Links for November 2014

by Izaak

A team of researchers have developed a computer program that can walk. (Warning: autoplaying video that has nothing to do with the article). They also don’t link to the actual video of the computer program learning to walk, so here it is. I really love looking at these sorts of tech demos.

Reddit user flippant_gibberish created a beautiful imgur album detailing the distribution of twitter users on a followers vs following chart. There were a couple surprising things about the data. For one, there were far more people who followed zero people but had plenty of followers than people who had zero followers but followed people. For another, there are weird spikes at even numbers like 100, 200, 300, and 1000, with barely visible spikes at the other hundreds (but not the other thousands). Some people in the comments of the Reddit post think that these weird distributions are caused by bots.

This Israeli acapella group sings Vivaldi’s “Spring”, and it’s an impressive feat given how effortlessly they replicate the experience of hearing string instruments. The coolest part is where they have to resort to unusual vocal techniques to replicate the sounds that the strings make.

I’ve recently been reading this Harry Potter fanfic, which is extraordinary if only for the fact that it was written before the seventh book comes out. Seriously, this author must have had some kind of advance copy of the book because I didn’t notice until one of the author’s notes piqued my curiosity and I checked the date of the fanfic vs the release date of Deathly Hallows.

I also recently came across the movie trailer for a film called Ex Machina, which seems to be a fairly well done portrayal of a Turing Test (albeit a fairly weird turing test) which slowly evolves into an unwitting AI in a Box Experiment. And I can’t believe I’m going to link to a page out of RationalWiki (they tend to be surprisingly irrational given their name), but their article on the AI in a Box Experiment is actually quite good.

Speaking of science fiction movies, I am extremely excited for Interstellar. It looks like it might be the first good, optimistic, science fiction movie in a long time. I am so ready for humans to have enthusiasm about the future once more. I’ve been tired of apocalyptic scenarios since I read World War Z five years ago. Here’s a suggestion, though—don’t watch all the trailers for the movie. Watch trailer one (above) and trailer 2, maybe, but none of the others. They give away too much, and I’ve been trying to forget especially the 4th one since I watched it.

There’s two tumblr posts from the SJ-verse that I want to share, because they’re my absolute favorites. This one is about the fact that while everyone needs a safe space, we can’t make one space safe for everyone—we have to have multiple, separate, safe spaces. This one is entitled “I need your imperfect empathy” and it is the way I am trying to look at the world from now on.

Speaking of tumblr, they updated their website recently, and during the inevitable “I’m never going to use this again it sucks” complaints, someone posted a link to This Motherfucking Website.

I know 2048 is old news nowadays, but I can’t help share this beautiful version of it that uses the Circle of Fifths instead of powers of two. It’s also much easier than the powers of two version, for a variety of reasons.

I’m also planning on doing a NaNoWriMo Novel this November. It’s going to be a history of magic, written in the style of nonfiction. I probably won’t have time to write both that and for this blog, so don’t expect a lot of posts in November, but if I decide to post it online somewhere, I’ll link to it here. And hopefully I’ll come back with plenty of new ideas for blog posts.