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Your Friday Funkytown

Also available in reggaefolk rock, and Muzak versions.

Scorigami!

Back in February, during the off-season and back before...you know...we came across “Scorigami.” We wrote then:

Because of American football’s unusual scoring (6-point touchdowns, the hit-or-miss PAT, 3-point field goals, the odd 2-point conversion, and the even odder 2-point safety)—basically, you can’t score a single point on its own—there are a lot of potential final scores that, in the entire history of professional football, have never happened. Created by Jon Bois, Scorigami determines if the final score of any given game has ever happened before—or if it is a “Scorigami,” the first time a winning and losing score combination has occurred.

The NFL football season began last weekend (so did college football...sort of...but the less said about that the better) and if you follow Scorigami on Twitter they will tweet at various points during each game the probability that it will end up being Scorigami. It turned out that one of last Sunday’s games did indeed have a unique score:

Graphene

Was it a good week for graphene news? It’s always a good week for graphene news! Another application for the miracle material graphene has recently surfaced. UK company Nanoloom is developing a variety of graphene-based materials for PPE and apparel under the brands BioHastalex and Hastalex. The former can replace many polyesters and plastics and degrades in the ocean in 2.5 years, with the potential to reduce the disaster that is microfibers.

Spywear?

Amazon enters fitness wearables market with Halo:

The space is currently dominated by the Apple Watch and devices from Fitbit, which is awaiting regulatory approval for an acquisition by Alphabet’s Google. Amazon’s Halo product builds on these older fitness tracking devices with features that have never been seen in a mainstream wearable device, including one that tracks a user’s emotional state by listening to the tone of their voice, and another that provides a three-dimensional rendering of their body with an estimated body fat percentage. [Emphasis added.]

We wonder, though, if there will be pushback on the microphones. Do you really want your fitness device (or whoever is on the other end because you know someone is) listening to you 24/7? And does anyone really need a device to determine their emotional state from the tone of their voice? Isn’t that what significant others are for?

Or It’s One Weird Zoom Meeting

Liquid Carpet

We’ve all spilled things on rugs at one time or another, but has anyone ever spilled a rug itself? It’s a logical question to ask after seeing this Azerbaijan carpet woven by artist Faig Ahmed to look as if it were melting.

Horsing Around

B Art

At this point, after 30+ years, The Simpsons artists could be considered “Old Masters,” and to continue that analogy, a mashup of Simpsons characters and classic art, some of which will haunt your dreams.

Amazing Journey

Snakes on a Face

People have been getting pretty creative with the whole mask-wearing thing, although one guy on a bus in the UK may have gone a little overboard: he used a live python as a face mask. Says Yahoo!News: “One passenger, who asked not to be named, said she initially thought the man was wearing a ‘funky mask’ before she spotted it slithering over the hand rails.” It’s a safe bet people kept at least six feet away. It did clarify an important point perhaps some of us have been wanting to ask about: “Authorities have confirmed a snake is not a valid face covering.” Whew! Glad we cleared that up. OK, Monty, back in the tank.

Why Not?

New Neighbors?

For decades (if not longer) we’ve all been speculating about life on Mars. As it turns out, we may have been looking in the wrong direction. From Scientific American:

On Monday (Sept. 14), researchers announced that they’d spotted the fingerprint of phosphine in Venus’ atmosphere, at an altitude where temperatures and pressures are similar to those here on Earth at sea level.

On our planet, phosphine is produced only by microbes and by human industrial activity, as far as we can tell. So, finding the gas on another world, in an environment that astrobiologists had already flagged as potentially habitable, is exciting news indeed. 

(Sorry, Cary, that’s phosphine, not graphene.) It’s exciting news, but let’s not launch the interplanetary Welcome Wagon just yet.

Venusian microbes may be emitting the phosphine, but it’s also possible that the stuff is being generated by exotic chemical reactions that we don’t understand, and that have nothing to do with life.

“We have what could be a biosignature, and a plausible story about how it got there,” Pete Worden, executive director of the nonprofit Breakthrough Initiatives, said in a statement. “The next step is to do the basic science needed to thoroughly investigate the evidence and consider how best to confirm and expand on the possibility of life.”

By the way, if it turns out there is life on both Venus and Mars, the way to tell them apart is that the Venusians will have a third eye and the Martians a third arm.

That’s a Fair Point

Taking the Fifth

The opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (dun dun dun DUNNNN) is probably the most famous and recognizable passages in all of classical music. But a feature at Vox this week dug into Beethoven’s Fifth and explored what it actually means, and how it changed the way that audiences at the time listened to music:

Before Beethoven’s time, classical music culture looked and sounded quite different. When Mozart premiered his Symphony 31 in the late 1700s, it was standard for audiences to clap, cheer, and yell “da capo!” (Italian for “from the beginning!”) in the middle of a performance.

“‘Free Bird!’” was also not unheard of, strangely enough. We continue: 

 After Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony debuted in the early 1800s, these norms changed — both because the rising industrial merchant class took ownership of concert halls and because of shifts in the music itself. 

...the musical complexity of Beethoven’s symphony required a different kind of listening. The Fifth’s four-note opening theme occurs and recurs in variations throughout the symphony, slowly shifting from minor to major keys and mirroring Beethoven’s experience with deafness. The Fifth’s creative rule-breaking — subverting the classical sonata form in the first movement, for example — requires close listening to fully grasp. 

