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The Amazing Collective Intelligence of Ants

Seriously INSANE.

Via io9



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Inflexibility of Expertise

From io9:

The perfect is the enemy of the good. We know that phrase very well. What the Einstellung Effect proves is the good can be a real enemy of the even better. When we have a solution that’s good, we can’t begin to think about a better one.

The seeming inability to come up with a better solution is called the Einstellung Effect. It’s not the product of simple laziness. Once people see a possible solution in their heads, they have a really tough time approaching the problem from a fresh perspective. Experts become less skilled than novices. At least, that’s what happens some of the time.

Another study found that chess players become less flexible and prone to settle for sub-optimal solutions as they gain expertise. Get above a certain level of expertise, though, and people are less and less prone to fall for the Einstellung Effect. They keep looking for different solutions until they find the best one. The question is, what relationship does the Einstellung Effect have to expertise? As you gain ability, maybe you lose the need to plug a known formula into every situation. Or is it the other way around? Perhaps if you are prone to settle for a known good instead of looking for something better, you never become a high-level expert.



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My Top 10 Most Influential Books

As a child:
The Berenstain Bears Books, Stan and Jan Berenstain
The Naughtiest Girl in School, Enid Blyton
The Fear Street Saga, R. L. Stine
Remember ME, Christopher Pike

As a teenager:
Pandora, Anne Rice
The Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling
The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkein

As an adult:
The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol
Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

This is the story of the books that influenced me the most. There were lots of them.

You see, I fell in love with books way before I learned to read.

I was just a little girl, and there were two things I really, really wanted. Mountains and mountains of candy was the first thing, but it’s the second thing that counts: I wanted to grow up so I could learn how to read all by myself.

I loved books with all my heart and soul, thanks to my mother’s unlimited patience. Every night, she and I would huddle across from her painting of Snow White on my bedroom wall, and we would read from a book with a silver spine. I was three years old.

Then I learned how to read, and what followed was a life full of books. Here are the ones that influenced me most.


The painting of Snow White

1. The Berenstein Bears

Right around the time I turned six, I discovered picture books, and became obsessed with the Berenstein Bears. I have no idea how I got my hands on them, but I had the entire series, and I read them over and over again. This was my favorite book:

It had my two favorite things in the world. It was a book with gorgeous illustrations of candy all over. I loved re-drawing that book. My favorite part to re-draw was the candy typography:

2. Enid Blyton
I was maybe 8 or 9 when I decided I was too old for picture books and moved to Enid Blyton. She had a gazillion titles under her belt, and more importantly, her books were well-stocked in my favorite bookstore. I read “The Naughtiest Girl in School” series several times, and I loved it so much that I tried to mimic her writing style and write my own books.

3 and 4. Fear Street Saga and Christopher Pike
Inevitably, books written around World War II stopped being cool and I started reading more contemporary fiction.

I started with Goosebumps and The Baby Sitters’ Club, but my favorite was The Fear Street Saga. It was full of history, magic, and a rich timeline.

When I became a little older (11 to be precise), I switched to Christopher Pike, a FANTASTIC writer of young adult sci-fi/fantasy. He had dozens of books revolving around vampires, the colonization of space, witches, magic, and technology.

It was certainly R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike that turned me into the hardcore lover of fantasy and science fiction that I am today. I still re-read old books of theirs when I have an hour to kill (especially when I’m at the beach), and both writers are excellent.


5. Pandora by Anne Rice
I was 12 and quickly growing over books written for girls my age. That year, during the bi-weekly trips to Jareer Bookstore that my parents always made sure I took, I spotted a book with a purple cover with “Pandora” typed in black letter. Thus started my love story with Anne Rice. It’s hard to explain how much Rice influenced my life’s choices, my beliefs, and my interests. Her words were such a big part of shaping the person I am today.

I learned what it meant to be a “virtuouso”, that the Italian master Vivaldi wooed the world with Four Seasons, that Botticelli painted the most beautiful artworks ever seen. I learned about the philosophy of Ovid, the historical significance of the Egyptian goddess Isis, and how a Stradivarius is one of the most precious objects on earth. I have to say – I owe Anne Rice my A’s in art history classes.

6. Harry Potter
I was 14 when I was first introduced to Harry. I spent the next 13 years eagerly awaiting Harry again. You see, I grew up with him. With Harry, I finished middle school, started high school, applied to universities, got a degree in Fine Arts and Design, went through my first job ever. It is not often that a story becomes so embedded in one’s life. I still miss Harry.

7. The Lord of the Rings
1136 pages of pure euphoria. One of my the most beautiful times of my teenage years is those few weeks when I completely got lost in Tolkien’s work. I literally got lost. I don’t think I did anything else that summer vacation. I just read and re-read The Lord of the Rings until I had my favorite parts memorized. I fell in love with his syntax, his languages, his characters, his world. Becoming a Tolkien fan changes you. “The Lord of the Rings” is the best literary work of all time.

8. The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol
This is the outlier in the list, but for god’s sake, it’s ANDY WARHOL and I LOVE Andy Warhol. This random book of random thoughts is one of my favorite reads. The random wisdom is crazy. I know most of it by heart, and sometimes I have conversations with Andy in my head based on quotes from the book.

Roba: “People are so stupid.”
Andy: “I think everybody should be a machine.”
Roba: “Yes, you’re right. I love robots, everyone should be a robot. Robots are better than people, Isaac would also agree. Sometimes, people drive me so crazy it’s a miracle I don’t fall apart.”
Andy: “I never fall apart, because I never fall together.”
Roba: “Yeah… you taught me that well. There’s no need to assume that anything is together in the first place. People think too much.”
Andy: “I really do live for the future, because when I’m eating a box of candy, I can’t wait to taste the last piece. I don’t even taste any of the other pieces, I just want to finish and throw the box away and not have to have it on my mind any more.”

9. Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov is a personal hero of mine. I’ve never read an Asimov book that I did not enjoy, but his “Foundation” series just BLEW ME AWAY. It’s so rich and philosophically beautiful. I wish I had his talent for delivering difficult abstract concepts in easy and fun language.

10. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
One of the best writers of the past 50 years. I spent a month reading every single book and short story he ever wrote. I couldn’t get enough of his words.


So, there you go. My list of top ten books that have influenced me. What are yours?



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Magenta is not a color

Fascinating explanation of magenta, which like black, turns out to be absence of light.

Colour Mixing: The Mystery of Magenta from The Royal Institution on Vimeo.



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Will we ever visit other stars?

Sadly, the answer is probably not.



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The Most Epic Picture of Wearable Technology

From io9:

By the 1990s, Ryan shows, wearable tech meant cyborgs. A group of self-proclaimed cyborgs started MIT’s Borg Lab, (all Star Trek references intended). Thad Starner (far right in the picture), now a manager on the Google Glass project, along with a group of his colleagues, began experimenting with what he called “‘the real personal computers’—as opposed to PCs.”



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