The Pipwick Papers

Keeping an eye on thingsIt’s time for the weekly wander into a would outside gaming so grab a jacket and venture forth. Think of this as a cherry tree covered in blossom to enjoy. Except it’s an electronic branch and the flowers are web links what don’t look so impressive on Instagram.

This is not the Sunday Papers:

  • Ben Popper’s been looking into Google’s Project Loon – an internet for remote or unconnected areas powered by balloons
  • When you imagine a sensitive computer system that will be subjected to the harsh conditions of the stratosphere, you probably don’t picture it inside a $2 box meant for a picnic. But in the fast and dirty ethos of X Labs, the simplest solution is often the best one — and so it was that the flight controller on early balloons was jammed into a styrofoam beer cooler and set to the edge of outer space. The team keeps that original unit around as a memento.

  • The Museum of Modern Art in New York has acquired original Mac icon sketches by designer, Susan Kare, the Creative Commons icon and more. Here’s Paola Antonelli – senior curator for the museum’s Department of Architecture And Design – talking about the exhibition they were acquired in relation to.
  • Elizabeth Becker, war correspondent and author, on her decision to testify against Khmer Rouge officials charged with genocide and crimes against humanity.
  • A handful of journalists have been asked to appear at tribunals covering countries like the Balkan nations and Rwanda. But it’s a difficult proposition. Many American news organizations believe that by testifying in war-crimes tribunals, reporters jeopardize their neutrality and the safety of correspondents, especially as war reporting has become more dangerous.

  • As a former trainee librarian at a student library I was curious to read Terrance F Ross’s piece for The Atlantic, The Death of Textbooks? which looks at a shift towards digital learning and some of the technologies now available for teachers and students
  • ALEKS launched in 1999 and operated for more than decade on its own before it McGraw Hill purchased it in 2013 and is predicated on “completely individualized learning”; the program adapts based on an individual’s knowledge and skill set. Behind the scenes, the software builds a database detailing the proficiency of each student, information that is then used to formulate questions tailored to kids based on what they find most challenging. Essentially, the program—which is based on 20 years of research by cognitive scientists, mathematicians and engineers—can instantly assess the individual abilities of an entire class of students at a rate that would be impossible for most teachers.

  • Ooooh – Marvel’s released the latest trailer for Age of Ultron:
  • Discover Magazine’s Elizabeth Preston on how turning hermit crabs upside down revealed shy crabs contain the largest spermatophores:
  • But instead of “live fast, die young,” they were employing a different strategy. More like “stay safe and protect your giant sperm packages.”

  • Artist Paul Friedlander makes beautiful kinetic light sculpture inspired by skipping ropes – here’s Emiko Jozuka for Wired.co.uk
  • Aaaaand BBC Future’s Helen Thomson has a look at auto-brewery syndrome, “a very rare and somewhat controversial medical condition in which an overgrowth of yeast in the gut turns carbohydrates from food into excess alcohol in the blood.” Basically, some people might be able to get drunk on eating chips.
  • 14 Comments

    1. thedosbox says:

      From Twitter:

      The Pipwick Papers – flight controllers in beer coolers and sperm-stuffed crabs

      The actual article was worth that lead in.

    2. pepperfez says:

      The idea that testifying to what they saw would somehow make reporters less neutral is as damning an indictment of the cult of objectivity as one could ask for.

      • Monggerel says:

        I reckon that choosing not to testify is still very much not neutral.
        If you’re involved in an issue, you cannot choose neutrality because that option simply doesn’t exist.

        That said, I can certainly see why somebody would choose not to testify. Justice is nice but so is staying alive.

      • Gap Gen says:

        I suppose there are practical aspects such as the loss of the ability for foreign journalists to cover events if they lose face with the regimes they’re covering by testifying on them after the fact (as well as threats to personal safety). Then again, as the article points out, several places are unsafe for foreign journalists anyway, since groups like ISIS execute journalists as propaganda. The breakdown of nation states in recent flashpoints might mean that reporting on foreign wars becomes more and more dangerous, irrespective of how the journalists behave towards the forces they’re reporting on.

    3. Heliocentric says:

      Yeah, it’s observing genocide that stops you being neutral, that said. Journalists who do testify do deserve protection from those who they are testifying against.

    4. Comradebluesky says:

      Stuff like this is great – additional content with stuff to chew on, intellectually. Fascinating reading, Pip – thanks!

    5. James says:

      ‘Stay safe and protect your giant sperm packages’ – general advice for male life of any species I do believe.

      • Gap Gen says:

        As anyone who’s been kicked in the nuts before knows, this is some good advice.

        • Jackablade says:

          The hermit crab must look at us as being pretty fool-hardy, not only do we lack a hard carapace, we don’t even bother to adopt a hard shell to to help protect our squishiness.

    6. Gap Gen says:

      This is exciting! Everyone knows that human development proceeds in ages, with the Classical Age subsumed by the Dark Ages, those in turn being overtaken by the Feudal Age, working our way up to the Information Age, so I’m psyched to learn what momentous events will bring about the Age of Ultron and usher in an era of peace, prosperity, and Ultron.

      • Jackablade says:

        I gather the plan is to annihilate all of humanity, which I think you’ll agree would make things a lot more nice and peaceful.

    7. cardboardartisan says:

      As someone who works at an AI company, all I can say about this new Avengers trailer is DAMNIT MARVEL