Latest stories - Clive Thompson

Yesterday   A town in Iceland has installed some innovative speed bumps -- a set of painted bars on the road that create the illusion of floating in the air.

Yesterday   A year ago, the city of Dunkirk in France made its bus system entirely free -- causing a boom in ridership, as well as a drop in car usage.

3 Days Ago   In 1964, a German experiment asked people to randomly tap their fingers -- whenever they wanted -- while having their brain's electrical activity monitored. The scientists discovered something nifty: The Bereitschaftspotential, a little burst of electrical activity the subjects' brains gave off in the milliseconds just before the finger-tap.

3 Days Ago   Apparently mountain chickadees have crazily awesome memories: Despite weighing less than half an ounce, mountain chickadees are able to survive harsh winters complete with subzero temperatures, howling winds and heavy snowfall.

3 Days Ago   In Slate, David Polansky argues that the quality of audio in hearing aids is plummeting for the same reason the quality of recorded music plummeted in the age of the MP3: It went digital.

4 Days Ago   A random dude did about $15,000 worth of damage to the famous bronze "Charging Bull" sculpture, by attacking it with a banjo. He managed to cut a deep gash in the thick bronze.

4 Days Ago   I love semicolons. I probably use too many of them, because of how incredibly flexible they are; how they loosely tie together loosely related ideas; how you can use them for lists.

4 Days Ago   Tarek Loubani is a Palestinian-Canadian doctor who works with the Glia Project, a group that creates open-source designs for 3D-printable medical hardware. Their goal is to let local populations manufacture their own medical wares at prices considerably lower than in the marketplace, and in situations where -- because of distance or war -- it may not even be possible to ship in equipment at any price.

6 Days Ago   Turns out fast food hits crows the same way as it does humans: In the cholesterol levels. Scientists measured the cholesterol levels of crows in different parts of the country -- and found that the more urbanized the area, the higher the cholesterol in the crows.

6 Days Ago   This is pretty brilliant: A rap battle between Alexander Hamilton and Satoshi Nakamoto over the merits of centralized, government-fiat currency, versus decentralized cryptocurrencies. It's a note-perfect homage to the terrific "cabinet rap battles" in the musical Hamilton (worth listening to, #1 and #2).

6 Days Ago   In the early days of busing kids to school, buses were painted all sorts of colors, and built to different specs. But in the late 1930s, education expert Frank Cyr started agitating for a national standard -- so manufacturers could mass-produce to one spec, making buses cheaper.

8 Days Ago   Essay-writing services have been around for a long time, but the maturation of the interwebs has allowed for increasingly customized operations. Schools and teachers are now well-equipped with plagiarism-busting tech that can spot a multiply-reused paper, so kids go the personalized route -- paying extra to have someone (usually abroad, in a lower-income country) write an essay just for them.

9 Days Ago   Check out this lovely interactive version of an Enigma machine coded up by Tom MacWright! You can type in your plaintext message and then watch an animation simulate how the signal would travel through an Enigma, encrypting it.

10 Days Ago   "Alice Campion" is the pseudonym used by a group of Australian writers -- who, back in 2013, published their first collectively-written book, The Painted Sky. Five of them wrote the first book, and four continued on to collaborate on Alice Campion's next one, The Shifting Light.

11 Days Ago   I'm a pencil fanatic, who sits around reading pencil blogs and meditating on my favorite pencil sharpeners. (Mark once filmed me gushing about the Kum long-point pencil sharpener packaged by the folks at Blackwing.) I buy all the reissued Blackwing pencils, too.

12 Days Ago   The protestors in Hong Kong, leery of state eavesdropping on digital communications, have been adept at using communications tools not normally associated with activism, like Tinder, Twitch, and Apple's Airdrop (previously).

12 Days Ago   Last week Trump infamously suggested nuking hurricanes. Loopy, of course -- but it also put me in mind of a similarly bananas idea from 1965: Using nukes to dig ditches and excavate earth.

13 Days Ago   To break a world record, Rob Scallon linked together 319 pedals and played his guitar through them. What does it sound like? A wall of whooshing, muttering, occasionally howling noise!

13 Days Ago   The journalists at The Next Web scripted a bot -- Satoshi Nakaboto -- that crawls around the aether looking for Bitcoin news and tweets, then assembles into a daily news story.

16 Days Ago   Vantablack -- the darkest, most light-absorbing pigment on the market -- is freaky stuff to behold (previously, previously, previously, previously, and previously). Vantablack reflects vanishingly little visible light, making anything in which it is coated appear to be void cut in the fabric of reality.

16 Days Ago   Back in the 80s, the inventor Cy Enfield created this fascinating device -- a six-button "Microwriter" where you'd chord combos of buttons to produce the entire alphabet, letting you jot down notes on the go.

16 Days Ago   Typically, marine photography is done in rich, saturated color -- the better to show off the riot of life beneath the waves. But the photographer Christian Vizl has done it in high-contrast black and white, producing eerily intense ways of re-seeing marine life.

17 Days Ago   Hurricane maps, like the ones created by the National Hurricane Center, tend to show a cone that indicates the predicted path of the hurricane. But it turns out those maps do a terrible job of communicating their intended info, because people -- myself included -- routinely misunderstand them.

17 Days Ago   I'm coming late to this one, because it was posted last year -- but hey, better late than never: Behold this fascinating set of Pricenomics graphics about what types of objects Americans pawn.

17 Days Ago   Apparently YouTube has been removing videos of battlebots, after their system flagged the videos for containing "animal suffering". Ars Technica has a good story on several removals that took place last week across several battlebot accounts.

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