The San Francisco of Tomorrow

And four other intriguing things: TimeHop for SnapChat, tooled-up dolphins, inflationary theory in context, and when a mountweazel springs to life.

1. The San Francisco of tomorrow: it's gonna get tall and dense in SoMa.

"The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) engaged steelblue to create a suite of marketing assets that tell the story of the completed Transbay Transit Center and the impact it will have on downtown San Francisco. Affectionately dubbed the 'Grand Central Station of the West,' the new transit hub has spurred the development of over twenty-five new office, residential and retail projects in the neighborhood as visualized in the opening of our teaser film. Having worked on this project over the past five years, we’ve compiled one of the most complete and highly detailed 3D data sets of the area including many of the new projects coming online in the next few years."

2. A conceptually fascinating photosharing service in closed beta called "oh, yeah, that."

"We described it as 'Timehop for SnapChat.' It's an application that lets you upload photos but which then prevents you from seeing them for a year.... "oh yeah, that allows you to upload and store photos but with a twist: You can't see or share any of those photos for a year. Once a year has passed you'll be sent an email with a link to that photo. By default all photos remain private to you but once it becomes viewable you can make the photo public and share it as you please. The photos you upload can be deleted at any time regardless of whether they've been made public yet."

3. There are genetic differences between tool-using dolphins and non-tool-using dolphins in Australia's Shark Bay.

"In certain locations in Australia, dolphins that use tools have a sequence of heritable genes that dolphins that do not use tools lack. In Australia's Shark Bay, some bottlenose dolphins hold sponges at the tip of their mouths when foraging—probably to protect their beaks from getting scraped up, ABC Science reports. In other parts of the bay, where the water is shallower, however, the dolphins usually don't use sponges... dolphins from the shallow waters were almost all haplotype H, while those in Shark Bay's deeper waters were haplotype E or F. Teasing out those initial results, the researchers found that only dolphins that inherited haplotype E actually use the sponges."

4. Physicist Andrei Linde, he of the inflationary theory that was this week's big science news, does an amazing job contextualizing his work.

"Let me start by saying that many, many years ago, and I mean like almost a century ago, Einstein came up with something called the 'cosmological principle,' which says that our universe must be homogenous and uniform. And for many years, people used this principle... [It] was the only way of answering the question, why the universe is everywhere the same. In fact, why it is the universe. So we did not think about the multiverse, we just wanted to explain why the world is so homogenous around us, why it is so big, why there are so many people, why parallel lines do not intercept. Which is, in fact, part of the same question: if the universe was tiny, like a small globe, and you draw parallel lines perpendicular to the equator of the globe, they would intersect at the south and the north poles. Why has nobody ever seen parallel lines intersecting?

"These kinds of questions, for many years, could seem a bit silly. For example, one may wonder what happened before the universe even emerged. The textbook of general relativity, which we used in Russia, said that it was meaningless to ask this question because the solutions of the Einstein equations cannot be continued through the singularity, so why bother. And yet people bothered. They are still trying to answer these kinds of questions. But for many people such questions looked metaphysical, not to be taken seriously."

5. Agloe, NY: when a mountweazel springs to life!

"Rand McNally told the court that its designers went to the official map of that county, looked up the coordinates, and on the spot called Agloe they found a building, and that building, they told the judge, is the Agloe General Store. So there is an Agloe. Otherwise, where'd the owners get the name?

Good question. Here's the ironic answer. The owners had seen Agloe on a map distributed by Esso, which owned scores of gas stations. Esso had bought that map from Lindberg and Alpers. If Esso says this place is called Agloe, the store folks figured, well, that's what we'll call ourselves. So, a made-up name for a made-up place inadvertently created a real place that, for a time, really existed. Rand McNally, one presumes, was found not guilty."

+ The OG mountweazel article.

Today's 1957 American English Usage Tip:

avouch, avow, vouch. The living senses of the three words are distinct; but as a good deal of confusion has formerly prevailed between them, it is worthwhile to state roughly the modern usage. Avouch, which is no longer in common use, means guarantee, solemnly aver, prove by assertion, maintain the truth or existence of, vouch for. Avow means to own publicly to, make no secret of, not shrink from admitting, acknowledge one's responsibility for. Vouch is now common only in the phrase vouch for, which has taken the place of avouch in ordinary use, & means pledge one's word for.

+ It would be a goodly thing to bring back avouch.

Questions Looked Metaphysical, Not to Be Taken Seriously