reCAPTCHA is a great distributed computing idea, a joint effort between The Internet Archive and Carnegie Mellon to use captcha's to correct OCR errors in scanned texts. I wish TypePad would implement this. Any chance?
Interesting piece in NY Times today, by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang, about whether doing Sudoku puzzles or other "brain exercises" really do keep your brain in shape. Their reporting on the research concludes: "Not so much." On the other hand, they found that physical exercise had a strong effect on mental performance:
How might exercise help the brain? In people, fitness training slows
the age-related shrinkage of the frontal cortex, which is important for
executive function. In rodents, exercise increases the number of
capillaries in the brain, which should improve blood flow, and
therefore the availability of energy, to neurons. Exercise may also
help the brain by improving cardiovascular health, preventing heart
attacks and strokes that can cause brain damage. Finally, exercise
causes the release of growth factors, proteins that increase the number
of connections between neurons, and the birth of neurons in the
hippocampus, a brain region important for memory. Any of these effects
might improve cognitive performance, though it’s not known which ones
are most important.
The Edge-Serpentine Gallery has a show displaying various scientists' and thinkers' "equations." Some are just banal or silly (like John Brockman's: "New Technologies = New Perceptions"--which could just as well be reversed & most often should be), but a couple are pretty good. Danny Kahneman's is actually funny & very close to an equation Bruce Duffy put in his Wittgenstein novel, The World as I Found It:
W/F = S [W=Will, F=Fear, S=Scope]
When I first came across that one I revised it to:
(W * T)/F = S [adding T=Talent]
Then, on further reflection, added the relevant exponent (and it does matter that much), Luck:
((W*T)/F)L = S
It's a fun little game--but none of these entries compares to my all-time favorite (and completely insane) literary equation, Karl Kraus's formula for the female soul in his Aphorismen:
I've never actually plugged that formula into Excel to see what its graph looks like. Should I?
Well, this is sure a weird year in football... and the lowly Fighting Elvii are taking the brunt of the downs and being flayed by the freaky ups. Now 0-2, the Elvii have dropped consecutive games to Larry Craig's Wide Stance and the Dark Side by a combined 31 points. Worse yet, after executing a blockbuster trade with LCWS before Week 2, sending LaDanian Tomlinson to the Men's Room Prowler's for Willie Parker, Laveranues Coles, Calvin Johnson and an anonymous encounter to be named later, the Elvii couldn't even avail themselves of the sweet schadenfreude entailed by Tomlinson's sorry Week 2 performance at NWE: yeoman, but unspectacular performances, by Roethlisberger, McGahee, Driver, and Akers combined to give the MSP Toe-Tappers a 12-point win over Grendel's Mother for the Evil Division's sole 2-0 record.
As an indication of just how whacked the first two weeks of the NFL season have been for the FFO of the GCFFFL, a chart of FER (Fantasy Efficiency Rating) of the top twenty backs in the GCFFL:
Barber III, Marion
Lo that I didn't play James in Week 2, but who knew the Arizona Cardinals would play so tough against Seattle? Or that Chris Brown would tank in Week 2 (well... that I should have known).
In other news, Jon Kitna claims that ∃!x[All-Powerful(x) &
& Partisan w/r/t Sports(x)], AKA "God", helped him get back into the game against Minnesota. It looked to me like it was a combined 10 turnovers (including a stat-line for MN QB Tarvaris Jackson that included 0 passing TDs and 4 INTs) and the complete inability to make a field goal that made that game suck so badly. Turns out ∃!x was against me and my team. I hate it when that happens.
Reader Animadversion (Warning May Contain Wonk-like Substance) Alert! In his TMQ column this week, Gregg Easterbrook runs a deeps rant against the Big Three automakers for their continued recalcitrance, vis. higher fuel efficiency standards. It's a deep play for a big gain--but it gets called back for Illegal Stat Downfield. In his piece, Easterbrook links to an IIHS study, and uses the data therein to make the following claim: "And although being in a heavy SUV might make the driver feel safer, the reality is the opposite." Uh, not according to this IIHS study, which has a better break-down of the numbers than the one linked to by Easterbrook. In fact, you are MUCH safer in an SUV than any other type of vehicle than a Lincoln Continental.
OTOH, as this chart from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change shows, the U.S. is embarrassingly far behind other industrialized nations in fuel efficiency. Far from needing some "cold fusion"-like breakthrough in technology to achieve respectable fuel efficiency, the rest of the world is already there.
Now, I've driven some of those tiny Euro-cars. If you're winding your way around a Greek island, they're fantastic: peppy, nice room in the hatchback, and can even seat four adults and a kid or two on a lap while climbing switchbacks coming back from the beach. But if a Lincoln Navigator blew by me in one of those things on I-94, it would probably throw me right into the ditch. Which is why, even though there's already a SmartCar dealership in the Twin Cities, I won't be rushing out to buy one.
So, OK, we're not going to get Euro mileage in the U.S.--but if Lexus sells hybrid sports cars and SUVs, the argument isn't about the kind of car we want (or need) to buy, but what kind of powertrains we're willing to put in them. In fact, I recently came across this fascinating story from the racing world, at the After Gutenberg blog:
A converted Toyota Supra GT won a 24-hour endurance race in Japan.
Some automotive writers have gone so far as to state that a new era had
dawned when the specially modified Toyota Supra HV-R hybrid race car
won the Tokashi. The ultracapacitor-equipped Toyota Supra HV-R coupe
became the first hybrid to win the 24-hour endurance car race held at
Japan’s Tokachi International Speedway. The hybrid Supra finished 616
laps of the 5.1-kilometer (roughly three-mile) course—19 more laps than
the second-place, non-hybrid, Nissan Fairlady Z.
That's a hell of a lot sexier than a Prius! So, I guess we'll leave it to the Big Three to bitch and whine, while the rest of the world kicks our ass.
A friend recently passed along this link, to a TED demo on Microsoft's work on Photosynth. When the folks at TED call this demo "jaw dropping," they're not kidding. If you have any interest at all in where digital media may be headed, or the possibilities for online narrative could go, you have to check this out.
In a historical vein, Kottke points our attention to Alex Wright's Glut. As Jason says, "Whoa." Guess Vannevar Bush's 1945 Atlantic article, "As We May Think" wasn't the first articulation of the idea behind the Web. Rather, that honor belongs to a Belgian artist, Paul Otlet. Read Kottke's post for more, including a video of Otlet's presenting his ideas.
Finally, while doing a little searching on the history of hypertext novels (and Nabokov's Pale Fire often gets the nod, while I'd give it to Cortazar's Hopscotch, which came just a year later: it's not any more obviously intertextual--but it handles its intertextuality in a way which is much more like the way in which we browse the Web than Nabokov's sequentially straight-jacketed Pale Fire does), I came across this intriguing "History of Hypertext Timeline."