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Being "always on" is being always off, to something.

A Bird Ballet, by Neels Castillon
Topic: Science 7:40 am EST, Feb 11, 2013

Stella Adler:

Life beats down and crushes the soul, and art reminds you that you have one.

Neels Castillon:

Thousands and thousands of birds came and made this incredible dance in the sky.

Sophie Windsor Clive:

A chance encounter and shared moment with one of nature's greatest and most fleeting phenomena.


Life is too short to spend 2300 hours a year working on someone else's idea of what the right problems are.

A Bird Ballet, by Neels Castillon

Its inevitable release might be harmful
Topic: Technology 6:52 am EST, Mar  5, 2012

Adrian Chen:

With Martin's system, each crewmember gets a cell phone that operates using a prepaid SIM card; they also get a two-week plastic pill organizer filled with 14 SIM cards where the pills should be. Each SIM card, loaded with $50 worth of airtime, is attached to a different phone number and stores all contacts, text messages and call histories associated with that number, like a removable hard drive. This makes a new SIM card effectively a new phone. Every morning, each crewmember swaps out his phone's card for the card in next day's compartment in the pill organizers. After all 14 cards are used, they start over at the first one.

Of course, it would be hugely annoying for a crewmember to have to remember the others' constantly changing numbers. But he doesn't have to, thanks to the pill organizers. Martin preprograms each day's SIM card with the phone numbers the other members have that day. As long they all swap out their cards every day, the contacts in the phones stay in sync. (They never call anyone but each other on the phones.) Crewmembers will remind each other to "take their medicine," Martin said.

William J. H. Andrewes:

The schemes that divided the day into 24 equal parts varied according to the start of the count: Italian hours began at sunset, Babylonian hours at sunrise, astronomical hours at midday and "great clock" hours (used for some large public clocks in Germany) at midnight. Eventually these and competing systems were superseded by "small clock," or French, hours, which split the day, as we currently do, into two 12-hour periods commencing at midnight.

Mike Loukides:

The small town culture (which may never have really existed) in which everyone knew everything about everyone disappeared as we moved into suburbs, where nobody knew anything about anyone. And that's really where our notions of "privacy" arose. The local pharmacies started disappearing, to be replaced by big chains like CVS and Walgreens. As Douden's and Jolly's disappeared from local culture, so did the local pharmacist who knew and remembered who you were and what you bought, and who was able to put two and two together without the help of a Hadoop cluster.

Laurie Garrett:

Rather than trying to censor research because its inevitable release might be harmful, we ought to be having a frank, open discussion about its implications.

Thomas Rid:

Cybersecurity has a broader meaning in non-democracies: For them, the worst-case scenario is not collapsing power plants, but collapsing political power. Russia and China are ahead of the United States, but mostly in defining cybersecurity as the fight against subversive behavior. This is the true cyberwar they are fighting.

More Bomb Shelter Than Bomb
Topic: Society 6:39 am EST, Mar  5, 2012

George Dyson:

The way to truly understand something is to understand how it began.

Abigail Zuger:

Soon a person's precise genetic data will be augmented by an extraordinary wealth of other digital data ... The outcome will be nothing short of a new "science of individuality," one that defines individuals "at a more granular and molecular level than ever imaginable."

Some may be exhilarated at the prospect of their physicians' knowing them so intimately. Others may be moved to reflect that just as they are more than their demographics, they are also far more than the sum of their various granules.

Alexis Madrigal:

The great downside to this beautiful, free web that we have is that you have to sell your digital self in order to access it. That's the game, and there is substantial money in it.

Every move you make on the Internet is worth some tiny amount to someone, and a panoply of companies want to make sure that no step along your Internet journey goes unmonetized.

If and when that wall breaks down, the numbers may overwhelm the name. The unconsciously created profile may mean more than the examined self I've sought to build.

Theo Anderson:

For all the trillions of dollars spent in the name of freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan, the only freedom we really seem to want is the freedom to choose our own form of slavery.

David Foster Wallace:

Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.

Teju Cole:

Drone warfare and the IMF are variations on a theme: decisions taken from a great height, with disregard for consequences on the ground.

The question is this: those people down there, are they really people? It's a question about for whose sake this world exists.

Someone in soft, casual clothes in a featureless building in Nevada presses a button, and the question disappears.

Will Wilkinson:

Country music is a bulwark against cultural change, a reminder that "what you see is what you get," a means of keeping the charge of enchantment in "the little things" that make up the texture of the every day, and a way of literally broadcasting the emotional and cultural centrality of the conventional big-ticket experiences that make a life a life.

A lot of country music these days is culture war, but it's more bomb shelter than bomb.

