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Posts Tagged ‘Nobel Prize

Calling Gil Scott-Heron…

From the good folks at Staple Crops:

Hip-Hop Word Count™

The Hip-Hop Word Count is a searchable ethnographic database built from the lyrics of over 40,000 Hip-Hop songs from 1979 to present day.

The Hip-Hop Word Count describes the technical details of most of your favorite hip-hop songs. This data can then be used to not only figure out interesting stats about the songs themselves, but also describe the culture behind the music.

How can analyzing lyrics teach us about our culture?

The Hip-Hop Word Count locks in a time and geographic location for every metaphor, simile, cultural reference, phrase, rhyme style, meme and socio-political idea used in the corpus of Hip-Hop.

The Hip-Hop Word Count then converts this data into explorable visualisations which help us to comprehend this vast set of cultural data.

This data can be used to chart the migration of ideas and builds a geography of language.

The readability scores are on a scale from 0 (illiterate) to 20 (post-graduate degree).

So, how do different artist’s fare?  For reference, Staple Crops ran energy policy speeches by both Obama and McCain from the 2008 campaign; each scored a 12– “Educational Level: High School Graduate, Reading Level: Time Magazine.”

By comparison, Fifty Cent’s “I Get Money” scored a 7– “Educational Level: Junior High School, Reading Level: True Confessions.”

At the other extreme, Jay-Z’s “Dead Presidents 2” and Rakim’s “Microphone Fiend” both scored 16– “Educational Level: University Degree, Reading Level: Atlantic Monthly.”

Grade other artists, pick up a set of the trading cards (exampled above), or buy chocolates (!) featuring reliefs of one’s favorite rappers at Staple Crops.

No child left behind, Sucka!

As we dust off those closeted turntables, we might wish a lyrical Happy Birthday to the painter, poet, playwright, essayist, and Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott; he was born on this date in 1930 on the island of Santa Lucia in the West Indies.

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Inheriting the Wind*…

From DetentionSlip.com (“your daily cheat sheet for education news”), a sobering infographic on the state of education in the U.S., “Creationism vs. Darwinism in the U.S.”; an excerpt:

Click here to see the infographic in full (and then again on the image there, to enlarge).

* Inherit the Wind, the play (then movies) that fictionalized the Scopes trial, took it’s title from Proverbs 11:29, which (in the King James version) reads:

He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind:
and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.

As we own up to ontology, we might might recall that it was on this date in 1950 that T.S. Eliot, then 62, observed that “the years between 50 and 70 are the hardest. You are always being asked to do things, and yet are not decrepit enough to turn them down.”  Among those nagging tasks: picking up his Nobel Prize for literature two years earlier.

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Signs are taken for wonders. “We would see a sign!”
The word within a word, unable to speak a word,
Swaddled with darkness.
– “Gerontion”

“Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry”*…

Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.
—Benoit Mandelbrot, The Fractal Geometry of Nature

Benoit Mandelbrot, Sterling Professor of Mathematics at Yale and the father of fractal geometry, died last Thursday at age 85.  As Heinz-Otto Peitgen, professor of mathematics and biomedical sciences at the University of Bremen, observed, “if we talk about impact inside mathematics, and applications in the sciences, he is one of the most important figures of the last 50 years.”

“I decided to go into fields where mathematicians would never go because the problems were badly stated,” Dr. Mandelbrot once said. “I have played a strange role…”  Indeed, one hopes that Mandelbrot had the consolation of his own fascination as he contemplated the diffusion pattern of the pancreatic cancer that killed him.

At TED2010, mathematics legend Benoit Mandelbrot develops a theme he first discussed at TED in 1984 — the extreme complexity of roughness, and the way that fractal math can find order within patterns that seem unknowably complicated.

* Richard Feynman

In other sad news, Barbara Billingsley, the avatar of American motherhood in her role as Mrs. Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver, passed away on Saturday.

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As we marvel at patterns nested within themselves, we might recall that it was on this date in in 1962 that In 1962, Dr. James D. Watson, Dr. Francis Crick, and Dr. Maurice Wilkins won the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology for their work in determining the double-helix molecular structure of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).

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All together now!…

The good folks at All Sorts have taken on the issue of collective nouns– or as Drew Neil calls them, Venereal Terms— that is, the names we give bunches of things.  All Sorts invited designers to submit illustrations of their favorites for inclusion in the All Sorts Index.   A few of the winners:

A Glass Half Full of Optimists

A Hush of Librarians

A Sofa of Dogs

For more karass, not false but funny, see here. (TotH to Jason Kottke)

As we contemplate commonalities, we might wish a Buon Compleanno to Luigi Pirandello, the dramatist and novelist best remembered for Six Characters in Search of an Author.  He was born on this date in 1867, turned to writing when the family sulphur mines failed, and received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1934.

