Interesting Stuff: Early June 2009

Writing a series like this, it’s not possible to be consistent. Sometimes I’m in a very discerning mood, and hardly anything seems remarkable enough to include. Other times I feel fascinated by just about everything I read, and the task of filtering out all but the most worthy discoveries is more than I can bear. These moods tend to come in waves: I can be in one state or the other for several days at a time before becoming, as it were, tired of it, and switching to the opposite state of mind.

I like to be as consistent as I can, though, which is why I don’t publish installments more than twice a month (I need enough time for my conservative and liberal moods to average out) and why I list provisional nominations on Twitter as an intermediate filtering stage. For most of the last fortnight I’ve been in a particularly conservative mood, but then along came the nominees for the 3QD Prize in Science, and I couldn’t read a collection of 171 science articles from the last year without coming across some new and interesting facts.

As far as my vote is concerned, I chose not to consider any article that I’d read before. I really wanted to choose something new to me, something I wouldn’t have read were it not nominated for the prize. Of the articles that I had already read, perhaps this is the best (and indeed I linked to it in an earlier installment of this series) but it would have been against my policy to vote for it. In the list below I’ve indicated which items come from the list of 3QD prize nominations, and also which one I actually voted for.

After deciding which were the best candidates I found myself in a much less discerning mood, probably because my brain was exhausted from the process of selecting favourites. Anyway, here’s my latest selection of Interesting Stuff.

Archaeology and Environment:


History and People:

  • What C. P. Snow was really trying to say. [via 3QD]
  • Faraday speculated on the unification of electricity and gravity. [via 3QD]
  • Some abandoned models of the atom. [via 3QD]

Linguistics and Psychology:


  • Recreating a lost type of horn.
  • Computers are beginning to think they can compose music. I bet I can do better, though. (Admittedly, I do need to stop to eat occasionally.)


Incidentally, by the time I publish the next edition of this series I will be thirty-two years old. But if you believe the theory that you’re only as old as you feel, then I’m twenty-seven and intending to remain so for some time.

2 Responses to “Interesting Stuff: Early June 2009”

  1. mark Says:

    Happy almost-birthday-that-you-plan-to-pretend-isn’t-happening! It’s a special time of year.

    I tried to reproduce the infrared trick with my cameraphone and stove, and I’m not sure if I succeeded. Have you thought of any applications for this trick that you would actually use? (I mean, apart from as a cool conversation piece)

  2. Flesh-eating Dragon Says:

    There is a party planned for Friday, but it’s only in part a celebration of my birthday. It’s also to celebrate the fact that the final touches on all my home renovations are nearly done (the new interior doorhandles are in cardboard boxes in the next room) and to show them off to a few people who haven’t seen them yet but have expressed an interest.

    It was actually the trick with the remote control that intrigued me more, and “cool conversation piece” will do just fine as an application.

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