Monday Links from the Bench vol. CCCIV Monday Links from the Bench vol. CCCIV
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    Default Monday Links from the Bench vol. CCCIV

    Lovely day out there. As I'm stuck inside waiting for a delivery that will arrive "By End of Day", I'm reading this kind of thing instead of going out and enjoying it:

    • This Day In History - Today is the anniversary of the last ever diagnosis of naturally-occurring smallpox: ”By the latter half of the 1970s, smallpox remained endemic only in a few isolated places (namely Ethiopia and Somalia) that were difficult to reach due to lack of infrastructure, famine and war. In a final push, in 1977 an intensive surveillance and containment program was instituted in the remaining regions, and the last naturally occurring smallpox case was diagnosed in Somalia on this day in history, October 26, 1977.”

    • The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence Part 1, Part 2 - HT to Zeity for this timely and detailed reminder that we’re making ourselves obsolete Real Soon Now: ”We base our ideas about the world on our personal experience, and that experience has ingrained the rate of growth of the recent past in our heads as “the way things happen.” We’re also limited by our imagination, which takes our experience and uses it to conjure future predictions—but often, what we know simply doesn’t give us the tools to think accurately about the future… if we’re being truly logical and expecting historical patterns to continue, we should conclude that much, much, much more should change in the coming decades than we intuitively expect.”

    • You're getting old! - And a HT to veteran for this one, which takes your date of birth and gives you all kinds of stats about how decrepit you’re getting, also listing various interesting things that have happened during your life. For me, it helpfully tells me that ”Out of 100,000 people born on the same day as you, approximately 90,657 are still living.”

    • How an episode of The Simpsons is made - "In 1996, The Simpsons passed The Flintstones as the longest running prime-time animated show… The Simpsons is now in its 27th season. This is how an episode of the program is made, a detailed, meticulous look at a process that has its bedrock but builds upon it with the tools and lessons of the future.” It astonishes me that they manage to get so many episodes made, given the huge amount of work that goes into each one

    • The Drugs Won’t Work - Dr Brooke Magnanti on the failed potential of the field of drug discovery, the technological advances that promised much yet delivered little - and the possible inspirations for Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz in Breaking Bad: ”Within an hour of my introduction to Weininger he had winkled out my idea for a business. In short order, he put me on the phone to a potential investor — who turned out to be Michael Nesmith, late of the Monkees — even though I had nothing in the way of a proper pitch, and the brooding guitarist, quite sensibly, never forked over any cash for me to play with. Abriel, an emergency room doctor and jewellery designer, had an elaborate workshop creating custom furnishings from exotic woods like wenge and purpleheart. Weininger fought a seemingly never-ending battle with the city council over the observatory he put up in the back yard. I once sat up all night looking through the telescope there, to learn at sunrise that the tall English guy I’d been chatting with was none other than Douglas Adams. Nobody who has ever met Weininger would find any of this unusual.”

    • An Actual Paleontologist Grades ‘Friends’ Paleontologist Ross Geller - Was Ross any good at his supposed profession? ”There was some evidence he was a terrible paleontologist and some evidence he’s actually a brilliant paleontologist.”

    • The Art of Running from the Police - Sociologist Alice Goffman spent six years living in a neighbourhood of Philadelphia, to find out what life is really like when you’re young, black, and poor in America: ”One of the first things that such a man develops is a heightened awareness of police officers—what they look like, how they move, where and when they are likely to appear. He learns the models of their undercover cars, the ways they hold their bodies and the cut of their hair, the timing and location of their typical routes. His awareness of the police never seems to leave him; he sees them sitting in plain clothes at the mall food court with their children; he spots them in his rearview mirror coming up behind him on the highway, from ten cars and three lanes away. Sometimes he finds that his body anticipates their arrival with sweat and a quickened heartbeat before his mind consciously registers any sign of their appearance.”

    • Ruth and Martin's Album Club - Simple yet brilliant idea: ”1) Each week we pick a guest 2) We give the guest a critically acclaimed album they've never listened to. 3) The guest explains why they've never listened to it, laying out any potential prejudice in advance. i.e. "I've never liked the cut of Pink Floyd's jib" or "Mark E Smith frightens me". 4) The guest has to listen to the album at least three times, this acclaimed album that they've never bothered listening to, and then tell us whether it was worth it or not.” Ruth and Martin’s guests range from journalists to politicians to comedians - and, sometimes, just one of their friends

    • Anglo-Saxon Medicine: Not ALL Leeches and Cow Dung - Writer Kelly Evans explores the true nature of medicine in Anglo-Saxon England: ”England is unique amongst European countries in that there survives an extensive medical literature from the Anglo-Saxon period in a vernacular language… There are more than a thousand pages of medical notes written in Old English still in existence. The works contain translations of Greek and Latin medical treatises but also have original local cures unknown on the continent.”

