Ramblings & ephemera

SMS gateways you can use to get around high texting charges

Tired of high SMS charges? Use these SMS gateways, which translate emails & IMs into SMS text messages … for free (well, to the sender, anyway – the recipient still has to pay). And when recipients reply, those replies come back to the sender in the same format; in other words, you email someone, they […]

Programmer jokes

Q: How do you tell an introverted computer scientist from an extroverted computer scientist? A: An extroverted computer scientist looks at your shoes when he talks to you. Knock, knock. Who’s there? very long pause…. Java. Saying that Java is nice because it works on every OS is like saying that anal sex is nice […]

Add houseplants to your home & office

From David Pogue’s “TED’s Greatest Hits” (The New York Times: 10 February 2009): Kamal Meattle reported the results of his efforts to fill an office building with plants, in an effort to reduce headache, asthma, and other productivity-sapping aliments in thickly polluted India. After researching NASA documents, he concluded that a set of three particular […]

The color of the TV you watch determines the color of your dreams

From Richard Alleyne’s “Black and white TV generation have monochrome dreams” (The Telegraph: 17 October 2008): New research suggests that the type of television you watched as a child has a profound effect on the colour of your dreams. While almost all under 25s dream in colour, thousands of over 55s, all of whom were […]

Great, wonderfully-designed consumer products

From Farhad Manjoo’s “iPod: I love you, you’re perfect, now change” (Salon: 23 October 2006): There are very few consumer products about which you’d want to read a whole book — the Google search engine, the first Mac, the Sony Walkman, the VW Beetle. Levy proves that the iPod, which turns five years old today, […]

The Piraha language of Brazil

From Wikipedia’s “Pirahã language“: The Pirahã language is a language spoken by the Pirahã – an indigenous people of Amazonas, Brazil, who live along the Maici river, a tributary of the Amazon. Pirahã is believed to be the only surviving member of the Mura language family, all other members having become extinct in the last […]

Camouflaged weapons

From Noah Shachtman’s “Chameleon Weapons Defy Detection” (Defense Tech: 27 March 2006): Last week I talked to Anthony Taylor, managing partner of an outfit which makes weapons which can be hidden in plain sight. You can be looking right at one without realizing what it is. One type is the exact size and shape of […]

How to travel to the most isolated human settlement on earth

From Adam Goodheart’s “The Last Island of the Savages” (The American Scholar, Autumn 2000, 69(4):13-44): This is how you get to the most isolated human settlement on earth [North Sentinel Island, in the Andaman Islands]: You board an evening flight at JFK for Heathrow, Air India 112, a plane full of elegant sari-clad women, London-bound […]

Google’s number tricks

From “Fuzzy maths” (The Economist: 11 May 2006): MATHEMATICALLY confident drivers stuck in the usual jam on highway 101 through Silicon Valley were recently able to pass time contemplating a billboard that read: “{first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e}.com.” The number in question, 7427466391, is a sequence that starts at the 101st […]

Recover sounds from the ancient world

From Christer Hamp’s “Archaeoacoustics“: By archaeoacoustics I mean the recovery of sounds from the time before the invention of recording. This implies that such sounds would have been recorded inadvertently, while intending to do sometring else. Not much has been written about this subject and only very few experiments have been made, but I find […]

A living story, tattooed on flesh

From The New York Times Magazine‘s “Skin Literature“: Most artists spend their careers trying to create something that will live forever. But the writer Shelley Jackson is creating a work of literature that is intentionally and indisputably mortal. Jackson is publishing her latest short story by recruiting 2,095 people, each of whom will have one […]

Pi to unfathomable places

From “Man recites pi from memory to 83,431 places“: A Japanese psychiatric counselor has recited pi to 83,431 decimal places from memory, breaking his own personal best of 54,000 digits and setting an unofficial world record, a media report said Saturday. Akira Haraguchi, 59, had begun his attempt to recall the value of pi – […]

Robot on the run

From The Age: Scientists running a pioneering experiment with “living robots” which think for themselves said they were amazed to find one escaping from the centre where it “lives”. The small unit, called Gaak, was one of 12 taking part in a “survival of the fittest” test at the Magna science centre in Rotherham, South […]

Sleazy books

From sleazy and how!: I’m a sucker for a sleazy mystery or a trampy romance novel from the 1950’s-60’s. I usually buy these silly books more for the covers than the stories, but sometimes both are equally bizarre. This is a gallery of some of the better books I’ve come across. Some have book summaries, […]

A library of imaginary books

From The Invisible Library: The Invisible Library is a collection of books that only appear in other books. Within the library’s catalog you will find imaginary books, pseudobiblia, artifictions, fabled tomes, libris phantastica, and all manner of books unwritten, unread, unpublished, and unfound.

The mystery of the Voynich mss

From John Baez: The Voynich manuscript is by far the most mysterious of all texts. It is seven by ten inches in size, and about 200 pages long. It is made of soft, light-brown vellum. It is written in a flowing cursive script in alphabet that has never been seen elsewhere. Nobody knows what it […]

More proof of time travel?

From Ohio.com: It was 11:15 p.m. on a warm June night in 1950, and the area of Times Square was buzzing with people leaving the theaters. Suddenly, in the midst of traffic appeared an odd-looking man, about 30 years old. He wore mutton-chop whiskers and quaint clothing that had gone out of style decades before. […]

Time travelers on the NYC subway

From Making Light: The funny thing is, I’ve seen time travellers in NYC. Or at any rate I’ve seen people I thought were time travellers, and one case where I was sure. This happened one day back in the 1980s. I was riding the subway home from work, and this kid got on at 34th […]

The Forbes Fictional Fifteen

If fiction can be regarded as a culture’s subconscious, then it’s clear that we are a nation obsessed with the very rich. From avaricious caricatures like The Simpsons’ Montgomery Burns to literary character studies like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby, our culture — both high and low — is littered with images of billionaires and […]

One of my favorite ideas: flow

From BrainChannels: Mr. Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced chick-sent-me-high-ee) is chiefly renowned as the architect of the notion of flow in creativity; people enter a flow state when they are fully absorbed in activity during which they lose their sense of time and have feelings of great satisfaction. Mr. Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as “being completely involved in an […]