Tuesday, March 25th, 2014


Raked Over the Coal

You have solar on your roof, a hybrid in your garage, and wind, water, nuclear, and natural gas all being pushed by various companies and interest groups. But, now, and for the foreseeable future, you've also got coal. And lots of it. Wired's Charles C. Mann lays it out: "A lump of coal is a thoroughly ubiquitous 21st-century artifact, as much an emblem of our time as the iPhone. Today coal produces more than 40 percent of the world's electricity, a foundation of modern life. And that percentage is going up." That reality is bad news for the environment and climate change, and it leaves us with a big question: How do we minimize the damage?


The Incredible Bulk

The Obama administration has called for an end to the N.S.A.'s bulk phone records program. Under the proposal, "the N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans' calling habits. The bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge."

+ Esquire's Michael Maiello argues that the new proposal is proof that Edward Snowden is a whistleblower, not a criminal: "Obama's proposal is an admission that Snowden was right. It doesn't make sense to insist that the citizen who prodded his recalcitrant government into action should be punished."


The Dig

"This is going to be a very long-term event. This will be something that goes into the weeks." So said a fire chief in Snohomish County, Washington, where the death toll from a massive mudslide has risen to fourteen (with as many as 176 people still unaccounted for). Rescue effort coordinators say that some bodies may never be found.

+ InFocus has a collection of photos from the scene.


Tell Knell

Everyone has a tell; some body language that gives them away when they're lying or up to something. And trained professionals can pick up on these signals. Right? Maybe not. After training TSA agents to understand body language, their ability to spot a liar was only slightly better than chance.

+ Think you can spot a liar? The NYT has a video quiz in which you have to decide whether the speaker is lying or telling the truth. I got (hiccup) every (brow wipe) single (foot tap) one right (vomit).

+ Don't worry if you can't read peoples' emotions. Soon, your phone will do it for you.

+ Related: A Brief History of Evil Finger-Tenting.


Hobby Lobby(ists)

Should a for-profit company be required to provide employees with insurance coverage for various types of contraceptives even if those contraceptives violate the religious beliefs of those who own or run the company? That was the question before the Supreme Court as it heard arguments in the much-anticipated Hobby Lobby case. And as per usual, the court seemed divided.


Filling the Glass Hole

Will Google Glass evolve into a mainstream product? We're definitely going to find out following a deal struck between Google and Luxottica. Luxottica owns several major brands of glasses and sunglasses and controls Sunglass Hut and LensCrafters.

+ USC will offer a Google Glass journalism class this Fall.


So You Think You Can Dance?

"The insistence of the tonic in the melody keeps your ears' eyes fixed on the destination, but the song never arrives there. Weightlessness is achieved." Slate's Owen Pallet attempts to explain Katy Perry's Teenage Dream using music theory.

+ According to science, this is what women want on the dance floor. (I asked my wife what women want on the dance floor and she said, "their girlfriends and another cocktail.")


Caught Free Falling

"It's a fair amount of free-fall time. You really get to enjoy the view of the city and see it from a different perspective." The three guys who base-jumped off the top of the World Trade Center last September will now get the view of the inside of a courtroom. Meanwhile, we get a view of the jump.

+ Here's an interesting twist: "The daredevil who made the helmet-cam video of himself parachuting with two buddies from atop 1 World Trade Center is a legendarily skilled ironworker who helped build that very same tower."


Swallowing Shakespeare

"So my prediction is that we're going to ingest information. You're going to swallow a pill and know English. You're going to swallow a pill and know Shakespeare. The way to do it is through the bloodstream; once it's in your bloodstream, it basically goes through and gets into the brain and when it knows it's in the brain it deposits the information in the right places." That's MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte with his prediction for the future. Here are bunch of other TED presenters and attendees sharing what they think might radically change our lives in the next thirty years.


The Bottom of the News

Yes, it was impressive when a San Francisco Girl Scout came up with the idea of selling her cookies outside of a medical marijuana facility. But Oklahoma City's Katie Francis was not to be outdone. She sold a record 18,107 boxes.

+ New Yorker: "A recent study has shown that if American parents read one more long-form think piece about parenting they will go f**king ape shit."

+ Things just haven't felt right over the past few years. But maybe that will change. Diddy is going back to being Puff Daddy.

+ Your son's tooth is loose and you are a nerdy, modern parent. So what do you do? You break out the floss (along with a video camera and a DJI Phantom 2 Vision quadcopter). Hopefully, the Tooth Fairy will leave some Bitcoin under this kid's pillow.