mattnyc99 writes: Acclaimed math geek Garth Sundem has attempted to create an algorithm for manly movies over at Esquire.com, and the results are both surprising and illustrative of how math can't always account for taste: Two Godfathers comes in the top 10, but so do American Beauty and Gandhi. From the article: "His formula... takes into account both critic and audience scores (so the everyman counts); the Google returns for a title's association with "greatest"; genre (anything along the gritty continuum is good; musicals are not); whether a character dies (a little morbid, but an important indicator nonetheless); extra wins for awe-inspiring visual effects and lead male performances (bonuses for Brando, Bogart, and the like), and memorable quotes." What do you think? Should we be making math account for culture?
mattnyc99 writes: After all the SOPA and PIPA talk about what to do with all that information out there, along comes Esquire's new profile of Vivek Ranadive, Silicon Valley mega-mogul and Golden State Warriors owner, which attempts to cast him as the man who understands how best to "harness the ocean of data in this world." But perhaps the story's more interesting revelation is the introduction of his company's new software TomCom, which will be unveiled next week at the World Economic Forum and used by the 200 most powerful people on the planet, and some of their important friends. From the article: "It is basically a customized, ridiculously secure version of tibbr, a platform developed by Tibco as a kind of combination Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, texting, and Skype. It is a private social network, essentially — in this case, for world leaders."
mattnyc99 writes: Esquire raises an interesting question on iPhone 5 day: What if Apple stores had cafes? From an analyst cited in the article: "In line with the Genius Bar concept, I could see them taking a part of the store and making it a café atmosphere where customers could interact with technology in a relaxed environment."
mattnyc99 writes: In the new issue of Esquire, author Stephen Marche has a thought-provoking essay on why the privacy era is coming to a close. Citing everything from Google+ ("basically Facebook with privacy") to Charlie Sheen, he makes the case that something happened to us as we all got used to the idea of privacy: we got it back. From the article: "In the information age, privacy becomes more important, not less. It has taken a riotous release of the innate curiosity of human beings to see and to know all the squalid details of all the squalid stories for everybody to realize that seclusion is necessary to becoming and remaining a person. Human beings, like mushrooms, grow in the dark."
mattnyc99 writes: In the wake of a not-that-exciting Comic-Con come some (perhaps premature) reports on the so-called "Death of Superheroes" — what one financial group calls "the top of the (comic book) character remonetization cycle." In response, Esquire.com's Paul Schrodt has an interesting look down Hollywood geek road. From the article: "What happens after The Avengers, or Christopher Nolan's third and final Batman movie — after we've seen all there is to see of the best comic-book blockbusters ever made?"
mattnyc99 writes: In the wake of the Best Buy "geek" trademarking and Miss USA calling herself "a huge history geek," writer (and self-proclaimed geek) Eryn Green has an interesting piece for Esquire on how so-called "geek chic" is pervading the culture so much that no one appreciates an actual geek anymore. From the article: "The difference between brains and beauty is that you're more or less born into good looks — entitled, if you will. Intelligence? That takes work. If the hallmark of real geekiness — of America — is determination, then we seem too determined to have an entitlement problem."
mattnyc99 writes: Tom Junod, the great Esquire writer who penned that famous Steve Jobs profile a couple years back, is back with a new story on John Lasseter, Pixar, and how CGI movies turn good boys into men. But Junod also gets gets glimpses that other recent profiles haven't — at Lasseter's incredible house (steam engines in glass ceilings, hidden chambers, braided wiring) but also inside Jobs' influence on the Pixar machine. From the article: The building in Emeryville is, in Lasseter's words, "Steve Jobs's movie." Jobs not only designed it; he designed it so that people inside it would behave a certain way. "Steve really believes in the accidental meeting," Lasseter says, and to that end he designed the building around a cathedral-like atrium, which is also where he located all the bathrooms and the subsidized company commissary. "Steve really believes that it's important to have great food," Lasseter says.
mattnyc99 writes: Tom Junod, the award-winning Esquire writer whose work on deanimation we've explored here before — and who finds himself "trying to avail myself of the consequences of faith" — has a fascinating look at the concept of Peak Humanity on the occasion of the looming "judgment day" on Saturday. For anyone who's ever read a population report from the UN, this seems a lot scarier than religious conspiracy theories. From the article: "Humanity's final number is also, by definition, its final sustainable one, and life on earth is going to have to get pretty unpleasant for us to reach it. Already we have succeeded all too well in erasing what was left of the buffer between humanity and nature, leaving us to lurch from catastrophe to catastrophe; add global warming to that already accelerating dynamic, not to mention possibility of Peak Oil and the inevitability of war, and there is reason to wonder if the end of humanity's expansion will result in — or be the result of — the end of humanity, at least as we know it."
mattnyc99 writes: This morning we talked briefly about Moscow's additional security in the wake of a terrorist attack on its airport. But the bombers did, in fact, dodge security checks that were already in place, you can bet America's Homeland Security people will come back with the equivalent of a baggage-claim body scan. Security guru Bruce Schneier has weighed in on Esquire's politics blog: "This is the sort of thing that yes, people are likely to overreact to, and do all sorts of things that'll do nothing to solve the problem but make people feel better.... it doesn't matter how much money Moscow spent on security checkpoints and passenger screening and ID checks. All that was irrelevant. The attackers said 'Oh yeah, airport security's too hard. I'm going to go someplace else.'
