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Brain Fodder Vol. 2

Friday, October 05, 2012 - 05:53 PM

Two beer can chickens (Adrian Drebler/flickr/CC-BY-2.0)

This week: a singing planet, scientific proof that lots of things really do taste like chicken, a love letter to a map, and lots more...

Soren Wheeler

Soren confesses his love for data viz:

"I’m a freak for maps ... Especially maps that are full of information that changes when you play with them (and have colors) ...

There’s a guy who teaches at Yale, named Edward Tufte. He’s got some amazing books about data visualization and design. Pictured is a graphic he often talks about. It’s a representation of Napoleon’s march on Moscow from way back in the day. The brown line is Napoleon’s advance on Moscow, the black line is his retreat. The thickness of the line is the number of soldiers. Along the way, he charts the temperatures during the course of the retreat. You can notice that he lost almost no men in the Moscow, and you can also see little moments in the retreat, crossing a river, where lots and lots of men died. I find it a totally mesmerizing graphic (I even have a copy on my wall).

Click here to zoom.

Anyway, John Keefe (brother of our very own technical director Dylan Keefe) is the head of data news here at WNYC. And he has been doing some pretty amazing stuff with data and maps lately. You can see a lot of his work on the WNYC website, but John also keeps a little blog of his own about different projects, which is well worth checking out."

Ellen Horne

Ellen's eye -- or ear -- was caught by NASA recordings of the earth "singing":

Lynn Levy

Lynn caught a movie about radio:

"Just saw this documentary called Radio Unnameable. It's about a late-night radio DJ named Bob Fass, who's been doing a show on WBAI Radio (NYC) for something like 50 years. He was at the screening I went to, and let me tell you: this is one of the most honest, insightful, balls-to-the-wall, badass dudes I've ever seen. The doc is really well-made, too; they have a ton of amazing archival footage of NYC in the 60's and 70's that you've probably never seen before (I hadn't, anyway). There are a bunch of screenings coming up."

Brenna Farrell

Brenna discovered some very short stories about humiliation and heroes, in video form:

“I ran across this video series that completely charmed me with its combo of lo-fi charisma plus a really likable concept: comedians reliving their often embarrassing, sometimes kind-of-mundane, encounters with celebrities. It’s a collaboration between New York Mag's Vulture team and the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, called Pop Culture Memory Lane. The videos are quick hits, just a few minutes each, and I find them totally disarming. There’s something really unvarnished about them -- the straight-on tells from the comedians paired up with unpretentious animations some cases...cardboard puppets. Here's one of my favorites:

Malissa O'Donnell

On the tour bus between stops for our In the Dark live show in the Midwest last weekend, Malissa, Jad, and Ellen got talking about the lymphatic system (apparently somebody forgot the bourbon and deck of cards...oh, traveling nerd circus.) In any case, Malissa was into it: "The way your lymphatic system interacts with your blood is complex, but so fascinating." Rock and roll:

Chris Berube

Chris is really interested in the origins of language (did you know the saying “pork barrel politics” is actually deeply racist?), so he was a little startled to find out that the phrase “it tastes like chicken” has some real science behind it. “I assumed that people said the chicken bit to trick friends into eating unpalatable things,” said Chris. But as he learned from a new Slate article, many things, particularly fish, actually do taste like chicken -- because they evolved from a similar gene pool. The first recorded instance of someone making the comparison happened after a mouthful of iguana. Delicious.

Molly Webster

Molly's been getting a big old kick out of "20 Spectacularly Nerdy Science Jokes," a chops-testing list on Buzzfeed this week:

"I have to thank a buddy over at SoundCloud for knowing that I'd revel in some science-related humor. All my science teachers will be proud to know I got the witticisms (I actually laughed.out.loud at the joke about precipitate), though admittedly my mind is still puzzling over that one with sodium atoms and Batman. Anyone?"

Kelly Slivka

Kelly's been looking at the world through the eyes of "The Jetsons":

"Matt Novak's blog Paleofuture, published by Smithsonian magazine, tries to reason out why people creating a cartoon in the 1960s might think the future world of "The Jetsons" (set a mere 50 years from now) would look the way they imagined. There's something circular and funhouse mirror-like about envisioning the past by looking at how the past envisioned the future. Novak's writing a post for every episode of the 1962-1963 season, full of insights galore -- not only about the 1960s, but also about why I didn't take my space car into work today."

Tim Howard

Tim's been stopping himself mid-sentence to think about words (we imagine he's analyzing this prose right now):

"Lately I've been really enjoying the book The Unfolding of Language, by linguist Guy Deutscher (you might have caught him in our Colors episode, telling us the crazy story about Homer's use of color terms). This book is about the creation, evolution, and destruction of human language, and it reads almost like a detective story. At its core is a paradox: if humans tend to be lazy speakers, and all human languages are in constant state of destruction -- elimination of cases, removing subjunctives, shortening words, allowing lazier pronunciation -- then how did we ever create such massively complex languages such as Latin, Sanskrit, or (way back) Proto-Indo-European? If we're too lazy to hang onto the word "whom," how did we ever create languages with the kind of case systems and declensions that would make any reasonable student cry?

Along the way, you also get some great side-alleys into wholesale pronunciation shifts, words reversing meaning, and metaphors dying. I wish I could make this sound more whiz-bang fascinating, because honestly, this book has made me say unprintable things many times. And since I've begun reading it, I've found myself slowing down mid-sentence ... and looking long and hard at whatever (boring) thing I was saying, realizing that it actually reveals some bizarre process of linguistic destruction and creation. If you can't get the book right away, for linguistic kicks check out this great page from the blog Kottke on pronunciation!"



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Comments [3]


For those who have not forgotten the "Fact of the Matter" this again gets at the heart of the issue of Yellow Rain, and what was wrong with the podcast from a third party perspective.

Radiolab has so much to answer for.

Nov. 13 2012 07:38 PM

Just found this: Kao Kalia Yang's (interpreter for the Yellow Rain piece) first response to "Yellow Rain"

Oct. 23 2012 11:29 AM

Molly Webster... The sodium and Batman joke refers to:
"Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na... Batman!"
The Theme Song! Hahahahah. :)

Oct. 05 2012 08:33 PM

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