Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday Links!

Just close your door, forward your phone, and start reading. And if you don't have a door, just get some packing tape and string it across the entrance to your cubicle.

First off, there's an excellent article over at Wired about Internet censorship in China, and you can read it here.

Here are two excellent Portal-related links over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun. First is an interview with Valve's Erik Wolpaw (from Old Man Murray, which I still miss on a daily basis). He was writer on Portal, and the interview is both extremely demented and contains spoilers. Read it here. There's also an interview (and I've never called an interview "wonderful" before, but this is such a good read) with Kim Swift and Jeep Barrett, two of the leads on Portal, which you can read here. Oh, and this interview contains many spoilers as well.

Seriously, though, have you not played the damn game yet?

And by the way, has a company EVER been better at finding and integrating talent than Valve? Has anyone else even come close?

From Sirius, a link to the website of the National Museum of Science and Technology in Italy. It is filled to the bursting with information about Leonardo Da Vinci, and you can see it all here.

Here's a link to an architectural marvel known as the Coral Castle. I remember seeing an "Unsolved Mysteries" episode about the Coral Castle, and it's fascinated me since then. It was built in the early 1900's by a Latvian immigrant named Edward Leedskalnin, and here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry:
The grounds of Coral Castle consist of 1,100 tons of stones found in the forms of walls, carvings, furniture and a castle tower. While commonly referred to as being made up of coral, it is actually made of Oolite, aka Oolitic Limestone. Oolite is a sedimentary rock comprised of fossilized coral. Oolite is found throughout Southern Florida and is often found beneath only several inches of topsoil such as at the Coral Castle site.

The stones are fastened together without any mortar. They are simply set on top of eachother using their immense weight to keep them together. However, the craftsmanship detail is so skillful that the stones are connected with such precision that no light passes between the seams. The eight foot tall vertical stones that comprise the perimeter wall have a uniform height. Even with the passage of decades and a direct hit on August 24, 1992 by the Category 5 Hurricane Andrew, which leveled everything in the area, the stones have not shifted.

Many of the features and carvings of the castle are notable. Among them are a two-story castle tower that served as Leedskalnin's living quarters, walls consisting entirely of eight foot high pieces of coral, an accurate sun dial, a Polaris telescope, an obelisk, a barbecue, a water well, a fountain, celestial stars and planets, and numerous pieces of furniture. The furniture pieces included are a heart-shaped table, a table in the shape of Florida, twenty-five rocking chairs, chairs resembling quarter moons, a bathtub, beds and a royal throne.

What is most remarkable about the contents of the Coral Castle is the massive size of the stones used throughout the construction. Even more so when you consider the assembly was performed by one man with crude tools. With few exceptions, the objects are made from single pieces of stone. The stones on average weigh more than the stones found in the Pyramids of Egypt. The largest stone weighs 30 tons, which is over three times the size of the heaviest stone found in the Great Pyramid of Giza.[10] Leedskalnin may have well been aware of this as the 30 ton stone is capped by a stone that closely resembles the gabled roof of the King's Chamber in the Pyramid of Khufu.[11] Two of the stones are monolithic and stand twenty-five feet high above the ground which make them taller than any stone found in Stonehenge.[12][13][14]

The Wikipedia entry is here, and here's a website with a nice assortment of pictures.

From Matthew Teets, a link to a collection of the most epic drinking stories in history. Here's an excerpt from the entry for Admiral Edward Russell's epic party in the seventeenth century:
In 1694, he threw an officer's party that employed a garden's fountain as the punch bowl.

The concoction? A mixture that included 250 gallons of brandy, 125 gallons of Malaga wine, 1,400 pounds of sugar, 2,500 lemons, 20 gallons of lime juice, and 5 pounds of nutmeg.

A series of bartenders actually paddled around in a small wooden canoe, filling up guests' cups. Not only that, but they had to work in 15-minute shifts to avoid being overcome by the fumes and falling overboard.

There are some epic stories, and you can read them all here.

A second link from Sirius, this one to a story about a clay made from ancient volcanic ash in France that is incredibly effective against "superbugs." Here's an excerpt:
The dramatic antibiotic success of agricur, a clay made from ancient volcanic ash found near the Massif Central, marks it out as a potential rival to penicillin, the wonder drug of the 20th century. In experiments, the clay killed up to 99 per cent of superbug colonies within 24 hours. Control samples of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) grew 45-fold in the same period.

Read the full story here.

From Don Barree, a link to an article about Jonathan Goodwin, who is best described as a guy who hacks cars. Think doubling MPG and horsepower--at the same time. It's a fascinating article, and you can read it here.

From Rich McIver, a link to an article about the "Top 25 Ultimate Gamer Vacations." Okay, I admit that putting "E for All" at #4 is an egregious misplacement, but there are still some interesting destinations, and you can see them here.

From "spfiota," a link to an amazing VR simulator built for the military. It's impossible to describe, but there images and a video here.

Finally, from Roy Seney, a link to an article about a woman named Henrietta Lacks, who died in 1951--sort of. Here's a teaser from the article:
There is, however, one human being who is biologically immortal on a technicality, and her name is Henrietta Lacks.

No more hints, but it's a pretty fascinating footnote in history, and it's here.

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