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Showing posts from May, 2015

Self-driving cars have a big obstacle to success: your brain

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Around the time of the recent Amtrack crash, Vox published an interesting piece calledCars kill more people. But there's a good reason train crashes seem scarier.Most of us are fully aware of the statistics: traveling by plane or train is much, much safer than travel by car. While fatal automobile accidents are not that common relative to the sheer volume of cars on the road, they're still far more common than deaths by plane or train — Vox puts it at 7.3 deaths per billion miles for driving, and just .43 and .07 for trains and planes, respectively. And yet we're more afraid of flying, and there are two reasons. The first is a cognitive bias: the availability heuristic. This is a tendency for us to overestimate the likelihood of events that are easily recalled and/or have a strong emotional component. When a plane crashes and 80 people die, it's big news that can get days or even weeks of coverage; but 80 people die on roadways every day, and we hear almost nothing ab…

Mad Max: Fury Road is incredible

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When the credits rolled at the end of Fury Road, I took a deep breath. It felt like the first breath I'd taken in two hours. I've seen lots of action movies in my life, and in our modern era of CGI-drenched superhero flicks that often feel like they're trying to tick boxes to make sure they've shoehorned in every cliche, it's refreshing to watch a movie that's executed with such uncompromising focus.
The action, which uses a surprising amount of astounding practical effects and doesn't overdo the CG, looks absolutely amazing. When I wasn't caught up in the urgency of every scene, I was in awe of the sheer spectacle of it all. It's violent as hell, too. But, as with the CG, the violence isn't overdone. It could have easily been like Rambo (2006), with body parts flying everywhere; but instead the gore is saved for a couple of key moments when it has real impact.

What's amazing to me is that despite the sheer kinetic madness of the movie — which…

Can you make a moral argument for eating meat? Because I can't

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I'm not a vegetarian. Not even close. My absolute favorite food in the world is a perfectly cooked medium-rare USDA prime filet mignon (or, sometimes, a ribeye). One restaurant here in Tulsa prepares theirs soux vide style, in which it's vacuum-sealed with seasonings and very gently cooked in churning water that beats and tenderizes the meat for 45 minutes; then it's quickly flash-seared to finish the edges with a nice char. It's heavenly.
  And yet when I enjoy a meal like that, I'm aware of the costs. They are not small. California is facing a water crisis, and the biggest drain on water in the state is animal agriculture. I won't comb through all the statistics because they're everywhere, but it takes vastly more water to raise a pound of animal protein than a pound of plant protein. Animal waste contaminates soil and groundwater; methane, released by billions of farting animals, is a major source of greenhouse gas that is contributing to climate change…

Age of Ultron is, like, totally fake

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I saw The Avengers: Age of Ultron over the weekend, and I liked it a lot. I actually liked it better than the first film, which I didn't love quite as much as everyone else seemed to. I thought the characters went through more personal struggles this time around, and that the plot and climax were more compelling — especially in how they tie into Stark's ambition. The Chitauri in the climax of the first film had always felt kind of shoehorned in to me, so it was good to see a more cohesive plot surrounding the villain, played in superbly sinister fashion by the mighty James Spader (who's been one of my faves for a long time). And I giggled like a schoolgirl at the end-credits sequence for how the Marvel cinematic universe continues to come together.

Okay. So, I recommend it. But there was one part that bugged me. MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW!
At the end, Ultron has made an entire city and a good chunk of earth beneath it to turn it into a meteor (actually, meteorite) that will dest…