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.
Artist Michael Kontopoulos brings us today's weird web video: Machines that Almost Fall Over. Kontopoulos calls it: "A system of sculptures that is constantly on the brink of collapse. My intention was to capture and sustain the exact moment of impending catastrophe and endlessly repeat it." Kontopoulos has created three machines in which a hammer strikes the machine, knocking it off-balance, but the machine just...barely...doesn't fall over. This is a short video showing those machines, tirelessly... READ ON
Benjamin Franklin was kind of a big deal. He penned Poor Richard's Almanack, invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the rockin' glass harmonica, and a bunch of other great stuff. He was a politician, statesman, and diplomat (and made a killer appearance, in a bathtub in France, in HBO's recent John Adams miniseries). He's the eponymous Benjy featured on the U.S. One Hundred Dollar Bill. So how did Ben get so great? By following a code of "thirteen virtues," a set of guidelines for living that he... READ ON
Today I bring you a truly fascinating talk about irrationality and cheating. Dan Ariely was a burn patient, with burns over 70% of his body. While recovering in the hospital, the nurses had a common practice of ripping off bandages, rather than removing them slowly. Ariely disagreed with this methodology (preferring slower removal), but didn't have evidence to back his argument up. When he left the hospital, he started doing experiments on pain, to figure out what indeed would be the best method of... READ ON
Clay Shirky is an adjunct professor of New Media at NYU. He writes about technology (okay, pretty much just the internet) and its effects on relationships and culture. Recently he posted a brilliant essay called Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, about what happened to newspapers in the 90s, how they saw the internet coming (and what it meant for the newspaper's business model), and what happened to those pragmatists who observed what was happening. In short, Shirky explains "the unthinkable... READ ON
I've recently been informed of something awesome: The Integratron. It's a big wood-and-fiberglass dome in the Mojave Desert, built by UFO contactee George Van Tassel upon the instructions of friendly Venusians. Built as a "rejuvenation machine" (a sort of mechanical fountain of youth), the Integratron's dome is supposedly constructed atop an "energy vortex" and shares design features with the Tabernacle of Moses and the King's Chamber inside the Great Pyramid of Giza. From the Wikipedia page on Van... READ ON
On this Friday afternoon, I bring you a quiet, contemplative topic: birds on power lines. Here are three of the better birds-on-power-lines videos available on the web.
First up, birds flocking around a series of power lines, in the evening. Sort of "musical chairs" for birds. By Wes Johnson:
powerlinerflyers from wes johnson on Vimeo.
(Go to Vimeo to watch in HD.)
Next up, birds from Rhode Island on a wire filmed from below. Watch as they scoot back and forth, turn around, and fly away.... READ ON
In today's geeky web video, Professor Shelly Kagan of Yale asks some huge questions: is there life after death? Well...to answer this, Kagan backs up and asks: what is a person? What is a person made of, and thus what part of that person would have to survive the death event? From there, Kagan dives into a fascinating discussion of issues of identity, what is means to be a person, what within us might survive after death, and so on. It's provocative, and he's a hell of a speaker.
The lecture is... READ ON
Aimee Mullins is an athlete, fashion model, and actor. But there's something a little bit unusual about her: Mullins was born without fibulas (lower leg bones), and had her legs amputated below the knee as an infant. She wears prosthetic legs -- some lifelike and some enhanced for sports performance. In a February TED Talk, Mullins shows off twelve pairs of her legs -- and walks around the stage wearing high heels the whole time.
This is a pretty amazing talk. A word of warning, there is brief... READ ON
After Layng Martine Jr.'s wife Linda was rendered paraplegic by a car accident, the couple had to adapt. Linda was a marathon runner, tennis player, and hiker. Without the use of her legs, she couldn't do any of those things...at least not in the manner to which she was accustomed. But the couple didn't give up -- they found ways to cope, and continue living their life together. From last week's New York Times comes a touching article about the specifics of living with a disability: In a Charmed Life,... READ ON
In this TED Talk from February 1998, Purple Moon founder Brenda Laurel asks: why aren't there videogames for little girls, when there are so many for little boys? Laurel did the research to suss out the specific gender differences in play behavior between boys and girls, then founded a videogame company aimed at creating compelling games for "little girls" (Laurel's preferred term for her audience). In this talk, Laurel talks about the research process that led to Purple Moon and shows a demo of an... READ ON
A polar bear can smell a seal that's 20 miles away.