Because it's Friday: The Shepard Tone

I haven’t seen the Dunkirk movie yet, but the video below makes me want to see it soon. It turns out it contains an auditory illusion: the “Shepard Tone”, which sounds like it’s continually rising but really isn’t. (It turns out that many of Christopher Nolan’s past movies have included it as well.) There’s more explanation in the accompanying article at Vox. That’s it from the blog for this week. Have a great weekend, and see you back here on Monday.
Original Post: Because it's Friday: The Shepard Tone

Because it's Friday: How Bitcoin works

Cryptocurrencies have been in the news quite a bit lately. Bitcoin prices have been soaring recently after the community narrowly avoided the need for a fork, while $32M in rival currency Etherium was recently stolen, thanks to a coding error in wallet application Purity. But what is a crypto-currency, and what does a “wallet” or a “fork” mean in that context? The video below gives the best explanation I’ve seen for how cryptocurrencies work. It’s 25 minutes long, but it’s a complex and surprisingly subtle topic, made easy to understand by math explainer channel 3Blue1Brown. That’s all from the blog for this week. Have a great weekend, and we’ll be back on Monday.
Original Post: Because it's Friday: How Bitcoin works

Because it's Friday: Hidden Holes

They recently resurfaced the street in front of my house in Chicago. The first step was to grade away the existing layer of bitumen, to level the ground ready for a fresh layer. To my surprise (and I’m sure to the surprise of the engineers — the project was suspended for a couple of weeks), the old bitumen layer was hiding two sinkholes, one easily large enough to swallow a car. It was shocking to think we’d driven over that hole hundreds of times, and the only thing keeping us from falling in was a thin layer of bitumen. As the video below explains, such sinkholes are usually caused by water erosion — in our case, probably by a broken water main. Check out the demo at the 4:00 mark to see how this can happen. That’s all for this week.…
Original Post: Because it's Friday: Hidden Holes

Because it's Friday: O, Captain!

What would happen if a real-world airline pilot found himself inside a multiplayer flight simulator along with a bunch of gamers, but insisted that everything was real? That’s the premise behind AirForceProud95’s YouTube playlist, where he joins multiplayer sessions of Flight Simulator X and insists on playing it as a real-world, regulation-following captain. The interactions with the other gamers are hilarious (some NSFW language):  That’s all from us for this week. We’ll be back on Monday with roundups from the useR!2017 conference that concludes today in Brussels. Enjoy your weekend, and we’ll see you then!
Original Post: Because it's Friday: O, Captain!

Because it's Friday: Shake that globe

It’s been a while since a major earthquake has overtaken the headlines, but as this animation shows (source data here), major earthquakes aren’t actually all that rare: it’s just (relatively) rare that they occur in heavily populated areas. It’s a really nice information design: the size of the circle represents the magnitude of each earthquake, and the color represents its depth. The way the circles appear and then slowly shrink away is a great way of visualizing the geographic impact of these inherently short-lived incidents. I also like the way it’s represented on an actual globe, even though half of the data is obscured at any one time, as it gives a better sense of the geographic relationships. Nonetheless, NOAA also produced a whole-earth projection version of the same animation: That’s all from us for this…
Original Post: Because it's Friday: Shake that globe

Pitfalls in pseudo-random number sampling at scale with Apache Spark

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Large scale simulation of random number generation is possible with today’s high speed & scalable distributed computing frameworks. Let’s understand how it can be achieved using Apache Spark.
Original Post: Pitfalls in pseudo-random number sampling at scale with Apache Spark

Because it's Friday: Mario in the Park

I got my first chance to use HoloLens just a couple of weeks ago. It was pretty amazing to see a virtual wind turbine appear in the room with me, and to be able to walk around it and see how it was performing. But here’s a much more fun application of HoloLens: a recreation of the 2-D Super Mario “World 1-1” in the very 3-D world of New York’s Central Park: Sadly the blocks and platforms are purely virtual, which constrains the real-world player to walking on the ground. But it does make for some amusing antics for the passers-by (although in true New Yorker style, most ignore the random jumping and pointing!). That’s all for us for this week. Have a great weekend: we’ll be back on Monday!
Original Post: Because it's Friday: Mario in the Park

Because it's Friday: Dry Martini Specifications

“Standards are Serious Business” was once the tagline of ANSI, the American National Standards Institute, but this tongue-in-cheek standard (ANSI K100.1-1974, an update to ASA K100.1-1966) is anything but. I mean, I appreciate a dry martini as much as anyone but this is beyond the pale: The list of standards committee members rather gives the joke away, though: Apparently this was once an active ANSI standard (though according to Wikipedia, no longer), used to promote the benefits of the standards organization. Check out the complete American National Standard Safety Code and Requirements for Dry Martinis for a fun read. That’s all for us for this week. Have a great weekend, and we’ll be back on Monday!
Original Post: Because it's Friday: Dry Martini Specifications

The Surprising Complexity of Randomness

[unable to retrieve full-text content]The reason we have pseudorandom numbers is because generating true random numbers using a computer is difficult. Computers, by design, are excellent at taking a set of instructions and carrying them out in the exact same way, every single time.
Original Post: The Surprising Complexity of Randomness