    • The Ancient Melodies - Classically-trained musician Jim Zamerski takes mathematical constants such as pi, expressed in base 12 so as to map them to the twelve notes of the Western musical scale, and uncovers the melodies within: ”When I sat down for the first time to look into the digits of pi as music, it didn't take me more than two minutes to see that the first 17 digits contain that beautiful phrase. When I figured out the note that brings the phrase to perfect resolution, and played the first section through to the end for the first time, I heard the very voice of God.” Here’s the first 226 digits of pi, arranged as a waltz:



    Happy invoicing!

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    Quote Originally Posted by NickFitz View Post
    [*]The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence Part 1, Part 2 - HT to Zeity for this timely and detailed reminder that we’re making ourselves obsolete Real Soon Now: ”We base our ideas about the world on our personal experience, and that experience has ingrained the rate of growth of the recent past in our heads as “the way things happen.” We’re also limited by our imagination, which takes our experience and uses it to conjure future predictions—but often, what we know simply doesn’t give us the tools to think accurately about the future… if we’re being truly logical and expecting historical patterns to continue, we should conclude that much, much, much more should change in the coming decades than we intuitively expect.”
    Interesting articles, but this bit is plain silly:

    Kurzweil suggests that the progress of the entire 20th century would have been achieved in only 20 years at the rate of advancement in the year 2000—in other words, by 2000, the rate of progress was five times faster than the average rate of progress during the 20th century. He believes another 20th century’s worth of progress happened between 2000 and 2014 and that another 20th century’s worth of progress will happen by 2021, in only seven years. ...
    Can anyone seriously claim more progress has been made in the last 15 years, in practically any sphere, than in the entire 20th century?

    If anything, I would say the reverse is true, and progress has slowed in most respects. But that doesn't fit the "exponential progress" bee in his bonnet.

    (Thanks for all links BTW)
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    Thanks a lot, I didn't realise how old and decrepit I was till I read that.
    I'm not even an atheist so much as I am an antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief, is positively harmful. [Christopher Hitchens]

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    Quote Originally Posted by zeitghost View Post
    You & me both.

    Apparently 90% of the users are younger than I.
    But look on the bright side - Most of us have more than the average number of legs
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    The total number of candles on all your birthday cakes so far is 666

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    Quote Originally Posted by NickFitz View Post
    [*]You're getting old! - And a HT to veteran for this one, which takes your date of birth and gives you all kinds of stats about how decrepit you’re getting, also listing various interesting things that have happened during your life. For me, it helpfully tells me that ”Out of 100,000 people born on the same day as you, approximately 90,657 are still living.”
    For me says:

    "John Logie Baird successfully transmits the first television pictures
    Nearer to your birth date than today!"

    Well that's really cheered me up

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    Quote Originally Posted by GJABS View Post
    For me says:

    "John Logie Baird successfully transmits the first television pictures
    Nearer to your birth date than today!"

    Well that's really cheered me up
    All right for some - I got "Louis Bleriot crosses the English Channel for the first time in a powered aircraft"

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    Quote Originally Posted by GJABS View Post
    For me says:

    "John Logie Baird successfully transmits the first television pictures
    Nearer to your birth date than today!"

    Well that's really cheered me up
    It's all right for you - The Boer War, in 1900, was nearer to my birth date than today
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    Quote Originally Posted by OwlHoot View Post
    Can anyone seriously claim more progress has been made in the last 15 years, in practically any sphere, than in the entire 20th century?


    (Thanks for all links BTW)
    I would agree, more progress in the last few years in practically every field than all of 20th Century.
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    Quote Originally Posted by _V_ View Post
    I would agree, more progress in the last few years in practically every field than all of 20th Century.
    Lots of small incremental progress in a multitude of fields, as there are so many researchers these days, but few if any major leaps IMHO.

    Oh and I don't count Facebook and Twitter as progress!
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