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Thread: GEEK OUT; For the Geek in All of Us

  1. #1

    Cool GEEK OUT; For the Geek in All of Us

    Inside every Gameface member is a geek. So here is a thread to celebrate that, and you can also take your own geek discussions here.

    Let us start off with something from Cracked, an institution that deifies Geek:

    5 Classic Geek Debates That Were Settled a Long Time Ago

    By Luke McKinney | January 14, 2015 | 961,859 views

    The Internet is an infinite playground filled with imagination, joy, and childish assholes screaming at each other. The freedom of online discussion has elevated nerd arguments into an art form. But, just like modern art, there are still too many psychopaths flinging shit and screaming under the assumption that it's all as important as real thought.

    Two people arguing over which is the coolest Doctor aren't losers, because they're both doing something they enjoy. They have all the advantages of football fandom with far more source material, a much wider variety of pitches, and the entertaining advantage that their hobby doesn't continually cripple people.

    Ridley Scott recently answered Blade Runner's eternal question of whether Deckard is a replicant. And if you don't want to know the answer, then whatever you do, don't remember that he thinks he's a human in a sci-fi movie entirely and only about how replicants can pass as human. And as Cracked's nerdiest nerd -- I not only understand questions like "How did Pacific Rim's Kaidonovskys survive?" but have strong feelings about them and provide multiple answers -- I've found five more eternal nerd questions with definite answers.

    #5. Star Destroyer vs Enterprise

    With the ridicuzillions of stars in the universe you'd think there would be enough to both trek to and war over, but no. Star Destroyer versus Enterprise has been the iconic nerd battle since we looked at the Enterprise's wonderful mission to find new life beyond the stars and asked, "Yeah, but how good are you at blowing shit up?"

    The Star Destroyer redefined science-fiction cinema. Its first appearance taught us that far above the sky there is the awesomeness of space, and far above that there's an even cooler and larger spaceship.

    The Enterprise is the image of advanced technology, humanity's best using its most advanced knowledge to learn even more. The Star Destroyer is the embodiment of irresistible bureaucracy: only an empire could afford to build something so insanely huge, and it's unstoppable despite being staffed with people so eminently replaceable that murdering the captain is how you add exclamation points to internal memos.

    The resulting battle isn't just an action scene, it's an ideological debate. People have spent decades working out every possible angle of the conflict, from military tactics to technological interactions to raw energy outputs painstakingly extracted from freeze-frames of the source material.

    Easy Answer: Enterprise

    If your enemy has transporter technology and you don't, winning isn't one of your options. You get to choose between surrendering, exploding, or choking in space. Darth Vader can asphyxiate someone by raising his arm. Transporter Chief O'Brien can do the same thing by raising a few fingers and beaming them into space.

    The Star Wars universe has never even heard of transporter technology, and so wouldn't have any defense against it. The Enterprise doesn't even need to beam photon torpedoes onto the Destroyer -- just remove any one of the million things the Destroyer needs to prevent itself from exploding and you're done. The movies established that Imperial technology is shorter-lived than Stormtrooper armor with a red undershirt.

    Narratively, things are even worse for the Empire. The answer is in the "the" (and the italics reserved for proper craft names): the Enterprise is a named hero, while Star Destroyers are nameless minions. Not one in the movies has a title or a victory. Named hero versus minion only ever goes one way.

    (Consolation prize: the Star Destroyer hasn't been in nearly as many terrible movies.)

    #4. Sega vs Nintendo

    In the '80s, Sega versus Nintendo was the Sharks versus the Jets, but on school playgrounds, and with even less convincing physical violence.

    We loved them no matter how cruelly or often they killed us every night. This was back when liking video games was less socially acceptable than stealing panties, which at least demonstrated physical ability, interest in sex, and several possible career skills. But instead of getting together to discuss games, Genesis and SNES kids would mock each other's almost identical passions. It's the purest example of capitalism fueling conflict among minorities who really should have been working together against wider social problems.

    Easy Answer: Nintendo

    Sega would go on to release more failed machines than a Skynet factory, and they were even less popular with the end users. The Sega CD, 32X, Saturn: they couldn't have eliminated childish joy faster if they'd released a cerebral bore trying to get your credit card number.

    I was a Nintendo fanboy, and I used to say that Nintendo could release a console that only they made games for and still succeed. I wasn't expecting them to actually test the theory, but with the Wii they've done exactly that. And made zillions of dollars. They're making so much money from so few intellectual properties, they threw the best one away just to show that they could. To say nothing of their terminal ignorance of F-Zero.

