- The Coffee-Ring Effect (YouTube) — beautiful video of what happens in liquids as they evaporate, explaining why coffee stains are rings, and how to create liquids with even evaporative coating.
- The Importance of Quantitative Thinking Medicine (PDF) — scaling laws underly aging, metabolism, drug delivery, BMI, and more. Full of wow moments, like Fractals are a common feature of many complex systems ranging from river networks, earthquakes, and the internet to stock markets and cities. [...] Geometrically, the nested levels of continuous branching and crenulations inherent in fractallike structures optimise the transport of information, energy, and resources by maximising the surface areas across which these essential features of life flow within any volume. Because of their fractal nature, these effective surface areas are much larger than their apparent physical size. For example, even though the volume of our lungs is about 5–6 L, the total surface area of all the alveoli is almost the size of a tennis court and the total length of airways is about 2500 km. Even more striking is that if all the arteries, veins, and capillaries of an individual’s circulatory system were laid end to end, its total length would be about 100000 km, or nearly two and a half times around the earth.
- Autonomous Robotic Plane at MIT (YouTube) — hypnotic to watch it discover the room. A product of the Robust Robotics Group at MIT.
- Electric Sheep — hypnotic screensaver, where the sleeping computers collaborate on animations. You can vote up or down the animation on your screen, changing the global gene pool. Popular animations survive and propagate.
"collective intelligence" entries
Twitter could be so much better than an advertising company
We can now gather from Twitter’s IPO that it’s fundamentally postured as an advertising company, but its real value isn’t in advertising. Twitter’s most fundamental value rests squarely within data analytics. However, just because Twitter could make a lot of money in advertising doesn’t mean that advertising is where it should concentrate the majority of your efforts or where its most fundamental value proposition lies.
More specifically, Twitter’s most fundamental value is in the overall collective intelligence of its user base when interpreted as an interest graph. Think of an interest graph as a mapping of people to their interests. In other words, if you follow an account on Twitter, what you’re really saying is that you’re interested in that account. Even though there’s lots to be gleaned in all of the little 140 character quips associated with a particular account, there’s a good bit you can tell about a person by solely examining the accounts that the person follows.
Coffee Rings, Scaling Laws, Autonomous Aircraft, and Dreaming Computers
Touch-Typing Instruction, HTTP Header Attacks, Sorting Ratings, and Risks of Inspecting Applicants' Facebook Pages
- Typing Club — lessons to improve your touch-typing, building you up letter by letter to speed and mastery. Like how I learned, only without the typewriters and the bibs and the roomful of girls. It wasn’t easy being the only boy in typing class, but somehow I managed. (via EdTech ideas)
- SQL Injection via HTTP Headers — excellent introduction to how some surprising HTTP headers can be attack vectors.
- How Not to Sort by Average Rating (Evan Miller) — so easy to get it wrong, so eye-wateringly complex a formula to do it right. (via Hacker News)
- I Hereby Resign (Reg Braithwaite) — not an actual resignation letter, but it highlights exactly why asking to see applicants’ Facebook pages is a bad idea. “If you are surfing my Facebook, you could reasonably be expected to discover that I am a Lesbian. Since discrimination against me on this basis is illegal in Ontario, I am just preparing myself for the possibility that you might refuse to hire me and instead hire someone who is a heterosexual but less qualified in any way. Likewise, if you do hire me, I might need to have your employment contracts disclosed to ensure you aren’t paying me less than any male and/or heterosexual colleagues with equivalent responsibilities and experience.” Ditto “spouse is pregnant so I’m about to take maternity leave just after you hire me”, etc. Those things you spend days thumping into HR that they aren’t supposed to ask about? All on the applicants’ Facebook pages.
MIND CONTROL COPTERS!, Better Security, Ratings Systems, and Lightweight Reference
- Continuous Three-Dimensional Control of a Virtual Helicopter Using a Motor Imagery Based Brain-Computer Interface (PLOSone) — direct brain control is becoming a reality, tiny step by tiny step. Also: HELICOPTERS!
- Forward Secrecy for HTTPS — Google contributed a better HTTPS cipher suite to OpenSSL, one that doesn’t share keys between conversations. Yay the Goog for giving back.
