Nice clarity of thought on value of Economist to readers

The Economist’s Tom Standage spoke to Joseph Lichterman at Nieman Lab recently about:

The Economist’s Tom Standage on digital strategy and the limits of a model based on advertising

I was struck by the clarity of purpose expressed in these paragraphs:

We sell the antidote to information overload — we sell a finite, finishable, very tightly curated bundle of content. And we did that initially as a weekly print product. Then it turns out you can take that same content and deliver it through an app.

The “you’ve got to the end and now you’ve got permission to go do something else” is something you never get. You can never finish the Internet, you can never finish Twitter, and you can never really finish The New York Times, to be honest. So at its heart is that we have this very high density of information, and the promise we make to the reader is that if you trust us to filter and distill the news, and if you give us an hour and a half of your time — which is roughly how long people spend reading The Economist each week — then we’ll tell you what matters in the world and what’s going on.

The article’s a good read. Recommended.

This is how you test a launch system rocket booster

Just for the wow factor: NASA tested its new space launch system rocket booster in Utah. Watch to the end to see the ‘quench tool’ in action.

Published on 11 Mar 2015

The largest, most powerful rocket booster ever built successfully fired up Wednesday for a major-milestone ground test in preparation for future missions to help propel NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft to deep space destinations, including an asteroid and Mars. The booster fired for two minutes, the same amount of time it will fire when it lifts the SLS off the launch pad, and produced about 3.6 million pounds of thrust. The test was conducted at the Promontory, Utah test facility of commercial partner Orbital ATK.

For more information, visit:

The world according to Plato in 6 lovely minutes

A lovely bite-sized tour of Plato’s greatest hits from The School of Life.

Plato’s four big ideas for a more fulfilled life:

  1. Think more (and know yourself)
  2. Let your lover change you (love is based on admiration, we need to help each other)
  3. Decode the message of beauty (we sense in beauty qualities we need but don’t have)
  4. Reform society (a utopian thinker about government and society)

Plato wanted to end democracy in Athens because he observed that few people thought properly before they voted, which resulted in very sub-standard rulers. He wanted people to become rational thinkers, philosophers in fact, before they could vote. “The world will not be right until kings become philosophers or philosophers kings.”




Flow states feel awesome because: norepinephrine, dopamine, anandamide, serotonin and endorphins

Dr Steven Kotler, Director of Research for the Flow Genome Project, talks in this 4:20 video about the neurochemistry of your brain when you’re in a flow state.

Transcript from YouTube: Besides neuroanatomical changes in flow there are neurochemical changes, right. The brain produces a giant cascade of neurochemistry. You get norepinephrine, dopamine, anandamide, serotonin and endorphins. All five of these are performance enhancing neurochemicals, right. So they make you faster, stronger, quicker and they do the same thing with your brain. In the front end of a flow state you take in more information, you process it more deeply meaning you process it using more parts of your brain and you process it more quickly. There’s some debate about this but it does appear that you process it more quickly. This is norepinephrine and dopamine. So when people enter a flow state they talk about feeling like they’re senses are incredibly heightened. This is the performance enhancing aspect of norepinephrine and dopamine.

Where these chemicals really come in handy is how they affect motivation, creativity and learning. We’ll start with motivation. Besides being performance enhancing chemicals these are obviously all feel good drugs, right. These five chemicals are the most potent feel good drugs the brain can produce. As a result flow is considered the most addictive state on earth. Scientists don’t like the word addictive so instead they use autotelic. When something is autotelic it is an end in itself. What it means is that once an experience starts producing flow we will go extraordinarily far out of our way to get more of it which is why researchers now believe flow is the source code of intrinsic motivation.

Another thing that those neurochemicals do is they augment the creative process. So creativity is always recombinantory. It’s the product of novel information, bumping into old thoughts to create something startlingly new. So if you want to amplify creativity, you want to amplify every aspect of that process. Again, the neurochemicals help. So on the front end of the flow state when you get norepinephrine and dopamine they’re tightening focus so you are taking in more information per second. So you are boosting that part of the creative process. Norepinephrine and dopamine do something else in the brain which is they lower signal to noise ratio so you detect more patterns. They jack up pattern recognition so our ability to link ideas together is also an enhancer. Taking in more information we can link it together.

Anandamide which is another chemical that shows up in flow doesn’t just promote pattern recognition. It promotes lateral thinking. So pattern recognition is more or less the linking of familiar ideas together. Lateral thinking is the linking of very disparate ideas together, right. So more information per second, all kinds of pattern recognition, lateral thinking. All of it surrounds the creative process and amplifies all of it which is why, for example, studies run by my organization, the Flow Genome Project, we found creativity is increased 500 to 700 percent. To give you another example in a recent Australian study they took 42 people, gave them a very tricky brainteaser to solve, the kind that needs very creative problem solving.

