Sniper by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice
9. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
10. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

It’s really nice to see The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on there…I would not have guessed that one, although with HBO and Oprah involved, perhaps I should have. Here’s the fiction list, dominated by Shades of Grey and Katniss Everdeen.

1. Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James
2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
3. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
4. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
5. Fifty Shades Darker by E L James
6. Fifty Shades Freed by E L James
7. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
8. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
9. The Help by Katherine Stockett
10. The Fault in our Stars by John Green

There are some fine books on both lists, but looking at them, you get an inkling of why the IRL Amazon stores are a bit lackluster.

The Road Movie, a feature-length compilation of Russian dashcam videos

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 16, 2017

The Road Movie, out in theaters in January, consists of nothing but videos taken from Russian dashboard cameras. There are car accidents, animal hijinks, fistfights, high/drunk people, meteors, and fires. The trailer is really entertaining…I’m curious to see the entire film to see how it’s stitched into something resembling a narrative that can sustain a viewer’s attention for more than 20 minutes.

Monster thunderstorm supercell in Montana

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 16, 2017

Ryan Wunsch

This photo of a storm supercell in Montana taken by Ryan Wunsch? Wowza. I can see why people get hooked on chasing these storms about western North America…I’d love to see something like that in person. (via @meredithfrost)

The populism of Amazon’s real-world bookstores

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 15, 2017

Voracious reader Tyler Cowen recently visited an Amazon Store for the first time and posted some impressions.

1. It is a poorly designed store for me, most of all because it does not emphasize new releases. I feel I am familiar with a lot of older titles, or I went through a more or less rational process of deciding not to become familiar with them. Their current popularity, as measured say by Amazon rankings, does not cause me to reassess those judgments. For me, aggregate Amazon popularity has no real predictive power, except perhaps I don’t want to buy books everyone liked. “A really smart person says to consider this again,” however, would revise my prior estimates.

6. I consider myself quite pro-Amazon, still to me it feels dystopic when an attractive young saleswoman says so cheerily to (some) customers: “Thank you for being Prime!”

Some of his observations match those of other reviewers from when the store opened back in May. On my last trip to NYC, I visited the same store as Cowen (also for the first time) and it didn’t change my opinion about the visibility of the data in the store:

Other bookstores have books arranged according to best-seller lists, store-specific best-sellers, and staff recommendations, but I’ve never seen any store layout so extensively informed by data and where they tell you so much about why you’re seeing each item. Grocery store item placement is very data driven, but they don’t tell you why you’re seeing a display of Coke at the end of the aisle or why the produce is typically right at the entrance. It’ll be interesting to see if Amazon’s approach works or if people will be turned off by shopping inside a product database, a dehumanizing feeling Frommer hints at with “a collection of books that feels blandly standard” when compared to human curated selections at smaller bookstores.

Walking around, I half-expected to see SQL queries accompanying some of the displays — “SELECT * FROM books WHERE rating > 4.8 AND pub_year = 2017 ORDER BY number_sold”. Amazon definitely needs to figure out how to get a little weird into their stores, a little of the human touch. Toning down the data talk would help. A more casual typeface might work too — not Comic Sans but perhaps something at least approaching handwritten? They’ve got so so much data about how people buy books…they just need to be more clever about how they slice and dice it. Maybe look for books that exhibit the Napoleon Dynamite Problem? Find people with interesting wishlists?

Ultimately, I didn’t buy anything either.

Physics lessons using simple homemade marble tracks

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 15, 2017

Bruce Yeany teaches physical science to 8th graders in Annville, PA and he is very enthusiastic about it. On his popular Homemade Science YouTube channel, Yeany highlights all sorts of physics experiments and demonstrations without using any special equipment. In one of his latest videos, he shares a bunch of marble tracks that he’s built to demonstrate motion and momentum.

The “identical track race” starting at 1:43 might blow your noodle a little bit unless you’re familiar with Galileo’s pendulum research. (via digg)