The Murmuration Is The Flock Itself, The Susurrus Is The Sound It Produces


Videos of starling murmurations are numerous yet always enchanting. However, but this clip from Jan van IJken’s documentary short film The Art of Flying is exceptional because of the sound. From the video’s youtube page:

We know a lot of factual information about the starling—its size and voice, where it lives, how it breeds and migrates—but what remains a mystery is how it flies in murmurations, or flocks, without colliding. This short film by Jan van IJken was shot in the Netherlands, and it captures the birds gathering at dusk, just about to start their “performance.” Listen well and you’ll be able to hear how this beautiful phenomenon got its name.

When People Are Told They’re Beautiful

You so are beautiful – lovely words for anyone to hear. Travel Photographer Mehmet Genç’s “Very Beautiful” project is a simple idea: He tells people he meets on his travels that they’re beautiful and then photographs their reactions. His images truly demonstrate transformative power of kind words. Images from the project are below. The results are sure to bring a smile to your face. You can learn a little more about each of Mehmet’s subjects on the project’s website (translated). You can also follow his travels on his Instagram.

Voting Paradox

Around this time of the election cycle, we hear a lot about the importance of voting and how every vote counts. However, very little is said about the paradoxes that can make individual votes meaningless – especially with the introduction of a third party. The Exploratorium (A museum that I can’t wait to take my kids to) put together this excellent video that explores the paradox’s involved in voting.


It goes over ideas such as The Spoiler Effect (think Ralph Nader), Ranked Voting, Cyclic Preferences, Elimination Voting and Failure Of Moniticity.

The end of the video touches on Kenneth Arrow mathematically proving that no decision mechanism can eliminate all of these types of paradoxes. Basically, there is no method for constructing social preferences from arbitrary individual preferences without suffering from a known paradox. We can tamp down some paradoxes but only at the cost of creating others (or eliminating democracy altogether).

Wikipedia has an excellent table showing the voting system criteria used in each of the single-winner systems.

That all being said: Remember to go out and vote!

Zoom In. Now… Enhance! (For Real, Kinda)

The Zoom And Enhance trope has long been the ultimate criminal identification solution and a staple for crime drama television. Its use on screen is often lauded as an example of how Hollywood doesn’t understand technology. The Enhance Button trope simply ignores that the blurry focus and big blocky pixels you get when you zoom in close on an image are the only information that the picture actually contains, and attempting to extract more detail from the image alone is essentially impossible.

Enhance Old Station

Enhance Bank Lobby

However, as a proof of concept, Alex J. Champandard’s Neural Enhance coding project uses deep learning to enhance the details of images. As seen from the gifs above, if the neural networks are well trained, the enhancements are quite effective.

Thanks to deep learning and #NeuralEnhance, it’s now possible to train a neural network to zoom into your images at 2x or even 4x. You’ll get even better results by increasing the number of neurons or training with a dataset similar to your low-resolution image. The catch? The neural network is hallucinating details based on its training from example images. It’s not reconstructing your photo exactly as it would have been if it was HD. That’s only possible in Holywood — but using deep learning as “Creative AI” works and it’s just as cool!

Now let’s vector in and enlarge the z-axis.

via prosthetic knowledge

Creepypasta And Horror Story Plot Generator

This horror story idea generator is based loosely off of John Atkinson’s most recent Wrong Hands comic. Just click the “Scare Me Again!” button below and voilà! You have your own brand new horror movie plot.



Do you have any good ideas for horror story plots? Put it in the comments below and I’ll try and get them added to the generator.

GifCities: Over 4.5 Million Searchable, Old-School, Animated Gifs

Click To Enter

In celebration of its 20th anniversary of archiving the web, the Internet Archive has released GifCities. It’s an animated GIF search engine that has indexed millions of animated GIFs from the obsolete GeoCities websites.

Geocities was an early web hosting service, started in 1994 and acquired by Yahoo in 1999, with which users could create their own custom websites. The platform hosted over 38 million user-built pages and was at one time the third most visited site on the web. In 2009, Yahoo announced it was closing down the service, at which point the Internet Archive attempted to archive as much of the content as possible.

Mining this collection, we extracted over 4,500,000 animated GIFs (1,600,000 unique images) and then used the filenames and directory path text to build a best-effort “full text” search engine. Each GIF also links back to the original Geocities page on which it was embedded (and some of these pages are even more awesome than the GIFs).

Head over there to relive a classic era of the World Wide Web. And please, go notify all your readers that your site is still under construction.

Oily Legs?

Oily or Painted Legs?Image via ‏@msbreeezyyy

Are these pair of thighs covered in oil or painted? I see both (though I admittedly saw oily legs for long before I saw the paint). Once again the internet finds itself divided over an optical illusion.

A Young Globular Cluster

Youthful NGC 362 Globular Cluster

Earlier this week NASA released this dazzling image of NGC 362. It is one of about 150 known globular clusters on the outskirts of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Globular clusters are giant spheres that contain hundreds of thousands of stars and reside in the outskirts of galaxies. The ESA says NGC 362 is unusual:

By studying the different elements present within individual stars in NGC 362, astronomers discovered that the cluster boasts a surprisingly high metal content, indicating that it is younger than expected. Although most globular clusters are much older than the majority of stars in their host galaxy, NGC 362 bucks the trend, with an age lying between 10 and 11 billion years old. For reference, the age of the Milky Way is estimated to be above 13 billion years.

This image, in which you can view many of NGC 362’s individual stars, was taken by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) If you want a new desktop image, here’s the 42 MB full-size original (it will automatically download).