Nobody could solve the problem. They induced flow artificially using transcranial magnetic stimulation to basically knock out the prefrontal cortex. They induced artificial transient hypofrontality technically.
As a result, 23 people solved the problem in record time. So massively amplified motivation, massively amplified creativity. The last thing flow does that’s really important is it jacks up learning. [TRANSCRIPT TRUNCATED]


Bookmarks for March 11, 2015

Some of the more interesting things I’ve read – or bookmarked to read – over the past few days.

Economic Survey of Manufacturing: December 2014 quarter

Volume of manufacturing sales rose 0.9% in December 2014 quarter, mainly on fuel, meat & dairy, machinery | Stats NZ

Notifications & Alerts — Ford’s Sensorium — Medium

Paul Ford slashes and burns a great heap of notifications and alerts, and is still just warming up — Medium @ftrain

Follow the money: crunching the numbers from TVNZ, Sky, NZME, MediaWorks, Snakk and Spark :: StopPress

Follow the money: crunching the financials from TVNZ, Sky, NZME, MediaWorks, Snakk and Spark | Idealog

Where Does BuzzFeed Source Its Content From?

Interesting. Twenty-five sources made up 62% of BuzzFeed’s content last year, according to

Property market: Mortgagee sales tumble as New Zealand’s economy grows – Business – NZ Herald News

“797 mortgagee sales or foreclosures last year, down from 1216 the previous year… a quarter of the number in 2009.”

BBC News – Striking gold with a hoard of lost property

The Zurich shopkeeper who ‘recycles’ the lost and found items from Switzerland’s railways, airports & buses. | BBC

This is the best explanation of gerrymandering you will ever see – The Washington Post

A simple explanation of gerrymandering (US) | Washington Post #politics #elections

Ratings surprise for ‘disappointed’ Radio NZ – Business – NZ Herald News

Ratings surprise for ‘disappointed’ Radio NZ – down 70,000 live radio listeners in November survey | NZ Herald News

New Zealand right to spy on Pacific Island neighbours |

We may be spying on the Pacific, but are we listening? We still get surprised by ill events, writes Michael Fields

The Week that Was in New Zealand: 02-06 March 2015 | Evolving Newsroom

The Week that Was in New Zealand: 02-06 March 2015 | Evolving Newsroom

No parking space too small for swivelling 1920s car

No parking space too small for swivelling 1927 car | Evolving Newsroom

Magnificent Faucet Swirls Water into Elegant Patterns – My Modern Met

The faucet weaves small jets of water into intricate, cross-hatched designs that look like they belong on delicate crystal glassware.

Ferguson police routinely violate blacks’ rights, federal review finds – The Washington Post

Ferguson police routinely violate blacks’ rights, federal review finds | Washington Post

I’d forgotten how much you have to learn to be a journalist

I’d forgotten how much you have to learn to be a journalist | Evolving Newsroom

RSS Bookmarks

Earth’s other ‘moon’ and its crazy orbit could reveal mysteries of the solar system

A fantastic piece about Earth’s ‘other moon’ from Duncan Forgan on The Conversation. I’m reproducing the story here because I can: The Conversation has published it with a Creative Commons CC-BY-ND licence, and made it exceptionally easy to republish via a one-click button that gives you HTML ready to drop straight into your content management system. All hail The Conversation!

Republish button

Earth’s other ‘moon’ and its crazy orbit could reveal mysteries of the solar system

By Duncan Forgan, University of St Andrews

We all know and love the moon. We’re so assured that we only have one that we don’t even give it a specific name. It is the brightest object in the night sky, and amateur astronomers take great delight in mapping its craters and seas. To date, it is the only other heavenly body with human footprints.

What you might not know is that the moon is not the Earth’s only natural satellite. As recently as 1997, we discovered that another body, 3753 Cruithne, is what’s called a quasi-orbital satellite of Earth. This simply means that Cruithne doesn’t loop around the Earth in a nice ellipse in the same way as the moon, or indeed the artificial satellites we loft into orbit. Instead, Cruithne scuttles around the inner solar system in what’s called a “horseshoe” orbit.

Cruithne’s orbit

To help understand why it’s called a horseshoe orbit, let’s imagine we’re looking down at the solar system, rotating at the same rate as the Earth goes round the sun. From our viewpoint, the Earth looks stationary. A body on a simple horseshoe orbit around the Earth moves toward it, then turns round and moves away. Once it’s moved so far away it’s approaching Earth from the other side, it turns around and moves away again.