mattnyc99 writes: By now everyone's seen the video of Caitlin Burke's one-letter solve on Wheel of Fortune last Friday. But not everyone knows how easy it is to game the system of game shows, how easy it is for an addicted viewer to prepare for a big on-air win. Esquire writer Chris Jones pulled back the curtain a bit on the Price Is Right's perfect showcase, but now he's got something of an investigation into America's latest gamebreaker. From the article: "At a remarkably fast rate — "I wanted to show everyone what I've got," Burke says — she can cycle through her shortened lists of possibility. As more letters are guessed and either lit up or discarded, she can permanently drop those from contention, too. Her brain has a one-way valve built into it. Eventually, everything gets distilled, each puzzle boiled down to its most likely combination — two-letter words, three-letter words, and so on. Burke has trained her brain so that the impossible falls away, never to return, and eventually, out of the crowded ether, only a handful of solutions emerge."
mattnyc99 writes: About a year ago, we watched live as neuroanatomist Jacopo Annese sliced the brain of Memento-style patient Henry Molaison (aka H.M.) into 2,401 pieces. Since even before then, writer Luke Dittrich — whose grandfather happened to be the surgeon to accidentally slice open the H.M. skull in the first place — has been tracking Annese and a new revolution in brain science for Esquire. From the article: "If Korbinian Brodmann created the mind's Rand McNally, Jacopo Annese is creating its Google Maps... With his Brain Observatory, Annese is setting out to create not the world's largest but the world's most useful collection of brains... For the first time, we'll be able to meaningfully and easily compare large numbers of brains, perhaps finally understanding why one brain might be less empathetic or better at calculus or likelier to develop Alzheimer's than another. The Brain Observatory promises to revolutionize our understanding of how these three-pound hunks of tissue inside our skulls do what they do, which means, of course, that it promises to revolutionize our understanding of ourselves."
longacre writes: Erik Sofge trudges through NASA’s latest free video game, which he finds tedious, uninspiring and misguiding: "Moonbase Alpha is a demo, of sorts, for NASA's more ambitious upcoming game, Astronaut: Moon, Mars & Beyond, which will feature more destinations, and hopefully less welding. The European Space Agency is developing a similar game, set on the Jovian Moon, Europa. But Moonbase Alpha proves that as a recruiting campaign, or even as an educational tool, the astronaut simulation game is a lost cause. Unless NASA plans to veer into science fiction and populate its virtual moons, asteroids and planets with hostile species, it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to suffer through another minute of pretending to weld power cables back into place, while thousands of miles away, the most advanced explorers ever built are hurtling toward asteroids and dwarf planets and into the heart of the sun. Even if it was possible to build an astronaut game that's both exciting and realistic, why bother? It will be more than a decade before humans even attempt another trip outside of Earth's orbit. If NASA wants to inspire the next generation of astronauts and engineers, its games should focus on the real winners of the space race—the robots."
mattnyc99 writes: Earlier this year came reports that Felix Baumgartner (the daredevil who flew across the English Channel) would be attempting to jump from a balloon at least 120,000 feet altitude, break the sound barrier, and live. Now comes a big investigative story from Esquire's issue on achieving the impossible, which details the former NASA team dedicated to making sure Baumgartner's Stratos project will instruct the future safety of manned space flight (including Jonathan Clark, the husband of an astronaut who died in the Columbia disaster). From the article (which also includes pics and video shot by the amateur space photographer we've discussed here before): "that's also precisely what makes Stratos great. It's more like Mercury than the shuttle: They're taking risks, making things up as they go along. But they're also doing important work, potentially groundbreaking work. They're doing what NASA no longer has the balls to do. Hell, he'd do it for free. He is doing it for free. Stratos only picks up his travel expenses. Clark looks at his friend, shrugs. 'This is new space.'"
mattnyc99 writes: We've talked about the constant, frustrating drone of vuvuzelas, but what about the non-stop blabbering that has become Twitter this month? Esquire has a handy analysis of tweets during the last USA game, and the results are shocking — even for the usually frenzied Twitter: Out of 1,000 tweets with the #worldcup hashtag during the game, only 16 percent were legitimate news and 7.6 percent were deemed "legitimate conversation" — which leaves 6 percent spam, 24 percent self-promotion, about 17 percent re-tweets, and a whopping 29 percent of useless observation (like this). Is the mainstream media making too big a deal out of the avalanche of World Cup tweets, or is the world literally flooding the zone?
longacre writes: Swarms of autonomous US Air Force warplanes could be firing at enemies as soon as 2030 without any human intervention. An in-depth examination of a recent US Air Force report titled "Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan, 2009-2047" reveals this and other interesting objectives for the next 37 years of aerowarfare. Previously a taboo subject which no one in leadership would publicly discuss, the report for the first time states the USAF's desire to build "flying robots programmed with 'automatic target engagement' abilities." The report also calls for the continued expansion of the unmanned surveillance fleet, the construction of unmanned fueler tankers to keep the drones flying, and the design of long-range stealthy surveillance bombers. And in a move which could surely save money but will likely anger some brass, the USAF wants to be in charge of all UAV development for every branch of the armed forces, not just its own.