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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Statistical Flowers for Algernon

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

I think there's a reading of Flowers for Algernon where the truth is he's just fundamentally a dickhead and everyone else who gets the same treatment fails to have an existential crisis.

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1 day ago
This is a good comic, but the hovertext about Flowers for Algernon is muddled. Charlie has an existential crisis because (a) he discovers as he gets smarter that he has been abused and taken advantage of by everybody in his entire life and (b) he discovers that the treatment is only temporarily effective and so just as he is reaching the peak of his powers, he is facing his own imminent demise.
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Forget $9,000… Bitcoin falls below $7,500

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Enlarge (credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

If there were any lingering doubts about whether the Bitcoin bubble was over, those should be gone now. After falling below $9,000 last Thursday for the first time since November, Bitcoin has fallen south of $7,500 as of this writing. Bitcoin was trading at right around $8,250 at the start of Monday, so it's down nearly 9 percent so far today.

Bitcoin had rallied a bit over the weekend, peaking at nearly $9,500 on Saturday, but Monday's news that Lloyds Bank has prohibited its credit card customers from using their cards for cryptocurrency sent prices reeling.

“Across Lloyds Bank, Bank of Scotland, Halifax and MBNA, we do not accept credit card transactions involving the purchase of cryptocurrencies,” a Lloyds Banking Group spokesperson told MarketWatch. “It’s a case of protecting our credit card customers from the risks associated with the price volatility of cryptocurrencies."

Late in January, Capital One also barred cryptocurrency purchases with its credit cards.

Combine the skepticism of banks and regulators with an influx of new investors excited about all things cryptocurrency, and you have a recipe for a sell-off. (Even the guy who fixes my furnace and the mechanic who repairs my car both accept cryptocurrency payments.)

The heady days of skyrocketing Bitcoin prices seem like a dim memory, even though it was less than two months ago that the number was threatening to crack the $20,000 mark.

Other cryptocurrencies are also seeing price drops. As of publication time, Ethereum had dropped from around $880 to $738.36 in the past 24 hours, while Bitcoin Cash was down about 17 percent during the same period.

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16 days ago
Wow. If Bitcoin were in fact a currency, this would fall under the definition of 'hyperinflation'. I guess it goes to show that even though whenever we picture 'inflation' we imagine a governmental power 'debasing' the currency or 'printing money', that is not the sole cause.

The big question it raises is whether there is any mechanistic system that could possibly maintain price stability? Or is price stability only possible when some active power or government fixes prices?
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visionsinmymind: fromacomrade: A “Trump presidency” is nothing new.  If we don’t know our...

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A “Trump presidency” is nothing new.  If we don’t know our history, we’re destined to repeat it.

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19 days ago
All these prior presidents were products of a democratic process that they sustained and upheld. Democracy doesn't mean a pure society where nobody is bad. It doesn't mean a perfectly just society. Rather, it is a mechanism for broadly shared governance. It is a framework within which we can create justice.

Trump's unique danger is not that he is a bad person who might do unjust things. He certainly is bad. And he has certainly done unjust things. But what sets him apart is the unique way he has undermined our institutions. The underpinnings of our society that have let us build a more just world over time.

It is important to understand our historical context of our society. To understand the unclean legacy we have inherited and to strive to improve our society and avoid those same mistakes. But it is also important to see the value our legacy has. We are flawed, but we are also worth fixing.

The house of our nation is old. We inherited a vast unpaid mortgage on it. The pipes are rusty. The door creeks. And in winter there is a terrible draft. But the ornate fireplace still lets us gather together for warmth. The stain glass windows still let in the light we strive for. So we should pull out some tools and get to work making it better because it is worth saving.
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This video shows that everyone takes the exact same Instagram travel photos

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After reading our recent coverage on Instagrammers hurting an iconic tree in New Zealand just to snap the same photo everyone else has already taken, photographer and videographer Oliver KMIA decided to put together a short video with a single, tongue-in-cheek purpose:

I wanted to show how people take the same picture over and over again while traveling.

The result is Instatravel, a video slideshow made out of thousands of Instagram travel photos that look pretty much identical. All of the typical tropes are covered: the passport photo, the pretty girl leading you by the hand, the airplane wing, and all of the most iconic landmarks being photographed from the same old locations in the exact same way.

We can't decide if the video is funny or depressing, so we'll let you do that. Alternatively, this is probably a good video to reference the next time you find yourself tempted to take one of these cliché travel shots. We've all done it, but a few seconds of hesitation might just yield something a bit more unique.

