‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ —Lao Tzu


Imagine that you are imprisoned in a tunnel that opens out onto a precipice two paces to your left, and a pit of vipers two paces to your right. To torment you, your evil captor forces you to take a series of steps to the left and right. You need to devise a series that will allow you to avoid the hazards — if you take a step to the right, for example, you’ll want your second step to be to the left, to avoid falling off the cliff. You might try alternating right and left steps, but here’s the catch: You have to list your planned steps ahead of time, and your captor might have you take every second step on your list (starting at the second step), or every third step (starting at the third), or some other skip-counting sequence. Is there a list of steps that will keep you alive, no matter what sequence your captor chooses?

In this brainteaser, devised by the mathematics popularizer James Grime, you can plan a list of 11 steps that protects you from death. But if you try to add a 12th step, you are doomed: Your captor will inevitably be able to find some skip-counting sequence that will plunge you over the cliff or into the viper pit.

Around 1932, Erdős asked, in essence, what if the precipice and pit of vipers are three paces away instead of two? What if they are N paces away? Can you escape death for an infinite number of steps? The answer, Erdős conjectured, was no — no matter how far away the precipice and viper pit are, you can’t elude them forever.

But for more than 80 years, mathematicians made no progress on proving Erdős’ discrepancy conjecture (so named because the distance from the center of the tunnel is known as the discrepancy).

{ Quanta | Continue reading }

Morality is herd instinct in the individual


{ In 1934, the MPAA voluntarily passed the Motion Picture Production Code, more generally known as the Hays Code. The code prohibited certain plot lines and imagery from films and in publicity materials produced by the MPAA. Among other rules, there was to be no cleavage, no lace underthings, no drugs or drinking, no corpses, and no one shown getting away with a crime. A.L. Shafer, the head of photography at Columbia, took a photo that intentionally incorporated all of the 10 banned items into one image. | The Society Pages | Continue reading | More: Wikipedia }

Every day, the same, again

444.jpeg Self-driving cars could reduce accidents by 90 percent, become greatest health achievement of the century

Driverless Taxi Experiment to Start in Japan

The inequality of who dies in car crashes

Boring cityscapes increase sadness, addiction and disease-related stress. Is urban design a matter of public health?

Study by the US Federal Reserve Board finds that the higher your credit score, the higher your chances of a lasting relationship.

Evidence of the cheerleader effect—people seem more attractive in a group than in isolation

Estimating Body Shape Under Clothing

People talk about an individual’s genome as if it was a single consistent entity—but it isn’t. Every one of us actually contains a cosmopolitan melting pot of different genomes.

Can exercise be replaced with a pill?

Shady dealings of William Shakespeare’s father helped to fund son’s plays

Employment rates of women in Japan and US

Montreal Man Makes His Own Campaign Posters For No Apparent Reason

When you have craved truth as you crave air, then you will know what truth is


We review recent evidence revealing that the mere willingness to engage analytic reasoning as a means to override intuitive “gut feelings” is a meaningful predictor of key psychological outcomes in diverse areas of everyday life. For example, those with a more analytic thinking style are more skeptical about religious, paranormal, and conspiratorial concepts. In addition, analytic thinking relates to having less traditional moral values, making less emotional or disgust-based moral judgments, and being less cooperative and more rationally self-interested in social dilemmas. Analytic thinkers are even less likely to offload thinking to smartphone technology and may be more creative.

{ SSRN | Continue reading }

oil on canvas { Alberto Giacometti, Portrait of Pierre Josse, 1961 }

Hats off to da rich ones who flash and floss


Business Insiders is expecting to make 65 million dollars next year. […] It employs 325 people, meaning it currently brings in roughly $132,300 in revenue per employee. […]

BuzzFeed … $208,333 per employee

Gawker … $211,538 per employee

Vice … $457,500 per employee

The New York Times Company … between $440,000?a and $450,000 per employee

{ The Awl | Continue reading }

Every day, the same, again

2.jpgThe Catholic church is estimated to own twenty percent of all real estate in Italy, and a quarter of all real estate in Rome.

Does the presence of a mannequin head change shopping behavior?

Expressing anger might lead men to gain influence, but women to lose influence over others (even when making identical arguments)

How jurors can be misled by emotional testimony and gruesome photos

The assumption that people who watch porn are more likely to hold negative or sexist views of women has been challenged by a recent study in the Journal of Sex Research

Scientists identify potential birth control ‘pill’ for men

Losing weight is hard — and it’s getting harder. That’s not an excuse, a group of researchers say, it’s science. When comparing people with the same diets in 1971 and 2008, the more recent counterpart was on average 10 percent heavier.

