Turn your phone into a particle ray detector!

cosmic-ray-particle-showersImage: NASA.

After a semester of discouraging phone use, I’m finally posting a reason to use your phone! Use your phone to help solve the mysteries of the universe

Two physicists who work at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland are creating an app that transforms smart phones into particle ray detectors.

Read about their project.

Join the project!

Film about co-founder of Reddit/ information activist Aaron Swartz

Friday March 13 at 7:45
MacKinnon, 117

As part of their Social and Environmental Justic Symposium, OPIRG is showing the fantastic documentary, THE INTERNET’S OWN BOY.


Text is from takepart.com

The Internet’s Own Boy follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet.

But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron’s story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.


The Shallows Chapter 10 Supplementary Content


The ELIZA program, try out a conversation with it and see how it works!


From The Shallows:

 “[…] what shocked [Weizenbaum] was how quickly and deeply people using the software ‘become emotionally involved with the computer,’ talking to it as if it were an actual person.” (p.204-205)

This is known as the ELIZA Effect:

“[U]sers perceive computer systems as having “intrinsic qualities and abilities which the software controlling the (output) cannot possibly achieve”


From The Shallows:

[…] when people aren’t being bombarded by external stimuli, their brains can, in effect, relax. They no longer have to tax their working memories by processing a stream of bottom-up distractions.

This study, “Individual differences in employee reactions to open-plan offices” partially confirmed that performance is reduced for employees with complex tasks and distractions, in open offices. Do you think this will change how you consider your own workspace after graduating?


The above image demonstrates the game used in Van Nimwegen’s study “The paradox of the guided user: assistance can be counter-effective”. The top game image indicated whether an action was possible by greying out buttons, while the lower game image gave no indication to whether an action was possible or not.

The puzzle involved transferring colored balls between two boxes, and followed the rules of the river crossing problem: “Missionaries and cannibals problem” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missionaries_and_cannibals_problem

What does the Oculus Rift do to your brain? An interesting video to see what kind of effect virtual reality has on your brain!

From The Shallows:

“There is no Sleepy Hollow on the Internet, no peaceful spot where contemplative ness can work it’s restorative magic.” (p.220)

Sleepy Hollow refers to the place in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” where the community is haunted by ghost and the Headless Horseman.

Full text: http://www.bartleby.com/310/2/2.html

Nicholas Carr’s Website:

You can share your thoughts about “The Shallows” and how it has changed your idea or usage on the internet. In the afterwards of the paperback edition the author has already received:

“[…] large number of notes that come from young people – high schoolers, college kids, twentysomethings.” (p.226)

So don’t refrain from writing to him!


Nicholas Carr’s Blog:


Follow Rough Type on Twitter: @roughtype

Happy (?) Valentine’s Day

Finally. A boyfriend or girlfriend your friends can believe in.

Invisible Boyfriend/Girlfriend gives you real-world and social proof that you’re in a relationship – even if you’re not – so you can get back to living life on your own terms.


Invisible Girlfriend and Invisible Boyfriend.

And, if you just can’t get enough: How I Lost My Invisible Boyfriend in Six Days and I Dumped My Invisible Boyfriend but he Won’t Stop Texting Me


Bored and Brilliant

Want to be more creative? Get off the internet and learn to be bored.

Embracing boredom to become more creative (Psychology Today)

WHY boredom is essential for creativity.

Boredom is good for you.

Put away your phone. Are smartphones interfering with your natural process to wander and be idle? Probably.

“A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men… of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase.”
—Bertrand Russell

Please participate in Bored and Brilliant.
The neurological and creative value of doing nothing. That’s right, nothing.

More Bertrand Russell from Brain Pickings (it’s a great site)

In Praise of Idleness | Essay by Bertrand Russell

Why the capacity for boredom is essential for a full life

From WIRED: The Importance of mind wandering

From The Guardian: The Importance of Being Bored

Are you conflating being bored with a fear of being alone (i.e. no cell phone)? Here is a funny video on How To Be Alone.

Additional stuff relating to The Shallows, reading 2


Letterpress printing and the Twitter hashtag.

Another letterpress documentary (short)

Hatch Show Print website
Below are examples of Hatch Show Prints

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A short documentary about HATCH SHOW



and other early writing

More info about cuneiform

Cuneiform library at Cornell University. If you click the image icons, the full size images have great detail.

WOAH. The entire waxed tablet collection at the University of Michigan.



A tip from artist Miranda July.


Monkeys in the Margins: The Getty Museum’s Pinterest page all about, (I’m not making this up-the interweb can be an awesome place) mischievous monkeys in Medieval manuscripts. Try saying that five times fast.

Miniature Mondays from the Special Collections and Archives at the University of Iowa. Wee books!

Early Modern books and Manuscript collection at Harvard University. Books bound in human skin.



The Shallows, Reading Two

Most of this post was assembled by three awesome students from last year. Thanks people!


Anybody else wonder what a theodolite is?
Here’s a definition. (Also, there’s an app for that.)


Epic Poetry

Regarding the techniques used in an oral culture to remember information:

“Modern scholars recognize certain features common to oral poetry that often seem strange to readers. The key to all these so-called formulas is repetition, that indispensable prod to memory. In the Homeric epics, for example, long verse paragraphs recounting the details of sacrifice, the proffering of gifts, the naming of participants may be repeated almost word for word. Descriptive epithets repeatedly accompany characters’ names: “the swift-footed brilliant Akhilleus” or “Hektor, breaker of horses” or “the grey-eyed goddess Athena… these repetitions gave the bard a second to remember his place in the narrative… These oral formulaic devices, then, glued a massive narrative together, permitting feats of memory which readers in the computer age are more likely to associate with data banks than with poets.”

Read more about classical poetry here! It’s fun!



Turn the pages of a Gutenberg Bible.

An interactive map showing the spread of printing.

We’re all familiar with Project Gutenberg, but this automated bartending project by the same name is based on booze.


Technological Determinism (aka the most terrifying thing ever)

A more recent expression of McLuhan’s view:

“While it depends on us, we are increasingly dependent on it. Like any child, it has its demands. So far, humanity as a whole is in denial that it even has a child.”


Not unlike the Cylons? Any Battlestar fans in the class?

Ever heard of the Technological Singularity?



Lee de Forest has a website. Here, learn more about the audion.



More on London cabbies and their hippocampuses.

A summary of a study on illiterate ex-paramilitary forces comparing the brain structure of illiterate and literate adults and how it changes as they learn how to read.
Why not just study children learning to read? The article says it’s hard to distinguish the changes that come about from reading from the changes that occur due to normal development.

Does literacy steal brain power from other functions? According to this study, probably. 

More info on magical mirror neurons and reading.

Are texting, emailing and other forms of purely verbal communication decreasing our ability to read non-verbal cues? This article says so.