# Rubik’s Cube

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pages: 242 words: 68,019

Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, From Atoms to Economies by Cesar Hidalgo

In a system whose evolution is affected by chance (like in a statistical physics system), getting a series of consecutive moves right is not easy. Think of a Rubik’s cube. A Rubik’s cube illustrates the connection between available paths and entropy perfectly, since you will never be able to solve a Rubik’s cube by chance (even though in your desperation you might try). A Rubik cube has more than 43 quintillion possible states (that is, 43,252,003,274,489,856,000, or 4.3 × 1019), only one of which is perfectly ordered. Also, a Rubik’s cube is a system in which order is not that far away, since it is always possible to solve a Rubik’s cube in twenty moves or less.10 That sounds like a relatively small number, but finding the right twenty moves is not an easy feat. Most people solve the cube by traversing paths that are much more circuitous.

These meaningless forms of order are what information truly is.* Finally, I will connect the multiplicity-of-states definition of entropy with our ability to process information (that is, compute). As we saw in the Rubik’s cube example, information-rich states are hard to find, not only because they are rare but also because there are few paths leading to them. That’s why we equate the ability of someone to solve a Rubik’s cube with a form of intelligence, since those who know how to solve a Rubik’s cube get credit for finding these rare paths (or memorizing the rules to find them). But there are also examples simpler than a Rubik’s cube that we can use to illustrate the connection between the multiplicity of states of a system and computation. Consider the game where babies put shapes such as cylinders and cubes in their respective holes.

The basic method for solving the cube (building the top cross, positioning the corners, completing the middle row, etc.) usually takes more than fifty moves to complete (and until recently people believed that the number of moves needed to solve the cube was larger than twenty).11 This goes to show that in a Rubik’s cube there are only a few paths that lead to the perfectly ordered solution, and these paths, whether short or long, are rare, as they are hidden among the immense number of paths that push the cube away from order. So the growth of entropy is like a Rubik’s cube in the hands of a child. In nature information is rare not only because information-rich states are uncommon but also because they are inaccessible given the way in which nature explores the possible states. But what are the properties of information-rich states? And how can we use knowledge about their properties to identify them? One important characteristic of information-rich states is that these involve both long-range and short-range correlations. In the case of the Rubik’s cube these correlations are conspicuous12: when the cube is perfectly ordered, each color is surrounded by as many neighbors of the same color as it possibly can be.

pages: 611 words: 130,419

Narrative Economics: How Stories Go Viral and Drive Major Economic Events by Robert J. Shiller

Scientific American magazine did a cover story on the cube in its March 1981 issue, with the lead article by Douglas R. Hofstadter. Author of the best-selling Gödel, Escher, Bach (1980), Hofstadter was a science writer with a gift for uniting science with art and the humanities. His article presented Rubik’s Cube as representing deep scientific principles. He described connections to quantum mechanics and the rules for combining the subatomic particles called quarks. Few people remember these details today, but they do remember that Rubik’s Cube is somehow impressive. Rubik’s Cube was bigger than the Laffer curve on ProQuest News & Newspapers, but smaller than the Laffer curve on Google Ngrams. Both show similar hump-shaped paths through time. Other narratives in the same constellation with the Laffer curve sprang up around the same time.

His suggestion for people who mislay their keys: As you drop your keys into the flowerpot, form a mental image of the two vital entities—the keys and the place where you’re putting them. Make it a silly or impossible image. Example: “See” a gigantic key growing in a flowerpot.17 As neuroscience has shown us, long-term memory formation involves many regions of the brain, including visual-image processing regions.18 Rubik’s Cube, Corporate Raiders, and Other Parallel Epidemics Another fad appeared around the same time as the Laffer curve. Rubik’s Cube, invented in 1974 by Ernő Rubik, is a puzzle in the form of a cube-shaped stack of multicolored smaller cubes. As the narrative went, Rubik was a creative Hungarian sculptor and architect whose puzzle captivated the scientific and mathematics community worldwide because it fostered a narrative that it represented some interesting mathematical principles.

The man goes to the official agency, puts down his money and is told that he can take delivery of his automobile in exactly 10 years. ‘ “Morning or afternoon?” the purchaser asks. “Ten years from now, what difference does it make?” replies the clerk. “Well,” says the car-buyer, “the plumber’s coming in the morning.”25 Rubik’s Cube was just a toy, not support for an economic narrative. But Reagan’s lighthearted jokes made for economically powerful entrepreneurial narratives. These new narratives encouraged entrepreneurial spirit and risk taking, and they brought about profound changes in the legal structure of the world’s advanced economies. These examples, the Laffer curve and Rubik’s Cube, are just two of a vast universe of narratives. We need to understand their organizing force. The storage points for all these narratives is the human brain, with its prodigious memory capacity. In the next chapter, we use neuroscience to consider the structure of this repository.

The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey Into the Dark Side of the Brain by James Fallon

Everyone, including neuroscientists, hates these kinds of figures of the brain, but the brain is extraordinarily complex, so we have to deal with these Jackson Pollock monstrosities from time to time. FIGURE 3A: Depression brain circuitry. Most of us, however, fall somewhere in between these camps and organize the brain into a few hundred parts. I am a splitter, and I like having thousands of specific parts to study. But for the sake of simplicity, especially when teaching or writing a paper, I like to organize the brain into a 3×3×3 “Rubik’s Cube” pattern. This twenty-seven-part brain is as simple as I’m willing to go and still be able to sleep at night without violating Einstein’s first law of simplicity in science: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Everyone is familiar with the idea that we have a left brain and a right brain. But this conception is woefully lacking in some important ways. On the next page is a drawing of the side of the brain at the top left, a view of the top of the brain looking down from above, and a view of the medial portion of the brain that you would see if you sliced the brain down the middle.

This medial piece between the left and right hemispheres is also called the limbic lobe, from the word limbus, which means “edge” in Latin, and here refers to a full circle of ancient cortex related to emotion, attention, memory, switching between cognitive and emotional states, and even helping you to see if someone has taken one of your french fries when you weren’t looking. FIGURE 3B: Brain hemispheres. The next slicing of the Rubik’s Cube brain is from front, or anterior, to back, or posterior. The most posterior region of the cortex is dedicated to the visual sensory system, as well as “association” cortices that have functions more complicated than simple seeing or touching or hearing, but rather cognitive tasks such as spatial processing. The external world—up, down, left, right, close up, far away—is mapped onto the cortex in the upper part of the posterior area, called the superior parietal cortex.

That is, you will learn to mirror the accents and cadence and patois of speech from your family and friends, but your basic ability for grammar and syntax is more genetically determined. One tends to adopt the song and rhythm of speech around the time one reaches puberty, but the range and capabilities of individuals vary widely. In the case of Henry Kissinger and his younger brother, Walter, who fled Nazi Germany in 1938, when Henry was sixteen and his brother was fourteen, the elder brother kept his pronounced Frankish accent while Walter sounded very American. In the Rubik’s Cube middle sector of the hemisphere, there are the somatic and motor areas that map the skin senses in the back half of this middle piece, and the map of the areas that control the muscles of the body. Just in front of this motor cortex is the premotor cortex, which is involved in the planning of motor movements and in learning the rules of how we swing a golf club and play the piano. These two motor-related cortices form a strip on each hemisphere in size and placement like the support arms of a set of earphones.

pages: 437 words: 132,041

Alex's Adventures in Numberland by Alex Bellos

The dream of Moscovich, like everyone in his industry, is, of course, to discover a new puzzle craze. There have been only four international puzzle crazes with a mathematical slant: the tangram, the Fifteen puzzle, the Rubik’s Cube and Sudoku. So far, the Cube has been the most lucrative. More than 300 million have been sold since Ernö Rubik came up with the idea in 1974. Apart from its commercial success, the gaudily coloured cube is a popular-culture evergreen. It is the nonpareil of puzzledom and, unsurprisingly, its presence was felt at the 2008 G4G. A talk on the Rubik’s Cube in four dimensions drew huge rounds of applause. The original Rubik’s Cube is a 3 × 3 × 3 array made up of 26 smaller cubes, or cubies. Each horizontal and vertical ‘slice’ can be rotated independently. Once the pattern of the cubies is jumbled, the aim of the puzzle is to twist the slices so that each side of the cube has cubies of just one colour.

Moscovich told me Ernö Rubik was doubly brilliant. Not only was the idea of the cube a stroke of genius, but the way he made the blocks fit together was an outstandingly clever piece of engineering. When you dismantle a Rubik’s Cube there is no separate mechanical device holding it all together – each cubie contains a piece of a central, interlocking sphere. As an object, the cube itself is sexy. It is a Platonic solid, a shape that has had iconic, mystical status since at least the ancient Greeks. The brand name was also a dream: catchy, with delicious assonance and consonance. The Rubik’s Cube had an Eastern exoticism too, not from Asia this time but from Cold War Eastern Europe. It sounded a lot like Sputnik, the original showpiece of Soviet space technology. Another ingredient in its success was the fact that while solving the cube was not easy, the challenge did not put people off.

Akkersdijk also holds the record for the 2 × 2 × 2 cube (0.96secs), the 4 × 4 × 4 cube (40.05secs) and the 5 × 5 × 5 cube (1min 16.21 secs). He can also solve the Rubik’s Cube with his feet – his time of 51.36secs is fourth-best in the world. However, Akkersdijk really must improve his performance at solving the cube one-handed (33rd in the world) and blindfolded (43rd). The rules for blindfolded solving are as follows: the timer starts when the cube is shown to the competitor. He must then study it, and put on a blindfold. When he thinks it is solved he tells the judge to stop the stopwatch. The current record of 48.05secs was set by Ville Seppänen of Finland in 2008. Other speedcubing disciplines include solving the Rubik’s Cube on a rollercoaster, under water, with chopsticks, while idling on a unicycle, and during freefall. The most mathematically interesting cube-solving category is how to solve it in the fewest moves possible.

pages: 192 words: 45,091

What in God's Name: A Novel by Simon Rich

Craig was an Angel, a full two rungs higher than a Page, but he hadn’t bothered to correct him; he knew from experience that there was no point in reasoning with an Archangel. Besides, he was grateful for the chance to finally see God’s office. It had fulfilled all of his expectations. God’s TV was enormous—at least sixty inches—and his remote control was nuts—a shiny, chrome slab that looked like it had been molded to fit his hand. The desk was solid maple and covered with cool executive toys. There was a Rubik’s Cube (which Craig could see was impressively far along) and a gleaming executive ball clicker, the kind that swings for minutes on end when given the slightest push. Craig located the boardroom and, with some difficulty, pulled open the heavy brass door. God strolled in and Craig tried to follow, but a strong hand clamped down on his shoulder. It was Vince, a gigantically tall Archangel with slick blond hair.

But he didn’t want to confess the truth—that he’d only phoned Raoul because he was lonely. He took a slow sip of beer, stalling. “‘The End Is Near,’ ” he said finally. “‘Repent.’ ” Raoul nodded. “I’ll write it on my sign.” “Great!” God said. “That’s great, Raoul. Take care.” He turned off the television and glanced at his watch. It was more than two hours until his afternoon meeting, and he had absolutely nothing to do. He picked up his Rubik’s Cube and fooled around with it for a bit. He was almost finished with the yellow side, but he couldn’t make any progress without messing up the red side. And he didn’t want to do that—the red side was the only one he’d finished. After a few frustrating minutes, he twisted the cube back the way it had been and tossed it onto his desk. God reclined listlessly in his chair. He couldn’t admit it to anyone, but lately he’d been feeling pretty down on himself.

“What the fuck!” God threw up his hands, exasperated. Why was this guy so mad at him? It’s not like he had put the puddle there; puddles were just something that happened when it rained. Honestly, what was he supposed to do? He could say “No more rain,” but that would probably cause even more problems for the humans and make them even angrier. He turned off the computer. Earth was just as frustrating as a Rubik’s Cube. It was impossible to fix something without making another thing even worse. He reached for his beer mug and noticed with mild surprise that it was empty. He cracked open another can and took a giant swig, forgetting about the glass this time. God knew that criticism was part of the job. You couldn’t build something as successful as the world without hearing from some haters. But lately things had gotten out of hand.

pages: 236 words: 50,763

The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible by Lance Fortnow

Who would think playing Sudoku, Minesweeper, or Tetris well would show P = NP and solve one of the biggest challenges of our generation? Figure 4-9. Rubik’s Cubes. Photo by Tom van der Zanden How about Rubik’s Cube? Even the 3 × 3 × 3 cube takes a while to learn to solve; imagine how much harder solving larger cubes should be. Actually not. We have efficient algorithms to solve even large Rubik’s Cubes puzzles using a branch of mathematics known as group theory. These algorithms don’t find the absolutely shortest solution, but they always find reasonably short ways to solve the cube from any starting position that can lead to a solution. It’s surprising how easy Rubik’s Cube is to solve, while Tetris, Minesweeper, and Sudoku are hard. How about two-person games like chess, checkers, Othello, and Go? The large versions of these games are as hard as satisfiability and the rest of the NP-complete problems.

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imagined possibilities of, 12–19, 23–27; implications of, ix, 6, 9, 10, 46; importance of question, 46; likelihood of, 9, 28; meaning of, 4; NP-complete problems and, 59; proving, versus P ≠ NP, 120–21; random number generation and, 140; as satisfiability, 54–55; very cozy groups and, 104 P ≠ NP: attempts to prove, 118–21; implications of, ix–x, 46; meaning of, 4; mistakes in proving, 119–21; proving, 46, 57, 109–21, 161–62; very cozy groups and, 104 Poe, Edgar Allan, 124 Poincaré conjecture, 7 poker protocol, 137 polyalphabetic cipher, 124 polytope, 69–70, 70 prime numbers, 67–69, 129 privacy, and P = NP, 26–27 private-key cryptography, 26 probability theory, Kolmogorov and, 81–82, 167 products, in computations, 138 programs: contradictions in, 112; for hand control, 5–6 protein folding, 47–48 protein threading, 48 pseudorandomness, 140 public-key cryptography: factoring in, 140–41; P = NP and, 26, 127; randomness in, 136–37 public randomness, 136 P versus NP: circuit size in, 116; clique circuit computation and, 117; 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competition for, 96–97; as NP, 54–55 SAT Race, 96–97 Scherbius, Arthur, 124 Scientific American, 149–50 secret key cryptography, 126 security: of computer networks, 127; on Internet, 128–29 sensor data, 158 sentences, 75, 75–76 Seven Bridges of Königsberg puzzle, 38–39, 39 Shamir, Adi, 127–28 Shannon, Claude, 79 shared private keys, 129–30 shipping containers, 160–61 Shor, Peter, 146–47 simplex method, 69 simulations, data from, 158 Sipser, Michael, 117 Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, 31–32 six degrees of separation, 30–33 Skynet effect, 13 small world phenomenon, 30–33 smart cards, finding key to, 106–7 social networking, and Frenemy relationships, 29 Solomonoff, Ray, 83 Soviet Union: genetics research in, 81; probability theory in, 81, 167 speeches, automated creation of, 24 sports broadcasting, 17–18 Sports Scheduling Group, 16 Stalin, Josef, 81 Stanford University, 126, 139 Stearns, Richard, 76 Steklov Mathematical Institute, 117 Stephenson, Henry and Holly, 16 strategy, and equilibrium states, 49 Sudoku: large games, 60, 60–61, 61; 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pages: 349 words: 109,304

American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road by Nick Bilton

Chapter 54 JARED BECOMES CIRRUS When Jared Der-Yeghiayan was a freshman in high school, his math teacher would walk into class each day with a Rubik’s Cube in hand. Young Jared would watch as the teacher passed the colored square cube around the room, instructing every student to jumble it as much as possible. “If I can solve this Rubik’s Cube in under a minute, you all get homework,” the teacher said to the class each day. “If I can’t, you don’t get any homework.” Sure enough, every single class ended with students trudging home with a complicated math assignment. After witnessing this spectacle several times, Jared was plagued by a desire to figure out how his teacher could always solve the riddle of the cube. He ran out and picked up his own Rubik’s Cube and spent weeks trying to solve the puzzle. With a lot of tenacity and a smidgen of help from the teacher, he was finally able to do the same thing.

