there needs to be a medal or an award for successfully breaking up with someone who would have driven your life into the ground.


Anonymous said: I need to write a paper for school on something, pretty much anything, to do with maths (could be stats) but i have no idea where to start. Is there anything cool / interesting you know of? Examples of past ones are 'modelling tumour growth', 'symmetry of spider webs' - that kinda thing

How about the Ulam spiral? And by extension, prime number theory in general?

If you haven’t heard of the Ulam spiral, check it out: if you write down sequential integers, starting from ANY NUMBER, in the shape of a spiral traveling outwards, and then circle all the primes, this (when you zoom out far enough) is what you get:


As you can see, there’s an obvious pattern of parallel lines. Nobody really understands why there’s this apparent ‘superstructure’ of primes (which you can see via other methods as well; the Ulam spiral is only the most famous). There are lots of proofs and theories that try to get to the bottom of it, though. And writing about primes means writing about cryptography, which is baller.


pretty much every time im grumpy

I think this is what it’s like to be my friend.

(Source: tinyfacts)

Anonymous said: top 5 poems?

man some of y’all have the wrong idea about what kind of nerd I am. This would be hard enough if you asked me to list 5 poems, like, full stop. But I’m gonna try. Let’s see if I can do it. In no particular order:

A Contribution to Statistics, by Wislawa Szymborska

The End of the World, by Archibald MacLeish

Tell Her That I Fell, by Leo Connellan

The Garden of Proserpine, by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Love Is Not All, by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Boom. That’s some motherfuckin’ culture right there.





//This began the rise of Aperture Science.

yo what the fuck is this made out of

It’s basically spray-on Kevlar. Polyurethanes, if you want the materials science term. “Fancy super-durable artificial stretchy fiber stuff” if you don’t.

Anonymous said: Hi, I just have a question about the whole not-liking-yourself-in-pictures thing. Does that mean that you like mirror selfies more since they're flipped? And that other people don't like them because they make them notice the irregularities in your face? Just curious :)

Yes! You generally think you look better in mirror selfies than in regular selfies because the picture shows you the face you’re used to. Your friends and family, however, will think those pictures look odd. Of course, strangers on the internet who don’t know your face at all will have no preference one way or the other. =D


One of the things that is really notable about Moscow and yet not many people outside Russia know about, is how gorgeous the Moscow metro is.

These photos? That’s what the metro stations look like.


They’re called the “People’s palaces of Moscow” or else “Underground palaces,” and they were built during the Soviet era on the Communist idea that art and beauty should belong to the people rather than only being available in the houses of nobles.

These photos show just some of the metro’s attractions. There are many more mosaics, statues, etc, placed throughout.

And the metro is always this clean.

In addition to being beautiful, it is incredibly functional. It gets you pretty much everywhere in Moscow, and the trains run at intervals of every three minutes or less. At peak times, they run every 90 seconds. You never have to worry about missing a train, because the next one will come almost immediately.

Not always of course. In the late evening or early morning hours, you may have to wait as long as five whole minutes for a train. They’re also super easy to navigate.

We Russians are pretty proud of our metro system.

“My background in industrial music definitely helped in achieving this. I was trying to get the same feel in ‘Call Me Maybe’ as in a Nine Inch Nails song, making sure it had a pop sensibility, but with people not even noticing how aggressive the kick drum is.”
I had this 2012 Sound On Sound article about the techy stuff about recording the immortal CALL ME MAYBE forwarded to me, specifically to show this quote. I may be slow (I am slow) but the it hit my OF COURSE IT IS! button. No wonder the Call Me Maybe/Head Like a Hole mash ups worked so well - they’re a few instrument switches and vocal-inflection tweaks away from being one another, Emily and Claire starring at each other through the mirror’s surface. (via kierongillen)

qog314 said: How did you cultivate your skepticism? I think of myself as fairly intelligent and yet I'm also exceedingly gullible when it comes to things I know nothing about. How did you train yourself to question instead of accepting what even a seemingly reliable/trustworthy source says?

I started and re-started my answer to this ask half a dozen times. Because it’s a really, really important question, but it’s also a hard question to answer in a useful way. I’m going to do my best.

Nothing is as important as what you believe is true. If I can control what you think, I can control every decision you make. I can control what products you buy, who you vote for, which of your friends you trust—and which of them you distrust; I can choose which social causes you apply yourself to, and how effectively you champion them; to a very great extent I can even decide what you’ll major in in college, who you’ll marry, IF you’ll marry, if you’ll STAY married if the marriage goes bad, what job you’ll go for, how well you’ll do in that job, how you spend your leisure hours, how you treat your children, how you feel about yourself when you look in the mirror, what you’ll eat for dinner, and if you’ll respect yourself in the morning.

EVERY DECISION YOU MAKE is based on what information you’ve accepted. So if I can make you believe what I want you to believe, I own you.