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20 days ago
This video is mesmerizing. It also raises the interesting question of the value of originality. Any photo you take is unlikely to be original. And this is especially true when travelling because you are following in the footsteps of untold millions. In fact, for many landmarks you are explicitly prohibited from seeking out an unusual perspective because when ten million people are walking through a place every year, their mere footsteps are a potentially destructive force if they leave the demarcated areas.

So if these photos aren't original and if originality may in fact be impossible, do these photos still have value? Is their value merely private or is there value in their public performance on a platform like Instagram?

One of the interesting side effects of the Internet is that it can make us realize that we are much less original and unique than it seems in our day to day lives. If you have an idea for a new product or band name or recipe, odds are somebody has already done it and you can find out with a search. Your photos documenting your unique experience visiting Yellowstone can be compared and shown to be almost identical to everybody else's experience. Even the puns or riffs you make on the topics of the day can be seen endlessly re-invented and posted on social media.

Consider the long progression first of the industrial revolution with standard parts and products, then with the information revolution with standard culture and mass broadcasts, and finally with the Internet with every duplicate idea just a search away. At every step, we perceive ourselves to be more derivative and less original. And at every step we have lionized the myth of originality and creativity. In this way, perhaps we are alienating ourselves from our own creations. We demean what we create if we aren't too discouraged to create at all. And we imagine that only some pure genius out there can create something truly novel and worthwhile.
20 days ago
If you liked that then you'll love this - http://ccamera.org/
20 days ago
Haha. I like the idea of that app even if I might not use it. A long time ago, I came across these pictures which is another way of showing what the video shows: https://mymodernmet.com/hundreds-of-tourist-photos/
20 days ago
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15 days ago
Food for thought on how unique our photos can actually be.
Texas, USA

Bridenstine Attempts to Soften Anti-Science Image with The Science Guy

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Bill Nye in Washington. (Credit: Planetary Society)

Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (the Science Guy) is defending his controversial decision to attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address this evening as a guest of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), whose nomination to serve as NASA administrator is facing a tough fight in the Senate.

In a string of Tweets, Nye he was not endorsing Bridenstine or the Trump Administration by attending the annual address. [Emphasis mine]

Tomorrow night I will attend the State of the Union as a guest of Congressman Jim Bridenstine – nominee for NASA Administrator – who extended me an invitation in my role as CEO of The Planetary Society.

The Society is the world’s largest and most influential non-governmental nonpartisan space organization, co-founded by Carl Sagan. While the Congressman and I disagree on a great many issues – we share a deep respect for NASA and its achievements and a strong interest in the future of space exploration.

My attendance tomorrow should not be interpreted as an endorsement of this administration, or of Congressman Bridenstine’s nomination, or seen as an acceptance of the recent attacks on science and the scientific community.

The U.S. Space Program has long been a source of American technical achievement, a symbol of our innovative spirit, and a source of national pride. There are extraordinary opportunities for our country, and for all humanity, in the continued exploration of space.

Historically, the Space Program has brought Americans together, and during his address, I hope to hear the President’s plans to continue exploring the space frontier.

As several Twitter followers have pointed out, the caveats that Nye places on his attendance might matter far less than the spin that Bridenstine and his allies on the right will impart to it.

Lo and behold, the spin has already begun. Just take a look at this story in the Conservative Review, which includes the following claim from the Congressman’s office about why he invited The Science Guy to the speech.

They both believe in a science-driven national space program. They also believe that space exploration uniquely inspires people to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, the statement continues. Both [the congressman and Nye] believe that NASA is the world’s preeminent agency to conduct the science necessary to understand our changing planet.

The story makes no mention of it, but Bridenstine’s embrace of NASA’srole in studying “our changing planet” is a recent development that roughly coincided with his campaign to run the space agency. His record during his five years in Congress demonstrates the exact opposite when it comes to climate change and NASA’s role in studying it.

The Congressman once took to the House floor to deny that global warming was occurring and to demand an apology from President Barack Obama for spending 30 times more studying a non-existent climate change problem than improving the nation’s weather forecasting capabilities. PolitFact rated Bridenstine’s claim as mostly false, saying he exaggerated the gap in spending using incorrect numbers.

Bridenstine has pushed for better forecasting during his time in Congress due to the number of tornadoes that touch down in his state. Although weather forecasting and climate change research are related, they are not the same. In April 2017, Trump signed a bill co-sponsored by Bridenstine that required NOAA to “re-balance” its spending away from climate change and toward weather forecasting.