    As kids we couldn't even dream of Mario and Sonic on the same console. Now we have Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games on the Wii.

    That's not just Sonic working with Mario -- that's Sonic crashing on Mario's couch because he's got nowhere else to go.

    #3. Is Cobb Awake at the End of Inception?

    The ending of Inception could have annoyed more people only if Dominic Cobb had spawned a mafia family, gone to a restaurant, and it suddenly cut to black. The movie ends with Cobb finally returning home to see his children. When he spins his totem top to find out if he's truly awake or trapped in a wonderful dream, he walks off to see his children without waiting to find out. And lo, the Internet went crazy.

    Is he awake? Is he still dreaming? People went to insane lengths, like tracking down the movie's costume director, to find out if the children are wearing the same clothes as in previous dream sequences.

    Easy Answer: Awake

    This answer has multiple levels, and is therefore perfect for the movie. The first level is that we're not meant to know for sure whether he's awake or not. But the Internet reacts to ambiguity the same way Star Trek computers react to ambiguity -- screeching and violent explosions. The second level -- from the director himself -- is that the real answer is that Cobb doesn't care anymore; he just wants to see his kids. But that's garbage. If he truly cares about his kids, it's even more important that he knows that he's awake, otherwise those aren't his kids. And if he's prepared to accept a dream, he should have done that back before he manslaughtered his wife by mind-abusing her until she committed suicide. Oh, and watching her go insane for months without going back into her dreams to fix his spiritual sabotage, which is his only skill -- Jesus, Cobb.

    Luckily, we can go deeper, and on the third level he's obviously awake. The camera cuts away just as the top starts to wobble. Which means he's awake! In the dreams, that top spins like a laser-aligned black hole. It won't stop before the universe ends or the dreamer dies, that being its exact described function. When we see it in a definite dream (you know, when he violates his wife's brain without her knowledge or consent), it spins perfectly.

    So if it wobbles, he's awake. Easy. This theory is less about the mysteries of the movie and more about the effects of the Internet on people's intelligence. It's no longer enough to work out an answer -- they want to be told an answer from a definite source. But the whole point of the brain is working things out, not just referencing sources. Referencing sources is the Internet's job, not ours.

  2. #2
    ^^^ (Cont'd )

    #2. The Best Zombie Weapon

    The best zombie weapon is one of the eternal nerd questions. It's equal parts fantastic and pointless -- even if it was based in reality and wasn't an obvious daydream about being a sociopath, fantasizing about the best weapon during a zombie outbreak is like picturing your best possible underwear during an orgy. They might be briefly useful, but most of the time your attention is going to be spent on other things.

    I've already explained why the most popular choices are wrong. Guns are useless unless you're carrying enough ammunition to build a castle to sleep in. Melee weapons are worse, because you can't dismantle an undead body with a crowbar without it at least slightly damaging your living (and infinitely more vulnerable) body. So now you're either infected or that fatal bit slower for the next attack.

    Easy Answer: Lightsaber

    To finish this unkillable debate once and for all: The best anti-zombie weapon is the lightsaber. Light, portable, near-silent, apparently infinitely powered, and never again will there be a single second's bullshit of frantically shaking padlocks/chains/handles/keypads while the hordes close in. It's the ultimate combination of lock pick and can opener.

    In fact, zombies are the only enemy on which the lightsaber would actually work as a weapon. It would take real enemies one fight before they started using shotguns, flamethrowers, or more-than-one-person-firing-simultaneously.

    With the unlearning undead, you can spin and carve through the hordes with total impunity. It even works to amputate and cauterize infected limbs. In fact, it's the only way to hack up infectious-fluid-filled meatbags at close range that isn't insane.

    And don't give me any shit about it not being a real weapon. We're fighting zombies! If we're allowed to ignore enough laws of physics and biology to have zombies shambling around, a little bit of energy projection is nothing. Hell, thermodynamics will loan me that much energy just to clean up this appallingly impossible undead mess.

    #1. Superman vs Batman

    Superman versus anyone is always fun, and always Superman. Superman versus Hulk? Hulk can match him for strength, but he can't fly, so just fling him into space. Superman versus Thor? If anyone is worthy to lift Mjolnir, Superman is worthy to lift Mjolnir, and we're back to Superman. Superman is the best. Which is why everyone loves it when Batman belts him right in the kisser.

    Superman versus Batman is a conflict we've already enjoyed, but this time we're not talking about story potential or effects on continuity. The question is: who would win in a fight?

