Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday Links!

Lots and lots of interesting reading to help you start your weekend a few work hours early.

First off, two updates from previous links. First, from Shawn Kinkade:
Just so you know, the pictures from America in the 1940s are actually part of the Library of Congress pictures that were posted without copyright restriction on Flickr a couple of months ago. You can find the pictures here.

A few months ago, I posted a link to a story about Joshua Bell (acknowledged as one of the nation's finest violinists) playing in the Washington Metro at rush hour--and being ignored. It's a great story, well worth reading if you haven't already, and author Gene Weingarten was recently awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the story.

Now, leading off this week, a fantastic article from the New York times titled And Behind Door No. 1, A Fatal Flaw. What's known as the "Monty Hall Problem" is one of my favorite mathematical concepts. Here's the setup:
Here’s how Monty’s deal works, in the math problem, anyway. (On the real show it was a bit messier.) He shows you three closed doors, with a car behind one and a goat behind each of the others. If you open the one with the car, you win it. You start by picking a door, but before it’s opened Monty will always open another door to reveal a goat. Then he’ll let you open either remaining door.

Suppose you start by picking Door 1, and Monty opens Door 3 to reveal a goat. Now what should you do? Stick with Door 1 or switch to Door 2?

The answer--and there is no doubt--is that you should always switch.

That is a terrifically difficult concept to grasp, though, and now ecnonomist M. Keith Chen has pointed out that some of the experiments that form the basis of research on cognitive dissonance are fatally flawed--and it's the Monty Hall Problem in action.

Next, another article from the New York Times about Anne Adams, a Canadian scientist who became a prolific artist near the end of her life--due to a disease called FTD, or Frontotemporal Dementia. What's particularly striking is that she painted a visual translation of Ravel's "Bolero," and Ravel himself suffered from a brain disease with symptoms that indicated he might have been suffering from FTD as well.

A remarkable baby mammoth has been discovered in the Russian Arctic. Even the internal organs are intact, and scientists are saying it's the most well-preserved prehistoric animal ever discovered.

Here's a mind-blowing link from David Gloier: film footage of Jimmy Hendrix and the Rolling Stones. Here's an excerpt from the description:
This is Jimi Hendrix celebrating his last birthday backstage with the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 27, 1969.

Here's a link to a wonderful video from Diego Jimenez. It's called Like a Bird on a Wire, and it shows power line maintenance on live wires. How? Well, you need a helicopter and a kind of Faraday cage, and you also need to watch this video.

From Michael O'Reilly, a link to a story about a fifth grader who found a mistake--at the Smithsonian. Here's a second link from Michael, to what could be one of the greatest pranks ever: a war cannon buried under Dartmouth football stadium.

From the Edwin Garcia links machine, a link to the National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest 2008. Next, a classic: man builds canoe out of used chopsticks. And the craftmanship is absolutely stellar. Then there's the strange story of Placenta 10000, a "jelly drink" being marketed in Japan. Um, blech.

From Dan Holmes, a link to his latest video short--Immortalize Me!.

From Sirius, a link to a story about the discovery of a lungless frog. Also from Sirius, a link to a new Microsoft product called My Song, which creates background accompaniment for any song. Sing into the microphone, choose what kind of instruments and style you want, and the backing music is created. This is going to be responsible for some hellishly bad karaoke nights in the future, but the technical achievement is interesting. And the hat trick with a link to a video of the first "solar tsunami" captured on film.

Finally, from Daniel d'Avignon-Aubut, a link to (NSFW, quite possibly) unfortunate domain names. There's also a link to another list (Top 10 Worst Domain Names) that's even funnier.

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