The only thing that made it different from preschool was that you got to carry a gun. Unsurprisingly, Jared’s training officer saw no urgency to a single pill, and it was a week before he even consented to accompany his younger colleague on the “knock-and-talk”—to knock on the door of the person who was supposed to receive the pill and, hopefully, talk with them. That day, as Jared’s government-issued Crown Victoria zigzagged through the North Side of Chicago, the small Rubik’s Cube that hung from his key chain swung back and forth in the opposite direction. His car radio was dialed into sports: the Cubs and White Sox had been eliminated from contention, but the Bears were preparing for an in-division contest against the Lions. Amid the crackle of the radio, he turned onto West Newport Avenue, a long row of two-story limestone buildings split into a dyad of top- and bottom-floor apartments.

On the nineteenth floor, fifty-nine-year-old Samuel Der-Yeghiayan adjusted his robes and court documents as he prepared for the cases he would hear later that day as a U.S. federal judge. Sixteen floors below Samuel’s chambers his thirty-one-year-old son, Jared, was walking through the halls of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, his giant backpack over his shoulder, which was bulging with laptops, a Rubik’s Cube, and folders with pictures of evidence inside. In his hands he carried a large white mail-room tub filled with thirty or so envelopes of all shapes and sizes. Young Jared Der-Yeghiayan’s nerves were frayed as he made his way toward what would be the most important meeting of his career. It wasn’t lost on him that if he screwed this up, the story of his fuckup would make its way up all those flights of stairs to his father’s office.

pages: 324 words: 106,699

Permanent Record by Edward Snowden

Sometimes they would let the suspect take the material out of a SCIF—a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, which is a type of building or room shielded against surveillance—and out into the public, where its very presence was a federal crime. I kept imagining a team of FBI agents lying in wait for me—there, out in the public light, just at the far end of the Tunnel. I’d usually try to banter with the guards, and this was where my Rubik’s Cube came in most handy. I was known to the guards and to everybody else at the Tunnel as the Rubik’s Cube guy, because I was always working the cube as I walked down the halls. I got so adept I could even solve it one-handed. It became my totem, my spirit toy, and a distraction device as much for myself as for my coworkers. Most of them thought it was an affectation, or a nerdy conversation starter. And it was, but primarily it relieved my anxiety.

On the table would be some free copies of the Constitution printed, bound, and donated to the government by the kind and generous rabble-rousers at places like the Cato Institute or the Heritage Foundation, since the IC was rarely interested in spending some of its own billions on promoting civil liberties through stapled paper. I suppose the staff got the message, or didn’t: over the seven Constitution Days I spent in the IC, I don’t think I’d ever known anyone but myself to actually take a copy off the table. Because I love irony almost as much as I love freebies, I’d always take a few—one for myself, and the others to salt across my friends’ workstations. I kept my copy propped against the Rubik’s Cube on my desk, and for a time made a habit of reading it over lunch, trying not to drip grease on “We the People” from one of the cafeteria’s grim slices of elementary-school pizza. I liked reading the Constitution partially because its ideas are great, partially because its prose is good, but really because it freaked out my coworkers. In an office where everything you printed had to be thrown into a shredder after you were done with it, someone would always be intrigued by the presence of hard-copy pages lying on a desk.

Actually, I went for the mini- and micro-SD cards. You’ll recognize SD cards if you’ve ever used a digital camera or video camera, or needed more storage on a tablet. They’re tiny little buggers, miracles of nonvolatile flash storage, and—at 20 x 21.5 mm for the mini, 15 x 11 mm for the micro, basically the size of your pinkie fingernail—eminently concealable. You can fit one inside the pried-off square of a Rubik’s Cube, then stick the square back on, and nobody will notice. In other attempts I carried a card in my sock, or, at my most paranoid, in my cheek, so I could swallow it if I had to. Eventually, as I gained confidence, and certainty in my methods of encryption, I’d just keep a card at the bottom of my pocket. They hardly ever triggered metal detectors, and who wouldn’t believe I’d simply forgotten something so small?

pages: 262 words: 65,959

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh

Naturally, this love of puzzles has found its way into various episodes. For example, the world’s most famous puzzle, the Rubik’s Cube, crops up in “Homer Defined” (1991). The episode features a flashback to 1980, the year the cube was first exported from Hungary, when a younger Homer attends a nuclear safety training session. Instead of paying attention to the instructor’s advice on what to do in the event of a meltdown, he is focused on his brand-new cube and cycling through some of the 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 permutations in order to find the solution. Rubik’s Cubes have also appeared in the episodes “Hurricane Neddy” (1996) and “HOMЯ” (2001), and the Rubik’s Cube was invoked as a threat by Moe Szyslak in “Donnie Fatso” (2010). As proprietor and bartender of Moe’s Tavern, Moe regularly receives prank calls from Bart asking to speak with particular people with fictitious and embarrassing names.

The “Donnie Fatso” episode is notable because Moe receives a phone call that is not a prank and not from Bart. Instead, Marion Anthony D’Amico, head of Springfield’s notorious D’Amico crime family, is calling. Fat Tony, as he is known to his friends (and enemies), simply wants Moe to find out if his Russian friend Yuri Nator is in the bar. Assuming that this is another prank by Bart, Moe makes the mistake of threatening the caller: “I’m gonna chop you into little pieces and make you into a Rubik’s Cube which I will never solve!” A more ancient puzzle appears in “Gone Maggie Gone” (2009), an episode that is partly a parody of Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code. The storyline begins with a total solar eclipse, ends with the discovery of the jewel of St. Teresa of Avila, and revolves around the false belief that Maggie is the new messiah. From a puzzle lover’s point of view, the episode’s most interesting scene concerns Homer, who finds himself trapped on one side of a river with his baby (Maggie), his dog (Santa’s Little Helper), and a large bottle of poison capsules.

pages: 266 words: 80,018

The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding

Accompanying Greenwald was Laura Poitras, also an American citizen, documentary film-maker and notable thorn in the side of the US military. She had been a matchmaker, the first to point Greenwald in the ghost’s direction. The two journalists were given meticulous instructions. They were to meet in a less-trafficked, but not entirely obscure, part of the hotel, next to a large plastic alligator. They would swap pre-agreed phrases. The source would carry a Rubik’s cube. Oh, and his name was Edward Snowden. It appeared the mystery interlocutor was an experienced spy. Perhaps one with a flair for the dramatic. Everything Greenwald knew about him pointed in one direction: that he was a grizzled veteran of the intelligence community. ‘I thought he must be a pretty senior bureaucrat,’ Greenwald says. Probably 60-odd, wearing a blue blazer with shiny gold buttons, receding grey hair, sensible black shoes, spectacles, a club tie … Greenwald could visualise him already.

If the initial meeting failed, the plan was to return later the same morning to the same anonymous corridor, running between the Mira’s glitzy internal shopping mall and one of its restaurants. Greenwald and Poitras came back. They waited for a second time. And then they saw him – a pale, spindle-limbed, nervous, preposterously young man. In Greenwald’s shocked view, he was barely old enough to shave. He was dressed in a white T-shirt and jeans. In his right hand he was carrying a scrambled Rubik’s cube. Had there been a mistake? ‘He looked like he was 23. I was completely discombobulated. None of it made sense,’ Greenwald says. The young man – if indeed he were the source – had sent encrypted instructions as to how the initial verification would proceed: GREENWALD: What time does the restaurant open? THE SOURCE: At noon. But don’t go there, the food sucks … The exchange was faintly comic.

Instead of a key in an eagle’s claws it had a pair of eavesdropping headphones covering the bird’s ears. His co-workers assumed the sweatshirt, sold by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was a joke. There were further hints of a non-conformist personality. Snowden kept a copy of the constitution on his desk. He flourished it when he wanted to argue against NSA activities he felt violated it. He wandered the halls carrying a Rubik’s cube. He also cared about his colleagues, leaving small gifts on their desks. He almost lost his job sticking up for one co-worker who was being disciplined. The RSOC where Snowden worked is just one of several military installations in the area. Displays of US power abound. A giant satellite dish peeks from a hillside. CH-47 Chinook helicopters whump overhead. Camouflage trucks trundle by. Young men and women in uniform drive SUVs, sports cars and motorbikes.

pages: 360 words: 85,321

The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling by Adam Kucharski

During each round of guessing, Coram randomly switched a couple of the letters in the cipher and checked whether his guess had improved. If a message contained more realistic letter pairings than the previous guess, Coram stuck with it for the next go. If the message wasn’t as realistic, he would usually switch back. But occasionally he stuck with a less plausible cipher. It’s a bit like solving a Rubik’s Cube. Sometimes the quickest route to the solution involves a step that at first glance takes you in the wrong direction. And, like a Rubik’s Cube, it might be impossible to find the perfect arrangement by only taking steps that improve things. The idea of combining the power of the Monte Carlo method with Markov’s memory property originated at Los Alamos. When Nick Metropolis first joined the team in 1943, he’d worked on the problem that had also puzzled Poincaré and Borel: how to understand the interactions between individual molecules.

165–166, 167, 171, 190 limitations of, 190 memory and, 180–181 newsfeeds and, 122, 133–134 in poker, 135–136, 149–150, 151, 153, 154, 161, 163, 167–168, 172, 173, 175, 176–177, 182, 184, 185–189, 190, 192–196, 212, 217 rock-paper-scissors and, 178, 180–181 stock/financial markets and, 113, 115, 117–120, 122, 123–124, 129–130, 131–132 teaching themselves, 151, 176–177, 190 training, 155, 168, 174, 175, 176, 188 vulnerabilities in using, 118–119 rock-paper-scissors, 142–143, 178, 180–181 roll downs, 29–32, 33 rollovers, 29, 33–34, 204 roulette, 1, 197 bias in, 6, 7 control over events in, 199 evolution of successful strategies in, 21–22, 208 factors restricting scientific betting in, 22 fading of data availability limitations in, 73 gambling law and, 200 and lotteries, biased view of, 98 and luck, 202 and the Monte Carlo fallacy, 6, 200 randomness and predictions in, 2, 3–4, 5–8, 9, 10–11, 12–13, 14, 15–20, 21–22, 38, 124, 127, 162, 178–179, 202, 210–211, 212, 218 scientific idea inspired by, 217 spin stages, 16 university courses studying, 215 Roulston, Mark, 204 Rubik’s Cube, 63 Rubner, Oliver, 78 Rugby World Cup, 84 rule-based approaches, 149, 151, 153, 176 Rutter, Brad, 165–166 S&P 500, 121 sabermetrics, 209 Salganik, Matthew, 203 San Francisco Giants, 88 Sandholm, Tuomas, 167, 184, 189, 212 scandals, 90 Schaeffer, Jonathan, 154, 155, 156, 158, 160, 167, 168, 177, 190 Science (journal), 160, 188 scouting, 105 scratchcards, 26–28 screen scraping, 86 “Searching for Positive Returns at the Track” (Bolton and Chapman), 46 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), 130 security casino, 2, 20, 21, 22, 40, 73, 197, 213 online, 195 Selbee, Gerald, 30, 33 “sensitive dependence on initial conditions,” 9, 10 Shannon, Claude, 11–12, 12–13, 14, 15 sharps, 102, 107 Shaw, Robert, 14, 22 short stacking strategy, 193 shuffling cards.

pages: 392 words: 108,745

Talk to Me: How Voice Computing Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Think by James Vlahos

He tackled the weekly set of challenges, made it into the club, and ultimately became one of the highest-scoring members of a team that won the state programming championship. Hooked, Cheyer enrolled in a computer class in high school. When it came time to create his first original program—and not simply to complete the challenges from the club—he followed the author’s maxim of “Write what you know.” What he knew was the Rubik’s Cube. Cheyer had started a school club devoted to the colorful puzzle, which had earned him a mention in the October 1982 issue of Boys’ Life. He had won a regional contest for his speed at solving it—he averaged twenty-six seconds. So he wrote a program in the computer class that could automatically solve the cube. Cheyer, however, didn’t yet aspire to be a programmer when he grew up. His dream was to become a magician.

Where Cheyer was a programmer, Kittlaus was an executive and a salesman, able to conceptualize a product and explain it with a compelling story. He was charming and handsome; a 2005 Chicago Sun-Times column described him as “a blond, baby-faced, Nordic Brad Pitt.” (Kittlaus’s mother is Norwegian, and he had lived in her homeland for seven years.) Favoring hobbies that were more adventurous than Cheyer’s Rubik’s Cube, Kittlaus liked to skydive, pursue tornadoes, and practice the Korean martial art of hapkido. Kittlaus, though, shared at least one thing with Cheyer: He was frustrated by the constraints of his job. Motorola wanted to create a new high-profit-margin phone, so Kittlaus was managing a project to create the first model by any company to feature Google’s new Android operating system. But in 2007, when Motorola inexplicably pushed pause on the project, a dispirited Kittlaus decided that it was time to seek new opportunities.

See also Dadbot Replika, 187–90, 194, 196 Robert-Houdin, Jean-Eugène, 19 Roberts, Barbara Millicent (Barbie), 169–70. See also Hello Barbie Robin (virtual assistant), 134–35 Robin Labs, 134–36 Robo-Radar, 22–23 robots children and, 190–93, 244 elderly and, 194–95, 239–40 first, 65 personality development, 137–38 in R.U.R. (play), 144 socialbot discussion of, 157 Robovie, 244 Roombas, 121–22 Rosenblatt, Frank, 87–89 Rubik’s Cube, 19 rules-based approaches Alexa Prize competition and, 144–45, 146–47, 149, 151, 159 Aristo, 162–63 Cyc, 161–62 Dadbot and, 256 machine learning vs., 85–86, 92, 136 natural-language generation and, 103–4 natural-language understanding and, 98–100 PullString and, 174 sequence-to-sequence approach combined with, 187 speech recognition and, 95–97 speech synthesis and, 110–13 Rumelhart, David, 90–91 R.U.R.

pages: 378 words: 110,408

Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool

Want to improve your puck-handling skills in hockey? It’s on the Internet. Want to be a better writer? On the Internet. To solve a Rubik’s Cube really fast? Internet. Of course, you have to be careful about the advice—the Internet offers just about everything except quality control—but you can get some good ideas and tips, try them out, and see what works best for you. But not everything is on the Internet, and the things that are may not fit exactly what you’re trying to do or may not be practical. Some of the most challenging skills to practice, for instance, are those that involve interacting with other people. It’s easy enough to sit in your room spinning a Rubik’s Cube faster and faster or to go to a driving range and practice hitting with your woods, but what if your skill requires a partner or an audience?

pages: 267 words: 71,941

How to Predict the Unpredictable by William Poundstone

His interests veered toward computing machines and, to some extent, the human mind. “We hope,” Shannon once wrote, “that research in the design of game-playing machines will lead to insights in the manner of operation of the human brain.” Shannon spent much of his time building outlandish machines. In 1950, he created one of the first chess-playing machines, and years later a pair of robot arms that could solve a Rubik’s cube. Shannon’s THROBAC was a desktop calculator that worked in Roman numerals (“THrifty ROman numeral BAckward-looking Computer”). His best-known contraption was Theseus, a mechanical mouse that could thread its way through an aluminum maze. Theseus became a media celebrity of sorts, and Shannon himself starred in a short film demonstrating it. Then there was the Ultimate Machine, created around 1952.

