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A Nerdtacular Quiz: Books Condensed via Amazon's Statistically Improbable Phrases

Now, this one isn't a mental_floss quiz, but I thought it was a lot of fun. Head over to Dennis Cooper's blog for his Alan presents ... 69 Modern Classics Condensed via Amazon's SIPsâ„¢ (Statistically Improbable Phrases). Now, the idea here is that Amazon lists Statistically Improbable Phrases for many books it sells -- unusual turns of phrase that appear in the work -- and by examining those phrases, sometimes you can guess the book they're from. I've listed three favorites below, with the answers after the jump. Of course, if you want a whole bunch more, just go straight to the source.

[Book] 31.

bun compartment, nucular bum, exercising board, cabinet under the bar, kickoff rally, young man sighed, front shutters, looseleaf folder, fat mother

[Book] 35.

bloated colonel, tighter bomb pattern, intelligence tent, more combat missions, sei pazzo, sixty missions, seventy missions, illegal tobacco, railroad ditch, bomb line, forty missions, flak suit, group chaplain, lead bombardier, fifty missions, medical tent

[Book] 64.

stillsuit manufacturer, panoplia propheticus, gom jabbar, inkvine scar, ducal signet, factory crawler, poison snooper, voice from the outer world, stillsuit hood, weirding way, dew collectors, diamond tattoo, little makers, maker hooks, message cylinder, water flagon, funeral plain, death commandos, spice liquor, palm lock, prison planet, shield belt, terrible purpose, demanding memory

Answers after the jump...

Answers

* 31. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

* 35. Catch-22, Joseph Heller

* 64. Dune, Frank Herbert

(Via Kottke.org.)

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5 Quick Facts About the Hashtag
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The use of the hashtag as a Twitter tool to denote a specific topic in order for the masses to follow along turns 10 years old today, having first been suggested (in a Tweet, naturally) by Silicon Valley regular and early adopter Chris Messina back in 2007. Here’s a little history on its evolution from the humble numerical sign to the social media giant it is today.

1. IT COMES FROM THE LATIN TERM FOR “POUND WEIGHT.”

There’s no definitive origin story for the hash (or pound) symbol, but one belief is that when 14th-century Latin began to abbreviate the term for pound weight—libra pondo—to “lb,” a horizontal slash was added to denote the letters were connected. (The bar was called a tittle.) As people began to write more quickly, the letters and the tittle became amalgamated, eventually morphing into the symbol we see today.

2. IT SHOULD ACTUALLY BE CALLED AN OCTOTHORPETAG.

The symbol portion of the hashtag eventually made its way to dial-button telephones, the result of AT&T looking forward to phones interacting with computers. In order to complete a square keypad with 10 digits (including 0), they added the numerical sign and an asterisk. AT&T employee Don MacPherson thought they sign needed a more official name, so he chose Octothorpe—“octo” because it has eight points, and “thorpe” because he was a fan of football hero Jim Thorpe.

3. TWITTER WASN’T BIG ON THE IDEA AT FIRST.

When web marketer Messina had the notion to add hashtags to keep track of conversations, he stopped by Twitter’s offices to make an informal pitch. He came at a bad time: co-founder Biz Stone was trying to get the software back online after a crash and dismissed the idea with a “Sure, we’ll get right on that” burn. Undeterred, Messina started using them and the habit caught on.

4. IT’S IN THE OXFORD DICTIONARY.

By 2014, respect for the hashtag had grown to the point where the venerable Oxford English Dictionary gave the word its stamp of approval. Their entry: "hashtag n. (on social media web sites and applications) a word or phrase preceded by a hash and used to identify messages relating to a specific topic; (also) the hash symbol itself, when used in this way."

5. THERE ARE SOME HASHTAG ALL-TIMERS.

Hashtags can highlight interest in everything from political movements to breaking news stories, but the frequency of their use is often tied into popular culture. The most popular TV-related tag has been #TheWalkingDead; #StarWars sees a lot of action; and #NFL dominates sports-related Tweets.  

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Microsoft’s Autonomous Gliders Stay in the Air by Mimicking Birds of Prey
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When designing different ways for vehicles to move, engineers will often look to nature. Animals have had millions of years to evolve locomotion methods that get them where they’re going fast without burning a ton of energy. Now, researchers at Microsoft have chosen the hawk, a master of energy-efficient air travel, as the model for their new autonomous gliders.

As Co.Design reports, the tech company’s “infinite soaring machine” can move through the skies without generating its own propulsion. Instead, it seeks out warms streams of air to provide the upward push, much like a hawk does.

While riding air currents doesn't take up a lot of energy, it does require some sophisticated artificial intelligence. As a substitute for millennia of animal instinct, Microsoft “trained” its glider to fly by plugging it into a video game-like simulator that showed hawks in flight. By repeatedly subjecting the technology to these virtual experiments, researchers eventually developed algorithms capable of recreating the scenes in the real world.

Using onboard sensors, the sailplane can independently navigate the skies without a motor. The gliders are no more than a few feet long, which means they don’t serve much of a practical purpose outside of research. But the aircraft’s simple design is exactly what makes them appealing to engineers.

With less hardware to worry about, they can focus on refining AI software which can be used in different types of autonomous vehicles in the future. And by testing AI navigation in the air instead of on the road, Microsoft gives themselves a much bigger test track to work with.

You can watch the infinite soaring machine take to the skies in the video below.

[h/t Co.Design]

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