Happy new year, beautiful people! It's Victor. Here's some fun things I read and wanted to share in this first month:
Wikipedia is the best website (happy 20th birthday!)
- Mobile phone throwing is an international sport (with national championships and all) that started in Finland in 2000, to promote awareness about the recycling of obsolete mobile phones.
- Tsundoku is a word of Japanese slang that describes the habit of acquiring many books without reading them.
- The Great Michigan Pizza Funeral was held in 1973, after a manufacturer was forced to recall and dispose of 29,188 frozen pizzas which were (incorrectly) suspected to be contaminated with botulism. They were buried in a hole 5.5m deep, in front of onlookers (who were fed safe pizza).
- Mark and recapture is a statistical method used to estimate the population size of animals or of a certain demographic.
- Oscar bait is a term to describe movies that “appear to have been produced for the sole purpose of earning nominations for Oscars”, pinning hopes on qualities that have historically wowed judges. The hallmarks: dramas set against tragic historical events, characters with a disability, lavish productions, and including cast or directors with previous awards.
- If it looks a bit like the Conservatives have been channeling Beyoncé in the past few years, it's because they're asserting power and confidence through the Tory power stance.
- The article about tea in the UK raises the highly divisive question of whether milk should be poured before or after the tea. Arguments on both sides cover all grounds:
- Scientific ("studies suggest that the heating of milk above 75º C (adding milk after the tea is poured, not before)
does causes denaturation of the lactalbumin and lactoglobulin");
- Practical ("By putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk, whereas one is likely to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round" says George Orwell);
- And how rich you were ("The order of these steps is thought to have been, historically, an indication of class. Only those wealthy enough to afford good-quality porcelain would be confident of its being able to cope with being exposed to boiling water unadulterated with milk.")
- The Schiehallion experiment attempted to calculated the mean density of the Earth by placing a pendulum near a Scottish mountain.
- Jeremy is a snail that's known for having a shell that coils to the left instead of to the right, a one-in-a-million genetic mutation. It is named after Jeremy Corbyn, for being a “lefty” snail (and after Corbyn's famous love for gardening).
- This short documentary retraces the story of Jeremy and the (successful) search for another left-coiled snail in the country, so that they could (unsuccessfully) mate.
- A list of the longest walks — something to beat next time you're out to the park doing your daily exercise allowance.
- Freedom Toasters are freely available kiosks that let you insert a blank CD or DVD, and burn upon them your choice of open source software (typically Linux distributions). They are intended to reduce the digital divide in poor or rural areas with limited access to high-speed internet, which makes downloading up-to-date software prohibitively expensive. The idea was more popular in the 2000s, but some kiosks still exist today in parts of South Africa and India.
- Some historians are trying to recreate the smells of history, and preserve those which are disappearing (“mothballs, burning piles of leaves in autumn, typewriter ribbons, early formulas of sunscreen and the lingering smell of cigarettes”).
- An article on the design of the Playstation 5, with this fascinating detail: "With no flat edges, the PS5 is a perfect articulation of defensive architecture, at the electronic scale. You cannot stack anything on top of it—even balancing a single controller on it is about impossible—which will help the machine run cool. This shape is a functional design decision because stacking electronics can lead to their overheating."
- Wombats are the only animals with cube-shaped poop and nobody really knows why. [via cailloux]
- In Poznań, eight mussels get to decide if people in the city get water or not. Clams close their shell when the water gets too polluted, and sensors hot-glued to them shut the whole water supply with them.
- A brief, bizarre and weird history of the baby cage, a device to let you “air” your baby out of your stuffy, warm apartments.
- The benefits of boredom.
- Pianos and keyboards almost all have a standardised key width, which was designed for larger hands: not coincidentally because male pianists were the ones occupying stages for so long, even though women have a long history of playing piano at home.
The PASK (Pianists for Alternatively Sized Keyboards) are lobbying today for piano and keyboard manufacturers to make three widths more widely available, to improve ergonomics and reduce the risk of repetitive strain injury for pianists with smaller hands. [via Saint_Loup]
- Sweden is experimenting with creating the One-Minute City, a hyperlocal version of the 15-minute neighbourhood.
Everything is depressing
- In 2005, a bizarre bug caused a pandemic in World of Warcraft, and the behaviours that ensued – very recognisable today – may prove useful to coronavirus researchers.
- The New War on Porn is an excellent longread revealing the tactics of the conservative anti-porn lobbies. Always coming under the commendable pretence of supporting victims of sex trafficking, they are extremely skilled at moving the goalposts to remove porn from the internet at large. Last month, these emotionally manipulative arguments made their way to a very popular NYT op-ed, which kicked off a backlash against MindGeek (the company behind most porn 'tube' sites). They were forced to make drastic changes, removing thousands of legitimate videos and hurting the revenue of thousands of sex workers in the process.
- Some programmers are going against the coming software apocalypse.
- Insurance companies that pay large companies' ransomware claims are funding organised crime by doing so. (How? “Britain's extortion laws prohibit the payment of ransoms to terrorists. But cyber-attacks are not carried out by terror groups, and so there is no bar to paying ransom demands – and it is possible to make an insurance claim if no personal data was involved.”)
- Grindr just got fined £8.6 million by Norway for breaching the GDPR by sharing sexuality and personal information with advertisers, putting its users at grave risk in some countries.
Good to look at
In my ears
Work! Design! Tech!
And that's it for this month.
Peace to you and yours,