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My Ball of Wires

Some people have a junk drawer. Some people have a shoebox of memories. But not me. I have a Ball of Wires.

The Ball spends its days overflowing a 31-gallon plastic tub. It contains my collection of audio/video, computer, and telephone cables, assembled over a decade of roaming the US, connecting things to other things. The Ball is hopelessly tangled -- it takes a good ten minutes to disentangle any given cable you want from the Ball -- assuming you can find it in the first place. I'm constantly removing cables from the Ball, but somehow it continues to gain mass and needs semi-annual upgrades into ever-larger plastic tubs.

Witness more details of my secret messiness after the jump.

Ball of Wires in Tub

Embedded in the Ball are: several obsolete cell phones, a TI graphing calculator from high school, an impressive array of SCSI cables from old Macs, several dozen RCA/RCA-to-1/4" audio cables, many hundreds of dollars of microphone cables, power cables, USB cables (several flavors), serial cables (Mac and PC), one parallel (printer) cable from a failed PC project, an answering machine, a metal music stand (in two pieces for easy storage), a USB hub from 1998, an assortment of telephone and Ethernet cords, a collection of torx wrenches, an anti-static wrist strap kit, an assortment of WiFi antennas, a Nintendo 64 controller (there used to be two, but one is out on permanent loan), several power strips, several computer mice, several 9-volt wall warts (many now hopelessly disassociated from their appliances of origin), and...well, you get it.

Ball of Wires - Big

My new visitor, Emma the cat, likes the Ball of Wires. It's chewy. Mostly I keep it under wraps (safely crammed in its host container), as it represents a sort of immense to-do item that may never get done. I bet if I spent a day disentangling, I could sort these all out. But how boring would that be? And wouldn't that destroy a handy metaphor?

A friend recently saw the Ball and suggested a good joke: "Just tell people you went wireless."

So what's your secret Ball of Wires? Do you have any special bits of clutter hiding in your home? Do you have any plans to deal with them?

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WWF
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Animals
Watch an Antarctic Minke Whale Feed in a First-of-Its-Kind Video
WWF
WWF

New research from the World Wildlife Fund is giving us a rare glimpse into the world of the mysterious minke whale. The WWF worked with Australian Antarctic researchers to tag minke whales with cameras for the first time, watching where and how the animals feed.

The camera attaches to the whale's body with suction cups. In the case of the video below, the camera accidentally slid down the side of the minke whale's body, providing an unexpected look at the way its throat moves as it feeds.

Minke whales are one of the smallest baleen whales, but they're still pretty substantial animals, growing 30 to 35 feet long and weighing up to 20,000 pounds. Unlike other baleen whales, though, they're small enough to maneuver in tight spaces like within sea ice, a helpful adaptation for living in Antarctic waters. They feed by lunging through the sea, gulping huge amounts of water along with krill and small fish, and then filtering the mix through their baleen.

The WWF video shows just how quickly the minke can process this treat-laden water. The whale could lunge, process, and lunge again every 10 seconds. "He was like a Pac-Man continuously feeding," Ari Friedlaender, the lead scientist on the project, described in a press statement.

The video research, conducted under the International Whaling Commission's Southern Ocean Research Partnership, is part of WWF's efforts to protect critical feeding areas for whales in the region.

If that's not enough whale for you, you can also watch the full 13-minute research video below:

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iStock
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technology
AI Could Help Scientists Detect Earthquakes More Effectively
iStock
iStock

Thanks in part to the rise of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, earthquakes are becoming more frequent in the U.S. Even though it doesn't fall on a fault line, Oklahoma, where gas and oil drilling activity doubled between 2010 and 2013, is now a major earthquake hot spot. As our landscape shifts (literally), our earthquake-detecting technology must evolve to keep up with it. Now, a team of researchers is changing the game with a new system that uses AI to identify seismic activity, Futurism reports.

The team, led by deep learning researcher Thibaut Perol, published the study detailing their new neural network in the journal Science Advances. Dubbed ConvNetQuake, it uses an algorithm to analyze the measurements of ground movements, a.k.a. seismograms, and determines which are small earthquakes and which are just noise. Seismic noise describes the vibrations that are almost constantly running through the ground, either due to wind, traffic, or other activity at surface level. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between noise and legitimate quakes, which is why most detection methods focus on medium and large earthquakes instead of smaller ones.

But better understanding natural and manmade earthquakes means studying them at every level. With ConvNetQuake, that could soon become a reality. After testing the system in Oklahoma, the team reports it detected 17 times more earthquakes than what was recorded by the Oklahoma Geological Survey earthquake catalog.

That level of performance is more than just good news for seismologists studying quakes caused by humans. The technology could be built into current earthquake detection methods set up to alert the public to dangerous disasters. California alone is home to 400 seismic stations waiting for "The Big One." On a smaller scale, there's an app that uses a smartphone's accelerometers to detect tremors and alert the user directly. If earthquake detection methods could sense big earthquakes right as they were beginning using AI, that could afford people more potentially life-saving moments to prepare.

[h/t Futurism]

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