random surf

Oh my. Ask MetaFilter goes where few others would dare.
Sometimes, you just gotta do the experiment, even if it means a swimming pool full of snot.
This site has GM MIDI files of algorithmic music determined by mathematics and the musical preferences of a human. Insert obligatory Philip Glass joke. (via BoingBoing, which probably should carry a NSFW label these days)
Growth industry: New Zealand scientist Christopher Anderson is sowing corn and canola and reaping gold, mercury and other toxic contaminants from small-scale mines. Metals recovered from the plants are used to pay for cleanup and local programs to combat poverty. (via jwz)
Of, like, pertaining to, resulting from, resembling. Be sure to check out the rest of the Phrontistery as well. (via kindall)
What with all the Patriot Act insanity going around, amateur photographers might want to carry the Photographer’s Bust Card with them. Especially if they’re, you know, brown.
For the nerd who has everything: cufflinks with embedded instrumentation. (also via BoingBoing)
Graham‘s right, this animated gif is hypnotic.

spurious factoid proves exceedingly hard to kill

Ever notice how things that “everybody knows” are usually wrong? Here’s another one (from here, concerning this paper):

It is an established fact that 98 percent of the DNA, or the code of life, is exactly the same between humans and chimpanzees. So the key to what it means to be human resides in that other 2 percent.

Argh. Actually, it’s an established fact that this meme, or trope, or whatever you want to call it, is bollocks. Individual human genomes vary by about 0.08% at the single-nucleotide level, whereas human and chimpanzee genomes differ by about 1-1.5% at the same level. This is misleading, because single-nucleotide comparison means aligning comparable sequences base-by-base and counting the differences. In order to line up the two sequences in the first place, however, you have to introduce gaps into each sequence to allow for insertions and deletions. Like this:


In this made-up example, three bases out of fifty are different (6%) but the gaps account for a further 7 bases’ worth of difference (14%). Do this with enough regions of each genome to get a representative sample and you can estimate the degree of sequence identity between the two genomes. Of the optimally-aligned sections of our genomes, we share about 98.5-99% with chimps, but taking the gaps into account produces a rather lower figure of about 95%, something Roy Britten showed in 2002.
What both figures overlook, and tend to obscure, is differences in the organization of large sections of the genetic information: duplications, inversions, recombinations between and within chromosomes, insertions of retroviral sequences, and so on. I wrote earlier about a method that allows us to measure such differences. Variation between individual humans on this scale seems to run at about 1.5% (cf. 0.08% at the nucleotide level); it will be interesting to see a ROMA-based comparison between humans and chimps. It is on this organisational scale that the real clues to the inscrutable Decree will be found.

Louis MacNeice

Corner Seat
Suspended in a moving night
The face in the reflected train
Looks at first sight as self-assured
As your own face—But look again:
Windows between you and the world
Keep out the cold, keep out the fright;
Then why does your reflection seem
So lonely in the moving night?

Museums offer us, running from among the buses,
A centrally heated refuge, parquet floors and sarcophaguses,
Into whose tall fake porches we hurry without a sound
Like a beetle under a brick that lies, useless, on the ground.
Warmed and cajoled by the silence the cowed cypher revives,
Mirrors himself in the cases of pots, paces himself by marble lives,
Makes believe it was he that was the glory that was Rome,
Soft on his cheek the nimbus of other people’s martyrdom,
And then returns to the street, his mind an arena where sprawls
Any number of consumptive Keatses and dying Gauls.

Having bitten on life like a sharp apple
Or, playing it like a fish, been happy,
Having felt with fingers that the sky is blue,
What have we after that to look forward to?
Not the twilight of the gods but a precise dawn
Of sallow and grey bricks, and newsboys crying war.

The Sunlight On The Garden
The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.
Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.
The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying
And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.