Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mayan Calendar Converter

Now that we know the Mayan calendar still works, the New York Times has a page that converts dates to and from the Mayan system. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

NYC Criminals take day off

The Guardian reports that on Monday 26 November 2012 no one was murdered, stabbed or the victim of a violent crime in New York City.
New York police department chief spokesman Paul Browne said it was "first time in memory" that the city's police force had experienced such a peaceful 24 hours.
It comes at the end of year when the city is on target to have its lowest murder rate since 1960.

I lived in New York in 1991 and I remember my colleagues there mentioning that one big advantage of living in Toronto was that if you were murdered you were guaranteed to make the news.  In NYC at the time you would have to be murdered in a particularly gruesome way to get a mention.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Google Map of Canadian Census

This site has a nice map interface for viewing some of the data from the latest Canadian census.  It is interesting how the size of the areas being displayed changes as the map is zoomed in.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Hindenburg Photos

The Atlantic has a nice photo article about the Hindenburg and its fiery end.

Monday, December 03, 2012

The British have Invaded all but 22 Countries

According to this article in the Telegraph, the British have invaded all but 22 of the 190+ countries on Earth.  They do stretch things a bit far to come up with the numbers though.  They basically use present day countries and their current borders.  Then, if the British have ever invaded any place that is now within those boundaries, they count that country as having been invaded by Britain.  Canada for example has never been invaded by the UK but is counted since territories presently held by Canada have been.

I was also rather surprised that the British have never invaded Luxembourg.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

There is an Abacus in Your Head

The Guardian has a blog post about a strange new sport called Flash Anzan.  Basically the game consists of rapidly adding a series of numbers in your head.  Like a spelling bee anyone who gets the wrong answer is eliminated then another round begins with the numbers displayed faster.  This year's winner added 15 three digit numbers in 1.7 seconds.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Summary of Everything

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a post with a video that basically shows the history of the universe in one minute.  There may be some simplification but it is nicely done.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Toronto's First World War Dead

Global TV has a post with a map showing the locations of the homes of all of the soldiers from Toronto who were killed in the First World War.  According to the text:
in Toronto, about 2 per cent of the total male population was killed in the war

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Make a Fist With Your Left Hand

The Atlantic has a story about a study that claims athletes can prevent choking under pressure by making a fist with their left hand. It only applies to situation where they are performing a task they have performed many times before (a "motor skill").
"Hemisphere-specific priming" appears to discourage over-thinking in high-pressure situations. Activating the right hemisphere of the brain by doing a simple action with the left side of the body (making a fist, in this case) appears to negate context-related declines in complex motor performance.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Evolution of the Airline Baggage Tag

Slate has an interesting article about the evolution of the baggage tags used on commercial airplanes.  There's more to it than just the bar code.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How Corks Are Made

WineAnorak has an nicely illustrated two part article explaining how corks are made.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Factoid: No one born since 1935 has walked on the moon

If you look at Wikipedia's list of Apollo astronauts you will notice that the youngest, Charles Duke, was born on October 3, 1935.

No one born since 1935 has ever walked on another world.  No Baby Boomers, no Gen-X.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Where Can You Not Buy Coca-cola?

The BBC has an article about which countries you can buy Coca-cola in.  It turns out there are only two where you can't: Cuba and North Korea.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Working for Your Beer

The Economist has a post comparing how long the average worker in various countries has to work to buy a beer.  It varies from nearly an hour in India to about five minutes in the US.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Drake Equation

Presumably you are all familiar with the Drake Equation which lets you calculate to probability of intelligent alien life.  The BBC has a webpage that lets you play around with the various figures in the equation and see how many alien civilizations you would end up with.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Video of Mark Twain has a post with a video of the only known film footage of Mark Twain.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Drivers in France Must Carry Breathalyzers

The Telegraph reports that drivers in France now have to carry two(!) single-use breathalysers in their cars at all times.  I didn't even know there was such a thing as a single-use breathalyser.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Are You Too Old for the Olympics

The Washington Post has an article that will show you which Olympic sports you are still young enough for.

People Used to Sleep Twice As Often

According to the BBC, the idea of sleeping right through the night is a fairly modern one.  Apparently in antiquity people would sleep for a few hours in the early evening then get up for a few hours then go back to bed.
His book At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, published four years later, unearths more than 500 references to a segmented sleeping pattern - in diaries, court records, medical books and literature, from Homer's Odyssey to an anthropological account of modern tribes in Nigeria.
Much like the experience of Wehr's subjects, these references describe a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Words We Don't Have in English

I think I may have blogged about this sort of thing before but I liked this list of foreign words that we don't have in English.

Some favourites:
Arigata-meiwaku (Japanese): An act someone does for you that you didn’t want to have them do and tried to avoid having them do, but they went ahead anyway, determined to do you a favor, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, yet in the end social conventions required you to express gratitude

 Ilunga (Tshiluba, Congo): A person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time

 L’esprit de l’escalier (French): usually translated as “staircase wit,” is the act of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late to deliver it

 Pena ajena (Mexican Spanish): The embarrassment you feel watching someone else’s humiliation

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Evolution of Basketball Uniforms

Dubly has an infographic showing the evolution of the proffessional basketball uniform.  Interestingly it has been getting larger since the 1960s'.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

2011 Census Map

Global News has a Google Map showing newly released information from the 2011 Canadian census.  You can finally find out for example what percentage of people in your neighbourhood are female.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Photo: A Dog Dressed as Two Pirates

I'm not really sure how to categorise this but on Twitter we have a photo of, well, a dog dressed as two pirates.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Shadow of an Eclipse

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a photo of the Earth during the recent annular eclipse.  You can see the shadow of the moon quite clearly.