The Author, Found

Who you callin’ “Cupcake”?…

Cupcakes are, of course, all the vogue.  And as their popularity has exploded, they’ve begun to speciate…

There are Periodic Table Cupcakes…

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Elmo cupcakes…

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Watchmen Cupcakes…

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And oh so many others (for a nifty selection, starting with the ones above, poke around at Laughing Squid and at Friday Foodie)…

But cupcakes, in their mainstream “chocolate or vanilla” manifestations, or in these more elaborate guises, have remained…  well, dainty.

No longer!  Now the formidable folks at Butch Bakery (“Where butch meets buttercream”) offer cupcakes in 12 flavors and six “styles”:  Woodland Camo, Wood Grain, Houndstooth, Plaid, Checkerboard or Marble.

Got beer?

As we bench press a baker’s dozen, we might recall that it was on this date in 1953 that James D. Watson and Francis Crick announced to friends that they had determined the chemical structure of DNA; the formal announcement took place on April 25  following publication in the April issue of Nature (published April 2).  The not-yet-Nobel-laureates walked into the Eagle pub in Cambridge and announced, “We have found the secret of Life.”

The Double Helix

A model citizen…

Michael Paul Smith is a photographer and model builder who’s combined those passions to create an album of idealized photos from his past:

The telephone pole, stop sign, the white house and the tree are real and are about a block away from the models. The models themselves are sitting on a table.

What started out as an exercise in model building and photography, ended up as a dream-like reconstruction of the town I grew up in. It’s not an exact recreation, but it does capture the mood of my memories.

And like a dream, many of the buildings show up in different configurations throughout the photos. Or sometimes, the buildings stay put and the backgrounds change. Visually, this is heading towards the realm of ART.

NO PHOTOSHOP WAS USED IN THESE PICTURES. IT’S ALL STRAIGHT FROM THE CAMERA.

It’s the oldest trick in the special effects book: line up a model with an appropriate background and shoot. The buildings are 1/24th scale [or 1/2 inch equals a foot]. They are constructed of Gator board, styrene plastic, Sintra [a light flexible plastic that can be carved, and painted] plus numerous found objects; such as jewelery pieces, finishing washers and printed material.

Spend more time in Michael’s history here.  And check out his other sets of model shots— amazing.

As we let our fingers do the walking down memory lane, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments filed the first patent for an integrated circuit (U.S. Patent 3,138,743).  In mid-1958, as a newly employed engineer at Texas Instruments, Kilby didn’t yet have the right to a summer vacation.  So he spent the summer working on the problem in circuit design known as the “tyranny of numbers” (how to add more and more components, all soldered to all of the others, to improve performance).  He finally came to the conclusion that manufacturing the circuit components en masse in a single piece of semiconductor material could provide a solution. On September 12, he presented his findings to the management: a piece of germanium with an oscilloscope attached. Kilby pressed a switch, and the oscilloscope showed a continuous sine wave– proving that his integrated circuit worked and thus that he had solved the problem.  Kilby is generally credited as co-inventor of the integrated circuit, along with Robert Noyce (who independently made a similar circuit a few months later).  Kilby has been honored in many ways for his breakthrough, probably most augustly with the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Kilby’s first integrated circuit

That Obscure Object of Definition…

Via friend P deV, the “obscure unit of the week: Bohr magnetons per angstrom”…

In explaining their (pretty remarkable) findings that magnetism can, in some circumstances, behave like electricity— “magnetricity” if one will– scientists from the London Centre for Nanotechnology invoked evidence denominated in what has to one of the rarer metrics around:  Bohr magnetons per angstrom.

But worth understanding, as the observation suggests that it may be possible to create units of digital storage one magnetic monopole large– that’s to say, about the size of an atom.  As lead investigator Steven Bramwell said (with typical British understatement), “monopoles could one day be used as a much more compact form of memory than anything available today.”

Individual magnetic ‘charges’ – equivalent to the north and south poles of a magnet – have been observed inside a crystalline material called spin ice (Image: STFC)

See the New Scientist report here; and more on the discovery at Next Big Future, here.

As we practice our scales, we might recall that it was on this date in 1948 that the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to T.S. Eliot, who undermined the need for more storage when he observed that “the most important thing for poets to do is to write as little as possible.”

Eliot, by Wyndham Lewis

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