Tag Archives: Misc

Numbers visualization

Numbers are really fascinating, so here there are 2 cool number hacks I found time ago.
1) Numberspiral.com Number spirals are very simple. To make one, we just write the non-negative integers on a ribbon and roll it up with zero at the center. The trick is to arrange the spiral so all the perfect squares (1, 4, 9, 16, etc.) line up in a row on the right side: and then interesting patterns start to emerge.
2) The secret lives of numbers (applet): determine the relative popularity of every integer between 0 and one million. The resulting information exhibits an extraordinary variety of patterns which reflect and refract our culture, our minds, and our bodies.
For example, certain numbers, such as 212, 486, 911, 1040, 1492, 1776, 68040, or 90210, occur more frequently than their neighbors because they are used to denominate the phone numbers, tax forms, computer chips, famous dates, or television programs that figure prominently in our culture. Regular periodicities in the data, located at multiples and powers of ten, mirror our cognitive preference for round numbers in our biologically-driven base-10 numbering system. Certain numbers, such as 12345 or 8888, appear to be more popular simply because they are easier to remember.

Changing sex, one page at a time

Some months ago, I read this post at Terranova which made me think a lot.
Suppose a disgruntled programmer were to run some code that flipped the sex of every player character in EverQuest. Further suppose that this programmer did such a thorough job that it would take a week before all the characters could be flipped back.
The players would complain, obviously, but would they actually play for that week? Would they learn anything from the experience?

It is incredible how easy is to “play with reality” and test any hypothesis when you can change at will these virtual worlds (but in which real humans “lives”, and some for many hours every day…)
Now from a post of Zephoria at Misbehaving, I come to know that Ping created a service that swaps the gendered pronoun information on every web page (“he” becomes “she” and viceversa, but there are a lot more swappings). Check it at Regender.com. I tried it on my blog and I kind of realized that I don’t often use 3rd person pronouns. But you can try, for example, on regender the Book of Genesis from the Bible for a different take on who created what.
In the beginning Goddess created the heaven and the earth….
Besides jokes, I think it can be an interesting mental exercise for realizing how society imposes on us some ways of thinking, and how they could be different if just … Well, call it “one day of regendered navigation”, if you like.

Flickr’s approach to polysemy: clusters

Some words (tags) have more than one meaning. Flickr now let you see the different meanings of tags. Some examples: jaguar (the car, the animal), bush (the president, the flower (greeny), the tree, the graffiti/art on bush the president), europe (france, italy, travel, germany), hot (summer and heat, red and pepper, sexy and woman, water and wet, fire and flame), turkey (the country, the food, the holiday), white (flower and nature, clouds and sky, snow and cold, light), tiger (the MacOSX interface, the animal), cameraphone (pictures of cameraphone, pictures taken with cameraphone, the food (probably a very often photoed object), the cat (probably a very often photoed object)), freedom (sky and free, peace, bird), sadly one of the clusters of italy is church.
Description of this new feature at Flickr Blog along with another new feature: interestingness.

ArteSella (nature art) slideshow

Today I visited ArteSella, an International Exhibition of Nature Art that is very close to Trento. I’m not very good in explaining how magic this exhibition is so I guess I’ll let the images speak. Or, if you prefer, the Artesella Flickr slideshow. If you want to come in Trentino for a rejuvenating period, you know who to ask for …
From ArteSella site:
Arte Sella is an international biennial exhibition of contemporary art which began life in 1986. It takes places in the open, in the fields and woods of the Val di Sella valley (near Borgo Valsugana in the Province of Trento). Since 1996 the Arte Sella project has been laid out along a path in the woods on the southern slope of the Armentera mountain. The route, named ARTENATURA (“Art in Nature”) is designed to enable visitors to view the artworks and at the same time enjoy the natural site itself (with its different types of woods, rocks and trees …)
The idea of the exhibition is not just to display works of art but also to show the creative process involved: the works are followed day by day as they are created and the artists are called upon to express their relationship with nature from which they draw inspiration – a relationship based on respect.