Researchers have discovered a surprisingly simple way to get kids to eat more veggies

Adolescents with a bedroom television reported more television viewing time, less physical activity, poorer dietary habits, fewer family meals, and poorer school performance

Paralyzed man uses own brainwaves to walk again – no exoskeleton required

An Alfred Hitchcock film helped to prove one patient had been conscious while in a coma-like state for 16 years

Network scientists have discovered how social networks can create the illusion that something is common when it is actually rare

Meet The Man Who Invents Languages For A Living

Robert Samuel, founder of Same Ole Line Dudes, makes up to $1,000 a week to stand in line

Explore Manhattan When It Was Just Forests and Creeks With the 1609 Welikia Map

Martian Life Could Be a Biotech Bonanza

Switzerland begins postal delivery by drone

Gigantic wooden megaphones amplify the sounds of nature

Attention teachers: never assign your class to paint “candlelight”

The Pope comes to America

You know, Sue Ellen, I do believe you’re going ninety miles an hour toward a nervous breakdown


Researchers Elizabeth L. Paluck and colleagues partnered with a TV network to insert certain themes (or messages) into popular dramas shown on US TV. They then looked to see whether these themes had an effect on real world behavior, ranging from Google searches to drink-driving arrests.

The study was based on three prime time Spanish-language dramas (telenovelas) which have a viewership of around 1.2 million people per week. Telenovelas are a genre similar to English-language soap operas except shorter, most lasting about a year. Into these shows, eight messages were added, ranging from health and safety (benefits of low cholesterol, dangers of drink driving) to community building (register to vote, scholarships for Hispanic students.) […]

So did it work? Not really. […] There was no evidence that messages about voter registration led to increases in the number of Hispanics actually registering. Nor did Google searches for terms related to the messages increase following each broadcast.

{ Neuroskeptic | Continue reading }

‘[Man] is not conscious of being born, he dies in pain, and he forgets to live.’ —La Bruyère


My brain tumor introduced itself to me on a grainy MRI, in the summer of 2009, when I was 28 years old. […]

Over time I would lose my memory—almost completely—of things that happened just moments before, and become unable to recall events that happened days and years earlier. […]

Through persistence, luck, and maybe something more, an incredible medical procedure returned my mind and memories to me almost all at once. I became the man who remembered events I had never experienced, due to my amnesia. The man who forgot which member of his family had died while he was sick, only to have that memory, like hundreds of others, come flooding back. The memories came back out of order, with flashbacks mystically presenting themselves in ways that left me both excited and frightened.

{ Quartz | Continue reading }

‘Loves die from disgust,
 and forgetfulness buries them.’ –Jean de La Bruyère


The wedding industry has consistently sought to link wedding spending with long-lasting marriages. This paper is the first to examine this relationship statistically. We find that marriage duration is either not associated or inversely associated with spending on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony. Overall, our findings provide little evidence to support the validity of the wedding industry’s general message that connects expensive weddings with positive marital outcomes.

{ PDF | via Improbable }

‘Radio — suckers never play me’ –Public Enemy


With the advent of the Internet, many U.S. metropolitan areas have seen newspaper closures due to declining revenues. This provides the researcher with an opportunity to analyze the microeconomic sources of media bias.

This article uses a large panel dataset of newspaper archives for 99 newspapers over 240 months (1990–2009).

The author found that, after controlling for the unemployment rate, the change in unemployment rate, and the political preferences of surrounding metropolitan area, conservative newspapers report 17.4% more unemployment news when the President is a Democrat rather than a Republican, before the closure of a rival newspaper in the same media market. This effect is 12.8% for liberal newspapers. After the closure, these numbers are 3.5% and 1.1%, respectively.

{ Journal of Media Economics | Continue reading }

and { Twitter Language Use Reflects Psychological Differences between Democrats and Republicans }

I want to rock with you (all night)


{ Dermatologic problems of musicians | Pseudo-Cello Scrotum? | via Improbable }

Every day, the same, again

22.jpgMore people have died while trying to taking a ‘selfie’ than from shark attacks this year.

The price of electricity in Texas fell toward zero, hit zero, and then went negative for several hours

Every person emits a unique blend of microbes into the air, and this “microbial cloud” is personalized enough that it could be used to identify people

Researchers created a synthetic material out of 1 billion tiny magnets. The magnetic properties of this so-called metamaterial change with the temperature, so that it can take on different states; just like water has a gaseous, liquid and a solid state.

Researchers created a new material that is stronger then steel and flexible like gum

Wasps Have Injected New Genes Into Butterflies

Chimps were shown bizarre videos of an actor in a King Kong costume attacking humans in a cage. A second video showed the humans getting ‘revenge’ with a hammer.

Streaming music is officially a bigger business than physical music sales in the U.S. for the first time. If current trends continue, streaming will surpass digital download sales as the biggest single source of revenue for the music industry by next year.

Before writing most of Taylor Swift’s newest album, Max Martin wrote No. 1 hits for Britney Spears, ’NSync, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, and Katy Perry. Meet the bald Norwegians and other unknowns who actually create the songs that top the charts

China VCs Are Going Crazy for Girl Groups

The International Image of Brazil in 1950 and in 2014: A Study of the Reputation and the Identity of Brazil as Projected by the International Media During the Two FIFA World Cups in the Country

How to make a $1,500 sandwich, in only 6 months