Apple I For Sale

According to Digital Trends, Sotheby's are auctioning off a working Apple I computer.  It is expected to go for more than $120,000.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Guinness-only QR Code

The dieline has a post about a new pint glass from Guinness with a QR code that can only be read when the glass is full of stout.  If the glass is empty or the contents are amber colour then the code is not readable.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Youth Mortality

The Economist has a chart showing death rates and causes for 10-24 year-olds in various countries around the world.  It is interesting to compare not just the total death rates - twice as high in the US than in Singapore - but also the differences in the causes - the violence and suicide figures vary hugely.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How Hard is that Language?

Not entirely sure of the source here but here is an info-graphic showing the difficulty ratings assigned to various languages (from the point of view of an English speaker) by the US Foreign Service Institute.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Maps of Wikipedia

Trace Media has a post with some maps generated by plotting the locations associated with Wikipedia entries.  It is amazing how similar they look to nighttime pictures of the Earth.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Obit: The Girl in the Wallet Photo

I always find it interesting to read about people who had minor roles in historical events.  In this case the Telegraph has the obituary of Jean Gerard Leigh her picture was used as part of the false identity created during the Second World War for a body placed in the sea for the Germans to find with a set of false invasion plans in a briefcase locked to its wrist.  Operation Mincemeat fooled the Germans into leaving Sicily lightly defended before the Allied invasion.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

World Population Density

Derek  Watkins has a neat little page that lets you slide a slider to see which parts of the world have a particular population density.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Airship Photo-gallery

The Telegraph has a nice photo gallery in an article about a huge sale of airship memorabilia.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lego Math Building

UW Mathematics and Computer BuildingAn excellent micro-scale Lego model of the Math Building at the University of Waterloo.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Photo: Io Over Jupiter

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a nice shot of the moon Io in front of Jupiter.

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Last Swimming Elephant in the Andaman Sea

The Telegraph has a photo gallery about the last sea going elephant in the Andaman Sea.  The elephants and their mahouts used to travel from island to island to do heavy lifting but have now all be replaced by heavy equipment.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Photo: Tungurahua Erupts

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a nice shot of an erupting volcano.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Vintage Travel Posters

Brain Pickings has a post with some really nice vintage travel posters.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Explaining Commercial TV to a 4 Year Old

Minimal Mac has a post that relates trying to explain commercial TV to a four year old who had only encountered streaming TV and DVDs before a family vacation to a friend's house.

via Google+

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Only Recording of Someone Born in the 18th Century

The Atlantic has an article about a recording recently found in the Edison archives.  The recording was made in 1889 and includes the voice of German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke who was born in the year 1800.  There is a link in the article that will let you listen to the recording.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


According to if you divide 1 by 998,001 you get:


The three digit numbers in the decimal continue until 999 though they skip 998.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Domesday Book is Online for Free

The Open Domesday Book puts all the data from the 1086 AD book on the Internet with maps of all of the mentioned locations.  It also includes images of the original text. 

The Domesday Book was commissioned by William the Conqueror and was a survey of all of the landholdings in his new British domain.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Camera-less iPhone Available in Singapore

According to Engadget, Apple in Singapore have released a special iPhone that does not have camera.  This is because the Singaporean military does not allow its members to use phones with cameras.  The wrinkle here is that Singapore still has conscription and the young men doing their two years service are a prime market for expensive cell phones (and cellphone service).

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Map: Ontario 2011 Election Poll by Poll Results

Global TV have an article with a Google Map showing the results for each poll in the 2011 Ontario Election.  My riding is a see of Liberal red except for a few little tiny Conservative blue boxes.  These seem to be the polls located in retirement homes.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Japanese Multiplication has a post with a video demonstrating the way that Japanese people do multiplication.  I'm not quite sure how it works but it seems easier than the method taught in western schools.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Comic: History Repeats

A web comic.

Same Ship, Fewer People

According to the New York Times, the US Coast Guard is raising the average human weight used to calculate the passenger capacity of ships.  This means that many ships can now carry fewer passengers.  The old average was 160 lbs the new one is 185.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Video: Last US Troops Leave Iraq

Wired Dangerroom has a post with a video, taken by a Predator drone showing the last convoy of US troops leaving Iraq.  Not gripping footage but certainly of historical interest.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Infographic: Mass Killings

The New York Times has an info-graphic ranking various mass killings/killers in history.  I was a bit surprised that Genghis Khan tied with Mao for second place (after the Second World War).

Monday, January 09, 2012

The History of the Bendy Straw

The Atlantic has an article detailing the history of that most modern of products, the bendy straw.

via Make

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Video: Cannonball into Tub of Mercury

Make has a blog post with a very short video showing what happens if you drop a cannonball into a tub of mercury.  I must say I did not see that coming.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Spiders in the Trees

National Geographic Photo of the Day has a weird picture of a bunch of trees in Pakistan that are covered in spider webs.  This isn't a normal thing, apparently during recent floods the spiders ran up into the trees.