See ESP (extrasensory perception)/telepathy publicity stunts, 27–29 pupil dilation, 89–90 “Purloined Letter, The” (Poe), 10, 54–55 push-button keypads (for telephones), 39–40 radio, 27–33 random walk theory, 213 randomness, 171–172, 183–184, 250–251 crowd-sourced ratings and, 105 deck of cards and, 164–165 difficulty in achieving, 4 ESP machine and, 39 experiments by Chapanis, 40–44 experiments, history of, 43–45 fake numbers and, 114, 120, 122–123, 125 hot hand theory and, 158–160, 162–169 human perceptions of, 22 Lacan and, 55 lotteries and, 72, 74–75 mentalists and, 45–49 passwords and, 94, 97–98, 101, 102 in playing card games, 86–90 random vs. random-looking, 37 rock/paper/scissors (RPS) and, 55 soccer penalty kicks and, 83–85 stock market and, 213–214 tennis and, 79–81 Zenith experiments and, 35–38 See also outguessing machines; tests ratings. See crowd-sourced ratings Redfin estate agency, 203–204 Reichenbach, Hans, 43, 44 Rendell, Jonathan, 50 representativeness heuristic, 170–172 retail prices, 196–198 Rhine, Joseph Banks, 28–35, 39, 46 robots, 8, 14, 207, 258n rock/paper/scissors (RPS), 50–56, 79, 258n RockYou.com, 93 Romney, Mitt, 99, 140 Roskes, Marieke, 85 Rubik’s cube, 8 Russia, 141 S&P 500 Index, 148, 218, 220–225, 226–227, 229–235, 237–242, 244–246 Safari (Web browser), 194 Samuelson, Paul, 228 Scacco, Alexandra, 141 Schneier, Bruce, 93 Scholastic Assessment Tests (SAT’s), 65–67 Schroeder, Manfred, 10 screen tests (Warhol), 16 Sears, Sean, 53, 55 second-digit test, 127–128, 132, 134–136, 143 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), 129 SEER (SEquence Extrapolating Robot), 14 seven, preference for number, 103–107 Shadow, The, 28 Shalvi, Shaul, 85 Shannon, Claude, 7–14, 16–17, 39, 55, 188 Shannon, Norma, 7 Sherdon, William A., 205 Shevchuk, Vladimir, 141 Shiller PE ratio.

pages: 253 words: 75,772

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald

Inside the designated room, we were to wait on a couch near “a giant alligator,” which, Laura confirmed, was some kind of room decoration rather than a live animal. We had two different meeting times: 10:00 and then 10:20. If Snowden failed to arrive within two minutes of the first time, we were to leave the room and come back later at the second time, when he would find us. “How will we know it’s him?” I asked Laura. We still knew virtually nothing about him, not his age, race, physical appearance, or anything else. “He’ll be carrying a Rubik’s Cubed,” she said. I laughed out loud: the situation seemed so bizarre, so extreme and improbable. This is a surreal international thriller set in Hong Kong, I thought. Our taxi dropped us at the entrance to the Mira Hotel, which, I noted, was also located in the Kowloon District, a highly commercial neighborhood filled with sleek high-rises and chic stores: as visible as it gets. Entering the lobby, I was taken aback all over again: Snowden wasn’t staying in just any hotel, but in a sprawling high-priced one, which I knew must cost several hundred dollars a night.

At 10:20, we returned and again took our place near the alligator, on the couch, which faced the back wall of the room and a large mirror. After two minutes, I heard someone come into the room. Rather than turn around to see who had entered, I continued to stare at the back wall mirror, which showed a man’s reflection walking toward us. Only when he was within a few feet of the couch did I turn around. The first thing I saw was the unsolved Rubik’s Cube, twirling in the man’s left hand. Edward Snowden said hello but did not extend his hand to shake, as the point of the arrangement was to make this encounter appear to be random. As they had planned, Laura asked him about the food in the hotel and he replied that it was bad. Of all the surprising turns in this entire story, the moment of our meeting proved to be the biggest surprise of all. Snowden was twenty-nine years old at the time, but he appeared at least several years younger, dressed in a white T-shirt with some faded lettering, jeans, and chic-nerd glasses.

pages: 260 words: 77,007

Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?: Trick Questions, Zen-Like Riddles, Insanely Difficult Puzzles, and Other Devious Interviewing Techniques You ... Know to Get a Job Anywhere in the New Economy by William Poundstone

Lowen published a general solution for optimal slicing of a cube into N × N × N cubelets. They assured any practical-minded readers that their method might “have important applications in the cheese and sugarloaf industries.” This question loosely recalls another posed in interviews at some financial firms: How many cubes are in the center of a Rubik’s Cube? Since the standard cube is 3 × 3 × 3, the fake-out answer is “one.” Anyone who’s ever disassembled a Rubik’s Cube knows the real answer is “zero.” There’s a spherical joint in the middle, no cubelet. ? There are three boxes, and one contains a valuable prize; the other two are empty. You’re given your choice of a box, but you aren’t told whether it contains the prize. Instead, one of the boxes you didn’t pick is opened and is shown to be empty.

pages: 252 words: 72,473

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil

CHAPTER 2 SHELL SHOCKED: My Journey of Disillusionment CHAPTER 3 ARMS RACE: Going to College CHAPTER 4 PROPAGANDA MACHINE: Online Advertising CHAPTER 5 CIVILIAN CASUALTIES: Justice in the Age of Big Data CHAPTER 6 INELIGIBLE TO SERVE: Getting a Job CHAPTER 7 SWEATING BULLETS: On the Job CHAPTER 8 COLLATERAL DAMAGE: Landing Credit CHAPTER 9 NO SAFE ZONE: Getting Insurance CHAPTER 10 THE TARGETED CITIZEN: Civic Life CONCLUSION Notes About the Author When I was a little girl, I used to gaze at the traffic out the car window and study the numbers on license plates. I would reduce each one to its basic elements—the prime numbers that made it up. 45 = 3 x 3 x 5. That’s called factoring, and it was my favorite investigative pastime. As a budding math nerd, I was especially intrigued by the primes. My love for math eventually became a passion. I went to math camp when I was fourteen and came home clutching a Rubik’s Cube to my chest. Math provided a neat refuge from the messiness of the real world. It marched forward, its field of knowledge expanding relentlessly, proof by proof. And I could add to it. I majored in math in college and went on to get my PhD. My thesis was on algebraic number theory, a field with roots in all that factoring I did as a child. Eventually, I became a tenure-track professor at Barnard, which had a combined math department with Columbia University.

This drama pushed me quickly along in my journey of disillusionment. I was especially disappointed in the part that mathematics had played. I was forced to confront the ugly truth: people had deliberately wielded formulas to impress rather than clarify. It was the first time I had been directly confronted with this toxic concept, and it made me want to escape, to go back in time to the world of proofs and Rubik’s Cubes. And so I left the hedge fund in 2009 with the conviction that I would work to fix the financial WMDs. New regulations were forcing banks to hire independent experts to analyze their risk. I went to work for one of the companies providing that analysis, RiskMetrics Group, one block north of Wall Street. Our product was a blizzard of numbers, each of them predicting the likelihood that a certain tranche of securities or commodities would go poof within the next week, the next year, or the next five years.

The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison

This ad copy transforms the alchemy of Morgellons into a magic trick: examined close-up, our most ordinary parts—even the surface and abrasions of our skin—become wild and terrifying. My name is automatically entered in the lottery, along with all the other conference attendees, and I end up winning a miniscope. I’m sheepish headed to the stage. What do I need a scope for? I’m here to write about how other people need scopes. I’m given a square box a bit smaller than a Rubik’s Cube. I imagine how the scene will play out later tonight: examining my skin in the stale privacy of my hotel room, coming face to face with that razor’s edge between skepticism and fear by way of the little widget in my palm. At the bottom of my sheet of jokes, the title—You might be a morgie if—is given one last completing clause: “you laughed out loud and ‘got’ these jokes.” I remember that early e-mail—topic of the biggest joke in the world—and see why these jokes might matter so much—not simply because they resonate, but because they reclaim the activity of joking itself.

“Well then,” Laz smiles. “Guess I’ll smoke the last quarter of this one.” He finishes the cigarette and then tosses it into our cooking fire, where it smokes right into our breakfast. I am aware that Laz has already been turned into a myth, and that I will probably become another one of his mythmakers. Various tropes of masculinity are at play in Laz’s persona—bad-ass, teenager, father, demon, warden—and this Rubik’s cube of grit and edges seems to be what Barkley’s all about. I realize Laz and I will have many hours to spend in each other’s company. The runners are out on their loops anywhere from eight to thirty-two hours. Between loops, if they’re continuing, they stop at camp for a few moments of food and rest. This is both succor and sadism; the oasis offers respite and temptation at once. It’s the Lotus Eater’s dilemma: hard to leave a good thing behind.

pages: 282 words: 88,320

Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry by David Robertson, Bill Breen

The Internet abounds with LEGO gathering places such as LUGNET (aka the LEGO Users Group Network), a global forum for LEGO fans; MOCpages, where builders show off more than 350,000 LEGO “My Own Creations”; Brickshelf, a fan-created site that features close to two million images as well as a thriving market for LEGO kits and pieces; and Brickipedia, a LEGO wiki that encompasses nearly twenty-four thousand pages of reviews and forums. YouTube alone is stuffed with more than nine-hundred thousand clips showcasing over-the-top LEGO creations, with robots that solve Rubik’s Cube in mere seconds and a LEGO-based animation of English comedian Eddie Izzard’s hilarious send-up of Darth Vader, which has drawn more than nineteen million views. Along with Coca-Cola and Disney, LEGO has ranked at the top of a Young and Rubicam survey of the world’s most recognized brands. In 2007, the Reputation Institute declared LEGO the world’s most respected company. In 2010, a wide-ranging survey of more than three thousand adults between the ages of twenty and forty declared the LEGO brick “the most popular toy of all time.”

And then there were the ninety-six hundred fans who registered on the LEGO Mindstorms website. The Mindstorms hierarchy—or, to be more accurate, the Mindstorms meritocracy—was always in flux. People ascended the pyramid based on their Mindstorms innovations and their contributions to the group, whether it be hacking new code or squashing a record number of bugs. As word of their eye-popping achievements—such as the CubeStormer, a Rubik’s Cube–solving robot that beat the human record for cracking the puzzle—spread across the far larger web of LEGO fans and even tech-heads who previously had been indifferent to LEGO, the buzz built upon itself and attracted thousands more converts to Mindstorms. By opening up the Mindstorms NXT development process, not only did LEGO build a better product, but it grew the Mindstorms brand by eliciting the goodwill of volunteer hobbyists who were more than willing to proselytize for a toy they had helped create.

pages: 329 words: 93,655

Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer

I typed in “highest IQ,” “intelligence champion,” “smartest in the world.” I learned that there was someone in New York City with an IQ of 228, and a chess player in Hungary who once played fifty-two simultaneous blindfolded games. There was an Indian woman who could calculate the twenty-third root of a two-hundred-digit number in her head in fifty seconds, and someone else who could solve a fourdimensional Rubik’s cube, whatever that is. And of course there were plenty of more obvious Stephen Hawking types of candidates. Brains are notoriously trickier to quantify than brawn. In the course of my Googling, though, I did discover one intriguing candidate who was, if not the smartest person in the world, at least some kind of freakish genius. His name was Ben Pridmore, and he could memorize the precise order of 1,528 random digits in an hour and—to impress those of us with a more humanist bent—any poem handed to him.

By the end of my three days in Tallahassee, Tres had collected seven hours of audiotaped data for Ericsson and his grad students to analyze later. Lucky them. And then there were the extensive interviews conducted by another graduate student, Katy Nandagopal. Do you think you have a good natural memory? (Pretty good, but nothing special.) Did you ever play memory games growing up? (Not that I can think of.) Board games? (Only with my grandmother.) Do you enjoy riddles? (Who doesn’t?) Can you solve a Rubik’s cube? (No.) Do you sing? (Only in the shower.) Dance? (Ditto.) Do you work out? (Sore subject.) Do you use workout tapes? (You need to know that?) Do you have electrical wiring expertise? (Really?) For someone who wants to know what’s being done to him so that he might someday tell other people about it, being the subject of a scientific study can be exceedingly trying. “Why exactly are we doing this?”

pages: 351 words: 101,051

Also Human: The Inner Lives of Doctors by Caroline Elton

Even more importantly, another study in New Zealand found that the first-year doctors’ scores were in the normal range for measures of depression, anxiety, and burnout. Admittedly this was a small-scale study, but the contrast with the endemic depression noted in studies from the UK and US is striking. Improving medical education often reminds me of solving a Rubik’s Cube. If you twist the cube one way to align the colors on the top surface, all sorts of untoward changes are probably happening on the five other sides that remain hidden from view. The controversy over junior doctors’ working hours is a classic example of this Rubik’s Cube principle. Undoubtedly overtired doctors are problematic, for their patients, colleagues, and also, of course, for themselves. But placing restrictions on junior doctors’ hours turns out not to be the perfect solution. When working hours are shortened, even though there are some obvious advantages, other sides of the medical-education cube, such as opportunities for training or the solidarity of the team, get twisted out of shape.

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern

On Airport Pickup Duties “My flight lands at nine-thirty on Sunday…. You want to watch what? What the fuck is Mad Men? I’m a mad man if you don’t pick me the hell up.” On Built-Up Expectations “Your brother brought his baby over this morning. He told me it could stand. It couldn’t stand for shit. Just sat there. Big letdown.” On Canine Leisure Time “The dog is not bored. It’s not like he’s waiting for me to give him a fucking Rubik’s Cube. He’s a goddamned dog.” On Talking Heads “Do these announcers ever shut the fuck up? Don’t ever say stuff just because you think you should. That’s the definition of an asshole.” On Long-Winded Anecdotes “You’re like a tornado of bullshit right now. We’ll talk again when your bullshit dies out over someone else’s house.” On Today’s Hairstyles “Do people your age know how to comb their fucking hair?

pages: 390 words: 108,811

Geektastic: Stories From the Nerd Herd by Holly Black, Cecil Castellucci

For the next four hours I watch her face as she teaches herself thousands of years of astronomical history. I watch as the patterns of the stars take up residence inside her head. When she turns the last page, she pushes the book into my hands. “Thank you, Peter,” she says so earnestly I want to scoop her up and run around the field with her. So I do. In her eighth grade yearbook, Wendy Mass was bestowed the dubious honor of Most Likely to Solve Rubik’s Cube because she spent so much time fiddling with it instead of paying attention in class. Always fascinated by the night sky, she took Astronomy 101 in college. It was so complicated that she never got higher than 45 out of 100 on any exam. Fortunately, neither did anyone else and the professor graded on a curve. She got an A! She loves writing about astronomy now, and tries to make it so easy to understand that the reader will fall in love with it, too.

She loves writing about astronomy now, and tries to make it so easy to understand that the reader will fall in love with it, too. Wendy is the author of eight novels for young readers, including A Mango-Shaped Space (about a girl with synesthesia), Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, Every Soul a Star, and Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall. She lives in northern New Jersey, where she can be found staring up at the sky with her telescope, or down at the ground with her metal detector, hoping to find gold. She can do Rubik’s Cube in less than two minutes. Text by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci. Illustrations by Hope Larson. IT’S JUST A JUMP TO THE LEFT by libba bray “How did she get ahead of us?” Agnes whispered to Leta. “I can’t believe her. She came earlier than us on purpose,” Leta said. Five people up in the line, Jennifer Pomhultz, in a rabbit-fur jacket and side ponytail, executed a perfect step-ball-change while her older sister and a handful of others applauded.

pages: 402 words: 110,972

Nerds on Wall Street: Math, Machines and Wired Markets by David J. Leinweber

These were typically the brainstorms of people who knew just enough about AI to be dangerous. They believed what the software vendors told them: AI would lead them to the holy grail. 2. Use every conceivable esoteric AI technique, now. These were typically the brainstorms of people without a clue about finance. They were entirely capable of convincing themselves that a program that could solve Rubik’s Cube would be a great options trader. Unfortunately, they were often a little fuzzy on exactly what an option was. In designing MarketMind (and later QuantEx), the goal was not to use AI for its own sake, but rather to apply AI techniques where they could be used appropriately and within their limits to provide an advantage over conventional technologies. A clue to the question of how to apply AI in trading is found by looking at the many thousands of electronic trading support systems that were already in use.

