I was both pleased and disappointed, as always, when I heard that a book I enjoyed was being made into a movie. Andy Weir's The Martian was the best new book I'd read in years. It was written for nerds, by a nerd — by somebody with an obvious love for NASA, science, and spaceflight. How could it possibly be condensed into the format of a Hollywood blockbuster? Well, director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Drew Goddard figured out how. The Martian is an excellent film, well worth watching. Read on for my review (very minor spoilers only), and feel free to share your own in the comments.
hypnosec writes: A YouTuber named Tom Scott has built a 1,000-key keyboard with each key representing an emoji! Scott made the emoji keyboard using 14 keyboards and over 1,000 individually placed stickers. While he himself admits that it is one of the craziest things he has built, the work he has put in does warrant appreciation. On the keyboard are individually placed emojis for food items, animals, plants, transport, national flags, and time among others.
sciencehabit writes: The Ig Nobel prizes award research that 'makes people laugh, and then think', and this year was no exception. At a ceremony at Harvard University Thursday night, awards were given for a variety of wacky science papers. Among the winners, a scientist who repeatedly had himself stung by bees to figure out the most painful place in the body to be stung, and a study of which animals take the longest to urinate.
Bennett Haselton writes: The comedy world crucified Josh "Fat Jew" Ostrovsky for building his career on re-tweeting other people's jokes without attribution. But Twitter, or whichever company rises as their successor, could easily implement an algorithm that could stop plagiarists from building a following, while still rewarding joke writers who come up with original content. Read on for Bennett's take on how such a system could work.
An anonymous reader writes: Entertainment Weekly reports that Amazon Studios is developing a TV show based on Galaxy Quest, the 1999 film that parodied classic sci-fi shows like Star Trek. In the movie, actors for a Trek-like show were conscripted by real aliens to help run a starship and negotiate peace with a mortal enemy. The actors had no idea what to do, of course, and ended up getting help from the most rabid fans of their show. The new TV show is still in early stages of development. It's unlikely that the original Galaxy Quest cast will return — it starred Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, and Sam Rockwell, to name a few. However, several important members of the production crew will return: "The film's co-writer Robert Gordon will pen the script and executive produce the pilot. The film's director Dean Parisot will direct and executive produce. And executive producers Mark Johnson and Melissa Bernstein are on board as well." The show is a ways off, yet — they haven't even been greenlit for a pilot episode — but it'd be a welcome addition to today's sci-fi TV offerings
An anonymous reader writes: For over a decade Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor at the New Yorker, and his assistants have gone through 5,000 cartoon entries for the magazine's caption contest each week. Needless to say, the burnout rate of his assistants is quite high, "The process of looking at 5,000 caption entries a week usually destroys their mind in about two years, and then I get a new one," Mankoff says. But now thanks to a collaboration with Microsoft, Bob may finally have found the perfect helper. Researchers have been working on an artificial intelligence project to teach a computer what's funny. Fortune reports: "Dafna Shahaf, a researcher at Microsoft, used the database of cartoons to train the program to understand commonalities and differences in the millions of cartoons, which lets the AI run through the entries the New Yorker receives each week for its back-of-magazine cartoon caption contest. About 55.8% of the time the humans agree with the captions the AI selects, which is a pretty good percentage."
cold fjord writes: Just as it was needed then, it is needed now (more than ever). NPR reports, "Fans of the well-loved comic strip Bloom County are celebrating ... cartoonist Berkeley Breathed issued the first panels of his satirical strip in decades. Breathed won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on Bloom County back in 1987; two years later, he quit producing it. ... It's unclear whether Breathed will syndicate his new work in newspapers; he recently recalled how an editorial dispute with a publisher had a direct role in his decision to quit cartooning in 2008. His Facebook postings, Breathed said earlier this month, are "nicely out of reach of nervous newspaper editors, the PC humor police now rampant across the web ... and ISIS." When Bloom County went idle in 1989, it was one of several clever and inventive comic strips, such as Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side, that were beloved by fans and yet were also comparatively short-lived. Today, devoted fans are treating its return as a small miracle." — The Washington Post adds, ""Honestly, I was unprepared for it," Breathed tells me of the public outpouring. "It calls for a bit of introspection about how characters can work with readers and how they're now absent as a unifying element with a society. "There is no media that will allow a Charlie Brown or a Snoopy to become a universal and shared joy each morning at the same moment across the country," Breathed continues. 'Maybe the rather marked response to my character's return is a reflection of that loss. A last gasp of a passing era.'"
