Check the balance of your gaming dice by floating them in salt water

Over at Make, Gareth Branwyn wrote about how to check the balance of your d20 dice:

Gamer Daniel Fisher used an old golf ball balancing trick to test the integrity of his D20 gaming dice. To set up the test, he mixed 6+ tablespoons of salt with 1/3 cup room temperature water in a small glass jar. By floating and spinning a die in the jar, he was able to see if it consistently rolled high, low, or was balanced.

Among other things, Fisher discovered that translucent dice tend to be more balanced, perhaps because you can easily see imperfections inside them (and wouldn’t buy or use them). Finding out that a number of his D20s regularly rolled low or high in the water, he cut into one to see what might be causing the imbalance. Inside, he found obvious manufacturing imperfections, chalky areas where the die may not have cured properly. Later in the video, he puts the cut die under a microscope to get a closer look inside.

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Most dogs are like this

From r/Reminds me of my dog.

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Kitten with head stuck in jar rescued

A feral kitten with its head stuck in a jar is rescued by a jolly hammer-wielding Azerbaijanian. It takes a few whacks to free the poor little critter. Read the rest

Great short flexible USB-to-Lightning cable

The Mophie Sync/Charge Lightning/USB cable ($10 on Amazon) is the perfect short cable for charging an iPhone from a portable charging battery. It twists and bends and holds its shape. It's now part of my travel kit. Read the rest

Trailer for Netlix's sci-fi movie, ARQ

ARQ is a Netflix original movie about a guy who invents a free energy device, gets killed by intruders, then wakes up unhurt. The next day, the same thing happens again (and again), but he can remember what happens, and has to figure out how to break the loop, a la Groundhog Day. It premieres September 16th. Read the rest

The Bad Advisor has a new home, and is dispensing scorching wisdom

The Bad Advisor (previously), who has delighted us for years with amazing, frank, scathing alternative answers to real advice-column questions, has a new home on The Establishment, where bad advice is given at longer length than usual -- and with extra column-inches, the Bad Avisor finds new heights of hilarity. Read the rest

Deep dreaming at the grocery store

Take one trip to the grocers, add a couple passes through Google's psychedelic Deep Dreaming AI-based apophenia algorithm, and voila! You've materialized the extraordinary latent in the mundane. (via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

Pro-democracy reformers win big in Hong Kong's elections

19 of the 35 seats up for grabs in Hong Kong's legislative election went to pro-democracy candidates who have vowed to continue the fight for autonomy from Beijing and its program of censorship, surveillance, and autocratic authoritarianism. Read the rest

This week in terrifying, mind-boggling password breaches

800,000 usernames and passwords from Brazzers, a giant porn site; 98 million passwords from Rambler.ru ("Russia's Yahoo") and, coming soon, the entire user database for VKontakte/VK.com, Russia's answer to Facebook. Read the rest

How surveillance capitalism tracks you without cookies

Princeton computer science researchers Steven Englehardt and Arvind Narayanan (previously) have just published a new paper, Online tracking: A 1-million-site measurement and analysis, which documents the state of online tracking beyond mere cookies -- sneaky and often illegal techniques used to "fingerprint" your browsers and devices as you move from site to site, tracking you even when you explicitly demand not to be track and take countermeasures to prevent this. Read the rest

Sampling bias: how a machine-learning beauty contest awarded nearly all prizes to whites

If you've read Cathy O'Neil's Weapons of Math Destruction (you should, right NOW), then you know that machine learning can be a way to apply a deadly, nearly irrefutable veneer of objectivity to our worst, most biased practices. Read the rest

Why jump scares suck, and why there is still hope for them

Now You See It looks into the use of jump scares in movies, and why they generally suck.

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Psychobook – psych tests used throughout the centuries

Psychobook: Games, Tests, Questionnaires, Histories

by Julian Rothenstein (editor)

Princeton Architectural Press

2016, 192 pages, 8.9 x 12.1 x 0.9 inches (hardcover)

$40 Buy a copy on Amazon

I am not afraid of toads. I do not like to see men in their pajamas. Someone has been trying to get into my car. I think I would like the work of a librarian. I do not always tell the truth.

The above statements are examples of what could appear on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a “psychometric test” in which psychology patients must answer with only a “yes,” “no,” “true,” “false,” or “cannot say.” There is no place on the test to expand or explain your answers. The results of the exam help determine whether a test-taker is “normal” or “deviant.” This test has been helping to sort out the “crazies” from the “normals” since 1943, and yes, according to Psychobook, it’s still being used by some doctors today!

Psychobook, just released today, is a fun, fascinating, image-heavy book that looks at all kinds of ridiculous psych tests used throughout the centuries (some cancelled long ago, others still quacking along). Read about mental test kits such as: Lowenfeld Mosaic tests (make a design with colorful geometric toy pieces to see how carefree, thoughtful or anxious you are); the Szondi Test (see how your mind works by looking at portraits of men and guessing whether they’re homosexual, a psychopath, a maniac, or some other such type); Pictorial Completion Test (find out if your kid has delinquent tendencies by having them fill in a drawing with objects that are missing from the scene), and dozens more. Read the rest

In 1879 a London maid dismembered her employer and then assumed her identity

In 1879, a ghastly crime gripped England: A London maid had dismembered her employer and then assumed her identity for two weeks, wearing her clothes and jewelry and selling her belongings.

In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the murder of Julia Thomas and its surprising modern postscript.

We'll also discover the unlikely origins of a Mary Poppins character and puzzle over a penguin in a canoe.

Show notes

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Warner Bros flags its own website as a piracy portal in copyright takedowns

It turns out that asking a piece of software to decide which websites should be censored and which ones are legitimate has some problems, which I think comes as a surprise to all of us. Read the rest

Actress Jen Richards explains the problem with casting cis actors in trans roles

Trans actress and activist Jen Richards—whose show Her Story was recently nominated for an Emmy—has been engaging in some important dialogue about representation recently. Specifically she’s focused on Hollywood’s insistence on casting cis (i.e. non-trans) actors in trans parts. Though it happens frequently (think Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club), Richards' most recent comments were specifically inspired by the upcoming indie movie Anything, which stars Matt Bomer as a transgender sex worker. Richards tweeted out a long thread on the topic, including these tweets:

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Fire garden honors 350th anniversary of Great Fire of London

This weekend was the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, so The Tate Modern erected a fire garden with performers and fire-spewing sculptures. Read the rest

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