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.
For your Monday viewing pleasure, here's a smart talk about bacteria. Princeton microbiologist Bonnie Bassler knows her bacteria. Specifically, she has learned how they communicate with each other chemically in order to perform group tasks, like generating light under certain circumstances. In this TED Talk, Bassler describes the specific mechanisms by which bacteria communicate, and describes how we can use this information -- the most compelling application is for new forms of antibiotics that might... READ ON
For today's geeky video pleasure, I bring you a version of Little Red Riding Hood reinterpreted as a series of infographics. Each scene is deconstructed into infographic form, showing excessive data about each location, person, and animal the eponymous LRRH encounters. Check it out (though you might want to turn down the sound, as the soundtrack is kind of over the top):
SlagsmÃ¥lsklubben - Sponsored by destiny from Tomas Nilsson on Vimeo.
It's easy to imagine a version of the Three Little Pigs... READ ON
Errol Morris, documentarian and now blogger for the New York Times, brings us a fascinating investigation into the history of a single photograph (technically an ambrotype). Morris's article Whose Father Was He? explores the mystery of a photograph of three children, found on the body of a Union soldier who fell at Gettysburg in 1863. Here's the... READ ON
Researcher Kamal Meattle lives in New Delhi -- and breathing the air landed him in the doctor's office with diminished lung capacity. He embarked on research to find a way to clean the air around him using houseplants (much of this work had already been done by NASA and the folks at Biosphere 2). In this four-minute talk, Meattle shares the very simple results -- using just three species of common houseplants, you can create measurably cleaner indoor air, increase oxygen levels, and decrease indoor air... READ ON
Carl Bialik of the Wall Street Journal brings us a smart article on overvalued points in games. In short, the issue is that rule changes in games like Scrabble (allowing new words like "qi" and "za") allow players a new way to exploit the system, throwing it out of balance. Some high-level players argue that when a rule change allows in new high-value type of play (like "za"), the overall scoring system needs to change to account for it, rebalancing the game. Others disagree, seeing the rule change as a... READ ON
Here's an intensely nerdy video to kickstart your week! The video below (from the SXSW conference) shows ArcAttack, a band/performance art project in which custom-designed Tesla Coils are tuned and fired in sequence to create music. The band describes their project thusly:
ArcAttack employs a unique DJ set up of their own creation (an HVDJ set up) to generate an 'electrifying' audio visual performance. The HVDJ pumps music through a PA System while two specially designed DRSSTC's (Dual-Resonant... READ ON
We've discussed Layer Tennis before: it's a live online competition in which graphic designers trade art back and forth, building upon and changing the art during each fifteen-minute turn, in a kind of graphic design Battle Royale. You may say: huh? Well, here are some sample layers from last week's match between Brooklynites Armin Vit and Sam Potts. In the opening salvo, Vit introduces a wrestling/typography... READ ON
My local historical society (Oregon Historical Society) has fallen on hard times lately, and recently closed its research library, temporarily permanently laying off most of its librarians (update: 15 were permanently laid off, 4 were later hired back). Oregon isn't alone in this -- as our local NPR station pointed out, historical societies in New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia have been cutting hours and staff, if not closing entirely. The Oregon Historical Society has managed to keep its public... READ ON
Update: Cosmos Available Online, Free
I'm reposting this article (originally from September 2007) because the entire Cosmos TV series is now streaming at Hulu for free. Enjoy! (Be sure to click the "Watch Hi-Res" button inside the player to get the best quality.)
This week's feature is the classic Cosmos: A Personal Voyage by Carl Sagan. This thirteen-part series was originally created for PBS in 1980, and is now available (with some updated graphics and sound) on DVD. The series covers a wide... READ ON
Today, Scientific American brings us some answers to the question what happened to the honeybees? Since the "Colony Collapse Disorder" (CCD) appeared in 2006, millions of beehives have been abandoned by the bees, putting bee-pollinated crops at risk -- and in turn threatening the livelihood of farmers and apiarists (beekeepers). In the SA article Solving the Mystery of the Vanishing Bees, researchers Diana Cox-Foster and Dennis vanEngelsdorp detail their efforts to solve the mystery, through contact with... READ ON
7-Up was originally called "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda."