Four short links: 1 June 2009

Spymaster, Arsenic, Maps, and Happiness

  1. Spymaster — a faux-spy game on Twitter: Each player becomes a master of a spy ring based upon their Twitter followers list. The more people that follow you and are playing characters in Spymaster, the more powerful your network will be. As a spymaster, you can perform tasks or attack other spymasters on Twitter. With each successful attempt, you will gain virtual currency and points that allow you to grow even stronger. I’m nervous that it’s a project of a classified ads company, but intelligent friends appear to be enjoying it, but that may just be be the jaded eye of a world-weary veteran of pyramid schemes and spamalots.
  2. Getting Arsenic Out Of Water — MIT Technology Review piece about the IBM discovery that a chemical used to pattern chips also acts as a membrane to remove arsenic. More stuff that matters. (via roterhund on Twitter)
  3. Mapumental — MySociety folks making maps useful. It’s the continuation of time travel maps, where bus, train, tram, tube, and ferry timetables are mashed with real estate prices to show you where you can live for what you can afford and how long a commute you want. A new twist is crowdsourced “how scenic is this area?” data, so you can choose other dimensions for where you might want to live. New dimensions on transportation data and travel planning.
  4. What Makes Us Happy? (The Atlantic) — the real world is a lot more complex than trivial “get happy fast!” self-help books would have you believe. This longitudinal study shows how complex happiness and misery are. Vaillant’s other main interest is the power of relationships. “It is social aptitude,” he writes, “not intellectual brilliance or parental social class, that leads to successful aging.” Warm connections are necessary—and if not found in a mother or father, they can come from siblings, uncles, friends, mentors. The men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable, except defenses. Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger. In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.” (via timoreilly on Twitter)
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  • Ross Stapleton-Gray

    I’m thinking the concern re the spy game might be real/virtual world confusion, e.g., DHS or NSA starts picking up bits of messaging about “spymasters” and “spy rings,” and (1) boosts our alert level, and (2) puts people into a maze of twisty little no-fly caveats that all look alike, from which they never extricate themselves. On the other hand, if I were a foreign spy agency, this is just the sort of game I’d create to lay the groundwork for later spotting, assessment and recruitment. And then there’s Ender’s Game aspects… while the players “play,” they’re actually carrying out tasks built in by the gamemaster.