And make no mistake: my best interests are NEVER the same as your best interests. The most you can hope for from ANY source is that their interests and your interests align. If I’m a company, then it’s in my best interest if you buy my product. I am only interested in the quality and safety of my product to the extent that you will not buy it if it’s garbage, or too dangerous. If I’m a newspaper, believe me, my goal is not to make you a more informed citizen of the world. My goal is to sell newspapers.

However, it may be that my reputation is an important part of reaching my goals: and if I feed you misinformation, my reputation may be damaged. And so a degree of trust may be invested in sufficiently reputable sources, since their goal (“to maintain a high reputation”) and your goal (“to learn something”) are aligned. Be VERY CAREFUL when bestowing this kind of trust on a source, and NEVER let them act as your ONLY source. You can never know for sure how important that reputation really is to them, or for what ends they may be willing to compromise it.

"But this information is from a random Tumblr post, not a news corporation, or a professional blog. Nobody’s making money, here. So why would they lie to me?" Attention? Attention’s a big one. Those posts you see going around, full of SHOCKING CLAIMS, usually have tens of thousands of notes. Tens of thousands of people shocked - shocked! - to learn that feeding bread to ducks makes them sick, or that Charlie Chaplin was a Nazi, or that bleach mixed with baking soda can eat through concrete. It doesn’t matter that none of those things are true. It doesn’t even matter if the OP, or all of the people reblogging it, BELIEVE that they’re true. What matters is that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE had in their own interest something that was more important to them than “make sure the things I’m reblogging are accurate.”

Maybe they wanted the prestige of being the first to bring interesting new information to their social group. Maybe they were alarmed by what they read, and they wanted to keep their friends and loved ones safe. Maybe what they read reinforced some bias that they had, and so they disseminated it because they wanted it to be true. Maybe having this surprising intel on their blog made them feel more intelligent, or more socially conscious. There are lots of reasons, because there are lots of people, and every single one of those people had their own best interests.

And none of those interests are yours.

So because what you believe is SO important, and because you are the sole guardian of your own best interests, I think it’s downright reckless to accept any piece of information as fact without asking two questions first:

- Who is telling me this? Do I have reason to trust them? Should I trust them SO MUCH as to let them be the sole arbiter of what I believe on this subject?

- Who benefits if I accept it as the truth? THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. A lot of information masquerades as being in the interests of one thing when really it’s in the interests of something else. Really think about it.

When you choose to believe someone - anyone - about anything, you are giving them power over you. And skepticism is the only thing that protects you from giving that power to people who don’t deserve it.

Anonymous said: is the whole 'no perfect mirrors' thing the reason why i look so good in a mirror and then someone takes a photo and I look really not good?

No, that’s because what you look like in a mirror is reversed from what you look like in real life (and in photographs). Unless you’re a supermodel, you’re almost definitely not perfectly symmetrical. You’re used to the way you look, though, so you probably don’t notice your own facial irregularities. When you see your familiar face flipped back-to-front, though, all the irregularities pop out because you’re seeing your face with fresh eyes.

Before you freak out, nobody else notices your facial irregularities, either. They’re also used to the way you look, and their brains have stopped registering those little errors in symmetry. It’s just that, to them, the face that they’re used to is also the face in the photographs. That’s why your friends usually think you look a lot better in pictures than you do, while at the same time lamenting at how awful THEY look (when you think they look fine). It’s not just insecurity at work: you are all, individually, being confronted with an unfamiliar version of yourself.


Painted Eyebrow Trends in Tang Dynasty

This is a chart showing different eyebrow trends in the Tang Dynasty. It’s based on a chart in Chinese Clothing by Hua Mei and Gao Chunming (2004), on pg 37. I wanted to create a chart that had the eyebrows on faces.

Interesting notes

"Women of the Tang Dynasty paid particular attention to facial appearance, and the application of powder or even rouge was common practice. Some women’s foreheads were painted dark yellow and the dai (a kind of dark blue pigment) was used to paint their eyebrows into different shapes that were called dai mei(painted eyebrows) in general. There were literally a dozen ways to pait the eyebrows and between the brows there was a colourful decoration called hua dian, which was made of specks of gold, silver and emerald feather.” (5000 Years of Chinese Costume, 77)

"…during the years of Yuanho in the reign of Xuanzong the system of costumes changed, and women no longer applied red powder to their faces; instead, they used only black ointment for their lips and made their eyebrows like like the Chinese character ‘’." (5000 Years of Chinese Costume, 77)

The black lipstick style “was called the ‘weeping makeup’ or ‘tears makeup’.” (Chinese Clothing by Hua Mei, 37)

I’m reblogging this because honest to God I have spent my whole life thinking that the human figures in Chinese art from this time period had been stylized to look like that by the artists. It never occurred to me that their subjects might have actually painted their faces to have black lips and hella brows.


A creepy X-ray image taken of a statue of Jesus in Mexico has revealed that the 300-year-old figure contains real human teeth - and they are all in perfect condition. The eight teeth were discovered when researchers took the X-ray as part of restoration work on the ‘Lord of Patience’ statue, believed to have been constructed in the 18th century. The teeth, which are perfectly formed all the way to the root, are believed to have been donated by worshipers out of gratitude, or as a way to get closer to the religious figure.

