Nullary Sources

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ESA Science & Technology: Gaia: 'Go' for science

The ESA’s Gaia satellite begins its mission today:

The satellite was launched on 19 December 2013, and is orbiting a virtual location in space 1.5 million kilometres from Earth.

Gaia’s goal is to create the most accurate map yet of the Milky Way. It will make extremely accurate measurements of the positions and motions of about 1% of the total population of roughly 100 billion stars in our home Galaxy to help answer questions about its origin and evolution.

Repeatedly scanning the sky, Gaia will observe each of its billion stars an average of 70 times each over five years. Small apparent motions in the positions of the stars will allow astronomers to determine their distances and movements through the Milky Way.

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Today on Bizarre Music Video Tuesday, we’ve got “I Must Be Dreaming” by KNOWER. Cheap CGI is now an art form.

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The modern history of swearing: Where all the dirtiest words come from

Salon has an excerpt from Melissa Mohr’s 2013 book Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing:

Maria Edgeworth has her hero exclaim of another man, “Sir Philip writes a bloody bad hand,” in 1801’s “Belinda.” If Miss Edgeworth — who wrote novels about young women finding love and good marriages for a largely female readership, as well as morally improving children’s literature (six volumes of “Moral Tales for Young People”) — had her young hero say “bloody,” it can’t have been that bad a word. Miss Edgeworth gets her “bloody” in at almost the last moment it is possible, however. At around this time, the word starts to get more offensive: It begins to be printed as b——y or b—— and falls out of polite use, where it continues through the Victorian era. When George Bernard Shaw wanted to create a scandal, but not too big a scandal, in his 1914 “Pygmalion,” he had Eliza Doolittle exclaim in her newly perfect posh accent, “Walk! Not bloody likely! I am going in a taxi.” The first night’s audience greeted the word with “a few seconds of stunned disbelieving silence and then hysterical laughter for at least a minute and a quarter,” and there were some protests from various decency leagues, but on the whole a scandal never materialized. Bloody became “the catchword of the season” and pygmalion became a popular oath itself, as in “not pygmalion likely.”

"Pygmalion" might possibly be the most preposterous swear word yet.

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How Brainless Slime Molds Redefine Intelligence

Ferris Jabr, Scientific American:

Compared with most organisms, slime molds have been on the planet for a very long time—they first evolved at least 600 million years ago and perhaps as long as one billion years ago. At the time, no organisms had yet evolved brains or even simple nervous systems. Yet slime molds do not blindly ooze from one place to another—they carefully explore their environments, seeking the most efficient routes between resources. They do not accept whatever circumstances they find themselves in, but rather choose conditions most amenable to their survival. They remember, anticipate and decide. By doing so much with so little, slime molds represent a successful and admirable alternative to convoluted brain-based intelligence.

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Episode three of webshow ValveTime Database covered Prospero, a cancelled game from the ’90s that was one of the initial projects of Valve. They’ve managed to get some exclusive development screenshots and quotes from the game’s writer, Marc Laidlaw. The plan was for Prospero to be a third-person adventure game in a sci-fi/fantasyish setting “drawing on sources ranging from Myst to Borges,” which could’ve been cool.

Colin, however, had a different takeaway:

Colin: “pruh-SPER-oh”

Colin: uhhhh

'Ili: 😎

Colin: Read Shakespeare

Colin: “Ayyy-lif” oh god

'Ili: Ahahahaha SUFFER


Colin: I’m dying here

Colin: I’m so mad

Colin: oh god “theoretical mathematics”

Colin: oh no

Colin: NO



Colin: “given the lambda’s connection to the half life universe”

Colin: Why did you make me watch this

Colin: Gamers are the leeches of creativity. I’m so mad

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Baseball’s craziest game?

Shane Tourtellotte writing for The Hardball Times about the July 22, 1986, baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Mets:

What did this game have that was so bonkers? All will be revealed in good time, but I can offer a few teasers. It had one of the most serious brawls baseball has seen in the last half-century, one that spelled the beginning of the end of the career of a well-known player … who wasn’t even in it! It had two ejections in two separate incidents even before the brawl. It boasted protests lodged by both managers. And most notably, it had a lineup manipulation so astonishing, it got several paragraphs of analysis in The Book.

This is incredibly long, but it’s also one of the best baseball stories I’ve ever read in my life.

Here are Colin’s live reactions as he was reading it:

Colin: what


Colin: what


Colin: oh boy


Colin: Oh god putting pitcher in the outfield


Colin: LMAO

Colin: OMG