Cruithne from a stationary Earth position

Horseshoe orbits are actually quite common for moons in the solar system. Saturn has a couple of moons in this configuration, for instance.

What’s unique about Cruithne is how it wobbles and sways along its horseshoe. If you look at Cruithne’s motion in the solar system, it makes a messy ring around Earth’s orbit, swinging so wide that it comes into the neighbourhood of both Venus and Mars. Cruithne orbits the sun about once a year, but it takes nearly 800 years to complete this messy ring shape around the Earth’s orbit.

Cruithne close up

So Cruithne is our second moon. What’s it like there? Well, we don’t really know. It’s only about five kilometres across, which is not dissimilar to the dimensions of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which is currently playing host to the Rosetta orbiter and the Philae lander.

The surface gravity of 67P is very weak – walking at a spirited pace is probably enough to send you strolling into the wider cosmos. This is why it was so crucial that Philae was able to use its harpoons to tether itself to the surface, and why their failure meant that the lander bounced so far away from its landing site.

Given that Cruithne isn’t much more to us at this point than a few blurry pixels on an image, it’s safe to say that it sits firmly in the middling size range for non-planetary bodies in the solar system, and any human or machine explorers would face similar challenges as Rosetta and Philae did on 67P.

Possible clash: Venus
J.Gabás Esteban, CC BY-SA


If Cruithne struck the Earth, though, that would be an extinction-level event, similar to what is believed to have occurred at the end of the Cretaceous period. Luckily it’s not going to hit us anytime soon – its orbit is tilted out of the plane of the solar system, and astrophysicists have shown using simulations that while it can come quite close, it is extremely unlikely to hit us. The point where it is predicted to get closest is about 2,750 years away.

Cruithne is expected to undergo a rather close encounter with Venus in about 8,000 years, however. There’s a good chance that that will put paid to our erstwhile spare moon, flinging it out of harm’s way, and out of the Terran family.

It’s not just Cruithne

The story doesn’t end there. Like a good foster home, the Earth plays host to many wayward lumps of rock looking for a gravitational well to hang around near. Astronomers have actually detected several other quasi-orbital satellites that belong to the Earth, all here for a little while before caroming on to pastures new.

Secrets: solar system


So what can we learn about the solar system from Cruithne? Quite a lot. Like the many other asteroids and comets, it contains forensic evidence about how the planets were assembled. Its kooky orbit is an ideal testing
ground for our understanding of how the solar system evolves under gravity.

As I said before, it wasn’t until the end of the 20th century that we even realised that bodies would enter such weird horseshoe orbits and stay there for such a long time. The fact they do shows us that such
interactions will have occurred while the solar system was forming. Because we think terrestrial planets grow via collisions of bodies of
Cruithne-size and above, this is a big new variable.

One day, Cruithne could be a practice site for landing humans on asteroids, and perhaps even mining them for the rare-earth metals our new technologies desperately crave. Most importantly of all, Cruithne teaches us that the solar system isn’t eternal – and by extension, neither are we.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Bookmarks for March 5, 2015

Some of the more interesting (or odd) things I’ve read – or bookmarked to read – over the past few days.

Community and rural papers hold strong in latest newspaper readership and circ figures :: StopPress

Community and rural papers hold in latest newspaper readership and circ figures, nationals slip | StopPress

I’m leaving Gigaom — Medium

I’m leaving Gigaom — Tom Krazit – Medium

The Week that Was in New Zealand: 23-27 February 2015

The Week that Was in New Zealand: 23-27 February 2015 | Evolving Newsroom

Iranian woman wins rights award for hijab campaign | World news | The Guardian

Masih Alinejad, creator of Stealthy Freedom FB page where Iranian women post images without hijab, wins rights award.

Graffiti Legend Banksy Goes Undercover In Gaza To Expose Destruction | Egyptian Streets

Graffiti Legend Banksy Goes Undercover In Gaza To Expose Destruction | Egyptian Streets

Impressive automated bicycle parking in Japan

Impressive automated bicycle parking in Japan | Evolving Newsroom

Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon | The Dowse Art Museum

Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at The Dowse Art Museum. Saturday March 7 10am-5pm.

NodeConf ONE-SHOT Christchurch, New Zealand – NZ’s NodeJS Conference

NodeConf ONE-SHOT Christchurch, New Zealand – NZ’s NodeJS Conference. Saturday 28 March 2015.

