Daniel Engber at Slate makes the case to get rid of wind chill:

As the use of equivalent temperatures spread, people started to notice inconsistencies between real temperatures and their wind chill counterparts. For some reason, a day spent in a minus-40 wind chill was a lot easier to handle than a minus-40-degree day with no wind. Around 2000, two researchers—Randall Osczevski in Canada and Maurice Bluestein in the United States—began looking closely at this problem. Before long, they discovered that the adapted Siple-Passel equations grossly overestimated rates of heat loss.

I didn’t realize it was calculated using a 5-foot man…that seems strange. Weather services and weathermen (weatherpeople?) will never get rid of it because it’s a grand number that they can trot out in teasers to get viewers/listeners.

February 18, 2015

Scientists used a high-speed camera and sound recording to figure out why a popcorn pops:

Using a high-speed camera, which took 2,900 frames per second, the researchers also show that the kernel is propelled into the air by a “leg” of expanding starch. Previously, scientists had speculated that escaping steam might boost the kernel upwards in a “rocket” effect. But in a freeze-frame analysis, the researchers show the dynamics of a jumping piece of popcorn are similar to an acrobat performing a somersault.

Next time I make popcorn, I’m going to start giving those little acrobats a number grade.

February 17, 2015

Matchbook: Bouley

February 15, 2015 at 9:00am • Zero comments

Andrew McMillen at Medium brings us a look at the person who edits Wikipedia articles correcting just one grammatical error.

“[…] Like, one of my favorite Wikipedians of all time is this user called Giraffedata,” he says. “He has, like, 15,000 edits, and he’s done almost nothing except fix the incorrect use of ‘comprised of’ in articles.”

A couple of audience members applaud loudly.

“By hand, manually. No tools!” interjects Pinchuk, her green-painted fingernails fluttering as she gestures for emphasis.

“It’s not a bot!” adds Walling. “It’s totally contextual in every article. He’s, like, my hero!”

This takes pet-peeves to a whole new level.

February 10, 2015

Matchbook: Rue 57

February 8, 2015 at 9:00am • Zero comments

The Times tackles the important question of why using a treadmill seems more difficult than exercising outdoors or on a track:

In a 2012 experiment, runners were asked to jog on a track while rating how difficult the exercise felt. Then they hopped on treadmills without speed displays and were told to set the machine to a pace that felt the same as what they had just run. Almost all chose a speed that was much slower. On the treadmill, this gentle pace felt as difficult as swifter running on the track.

For me, it’s the combination of having the same scenery and the lack of a finish line that makes it so tedious. It feels like work.

February 7, 2015

Slate brings us some photos from Reinier Gerritsen who photographed people reading books on the NYC subway.

Gerritsen was struck by the incredible diversity of books he saw in the subway system. He was also interested in observing how an individual’s choice of book was as much an expression of identity as an item of clothing. Gerritsen found the L train’s reading material especially interesting.

“The L is the most intellectual line, I think. A lot of people are going to Brooklyn. They read certain books. There is a difference,” he said.

The main thing I dislike about ereaders on the subway is that you can’t tell what the person is reading.

February 4, 2015

Matchbook: Gramercy Tavern

February 1, 2015 at 9:00am • Zero comments

Stefan Fatsis at Slate gives us a very in-depth look at Merriam-Webster, dictionaries, and lexicographers.

Now Merriam-Webster is pushing into the future by making an audacious nod to its past. More than half a century after it was published, the company’s landmark book—Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, known in lexicographic circles as Webster’s Third, W3, the Unabridged, or the Third—is getting an overhaul. The Third is a behemoth—4 inches thick, 13½ pounds, 2,700 pages—that falls like a crashing wave when opened. A fourth edition, by contrast, might never exist as a physical object. This latest revision, a project Merriam-Webster hopes will secure its dominance in the tenuous business of commercial lexicography if not ensure its future survival, is happening entirely online.

This is a fascinating, and long, look at what dictionaries are and whether they are really necessary in the digital age. Set aside a few lunch hours to devour this one.

January 28, 2015

Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #27, the first appearances of Superman and Batman respectively, are available together on eBay.

Only $1.5 million…but, hey, free shipping!

January 23, 2015