    Easy Answer: Superman

    Obviously. Obviously. The reason all the arguments about Batman winning are so cool is that it's impossible but he's going to try anyway. Even his most awesome victory ...

    ... is only because Superman agrees not to kill him from space, meets him exactly where Batman politely asks, agrees not to kill him from space, gives Batman the first five shots for free, agrees not to kill him from space, and has recently lost most of his power in a little spot of saving the world from a nuclear mega-warhead. And even then he lets Batman beat himself to death while thumping Superman, then stands up as if to say, "OK, got that out of your system?"

    When someone can literally kill you as soon as he looks at you, your only hope is to murder him before he even knows you're there. And since neither of them will kill, that's it for Bats. Superman could cauterize Bat's limbs off and dump him in a vat of life-sustaining bio gel before Batman could reach his first pouch.

    That's the point of Batman, being able to have a go no matter how impossible the challenge. And that's the point of Superman, NOT instantly killing anyone who becomes a problem. Their ideologies are captured by (and are guaranteed to result in) this ass-kicking. That's why they'll keep fighting, and that's why they'll keep coming up with awesome new ways for Bruce to beat back the invincible, and that's why it'll keep being awesome despite being an obvious conclusion. Because the point of all these questions is the fun debate, not a definite answer.

  3. #3
    6 Insanely Valuable Real Treasures (And How to Steal Them)

    By Ben Denny | June 20, 2012 | 851,030 views

    Heist movies such as Ocean's Eleven and The Italian Job like to present the world as a loose network of heavily guarded treasures, just waiting for you and your ragtag yet likeable bunch of henchmen to pocket them.

    And you know what? The real world is exactly like that, too. There's loot scattered all over the world, just begging for a charming gentleman thief and his plan that is so insane that it just ... might ... work.

    #6. The Great Pyramid's Secret Chambers

    The Great Pyramid of Giza is easy to brush off as old news when it comes to heisting. After all, it's been there for a long time, and almost every chamber has already been emptied 10 times over.


    There are still some interesting discoveries to be made. For instance, there are two tiny shafts that climb up from the queen's chamber. They are far too small for a person to climb up and end in strange blocks with metal rings embedded in them. A secret treasure chamber, perhaps?

    Researchers drilled through the block at the end of the shaft in 2002 and indeed found an honest-to-goodness secret chamber. Treasure hunting wise, though, it was the most disappointing Easter egg in the history of ransacking cultural landmarks -- it boasted some ancient red graffiti, a dummy door and absolutely nothing worth stealing whatsoever.

    However, the other secret chamber is a different matter. There's another secret passageway behind the king's burial chamber, and this one is big enough for a man to go through:

    Those four stones in the center are carefully placed in a zigzag pattern to take the load of the stones above off them. Experts are fairly certain there are hidden chambers behind this portico structure, and radar probing seems to back this up.

    What's more, what we currently think of as the King's Chamber of the pyramid might have been just a dummy, and that hidden room may be the actual inner sanctum. Who knows what riches it might contain?

    However ...

    Apart from the usual warnings about the curse of the mummy and how really unbelievably bad the Egyptian prisons are should you get caught looting, there's a much more practical problem: sand.

    When the wall in the King's Chamber was examined with a microgravity probe in 1986, they found that, although there likely is a secret chamber, it's completely filled with sand. It makes sense, really -- as anyone who's ever been in a sand desert can testify, that shit gets everywhere.

    So unless your heist plan includes an army of DustBuster-wielding French maids, pyramid raiding might end up being more trouble than it's worth.

    #5. The Vatican Library and Secret Archives

    Take one of the oldest, most historically wealthy global forces in existence. Add in uncountable numbers of history-obsessed minions, centuries of time and a heavy penchant for hoarding.

    The end result is a collection of artifacts and valuables so big, it takes the basement level of an entire country to store. You store your change in a piggy bank, they store theirs in every piggy bank that has ever existed.

    The Vatican Library is one of the oldest museums in the world, and probably the most extensive in existence: It holds 1.6 million books, 180,000 manuscripts, 300,000 rare coins and medals and 150,000 assorted prints, drawings and engravings. We're not talking about paperback copies of The Hobbit and the novelization of Air Bud here; these are rare and valuable items from all corners of history. Even discounting the scholarly value, a whole lot of this stuff would be enough to keep the black market in a bidding contest for years.

    And if you need more than mere money to float your boat, there are always the Vatican Secret Archives.

    Founded in 1610, it's a historic library chock-full of documents, church records and intrigue. The Secret Archives span a cool 52 shelf miles of records. Only a handful of researchers are allowed (limited) access, and only a laughably tiny fragment of the material is available to the public. Nobody but a handful of specially selected clergymen truly know the contents of the archives.

