Gweek 075: Oliver Sacks' Hallucinations

Dr. Sacks books are fascinating explorations into the way the human mind works, usually through studying abnormal minds and surprising ways in which they give us clues about perception, consciousness, and behavior.

Wall Street is not made up of "numbers guys"

Chad Orzel's post, "Financiers Still Aren’t Rocket Scientists" is a timely reminder that Mitt Romney and other Wall Street Types are not, by and large, superhero math geniuses with their fingers on the arcane numeric truths underpinning all reality. Some quants are genuinely impressive mathematicians, but the industry's reputation for "numbers guys," is just wrong-o.

You would think that the 2008 economic meltdown, in which the financial industry broke the entire world when they were blindsided by the fact that housing prices can go down as well as up, might have cut into the idea of Wall Street bankers as geniuses, but evidently not. The weird idea that the titans of investment banking are the smartest people on the planet continues to persist, even among people who ought to know better– another thing that bugged me about Chris Hayes’s Twilight of the Elites was the way he uncritically accepted the line that Wall Street was the very peak of the meritocracy. It’s not hard to see where it originates– Wall Street types can’t go twenty minutes without telling everybody how smart they are– but it’s hard to see why so many people accept such blatant propaganda without question.

Look, Romney was an investment banker and corporate raider at Bain Capital. This is admittedly vastly more quantitative work than, say, being a journalist, but it doesn’t make him a “numbers guy.” The work that they do relies almost as much on luck and personal connections as it does on math– they’re closer to being professional gamblers than mathematical scientists.

Read the rest

Draw smokey patterns with Silk

Silk is a website that lets you draw smokey shapes (with or without symmetry) by clicking and dragging. Read the rest

Empire I: World Builders - 1981 game for the Apple II

The gateway to the New York Rocket Field is your first step of a space voyage in which you may choose one of three career paths to follow, here at the dawn of the Interstellar Empire.

How to turn Barbie into a Weeping Angel

The Mary Sue tracked down a new career for Barbie -- Weeping Angel. The DIY guide, originally found on Wich Crafting, shows how a simple Barbie (or a less expensive impostor) can become the fearsome Doctor Who villain using a few simple ingredients. (And also breaking Barbie's arms.) Consider this a suggestion for holiday gift-giving, in case you want to see if your child is smart enough to notice a missing toy from their collection. Heheheheh, don't blink, kiddies... (via io9) Read the rest

Lifelike robo-fish at Tokyo Toy Fair

Next time my kid asks for a pet fish, I'll get her one of these instead. It's a million times better than the real thing.

Math + Too Much Free Time =

Here is a detailed analysis of the amount of time it would take to ride a hypothetical elevator down through the Earth's core and back out the other side of the planet. Apparently, this has something to do with the remake of Total Recall. But it's interesting even if (like me) you have no intention of seeing that movie. (Via Rhett Allain) Read the rest

If pot were truly legal, high-quality joints would cost the same price as a Splenda packet

In July, Salon's Matthew Yglesias wrote an article about the price of legal marijuana, which is even more interesting now that Colorado and Washington have legalized cannabis for recreational use.

How cheaply could pot be grown with advanced farming techniques? One potential data point is Canada’s industrial hemp industry, where production costs are about $500 per acre. If the kind of mid-grade commercial weed that accounts for about 80 percent of the U.S. market could be grown that cheaply, it implies costs of about 20 cents per pound of smokable material: Enough pot to fill more than 800 modest-sized half-gram joints for less than a quarter!. Those numbers are probably optimistic, since in practice recreational marijuana is grown from more expensive transplanted clones rather than from seeds. Even so, the authors note that “production costs for crops that need to be transplanted, such as cherry tomatoes and asparagus, are generally in the range of $5,000-$20,000 per acre.” That implies costs of less than $20 per pound for high-grade sensimilla and less than $5 a pound for mid-grade stuff. Another way of looking at it, suggested by California NORML Director Dale Gieringer, is that we should expect legal pot to cost about the same amount as “other legal herbs such as tea or tobacco,” something perhaps “100 times lower than the current prevailing price of $300 per ounce—or a few cents per joint.”

This would make pot far and away the cheapest intoxicant on the market, absolutely blowing beer and liquor out of the water.

Read the rest

Why do trees fall over in a storm?

The more accurate version of this question would really be something like, "Why do some trees fall over in a storm while others stay standing?" The answer is more complex than a simple distinction between old, rotted, and weak vs. young, healthy, and strong. Instead, writes Mary Knudson at Scientific American blogs, trees fall because of their size, their species, and even the history of the human communities around them.

“Trees most at risk are those whose environment has recently changed (say in the last 5 – 10 years),” Smith says. When trees that were living in the midst of a forest lose the protection of a rim of trees and become stand-alones in new housing lots or become the edge trees of the forest, they are made more vulnerable to strong weather elements such as wind.

They also lose the physical protection of surrounding trees that had kept them from bending very far and breaking. Land clearing may wound a tree’s trunk or roots, “providing an opportunity for infection by wood decay fungi. Decay usually proceeds slowly, but can be significant 5-10 years after basal or root injury.” What humans do to the ground around trees — compacting soil, changing gradation and drainage “can kill roots and increase infection,” Smith warns.

Read the full piece at Scientific American Blogs

Image: West Philly Storm - Trees Down, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from kwbridge's photostream

Read the rest

Anti-virus software tycoon John McAfee wanted for murder

In an update to the Gizmodo story Xeni pointed to last week, Salon reports that "eccentric anti-virus pioneer John McAfee is wanted by Belize police for murder."

See also: Lawsuit-plagued McAfee founder hunts for libido-boosting herbs in Belize Read the rest

Doomsday Preppers game for iOS

Doomsday Preppers challenges you to prepare for a new (and even more fabulous) life below the ground.

The cool science behind a really cute video of a "snoring" hummingbird

You can learn a lot about this bird's biology by listening as it saws some logs.

Wes Anderson's Star Wars: Episode VII would have to include Bill Murray, so let's consider it

Would Jason Schwartzman be a bad guy or a guy, or would that be the journey?

High Frontiers (1984 proto-cyberdelic 'zine) now online

The first issue of the 'zine High Frontiers (1984), founded by BB pal and co-conspirator RU Sirius, is now online at the Internet Archive. High Frontiers begat Reality Hackers which begat Mondo 2000 which begat the cyberdelic early 1990s. "First Glimpse Of MONDO 2000 History Project Archives: Complete Issue #1 Of High Frontiers" (Acceler8or) Read the rest

Nate Silver's The Signal and The Noise

Read the rest

Astounding N.C. Wyeth illustrations from old children's storybook

I love these dreamlike N.C. Wyeth illustrations from The Anthology of Children's Literature (1940). Golden Age Comic Book Stories has a bunch more in high-res.

Amazon has a few used copies available. Read the rest

This week's The Walking Dead recap is all about daughters - dead ones, living ones, living-dead ones [SPOILERS]

After last week's tragedy parade, "Say the Word" takes some time to show us the survivors dealing with the aftermath as well as catch up to the weirdness taking place in Woodbury. Up until now, aside from the, uh, heads in jars, the Governor has seemed fairly mild-mannered, especially compared to his counterpart in the comics. But Walking Dead audience, we are in luck -- this week, we finally got a nice taste of why Andrea should really listen to Michonne and get the heck out of this joint.

As always, plot spoilers are included after the jump. Read the rest

More posts