Solving a Rubik’s Cube in under half a second

Hardware hackers Ben Katz and Jared Di Carlo have smashed the previous record for solving the Rubik’s cube robotically. Their machine solved the puzzle in 0.38 seconds—a 40-percent improvement over the previous record of 0.637.

Source: Robot smashes Rubik’s Cube record with 0.38-second solve | Ars Technica

Tangentially related: “Rubik Kubrick II”, produced from 300 Rubik’s Cubes mounted on a wood panel:

Elif Shafak on public intellectuals

[In the UK] Freedom of speech prevails, democracy is strong. Novelists are not sued for tackling controversial issues, academics are not expelled in their thousands, journalists are not put in jail en masse. Compared with their Turkish, Russian, Venezuelan, Pakistani or Chinese counterparts, British intellectuals have so much freedom. One would expect them to be aware of this privilege, and speak up not only for themselves but also for those who can’t. So why don’t we have more public intellectuals in this country? The answer lies in the words of a British academic who once told me: “Well, we think it’s a bit arrogant to call yourself intellectual. And to do that publicly is twice as arrogant.”

Source: Elif Shafak: ‘It is time we stopped denigrating the public intellectual’

The internet isn’t forever

For years, our most important records have been committed to specialized materials and technologies. For archivists, 1870 is the year everything begins to turn to dust. That was the year American newspaper mills began phasing out rag-based paper with wood pulp, ensuring that newspapers printed after would be known to future generations as delicate things, brittle at the edges, yellowing with the slightest exposure to air. In the late 1920s, the Kodak company suggested microfilm was the solution, neatly compacting an entire newspaper onto a few inches of thin, flexible film. In the second half of the century, entire libraries were transferred to microform, spun on microfilm reels, or served on tiny microfiche platters, while the crumbling originals were thrown away or pulped. To save newspapers, we first had to destroy them.

Then came digital media, which is even more compact than microfilm, giving way, initially at least, to fantasies of whole libraries preserved on the head of a pin. In the event, the new digital records degraded even more quickly than did newsprint. Information’s most consistent quality is its evanescence. Information is fugitive in its very nature.

Source: The Internet Isn’t Forever

I’m finding Fonts In Use to be useful not just for identifying which typefaces are used and where, but how they combine with each other. Lots of font pairings that sharply contradict the advice and guidelines I’d previously read, but that look absolutely great together.

W. E. B. Du Bois’ hand-drawn infographics of African-American life

William Edward Burghardt “W. E. B.” Du Bois — sociologist, historian, activist, Pan-Africanist, and prolific author — had also, it turns out, a mighty fine eye for graphic design. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in 1868, Du Bois studied at Fisk University, Humboldt University in Berlin, and Harvard (where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate), and in 1897 he became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University. Two years later he published his first major academic work The Philadelphia Negro (1899), a detailed and comprehensive sociological study of the African-American people of Philadelphia, based on his earlier field work. The following year, along with collaborators Thomas J. Calloway and Daniel Murray, Du Bois travelled to Europe, firstly to the First Pan-African Conference held in London, and then to the Paris Exposition to present a groundbreaking exhibition on the state of African-American life — “The Exhibit of American Negroes” — which, according to Du Bois, attempted to show “(a) The history of the American Negro. (b) His present condition. (c) His education. (d) His literature.”

Source: W. E. B. Du Bois’ Hand-Drawn Infographics of African-American Life (1900) – The Public Domain Review

Dingoes came to Australia 5,000 years ago, driving indigenous predators to extinction. Huge fences keep them away from livestock, but the ecosystems on either side of the fence have changed in unexpected ways, affecting vegetation, foxes, kangaroos, marsupials and reptiles.

I’m quite fond of this distinction by Ethan Hein:

  • Realist recording: the sound of humans playing live in the same location at the same time.
  • Hyperrealist: like reality, but better.
  • Surrealist: music that can’t be played live in real time.

The Beatles’ career spanned the lot.