Casa Bonita: Skeleton pirate at the entrance to Black Bart's Cave

Why Did Pirates Wear Eye Patches?

This Wall Street Journal article from back in 2013 answers some important questions about whether reading in dimly lit conditions or reading on a device like an iPad or phone can actually cause damage to your eyes. It turns out there is no evidence of long-term damage or change in the physiology to the eyes but it may cause discomfort or fatigue.

However, the lead is buried in the last paragraph of the article and explains why pirates wore eye patches:

“Ever wonder why a pirate wears patches? It’s not because he was wounded in a sword fight,” says Dr. Sheedy. Seamen must constantly move between the pitch black of below decks and the bright sunshine above.

Smart pirates “wore a patch over one eye to keep it dark-adapted outside.” Should a battle break out and the pirate had to shimmy below, he would simply switch the patch to the outdoor eye and he could see in the dark right away—saving him 25 minutes of flailing his cutlass about in near blindness

Magic iPod

Magical Mashups

With The Magic iPod anybody can be a good mashup DJ. Simply drag the mid-2000’s hip-hop song across to an available saccharine pop song and you got yourself a bangin’ mashup. Below are few mashups that I liked. But really, this is so magical you’re going to struggle to make any horrible mixes.

Lose Control – Soul Meets Body Mashup

Country Grammar – Complicated Mashup

Laffy Taffy – Misery Business Mashup

(If you download then donate to the ACLU while you’re there)

Hubble eXtreme Deep Field

There Are At Least 10 Times More Galaxies In The Universe Than We Thought

The universe suddenly looks a lot more crowded.

Waaaaay back in 1995, the Hubble Deep Field images surprised the world by revealing how crammed the universe is with galaxies. At that time astronomers estimated there were about 200 billion galaxies in the universe. Recent estimates put that count closer to 2 trillion, at least 10 times as many galaxies as we thought. However, about 90% of the galaxies in the observable Universe are actually too faint and too far away to be seen or studied. Phil Plait explains:

Now, let me be clear. This doesn’t meant the Universe is ten times bigger than we thought, or there are ten times as many stars. I’ll explain — I mean, duh, it’s what I do — but to cut to the chase, what they found is that there are lots of teeny, faint galaxies very far away that have gone undetected. So instead of being in a smaller number of big galaxies, stars are divvied up into a bigger number of smaller ones.

And it doesn’t mean the Universe has 10 times more mass than we thought. The mass is the same, it’s just distributed differently than we thought. It’s like knowing there are 1 million people in a city, and finding out they live in 100,000 buildings when you thought they were only in 10,000. There are more buildings, but not more people

This discovery has also helped lead to explanations for Olbers’ paradox which states, “Why is the sky dark at night if the universe contains a multitude of stars?” NASA helps explain:

The team came to the conclusion that indeed there actually is such an abundance of galaxies that, in principle, every patch in the sky contains part of a galaxy. However, starlight from the galaxies is invisible to the human eye and most modern telescopes due to other known factors that reduce visible and ultraviolet light in the universe. Those factors are the reddening of light due to the expansion of space, the universe’s dynamic nature, and the absorption of light by intergalactic dust and gas. All combined, this keeps the night sky dark to our vision.

The sky is literally covered in galaxies! Mind boggling to be sure!

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!