Chris Higgins is the author of The Blogger Abides and writes for This American Life, The Atlantic, Breakfast on Mars, and The Magazine. You can follow him at chrishiggins.com.
Growing up, my family had a series of early personal computers -- a Sinclair ZX81, a TI 99/4A, and even an early IBM Portable (which was not as portable as its name suggested). Today, let's talk about that Sinclair machine. The ZX81 was dirt cheap and extremely hard to type on, thanks to its membrane keyboard. But did I mention the dirt cheap part? Because of its price (in the US the Timex-produced variant was under $100 in the early 1980s), it was accessible to a very broad audience. It was also, if... READ ON
Here's a beautiful short film demonstrating mathematical principles as they appear in nature: Nature by Numbers. In the video, illustrator CristÃ³bal Vila demonstrates how the Fibonacci Sequence is visible in a Nautilus shell, and proceeds through the Golden Ratio, Golden Angle, Voronoi Tessellations, and the Delaunay Condition. (Yeah, I hadn't heard of those last two either.) For more details about the math behind this film, and how the Nautilus example is actually a bit flubbed, read Vila's... READ ON
A meditative way to spend your Friday: video of lightning striking buildings in Chicago. The same brief clip is shown at progressively slower speeds, climaxing in an impressive triple strike. From the video's author, Craig Shimala:
For the third time in the last 6 days, another line of nasty storms rolled through Chicago on Wednesday evening. In this clip you will see three of the tallest buildings in Chicago get struck by lightning at the same time. Willis Tower (Tallest), Trump International... READ ON
Here's a Haiku which, according to commonly accepted English practices, is both a valid Haiku when read aloud (in English), and holds meaning and even a sort of story -- even though it contains only numbers. It's quite an achievement. (Now, I know a lot of you are going to point out that the 5-7-5 syllable English rule isn't true Haiku because Japanese really uses moras rather than syllables, and this poem lacks a seasonal reference, and so on -- but you can go ahead and hash that out in the comments.)... READ ON
For your viewing pleasure, I've rounded up some awesome videos of ants in captivity. It's amazing to see what those little guys (um, I mean primarily sterile females) are doing when we're not watching. Also, the technical term for an "ant farm" (meaning a true captive habitat for ants, not a toy) is: Formicarium.
Leafcutter Ants - San Diego Zoo
A brief intro to leafcutter ants from Paige Howorth of the San Diego Zoo.
Leafcutter Queen Ant
From someone's personal colony, this video... READ ON
Ada Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron and the Countess of Lovelace, is considered the first computer programmer, despite having died in 1852 -- long before computers were actually built. Through her collaboration with Charles Babbage, Lovelace wrote "sequences of instructions" (programs) for Babbage's early mechanical computer (well, computer in theory -- it wasn't actually built until rather recently). Lovelace saw the potential of Babbage's computer as a device that could do more than... READ ON
Let's keep it simple this week -- here are a few of the best re-edits of the Ferris Bueller's Day Off trailer. Hopefully some of these were created while skipping school.
The Touching, Sensitive Trailer
This is my favorite -- it's touching and dramatic, set to a version of "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" by The Smiths, covered by The Dream... READ ON
Farmville is a popular online game, usually played through Facebook, but now available on platforms including the iPhone. I've played several similar games (like We Rule) and found it a baffling experience. The game was simultaneously boring and addictive. "Gameplay" consisted of laborious, mechanical management tasks, and demanded that the player constantly return to the game at specific times to harvest crops in order to get virtual currency, so you could...plant more crops and set your clock again.... READ ON
Here's some classic animation for your Monday morning: a 1946 Disney short about an opera-singing whale, entitled The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met. Inspired by experience in his home recording studio, Nelson Eddy voiced all the human (and whale) voices in the film, including multi-voice opera set pieces including sextets (some parts were pitch-shifted to artificially extend his range). Awesome.
Part 2 after the... READ ON
This BBC video from Bang Goes the Theory demonstrates that sufficiently powerful huffing and puffing will indeed blow your (poorly constructed) house down. Of course, you do need a massive cannon to do it. But pigs wolves are basically mini-vortex-cannons, right?
(Via... READ ON
In 1865, six-year-old Teddy Roosevelt watched Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession in NYC.