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.
Back in July, Microsoft introduced Project Tuva, an online video player which will eventually host a variety of science content, free for all. The player is indeed very nice, allowing users to take notes onscreen while watching, enabling optional expert commentary, and showing closed captioning throughout. The only catch is that you have to install the Microsoft Silverlight browser plugin (similar to Adobe's Flash plugin) -- it's free, and you might already have it installed (it's also used for popular... READ ON
Here's a brief talk by Scrabble Jedi Master Mehal Shah on simple techniques for kicking butt at Scrabble. It's from Ignite, an event series in which presenters give very brief (five-minute) talks as their slide decks auto-advance every fifteen seconds (that means 20 slides total). There is no backing up, pausing, or digression. You'll be amazed how much Scrabble strategy Shah can share with you in just five minutes.
Discussed: how to play clean, and how to play dirty.
See also: 30 more... READ ON
Did you know that Vincent van Gogh has inspired (at least) three great songs? The first I want to share with you is by Jonathan Richman with the Modern Lovers backing him up (iTunes link), and it's really sweet -- smart, funny, and even moderately educational. Here's a music video a fan made on YouTube:
"Vincent van Gogh" - Jonathan Richman w/the Modern Lovers
Some sample lyrics:
Have you heard about the painter Vincent van Gogh,
Who loved color and who let it show.
Now in the... READ ON
When I was a kid, my brother and I built all kinds of things out of Legos -- spacecraft, buildings, pseudo-Voltrons, abstract art pieces, and so on. We kept all our bricks in a gigantic denim bag that so heavy it was hard for a four-year-old Higgins to carry. But even the bag itself was well-designed: when you opened the bag, it actually laid out as a flat circle on the floor, allowing easy access to a fantastic Lego collection heaped within.
As kids, my brother and I only had one or two "themed"... READ ON
Way back in September of 2007, I posted some links to the bizarre world of ferrofluid, illustrating how fluids can interact with magnets (often magnets driven by sound -- like speakers) to create strange, seemingly gravity-defying patterns. Today I bring you a TED Talk about Cymatics, which is the process of making sound visible, sometimes using special fluids -- ferrofluids among them. (Cymatics often also uses other physical media like sand to make visible patterns.)
In this brief (roughly... READ ON
Today (09-09-09) marks the landmark re-release of the entire Beatles catalog (thirteen albums plus two additional discs of non-album tracks) as boxed sets and individual discs, in two formats: the original mono recordings (the first four Beatles albums were originally released in mono), as well as new stereo remixed versions. Both versions are remastered to some extent, and this is the first time they've been so comprehensively packaged, added-onto and, indeed, promoted (read a review here). Also... READ ON
So, recently YouTube started showing whole movies for free -- much like Hulu, there are occasional ads interspersed, but they're not too bad. The video quality is better than average for a YouTube video, and of course, it's free, so what do you have to lose? In this roundup, I'll point you to four great documentaries currently live on YouTube...and later in the week I'll focus on a fifth that might just blow your mind.
This 1999 documentary follows Milwaukee filmmaker Mark Borchardt... READ ON
Here's your daily dose of science video: in this BBC production, "A flood hits a fire ant colony in the Amazon jungle. ...The species has adapted to water to protect their queen." Only three minutes long, but an amazing look at a colony of ants handling an emergency and ultimately surviving.
(Via... READ ON
Update: thanks to astute commenter Baby Friday, apparently a few of these items are bogus. Snopes has a great writeup on this list, categorizing it as a "mixture of accurate and inaccurate information." Anyway, check out both the list and the Snopes writeup for a complete picture of Lincoln's travails (which were many, though perhaps not that many).
My friend Will Maier found a gem: a list of the failures Abraham Lincoln suffered before he finally achieved the presidency in 1860. (To be fair, there... READ ON
Nerd parent alert: new TMBG album of science stuff for kids available now! (iTunes Link)
Indie pop icons They Might Be Giants have long been known for embedding factoids in their songs. For example, their cover of "Why Does the Sun Shine" features the opening hook: "The sun is a mass of incandescent gas; A gigantic nuclear furnace; Where hydrogen is built into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees!" (To be fair, TMBG didn't write that tune; see the original version by Tom Glazer.) But then... READ ON
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