Recently in Random Musings Category

Lots of sci-fi spaceships and a few real ones.

A fantastic video that demonstrates some techniques for fighting in plate armor. The mobility of the combatants will surprise you.

You could waste invest a whole day studying this interactive map of Tolkein's Middle Earth.

Everyone loves the idea of the longsword, but did you know that poleaxes are much more effective weapons? Swords are a lot easier to carry around, which is probably why action heroes favor them.


The poleaxe is generally accepted to have been the knightly weapon of choice for dismounted combat. Many surviving examples are of high quality and decoration, which supports the idea that polaxes were used mostly by well-to-do soldiers. This is not exclusive, as The Wallace Collection's A925 is an example of an unadorned poleaxe. It is commonly acknowledged that poleaxes were favorite dueling weapons as well. There is even a slightly modified type, called a hache in French, which was used primarily for duels. This weapon had a 6-7 foot long haft and a rondel guard on each side of the grip.


Don't bring a longsword to a poleaxe fight.

Which of the two figures is Kiki, and which one is Bouba?

These experiments were first conducted by the German gestalt psychologist Wolfgang Kohler and were repeated with the names "Kiki" and "Bouba" given to these shapes by VS Ramachandran and Edward Hubbard (the paper you linked to). In their experiments, they found a very strong inclination in their subjects to name the jagged shape Kiki and the rounded one Bouba. This happened with about 95-98 percent of the subjects. The experiments were repeated in Tamil speakers and then in babies of about 3 years of age. (who could not write) The results were similar.

Humans are more synesthetic than we imagine.

I use Excel all the time -- how did I never know about array formulas, a.k.a. CSE formulas or "super formulas"???

I need to check that both data in Columns B and C match the criteria of specific Code and Score, and for those that match both criteria, I need to SUM the lenths in Column A.

To do this you need to use an Array Formula, also known as a CSE Formula or even a Super Formula. This is a formula that requires you to press Ctrl+Shift+Enter after typing it, instead of just Enter.

If you wanted to sum together all Lengths where the Code is 4a and the Score is 2, here is the formula you can to use:

This will find that rows 4 and 11 contain both criteria at the same time, and will thus return the sum of lengths in those columns, i.e. A4 and A11, which is 141.09m + 731.38m = 872.47m.

The formula looks a little strange and probably not what you'd expect; however, it works very well, as long as you remember to use Ctrl+Shift+Enter instead of Enter when inputting the formula.

Awe. Some.

Under "what useful trick/hack will save my life one day?" is this excellent tip for getting emergency help from strangers:

Learn how to ask for help against the Bystander effect:

Identify one person to directly intervene and help you: you are unlikely to know people's names in some situations involving bystander effect; next best thing is to describe such that there is no mistaking who you are pointing to ("You sir with the blond hair wearing that red sweatshirt! Please help me off the ground!")

If you can, Identify another person to call the authorities. Don't assume someone is already dialing 911. Point out the person and describe person as you see him or her such that person knows you are pointing at him/her.

The idea is to reduce the effect of diffusion of responsibility in the bystander effect, by you placing direct responsibility on specific individuals.

The way you practice this skill such that it becomes second nature and automatically engage when you are in trouble, is by practicing delegation the same way. Instead of asking a group of people to "set up a room" for example, be specific: "John, can you please set up the tables? Barbara, can you take out the decorations and start hanging up those up on the wall over there?" etc.

XKCD has a fantastic illustration of all the surface area available in our solar system. Let's fill it up with people!


Awesome. Why the heck am I buying nylon rope???


On Quora someone asks why camouflage wasn't used before WW1 and the top-rated answer taught me something new: early camouflage was inspired by cubism!

Painting potential targets in ways designed to break down their form makes it difficult for adversaries to line those images up properly, particularly at longer distances, where atmospheric effects, battlefield smoke, surrounding terrain and other factors can make even an undisguised target difficult enough to fixate accurately. In other words, the very first types of camouflage were intended so that when you view them through an optical range-finder, you can never be quite sure just what you're looking at. These principles were used at sea (a warship painted with "dazzle" camouflage)

An ultra-dominant alpha-male brown bear is facing castration because he's too sexually prolific. Poor guy.

An elderly brown bear in the Pyrenees is facing castration or segregation amid fears that his sexual dominance is threatening the species' survival in the region by limiting genetic diversity.