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An Automatic Patent Requests Generator: overflooding the Patent Office?

Since really trivial patents get granted (as long as you pay), i was wondering how hard could it be to organize a Distributed Denial of Service Attack on the Patent Office [the Patent Office probably reviews a bit patent requests, eventually accepting all of them since the only funds they received is from granting patents].
The idea: to modify a bit the SCIgen – An Automatic CS Paper Generator (a wonderful GPL-licenced generator of Computer Science papers who created a random paper that got accepted to a conference!) and overflood the Patent Office with automatically generated Patent Requests. I bet that 95% of the (randomly generated) Patent Requests would be accepted. Did I heard “NoSoftwarePatents“?

China releases “Human Rights Record of the United States in 2004”

USA is used to release a report on Human Rights for every country in the world. Every country but the USA. So China thought about filling the gap and presented The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2004. (i read the comment in Italian by Repubblica). Interesting reading, full of data, numbers and stats. This is a link to Yahoo Cache version, just in case.
Of course nobody could argue that China is better than USA about Human Rights. But it is interesting that China is explicitly attacking USA on such a topic: can you imagine any other country releasing such a report? By the Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. I can’t. With this report, China is saying “we are as powerful as you and we can judge you, as you judge all the world”. This is a scary situation for our future.
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M1cr0$oft 5uX

Annoying. Someone speaks a language that you can know only if you are part of an (evolving) community and someone, as a spy, reveals the “secret” vocabulary. Annoying and arrogant. And an Hacker is not a Cracker. And try to make sense of these words that I predict will evolve s00n in somet|-|1n6 else: “w4r3z” “h4x” “pr0n” “sploitz” “pwn” “0\/\/n3d” “pwn3d,” “kewl” “m4d sk1llz” “n00b,” “noob,” “newbie,” “newb” “w00t” \o/ “roxx0rs” “d00d” “joo” “j00” “_|00.” Upset.

Your Christmas is the result of Coca-Cola marketing?

Someone told me that Santa Claus was invented by Coca-Cola. I investigated a bit and it seems that this is more an urban legend and it is not completely true.
“All this isn’t to say that Coca-Cola didn’t have anything to do with cementing that image of Santa Claus in the public consciousness. The Santa image may have been standardized before Coca-Cola adopted it for their advertisements, but Coca-Cola had a great deal to do with establishing Santa Claus as a ubiquitous Christmas figure in America …” (from snopes).
However I just checked some websites and we know how it is easy to put up a website saying anything. So I remain with this little doubt: did I spend my childhood “worshipping” a puppet created by Coca-Cola marketing?

Knowledge organization: from tree to tags?

I’m probably not the first to note it but it seems new tools for organizing knowledge are moving from directories-based (i.e. trees) into flat tag-based. We know that ubercool applications such as del.icio.us, citeULike, flickr use tags, but i realized today that even gmail does not allow you to create folders (and (sub)*forders) for your email messages but only to tag them. In this way emails remain in a single big pool but you can have different views over them based on the different tags you used.
I’m wondering if (and how) filesystems can move in a similar direction, or at least the “explorer” visual interface of a filesystem. VennFS (snapshot) seems an interesting direction even if I’m not sure the representation metaphor is easy to grasp. It is selfevident that the fact many people are used to directories-based structures does not mean this is the best way to organize knowledge.
A quick search resulted in 2 keywords related to tag-based system you may want to analyze more: folksonomy and ethnoclassification.
Pros of tags-based tools: an object can fall under more than one categories, you don’t have to think once forever your categorization structure and then be stucked with it but tags support evolution.
Cons of tags-based tools: unless the tool incentives re-use of tags, you can easily end up creating too many tags and forgetting about them, resulting in inability to find the information you previously categorized.