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.
IBM has created a supercomputer that plays the TV game show Jeopardy. In English. And yes, it buzzes in. We can also presume that "Watson," our new Jeopardy overload, phrases its answers in the form of a question -- every time, without fail. And it does all this without being connected to the internet -- Watson stores all its answers in an offline database. So are we doomed? Is Jeopardy now going the way of chess, a game where even the best humans can be beaten by a computer? The short answer: not... READ ON
If you're a PBS viewer, you've likely seen Antiques Roadshow, a form of "reality TV" in which people have their antiques and collectibles appraised. Experts explain the history and estimated value of the items to the often-stunned owners. It's great TV, and now The Collectors Weekly has gone behind the scenes in An Inside Look at Antiques Roadshow. It's a great read, giving us a look at the real process leading up to making an episode -- specifically, 3,200 pairs of free tickets are handed out (though... READ ON
Fans of the Discovery Channel show Deadliest Catch are in mourning, after learning that Captain Phil Harris died on February 9. He suffered a stroke while unloading his boat, the Cornelia Marie. Fans have been sharing their condolences on a message board (there are currently 274 pages of condolences), and the Discovery Channel just sent me the video clip below showing some of Phil's best catches -- it's worth a look if you've ever seen the show.
"Discovery mourns the loss of dear friend and... READ ON
"Dust in the Wind" was released way back in 1977. Written and performed by the band Kansas, it was their biggest hit, despite (or perhaps because of) its prominent viola melody -- not something you'd expect in a hit pop song. Since 1977 it has popped up all over the place, from a Will Ferrell performance in Old School to a brief mention in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Below, I've rounded up some covers of the classic tune. Enjoy!
Beaker the Muppet
Beaker is incapable of intelligible... READ ON
So here's something that happened. Back in the 70's and early 80's, Chicago gang members had their own business cards. Created using clip art on a low budget, they're kind of a riot -- many feature heavy metal, unicorns, axes, and other stuff generally considered "awesome" by teens in of the era. Some are overtly racist, homophobic, xenophobic, or otherwise disturbing -- but fewer than you'd think. Check... READ ON
On April 26, 1986 a massive accident occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in what is now the Ukraine. A nuclear reactor exploded, sending radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and killing more than 50 people, with another 800,000 exposed to radiation and increased risk of cancer. Around the Chernobyl plant is a 30-kilometer Zone of Alienation (I'm not making this name up), established to prevent people from entering the most heavily contaminated area (and hurriedly evacuated, as you can see by... READ ON
Here's a short clip featuring Jamie Lee Curtis, in which she describes a 25-hour power outage during a family vacation in Idaho. When the outage occurred, the family rallied to make food, melt ice for water, and so on. "My family played music, we played games, we actually talked to each other." Once the power came back, they all turned back into internet-addicted zombies.
When Was the Last Time You Turned Off the Juice?
I can't remember the last time I was -- intentionally or unintentionally... READ ON
"All the sounds are the actual audio from the original video tape. No alterations has [sic] been made other than basic timeline editing. I can neither play drums nor the piano." So ends Lasse Gjertsen's YouTube masterpiece "Amateur," a music video in which he creates a genuinely good song out of individual drum beats, cymbal hits, vocal hoots, and piano notes. I got this from the excellent Word Surgery blog, where animator/videographer Torrey Meeks points out all sorts of awesome stuff (much of it... READ ON
I'll be writing about The Pluto Files, a NOVA program coming in March, over the next couple of weeks. But I thought I'd point you to this breaking news -- in the video below, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Brian Williams, and Diane Sawyer have a thing or two to say about Neil deGrasse Tyson demoting Pluto from its planetary status way back in 1999. This is not over,... READ ON
Want to have a laugh? Then please get yourself over to Garrett Murray's That's Not Art, a scathing indictment of angsty pseudo-art posted on Tumblr blogs (I refuse to say "Tumblogs" as that's a pseudo-word). Yes, we're laughing AT these people, but come on, this is... READ ON
Prairie dogs say hello with kisses.