These include many serious and useful applications, such as fault medical diagnosis, configuring complex systems, and process control. They also include a number of less serious (but mathematically interesting) problems like how to arrange n queens on an n-by-n 168 Nerds on Wall Str eet square chessboard so no queen attacks another, many variations of the “missionaries and cannibals” and “monkeys and bananas” problems, and the aforementioned Rubik’s Cube. These clever programs used a very general symbolic pattern-matching technique, called Rete matching, which was a central element of the expert systems tools being promoted as “this year’s breakthrough of the century” in the mid-1980s. However, this sophisticated pattern matching is complex, requires an astonishing amount of computer power, and is only marginally relevant to the types of chart scanning real traders do.

pages: 189 words: 40,632

That Sugar Book: This Book Will Change the Way You Think About 'Healthy' Food by Damon Gameau

You can see that I virtually swapped healthy fats for sugar-laden products. New research suggests that the calories from sugar, and fructose in particular, behave very differently from other calories (see here for a more detailed explanation). UNDERSTANDING INSULIN Before we find out the details of what sugar did to my body, we need to talk about insulin. For a non-scientist, insulin is the Rubik’s Cube of hormones. I am not even going to pretend to understand all of its functions. I do know, however, that it controls what our body does with the food we eat, deciding whether to burn it for energy or to store it (this is known as ‘fuel partitioning’ in science speak). Insulin and glucose (the sugar that most foods break down to) have a very close relationship. Insulin is vital for clearing glucose out of our bloodstream, either by allowing it to pass more easily into our muscle, organ or fat cells to use for fuel, or by using it to build glycogen, which can be thought of as a spare battery to call on when we need energy.

pages: 314 words: 46,664

The Making of Karateka: Journals 1982-1985 by Jordan Mechner

This fantasy is different from my other fantasies, in that it may very well come true just the way I’ve said. There’s no reason why not. This could be the time it doesn’t fizzle. The time I don’t sabotage myself. The time I finally gather my courage (for that’s what’s needed, when you strip away the excuses), burst across the line, break the tape, enter a bold new era. Or I could blow it… like I did with Asteroids, with Rubik’s Cube, with Deathbounce. Not a chance. Not. A. Chance. When I raise my glass on New Year’s eight weeks from now, I’ll look back on 1983 and say: This was the year I made the jump. November 7, 1983 Ten hours on Karateka today. My first ten-hour day since summer. It helps that I’m sick, and therefore room-bound. This afternoon I was stricken by the sudden fear that disk K13 might be damaged or erased.

pages: 458 words: 137,960

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Users could now teleport back and forth between their favorite fictional worlds. Middle Earth. Vulcan. Pern. Arrakis. Magrathea. Discworld, Mid-World, Riverworld, Ringworld. Worlds upon worlds. For the sake of zoning and navigation, the OASIS had been divided equally into twenty-seven cube-shaped “sectors,” each containing hundreds of different planets. (The three-dimensional map of all twenty-seven sectors distinctly resembled an ’80s puzzle toy called a Rubik’s Cube. Like most gunters, I knew this was no coincidence.) Each sector measured exactly ten light-hours across, or about 10.8 billion kilometers. So if you were traveling at the speed of light (the fastest speed attainable by any spacecraft inside the OASIS), you could get from one side of a sector to the other in exactly ten hours. That sort of long-distance travel wasn’t cheap. Spacecraft that could travel at light speed were rare, and they required fuel to operate.

A millisecond later, I was standing inside a vintage 1980s phone booth located inside an old Greyhound bus station. I opened the door and stepped out. It was like stepping out of a time machine. Several NPCs milled around, all dressed in mid-1980s attire. A woman with a giant ozone-depleting hairdo bobbed her head to an oversize Walkman. A kid in a gray Members Only jacket leaned against the wall, working on a Rubik’s Cube. A Mohawked punk rocker sat in a plastic chair, watching a Riptide rerun on a coin-operated television. I located the exit and headed for it, drawing my sword as I went. The entire surface of Middletown was a PvP zone, so I had to proceed with caution. Shortly after the Hunt began, this planet had turned into Grand Central Station, and all 256 copies of Halliday’s hometown had been scoured and ransacked by an endless parade of gunters, all searching for keys and clues.

pages: 434 words: 135,226

The Music of the Primes by Marcus Du Sautoy

In 1735, Euler wrote that ‘So much work has been done on the series that it seems hardly likely that anything new about them may still turn up … I, too, in spite of repeated effort, could achieve nothing more than approximate values for their sums.’ Nevertheless, Euler, emboldened by his previous discoveries, began to play around with this infinite sum. Twisting it this way and that like the sides of a Rubik’s cube, he suddenly found the series transformed. Like the colours on the cube, these numbers slowly came together to form a completely different pattern from the one he had started with. As he went on to describe, ‘Now, however, quite unexpectedly, I have found an elegant formula depending upon the quadrature of the circle’ – in modern parlance, a formula depending on the number π = 3.1415 … By some pretty reckless analysis, Euler had discovered that this infinite sum was homing in on the square of π divided by 6: The decimal expansion of , like that of π, is completely chaotic and unpredictable.

It’s not the most obvious idea to come to mind. This sort of discovery is very different to the thunderbolt discovery of the Riemann Hypothesis or Gauss’s discovery of a connection between primes and logarithms. The Lucas—Lehmer test is not a pattern that will emerge through experiment or numerical observation. They discovered this by playing around with what it means for 2n − 1 to be prime, continually turning the statement like a Rubik’s cube until suddenly the colours come together in a new way. Each turn will be like a step in the proof. Unlike other theorems where the destination is clear from the outset, the Lucas—Lehmer test ultimately emerged by following the proof without quite knowing where it was going. Lucas had begun turning the cube but Lehmer successfully brought it into the simple form used today. While he was cracking the German Enigma codes in Bletchley, Turing discussed with his colleagues the potential for machines, similar to the bombes they had built, to find large prime numbers.

pages: 161 words: 51,919

What's Your Future Worth?: Using Present Value to Make Better Decisions by Peter Neuwirth

Yet, even then he was already a legend within our company and on his way to becoming one within the profession. Without a doubt, he was the smartest guy I ever worked for, and unlike me, he did pass all ten of his exams on the first try, even doubling up (taking two of the three-to-six-hour exams in the same exam session) two or three times throughout the process. Even more impressive than his exam record was the fact that he was the only person I know who solved Rubik’s Cube from scratch—with no advice, no math, and not even a pencil and paper to assist. All he used were his hands, his eyes, and his brains. The first time he solved it, it took him a week of twelve-hour days. The next time it was three days, then one day, and then pretty soon he was able to put the cube back together within a matter of minutes. But, like everything else about Charlie, his method was just a bit unorthodox.

pages: 151 words: 54,074

Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston

During our last summer we are visited by family friends from London. I hardly remember them but when they arrive I find that their boy, who is about my age, has become beautiful. I stand in front of him and think straight away that Tom is the best boy I have ever seen. My sister is a delicate thing who likes to play with dolls. And Tom’s brother has grey skin, and only wants to be fast at solving the Rubik’s cube, his wrists clicking, his fingers flicking at its coloured squares. So Tom and I go outside. And everything waits for us. The creek at the base of the yard, and trees as giant as all American things, and the forbidden vacant lot. Every summer’s day leading from that first one is for throwing ourselves against the world. In my evening bath, I lie in mire, counting my injuries, pleased to see fresh ones replace those that are healing, knowing that Tom is somewhere on the other side of the door, not far away.

pages: 176 words: 54,784

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

Yet she’s scared to death of pushing her children away, scared to the point of asking, “How do I ask them to move out?” These are VCR questions. From the outside, the answer is simple: just shut up and do it. But from the inside, from the perspective of each of these people, these questions feel impossibly complex and opaque—existential riddles wrapped in enigmas packed in a KFC bucket full of Rubik’s Cubes. VCR questions are funny because the answer appears difficult to anyone who has them and appears easy to anyone who does not. The problem here is pain. Filling out the appropriate paperwork to drop out of med school is a straightforward and obvious action; breaking your parents’ hearts is not. Asking a tutor out on a date is as simple as saying the words; risking intense embarrassment and rejection feels far more complicated.

pages: 613 words: 151,140

No Such Thing as Society by Andy McSmith

In 1979, this shop was the first in the UK to introduce scanners that read the barcodes on certain products, starting with Melrose tea bags. In 1980, barcodes spread for the first time beyond the grocery trade, when they were introduced by WH Smith. For male university students, the most interesting innovation of 1980 was the noisy, bulky Space Invaders machines that turned up in every student bar. For teenage schoolchildren, the biggest intellectual challenge of 1980 was trying to solve Rubik’s Cube. This new craze was a three-dimensional puzzle, devised in the 1970s by a Hungarian sculptor and licensed by Ideal Toys in 1980, comprising six faces covered with nine stickers in six different colours, which could be turned independently, mixing the colours to one of 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 permutations. The challenge was to turn them back again so that each face was a solid colour once more.

pages: 552 words: 168,518

MacroWikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World by Don Tapscott, Anthony D. Williams

It turns out that scientific openness is expanding way beyond papers and even data to the very building blocks of life itself, all thanks to a burgeoning field called synthetic biology that applies engineering principles to building new biological systems ranging from food to fuel to medicine. That’s a pretty big idea, so here are the basics. Imagine that all of life’s complexity could be boiled down to a library of interoperating components. The basic fundamentals of life, all indexed, open to the public, and waiting to be reassembled into new creations in the same fashion as one might twist and scramble a Rubik’s cube. Call it the open-source library of life. Now picture an Olympic-size gymnasium full of lab students building new organisms and life forms. It’s not a science fiction movie; it’s for real. And every year since 2004, thousands of lab students from around the world gather at MIT for the International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition. Once there, they spend the entire summer building biological systems from standardized parts and then operating them in living cells.

The bottom line is that the opportunity to bring customers, suppliers, and other third parties into the enterprise as co-creators of value presents one of the most exciting, long-term engines of change and innovation that the world has seen. But innovation processes will need to be fundamentally reconfigured if businesses and other organizations are to seize the opportunity. Just as you can twist and scramble a Rubik’s cube, customers and other collaborators will reconfigure and build on your products and services for their own ends. And whether we’re talking about government, health care, education, or beyond, static, immovable, noneditable items will be anathema—ripe for the dustbins of twentieth-century history. 2. RETHINK THE COMMONS In this book we have argued that all organizations should abandon their fortress mentality and open up, not only by communicating pertinent information to stakeholders, but also by sharing some of their assets, within their business network or beyond.

pages: 201 words: 64,545

Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard

We failed to provide the proper training for the new company leaders, and the strain of managing a company with eight autonomous product divisions and three channels of distribution exceeded management’s skills. We never developed the mechanisms to encourage them to work together in ways that kept the overall business objectives in sight. Shooting line at Lago Fagnano. Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Don’t try this with dentures! Doug Tompkins Several planning efforts had to be aborted; no one could solve the Rubik’s cube of matching market-specific product development with such a complex distribution mix. Organization charts looked like the Sunday crossword puzzle and were issued almost as frequently. The company was restructured five times in five years; no plan worked better than the last one. At one point we decided we needed another perspective, and Malinda and I, along with our CEO and CFO, sought the advice of a well-regarded consultant.

Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System by Nick Montfort, Ian Bogost

Crane saw Atari VCS development less as a reﬁnement of the gameplay in known interaction models and more as a challenge to make the highly constrained VCS hardware do new and exciting things. In Crane’s words, “I got more enjoyment out of discovering a new trick than from the game design itself. More often than not, I used this technique to lead me in a new direction of game design, and some of the tricks were to me as much an accomplishment as solving the Rubik’s Cube the ﬁrst time.”11 Freeway, which Crane developed in 1981, offered an improvement on the techniques of same-screen sprite register rewrites (which Larry Kaplan had ﬁrst used in Air-Sea Battle) and multicolored sprites (ﬁrst used in the 1978 Superman) accomplished by changing both the sprite color 6 Pitfall! [105] (COLUP0/COLUP1) and graphics (GRP0/GRP1) values between scan lines. Although neither technique was new, the two were combined in Freeway in a synthetic way, causing many more objects to appear in multiple colors.

pages: 216 words: 70,483

Comedy Sex God by Pete Holmes

I used to think Catholics prayed over and over as a punishment for shoplifting or going to second base, or that they prayed the same prayer more than once to make sure God would hear them. But now I understood it differently: you prayed the same prayer over and over not so God would hear you, but so you would hear God. As someone whose mind is plagued by endlessly looping pop songs, radio jingles, and the Chili’s baby back ribs song, the idea of giving my brain a Rubik’s cube to settle it down so I could sneak around it and experience some peace made a lot of sense. Ram Dass said that “the mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.” In church, we had a different word for it. We called it the devil. The devil—red and goateed, you’re picturing him correctly—was a liar and a thief, but now that rascally demon was starting to feel like another metaphor. It was my thoughts that were robbing me of the richness of Now, lying to me, telling me I was inadequate, or stupid, or that everyone must be thinking about me when we all know in reality they’re just stuck in their own heads just like the rest of us.

pages: 250 words: 77,544

Personal Investing: The Missing Manual by Bonnie Biafore, Amy E. Buttell, Carol Fabbri

Morningstar, an independent provider of investment data and research, makes it easy to find the fund you’re looking for. You can search for funds by style or size by using the site’s Fund Screening tool (http://tinyurl.com/ yypeg7). Many of Morningstar’s features are free simply by registering with the site. Some of its advanced features are subscription based, but they offer a 14-day free trial. Morningstar’s style box is like one side of a Rubik’s cube. The columns show investment style, while the rows show company size. Each box in the style box is a combination of an investment style and company size. Here are the three investment styles Morningstar shows in its style box: • Growth, as the name implies, invests in growing companies, whose stock prices increase in value as the company sales and earnings increase. These companies have higher sales and earnings growth rates.

pages: 220 words: 75,651

The Lunatic Express by Carl Hoffman

The constant music and explosions from the television stupefied me and everyone else. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go. No one read, and passengers barely spoke; on a bus your seat holds you prisoner. My seatmates were a string of Marias—people traveling unbelievably long rides for short visits with family or for work. Vendors swarmed on board at every stop, hawking grilled corn and hot sodas and Rubik’s Cubes. “Jugo! Cola! Esta bien!” A stream of salesmen got on, talked and talked, holding up bottles of little green pills or small pieces of candy. “My product is better!” they all said, walking down the aisle, now filled to standing room only, passing out samples, talking some more, then collecting a few coins or taking the samples back. The thought of selling penny candies or medicines on a moving bus was impossible to imagine; day after day after day, the same spiel, all for pennies.

pages: 238 words: 73,824

Makers by Chris Anderson

The kids were happy enough to open the Lego Mindstorms box and assemble the starter robot, a three-wheeled rover, but once we plugged in the batteries they could barely hide their disappointment. Hollywood, it turns out, has ruined robotics for kids: they expect laser-armed humanoid machines that can transform into trucks. Meanwhile, after an hour of assembly and programming, the Mindstorms rover could only roll forward and bounce feebly off a wall. We looked online to see what others were doing with Mindstorms, and saw that hobbyists had already made everything from robotic Rubik’s Cube solvers to working photocopiers. We wanted to invent something new, but there was no way we could do that sort of thing, or anything even close to it. The kids lost interest after lunch. Okay, there was always the plane. On Sunday we took it to a park. I tossed it in the air and promptly flew it into a tree. The kids just looked at me, equally appalled by my lack of ability and the gap between my promise of how cool the plane would be (and the spectacular YouTube videos of aerobatics we’d watched) and how uncool it had actually turned out to be.

pages: 255 words: 77,849

Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart

I don’t want to be thirty-eight and so obsessed with twittering at my followers (whom I have NEVER MET) and getting poked at that I lose the ability to really LIVE. Please remember that you were very happy before you got into all this techno-business. You may bang on about how I need to learn things from the future, but you’d do very well to learn a few things from the past. And if you really want some kind of technology, what’s wrong with the Rubik’s cube? That is HARD. *punches air, collapses exhausted to the floor* Phew! Gosh, that was a jolly good bit of public speaking, wasn’t it? I’m very talented. I am clearly wasted as an office manager and should defo-pants be prime minister. ‘You can learn from the past.’ I like that. I am pleased with that and I am glad I have made my point. ‘We must remember to also learn from the past.’ Yes, that’s great.

