The Big Think

May 17, 2011

Quoth

Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 11:17 pm

“nothing important, or meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or great ever came out of imitations. The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

This is more difficult, because there is no zeitgeist to read, no template to follow, no mask to wear. Set aside what your friends expect, what your parents demand, what your acquaintances require. Set aside the messages this culture sends, through its advertising, its entertainment, its disdain and its disapproval, about how you should behave.”

Great words from an inspiring commencement speech.

Fab-ulous

Filed under: Maker,Technology — jasony @ 10:41 pm

“What’s more important is to show the creators of the famously inflexible and (depending on who you ask) outdated math and science curriculums is that 3-D printers aren’t just fun for the students. Lipson and his fellow 3-D printer pioneers need to show that using these devices quantitatively helps kids learn better. Lipson isn’t aiming at an engineering curriculum to go along with math and science; “I would like to see it integrated into the existing curriculum,” he says.

The possibilities are amazing. “You can teach regular math and science concepts better–surface volume, that kind of thing–if the kids can actually make and see them,” says Lipson. “You could even teach history, by making ancient artifacts.” What Lipson really wants to do is encourage those who often write off math and science by an early age to think twice about ignoring it. “Kids tend to form their opinion about whether they’re good at math or whether they like it by around fourth grade, so we’re putting a lot of effort to try to do this before then,” he says. That’s tricky, because the public school curriculum is focused on basics like reading, writing, and arithmetic at that time, but Lipson sees personal fabrication and all the benefits that come from it as just as important.

“When you design things, a figurine, whatever, and you press a button and you see the thing being made in front of your eyes and you take it home that day, I think there’s something very empowering in that moment,”

Getting 3d printers into the classroom as a teaching tool. Brilliant!

Words are Hard

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 8:38 pm

21 Reasons why English Sucks

#7 is my favorite.

A Modest Proposal

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:20 pm

David Brin’s “No-Losers” Tax Simplification Proposal

Interesting idea.

Racing with the Clock

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 8:07 pm

Why New Experiences Are Important, and How They Positively Affect Your Perception of Time – Lifehacker

May 15, 2011

Make it Tough

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 10:15 am

(*UPDATE* Sean links to this very relevant comic.)

The line between simple and simplistic is highly subjective. I think the line has been crossed when an articulation of a concept strips a level of complexity from its subject for the sake of ease that, consequently, creates negative implications for the user. It can happen anywhere; from interfaces, to copywriting, to how concepts are articulated. Cable news is often guilty of this in the presentation and debate of political policy, ultimately driving down the public’s understanding of the subject matter. Perhaps a more contentious example of this would be the spell-checking feature in word processors that have made today’s writers too dependent on the feature and unable to properly proofread.

Immeasurable time and resources are put into removing any perceived cognitive overhead in a wide array of our daily interactions. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with this, however, over-emphasis on easy comes at a cost. Often, this effort results in a shallow derivative of the subject’s original form which ends up trivializing both subject and user. The premise for removing difficulty is correct, many people do feel intimidated when they are presented with too much complexity. However, the conclusion to remove complexity at any cost misses the mark. While people do feel intimidated when presented with complexity, the issue is often how the subject matter is presented or contextualized. Rather than deal with the real problem of explaining and guiding people through difficult topics and/or processes, it is simply removed or devolved. This results in viewing potentially innovative solutions as dead on arrival if they happen to have the unfortunate side-effect of a learning curve.

In Defense of Hard: When Easier Isn’t Better

Brilliantly put: “In dumbing down our language, our concepts and processes, we are often times warping its true form. If the appropriate language to communicate a concept is complicated, use it. There are plenty of well established methods to help people through these types of issues without resorting to editorial or design changes. It is OK not to understand something, it is not OK to think you know something that is not accurate.”

This comes down to the expert, or person sharing the information, having a well honed ability to educate thoughtfully and intelligently,. You cannot just tell the hearer the information and assume that they’ve been taught. The adage “if they have not learned, you have not taught” is, when applied to a conscientious teacher/learner situation, absolutely true. We all have experience with bad teachers that resulted in our bad grades, or our getting out of a class having barely passed the test but with no long-term retention of the knowledge to show for our time spent in the classroom. If you are given the opportunity to teach- whether formally in a classroom or informally in any setting- make sure that you’re plugged in to the needs and abilities of the listener, and that you do your best to mold what you tell them to how they learn. It’s a subtle skill that takes years of practice, and if done well, will look transparent and effortless.

This assumes, of course, a curious, motivated, and interested student. The tragic lack of those is the subject of a separate and very long essay indeed.

As Time Goes By

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 9:28 am

Why it gets tougher to remember things as you age. And what you can do about it

May 14, 2011

Tiny Town

Filed under: Education,Humor and Fun,Maker — jasony @ 9:26 am

This is just incredible. Since posting the link the other day I’ve gotten lost in the dozens of “making-of” videos that the head builder has posted over the past few years. The level of detailing and custom work for this place is beyond anything I had thought.

Check out this video. It’s in German, but there’s a small cc button in the lower right that turns on the English captions. After this one is done, don’t miss the many, many others that show how the whole project came together.

If you’re one of my computer programming friends you’ll especially like this episode where they go into a little bit of detail over how they control the custom takeoff parameters of each individual plane type.

I must visit this place.

