Hitler's bookbinder

Michael Shaughnessy reports the untold story of Frieda Thiersch—and the mysteries of her life, her motives and her books

Critical thinking vs education: Teaching kids math without "correct" answers

Brooke Powers assigned her middle-school math class a probability exercise with no single correct answer and was monumentally frustrated by her kids' inability to accept the idea of a problem without a canonical solution. After a long and productive wrangle with her kids about how critical thinking works and why divergent problem-solving is much more important than mechanically calculating an answer that you could just get out of a computer, she salvaged the exercise and made something genuinely wonderful out of it. Read the rest

Piketty's methods: parsing wealth inequality data and its critique

I've been writing about Thomas Piketty's magisterial economics bestseller Capital in the Twenty First Century for some time now (previously), and have been taking a close interest in criticisms of his work, especially the Financial Times's critique of his methods and his long, detailed response. I freely admit that I lack the stats and economics background to make sense of this highly technical part of the debate, but I think that Wonkblog's analysis looks sound, as does the More or Less play-by-play (MP3). Read the rest

How to: Make friends, the Alfred Newton way

In an attempt to befriend Charles Darwin, zoologist Alfred Newton sent the author of Origin of Species a diseased partridge foot. It worked. (Thanks, Missy Covington!) Read the rest

Buy a Viking boat

Available in a range of sizes and styles. Historically accurate. Gold price available upon request. Iron price not mentioned. Read the rest

Why are there gay, lesbian, and bisexual people?

We know now that homosexuality is connected to genetics — and there's probably more than one gene involved. But why would that trait have been selected for strongly enough to make it present in 5-to-15 percent of the population?

At The Conversation, geneticist Jenny Graves presents an interesting theory that I'd never heard before. Homosexuality is evolutionarily adaptive, according to this idea, because the same genes that give you women who love women and men who love men also give you men who love women and women who love men. In fact, Graves suggests, it's better to think of these genes as "male loving" and "female loving" rather than "gay" or "lesbian" or "straight".

They may be common because these variant genes, in a female, predispose her to mate earlier and more often, and to have more children. Likewise, it would be surprising if there were not “female-loving genes” in lesbian women that, in a male, predispose him to mate earlier and have more children.

If [the] sisters, mother and aunts [of gay men] have more kids who share some of their genes, it would make up for the fewer children of gay males.

And they do. Lots more children. An Italian group showed that the female relatives of gay men have 1.3 times as many children as the female relatives of straight men. This is a huge selective advantage that a male-loving allele confers on women, and offsets the selective disadvantage that it confers on men.

This all puts an interesting twist on the whole "gay gene" conversation. Read the rest

Florida judge allegedly punches public defender

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Judge John Murphy. Do you want to fuck with Judge John Murphy? Public defender Andrew Weinstock did, and look what happened to him.

MURPHY: If I had a rock, I would throw it at you right now. Stop pissing me off! Just sit down! I’ll take care of it. I don’t need your help. Sit! Down!

WEINSTOCK I’m the public defender, I have the right to be here and I have a right to stand and represent my clients.

MURPHY: Sit down. If you want to fight, let’s go out back and I’ll just beat your ass.

WEINSTOCK: Let’s go right now.

They go outside

MURPHY: (shrieking) YOU WANNA FUCK WITH ME? DO YA?

Incomprehensible yelling

I know it's beyond cliché at this point, but ... Florida.

Judge tells attorney 'I'll beat your ass,' allegedly throws punches outside court [WFTV] Read the rest

Distribution of letters in parts of English words

Prooffreader graphed the distribution of letters towards the beginning, middle and end of English words, using a variety of corpora, finding both some obvious truths and some surprising ones. As soon as I saw this, I began to think of the ways that you could use it to design word games -- everything from improved Boggle dice to automated Hangman strategies to altogether new games. Read the rest

What causes that fantastic after-the-rain smell?

Also called petrichor, it's made up of a combination of plant oils, bacterial chemicals, and ozone.

The Compound Interest blog (which is about chemistry, not economics) has a really nice graphic and post that breaks down the different parts of petrichor and explains where they come from. It's worth checking out just for this fact, alone:

Different compounds are involved to varying degrees in the smell of rain, depending on whether we’re talking about the post-rain or the pre-rain smell.

Image: Some Rights Reserved by Suika

Read the rest

The world's oldest pants are, frankly, kinda hippie lookin'

These pants are between 3300 and 3000 years old, but they look like they could have been purchased in a parking lot outside a String Cheese Incident concert. Read the rest

It's not Net Neutrality that's at stake, it's Cable Company Fuckery

John Oliver was incandescent on the subject of Net Neutrality, Time Warner and Comcast on Saturday, and he has a new, less-boring term for Net Neutrality: "Cable Company Fuckery." This is not only brilliant, it's hilarious. John Oliver is a perfect blend of Jon Stewart and Charlie Brooker. A reminder: you can reach out and touch the FCC on the subject of Cable Company Fuckery, and EFF can explain how to do it. Read the rest

Larry Storch, F-Troop's Cpl. Agarn, named Ft. Lee mayor for a day

Honoring a long career in comedy, Ft. Lee, New Jersey named timeless actor Larry Storch mayor for a day. F-Troop is one of my favorites.

Via North Jersey.com:

“It was ‘F Troop,’ ‘Star Trek’ and I’m going to say ‘The Odd Couple’ floated in there somewhere,” (actual Ft. Lee Mayor) Sokolich said. “It was great and to see him here in Fort Lee. He’s befriended our local film commission and we’ve kind of adopted him as Fort Lee’s favorite uncle. It’s really, really cool, it really is, to be able to relive your childhood, back when days were simpler, if you know what I mean.”

I am amazed as to how loved F-Troop is and how it'd be impossible to air today. Read the rest

Podcast: How to Talk to Your Children About Mass Surveillance

Here's a reading (MP3) of a my latest Locus column, How to Talk to Your Children About Mass Surveillance, in which I describe the way that I've explained the Snowden affair to my six-year-old: Read the rest

Knitted anatomical dissections: readymade or DIY

We've featured the lovely knitted dissections of Aknitomy before (previously), but its proprietor, Emily Stoneking, keeps on turning out whimisico-scientific knitted fancies that please the eye and tickle the mind. It's not just her classic knitted dissections of frogs, fetal pigs, bats, worms (surprisingly affordable!), and even Easter bunnies -- she's also selling all her patterns, and even kits! Read the rest

Etymotic Research ER20 ETY-Plugs Hearing Protection Earplugs

I've found these Etymotic ER20 ear plugs to greatly reduce wind noise when riding my motorcycle, under a full face helmet. Read the rest

NYC Gallery showing: Portraits of the math team by Miriam Carothers

Artist Miriam Carothers is showing her series of string theorist portraits in NYC this month. Above is Alexander Polyakov. You can see intricately written equations transformed into the author at gallery SENSEI from June 6th to 18th.

From Miriam's press release:

Each portrait is frenetically colored with the cryptic, codifying writings of formulae and mathematic equation, discreetly laying out the foundations of the universe. These writings were supplied by the physicists themselves, and by delegating this act to the subjects of the work rather than the artist, we see not only the existence of the universe in these equations, but the existence of the physicist.

The full gallery of mathematicians and more info are here. Read the rest

Beautiful shells carved with skulls

Gregory Halili carves stunning skulls into shells collected in the Philippines. Gallery over at Colossal and video below (thanks, Jean Hagan!).

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