pages: 232 words: 77,956

Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else by James Meek

The piloti – stilt-like struts cut in from the building’s outside edge at ground level – of the high towers are shared with Le Corbusier’s modernist étalon, the Marseille Unité d’Habitation (which is smaller), but the most striking feature of the blocks, to the non-architect, are the superfluous details that depart from Le Corbusier’s functional modernism: the flying cornices, concrete frames like giant handles that jut from the tower roofs, and the frog-green bosses studding the beige brick façades. The initial effect is of some vast, elegant set of combination locks, or duochrome Rubik’s cubes, poised at any moment to whirr and counterspin, floor by floor, to trigger the catch on some deeper, hidden secret. Yet familiarity humanises it. You become aware not only of how soaked in light it is but of the architects’ legacy to the people who live there. Close to Roman Road is a crescent of red brick bungalows for the elderly, grouped around a garden with a fountain and a bronze sculpture by Elizabeth Frink, The Blind Beggar and His Dog.

pages: 352 words: 80,030

The New Silk Roads: The Present and Future of the World by Peter Frankopan

Special Report: Growing up Fast (2018), p. 9. 25Turkmenistan.ru, ‘В Туркменистане открыт новый железнодорожный мост Туркменабат – Фараб’, 7 March 2017. 26AKIPress, ‘CTSO to help Tajikistan to reinforce its border with Afghanistan’, 11 June 2018; Novosti Radio Azattyk, ‘Состоялась первая встреча глав оборонных ведомств Кыргызстана и Узбекистана’,13 June 2018. 27Dana Omirgazy, ‘Shymkent hosts first Kazakh-Uzbek business forum’, Astana Times, 25 May 2018. 28Uzbekistan National News Agency, press release, ‘The Year of Uzbekistan in Kazakhstan and the Year of Kazakhstan in Uzbekistan will be held’, 16 September 2017. 29Uzbekistan National News Agency, Press release, ‘Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan: dynamic development of cooperation based on friendship and brotherhood’, 2 March 2018. 30AzerNews, ‘Trade turnover between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan doubles’, 22 June 2018. 31Tasnim News Agency, ‘Grounds Paved for Long-Lasting Cooperation between Iran, Azerbaijan: Official’, 4 June 2018. 32Pahjwok Afghan News, ‘Afghanistan, Tajikistan sign two co-operation accords’, 24 June 2018. 33Simon Parani, Let’s not exaggerate: Southern Gas Corridor prospects to 2030, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies Paper NG 135 (July 2018). 34Fawad Yousafzai, ‘Work on CASA-1000 power project in full swing: Tajik diplomant’, The Nation, 19 July 2018. 35Dispatch News Desk, ‘Kyrgyzstan keen to improve bilateral trade with Pakistan: Envoy’, 10 May 2018. 36TASS, ‘ЕАЭС и Иран завершают подготовку соглашения о зоне свободной торговли’, 9 April 2018. 37Nicholas Trickett, ‘Reforming Customs, Uzbekistan Nods Towards the Eurasian Economic Union’, The Diplomat, 26 April 2018. 38United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, ‘President of Uzbekistan calls to develop reliable mechanisms of co-operation in Central Asia at the international conference in Samarkand’, 10 November 2017. 39See, for example, Raikhan Tashtemkhanova, Zhanar Medeubayeva, Aizhan Serikbayeva and Madina Igimbayeva, ‘Territorial and Border Issues in Central Asia: Analysis of the Reasons, Current State and Perspectives’, The Anthropologist 22.3 (2015), pp. 518–25; International Crisis Group, ‘Central Asia: Border Disputes and Conflict Potential’, Asia Report 33 (2002). 40For the draft agreement, see Kommersant, ‘Море для своих Пять стран договорились о разделе Каспия’, 23 June 2018. 41Bruce Pannier, ‘A landmark Caspian agreement – and what It resolves’, Qishloq Ovozi, 9 August 2018. 42Interfax, ‘Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan agree to swap land on border’, 14 August 2018. 43Astana Times, ‘Kazakhstan resolves all Central Asian border issues, announces Kazakh President’, 20 April 2018. 44Virpi Stucki, Kai Wegerich, Muhammad Mizanur Rahaman and Olli Varis, Water and Security in Central Asia. Solving a Rubik’s Cube (New York, 2014); Suzanne Jensen, Z. Mazhitova and Rolf Zetterström, ‘Environmental pollution and child health in the Aral Sea region in Kazakhstan’, Science of the Total Environment 206.2–3 (1997), pp. 187–93. 45Fergana Informationnov agentstvo, ‘Соляная буря превысила допустимую концентрацию пыли на северо-западе Узбекистана в шесть раз’, 27 May 2018; RIA Novosti, ‘Белая пыль неизвестного происхождения накрыла столицу Туркмении’, 28 May 2018. 46Matt Warren, ‘Once Written Off for Dead, the Aral Sea Is Now Full of Life’, National Geographic, 16 March 2018. 47United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ‘Drought grips large parts of Afghanistan’, 6 June 2018. 48Ben Farmer and Akhtat Makoli, ‘Afghanistan faces worst drought in decades, as UN warns 1.4 million people need help’, 22 July 2018. 49Igor Severskiy, ‘Water related problems of Central Asia: some results of the (GIWA) international water assessment program’, Ambio 33 (2004), pp. 52–62. 50Albek Zhupankhan, Kamshat Tussupova and Ronny.

pages: 238 words: 75,994

A Burglar's Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh

He actually seemed somewhat taken aback when I explained that I was interested in his work from an architectural point of view. Rather, Alizade works in the niche world of the design of safe rooms—more popularly known as panic rooms. Alizade greeted me at the front door in jeans and a half-zip black fleece sweater. He is built more like a linebacker than a businessman. He is stout, broad-shouldered, and has large hands; he gestured with them often as he spoke, twisting and turning them as if solving an invisible Rubik’s Cube in order to explain how his products were made. Despite his chosen field of security design and his physical resemblance to someone more likely to be leading tours through the Alaskan outback, he is jovial, prone to quick jokes and laughter. After graduating with an engineering degree from Auburn University, and following a stint in Vietnam, Alizade joined the New Jersey State police force.

pages: 223 words: 77,566

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

But there is also recognition of my own limitations and my willingness to separate myself from Mom when engagement means too little money to pay my own bills or too little patience left over for the people who matter most. That’s the uneasy truce I’ve struck with myself, and it works for now. People sometimes ask whether I think there’s anything we can do to “solve” the problems of my community. I know what they’re looking for: a magical public policy solution or an innovative government program. But these problems of family, faith, and culture aren’t like a Rubik’s Cube, and I don’t think that solutions (as most understand the term) really exist. A good friend, who worked for a time in the White House and cares deeply about the plight of the working class, once told me, “The best way to look at this might be to recognize that you probably can’t fix these things. They’ll always be around. But maybe you can put your thumb on the scale a little for the people at the margins.”

pages: 213 words: 73,492

The Actual One: How I Tried, and Failed, to Remain Twenty-Something for Ever by Isy Suttie

If I carried on with him, I’d always be just about OK, I calculated. I’d survive for a long time, coasting on innate chutzpah. I often like the challenge of “making the best of it.” But this was potentially keeping myself in a situation that I knew, and I suspect he knew, wasn’t completely right. I can’t begin to try to analyze the complexities of why it wasn’t quite right, and I also think I owe it to him not to try. We were like a Rubik’s Cube with one faulty panel—a turquoise one that shouldn’t be there—so that we could never be solved, and never be calm. Any relationship or friendship is open, of course—is, and should be, always ebbing and flowing—but ideally upon a steady foundation. We were on shaky ground. But how tempting to stay together! Watching the washing machine go round, swapping the pillows to the other end of the bed, knowing what each other’s silences mean!

pages: 272 words: 78,876

Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar

It was crescent shaped, its muscle fibers running circumferentially around its exterior. Our professor told us that if ever, as doctors, we had to insert a needle into a patient’s chest to drain fluid, the right ventricle is the first chamber we would hit. A few snips and we released the heart from its beige scaffolding. A lab mate placed it on the cadaver’s forearm. “This guy really wears his heart on his sleeve,” he said. Gripping the organ like a Rubik’s Cube, I poked my fingers into the thin-walled central veins. It was hard not to lapse into thinking that it was just a piece of meat, a rubberized toy. The left ventricle had thick walls, a sign of high blood pressure. The inside of the right ventricle was a dense morass of fibers. Maybe there were stories written in that mossy tangle, but I didn’t see any. By the time we’d cleaved all the chambers open—storing the heart between sessions in a circular aluminum pan, like the kind used for baking pies—it had the color and texture of cooked beef.

pages: 268 words: 76,702

The System: Who Owns the Internet, and How It Owns Us by James Ball

On the one hand, she might have one of the biggest national security scoops of a generation in her lap – but on the other, she might also be on the verge of spending thousands of dollars of newsroom resource on a fantasist, or a deliberate hoaxer. Even if real, she could face a huge backlash from the US government – if she published something false, those repercussions could be much worse. She opted to follow the story. Greenwald was sent to Hong Kong, where his as yet unknown source had made elaborate plans to meet: he would wait in a hotel foyer with a Rubik’s cube, and they would follow him without saying hello from there. But because Greenwald, while a hugely popular blogger and an experienced civil rights lawyer, had never worked as a news reporter, she insisted he be accompanied by the Guardian US’s veteran Washington DC editor Ewen MacAskill. Her newly hired security editor Spencer Ackerman would bolster the team working from New York. And to round the team out, on a trial basis at least,3 I was invited along for the ride.

pages: 685 words: 203,949

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin

Students who were stymied by a calculus problem the day it was presented are able to solve it more easily after a night’s sleep than an equivalent amount of waking time. New information and concepts appear to be quietly practiced while we’re asleep, sometimes showing up in dreams. A night of sleep more than doubles the likelihood that you’ll solve a problem requiring insight. Many people remember the first day they played with a Rubik’s Cube. That night they report that their dreams were disturbed by images of those brightly colored squares and of them rotating and clicking in their sleep. The next day, they are much better at the game—while asleep, their brains had extracted principles of where things were, relying on both their conscious perceptions of the previous day and myriad unconscious perceptions. Researchers found the same thing when studying Tetris players’ dreams.

., 191–92 Randi, James, 253, 346 randomization, 349 random sequences, 226–27 rare events, 256, 385–96 RBC Royal Bank, 274 reCAPTCHAs, 118–19 recency effect, 55, 408n56 regret, 264–66 rehearsal, 68–69, 374–75, 408n56 Reithofer, Norbert, 284 reminders, 124–25, 213, 301 Rentfrow, Jason, 196, 305, 376 representativeness heuristic, 228–29 research ethics, 348–49 resource limitations, 11, 19–20 risk assessment, 216, 221–22, 238–48, 264–66 Ritalin, 168, 171 Robinson, Marilynne, 375–76 Roman culture, 288 Rosch, Eleanor, 32, 56–57 Ross, Lee, xxii, 146–48, 339–40, 347 Rothbart, Mick, 154, 429n153 Rubik’s Cube, 185 rule of the designated place, 83, 83–86 RxList.com, 342 Sacks, Oliver, 92 Sand, George (Amantine Dupin), 283 Sandberg, Sheryl, 68 Sanger, Lawrence, 331, 333, 472n335 satisficing, 4–5, 276, 312 scheduling, 195–96, 211–14 Shultz, George, 156 Searle, John, 137–39, 141 selective focus, 18, 52, 177 selective migration, 196 selective windowing, 345 self-confidence, 200, 201, 429n153, 444n198 self-discipline, 208 self-presentation advantage, 148 Seneca the Younger, 14 sensory limitations, 165 September 11 terrorist attacks, 52–53, 456n256 serendipity, 377–78 shadow work, 19, 103, 341 Shakespeare, William, 292 Shannon, Claude, 311, 313–14, 316–18 Shapiro, Robert, 122, 124, 299 Shepard, Roger, 22, 58, 294, 304–5 Shinohara, Katsuto, 351 side effects, 231, 234, 239–41, 245–47, 265, 385, 391, 395 Simon, Herbert, 4 Simon, Paul, 73 Simons, Daniel, 12 Simons, Jonathan, 241 situational categories, 62 situational explanations, 145–46 Skinner, B.

pages: 250 words: 87,722

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis

This emphasis on speed was absurd: No matter how fast the investor moved, he would never outrun the high-frequency traders. Speeding up his stock market order merely reduced the time it took for him to arrive in HFT’s various traps. “But how do you prove that a millisecond is irrelevant?” Brad asked. He threw the problem to the Puzzle Masters. The team had expanded to include Larry Yu, whom Brad thought of as the guy with the box of Rubik’s cubes under his desk. (The standard 3x3-inch cube he could solve in under thirty seconds, and so he kept it oiled with WD-40 to make it spin faster. His cube box held more challenging ones: a 4x4-incher, a 5x5-incher, a giant irregularly shaped one, and so on.) Yu generated two charts, which Brad projected onto the screen for the investors. To see anything in the stock market, you have to stop trying to see it with your eyes and instead attempt to imagine it as it might appear to a computer, if a computer had eyes.

pages: 252 words: 85,441

A Book for Her by Bridget Christie

Or Margaret Sanger, the American birth control activist and sex educator, who inspired William Moulton Marston to create Wonder Woman? She popularised the term ‘birth control’ and opened the first birth control clinic in America – didn’t she have any input? Was it all down to me? Crikey – I didn’t expect to ‘do’ feminism just with some puerile jokes about gendered pens! I was only trying to make people laugh. Not solve anything. I can’t even solve a Rubik’s cube. Perhaps someone could let Ban Ki-moon know. He’ll be so relieved. All this violence against women was really starting to get him down a bit. Then he said, ‘I see from your website you love waterproof jackets. Perhaps you could write a show about those next?’ as if gender politics, and all that that entails, couldn’t possibly generate enough material to sustain a second hour of comedy. I must admit, coming up with ideas had been a bit of a struggle.

pages: 295 words: 80,665

Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters--And How to Get It by Dr. Laurie Mintz

Most of the information in this chapter (including inspiration for some of the pictures) comes from anatomical chapters in the following books: Women’s Anatomy of Arousal, The Guide to Getting It On, and A New View of a Woman’s Body. So if you want additional maps, check out these sources. But for now, put on your seat belt and enjoy the ride to an exquisite and fun-filled destination! THE ERECTION CONNECTION * * * Have you ever heard the riddle about what a Rubik’s Cube and a penis have in common? The answer is that the longer you play with them, the harder they get. Well, guess what? The same is true for women. That’s right—just like men, our genitals are chock-full of erectile tissue. And your erectile tissue works the same way a guy’s does. Erectile tissue contains capillaries with a unique feature. When you’re not aroused, the blood flows freely in and out, but when you are aroused, the blood goes in but not out.

pages: 289 words: 85,315

Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh

They became widely known as the ‘Questions of the Sphinx’, on account of the large prizes offered to anyone who could master them. Strangely this autobiography was written in 1928, seventeen years after Loyd’s death. Loyd passed his cunning on to his son, also called Sam, who was the real author of the book, knowing full well that anybody buying it would mistakenly assume that it had been written by the more famous Sam Loyd Senior. Loyd’s most famous creation was the Victorian equivalent of the Rubik’s Cube, the ‘14–15’ puzzle, which is still found in toyshops today. Fifteen tiles numbered 1 to 15 are arranged in a 4 × 4 grid, and the aim is to slide the tiles and rearrange them into the correct order. Loyd’s offered a significant reward to whoever could complete the puzzle by swapping the ‘ 14’ and ‘15’ into their proper positions via any series of tile slides. Loyd’s son wrote about the fuss generated by this tangible but essentially mathematical puzzle: A prize of \$1,000, offered for the first correct solution to the problem, has never been claimed, although there are thousands of persons who say they performed the required feat.