In Mozart’s day, each movement in a symphony was self-contained, like a collection of short stories. Beethoven’s Fifth acted more like a novel, asking audiences to follow a single story that unfolded over an entire four-movement symphony. New norms of concert behavior developed in turn. Sitzfleisch, or “sitting still,” became the ultimate desideratum for showing one’s understanding of the new language of classical music. Over time, these norms crystallized into a set of etiquette rules (e.g., “don’t clap mid-piece”) to enhance the new listening experience.

Blue Velvet

In this age of working at home, we don’t know if NSFW applies anymore (or maybe it’s NSFH or even [email protected]), but regardless, please enjoy eight minutes of David Lynch swearing.

All the News that’s Fit to Augment

Says Axios: “The New York Times and Facebook have struck a multi-year partnership to co-develop augmented reality (AR) filters and effects on Instagram that help users access and contextualize New York Times journalism, executives tell Axios.” Great—breaking news with kitten filters.

  • That team will develop augmented reality filters and effects using a Facebook platform for developers called "Spark AR Studio."
  • Facebook will provide guidance on ways to use Spark, and in turn, The Times will provide feedback to Facebook on developer experience and features.

We’re not sure that Facebook should be trusted to provide guidance to the nearest rest room, but we continue:

  • The first few filters from the launch series will include visual interactive pieces tied to the centennial of women’s suffrage, coverage of the California wildfires and air quality during the COVID-19 lockdown, as displayed in the picture above.

Now and Fen

LEGO of Plastic

LEGO has announced that: “LEGO Group to invest up to US$400 million over three years to accelerate sustainability efforts.” Part of those efforts will include phasing out single-use plastic bags used to package loose bricks,?”part of its ambition to make all its packaging sustainable by the end of 2025.?From 2021, Forest Stewardship Council-certified recyclable paper bags will be trialled in boxes.” Here’s the cool part of this announcement:

[The LEGO Group CEO, Niels B] Christiansen said: “We have received many letters from children about the environment asking us to remove single-use plastic packaging. We have been exploring alternatives for some time and the passion and ideas from children inspired us to begin to make the change.”

The kids are alright.

Orcastration

No Explanation

A fun trope of time travel movies or TV shows involves someone from tens or hundreds of years ago encountering modern technology or cultural norms, as, let’s face it, life in the early 21st century would be largely inexplicable to someone visiting from, say, the 19th century (or even much of the 20th!). As an example of how the rate of change is accelerating, try explaining 2020 to someone from as recently as 2019. Boing Boing rounds up some tweets and headlines that would be utterly perplexing to someone who had just woken up from a year-long coma. (Actually, giving someone links to the past six months’ worth of Around the Webs would probably have the same effect.)

Legacy

Of Thee Icing

You have to admit, even back in the Before Times, the idea of blowing out  birthday candles was more than a little gross. (This was confirmed by a study conducted by researchers at Clemson University.) We just never thought about it. Until now. Still, some people want their cake and to blow on it, too, so, via Core77, a dentist in (where else?) Florida invented the Top It Cake Shield.

Of course, the demonstration video—complete with maskless partygoers clustering right next to each other and strenuously exhaling children—kind of renders the whole thing pointless, at least from an airborne transmission standpoint. But at least the icing stays clean.

Catchy

Not a Peep Out of Them

Well, now it’s serious. Says CNN:

Just Born Quality Confections, the company that produces Peeps, says its holiday-themed marshmallow treats will not be in Halloween candy baskets this year -- and they won't be in stores for Christmas, either.

Halloween Peeps -- which are shaped like pumpkins, ghosts and monsters -- and Christmas Peeps will not return to stores until 2021. The company will skip Valentine's Day Peeps next year as well.

The company temporarily shut down in April to protect the health of their employees, and reopened in May with limited production. As a result, they are concentrating on meeting the demand for next Easter, which is after all the traditional Peeps holiday.

Candyman

On Comet! On Cupid! On Covid!

The holidays are almost upon us so why not pick up perhaps the most depressing keepsake ever created, a reminder of the year that is 2020 and a way to ensure that you and/or your children will be psychologically scarred for years to come: a Santa Claus in a mask Christmas tree ornament.

Out on the Weekend

This Week in Printing, Publishing, and Media History

September 14

1814: The poem Defence of Fort McHenry is written by Francis Scott Key. The poem would later be used as the lyrics of The Star-Spangled Banner.

September 15

1835: HMS Beagle, with Charles Darwin aboard, reaches the Galápagos Islands.

1889: American humorist, newspaper columnist, and actor Robert Benchley born.

1890: English crime novelist, short story writer, and playwright Agatha Christie born.

September 16

1880: The Cornell Daily Sun, the U.S.’s oldest, continuously-independent college daily, prints its first issue in Ithaca, N.Y.

1959: The Xerox 914, the first successful photocopier, is introduced in a demonstration on live television from New York City.

1959: The Xerox 914, the first successful photocopier, is introduced in a demonstration on live television from New York City.

September 17

1787: The United States Constitution is signed in Philadelphia.

1920: The National Football League is organized as the American Professional Football Association in Canton, Ohio.

September 18

1851: First publication of The New-York Daily Times, which later becomes The New York Times.

1927: The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) goes on the air.

1709: English lexicographer and poet Samuel Johnson born.

September 19

1796: George Washington's Farewell Address is printed across America as an open letter to the public. (“One last time...”)

September 20

1878: American novelist, critic, and essayist Upton Sinclair born.


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