Clive Thompson

Gweek podcast 134: Minecraft Raspberry Pi

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In each episode of Gweek, I invite a guest or two to join me in a discussion about recommended media, apps, and gadgets. This time my guests were Clive Thompson, a science and technology journalist, whose new book is Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better, and Ruben Bolling, author of the weekly comic strip Tom the Dancing Bug, which premieres each week on Boing Boing, and pre-premiers for members of his Inner Hive.

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Show Notes:

Clives's picks:

The Gorgeous Nothings, a book that reprints 52 of Emily Dickinson’s poems that she wrote on the backs of used envelopes.

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Why old people complain about Millennials

Clive Thompson, 45, marvels at the sudden attacks on Millennials -- roughly speaking, people born since the late 1970s. As a Gen Xer, he remembers how things were exactly the same for his lot, until, just as suddenly, the ranting op-eds dried up. Only one thing had changed: Read the rest

Gweek podcast 127 - Orphan Black

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In each episode of Gweek, I invite a guest or two to join me in a discussion about recommended media, apps, and gadgets. My guests this time were Veronica Belmont, the co-host of The Sword and Laser podcast (now on Boing Boing!), and Clive Thompson, a science and technology journalist, whose new book is Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better. Veronica recommends the third season of Sherlock ("I love the parallels the show makes with the original stories... it's all very fun for people who have been Sherlock fans for ages.") and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag ("I am totally obsessed with the latest AC game for Xbox One. I play for several hours a day, and I'm still only 50% done!"). Clive recommends Orphan Black ("an insanely cool TV show about a woman who discovers she’s a clone, part of some crazy scientific experiment.") and the smartphone game Badland ("you have to guide a little flying creature through a set of obstacles. It’s extremely well-designed in terms of play; it’s very addictive, lovely, great visuals and sounds. But it also has something more: It has physics that are incredibly witty.") I recommend Lexicon, by Max Berry ("Science fiction novel about students who are taught neurolinguistic programming techniques to persuade people. Read the rest

Weekend listening: Boing Boing's latest podcast episodes

Take a gander at all the wonderful Boing Boing podcasts we have lined up for you to listen to, free of charge!

GWEEK 124: I talked to the visionary artist Jim Woodring about his imaginary universe called The Unifactor.

HAPPY MUTANTS 001: I interviewed Mark Williams and Sasha Robinson, designers of a new instant-on, lithium-ion battery vaporizer called The Firefly.

INCREDIBLY INTERESTING AUTHORS 003: John Durant's new book, The Paleo Manifesto, blends science and culture, anthropology and philosophy, distilling the lessons from his adventures and showing how to apply them to day-to-day life. Read the rest

You Are Not So Smart podcast 013: Clive Thompson and How Technology Affects Our Minds

YANSS: RSS | iTunes |

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Ricky Jay really hates the book 'Fooling Houdini'

Halfway through reading Alex Stone's memoir, Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind, I read Ricky Jay's blisteringly negative review of the book in the Wall Street Journal. Cleverly titled "Slight of Hand," Jay described Stone's book as "an ostensibly self-effacing memoir by an inept amateur conjurer."

I love Ricky Jay's magic, his books, his quarterly magazine, and his performances. Jay is a talented magician and a fascinating storytelling historian of magic, con artists, and sideshows. He's certainly a more talented magician and a more knowledgable historian that Stone. And Jay rightfully calls out several errors of fact that Stone made in Fooling Houdini.

But even so, I finished Stone's book because I was fascinated by his story. Read the rest

Gweek 111: Smarter Than You Think

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Gweek is a podcast where the editors and friends of Boing Boing talk about comic books, science fiction and fantasy, video games, board games, TV shows, music, movies, tools, gadgets, apps, and other neat stuff.

This episode's guests:

Clive Thompson is a science and technology journalist, whose new book just came out: Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (website). He’s a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and Wired, and blogs at Collision Detection, and can be found on Twitter as @pomeranian99. (Photo of Clive by Tom Igoe)

Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and semiotician. He is co-author of Significant Objects, published by Fantagraphics, and Unbored, the kids' field guide to serious fun. He edits the website HiLobrow, which as HiLoBooks is now publishing classics -- by Jack London, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, and others -- from what he calls science fiction's Radium Age.