New ways to write and read on Medium — The Story — Medium

New ways to write and read on Medium — The Story — Medium

How to create GIFs of live events in seconds

How to create GIFs of live events in seconds | TNW blog

Siberian hamsters or Asian gerbils | Stats Chat

Siberian hamsters or Asian gerbils. @thomaslumley looks at how media covered recent black plague research | StatsChat

Apply For Antarctic Science Scholarships | Antarctica New Zealand

Applications are open for ‪#‎AntarcticaNZ‬ postgraduate scholarships for the 2015/16 season. Deadline Thu 12 March.

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I’d forgotten how much you have to learn to be a journalist

I’m doing a stint this semester as the Journalist in Residence at AUT University. This week, the first week of term, we’re running a bootcamp for degree and post-graduate students studying journalism.

Some students have done preparatory courses for this year, others haven’t. Either way they all have a lot to master in the year ahead.

They’re starting on a very steep learning curve this week: interviewing, recording, writing and filing stories to deadline from day one.

Watching the bootcamp unfold has made me realise how much I’ve learned and internalised over the years. How many things that working (and even lapsed) journalists do instinctively.

We already know how to take notes, check our audio is recording, listen to who we’re talking to, adapt questions on the fly, put people at ease and mentally map how the story will read all at the same time.

We’ve already been yelled at, forgotten to push record, got facts/names/dates wrong, felt like a fool, been overwhelmed and elated and overwhelmed again and come out the other side.

But for someone new, interviewing someone you’ve never met before is not at all instinctive. It’s awkward. A little like the clunky process of learning to drive: remember, think, do, feel overwhelmed, feel relieved, rinse and repeat.

So hats off to the crew of 2015 for rushing headlong into the challenge. Hang in there, it’s going to get easier.

In the weeks and months ahead our students will be publishing stories in news publications around Auckland, and the country, on our own website and in our print edition Te Waha Nui.

You can follow our progress, and see our stories on Facebook and Twitter. And right now some of our students are sharing thoughts, images, and requests for information using the hashtag #AUTbootcamp.

You might want to help them out with story ideas, suggestions of great people to follow, and tips on how to be an effective journalist and citizen on Twitter and beyond.

And if you’re in a position to offer an internship a little later to one or more of our hardy students, drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.


Bookmarks for February 27, 2015

Some of the more interesting (or odd) things I’ve read – or bookmarked to read – over the past few days.

A page we can call home… — Circa — Medium

A page we can call home… — Circa — Medium

A discussion of the Māori economy – its scope, opportunities and challenges | Productivity Commission of New Zealand

A discussion of the Māori economy; scope, opportunities & challenges–Productivity Commission Wed 11 Mar 10.30am-12.

Looking Up Symptoms Online? These Companies Are Tracking You | Motherboard

Far out… Looking Up Symptoms Online? These Companies Are Tracking You

[Weekly Review] | February 25, 2015, by Matthew Sherrill | Harper’s Magazine

Egypt launches airstrike in Libya; stampede kills 17 in Haiti; 15 NY towns threaten to secede | Harper’s Weekly wrap

[toread] The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’ | US news | The Guardian

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked…

Google Now Offers Free DDoS Protection

Google Now Offers Free DDoS Protection… to help human rights and elections-related websites in vulnerable regions

Edelman trust barometer shows search engines are now more trusted than traditional media :: StopPress

Edelman trust barometer shows search engines more trusted than traditional media (some points in here need unpicking)

Ceres’ Mystery Bright Dots May Have Volcanic Origin : Discovery News

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft’s images of Ceres’ Mystery Bright Dots suggest they May Have Volcanic Origin: DNews

Photos: Inside Indonesia’s Ijen Volcano – The Atlantic

Photos: Two Days Inside An Active Indonesian Volcano photographing men who mine sulphur by hand | The Atlantic

How do owls fly so silently? – Natural World: Super Powered Owls Preview – BBC Two – YouTube

Programme website: A cutting edge experiment reveals how owls can sneak up on their prey.

The Rise and Fall of RedBook, the Site That Sex Workers Couldn’t Live Without | WIRED

The Rise and Fall of RedBook, the Site That Sex Workers Couldn’t Live Without | WIRED

Big data, public good and what RoZetta’s Ian Oppermann did next

Big data, public good and what Australia’s Ian Oppermann did next The Age

Etsy CEO: How Net Neutrality Shaped My Life — Backchannel — Medium

Etsy CEO: How Net Neutrality Shaped My Life [and how I represented our users in Net Neutrality discussions] | Medium

Internet slang meets American Sign Language — Hopes&Fears — flow “Internet”

Internet slang meets American Sign Language— trying out signs for ‘selfie’ ‘photo bomb’ ’emoji’ | Hopes & Fears

RSS Bookmarks