December 17, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


FACE BLINDNESS – In some people, the part of the brain that recognizes faces doesn’t work. They can see people that they know well and still not recognize them. I think I have a touch of this. At some point, I expect Augmented Reality glasses and facial recognition software to help with this.

The (Math) Problem With Pentagons – Why can you cover a page with triangles, squares, or hexagons, but not pentagons? It’s all about the angles.

In 2017, UK water companies still rely on “magic” – Many water companies in the UK still use dowsing rods to find water. Seriously.

Switzerland is Prepared for Civilizational Collapse – I’d never thought of Switzerland as a country of survivalists. One aspect of that is that they have fountains in most towns in case the central water systems fail. I guess that is a better approach than Britain’s relying on a well-trained cadre of dowsers.

The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective – A Chinese immigrant to the US gives his perspective on western culture. “In Communist China, I was taught that hard work would bring success. In the land of the American dream, I learned that success comes through good luck, the right slogans, and monitoring your own—and others’—emotions.”

Mistletoe and (a large) wine: seven-fold increase in wine glass size over 300 years – An interesting look at the increase in the average wine glass size in England from 1700 (70ml) to the present (450ml). The biggest growth has been in the last 70 years.

Health – Physical and Mental

Your 50s Will Probably Be the Most Unhappy Time of Your Life – This is great news! Life is good but it is only going to get better. Woohoo! OK, the truth is that this article is stupid.

Why It Feels So Good to Cancel Plans Last Minute, and How to Stop – It’s annoying, when hosting an event, to have people bail at the last minute. This article gives advice on how not to repeatedly be one of those rude people.

Art and Culture

“STRANGER THINGS: A Bad Lip Reading” – If you are a fan of Stranger Things and the Bad Lip Reading series of YouTube videos, this is for you.

The Best TV Shows of 2017 – Not only have I not seen any of these, I’ve never even heard of any of them. Is this a real list?

Japanese Mascots Are Too Damn Big – Japan loves its mascots. Maybe a little too much.

Winners of the 2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Contest – Very pretty pictures. Incidentally, if Disney’s purchase of 21st Century Fox goes through, they will own a controlling share of National Geographic.

The art of flying – This is hypnotic video of a cloud of birds moving about the sky. They look a lot like a school of fish.

HYPER-REALITY – Still thinking about how augmented reality glasses could help you with recognizing people? Here’s a video showing just how freaky an AR world might look.


A space rock from another star is spotted in our solar system — a cosmic first – This is from October. How did I miss this? A 400 meter long rock from outside our solar system did a quick flyby of earth and is now heading back out into space. Are we sure that it is really a rock??? I need to go re-read Rendezvous with Rama. Incidentally, I noticed that it can bought on audible for only $1.99 right now.

First multimessenger observation of a neutron-star merger is Physics World 2017 Breakthrough of the Year – The science story of the year was watching two neutron stars collide.

Study may explain counterintuitive effect of why hotter systems can cool more quickly – It appears that really hot water freezes faster than cold water, but we’re still not really certain why. I think the universe does it just to jack with us.


Fabric-based biobattery could power future wearables – Are you ready for a world where you need to charge your underwear?

HOW A DORM ROOM MINECRAFT SCAM BROUGHT DOWN THE INTERNET – Some college kids discovered that they could take over security cameras, routers, and other stuff connected to the Internet and use them to build a big bot-net. It’s interesting to see how vulnerable the Internet is despite how much we all depend on it.

Politics and Policy

The final GOP tax bill is complete. Here’s what is in it. – This article leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Overall, it looks like my taxes won’t change much. However, because revenue is going down significantly and spending isn’t, that means that I’ll eventually be asked to pay more to cover those additional debts, so this feels like a long-term tax increase to me. Remember, cutting taxes without cutting spending is really just deferring taxes.

The tax bill destroys an important part of Obamacare. The states can save it. – Hooray! Someone on the left is finally realizing that they don’t actually need the federal government to implement the health care system that they want. They can do it at a state level and then we can all see how marvelous (or terrible) their system is. In this case, they are suggesting that the states replace the health care provider subsidies that the feds have stopped paying. Go for it, blue states!

New Zealand has worst level of homelessness in the world, Labour says – This article relies on a relatively expansive definition of homelessness. NZ doesn’t actually have a huge problem with people sleeping on the streets, but they do have a problem with the housing supply.

France to ban mobile phones in schools from September – I can see arguments for banning or not banning phones in schools. What I can’t see is why this needs to be handled at the national level. Shouldn’t this be a decision best made at the school or school district level?

Economics, Business, and Money

The hard road of free markets – The author is pleased by the fact that people increasingly see high housing costs in some cities as the result of restrictions on adding more housing.

China’s rise: The wealth of a nation (not ours) – China was very, very, very poor not long ago. In the last 40 years, they have gone through an incredible amount of growth. This will be remembered as a wonderful time in history for the improvement in many people’s living standards.

There’s a Digital Media Crash. But No One Will Say It – The author predicts the collapse of digital media because investors are starting to realize that the market is too crowded and not profitable. I agree that there will be a lot of changes, but their argument boils down to a fancy way of rewriting an old Yogi Berra saying – “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

When the remedy is more destructive than the disease – The IRS is trying to impose a tax on bitcoin trades. Since all trades have a winner and a loser and you can deduct the losses, this ends up being a roughly revenue neutral tax minus the considerable cost of tracking, reporting, and enforcement. So why even have a tax that results in a net cost?