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.
I can't tell you how often I hear someone use the term "literally" when he or she means "figuratively." It bugs me nearly as much as "misused" quotation marks. So I urge you to check out Literally, a Web Log, a site cataloging the horrendous misuse of the term "literally." Examples? Oh, you bet:
Literally kill for vampire co-star: Kristen Stewart (of the Twilight movies) said: "I literally saw Jacob in him." "I would kill for him, literally."
Literally tear Santa's heart out. Santa Joe... READ ON
In the TED Talk below, Jane Poynter discusses her experience living for two years (plus 20 minutes) in Biosphere 2 in the early 1990s. In short, the experiment was to find out how to create a sealed, self-sustaining ecosystem. This was a huge challenge, and ultimately they had to add oxygen to the environment to make it work (more on that in the talk). Poynter talks about the Biosphere 2 experiment in some detail (as much as fifteen minutes allows), complete with lots of photos and personal... READ ON
Okay, I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying that Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones is a really bad movie. We know this. We are sad about it, but we know this to be true. So our old friend from the 70-minute critique of The Phantom Menace is back, now with a 90-minute critique/review/parody of the film. Now, I want to warn you -- these videos contain swearing and what I can only call "comedic misogyny," but I found them super-funny and also a surprisingly good review of how movies... READ ON
I love Snopes. It's my go-to resource when someone forwards me an email and I know it's fake, but I don't have time to type out a response explaining why email forwards are always hoaxes. The folks at Snopes have already done the legwork, in well-researched articles that validate all sorts of hoaxes, urban legends, and crazy internet stuff. Sending someone a Snopes link is the digital equivalent of calling BS.
To make Snopes even better, its authors (the Mikkelsons) actually reply to their email.... READ ON
Matthew Weathers is a math professor at Biola University, and he likes a good gag. For April Fools' Day this year, he played the prank below on his students, in which his "shadow" on a projection screen started to misbehave. All sorts of interesting stuff begins to go down, including manipulation of a computer desktop, and even removal of the desktop entirely, allowing us to "see through" the projection screen to the blackboard behind it. Ultimately the president of the university has to step in and... READ ON
Jeremy Bernstein (a professor of physics and occasional journalist) brings us a nice recollection of playing chess with Stanley Kubrick, covering the Fischer/Spassky chess match for Playboy using a pseudonym, and ultimately the Deep Blue match (in which IBM's chess-playing computer beat Garry Kasparov) which was presaged by a scene in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is a quick, delightful read -- you should check it out if you're interested in chess, Kubrick, or recent history. Here's a snippet:... READ ON
UC Berkeley Ph.D. student Jeremy Maitin-Shepard has developed a robot capable of folding towels. Watch in the video below as the robot inspects, folds, and stacks the towels. (Note that the video is running at 50 times real speed. This robot ain't snappy, but he works long hours.) To be clear, the robot itself is a general-purpose machine, but Maitin-Shepard et al wrote the software for folding towels.
From the research paper:
We proposed a cloth grasp point detection algorithm which has been... READ ON
On April 1, 1957, BBC television viewers were treated to a short documentary about the spaghetti harvest in Ticino, Switzerland. The film showed spaghetti trees laden with ripe pasta, and Swiss farmers harvesting long strands and laying them out to dry "in the warm alpine sun." The public's reaction ranged from curiosity to outrage (at the time, pasta was an unusual dish in Britain, so the story was at least vaguely plausible). The BBC wrote:
The BBC has received a mixed reaction to a spoof... READ ON
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh played Screech's cousin on Saved by the Bell: The New Class.