An anonymous reader writes: Over the past decade, Marvel has been rolling out superhero film after superhero film. They've found a successful formula, and each of the last half-dozen films has brought in over a half-billion dollars in ticket revenue. Today they added to the franchise with Ant-Man, based on a superhero who can shrink himself to the size of an ant (while maintaining normal strength), and control insects. But where the spate of Avengers-related movies only occasionally interjected humor into their world-preserving plots, Ant-Man focuses more on being funny and simply entertaining. Reviews are generally positive, but not overwhelmingly so — Rotten Tomatoes has it at 79%, with a 91% audience score while Metacritic has it at 64/100, with an 8.4/10 user score. The LA Times calls it "playful." Vox has good and bad to say about Ant-Man, but notes that its failings are very common to Marvel's other films. Salon says, "...in its medium-stupid and mismanaged fashion it's not so awful." Wired posted the obligatory physics of Ant-Man article, as did FiveThirtyEight.
jones_supa writes: North Korea has created a wonder drug which not only cures AIDS, but also eradicates Ebola and cancer — at least, according to the latest proclamation from the country's news agency. Their announcement says the miracle cure consists of ginseng grown from fertilizer and rare earth elements. The drug's website cites a medical study in Africa where the product was tested on HIV-positive patients. It records that every single participant in the trial noted an improvement, with 56% being completely cured and 44% noting a considerable improvement in their condition. Among other benefits, the North Korean scientists also revealed that the drug is capable of curing a number of cancers, but did not provide details of the medical trials which support this claim. It's also good to remember that the state has previously claimed that Kim Jong Il invented the hamburger.
theodp writes: In response to those of you who are unhappy with your Open Office, McSweeney's has some ideas for taking the open floor plan to the next level. "Our open floor plan was decided upon after rigorous research that primarily involved looking at what cool internet companies were doing and reflexively copying them," writes Kelsey Rexroat. "We're dismayed and confused as to why their model isn't succeeding for our own business, and have concluded that we just haven't embraced the open floor plan ideals as fully as we possibly can. So team, let's take this open floor plan to the next level!" Among the changes being implemented in the spirit of transparency and collaboration: 1. "All tables, chairs, and filing cabinets will be replaced by see-through plastic furnishings." 2. "All desks will be mounted on wheels and arranged into four-desk clusters. At random intervals throughout the day, a whistle will blow, at which point you should quickly roll your desk into a new cluster." 3. "Employees' desktops will be randomly projected onto a movie screen in the center of the office." 4. "You can now dial into a designated phone line to listen in on any calls taking place within the office and add your opinion." Some workplaces might make you question just how tongue-in-cheek this description is.
alphadogg writes: A pair of Georgia Tech computer science students have created a Random Startup Website Generator that spits out a different jargon-laden startup website every time you click on the URL. Mike Bradley and Tiffany Zhang's project "serves as a parody of startups that have websites full of vague praise and little information about their actual business, often because they have little to show in that regard."
jones_supa writes: The Korean electronics company LG ships a split screen tool with their ultra wide displays. It allows users to slice the Windows desktop into multiple segments. However, installing the software seriously compromises security of the particular workstation. The developers required administrator access for the software, but apparently they hacked their way out. The installer silently disables User Account Control, and enables a policy to start all applications as Administrator. In the article there is also a video presentation of the setup procedure. It is safe to say that no one should be running this software in its current form.
