Welcome to the Hurt Your Brain internet playlist from January 22, 2017. It’s a collection of podcasts, videos, and other links for people who love to learn online and are fascinated by the world. Click here to get playlists emailed to you as they come out.
Best fact: the mayor of a town a few miles from where I grew up is named Ryan Reynolds, and he is only 29 years old. Here is the super popular and interesting Reddit AMA where I learned all about it.
Why time management is ruining our lives, The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads, 32 minutes
The Guardian has some fantastic articles, and whenever I see an interesting one, the same thing usually happens. It starts off as, “wow this is really great and well written”. Then, “ok let me see how long this is and scroll down.” After like 10 seconds of scrolling and scrolling, “shit this is super long, how about I just read the last paragraph.” Thankfully, The Guardian puts out a podcast version of some of its long articles, which is one of my new favorite things. I don’t miss a word of podcasts and I feel like long journalism has more of a place in my life now. This article has some excellent thoughts on our ever increasing desire to be more efficient and the whole industry behind this feeling.
The Reversal, Reply All, 32 minutes
Reply All producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni is so good at reporting science and medicine (and anything else), so this is worth a listen just to hear the well balanced scientific narrative. This episode looks at extremely rare reversals of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and the doctor who will try anything to help the other not so fortunate patients.
Michael Lewis, How to be amazing with Michael Ian Black, 60 minutes
I love a good interview show, and after finally checking this one out from comedian Michael Ian Black, it’s officially part of my rotation. The overall focus is on the creative process, but Black is a very capable interviewer who draws out great stories. Because I just read a Michael Lewis book, I figured why not start here. Lewis is an interesting character who fully admits that he has floated through life from one happy accident to another and is not afraid to characterize his success in the frame of luck and privilege. I’m always up for a good recommendation, so I love that Black asks his guests for things they want to share in five categories. Here’s a list of what all his guests have said.
Quick learnings from other podcasts:
- If the current Windows operating system were to be printed in machine language (the 0’s and 1’s that modern programming languages ultimately get translated into for the computer to understand), it would take paper stacked several miles high to contain it. – 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy’s Compiler
- Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle is a sci fi story from 1911. The inventor of the Taser read it as a young boy and used it to name his creation. The initials of the story, T.S.E.R. + A = TASER. – 99% Invisible’s Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle
- If you sit still wherever you are right now, and simply listen, there is a good chance that many of the noises you hear will be extinct at some point in the not too distant future. –Twenty Thousand Hertz’s Sound of Extinction.
What’s so great about the Great Lakes?, TED-ED 5 minutes
Well here’s a few things: They were formed when glaciers retreated over 10,000 years ago, they contain 28 quadrillion liters (20% of Earth’s fresh water), if they were dumped on the mainland US, it would cover everything in 3 meters of water, and over 200 billion liters a day are used in some form for farms and industry. The video forgot to mention that lake effect snow during winter is not so great.
Isolation, Mind Field, 35 minutes
A new YouTube Red series from the creator of Vsauce, Michael Stevens. It has the production value of something that would be on the Discovery Channel and so far is a mix between Vsauce style narration and a pop psychology look at the quirks of the human mind. I really enjoyed this first episode and the second half depicts how absolutely terrible Stevens (or anyone) is at knowing what time it is if kept in a brightly lit small room for 72 hours with no communication with anything. I’ve been checking out YouTube Red and was actually about to cancel it until I saw this. If you like it, just wait two months when all 8 episodes have been released and then sign up for a free trial.
How Louis CK Tells a Joke, Nerdwriter1, 8 minutes
Who doesn’t love Louis CK? It probably comes as no surprise to someone who has seen his stuff, but Louis CK takes his comedy very seriously, regardless of his stage persona. This short video essay deconstructs one joke and illuminates the genius that goes into even a short bit.
A Chat With Daniel Kahneman, Collaborative Fund
After reading Thinking Fast, and Slow, I try to check out anything that mentions Daniel Kahneman. This is a quick read that contains some great thoughts. One of my favorites, “I like changing my mind. Some people really don’t like it but for me changing my mind is a thrill. It’s an indication that I’m learning something.”
Life, Edited, Hardbound
I’ve linked to Hardbound before, but this three part series that explains CRISPR is off to a promising start. “Your genome is the sheet music, and you are the sound”.
Zoo Workers of Reddit, which animal is the largest jerk in your facility?, Reddit
This thread does not disappoint with fascinating and hilarious stories of animal behavior.
BOOK THOUGHTS- Foundation by Isaac Asimov
I’ve been wanting to check out some classic sci fi for a while, with Asimov obviously being at the top of that list. This book is a collection of stories that appeared in Astounding magazine in the early 1940’s and kicked off the famous “Foundation Trilogy” that eventually became 7 books total. I loved seeing how Asimov pictured a human galactic civilization working without the foreknowledge of computers, the internet, or the realization of humans actually being to space yet. The technology all has a nuclear power theme which makes sense for the time. The story is a galactic version of the “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire”, with the focus being on a group of people who aim to limit the dark ages as much as possible between the decline and eventual rise of future civilizations. Here is a very broad summary of the plot by Asimov himself:
“In it, I described how the psychohistorian [made up field that looks at a mix of historical, economic, and sociological forces in a mathematical way that predicts probabilities of the future], Hari Seldon, established a pair of Foundations at opposite ends of the Universe under such circumstances as to make sure that the forces of history would bring about the second Empire after one thousand years instead of the thirty thousand that would be required otherwise.”
The biggest and very glaring problem with the story is its complete lack of female characters. Like literally there is one female character even mentioned, and she isn’t introduced until near the end, and she says maybe three lines. Asimov himself later admits that he was young and inexperienced while writing this early work. If you can forgive the story for being written in a world of male driven sci fi tropes over 75 years ago, it’s a great examination of how political power works and a great introduction into classic sci fi.
Additional recommendation: For anyone who enjoys soundtrack music when trying to focus, check out the soundtrack to Sicario. It’s super intense and I’m really curious how the music fits into the movie.
That’s all for this week!