pages: 247 words: 81,135

The Great Fragmentation: And Why the Future of All Business Is Small by Steve Sammartino

All the things we did know about were hokey and local, or the same thing our entire nation knew about because the tastemakers decided to make it, advertise it and pay the price to put it on the retailers’ shelves. Only the tastemakers could afford the reach that goes with mass. We got to choose one of the options available on the shelf. We got to choose one of the few shows on free-to-air television. The system didn’t support niche like it does now. The cultural phenomena that resulted from the system were powerful indeed. The Rubik’s cube, breakdancing, BMX bikes, cabbage patch dolls, sitcoms, teenage mutant ninja turtles, video cassette recorders, the walkman, aerobics, legwarmers, Coke vs Pepsi, Band Aid, hair metal, Beverly Hills Cop, Nintendo, PAC-MAN and glow worms were all picked by someone else, someone who decided we needed them to enhance our human existence. And they were right. Of course we wanted them. We wanted to express our human emotions and this was what was available at the time.

pages: 254 words: 81,009

Busy by Tony Crabbe

Technical and Adaptive Problems There are two fundamentally different kinds of problems we might face. Some of those problems require information, practice and skill development. Ronald Heifetz, a leadership expert, calls these types of changes technical problems.9 These are not necessarily simple, or unimportant, but there are recognized ways to address them. Examples of technical problems might range from completing the Rubik’s Cube in under a minute to landing a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier. They might be tough, but with enough learning and practice, you could succeed. Adaptive problems are a different matter. A problem is considered adaptive if there isn’t a correct way to solve it or a proven solution; there isn’t an instruction manual. A problem is adaptive if the only way to resolve it is through changing the person with the problem: their mind-set, beliefs and assumptions.

pages: 274 words: 81,008

The New Tycoons: Inside the Trillion Dollar Private Equity Industry That Owns Everything by Jason Kelly

These sorts of projects are often well-intentioned, but a skeptical outsider just as often views them as something fluffy and easily dismissed, just a bunch of business school mumbo jumbo. Yet there are actual financial systems in place to “encourage” cooperation. Funds are encouraged to invest in other funds’ deals. That means a team in Brazil can enlist New York colleagues specializing in consumer products on a specific deal and if everyone works together, some of the carry goes to New York, and the U.S. buyout fund has a chance to co-invest. “This is about taking the Rubik’s cube of industry expertise, product, and geography and turning it so its face best projects our strengths against an opportunity,” D’Aniello said. “Winning in this business is a game of inches. This collaborative approach empowers our firm’s business model, and our strong One Carlyle culture lubricates its successful execution.” As Carlyle prepared for the public markets, where institutional investors also care deeply about the future management of companies whose shares they own, a more-than lingering question was how the founders, now all in their 60s, would hand off the firm to the next generation.

Crushing It! EPB by Gary Vaynerchuk

It was at one of these events, the first CVX Live, that Dan heard adventure-and-extreme-sports videographer Devin Graham, aka devinsupertramp, announce that the way he made money on YouTube was 10 percent from AdSense, 20 percent from licensing content, and 70 percent from sponsored videos. “It just completely blew my mind. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you can make money from brands that would wanna put their stuff on there?’ That was new to me.” It was summer 2015, and Dan scored his first brand deal by making a pitch on a website called FameBit, a marketing site where brands post offers to pay creatives to promote their products. He got paid around \$250 to cut open a Rubik’s Cube, and then \$1,000 to cut open a mattress. “I thought we had it made. A thousand dollars, and we’re just cutting open a mattress!” A few months later, he met Shaun “Shonduras” McBride (see Chapter 9), who told him that with their channel’s reach—they now had almost one million subscribers—they should be pitching the advertising agencies that run big influencer marketing campaigns. “Back to the hustle.

pages: 307 words: 88,180

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee

But my fear is that we humans may prove more than up to that task ourselves. FOLDING BEIJING: SCIENCE-FICTION VISIONS AND AI ECONOMICS When the clock strikes 6 a.m., the city devours itself. Densely packed buildings of concrete and steel bend at the hip and twist at their spines. External balconies and awnings are turned inward, creating smooth and tightly sealed exteriors. Skyscrapers break down into component parts, shuffling and consolidating into Rubik’s Cubes of industrial proportions. Inside those blocks are the residents of Beijing’s Third Space, the economic underclass that toils during the night hours and sleeps during the day. As the cityscape folds in on itself, a patchwork of squares on the earth’s surface begin their 180-degree rotation, flipping over to tuck these consolidated structures underground. When the other side of these squares turn skyward, they reveal a separate city.

pages: 312 words: 93,836

Barometer of Fear: An Insider's Account of Rogue Trading and the Greatest Banking Scandal in History by Alexis Stenfors

After a year of discussing morality with a lawyer, two years with a psychotherapist, and several more years talking about it with people I have met since, I am not sure whether I have come any closer to a definitive answer to the question ‘Why did you do it?’ Perhaps getting an answer was always less important than seeking an answer. CHAPTER 3 SUPERHEROES AND BEAUTY PAGEANTS For a derivatives trader such as myself, being able to accurately predict future LIBORs was as difficult as trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube for the first time. There were so many things that had to be taken into account when working out what the next move by the central bankers was going to be, and how many of these potential decisions had already been anticipated by the market (and by how much). Central bankers were mostly concerned about ensuring that the inflation rate reached a certain target. However, this target was set at some point in the future.

pages: 308 words: 98,022

Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

She looked up at the vultures and immediately realized what was going on, and brought over a giant blue plastic tarp to help me cover Barnaby. We put heavy rocks all around the edges of the tarp and the vultures looked pissed, but I was so grateful I cried. Then I went inside and took a very, very long shower. When I came back out I realized that vultures are surprisingly strong, and that the blue plastic tarp had become a kind of vulture Rubik’s Cube, each of the birds trying a corner to get it all solved. I was having a nervous breakdown, but at least I was bringing the vulture community together. My friend Laura (yes, the same one who’d dragged me to wine country) noticed that my Twitter stream was filled with updates about vultures, and machetes, and dead dogs, and how glad I am that Cartoon Network exists, and so she called. I was all, “I’m fine,” and she very plaintively said, “Well, you don’t sound fine.

pages: 292 words: 97,911

Truths, Half Truths and Little White Lies by Nick Frost

Something always needs to be on. *** Back home, high and cocky from my brush with the law, I poke my head around the door to the lounge and Mum and Dad are sat in silence, telly off. How long had they been there? How long were they planning on being there? In the middle of the room, in the middle of our mint-green carpet, was a giant lump, my giant lump of hash. It looks exactly like a brown Rubik’s cube but obviously a lot easier to solve. Trouble now breaks out. Not a row, just a kind of Category C rumble with a drug pro and con to-and-fro-type parent deal. To be fair they make a compelling argument but I’m high, the guys are waiting, and I’d like to be higher. My counter comes in the shape of a rat out. I decide to point out to Dad that me and Mum have indeed smoked hash together. This should relieve some of the pressure.

pages: 340 words: 97,723

The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity by Amy Webb

The G-MAFIA studied the Chinese cities where smart city initiatives were piloted—such as Rongcheng, Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai—and identified best practices to pilot in the United States. We now have a few American smart cities—Baltimore, Detroit, Boulder, and Indianapolis—that are testing out a wide range of AI systems and services. Networks of cubesats overhead—tiny satellites the size of a Rubik’s Cube—feed real-time data into AI systems that can recognize objects, unique light patterns, and heat signatures. This, in turn, allows city managers to predict power outages, monitor and reroute traffic, manage water reserves, and clear ice and snow off the roads. AI also helps them manage budgets and personnel throughout the year, surfacing entirely new ways to shave off fractions of expenditures at scale.

pages: 370 words: 97,138

Beyond: Our Future in Space by Chris Impey

Unfortunately, the Volna rocket that was launched from a Russian submarine in June 2005 failed, and Cosmos 1 went to the bottom of the Barents Sea.17 Solar-sail development has continued, but the ambitions and the size of the sails have been scaled back. A team from NASA built NanoSail-D, based on the CubeSat specifications. CubeSat is a miniaturized satellite designed to spur space research by using standard components and off-the-shelf electronics. A CubeSat is a bit bigger than a Rubik’s Cube—10 centimeters on a side and weighing less than 1.3 kilograms. Most CubeSat launches have come from academia, but companies such as Boeing have built CubeSats, and amateur satellite builders have gotten their projects off the ground using crowdfunding campaigns on websites such as Kickstarter. NASA’s NanoSail-D was designed to use three CubeSats to de- ploy triangular sails totaling 10 square meters.

pages: 337 words: 103,522

The Creativity Code: How AI Is Learning to Write, Paint and Think by Marcus Du Sautoy

And so although I make some apology for my Western-focused viewpoint, I think it will provide a suitable benchmark for the creativity of our digital rivals. Of course, human creativity extends beyond the arts: the molecular gastronomy of the Michelin-star chef Heston Blumenthal; the football trickery of the Dutch striker Johan Cruyff; the curvaceous buildings of Zaha Hadid; the invention of the Rubik’s cube by the Hungarian Ernö Rubik. Even the creation of code to make a game like Minecraft should be regarded as part of some of the great acts of human creativity. More unexpectedly creativity is an important part of my own world of mathematics. One of the things that drives me to spend hours at my desk conjuring up equations and penning proofs is the allure of creating something new. My greatest moment of creativity, one that I go back to again and again, is the time I conceived of a new symmetrical object.

pages: 307 words: 102,734

The Black Nile: One Man's Amazing Journey Through Peace and War on the World's Longest River by Dan Morrison

Meanwhile, the people are cutting down more and more of the trees to cook their supper. While rainfall causes things to be green, it’s also true that green—trees and grasses—sustains rain through the humidity it creates, and with fewer trees there’s less rain. And fewer clouds mean there’s more sunshine, more evaporation. It’s the same phenomenon that turned the Sahara from a savanna to desert.” “One hell of a Rubik’s Cube,” Schon said, distracted by the relentless flow of boda-bodas, mutatu minivan taxis and lorries. “Thanks, Perfesser.” Omar Wadda greeted us at his plain office and had us sign his guestbook. He was a little stocky, with eyeglasses and a head of receding white hair, and he exuded the easy competence of a career civil servant. He’d been on the front lines of the hyacinth wars in the 1990s, he said, when the weed covered more than ten percent of the lake’s surface, about forty-six square miles.

pages: 462 words: 172,671

Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C. Martin

private boolean setArgument(char argChar) throws ArgsException { ArgumentMarshaler m = marshalers.get(argChar); if (m == null) return false; try { if (m instanceof BooleanArgumentMarshaler) setBooleanArg(m, currentArgument); else if (m instanceof StringArgumentMarshaler) setStringArg(m); else if (m instanceof IntegerArgumentMarshaler) setIntArg(m); } catch (ArgsException e) { valid = false; errorArgumentId = argChar; throw e; } return true; } --- private void setBooleanArg(ArgumentMarshaler m, Iterator<String> currentArgument) throws ArgsException { try { m.set(”true”); catch (ArgsException e) { } } Didn’t we just put that exception processing in? Putting things in so you can take them out again is pretty common in refactoring. The smallness of the steps and the need to keep the tests running means that you move things around a lot. Refactoring is a lot like solving a Rubik’s cube. There are lots of little steps required to achieve a large goal. Each step enables the next. Why did we pass that iterator when setBooleanArg certainly doesn’t need it? Because setIntArg and setStringArg will! And because I want to deploy all three of these functions through an abstract method in ArgumentMarshaller, I need to pass it to setBooleanArg. So now setBooleanArg is useless. If there were a set function in ArgumentMarshaler, we could call it directly.

pages: 389 words: 109,207

Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street by William Poundstone

Shannon was a perfectionist who did not like to publish unless every question had been answered and even the prose was flawless. Before he’d moved to MIT, Shannon had published seventy-eight scientific articles. From 1958 through 1974, he published only nine articles. In the following decade, before Alzheimer’s disease ended his career all too decisively, the total published output of Claude Shannon consisted of a single article. It was on juggling. Shannon also worked on an article, never published, on Rubik’s cube. The open secret at MIT was that one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century had all but stopped doing research—to play with toys. “Some wondered whether he was depressed,” said Paul Samuelson. Others saw it as part of an almost pathologically self-effacing personality. “One unfamiliar with the man might easily assume that anyone who had made such an enormous impact must have been a promoter with a supersalesman-like personality,” said mathematician Elwyn Berlekamp.

pages: 364 words: 99,897

The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross

His task was simple: identify ways in which the information environment might be enhanced for Marines on the ground in isolated parts of Afghanistan, so that the Marines kill more Taliban fighters and the Taliban fighters kill fewer Marines. The captain and his colleagues got behind a technology from Palantir, a Palo Alto–based company named after the Palantiri all-seeing stones in Lord of the Rings. The company is run by Alex Karp, an eccentric Stanford social theory PhD whose hobbies include solving Rubik’s Cubes and qi gong meditation. Karp was a student under Jürgen Habermas, the German philosopher and sociologist famous for his notion of the public sphere and its importance as a free discussion forum where public opinion is formed. From 2005 to 2008 the CIA was Palantir’s sole customer. Since 2010, Palantir has also designed software systems for the NSA, the FBI, and the US military. Palantir specializes in data management, transforming massive and often messy data into visualized maps and charts.

pages: 431 words: 107,868

The Great Race: The Global Quest for the Car of the Future by Levi Tillemann

., group called Securing America’s Future Energy, or SAFE. By 2016 fuel economy would surpass 35 mpg, and the 2025 standards would eventually be ratcheted up to 54.5 mpg. It was a big deal. In a White House Press release, EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson congratulated the president on solving a “supposedly ‘unsolvable’ problem.” Congressman Ed Markey said the president had conquered “the energy and economic policy equivalent of a Rubik’s Cube.” Perhaps. But he had done so by taking a toy that had already been smashed to bits, and reassembling it—not through any particular mathematical genius or cunning. The energy team of the Obama administration had all the leverage in the world and they would have been fools not to use it. They had the chance, so they put the screws to Detroit. Venture Capital Groups and Portfolio Companies America’s automakers took the most stimulus money from government coffers—other than the banks, of course.

pages: 315 words: 106,402

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

Michael sat there thinking to himself. “How many?” asked Sean. “Two? Three?” He was beginning to wonder why the NCAA needed to know all this stuff. “Um,” said Michael, finally. “Two, I think.” “And that’s here in Memphis?” asked the lady. Michael nodded. “I’m saying,” said Sean. “It’s a book.” Not a good one. Michael’s answers were as nourishing as a bag of stale potato chips, and as vexing as a Rubik’s Cube. The lady was now officially frustrated. She’d come all the way from Indianapolis to interrogate Michael Oher, but she was getting no answers from Michael Oher, and too many from this rich white Ole Miss booster whose roof, for some reason, Michael Oher lived under. She stared intently at Michael and said, “Michael, you have to talk to me.” It had no obvious effect. The most basic facts of his own life he either didn’t know or didn’t recall.

pages: 405 words: 109,114

More generally, Professor Robert Shiller of Yale, one of the few prominent economists who recognized that the US housing market was in a massive bubble before the crisis, has been one of several financial economists to suggest that financial market bubbles can be modeled as social waves in which ideas catch fire and become self-reinforcing before eventually deflating.7 Such social eruptions can be modeled using similar tools to those used to examine epidemics, involving the probability of passing on an infection from one person to the other and a rate at which people stop being infectious, which define the height and longevity of the craze. Examples of crazes include hit records, Rubik’s Cubes, and smart phone apps. This approach provides a way of thinking about asset price bubbles and the madness of crowds in a structured manner. The increasing interest in behavioral economics provides another platform for considering how individuals deviate from pure rationality.8 Behavioral economics, which examines how individuals actually behave in various economic situations rather than how they are supposed to behave, provides many insights but remains a specialized field.