Pyros, one of the oldest of the 30 or so bears who roam the mountains between France and Spain, is the father, grandfather or great-grandfather of nearly all of the cubs born in the Pyrenees over the past two decades. There are four other males in the colony - only one of them is not related to Pyros - and none of them have fathered any offspring.

Spanish officials said they were being forced to decide between castration or segregation for Pyros after the recent birth of a cub who was both his daughter and grand-daughter.

"If he keeps up this sexual vigour and dominant attitude for a few more years, the other males in the mountains have no chance of mating with any of the females," José Enrique Arró, the councillor who oversees environmental issues in the Val d'Aran, told La Vanguardia.

Eerily silent.

Why do these animal fight videos always include alligators or a crocodiles? Because they're slow, so there's plenty of time to prepare the camera? Because reptiles are alien and scary to our mammalian brains? Because gators and crocs get into lots of fights?

Lions vs. Crocodiles vs. Buffalos and Crocodile vs. Elephant.

And yes, it looks like I posted this video four years ago! What does it say about the title-generating hash-function inside my brain that I came up with the exact same post title last time?

(HT: io9.)

I'm never swimming without my spear again.

Will the 3,280 foot Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia ever get built? Who cares! I can tell you that even if it does, it won't still be standing in a millennium. I think the Egyptian Pharaohs had the right idea with their pyramids. Nothing is as stable as a huge pile of rocks.

If I had a few billion dollars to waste, I'd build a pyramid several times larger than the Great Pyramid and designed to last forever. I'd put it someplace geologically stable and high above sea level. Let's see who's laughing in 10,000 years! Me.



This climb up a radio antenna isn't quite as high, but it feels much more exposed.

I'd love to do something like this, but I'm not crazy enough.

(HT: LM.)

Min/maxing your life as if it were a strategy game. Sounds an awful lot like a remake of The Sims.


You might not realise, but real life is a game of strategy. There are some fun mini-games - like dancing, driving, running, and sex - but the key to winning is simply managing your resources.

Most importantly, successful players put their time into the right things. Later in the game money comes into play, but your top priority should always be mastering where your time goes.

Consider a graph with two dimensions: clever/stupid, and diligent/lazy. Where do you fit? Where do you want to be? Do clever and lazy make the best leaders?

Consider an apt (if admittedly unsettling) example from history: Erich von Manstein, one of the top strategists in Hitler's German Military, described Kurt Gebhard Adolf Philipp Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord, the former commander-in-chief of the Reichswehr as "... probably one of the cleverest people I ever met."

Both men, according to Ben Breen, are widely credited with the following quote that gets to the heart of the matter.

I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent -- their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy -- they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent -- he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.


Let's look at the diligent workers first, whether clever or stupid. Diligence is a virtue, right? We should all be diligent! Well, the diligent and stupid workers are obviously a drain.

I've worked at several places that see themselves as prestigious, high paying and where lots of people want to work. This is where I've seen the practise known as 'face time'. This is where people deliberately get in early, stay at their desks all through lunch and leave late. Just to be seen by the boss as 'being busy'. In fact most of them would be surfing the web or chatting with their pals as soon as the boss was out of sight.

What these people work hard at is keeping up the appearance of being busy. Often this means inventing pointless work for themselves or others, so called busywork. Many of these people may in fact be lazy as well as stupid - the effect is the same. It's all about creating the impression of working hard.

The point isn't that these folks are "stupid" in the classical sense, they just can't focus on the most important things. They invest energy into things that seem important or look important, and they make sure that they're always busy with something. Anything. Kind of like cancer.

What about the people who are diligent and clever? The most important thing is to avoid putting these folks into jobs they're stupid at. E.g., you're an awesome engineer, let's put you in charge of an engineering team! Oh, you're stupid at management, so you never get promoted again and you stay in a job you suck at.

The stupid and lazy? That's a no-brainer. Bye-bye.

How about the clever and lazy? Assuming they have integrity, the argument here is that these will be your best leaders? Why?

These people insist on taking the time and space required to create, and to find new ways forward.

They are natural delegators.

They are always looking for simpler, easier ways to do things.

They focus on the essentials, and they despise 'busywork'.

According to this argument, a clever, lazy person with integrity will be focused on achieving goals with the least amount of wasted effort. In this context, "lazy" isn't a pejorative.

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