In my last email, I wrote about a simple tool I built to assist me in revisiting books that I own. Well, I've also built another tool—very early still and probably super-buggy—but designed to help me find weird and interesting things on the Internet, sending me an email at most once a day with links to things online that I might want to check out. It's calledBlink Microscope and it's built on top of RSS. From theAbout page:
Blink Microscope is a sophisticated filtering tool for monitoring the Internet for interesting things. It allows you to scour a huge number of RSS feeds all at once and filter them any way you wish. Think of it as Google Alerts for power users, and on steroids.
And why is it called Blink Microscope?
The blink microscope, also known as a blink comparator, was the instrument used to discover Pluto, which works by allowing the user to find tiny changes in photographs of the night sky. In the same way, Blink Microscope helps you find the new and interesting and rare in a sea of complex and messy information. Though if you discover anything along the lines of Pluto, please let me know.
If you want to try out Blink Microscope, please let me know and I'll give you an access code.
Here's a film from AT&T, from the 1950's, explaining how to use a dial telephone: Now You Can Dial. This was released around the time when AT&T switched completely to dialing, and away from using operators to connect a call. This short film is particularly interesting in that many of the features of a telephone that are being demonstrated were not only novel to their viewers then, but they might very well be novel once again. The film discusses rotary dialing, a busy signal, and the dial tone, among other features, all of which have vanished for many users of smartphones. Just as there was a period of several hundred years—the Gutenberg Parenthesis—when print media reigned, so too there was the Dial Tone Parenthesis, when this technology was paramount. No longer.
And in other delightful videos from awhile back, check out the BBC's April 1st hoax segment from many decades ago that explored the fictional spaghetti tree.
Here are some thought-provoking articles I received from readers (please keep them coming! I want these email newsletters to be the beginning of a correspondence):
Machine learning leads mathematicians to unsolvable problem: Here's a great story about how a seemingly-simple AI problem ends up bumping against some pretty fundamental mathematical limits. (via Josh Landy)
And one more from me: Talk like an Egyptian: A beautiful article about the loss and rediscovery of our understanding of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, the timescale of humanity, and how to think about informational and linguistic preservation.
By the way, I was recently on BBC Radio talking about technological complexity.
Until next time.