I had to check to see if this was real. It’s real. 1 2 3


A creepy X-ray image taken of a statue of Jesus in Mexico has revealed that the 300-year-old figure contains real human teeth - and they are all in perfect condition. The eight teeth were discovered when researchers took the X-ray as part of restoration work on the ‘Lord of Patience’ statue, believed to have been constructed in the 18th century. The teeth, which are perfectly formed all the way to the root, are believed to have been donated by worshipers out of gratitude, or as a way to get closer to the religious figure.

I had to check to see if this was real. It’s real. 1 2 3







Holy shit I asked my dad who’s a physics teacher and he just looked at me, looked at the table, looked at me, tried not to smile, looked angry, and started to look up where you can buy big mirrors.


this is an actual room of mirrors.

as you can see, it leads to glitches in the matrix

Pshh. This is some entry-level nerd shit. Stand back.

It would be dark, obviously. If there’s nothing in the room, I assume there’s also no light source in the room. Mirrors reflect light. No light, and it’s just a room with glass walls.

"Fine, smarty-pants, then there’s a light source."

Okay, then the mirrors would infinitely reflect the lamp, or whatever.

"Ugh, then there’s just a magic floating ball of light in the middle of the room. No lamp."

That’s just a lamp with no sharp edges, if you think about it.

"UGH. Just imagine that the room is UNIFORMLY LIT, but not FROM anything. Or a laser beam just, like, HAPPENED."

Okay, well if we’re suspending the laws of physics now in this hypothetical scenario, we have to clarify a few points:

- Do the mirrors join each other perfectly at the corners, floor, and ceiling; i.e., with no cracks?

In the real world this would be next to impossible; the gap between each mirror would need to be significantly smaller than one wavelength of light. If not, what you’d predominantly see reflected would be those cracks. That’s one of the things that’s happening in the picture above. For this reason, this hypothetical is usually posed as a perfectly-smooth mirrored sphere, to avoid needing to talk about cracks and corners.

- Are these perfect mirrors?

That is, do they reflect 100% of all light on all wavelengths? Because perfect mirrors kind of don’t really exist. Did you know that your bathroom mirror only reflects about 25% of the light energy that strikes it back at you? The mirrors used in laser laboratories can get up to 80 or 90%, and I read about a mirror developed at MIT recently which apparently reflects more than 98% of light energy. The light energy which doesn’t bounce off the mirror is absorbed by it instead: at which point it becomes heat. Even if you had a mirror so good that only 0.0000001% of its light energy was converted into heat energy on every bounce, your light would still dissipate almost instantly, because of how fast light travels (and, therefore, how many bounces it makes per second).

- Is there air in the room?

Yeah—you know how I said that light energy becomes heat energy when it bounces off of an imperfect mirror (or, if you prefer, ‘literally anything’)? Well, passing through all those atoms and molecules it encounters in the air takes the same kind of toll. If you don’t want your light to be reduced to heat-mush before you can finish blinking your eyes, you’d need your room to be a perfect vacuum. And perfect vacuums? Yeah, those don’t exist either.

UGHHHHHH. YES, okay, the room is PERFECTLY spherical, it’s coated in a PERFECT mirror, and it contains a PERFECT vacuum. Just tell me what it looks like, oh my God!”

Well…it doesn’t look like anything.

I mean…’looking’ implies the existence of an observer, right? You have constructed a hypothetical chamber which could not admit an observer of any kind. As soon as you cut a hole in the room to take a peak inside, all of the light would escape/be converted into a heat, and you’d be left with total darkness again. Even if you could construct a room like the one you’re describing, there’d be no way to know what was happening inside it!


—BUT: hypothetically, it wouldn’t be dark in there before you messed it up.

It would be white.

A perfectly featureless, perfectly regular, perfectly boring white room.

What did you expect? Light, visible light anyway, is white. You see colors when photons are absorbed by the atoms of a substrate, but we’ve already determined that these are perfect mirrors, so no photons are being absorbed. In your perfect mirror room, there is nothing to see: just light, bouncing around into infinity, doing nothing whatsoever of any interest.

(Source: teenytomlin)


Moscow’s Red Square explodes during May Day Festivities
National Geographic | January 1978


Moscow’s Red Square explodes during May Day Festivities

National Geographic | January 1978


A roboticist from Harvard has built 1,024 quarter-sized robots that can swarm into any shape their creator draws using a computer program he created. The robots receive the pattern wirelessly and then use sensors to scoot around until the shape is replicated.  This video shows the robots in action, but is sped up to convey what actually takes hours to accomplish.


I mean, I’m all for technology, and 99% of the time I scoff when people make paranoid predictions about how the latest incremental advancement in science will destroy us.

Then I read a phrase like “the first thousand-robot swarm.”