Links for April 2021

“THOUGH TOMMY IS A MALE SQUIRREL HE HAS TO WEAR FEMININE CLOTHES BECAUSE TAIL INTERFERES WITH HIS WEARING PANTS,” Life Magazine reported defensively in 1944. “The Bullis family … took him on the road in their Packard automobile, where he … gave uninspiring radio interviews. … At the height of his fame his fan club numbered 30,000 members. … When he died in 1949 he was stuffed and mounted … and his nightmarish fate pursued him even into the grave.” Apparently the interview was along with FDR, so perhaps it was more entertaining than they say! Unfortunately we can’t find it. We also learned that in his journeys Tommy was “accompanied by a bulldog that had gold teeth and wore a fez. ‘He may very well have gotten the dog stuffed, too,’ Jim said. If so, its whereabouts are unknown.” The article also calls avocado “avocado pear” — truly the past is a foreign country.

In case you were wondering: yes, mice CAN hallucinate, and they hallucinate more than average when you give them ketamine. Apparently this is the kind of finding you need to get published in Science these days.

All you need to do to get into Nature, on the other hand, is brew cannabis using hacked beer yeast. The resulting beer is probably illegal but we’re guessing the yeast itself is not. Can you make sourdough with this stuff? What are the limits on this discovery? ARE there any limits??? 

The kids are more than all right, they’re playing 5-Dimensional Chess With Multiverse Time Travel. If you’re not afraid of the next generation yet, you should be.

Totally unrelated, Kelsey Piper at Vox argues compellingly that voting rights should be extended to young people regardless of age. How young? To “every American citizen who can successfully fill out a ballot.” We’ve made similar arguments about age in the past, but this is even more radical, and we approve. 

In 1997 Jim Kardach of Intel was reading Frans G. Bengtsson’s historical novel about 10th-century vikings The Long Ships in between working on wireless data transfer. When it came time to name the technology, he named it after King Harald Bluetooth and invented a logo based on the runes for H and B. Similarly, the peace symbol was originally for Nuclear Disarmament and is a combination of the flag semaphore characters for N and D.  

Also at the intersection of new and very old is the 🧿 Nazar Amulet Emoji, representing an eye-shaped amulet believed to protect against the evil eye.

You remember all those stories about the vibrator being invented to treat hysteria? Probably outright lies, invented in the ‘90s. The NYT reports: Everything You Know About the Invention of the Vibrator Is Wrong 

Werner Herzog interviewed by Jenkem, a skateboarding magazine. “I am puzzled because I am not familiar with the scene of skateboarding,” he says. “At the same time, I had the feeling that, ‘Yes, that is kind of my people.’ … You have to accept trial and error. And I see them doing a certain jump or trying to slide on a metal rail, and they do it 25 times and fail. The 26th time, they fail. The 30th time, they fail. It’s good that you accept failure and you don’t give up, and finally you land the right jump and you keep sliding and screeching down a handrail.”

Did you hear about the garden gnome shortage?

In other international news, a Russian man ‘trapped’ on Chinese reality TV show has finally been voted off, and the story is truly pitiable. “His lack of enthusiasm played out in half-hearted singing, rapping and dancing alongside the other, more eager contestants. … he urged the public to vote him out, saying he did not want to be among the 11 winners of the show, who are contractually obliged to form a boy band. ‘Don’t love me, you’ll get no results,’ he said on one episode. But viewers took to his dour persona and kept him in the running for nearly three months. … Fans, some earnest and some ironic, dubbed him ‘the most miserable wage slave’ and celebrated him as an icon of ‘Sang culture’, a popular concept among Chinese millennials referring to a defeatist attitude towards everyday life. ‘Don’t let him quit,’ one viewer commented on a video of a dejected-looking Mr Ivanov performing a Russian rap. ‘Sisters, vote for him! Let him 996!’ another fan commented, using the Chinese slang for the gruelling work schedule that afflicts many young employees, especially in digital start-ups.”

Sometimes it feels like everything has already been discovered, like there’s no possibility of progress in the modern world. But progress is alive and well, at least in the realm of pro NES Tetris, where a new technique has been discovered that is faster than Hypertapping!

Peer review doesn’t always work great. But you know what does work great, all the time, with definitely no problems ever? That’s right — tinder! This is the pitch for, which describes itself as, “Tinder, but for papers & preprints.” We can’t tell if this is brilliant or moronic. 

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