- Ratings Systems (Quora) — very good answer from the VP of Engineering at Netflix about the purposes and effects of different ratings and feedback systems. Full of pithy and true guidelines like: Your users have a certain mental budget they will invest in your rating system. The more work you make each decision, the fewer decisions you will get. This is true in many contexts other than rating systems as well. You can’t randomly throw feedback mechanisms into your app, you must design them as deliberately and thoughtfully as the rest of your site.
- InstaCSS — very simple very useful reference site. Grod like simplicity.
Cell Operating System, Search Savvy, Smiling Sliders, and Recommendation Tools
- Attempts to Make a Cell Operating System (Science Daily) — finally we will be able to have the guaranteed quality of software and the safety of biological organisms.
- Why Kids Can’t Search (Clive Thompson) — kids need to be taught critical thinking skills about what they find on the web. Librarians are our national leaders in this fight; they’re the main ones trying to teach search skills to kids today.
- Smiley Slider — cute little way to get feedback. (via Jyri Tuulos)
- LensKit — an open source toolkit for building, researching, and studying recommender systems.
Open Access, Retro Crypto, Open Source Q&A, and Music Visualization
- Open Access Week — a global event promoting Open Access as a new norm in scholarship and research.
- The Copiale Cipher — cracking a historical code with computers. Details in the paper: The book describes the initiation of “DER CANDIDAT” into a secret society, some functions of which are encoded with logograms. (via Discover Magazine)
- Coordino — open source Quota-like question-and-answer software. (via Smashing Magazine)
- Baroque.me — visualization of the first prelude from the first Cello Suite by Bach. Music is notoriously difficult to visualize (Disney’s Fantasia is the earliest attempt that I know of) as there is so much it’s possible to capture. (via Andy Baio)
Feedback, Open Source Marketing, Programming in the Browser, and Twitter's Open Source Realtime Engine
- Implicit and Explicit Feedback — for preferences and recommendations, implicit signals (what people clicked on and actually listened to) turn out to be strongly correlated with what they would say if you asked. (via Greg Linden)
- Pivoting to Monetize Mobile Hyperlocal Social Gamification by Going Viral — Schuyler Erle’s stellar talk at the open source geospatial tools conference. Video, may cause your sides to ache.
- Twitter Storm (GitHub) — distributed realtime computation system, intended for realtime what Hadoop is to batch processing. Interesting because you improve most reporting and control systems when you move them closer to real-time. Eclipse-licensed open source.
Robo-journalism, digital fingerprinting, decentralized soldier networks, and drag-and-drop data retrieval.
In the latest Strata Week: StatSheet automates short sports articles, BlueCava uniquely identifies devices, ALADDIN implements distributed decision-making, and Needle helps you find just the data you're looking for.
Being Wrong, Science Malfunding, Touch-screen Libraries, Mining Flickr Photos
- Ira Glass on Being Wrong (Slate) — fascinating interview with Ira Glass on the fundamental act of learning: being wrong. I had this experience a couple of years ago where I got to sit in on the editorial meeting at the Onion. Every Monday they have to come up with like 17 or 18 headlines, and to do that, they generate 600 headlines per week. I feel like that’s why it’s good: because they are willing to be wrong 583 times to be right 17. (via Hacker News)
- Real Lives and White Lies in the Funding of Scientific Research (PLoSBiology) — very clear presentation of the problems with the current funding models of scientific research, where the acknowledged best scientists spend most of their time writing funding proposals. K.’s plight (an authentic one) illustrates how the present funding system in science eats its own seed corn. To expect a young scientist to recruit and train students and postdocs as well as producing and publishing new and original work within two years (in order to fuel the next grant application) is preposterous.
- jQTouch Roadmap — interesting to me is the primary distinction between Sencha and jQTouch, namely that jQT is for small devices (phones) only, while Sencha handles small and large (tablet) touch-screen devices. (via Simon St Laurent)
- Travel Itineraries from Flickr Photo Trails (Greg Linden) — clever idea, to use metadata extracted from Flickr photos (location, time, etc.) to construct itineraries for travellers, saying where to go, how long to spend there, and how long to expect to spend getting from place to place. Another story of the surprise value that can be extracted from overlooked data.