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Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace

Rich Moore, whose first animated feature for Disney was Wreck-It Ralph, likens the Braintrust to a bunch of people who are each working on their own puzzles. (Since John and I took over at Disney Animation, that studio has adopted this tradition of candor as well.) Somehow, and perhaps especially because they have less invested, a director who’s struggling with his own dilemmas can see another director’s struggles more clearly than his own. “It’s like I can put my crossword puzzle away and help you with your Rubik’s Cube a little bit,” is how he puts it. Bob Peterson, a member of the Braintrust who has helped write (and provide voices for) eleven Pixar films, uses another analogy to describe the Braintrust. He calls it “the grand eye of Sauron”—a reference to the lidless, all-seeing character in the Lord of the Rings trilogy—because when it focuses on you, there’s no avoiding its gaze. But the Braintrust is benevolent.

pages: 561 words: 114,843

Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business, + Website by Matt Blumberg

Former Quickoffice CEO Alan Masarek on Aligning Resources with Strategy Alan Masarek is one of the most disciplined business operators I know. (Google must have thought so too: they recently acquired his company Quickoffice.) To open this section, I have asked him to talk about the nexus of resources and strategy. The job of a startup CEO is generally tougher than that of running a more established company. Startup CEOs face a veritable Rubik’s Cube of challenges, trying to run companies with constrained resources while operating in developing markets. This fundamental challenge is the essence of what this section attempts to define. Simply stated, how can startup CEOs align their constrained cash and human resources alongside business strategies that will inevitably change as their targeted markets evolve? I believe most CEOs intellectually understand that their targeted market segments will change frequently.

pages: 424 words: 114,905

Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again by Eric Topol

Having humans serve as backup for algorithmic diagnosis and recommendations for treatment represents conditional automation, and over time this Level 3 autonomy for some people with certain conditions will be achievable. If these big four AI areas (games, images, speech, cars) summarized here weren’t enough, there’s a long list of miscellaneous tasks that AI has recently been reported to do, some of which are noted in Table 4.3. Beat CAPTCHA Create new musical instruments Determine art history Solve Rubik’s cube Manage stock portfolios Write Wikipedia articles Lip read Design websites Tailor clothes Write songs Find energy materials Brain “shazam” (fMRI music) Write text Original paintings Define accents Write poetry Do the census Text to speech w/ accent Recommend fashion Distinguish fake vs. real art Autonomous stores Sort LEGO pieces Make fake videos, photos Predict purchase 1 week before person buys it Convert text to art Artificial comedy Create slow mode video by imputing frames Draw Check NDAs Pick ripe fruit Count and identify wild animals Put together IKEA furniture Create movie trailers Sense human posture through walls Debate Predict earthquake aftershocks TABLE 4.3: Miscellaneous tasks that AI has been reported to achieve in recent years.

Mbs: The Rise to Power of Mohammed Bin Salman by Ben Hubbard

He had cut down the traditional pillars of power—the clerics, the business elite, the wider royal family—and sought to build a new constituency among the kingdom’s young people. It was a royal populist appeal, made through music, movies, and pro wrestling. In 2016, MBS created the General Entertainment Authority to foster the new sector. Around the time I went to the opera, the GEA invited me to a flashy event to lay out its plans for 2018. It opened with a light show and a performance by an illusionist with a Rubik’s Cube, followed by a talk by the authority’s chairman. The GEA was going to double the number of events it oversaw to more than 4,000, he said, and was launching a new website and app to host its schedule. “It is wrong that we who love happiness go to look for it in neighboring countries,” he said. He ran through a dizzying array of upcoming initiatives: an opera house, street festivals, and the entertainment city that MBS had announced during the investment conference.

pages: 397 words: 110,130

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson

“It’s basically the same material they make Lego bricks out of, so it’s pretty tough,” he noted. Kids swarmed around to design their own objects. It’s these kids, who have free time and no preconceptions, who will likely be the ones to domesticate 3-D printing, just as they were the first to domesticate computers, printers, Photoshop, and video-editing software. Over at sites like Shapeways or Ponoko or Thingiverse, creators post designs for everything from iPad racks to Rubik’s Cube–like puzzles. Many are “open,” which means anyone can download them, customize them, and print a copy themselves—learning gradually by remixing existing works, much as we learn to write by copying or imitating others. What literacy will 3-D printing offer? How will it help us think in new ways? By making the physical world plastic, it could usher in a new phase in design thinking. 3-D printers allow us to meditate on physical solutions to physical questions.

pages: 460 words: 122,556

The End of Wall Street by Roger Lowenstein

Greenspan replied that he wouldn’t have been able to get it through Congress. ak The Wall Street Journal sharply opined, “The Treasury Secretary has set a terrible precedent, leaving subordinate debt holders at other large financial institutions to calculate that they too will receive a government bailout if they stumble.” al A graphic depiction of AIG’s corporate structure resembled a financial Rubik’s Cube, with names of subsidiaries stretching thirteen columns across and extending twenty-five rows down. am Dimon, like Thain, had been involved in LTCM, but they were not yet CEOs. an Diamond likened this to a “reverse Spinco.” Instead of spinning off Lehman’s bad assets, as the Lehman bankers had proposed, Barclays would acquire the good assets, leaving a rump collection of toxic loans for the banks.

pages: 387 words: 119,409

Work Rules!: Insights From Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock

pages: 433 words: 125,031

Brazillionaires: The Godfathers of Modern Brazil by Alex Cuadros

The first brand belonged to Walter Faria, the second to the Schincariol brothers—some of the first hidden billionaires I uncovered. It wasn’t long before billionaires started showing up in my dreams. Eventually I looked beyond consumer brands. In a downtown subway station, a plaque announced the contractor who had laid the subway line: Camargo Corrêa. In Rio I’d seen a building that resembles grayscale Rubik’s cubes arranged in Jenga stacks midplay. It’s the headquarters of Petrobras, the state oil company, but it was built by a private company known as Odebrecht. Camargo and Odebrecht both were family-owned—and huge, raking in many billions of dollars in revenues each year. I realized I was looking at two of Brazil’s richest families. They made way more money than Eike Batista but were nowhere on the Forbes list.

pages: 482 words: 121,173

Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age by Brad Smith, Carol Ann Browne

Finally, as technology accelerates growth in key urban centers, these regions need to manage the challenges this growth is creating, not just for individual institutions, but for the entire community. In each of these areas, tech companies are dependent on support from a community and often even a nation. And in each area, tech companies have an opportunity and a responsibility to do more themselves. It’s a formidable challenge, much like a Rubik’s Cube puzzle that can only be solved by moving many pieces at the same time. How can we best advance the people side of technology? For us, a good learning opportunity arose when we dropped by the company’s annual science fair for software developers in 2018. The Microsoft Conference Center had been transformed into our annual TechFest, put on by Microsoft Research, or MSR, as everyone calls it.

pages: 476 words: 132,042

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly

The way we can use technologies to increase choices for others is by encouraging science, innovation, education, literacies, and pluralism. In my own experience this principle has never failed: In any game, increase your options. There are two kinds of games in the universe: finite games and infinite games. A finite game is played to win. Card games, poker rounds, games of chance, bets, sports such as football, board games such as Monopoly, races, marathons, puzzles, Tetris, Rubik’s Cube, Scrabble, sudoku, online games such as World of Warcraft, and Halo—all are finite games. The game ends when someone wins. An infinite game, on the other hand, is played to keep the game going. It does not terminate because there is no winner. Finite games require rules that remain constant. The game fails if the rules change during the game. Altering rules during play is unforgivable, the very definition of unfairness.

pages: 458 words: 134,028

Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes by Mark Penn, E. Kinney Zalesne

In the James Bond movies—beyond the women and the fight scenes—one of the highlights of nearly every film is Bond’s visit to the labs of Agent Q, who shows off the latest technological inventions that (lo and behold) come in perfectly handy later on. And of course, Quincy got all this forensic frenzy started back in the 1970s. And, to be fair, to whatever degree modern generations of kids have grown up on Barbies and fire trucks, they have also grown up on chemistry sets, Operation, Slinkys, and Rubik’s Cube. But without a doubt, in the past fifteen years, science has gotten a big boost. Educators from Carl Sagan to Bill Nye the Science Guy to even Al Gore have done significant work to bring complex science to America in terms and pictures that everyone can understand. And in movies like 1997’s Good Will Hunting and 2001’s A Beautiful Mind, we learned to find math and science geniuses wildly compelling.

pages: 442 words: 130,526

The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India's New Gilded Age by James Crabtree

Various executives explained its scale as I walked around the Reliance campus that day, a 500-acre site filled with modern glass buildings and huge dusty car parks. Reliance had laid hundreds of thousands of kilometers of fiber optic cables across India, one told me, as well as erecting ninety thousand new mobile phone towers. I was shown a desk in an open-plan area at which Ambani himself was said to sit, although it showed no sign of having actually been used. His elder son, Akash, had one nearby with a more lived-in feel: a Rubik’s cube sat discarded next to a framed photo of the Ambani family, while a pink poster of Andy Warhol was tacked to the desk’s backboard. The poster’s slogan read “The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting,” which I took to be a tongue-in-cheek reference to Jio itself, given its launch had been delayed for the best part of five years. Ambani funded Jio with spare cash built up through his lucrative oil-refining operations, and liked to present the new telecoms venture as an almost public-spirited exercise in national digital development.

The America That Reagan Built by J. David Woodard

Coke was losing market share to its competitor, so on April 23, 1985, ‘‘New Coke,’’ a sweeter variant on the original, was released with great fanfare. By the middle of June, people were saying ‘‘no’’ to New Coke. The reaction was nationwide, with the recent product called ‘‘furniture polish’’ and ‘‘sewer water.’’ Within weeks ‘‘Coke Classic’’ returned to the market, and the company stock jumped 36 percent. Only in America could a marketing disaster turn into company profit. For entertainment, Americans fooled with Rubik’s Cube, a plastic square with its surface subdivided so that each face consisted of nine squares. Rotation of each face allowed the smaller cubes to be arranged in different ways. The challenge, undertaken by millions of addicts, was to return the cube from any given state to its original array with each face consisting of nine squares of the same color. Kids still rode bicycles around the neighborhood, swam in local pools, and used little CB radios to talk to each other.

pages: 1,737 words: 491,616

Rationality: From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky

I knew that he competed at the national level in mathematical and computing olympiads, which sufficed to attract my attention for a closer look; but I didn’t know yet if he could learn to think about AI. I had asked Marcello to say how he thought an AI might discover how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Not in a preprogrammed way, which is trivial, but rather how the AI itself might figure out the laws of the Rubik universe and reason out how to exploit them. How would an AI invent for itself the concept of an “operator,” or “macro,” which is the key to solving the Rubik’s Cube? At some point in this discussion, Marcello said: “Well, I think the AI needs complexity to do X, and complexity to do Y—” And I said, “Don’t say ‘complexity.’” Marcello said, “Why not?” I said, “Complexity should never be a goal in itself. You may need to use a particular algorithm that adds some amount of complexity, but complexity for the sake of complexity just makes things harder.”

Outside their own professions, people often commit the misstep of trying to broaden a word as widely as possible, to cover as much territory as possible. Is it not more glorious, more wise, more impressive, to talk about all the apples in the world? How much loftier it must be to explain human thought in general, without being distracted by smaller questions, such as how humans invent techniques for solving a Rubik’s Cube. Indeed, it scarcely seems necessary to consider specific questions at all; isn’t a general theory a worthy enough accomplishment on its own? It is the way of the curious to lift up one pebble from among a million pebbles on the shore, and see something new about it, something interesting, something different. You call these pebbles “diamonds,” and ask what might be special about them—what inner qualities they might have in common, beyond the glitter you first noticed.

pages: 499 words: 144,278

Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by Clive Thompson

Now Cohen was famous for creating a new tool that would “Napsterize” TV, and Wired had asked me to write a profile of him. Cohen was one of the coder-iest coders I’d ever met. He wore his hair in a shoulder-length mop, sported a half shave, and loped about the house in a gray shirt with a dragon design. His work area was a room on the first floor, and behind his desk was an enormous plastic bin filled with dozens of Rubik’s Cube–style “twisty puzzles”; he twiddled them with twitchy intensity, solving them and rescrambling as he pondered how to make BitTorrent run incrementally faster. Cohen was, I discovered, obsessive about puzzles and games. He was designing his own twisting 3-D puzzles, one of which was going to be produced soon for sale. (The goal of a good puzzle, he said, is to make it always feel like it’s just about to be solved, when it isn’t.)

pages: 590 words: 152,595

Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War by Paul Scharre

In the Automation and Robotics Lab at TJ, students get hands-on experience building and programming robots. When I visited, two dozen students sat at workbenches hunched over circuit boards or silently tapping away at computers. Behind them on the edges of the workshop lay discarded pieces of robots, like archeological relics of students’ projects from semesters prior. On a shelf sat “Roby Feliks,” the Rubik’s Cube solving robot. Nearby, a Raspberry Pi processor sat atop a plastic musical recorder, wires running from the circuit board to the instrument like some musical cyborg. Somewhat randomly in the center of the floor sat a half-disassembled robot, the remnants of TJ’s admission to the FIRST competition that year. Charles Dela Cuesta, the teacher in charge of the lab, apologized for the mess, but it was exactly what I imagined a robot lab should look like.

pages: 855 words: 178,507

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick

She had rapidly mastered trigonometry and integral and differential calculus, and he told her mother privately that if he had encountered “such power” in a Cambridge student he would have anticipated “an original mathematical investigator, perhaps of first rate eminence.”♦ She was fearless about drilling down to first principles. Where she felt difficulties, real difficulties lay. One winter she grew obsessed with a fashionable puzzle known as Solitaire, the Rubik’s Cube of its day. Thirty-two pegs were arranged on a board with thirty-three holes, and the rules were simple: Any peg may jump over another immediately adjacent, and the peg jumped over is removed, until no more jumps are possible. The object is to finish with only one peg remaining. “People may try thousands of times, and not succeed in this,” she wrote Babbage excitedly. I have done it by trying & observation & can now do it at any time, but I want to know if the problem admits of being put into a mathematical Formula, & solved in this manner.… There must be a definite principle, a compound I imagine of numerical & geometrical properties, on which the solution depends, & which can be put into symbolic language.♦ A formal solution to a game—the very idea of such a thing was original.

pages: 526 words: 160,601

A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America by Bruce Cannon Gibney

The 1962 World’s Fair, centered on the new Space Needle, contained various wonders like cars (both emissionless and flying) and featured three fairgrounds for science and industry, against just one each for art and entertainment, a proportion inverted and then abolished by the Boomers. Futurama II in 1964 was the last of the science Fairs. By 1982, the best on offer was Knoxville’s Suntower (339 feet shorter than the Space Needle) and a mechanized Rubik’s cube (itself a Hungarian, not American, invention). The Space Shuttle made a desultory appearance at the 1984 Fair, but enthusiasm for this sort of display can be inferred from the fact that there has not been an American Fair since.* In an age of endless sequels, Futurama II alone begat no grandchildren. Futurama 1964 was the end of the line, in part because of the growing skepticism of the Boomers about the merits of science and technology, whose roles in the military-industrial complex felt compromised.

