TED this week

My favorite TEDTalks from the week:


Where did the 70s go?

I miss straight-up entertainment. And disco. And hippies. And...funny thing, I never even lived it!



What Is Freedom?

A question I've often wondered about. I don't think we, as a people, define the word very well anymore, especially after the "freedom fries" debacle. I liked this little excerpt.
On the face of it, more choices are an unmitigated good thing. Americans especially prize having as many choices as possible. Before the turn of the 19th century, freedom was defined as self-sufficiency, the freedom to own your own land and tools, and eke out a living with your own hands. As consumerism became a dominate force in the culture, freedom was redefined to mean the freedom to choose, to choose between different items and lifestyles, to choose things we believed fit out tastes and personality more than others. This was the beginning of defining ourselves by what we buy, instead of who we are and what we do, but that is another discussion for another day.

(emphasis mine)
[Art of Manliness]


Global Crime

Next time you doubt the reality of a Bond film...watch this!

I love TED!


Roger Federer

There's a reason he's the best in tennis right now.

In other news, RIP Patrick Swayze.

Big Bang

I promise to be more judicial in the physics-related posts, but I found this to be quite...spiritual.


Math in Movies

I'm so glad this topic actually got a little national exposure at boston.com! It's very surprising how many writers include mathematical theory (whether intentionally or not) in their scripts.
The typical moviegoer pretty much thinks one thing: Batman better show up now. But the mathematician immediately recognizes the Joker’s trap as a variation on the classic problem of the prisoner’s dilemma, where two individuals, each isolated in a prison cell, are given a choice: betray their friend and go free, or cooperate by saying nothing, and be given a short prison sentence. If each betrays the other, however, they will get a longer prison sentence.

Read it here at boston.com
Oliver Knill, Department of Mathematics at Harvard University also has put together a slur of scenes about math from movies, here. And another resource here.

How Animation Works




I hope everyone had a chance to read or listen to President Obama's speech tonight.

It's why so many aspiring entrepreneurs cannot afford to open a business in the first place, and why American businesses that compete internationally -- like our automakers -- are at a huge disadvantage. And it's why those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it -- about $1,000 per year that pays for somebody else's emergency room and charitable care.
There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canada's -- (applause) -- where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everybody. On the right, there are those who argue that we should end employer-based systems and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own.
I've said -- I have to say that there are arguments to be made for both these approaches. But either one would represent a radical shift that would disrupt the health care most people currently have. Since health care represents one-sixth of our economy, I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn't, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch.
You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter -- that at that point we don't merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.

Transcript is here.



TED is cool.
Cymatics are cool.
Learn about the field of study in this awesome TEDTalks video!


Why Widescreen Wins

When I was in the air from Los Angeles to Lima, Peru, I was impressed with the entertainment catalogue that LAN (the airline) offered. I went through the list of movies, mentally noting exactly which ones I would watch. As I started my first movie, my gut wrenched with horror and disgust when I realized that the entire catalogue had been pan-and-scanned.
What is pan-and-scan? It's redirecting the film with a different aspect ratio in order to eliminate the block boxes above and below movies. To me, pan-and-scanning is even worse than Clean-Flicksing a film. It nearly completely eliminates "art" from "entertaining arts," and I believe it is one of the contributors to a growing impatience in films. It brings the focus entirely on "action" (instead of development and exposition), leading people to believe if a movie isn't full of "action," then it's boring and lackluster, all the while inhibiting the film's ability to stretch the viewers concentration and to encourage the maximization of sensory input and understanding.
I must admit, I think our generation is more accustomed and willing to watch movies in their original aspect ratio. Thank goodness Blu-ray basically forbids the use of pan-and-scan, but after explanation after explanation, I still get asked why I would buy/rent/watch ONLY widescreen movies, even if my screen is square and rather small. I found a visual explanation that hopefully shows a little better exactly how much pan-and-scan cuts out of a picture.
Enjoy (in HQ!).