Jackpot

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:35 am

According to my calculations based on government data, such married couples will begin receiving monthly Social Security checks that will, on average, total about $550,000 after inflation. They will receive health-care services paid for by Medicare that, on average, will total another $450,000 after inflation. The benefactors will be a generation of younger workers who are trying to support themselves and their families while paying taxes to finance the rest of government spending.

We cannot even remotely afford to make good on these promised benefits. Although our system of personal liberty, free enterprise and limited government has made us an affluent and upwardly mobile people, we are not yet a nation of John Beresford Tiptons…

The existence of so many million-dollar couples is not the result of elected officials carefully weighing the needs of senior citizens against the financial ability of younger workers to meet these needs. Rather, it is the result of decades of separate legislative actions by both political parties to liberalize retirement and health-care benefits, the sum total of which no one has bothered to calculate.

Social Security and Medicare were the result of natural human impulses to create safety-net programs to prevent poverty in old age and to help needy senior citizens with their medical bills. But the programs are flawed…

Many of the million-dollar couples believe they rightfully deserve the benefits they have been promised. They have, after all, spent all of their working years paying into Social Security and Medicare. And true enough, the typical 66-year old couple and their employers, on their behalf, have contributed nearly $500,000 in payroll taxes (in today’s dollars) toward these benefits during their working careers.

But regardless of how much they have contributed, the hard reality is that the federal government has already spent it. No matter how deserving they are, it is younger generations of workers who have to come up with the money.

Via Wall Street Journal

As the saying goes, what can’t go on forever… won’t.

It’s a shame that the Greatest Generation fought so hard for a world where they could give their children everything, and then did.

May 12, 2011

26 Years Later

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 9:09 pm

With a little girl named, appropriately enough, Bacon

I miss C&H

Behind the Scenes

Filed under: Maker — jasony @ 7:53 am

Behind the Scenes at the world’s largest (smallest) airport I linked to a few days ago. What strikes me is the look of happy focus each of these artists show on their faces. Even in the middle of intense concentration you can tell that inside they’re thinking “wheee! Models!”

We’re still kids at heart (if we let ourselves be).

*UPDATE* I had to elevate Barry’s comment to the main post:

So true, that we’re kids at heart if we let ourselves be. But even that sentiment is stated using the world’s dictionary. The reason people create things, build little worlds, isn’t that they haven’t grown out of it; it’s because you *can’t* outgrow or escape the Imago Dei.

Our Maker said “Let us make man in our image,” and said it with the same voice that created galaxies. He’s a maker, and we, in his image, are makers as well. So, while we’re not God, we are certainly the small-g-gods, the creators and sustainers of the worlds we invent, in books, in movies, in mini-airports. We’re driven to do it. The fact that this mini-airport is a serious money-maker doesn’t justify it — it’s justified because creating a world is in our bones.

I say we’re not kids: we’re gods.

Well said!

More on this incredible attraction:

This isn’t just a static display with a little repetitive motion. The planes land, and taxi to the terminal on the taxiways. They position at a gate. The jetways move into position and mate with the plane. Fuel trucks and catering trucks come up to the plane. After a while, the support vehicles move off, and a pushback truck pushes the plane clear of the gate area. The plane then turns, follows the taxiways, gets into the takeoff queue, waits at the threshold, rolls onto the runway, takes off, and disappears through the wall.

The vehicles run on the Faller carsystem, which is used for road vehicles all over Minatur Wunderland. Guidance is via little magnets that follow a metal rail hidden in the table. There are switches at junctions, and the control system is railroad-like. The vehicles are battery powered, and get speed instructions from a central computer, but steering is mechanical, following the track with the magnet.

The planes use the same system when on the ground. When they’re in position for takeoff, a rod comes up through the runway and engages a big pocket in the plane. A second rear rod engages a smaller pocket in the rear. Takeoff is driven from equipment under the runway, which can move and tilt the plane. At the end of the room, the plane flies through a row of strips of “sky” painted material and disappears.

Behind the scenes, the planes then are brought down, and return to driving mode. They move around on a hidden lower level and are staged to simulate various flights. There’s also automatic charging for all vehicles, which make stops at hidden charging stations as needed.

The airport is only a small part of the whole exhibit, which has a model railroad with 890 trains and 12km of track. There’s a staff of 185 people. It’s a major tourist attraction.

Recruited

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Movies — jasony @ 7:47 am

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More propaganda posters here.

May 11, 2011

Gift

Filed under: Music — jasony @ 8:49 pm

May 10, 2011

The Meta Runs Deep

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Movies — jasony @ 9:06 pm

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And don’t overlook where this took place. Keanuwoah…

Makerbot Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 10:49 am

I’m now 1/3rd of the way toward saving for a Thing-O-Matic! ($400 saved, approx $800 to go). Goal is Christmas of 2012 or maybe slightly after since I’m shooting for the next big revision.

Quoth

Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 9:38 am

“For me, to remember friendship is to recall those conversations that it seemed a sin to break off: the ones that made the sacrifice of the following day a trivial one.”

The ailing Hitchins has an beautifully well written essay that’s worth reading here.

May 9, 2011

Wise Words

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 10:02 pm

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I See You

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 9:29 pm

FBI Tracking Device Teardown

Want!

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 8:53 pm

AquaNotes Waterproof Notepad Captures the Great Ideas You Get in the Shower

May 8, 2011

Good Words, Unexpected Source

Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 11:15 pm

“You don’t become great by trying to be great. You become great by wanting to do something, and then doing it so hard that you become great in the process.”

Zombie Marie Curie (Randall Monroe)

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