GET GWEEK: RSS | On iTunes | Download episode | Listen on Stitcher Read the rest

Wired Love: a novel from 1880 that could have been written last week

On the subject of book-scanning bringing the 19th century to life, Clive Thompson reviews "Wired Love," a novel from 1880 about telegraphic romance that features some amazingly contemporary themes. As Clive says, "This book is 130 years old, but it could have been written last week." Read the rest

Clive Thompson on how making stuff makes you a better fixer

"[T]here are some interesting differences in the psychologies of making vs. fixing. I’ve found it’s easier to be daring with fixer projects, because the emotional cost of failure is lower. If I’ve got a busted laptop, why not crack it open? What’s the worst I can do? Break it? It’s already broken! There’s also a sort of puzzle-solving pleasure in fixing, a sense of grappling with complexity. You encounter a lot of mystery that you’ll never solve and just have to live with, which is what makes repair a philosophically powerful activity. You learn humbleness in the face of intransigent reality." Read the rest

Writer Clive Thompson describes his tools and work routine

Our friend Clive Thompson is in the spotlight in this week's "This is How I Work" feature on Lifehacker.

What apps/software/tools can't you live without?

I'm a pack rat when it comes to research. I like to save everything, because you never know when it'll be useful. I write primarily long-form magazine pieces and books, each of which takes months to report and sometimes years to gestate, so I often find myself realizing an interview or study I encountered three years earlier is suddently useful now. So I lean heavily on tools for finding and saving everything.

For face-to-face interviews, I use a Livescribe pen, which is invaluable even though the software is kind of creaky. I use Skype out for most of my phone interviews, and Call Recorder to save those files. I have a Scrivener database for my research—whenever I read anything interesting, I make a note about it and paste in any relevant passages. The note-writing is a crucial part of the task for me, because it requires me to slow down and make sense of what I’m reading, instead of just blindly clipping and saving everything.

I'm Clive Thompson, and This Is How I Work

See also:

I'm Cory Doctorow, and This Is How I Work

I'm Mark Frauenfelder, and This Is How I Work Read the rest

Neuroscience of the human brain while freestyle rapping

Using brain scans, scientists are trying to find how great freestyle rappers drop dope lines. Discovery News reports on a study conducted by researchers the voice, speech and language branch of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Here's the paper: "Neural Correlates of Lyrical Improvisation: An fMRI Study of Freestyle Rap." (via Clive Thompson; image photoshop mine from original study) Read the rest

Wizzywig: an excerpt from Ed Piskor's new graphic novel about a phone phreak hacker kid

In yesterday's Gweek podcast, Clive Thompson and I talked to Ed Piskor about his great new graphic Novel Wizzywig, about a young "dark side" hacker. I mentioned that I liked the scene featuring Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who make an appearance as illegal blue box salesmen dressed in their Alice in Wonderland birthday party entertainer outfits. Ed kindly gave me permission to post the excerpt here. Read the rest

Gweek 058: Wizzywig -- Portrait of a Serial Hacker

Click here to play this episode. Gweek is a podcast where the editors and friends of Boing Boing talk about comic books, science fiction and fantasy, video games, TV shows, music, movies, tools, gadgets, apps, and other neat stuff.

My co-hosts for episode 58 are:

Ed Piskor, the cartoonist for Boing Boing’s weekly Brain Rot comic strip. Has illustrated 2 graphic novels with Harvey Pekar (Macedonia, and The Beats). His first solo graphic novel, Wizzywig was released today, July 5th in comic shops.


Clive Thompson, a columnist for Wired magazine, and a contributing writer for the New York Times magazine. He's working on a book about “the future of thought in the age of machines.”

Here are a few of the things we talked about in this episode:

Wizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker, a terrific new graphic novel by Ed Piskor.