The Product Of Your Choosing
Topic: Technology 7:51 am EST, Mar  1, 2012

Kamala Harris:

The majority of mobile apps sold today do not contain a privacy policy.

Metafilter Wisdom:

If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold.

Nick Bilton:

The private photos on your phone may not be as private as you think.

After a user allows an application on an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to have access to location information, the app can copy the user's entire photo library, without any further notification or warning.

Patrick Haggard:

We feel we choose, but we don't.


If you are given a choice, you believe you have acted freely. This is one of the darkest of all psychological secrets.

Barack Obama:

For businesses to succeed online, consumers must feel secure.

Jean-Luc Godard:

It's not where you take things from -- it's where you take them to.

David Foster Wallace:

If anybody feels like perspiring, I'd advise you to go ahead, because I'm sure going to.

Nothing Fools You Better Than The Lie You Tell Yourself
Topic: Society 7:53 am EST, Feb 27, 2012

Howard Schmidt:

I don't have to get a credential if I don't want to.

Kamala Harris:

The majority of mobile apps sold today do not contain a privacy policy.


Nothing fools you better than the lie you tell yourself.

Barack Obama:

As the Internet evolves, consumer trust is essential for the continued growth of the digital economy. That's why an online privacy Bill of Rights is so important. For businesses to succeed online, consumers must feel secure.

Arvind Narayanan:

While the Internet was conceived as a decentralized network, the most widely used web applications today tend toward centralization. Control increasingly rests with centralized service providers who, as a consequence, have also amassed unprecedented amounts of data about the behaviors and personalities of individuals.

Kevin Kelly:

The main lesson ... is to beware of large numbers in social media. The larger the number, the more fluffy it is.

James B. Stewart:

Apple is now such a large part of the S.& P. 500 and the Nasdaq 100 indexes that it has buoyed millions of investors who own shares of broad index funds and mutual funds. These investors account for an estimated half of the American population.

Apple is so big, it's running up against the law of large numbers.

An Undomesticated, Unpredictable Wilderness
Topic: Technology 7:53 am EST, Feb 27, 2012

Tom Vanderbilt:

Maybe the problem is not that texting and Facebook are distracting us from driving. Maybe the problem is that driving distracts us from our digital lives.

Simson Garfinkel:

It's impossible for a program to evaluate a previously unseen piece of software and determine whether it is malicious without actually running it.

Michel de Montaigne:

When I am playing with my cat, how do I know she is not playing with me?

Marco Arment:

Everyone has their bullshit. You can simply decide whose you're willing to tolerate.

Christopher Christenson:

Like most other websites popular among strange liberal druggies, at its core, Tumblr is a cult. You can't have a moral website with cats, that's an inherent contradiction. However, cats are extremely persuasive and have turned many people to the dark side.

George Dyson:

There will always be codes that do unpredictable things. This is why the digital universe will never be a national park; it will always be an undomesticated, unpredictable wilderness.

Computers are idle 99 percent of the time, just waiting for the next instruction. While they're waiting for us to come up with instructions, more and more computation is happening without us, as computers write instructions for each other. And as Turing showed mathematically, this space can't be supervised. As the digital universe expands, so does this wild, undomesticated side.

Steven at Panic:

Trying to make applications free of vulnerabilities (while still an important goal) is to lose the overall cat-and-mouse race.

Undersecretary of Commerce Mark Foulon:

It has become clear that Internet access in itself is a vulnerability that we cannot mitigate. We have tried incremental steps and they have proven insufficient.

If you find it bleak, that is your problem
Topic: Science 7:53 am EST, Feb 27, 2012

Cormac McCarthy:

Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.

Luis Bettencourt, on Cormac McCarthy:

He just asks really good questions.

David Bell:

What the history of war makes clear is that the administration's embrace of "remote control warfare" does not signal an abolition of restraints on war's destructive power. Using technology to strike safely at an opponent is as old as war itself. If you are concerned about American aggression, it is not the drones you should fear, but the politicians who order them into battle.

Dennis Overbye:

It would be silly to think that we won't have better answers and better questions 50 or 100 years from now, but for the moment this is the story science can tell. If you find it bleak, that is your problem.

Sam Kean:

Jim Carter rejects field theory outright, preferring a mechanical universe based on particles he calls "circlons." Circlons look like long springs coiled into a donut, and he has reimagined everything from the big bang to the periodic table in terms of them.

Carter transforms a few trashcans and a smoke machine into a device that makes giant smoke rings. Carter believes that smoke rings behave as circlons do at a microscopic level, and the device will allow him to test a few ideas rattling his brain. But instead of getting down to business, he regales his neighbors by puffing rings across his yard all afternoon.

