Skip to around 4:50 to see California’s magnetic pull — first centered on San Francisco, then on Los Angeles — as it draws migrants from the eastern seaboard as if they were iron filings.
This animation distils hundreds of years of culture into just five minutes. A team of historians and scientists wanted to map cultural mobility, so they tracked the births and deaths of notable individuals like David, King of Israel, and Leonardo da Vinci, from 600 BC to the present day. Using them as a proxy for skills and ideas, their map reveals intellectual hotspots and tracks how empires rise and crumble. The information comes from Freebase, a Google-owned database of well-known people and places, and other catalogues of notable individuals. (YouTube)
See also: original Nature news story, full paper in Science.
John Oliver breaks down the prison-industrial complex in this darkly comic and well-researched piece of editorial journalism. Also: singing muppets.
The “cookbook” in TSR’s 1991 D&D tome, The Dungeon Master’s Design Kit, is a legendary cheat sheet for rapidly conceiving remarkably fleshed out RPG scenarios by rolling dice and consulting tables. Donjon automates the template-and-die-driven scenario generator contained in TSR’s text, enabling visitors to spin up a near infinitude of compelling scenarios simply by hitting F5. But the “Adventure Generator” is just the tip of the iceberg at donjon, as the site provides an unequalled wealth of RPG map, character, and worldbuilding generators, all of which are designed with a great deal of thoughtfulness and elegance. Even if you aren’t into RPGs, donjon is worth a visit for its many clever takes on the random story generator and the procedural generation of narrative artifacts and spaces.
See also: RPG Athenaeum.
R. A. Lafferty’s crisply-written short story, “Slow Tuesday Night” (1965), envisions an oddly-familiar world of frenetic hustle where up-to-the-second “trend indicators” chart the fates of fads, fortunes, and families. A mini-masterpiece of time distortion science fiction, this classic short story (along with the rest of Lafferty’s delightful oeuvre) is not to be missed:
Freddy rented an office and had it furnished. This took one minute, negotiation, selection and installation being almost instantaneous. Then he invented the manus module; that took another minute. He then had it manufactured and marketed; in three minutes it was in the hands of key buyers.
It caught on. It was an attractive module. The flow of orders began within thirty seconds. By ten minutes after eight every important person had one of the new manus modules, and the trend had been set. The module began to sell in the millions. It was one of the most interesting fads of the night, or at least the early part of the night. (baenebooks.com)
Read the whole story at Baene Books, or download a .pdf copy here.