5 Intriguing Things: Friday, 1/3

NYT obit poetry, Maya Deren+Tomb Raider, snow projection, DIY prosthetic repair, and exoplanets.

1. An epic poem constructed from descriptive phrases in NYT obits.

"Children’s Book Author
Singer of ‘The Birds and the Bees’
Scrappy Leader of Firefighters’ Union

Head of a Tabasco Empire
Jazz Dance Pioneer


From She Puppet (2001)

2. This Peggy Ahwesh film is basically Maya Deren+Lara Croft, which is an improbable combination.

"Re-editing footage collected from months of playing Tomb Raider, Ahwesh transforms the video game into a reflection on identity and mortality. Trading the rules of gaming for art making, she brings Tomb Raider's cinematic aesthetics to the foreground, and shirks the pre-programmed "mission" of its heroine, Lara Croft. Ahwesh acknowledges the intimate relationship between this fictional character and her player. Moving beyond her implicit feminist critique of the problematic female identity, she enlarges the dilemma of Croft's entrapment to that of the individual in an increasingly artificial world."


3. The old projector into a blizzard trick is still great, even if it's from the last blizzard.

"I pointed a video projector out the window during the 2013 blizzard in New York. Then I took pictures."


4. Farmers with prosthetics often do DIY repairs.

"'We see a lot of duct tape,' says Craig Heckathorne, a researcher on a team from Northwestern University who of recently published a survey of 40 farmers with prosthetic devices. Part of this is a pride in their own ingenuity, Heckathorne says, but the other part is out of necessity. 'That might be your whole year’s income sitting out there in the field right now,' says Reed."


5. The James Webb Space Telescope could probably detect water around certain kinds of life-friendly nearby exoplanets.

"In this white paper, we assess the potential for JWST to characterize the atmospheres of super-Earth exoplanets, by simulating a range of transiting spectra with different masses and temperatures. Our results are based on a JWST simulator tuned to the expected performance of the workhorse spectroscopic instrument NIRSpec, and is based on the latest exoplanet transit models by Howe & Burrows (2012). This study is especially timely since the observing modes for the science instruments on JWST are finalized (Clampin 2010) and because NASA has selected the TESS mission as an upcoming Explorer. TESS is expected to identify more than 1000 transiting exoplanet candidates, including a sample of about 100 nearby (<50 pc) super- Earths (Ricker et al. 2010)."


Today's 1957 English usage tip:

adumbration. A representation in outline, a faint description, hence fig. a foreshadowing. A favorite of those who prefer not to say things simply (Adumbrations of things to come in the field of mathematics are evident throughout the State Education Department); see LOVE OF THE LONG WORD.


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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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