The Congressman also introduced the American Space Renaissance Act that would have removed Earth science from the list of NASA’s goals in favor of a pioneering doctrine focused on sending astronauts to the moon and other destinations in deep space. Under the bill, any programs not in line with that doctrine — such as climate change research — would be canceled, privatized or moved to other federal agencies.

Bridenstine has since softened his stance on global warming, saying he believes it is occurring but is not sure why or what the impacts will be of it. This is the same position taken by the Trump Administration, which has been slashing climate research across the government. The Administration proposed cutting five NASA Earth science programs in its proposed FY 2018 budget, which Congress has yet to pass four months into the fiscal year.

Bridenstine has said that he would follow the decadal survey that sets priorities for Earth science. How much of the decadal survey NASA will be able to accomplish will depend upon funding levels provided by a Republican-controlled White House and Congress that are not overly supportive of these programs.

Nye’s attendance at the speech comes as Bridenstine’s nomination faces a close vote in a Senate the Republicans control by a narrow 51-49 margin. Democrats appear united in their opposition due the nominee’s positions on climate change and other issues. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has joined Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in criticizing Trump for nominating a highly partisan politician to lead a space agency that enjoys broad bi-partisan support in Congress.

Bridenstine’s invitation to Nye appears to be an attempt to soften his image on science. The Science Guy can protest all he wants about how his attendance does not constitute an endorsement of Bridenstine or Trump. But, the State of the Union Address is an exercise in political theater were impressions and spin matter far more than intentions.


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22 days ago
This is so bizarre to me. Bill Nye is a private citizen. He is attending one of the foundational ceremonies of our society. If he wants to participate, then it is perfectly ethical.

The author of this piece is right that Bill Nye doesn't get to choose the symbolism that other people apply to his actions. But by that same token, his actions are only ethical or unethical on their own merits. Not on the symbolism that other people apply to them.

Not every act needs to be a performance. And performing 'ethically' is very different than leading an ethical life. I think we have all seen many examples recently of people who performed 'ethically' in their public lives but did not follow through in their private lives. So perhaps we should be a bit less concerned about the public performance and a bit more concerned with our own private choices.

No matter who is president, the state of the union is a symbol and expression of our common democracy. And it is those bonds of citizenship which tie our whole society together. Protest against the incompetent jackass. Resist any attacks he makes on our society. But don't forget that our society is worth defending. That the institutions he has custodianship of were there before him and that we must ensure that they outlast him.
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List: Things That Begin a Sentence That Indicate You May Need to Refrain From Finishing That Sentence

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“I’m not racist…”

“As a college graduate, I can say…”

“Well, I wouldn’t call myself a ‘conspiracy theorist’ per se, but…”

“No, I didn’t read it, but based on what I hear…”

“But if women really wanted to be equal, they’d…”

“Some of my best friends are…”


“In today’s society…”

“Woody Allen…”

“My podcast…”

“The media…”

“I did a blog post about…”


“When I was in Paris…”

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27 days ago
When I was in Paris, I did a blog post about My Podcast.
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26 days ago
Challenge accepted...

“I’m not racist, as far as I can tell but I accept that’s my own subjective experience backed up by confirmation bias”

“As a college graduate, I can say I graduated”

“Well, I wouldn’t call myself a ‘conspiracy theorist’ per se, but I have this theory that conspiracy theories are really a conspiracy to make lots of money from books and tv shows about conspiracy theories”

“No, I didn’t read it, but based on what I hear I’d quite like to, so no spoilers please.”

“But if women really wanted to be equal, they’d be right”

“Some of my best friends are coming over for lunch”

“Nowadays is a terrible name for a cat.”

“In today’s society things are changing faster than normal”

“Woody Allen. Ok, give me my pink cheese and the dice, all I need now is to get to the centre.”

“My podcast list in iTunes is empty now. Freedom at last!”

“The media server crashed, I’m rebooting it.”

“I did a blog post about six months ago. I think. Maybe longer.”

“Actually! That was the name of that film I was trying to remember earlier - Love Actually.”

“When I was in Paris was so long ago I don’t remember.”
FourSquare, qv
23 days ago
You saw the "may" right? ;)
22 days ago
Yep - I just couldn't resist about three or four of these so I tried to come up with something for each one of them :)
27 days ago
Washington, DC
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