What to call residents of each US state

See below. Yes, the U.S. Government Publishing Office Style Manual refers to residents of Hawaii as "Hawaii residents." This change occurred last year thanks to Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) who pushed for clarification that not everyone who lives in Hawaii is a Native Hawaiian.

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Vardø, the witch capital of Norway

Chelsea G. Summers' beautiful article about a beatiful place recalls its ugly history: the murder of 91 "witches" in Vardø, Norway, part of a century-long persecution against which the Salem witch trials pale in comparison.

There’s no easy way to describe Vardø’s extreme, compelling weirdness. It’s hard to believe that Vardø once held a population of 5,000 in the many buildings that squat on concrete haunches around the harbor. Vardø’s hotels once burst with rich Russians who traded rubles for cod. The wharf once slapped with the sounds of fish being beheaded, gutted, skinned, salted and dried. The harbor once rang with the sounds of ships — at first small with sails, then larger with motors, then metal monsters — coming and going. Just 70 years ago, sailors swaggered in and out of Vardø’s bars and shops; just 25 years ago, more than 350 Sri Lankans staffed the fish processing plants. Now Vardø is a fraction of its former size, and its ghosts seems to hug you close.

Photo: Chelsea G. Summers Read the rest

British place-names generated by a neural net

Dan Hon (perfecting earlier work by Tom Taylor) trained an AI on the vast corpus of British place names, then set it loose. The results are amazing, illustrative of an uncannily human humor seemingly at work, something you'd never get from the standard syllable-randomizing place name generators of yore.

"There aren’t as many cocks as you’d think," he writes.

My favorites: Brotters Common, Boll of Binclestead, Farton Green Pear End, Weston Parpenham, Sutsy Compton, Stoke of Inch, Kinindworthorpe Marmile, Rastan-on-croan, Fuckley, Fapton, Waterwitherwell.

See also Hon's AI trained to generate Ask Metafilter post titles.

Surely neural-net-generated Liffs are next. Read the rest

Kitsault, the Canadian ghost town

Messy Nessy Chic, on an abandoned company town maintained in perfect condition by its only resident: "Where the Alaskan border is closer than the nearest town lies a mysterious hidden place, accessible only by a long arduous gravel road behind a locked gate. Ninety-four homes, two hundred apartments, a hospital, shopping mall, Town & Country restaurant, movie theatre, sports centre, a Royal Bank ... The only thing missing are the people. Welcome to Kitsault, BC." Read the rest

Amazing treehouses

Leslie Horn collects some of the most ingenious, Myst-tastic treehouses on the planet. [Gizmodo] Read the rest

MoMath, more problems

Here's an awesome activity for anybody who happens to be in New York City. Next week, on December 15th, The National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) will open at a location near the Flatiron Building. Opening weekend festivities (and the museum, itself) look really cool. Read the rest

Inside the world's quietest room

Anechoic chambers are pretty damn awesome. Basically, they're rooms designed to be sound-proofed against outside noise, while, inside, sound is prevented from bouncing off the walls. There's no echo. There's a number of ways you can build this, but one system at the University of Salford in England, is actually a room within a room, with the innermost chamber actually mounted on springs, rather than the floor of the outer room.

Anechoic chambers are often used to test out audio equipment or to get accurate audio measurements on systems that are supposed to operate very quietly.

Minnesota Public Radio recently went inside the room that holds the title for world's quietest—an anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories in Minneapolis.

To get into the anechoic chamber, you go through two bank vault-like doors. The floor in the room is mesh like a trampoline so there's nothing on the floor for the sound to bounce off of. The walls are lined with sound-proofing wedges that are a meter long so they absorb the sound.

...A typical quiet room you sleep in at night measures about 30 decibels. A normal conversation is about 60 decibels. This room has been measured at -9 decibels.

Listen to the rest of the story at Minnesota Public Radio's website.

Read about the history of anechoic chambers.

Image: Photo of an anechoic chamber taken at the Kyushu Institute of Design's anechoic chamber by Alexis Glass. Free to use under GDFL.

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