Lifes Worth Knowing

The Weekender

In Current events, Economics, Fascinating, Food Politics, General, Interesting, Justin, Thoughtful on March 17, 2012 at 8:34 pm

The Weekender is a weekly column devoted to the ideas/articles/videos that I find fascinating and wish I had more time to explore.

Cool doesn’t even begin to describe this. You know how the space shuttle was taken to space on the backs of those three boosters? Did you ever think what happened after the shuttle jettisoned them? This *mindblowing* video takes you through the entire process – from launch to landing from the perspective of the solid fuel boosters. The entire sequence takes only 400 seconds to go from launch pad to a height of 41 miles and back down to the ocean. Just when you think it is going to get boring…it starts getting better, trust me, block out 8 minutes and get the whole thing.

Pictures of my cats aren’t quite as cool. When an intrepid photographer decides to mount his camera inside a remote controlled mini-tank that he dubbed the “beetle cam,” he ends up with some of the most incredible wildlife photography anywhere. The photos are incredible, as he follows a pride of lions who mostly ignore the camera, but not before it gets so close that you can almost smell lion-breath.

You should read this interview. Just not before dinner. Timothy Pachirat spent months working as an undercover journalist in a meat packing plant in Nebraska. This is not some Upton Sinclair type expose meant to make you feel sick, it is an honest look at our food system. Tim dives into the psychology of killing, the ability of the workers to separate themselves from the actual moment of death, and what he calls in his book “the politics of sight.” The slaughterhouse floor is designed very specifically to have numerous 90 degree angles on the line to prevent any one worker from seeing what anyone else is doing. It completely isolates that worker to their one task. That way, if they are the one hanging livers in the cooler, they don’t have to associate that to a living steer. Many workers at the plant never see a live animal at all. He draws some rather broad parallels to society as a whole as well. Check out his book, too. (via Boing Boing)

This kid reminds me waaay to much of myself. This kid builds a fantastic perpetual motion (Rube Goldberg) machine. He even analyzes it’s failures and makes adjustments until it works perfectly…and then he goes absolutely nuts. I actually built a massive one of these when I was 11 or 12 in my parents basement, and I can still remember specific problems that I had to work through to get it working, and I have to admit, I probably made a bigger fool of myself when mine worked.

Keep trying to look up…it won’t help. I know that this week’s edition is getting a bit video heavy, but I can’t resist posting this video of a downhill bike race in Valparaiso, Chile. Mainly because having been to the city, and understanding the crazy slopes, I have  a huge appreciation for what this guy does. Valparaiso is packed into the foothills of the Andes, and spills out right onto the ocean. There is hardly a level road in the entire city and this video shows what some more adventurous Chileans can do.

What if your entire life was expressed in one data set?  That is the question that led Stephen Wolfram to record all sorts of data about his life for the past two decades. He plots his emails, phone calls, meetings, and keystrokes over the past twenty years to give himself an in depth look at how he spends his life. He has literally tracked every keystroke he has types – over 100 million of them, and expressed them in some pretty awesome graphs.  The trends are very easy to pick out, when he usually eats dinner and when he usually goes to bed, but some conclusions are pretty cool. Based upon 20 years of data he can tell you what the probability is that he will be on the phone at any one time. Noon? 75% chance. 7 PM? 10% chance. 11 PM? 45% chance. Clearly his work habits are a little odd, but it makes me wonder what a similar chart would look like for yourself.

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