This post has taken quite a bit longer to complete than I expected, so apologies in advance if a couple of the below links feel a bit stale. They’re still worth reading, though.
“Hence gradually the onion skins have been peeled away until the fetid heart of [Brexit] is exposed: not a policy but an undeliverable fantasy composed of lies and articulated in the language of spite, contempt and hate.” — Chris Grey on the Supreme Court judgment and its aftermath.
I loved Spitting Image back in the day and was delighted to hear that the satirical puppet show is making a a comeback. Adam J Smith and Jo Waugh take this opportunity to point out that there has been a problem inherent in British caricature for 300 years.
“But who’s the real freak – the activist whose determination has single-handedly started a powerful global movement for change, or the middle-aged man taunting a child with Asperger syndrome from behind the safety of their computer screens?” Jennifer O’Connell asks why Greta Thunberg is so triggering for certain men.
“T. K. hates a lot of things, but at the moment, it’s how she becomes the #1 target during dodgeball at gym. Everything changes, however, when she discovers that she has the ace ability to direct spherical objects — and she makes her classmates pay! But her powers are made for more than petty revenge, as she soon discovers while on a family vacation.” How to Move Spheres and Influence People is a short story set in the Wild Cards universe.
In Arctic Siberia, Russian scientists are trying to stave off catastrophic climate change by resurrecting an Ice Age biome complete with lab-grown woolly mammoths. Welcome to Pleistocene Park.
“The space between fiction and reality is where economic bubbles take shape.” Brent Goldfarb and David A Kirsch explore The economics of bubbles.
And finally, Antergos Linux is dead, long live EndeavourOS. Antergos was my main operating system for several years — I keep meaning to take a look at how well EndeavourOS has picked up the baton of being a newcomer friendly introduction to the occasionally painful world of Arch-based distributions.
It isn’t easy being a troll. Hand Me Downs is a short story by Maria Haskins.
“We Handed A Loaded Weapon To 4-Year-Olds.” Developer Chris Wetherell built Twitter’s retweet button. He tells Buzzfeed why he regrets what he did to this day.
Rosie Fletcher at Den of Geek suggests the 2 hour 45 minute running time for It Chapter Two indicates that the horror genre is moving into the mainstream. And that’s a good thing.
Over at Aeon, Matthew Stanley recounts British astronomer and physicist, Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington’s attempt to test Einstein’s theory of relativity. It’s worth reading not just for the challenges Stanley faced, but also the way in which he managed to craft the subsequent narrative into a symbol of post-war German-British solidarity.
This is a bit of an experiment and, as such, I am not making any promises about whether it becomes a regular (or even an irregular) feature on this blog. The motivation comes from the fact that, as I trawl various corners of the internet, I often encounter articles that are interesting but about which I have little or nothing to add.
I don’t want to descend into writing endless posts that say no more than Look At This, so I plan on pulling them together so that I can say Look At These. We shall see how, or if, this works.
First up is the short story that started me thinking about this type of post. Compost Traumatic Stress by Brian Koukol explores a once-sterile alien world seeded by the blood and guts of battle and follows the traumatized veteran tasked with keeping this alien fauna under control. It’s an effective and often moving exploration of the aftermath of war and well worth a read.
Taking a quick look at the ongoing disaster that is British politics these days, Jonathan Calder is exasperated with Heidi Allen and Nick Cohen is horrified at the way in which party politics have been allowed to undermine representative democracy. Personally, I think Parliament should insist on a vote of confidence for whoever the Tories select as the next Prim Minister. Regardless of how a party picks their leader, if that leader can’t demonstrate that they have the confidence of Parliament then they shouldn’t be able to form a government.
If Asian cinema has ever appealed to you (and it should) Paul Bramhall has a fascinating article on The General’s Son trilogy and the birth of the modern Korean gangster movie. I really need to carve out some time in my week to start making a dent in my DVD pile.
After 15 years exploring the surface of Mars, the Opportunity rover’s mission finally came to an end earlier this week.
The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive Opportunity Tuesday, to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10.
The Rover’s 90 day mission kept going for 15 years, during which it found proof of liquid water on the surface of the red planet and set the off-world driving record.
Opportunity sent back a huge stack of photos, which you can find all over the internet. I was goint to post some of these, but then decided to leave you with XKCD instead.
This is cool. Researchers at MIT have developed a robot that can play Jenga.
At first glance, it doesn’t sound like much — computers can play chess, go and a variety of other games. What sets this apart, though, is that Jenga is a game that requires physically moving blocks around. And while this is relatively easy for humans, teaching a robot to move stacked blocks without collapsing the tower requires a collection of physical skills that has not — until now — been attempted with robots.
Combining interactive perception and manipulation – whereby the robot would touch the tower to learn how and when to move blocks – is extremely difficult to simulate and therefore the robot has to learn in the real world.
So the researchers placed a two-pronged industrial robot arm with a force sensor in its wrist by the Jenga tower and allowed it to explore rather than using traditional machine-learning techniques that could require data from tens of thousands of block-extraction attempts in order to capture every possible scenario.
University of Chicago statistics major and admitted “geography and data nerd” Sasha Trubetskoy has use the iconography of the London Underground map to develop a map detailing the extent of Roman Roads circa 125AD. The result is spectacular.