An anonymous reader writes with the story of a Github user's joke repository that is causing some controversy. "There's no question that the tech world is an overwhelmingly male place. There's legit concern that tech is run-amok with 'brogrammers' that make women programmers feel unwelcome. On the other hand, people just want to laugh. It's at that intersection that programmer Randy Hunt, aka 'letsgetrandy' posted a 'project' earlier this week to software hosting site GitHub called 'DICSS.' The project, which is actual free and open source software, is surrounded by geeky jokes about the male anatomy. And it's gone nuts, so to speak, becoming the most trending project on Github, and the subject of a lot of chatter on Twitter. And, Hunt tells us, the folks at Github are scratching their heads wondering what they should do about it. Some people love DICSS ... and some people are, understandably, offended. The offended people point out that this is exactly the sort of thing that makes tech unwelcoming to women, and not just because of the original project, but because of some of the comments (posted as "commits") that might take the joke too far."
An anonymous reader writes A British newspaper is celebrating "the world's worst ebook artwork", as discovered by the creator of a new Tumblr feed. 'It's the hubris of it that people get a kick out of — the devil-may-care attitude of an author who, with zero arts training, says to themselves: "How hard can it be?" Two different authors simply cut-and-pasted smaller images over a background showing the planets, according to one Kindle blog, which notes that one author actually pasted eyes and lips onto the planets, creating an inadvertently creepy montage. But the site's creator tells the newspaper that it's ultimately meant to be an affectionate tribute to their rejection of the mundane and appreciating each creative and beautiful mess.
Zach Weiner is the author and illustrator of a number of webcomics, most notably Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (SMBC). He's been a guest contributor to xkcd and founded the sketch comedy group SMBC Theater. His project Augie and the Green Knight, was the most funded children's book on Kickstarter, and his newest project The Gentleman's Single-Use Monocle offers readers emergency reading protection with a bit of class. Zach has agreed to step away from the comics for a bit and answer any questions you might have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
An anonymous reader writes: An MP from the governing Conservative Party has said that using astrology could radically improve the performance of Britain's National Health Service and that its opponents are "racially prejudiced" and driven by "superstition, ignorance and prejudice." David Treddinick even claims he has "helped" fellow legislators through astrology.
HughPickens.com writes Rachel Nuwer writes in the NYT that Dr. Sameer Chaudhry's online dating persona was garnering no response from the women he reached out to so he synthesized 86 literature studies on the subject of online dating in the fields of psychology, sociology, and computer, behavioral, and neurocognitive sciences.in hopes of improving his odds. As it turns out, success begins with picking a user name. While men are drawn to names linked to physical traits (e.g., Cutie), the researchers found, women prefer ones that indicate intelligence (e.g., Cultured). Both sexes respond well to playful names (e.g. Fun2bwith) and shy away from ones with negative connotations (e.g., Bugg). User names that begin with letters from the first half of the alphabet do better than those from the latter half. "As human beings, we have a tendency to give things at the top of a pile more value," says Khan. As for your profile photo, pick a photo with a genuine smile, one that crinkles the eyes, and with a slight head tilt (it's linked to attractiveness). And if you're looking for a male partner, go for that photo of you in siren red—a color that enhances men's attraction to women. "For those attracted to browse into the profile, a description of personal traits increased likeability when it: showed who the dater was and what they were looking for in a 70:30 ratio; stayed close to reality; and employed simple language with humor added. Invitations were most successful in obtaining a response from the potential date when they: were short personalized messages addressing a trait in their profile; rhymed with their screen name or headline message; and extended genuine compliments." And finally, don't wait too long before arranging a face to face meeting.
slimjim8094 writes: According to the NY Times, Jon Stewart is leaving "The Daily Show." This was announced during the taping of this evening's show. He will "remain at the helm of 'The Daily Show' until later this year," but no word on exactly when the change will take place, or what the replacement (host or show) will be. Presumably the current and past correspondents would be the first choice for a new host. His program will be sorely missed by at least this viewer. Maybe Comedy Central can get John Oliver out of his HBO show...