    So what lost secrets do the archives hold? Apocrypha that hold secrets capable of changing the world as we know it, Dan Brown style? The recipe for a Highlander serum? A bitchin' collection of solid gold pope hats? The world may never know ... unless, of course, someone sneaks in and helps reveal everything.

    However ...

    Two words: Swiss Guard.

    The Swiss Guard is the oldest standing army in the world, with a 500-year tradition of service to the Vatican. To apply for a position, a prospect needs to be (obviously) Catholic and Swiss, have military experience and pass a rigorous interview and evaluation process. These hard, hard men volunteer to protect the most important physical part of their religion and, if necessary, sacrifice their lives for it.

    And they do it despite knowing full well that they're required to dress like this:

    So, by all means, go liberate a few documents from the Vatican. All that stands between you and newfound riches is a battalion of expertly trained, determined, halberd-wielding Rambo clowns.

    #4. J.D. Salinger's Secret Book Vault

    The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger's 1951 masterpiece, is one of the most famous books in history, inventing the teen angst novel a full 54 years before Stephenie Meyer was able to ruin the genre. Maybe Salinger saw that coming, because in 1953 he ran away to rural New Hampshire for no apparent reason. He stopped publishing his work (save for a few carefully selected short stories) and refused all interviews or photographs. Instead, he preferred to practice acupuncture on himself, tan a whole bunch and enjoy a sample platter of as many weird religions as possible. Salinger stayed in his remote cabin until his death in 2010, systematically fighting all things related to his "revered author" status to the very end.

    But here's the thing: He never stopped writing.

    According to his neighbors and children, Salinger wrote his ass off for several hours a day, every day for the past half century. He had reportedly finished up to 15 novels before his death.

    Fifteen unpublished novels. From one of the greatest authors of all time.

    Although Salinger never showed them to anyone and kept them in a secret stash, we pretty much know their location, too -- they're in either a vault at his bank (easy peasy!) or his own personal safe (hahahahaha!).

    However ...

    What if it's all drivel?

    While there's a fair chance this vault might hold the greatest works of literary genius ever written, there is the worrying fact that Salinger's short stories were getting weirder and weirder toward the end. The man himself certainly did. His brand of reclusiveness was always of the Howard Hughes variety, allegedly drinking his own piss and driving his loved ones insane with his eccentric behavior. These aren't generally considered good signs for a writer whose notoriety lies in his ability to graft grippingly realistic coming-of-age stories.

    So while this particular treasure is probably the easiest on this list to reach, just remember to brace yourself for the possibility that your finds will be less about transcending adolescence and more about the distinctly different flavors of Tuesday and Friday urine.

  4. #4
    #3. The Smithsonian Vaults

    If American history is your bag, there's no reason to burgle further than the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. It holds virtually all cornerstones that constitute America, such as the original Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz, the top hat Abraham Lincoln was shot wearing and Teddy Roosevelt's desk.

    The Smithsonian Museum has an estimated 3.2 million such pieces, and more and more drift in every year.

    More importantly, from the viewpoint of your gang of gentleman thieves: A good chunk of their collection also drifts away.

    An audit of 2,216 items in the Smithsonian's inventory found that a full 10 percent of audited items were missing. This wasn't just random stuff -- 33 missing objects were rated "Tier 4," meaning they're worth at least a million dollars each. If that pattern holds over the entire collection, that means that the Smithsonian has lost track of nearly $48 billion in priceless American history.

    However, it's not because of thieves. The Smithsonian folk just suck at cataloging. It's not really their fault: Proper cataloging and labeling takes loads of man hours and expertise to do properly, and both things cost money. And as their rich patrons find it difficult to brag about how much labeling they've paid for, most of the donations the Smithsonian receives are earmarked for the sexier exhibitions, instead of basic grunt work. Lacking the budget, the institute therefore doesn't have a lot of options besides locking the storage doors every night and hoping to get their books in order in some distant future.

    For a prospective burglar, this means their vaults are essentially a giant, uncataloged jumble sale -- only instead of a $50 sweater for $2, he may find Custer's jacket for the price of a crowbar.

    However ...

    By stealing from Smithsonian vaults, you are also grave-robbing Theodore Roosevelt.

    As we are fond of pointing out, you don't particularly want to screw with Teddy. As it happens, the Smithsonian was one of his most beloved pet projects, and he supported it his entire life.

