Disco doesn’t suck, the power of empty space, and Star Trek’s mass murder problem

Welcome to the Hurt Your Brain internet playlist from May 5, 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.


Fact of the week: One of my favorites that is pretty unbelievable when you first hear it. There are many, many more possible games of chess than there are atoms in the entire universe. And there are many, many more possible “sensible” games of chess (ones likely to actually happen) than there are grains of sand in all of the beaches.


Between the Liner Notes: The Dance Floor Doesn’t Lie (Disco Part 1) 40 minutes
A documentary style show that brings to life a piece of music history each episode. Their recent two parter on disco is really excellent and feels like listening to the audio of a high quality PBS documentary. You have the intriguing characters, good journalistic narrative, and great music (disco doesn’t always suck). It’s a refreshing type of music show that doesn’t fall into the typical camps of either deconstructing a song or going through a playlist of songs DJ style.

Overdue: A Prayer for Owen Meany 61 minutes
Two friends take turns reading the books we’ve all been meaning to read. I checked out this episode because I finally recently finished A Prayer for Owen Meany (a gift from the Reddit gift exchange like TWO Christmases ago) and wanted to get a sense if I should trust their discussion on books I haven’t read. They passed the test and I actually learned a bunch of stuff about John Irving along the way. So go ahead and hunt through this show’s history and download some episodes about books you’ve read and want to revisit or get the gist of books you know you’ll never read.

Civics 101: Calling Your Congressperson 18 minutes
I am fully on board with ignoring the endless parade of political news and getting back to the basics of how government operates. A straightforward and well done show from New Hampshire public radio where the whole goal is to explain one topic at a time. Kind of like Overdue above, this is perfect as a buffet style show where you pick and choose what episodes jump out at you.

Cosmic Vertigo: Emptier than empty and getting even emptier 26 minutes
OK, if you somehow haven’t picked up on it, I’m a big sucker for facts about space, and this show is pretty much just non stop awesome things about the universe. I just can’t help but recommend it often. This episode is the best explanation I’ve heard of what dark matter is and what the evidence is for it. The last 5-10 minutes gave me a strange combination of awe and big time existential anxiety.

Science Vs: Abortion- What you need to know 48 minutes
As Wendy says, this isn’t about pro life or pro choice, but pro fact. The three topics the episode focuses on are 1) how far along is a fetus developmentally for different types of abortion 2) what actually happens 3) what does medical science say about the risk to the woman. I won’t break down the conclusions for each like usual, but I will say that it’s a much more descriptive and informative discussion than usually goes along with this topic.



CGP Grey: The Trouble with Transporters 6 minutes
I re-watched The Prestige this past weekend with my wife and I couldn’t help but think that the ending sequence implies similar philosophical implications as this video. CGP Grey argues here that the transporter in Star Trek or any similar type device represents an absolute horror show of invisible mass murder. Or as The Great Danton wonders, how do you know if you’ll be the man in the box?

Beyond the press: 20 kilograms of red hot steel vs frozen lake 9 minutes
Finnish man burns a hole into his pond with a huge piece of glowing metal. Finnish man proceeds to nonchalantly hop into the freezing water to collect it and then say it’s no big deal. Educational value is questionable, but there is something just so oddly charming about it all.


STAT: Before you send your spit to 23andMe, what you need to know
“23andMe is still fine-tuning the reports, but its tests will also tell you how the presence (or absence) of variants affects the risk of getting a disease during your lifetime. If there’s enough science to quantify that, the report will specify a percentage, like “your risk is 3 percent.”

The Atlantic: Escaping Poverty Requires Almost 20 Years With Nearly Nothing Going Wrong
“Temin identifies two types of workers in what he calls “the dual economy.” The first are skilled, tech-savvy workers and managers with college degrees and high salaries who are concentrated heavily in fields such as finance, technology, and electronics—hence his labeling it the “FTE sector.” They make up about 20 percent of the roughly 320 million people who live in America.”

From Reddit:
books: Which book did you reread at a later stage in your life and your perspective completely changed?
Popular book discussions on Reddit will always make you add a few more to your list.

explain it like I’m five: Why is Japan not facing economic ruin when its debt to GDP ratio is much worse than Greece during the eurozone crisis? 
Some bite sized and interesting economic lessons to be found.

Subscribe to:
The Startup Mixtape: If you are at all inclined to listen to business podcasts, this is a pretty awesome new site that breaks down the best episodes into various categories. Their newsletter will also continue the spirit of the previous iteration, The Podcast Wire, which provides weekly podcast recommendations and summaries. I always look forward to this in my inbox.

Quote: “Passion is rare; curiosity is everyday.” – Elizabeth Gilbert


That’s all for this week!
Connect with me @erikthejones on twitter and if you’ve learned anything interesting, please forward this link to any curious natured friends or family so they can subscribe. Many thanks!