Freeman Dyson:

Many of the leaders of the first revolution, like Einstein, spent the rest of their lives pursuing various radical ideas that led nowhere. Each of them imagined that his own personal vision would be the key that would open the door to the second revolution.

"Leonard Nimoy":

It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies. And in the end, isn't that the real truth?

The answer ... is No.

A Seemingly Infinite Prairie of Possibility
Topic: Technology 8:16 am EST, Feb 24, 2012

Jesse Darling:

If you want to know about the halcyon years of the World Wide Web, ask one of the elders and they'll tell you that the wild frontier once consisted of a few scrappy settlements, pitched in rickety code, on a seemingly infinite prairie of possibility. "Not like now," they'll tell you, sadly, and shake their heads at what became of it all: the great digital dream of libertarian net-autonomy replaced by a monopoly of mall-like social-media platforms, where the kids all hang out in their outlandish avatars, talking to one another in a broken argot of phonetics and hieroglyphs. A generation of users, whose addiction mutates and proliferates each day anew. Seeking novel strains of viral data with which to feed its own sickness, it chews on itself for days before regurgitating its own guts in a feedback loop of 24-bit RGB rainbows.

David Cronenberg:

A lot of filmmaking in America is nostalgia filmmaking, trying to recapture what you loved as a kid.

Tom Cheshire:

Tumblr is growing up, fast: the site expanded its user base by 900 per cent in the year to June 2011. In 2010, it served under two billion monthly page views; now, it generates about 14 billion, more than Wikipedia or Twitter.

On average, a Tumblr post gets reblogged nine times.

John Donovan:

Over the past five years, AT&T's wireless data traffic has grown 20,000%.

Plan UK:

The advert uses facial recognition software with an HD camera to determine whether a man or woman is standing in front of the screen, and shows different content accordingly.

Men and boys are denied the choice to view the full content in order to highlight the fact that women and girls across the world are denied choices and opportunities on a daily basis due to poverty and discrimination.

Patrick Haggard:

We feel we choose, but we don't.

Ed Fletcher:

Burning Man Struggles With Immigration Reform

Richard Thaler:

In using lotteries to motivate it is important to get the details right.

A New Future of Positive Forgetting
Topic: Society 8:16 am EST, Feb 24, 2012

Richard Thaler:

Many people love lotteries.

Adam Davidson:

Hollywood is, in some ways, the model lottery industry. [But] even glamour-free industries offer economic-lottery systems. Part of the American post-World War II economic miracle was that most people didn't have to choose between a high-stakes-lottery job or a lousy dead-end one. Strivers were able to dream bigger because they had a solid Plan B. Now, many economists fear that the comfortable Plan B jobs are disappearing. It's not clear what today's eager 23-year-old will do in 5 or 10 years when she decides that acting (or that accounting partnership) isn't going to work out after all.

Dennis Overbye:

The universe will revert to nothingness.

Nothing to nothing.

One day it's all going to seem like a dream.

But who is or was the dreamer?

Matt Heusser:

By the time you turn thirty-five, you'd better have a plan.

Lauren Clark:

It's good to have a plan, but if something extraordinary comes your way, you should go for it.

Jenny Diski:

Eternal sunshine requires a spotty, not a spotless mind. Keep the good stuff, snuff out the bad. So where the Victorians believed in hard experience building character, and the 20th century put its faith in facing demons, we may be looking at a new future of positive forgetting.

David Clark, on Victor Mayer-Schoenberger:

If the gathering, storage, and processing of information puts us all in the center of a digital panopticon, the failure to forget creates a panopticon crossbred with a time-travel machine.

Don't forget about forgetting.

Our Sanctuary and Our Refuge
Topic: Arts 7:18 am EST, Feb 23, 2012

Sonja Hinrichsen:

Snow Drawings

Matt Morris:

Come rain or shine, 88-year-old Bermudian Johnny Barnes devotes six hours every day to an endearing traffic ritual that has made him one of the island's most cherished citizens.

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE visits Prime Burger Restaurant, in Midtown Manhattan:

There's no place like home. It's where we live, work and dream. It's our sanctuary and our refuge. We can love them or hate them. It can be just for the night or for the rest of our lives. But whoever we may be, we all have a place we call home.

Mark at Departure Arrival Firms:

On an unseasonably warm November night in Manhattan on our way to get ice cream, we stumbled upon what appeared to be a vintage shop, brightly lit display window and all. As we began to walk in, a man sitting out front warned us that we were welcome to explore, but nothing inside was for sale. Our interests piqued, we began to browse through the collections the man out front had built throughout his life. This is a story of a man and his home.

Jonathan Harris:

And now comes good sailing.

Three final stories from Baz.

Oscar Peterson & Clark Terry:


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