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In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy

That hurdle was overcome only because he had gotten the highest recommendation from an early Googler. But Ivester’s experience showed that Google could accommodate exceptions to its standards. Just as in the case of elite institutions, the stray C or a non-Mensa SAT score could be trumped by an accomplishment that indicated that one was special. “It’s like they did some crazy skiing thing or could do the Rubik’s cube better than anybody,” says early employee Megan Smith. Stacy Sullivan could recall having trouble hiring someone in international sales—until she noted that his résumé cited a foosball championship in Italy. “That’s pretty good,” said Sergey. “We can hire him.” If the guy worked that hard at something, the logic went, he’d probably be pretty good at selling ads. And if you were stuck at the airport with him, you’d have the best foosball conversation ever.

pages: 603 words: 182,781

Aerotropolis by John D. Kasarda, Greg Lindsay

Worth, which laid down most of its seven runways in 1972. The price tag is staggering and the benefits modest—the biggest dig in American history will increase capacity by only 20 percent. While that’s enough to retake the title and reduce delays, the cost-effectiveness of the endeavor seems a bit skewed. Much of the time, energy, and money will be spent on the contortions necessary to solve the airport’s layout like a Rubik’s Cube. The taxpayers won’t foot the bill—not the local ones, anyway. Daley vowed to pay for it all with a mixture of bonds, fees, federal funds, and checks from the airlines, which were crying poverty even before \$150 oil and the recession. With the first \$3 billion in hand, work began on the runways in summer 2007, nearly a year behind schedule and already a billion dollars over budget. I paid a visit to the OMP’s headquarters that spring and discovered a warren of bright and earnest engineers wrestling with manuals a foot thick and spilling over every available surface.

pages: 272 words: 19,172

Hedge Fund Market Wizards by Jack D. Schwager

We talked in a conference room that was memorable for its unusual color: orange. When discussing trading strategies, Platt speaks at a speed that is somewhere between a rushed New Yorker and the fast-talking executive in the famous Fed Ex commercial. When the topic of conversation is a four-legged fixed income trade, keeping up with Platt can be a challenge. How did you get interested in markets? I have always liked puzzles. When I was 10 years old, my dad gave me a Rubik’s cube, and 36 hours later, I could do it from any position in under one minute. I always regarded financial markets as the ultimate puzzle because everyone is trying to solve it, and infinite wealth lies at the end of solving it. When you are solving any puzzle, you have to start off from the perspective “What do I know for sure?” Do I have any bedrock to start off my analysis? It’s shocking how little you know for certain in financial markets.

Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society by Nicholas A. Christakis

These stable, universal features of humanity—cooperation, friendship, and social learning—are precisely what make the amazing variety of cultures possible. Our species’ capacity for culture, based on teaching and learning, is a key part of the social suite even if the specific components of culture—so variable, as we saw in chapter 1—are not. Sustaining complex cultural knowledge requires a large and interconnected set of thinkers and innovators. Our blueprint is the foundation of cultural evolution. Human society is like a Rubik’s Cube that is bound together and obeys a few particular principles but that is nevertheless configurable into 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 combinations. Genes and Culture Coevolve Having established that humans are, genetically speaking, uncommonly capable of culture compared with other animals and that culture itself can vary across time and place, in part due to processes akin to evolution, let’s now consider how genetic and cultural inheritance might interact.

pages: 616 words: 189,609

The Dream Machine: The Untold History of the Notorious V-22 Osprey by Richard Whittle

They were at the controls of eight RH-53D Sea Stallions, a Navy variant of the Sikorsky CH-53 built for minesweeping and equipped with extra fuel tanks. They were churning through a navigator’s nightmare of darkness and dust above Islamic revolutionary Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran. They were also flying under radio silence, and at gut-wrenchingly low altitudes to avoid radar detection. The Sea Stallions were a crucial element in Operation Eagle Claw, an audacious secret mission of Rubik’s Cube complexity. The mission’s goal was to rescue fifty-three Americans held hostage in Iran over the previous five and a half months, since Islamic radicals had seized the 27-acre U.S. Embassy compound in Tehran on November 4, 1979. Without helicopters, Eagle Claw’s planners had decided, there was no good way to get the 118 Delta Force commandos and other troops chosen for the mission close enough to the Iranian capital to infiltrate the city of five million, rush the embassy, overpower the estimated 200 guards, and free the hostages.

pages: 1,048 words: 187,324

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, Ella Morton

By 2006 he had accumulated over 40,000 mechanical puzzles, thanks in part to the International Puzzle Party, an annual private get-together for mechanical puzzle enthusiasts and traders, which Slocum inaugurated in 1978. In 2006, he donated over 30,000 of the puzzles to the Lilly Library at Indiana University to create the Slocum Mechanical Puzzle Collection. In addition to the staggering number of puzzles, Slocum also donated thousands of books about puzzles. Among the pieces on display (only a few hundred out of the thousands in the collection) are an archaic Rubik’s Cube with differing sizes of nails on each side, called a “texture cube”; a trick cup that seems normal until its drinker fills it too full and it drains away into the base; and more whimsical amusements like a Coke bottle with a wooden arrow through it. There are also countless intricate wooden geometrical curiosities that must be twisted and shifted together and apart. Today, visitors to the library can actually try out a number of the puzzles and see countless others sitting in displays, just waiting to be solved. 1200 East Seventh Street, Bloomington. 39.167906 86.518973 Around 30,000 manually operated mind-benders make up the Slocum puzzle collection.

pages: 728 words: 182,850

Cooking for Geeks by Jeff Potter

So when you get stuck on one of these problems even though you’re working in a wider circle, how do you go about getting unstuck? That’s an interesting question. Let me deviate from that slightly and then I’ll come back. Most people are familiar with the scientific method, which is holding everything exactly the same and changing this one thing. This reminds me of people trying to do one side of the Rubik’s Cube. Most of the good methods don’t involve getting any side. That’s the last thing you do. So people get stuck because they don’t want to toss in the towel on the progress they think they’ve made so far. So if you want to make it past one level, you may have to scrap your whole methodology and just start over. And you see that with pizzas. Art begins where engineering ends. Engineering is about taking what’s known and carrying it to its logical conclusion.

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Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco by Bryan Burrough, John Helyar

Behind his back, the two cousins began to grouse that Kohlberg was holding them back. “Jerry was older, and he never wanted to work as hard,” Roberts recalled. “The reason Jerry was so negative was that he wasn’t reading and understanding what was going on.” As the firm grew—by 1983, it had eight deal makers, by 1988, fifteen—tensions rose. Factions developed. Junk bonds produced an ever more complicated stream of Rubik’s Cube financial structures. Kravis and Roberts were so busy Kohlberg could no longer keep abreast of every deal. Outside parties began shouldering more and more of the daily work, and Kravis and Roberts soon were orchestrating small armies of investment bankers and lawyers. “Jerry began to pull back,” says his longtime friend George Peck, a Kohlberg Kravis consultant. “He was less comfortable with all that.

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The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

“Kent was the apple of their eye.”34 Gates called Paul Allen, who had just finished his freshman year at Washington State, and asked him to come back to Seattle to help with the scheduling program. “I was going to do it with Kent,” Gates told him. “I need help.” He was in bad shape. “Bill stayed depressed for weeks,” Allen recalled.35 They brought cots to campus and, like old times, spent many nights in the computer room that summer of 1972, communing with a PDP-10. With his rigorous mind, Gates was able to take the problem posed by the Rubik’s Cube of class-scheduling variables and break it into a series of small component problems that could be solved sequentially. He was also able to put himself into a history class with all the right girls and only one other boy (“a real wimp”) and make sure that he and his senior class friends had Tuesday afternoons free. They had T-shirts made featuring a beer keg and the words “Tuesday Club” emblazoned on the front.36 That summer Gates and Allen became enchanted by Intel’s new 8008 microprocessor, a powerful upgrade of its 4004 “computer on a chip.”

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Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us by Dan Lyons

The image that pops into my head is a squeaky yellow bathtub duck, like the chubby rubber ducky that Ernie sings about on Sesame Street. Somehow I must combine these six rectangular Lego blocks into something that resembles a rubber ducky. The head part is obvious. But what about the others? The two red pieces are flat slabs with six knobs. Does one sit on top of the duck’s head, like a hat? I hate things like this—Rubik’s Cubes, Sudoku puzzles. I hate them because I suck at them, and I never know the trick to solving the puzzle, so I just sit there flailing away. Or I just surrender and sit there staring at the cube, with the same look on my face that my cat has when he looks at the TV, wondering how those little birds got inside the box. The clock is ticking. I start snapping and unsnapping. I feel frantic, while Julia sits there, calm as Buddha, with a bemused expression.

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Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick

It was like an intricate translucent object which, when held to the light, would reveal families of eight or ten or possibly twenty-seven particles—and they would be different, though overlapping, families, depending on which way one chose to view it. The Eightfold Way was a new periodic table—the previous century’s triumph in classifying and thus exposing the hidden regularities in a similar number of disparate “elements.” But it was also a more dynamic object. The operations of group theory were like special shuffles of a deck of cards or the twists of a Rubik’s cube. Much of SU(3)’s power came from the way it embodied a concept increasingly central to the high-energy theorist’s way of working: the concept of inexact symmetry, almost symmetry, near symmetry, or—the term that won out—broken symmetry. The particle world was full of near misses in its symmetries, a dangerous problem, since it seemed to permit an ad hoc escape route whenever an expected relationship failed to match.

The Art of Scalability: Scalable Web Architecture, Processes, and Organizations for the Modern Enterprise by Martin L. Abbott, Michael T. Fisher

As such, we developed a cube that consists of concepts rather than rules. The cube on its own serves as a way to think about the whys of scale and helps create a bridge to the hows. The cube also serves to facilitate a common language for discussing different strategies, just as physics and math serve as the underlying languages for engineering discussions. Introducing the AKF Scale Cube Imagine first, if you will, a Rubik’s cube or classic colored children’s building block. Hold this imaginary block directly in from of you, or stare down directly at it so that you can only see a single face of the six faces. At this point, the cube is nothing more than a two-dimensional square, similar to the square seen in Figure 22.1. Figure 22.1 Starting Point of the AKF Scale Cube I NTRODUCING THE AKF S CALE C UBE Now take the cube in your hand and rotate it one-eighth of a turn to the left, such that the face to the right of the cube is visible and roughly the same size as the original face you had viewed of the cube.

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How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker

The geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky famously wrote that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. We can add that nothing in culture makes sense except in the light of psychology. Evolution created psychology, and that is how it explains culture. The most important relic of early humans is the modern mind. 4 THE MIND’S EYE To gaze is to think. —SALVADOR DALI Past decades had hula hoops, black-light posters, CB radios, and Rubik’s cube. The craze of the 1990s is the autostereogram, also called Magic Eye, Deep Vision, and Superstereogram. These are the computer-generated squiggles that when viewed with crossed eyes or a distant gaze spring into a vivid illusion of three-dimensional, razor-edged objects majestically suspended in space. The fad is now five years old and autostereograms are everywhere, from postcards to Web pages.

Central Europe Travel Guide by Lonely Planet

It will take you through the Rheinschlucht (Rhine Gorge), somewhat optimistically dubbed Switzerland’s Grand Canyon, but impressive enough for all that. Swissraft ( 081 911 52 50; www.swissraft.ch) offers half-/full-day rafting for Sfr109/160. Sleeping & Eating Sleep? Dream on. Riders Palace HOTEL \$ \$ ( 081 927 97 00; www.riderspalace.ch; Laax Murschetg; dm Sfr30-60, d Sfr180-280) It may resemble an oversized Rubik’s cube, but Riders Palace is a curious slice of designer cool with bare concrete walls and fluorescent lighting. Choose between basic five-bed dorms, slick rooms with Philippe Starck tubs or hi-tech suites complete with PlayStation and Dolby surround. Find it 200m from the Laax lifts. La Vacca SWISS \$\$\$ ( 081 927 99 62; Plaun Station, Laax-Murschetg lifts; mains Sfr40-70; late Dec–mid-Apr) Experience the raw funk of La Vacca, a tipi where cowhide-draped chairs surround a roaring open fire.

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Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton

For every tiny motion he made with his flesh and blood hand, the virtual one made a scaled-up movement, allowing him to select and manipulate icons. The system was standard across the Commonwealth, giving everyone who could afford an OCtattoo direct connection to the planetary cybersphere. He guessed that most of the businesspeople having breakfast around him were quietly interfacing with their office arrays. They had that daydreaming look about them. He pulled the appropriate key out of its store in his wrist array, represented by a Rubik’s Cube icon, which he had to twist until he’d arranged the surface squares into the correct pattern. The cube opened up, and he dropped the message icon inside. A single line of black text slid across his virtual vision: PAULA MYO IS ON VELAINES. Adam just managed to hold on to his coffee cup. “Shit!” Several nearby guests glanced over to him. He twitched his lips in an apologetic smile. The array had already wiped the message, now it was going through an elaborate junction overwrite procedure in case it was ever examined by a forensics retrieval system.

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Power at Ground Zero: Politics, Money, and the Remaking of Lower Manhattan by Lynne B. Sagalyn

“If this had been surface construction, it would have had coverage as if it were the Hoover Dam,” remarked Denise M. Richardson, executive director of the General Contractors Association. “The engineers were telling us we would be below ground for two to three years and that the public perception would be negative,” Coscia recalled when we spoke; “people would not know that we’re working and spending hundreds of millions of dollars. The site was a Rubik’s cube for years.” Several insiders tried to persuade Governor Pataki to let the agency shut down the No. 1 subway, but the governor was adamant about keeping it running, despite the cost of underpinning the subway to make continuous service possible. Temporarily taking the line out of service would have “cut an important transit link and angered commuters from Staten Island, a Republican stronghold, who use the No. 1 line after getting off the ferry,” David W.

Caribbean Islands by Lonely Planet

There’s generally a good bus service on Saturday mornings, but Sunday service is often nonexistent. Buses can get crowded. As more and more people get on, children move onto their parents’ laps, kids share seats, people squeeze together and everyone generally accepts the cramped conditions with good humor. Whenever someone gets off the back of a crowded minivan, it takes on the element of a human Rubik’s Cube, with seats folding up and everyone shuffling; on some buses there’s actually a conductor to direct the seating. For specific details on buses by island, see the chapter Getting Around sections. Car & Motorcycle Driving in the Caribbean islands can rock your world, rattle your brains and fray your nerves. At first. Soon, you’ll get used to the chickens, goats, stray dogs and cows wandering the roadways.

Lonely Planet Mexico by John Noble, Kate Armstrong, Greg Benchwick, Nate Cavalieri, Gregor Clark, John Hecht, Beth Kohn, Emily Matchar, Freda Moon, Ellee Thalheimer

Barchelona (Blvd Belisario Domínguez 1150; Tue-Sun) One of a number of raucous Zona Dorada megaclubs playing contemporary dance music. Crowds throng here on weekends to party at this open-air space dappled by disco balls. Clásico ( 602-61-14; Blvd Las Fuentes; 10:30pm-3am Thu-Sat) With a nod to the genteel decór of an English country house, this dance club has upholstered walls and tiers of smart banquettes that rise around a dance floor that pulses like a two dimensional Rubik’s Cube on acid. The ‘classic’ music shuffle includes techno, disco and tunes from the ’80s and ’90s. It’s next door to the Borakay bar and the Hotel Camino Real, though not reachable via the hotel. Go by car or taxi. Shopping Instituto Marca Chiapas ( 602-65-65; Blvd Belisario Domínguez 2035; 9am-8pm Mon-Sat, 10am-2pm Sun) The Chiapas state crafts shop, 2km west of Plaza Cívica, sells a great range of the state’s artesanías (handicrafts), from Amatenango ‘tigers’ and funky Cintalapa ceramic suns to colorful highland textiles.

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Lonely Planet China (Travel Guide) by Lonely Planet, Shawn Low

Boat tours on the Huangpu River operate from the Pearl Dock (Mingzhu Matou MAP GOOGLE MAP ; 1 Century Ave; tickets ¥100), next to the tower. Shanghai Science & Technology MuseumMUSEUM (Shanghai Kejiguan GOOGLE MAP ; %6862 2000; www.sstm.org.cn; 2000 Century Ave; adult/student/child under 1.3m ¥60/45/free; h9am-5.15pm Tue-Sun, last tickets 4.30pm; mScience & Technology Museum) You need to do a huge amount of walking to get about this seriously spaced-out museum but there are some fascinating exhibits, from relentless Rubik’s-cube-solving robots to mechanical archers. There's even the chance to take penalty kicks against a computerised goalkeeper. Riverside PromenadeWATERFRONT (Binjiang Dadao MAP GOOGLE MAP ; h6.30am-11pm; mLujiazui) Hands down the best stroll in Pudong. The sections of promenade alongside Riverside Ave on the eastern bank of the Huangpu River offer splendid views to the Bund across the way. Choicely positioned cafes look out over the water.