Stephen Mitchell’s new translation of The Iliad

Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series

Seymor Papert’s Mindstorms

Scratch programming language for kids


Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

And more! Read the rest

Hasan Elahi: "Giving the F.B.I. What It Wants"

We've blogged before about artist Hasan Elahi, who learned in 2008 that he was being tracked as a terror suspect by the U.S. for undisclosed reasons. He has never been charged with a crime, but that's hardly needed these days, thanks to the Patriot Act (which recently turned 10). The New York Times this weekend ran a sort of manifesto from Elahi, in which he describes how he transformed this extraordinary act of surveillance into an extraordinary work of art.

In an era in which everything is archived and tracked, the best way to maintain privacy may be to give it up. Information agencies operate in an industry that values data. Restricted access to information is what makes it valuable. If I cut out the middleman and flood the market with my information, the intelligence the F.B.I. has on me will be of no value. Making my private information public devalues the currency of the information the intelligence gatherers have collected.

Read the whole thing: Giving the F.B.I. What It Wants (NYT, thanks Miles O'Brien).

Also: Clive Thompson wrote this feature about him in Wired back in 2008.

(IMAGE: Top, art by Elahi which incorporates surveillance data about his location and activities. Middle, one of the FBI surveillance images of his whereabouts. Bottom, Mr. Elahi, via Wikipedia.)

 Man who claims FBI is after him puts entire life online

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It'd be great to have an app that remembered how you found cool stuff online

Clive Thompson has a great rumination on a missing piece of the Internet toolsuite: a mapper that watches your browsing and tells you how you found interesting stuff. This is a great example of a technology that would make a wonderful local add-on to your browser, but would be creepy and invasive if offered as a centralized server. That is, it'd be great to know this stuff yourself, and great to have the option to share it with others, but it would be pretty icky to think that some remote, behavioral-ad-analytics-driven entity was using it to build a dossier on your Internet use.
But later on, it’s damn hard to recall precisely how A led to E. You could look at your web history, but it’s an imprecise tool. If you happened to have a lot of tabs open and were multitasking — checking a bit of web mail, poking around intermittently on Wikipedia — then the chronological structure of a web “history” doesn’t work. That’s because there’ll be lots of noise: You’ll also have visited sites G, M, R, L, and Y while doing your A to E march, and those will get inserted inside the chronology. (Your history will look like A-G-B-M-R-C-D-L-Y-E.) Worse, often it’s not until days or weeks after I’ve found a site that I’ll wonder precisely how I found it … at which point the forensic trail in a web history is awfully old, if not deleted.

But hey: Why does this matter? Apart from pecuniary interest, why would anyone care about the process by which you found a cool site?

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The new Palomino Blackwing 602 pencil is a fine tribute to the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602

I started writing about the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 pencil in December of 2002. A lot of people love this pencil, not only for its soft lead, but for its unique eraser and ferrule, its metallic dark gray finish, and for its motto: "Half the pressure, twice the speed."

At $.50 each the pencil was quite expensive compared to other pencils. It was discontinued in 1998, and by 2002 the price had jumped to $20 per pencil on eBay. And because the pencil is no longer in production, a cult has formed around it. There is even a blog called the Blackwing Pages: Celebrating the Genuine 602.

Last year, a company called California Cedar Products bought the rights to the Blackwing trademark and manufactured a pencil called the Palomino Blackwing. It was met with mixed reviews. I tried the pencil and found the lead to be much softer than the original Blackwing -- it required frequent re-sharpening. Also, the finish was a semi-gloss black that didn't look anything like the metallic charcoal gray of the original. I kind of liked it, but it was quite unlike the original.

Earlier this week, California Cedar Products introduced the Palomino Blackwing 602, which comes much closer to replicating the look and feel of the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602. The owner of the company sent me a dozen to try out.

I have an original 602, which I was able to use to compare with the Palomino 602. The lead is harder than the first Palomino Blackwing. Read the rest

Talking Turing tests with a fraudbot

Clive Thompson got hit on by a pornographic, credit-card harvesting chatbot, and bored it into submission with a brief dissertation on the Turing test.

"Let's get this party started!" My evening talking to "babygurl01475" ... Read the rest

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