    So while you might think that you will have years to enjoy the original Teddy bear before anybody comes looking for it, you are really just begging for Roosevelt's ghost to re-enter the mortal plane with the sole intent of dick-punching you to oblivion.

    #2. The Trivandrum Temple

    You know how sometimes you're going through your old stuff and find, say, an old comic that's now a collector's item? That's what happened to the Hindu temple of Sri Padmanabhaswamy in Trivandrum (which we will be calling "Trivandrum temple" from now on, because come on).

    Only instead of a relic of your childhood that's now worth $22, they found some relics of their own. Worth $22 billion.

    In 2011, the temple's basement was found to contain six vaults, which in turn contained offerings for the gods, gathered there over the last five centuries or so. Five of the vaults were full of gold, jewels and precious artifacts, sealed and left to their own devices. The sixth vault remains unopened.

    Understandably, the find is causing a lot of trouble. The royal family, who preside over the temple, feels it belongs to them. The government wants a cut. The people of India, on the other hand, consider it public property and would very much like it back in the hands where it belongs (i.e., theirs).

    And during all this quarreling, the treasure is staying right where it is. Untouched. Waiting.

    However ...

    The officials say that the Trivandrum temple area is heavily guarded by deliberately undisclosed security measures, which, according to our pop-culture-based expertise in treasure hunting, means it has either giant stones chasing you in narrow corridors or pits filled with venom-spewing scorpions.

    What's more, the five vaults that have been opened are at least partially cataloged, so stealing even one tiny little golden statue might get you chased down by an entire nation.

    As for that sixth vault ... the door is fitted with special locks that are far superior to the other five, and emblazoned with the figure of a snake. A member of the royal family has stated that opening it would be "a bad omen." And in the context of robbing Hindu temples, it seems like opening the ominous snake door might be tempting fate just a little too much ...

    ... is exactly what a coward would say. But that's not you, right? Right! So go ahead and kick open that vault, you fucking treasure-eating animal!

    #1. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York

    In the heart of New York City, there is a bank building constructed with one message in mind: "Fort Knox is for pussies."

    The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is a 22-story stone monster so ridiculously oversized and over-protected that it seems less like a bank and more like Scrooge McDuck's money bin. In fact, it contains a money bin -- a hall three stories high and the size of a football field, filled with cash money. However, we're not setting a foot in there, as that particular vault is infested with robots.

    Besides, the premises feature a much more enticing target. The N.Y. Fed plays home to the largest gold repository in the world, holding an estimated 25 percent of gold. All gold. In the whole world.

    That's nearly $200 billion in solid goddamn gold bricks. Its disappearance should be more than enough to crash the world's economy twice over, if you're into that sort of thing.

    That's the prize. Here's what you need to go through to get it.

    First of all, digging in is not an option, unless you have access to some serious mining equipment. The vault sits 80 feet below street level, and the rock that surrounds it is hardcore -- the bedrock under New York is one of the very few foundations hard enough to hold the weight of this kind of construct. Walking in by means of some convoluted Ocean's Eleven scheme is no easier: The only entrance is a narrow 10-foot hallway cut into a 90-ton cylinder, which in turn lies in a 140-ton steel and concrete frame. The cylinder rotates 90 degrees to close each night, and its doors seal the vault airtight by sinking into the framework.

    Forget bribing someone from the inside to open the vault on command, too. The entrance cylinder is controlled by a series of locks that can only be unlocked with the cooperation of several different people, at specific times of day.

    So, a perfect challenge! Just grab your experimental military-grade Spider-Man boots and that invisibility armor you were stuck with after the Luxembourg gig and jump right in.

    However ...

    Even if you do manage to sneak in, defeat countless tons of steel, rock and concrete and then find a way to move the gold (reinforced skateboards? trained bees?), there's one last surprise for you: the elite army of marksmen.

    Did we not mention the elite army of marksmen? Because there totally is one.

    While security guards are always to be expected, these particular ones are no ordinary stormtroopers. The vault is protected by one of the largest private uniformed protection forces in America, and each and every one of them is contractually required to be able to shoot the dick off a fly.

    You are now in the vault. The only way out is that tiny cylinder. And they are all waiting at the other end.

    Man, you really should learn to read these articles in full before leaping into action.

  5. #5
    6 Futuristic Technologies That Are Huge Disappointments

    By E. Reid Ross | January 24, 2016 | 284,773 views

    We all understand that technological progress has its dark trade-offs. See: pollution, carpal tunnel syndrome, the fact that our telecommunications system has facilitated the ascendance of the Kardashian family as living gods. But given the cornucopia of newfangled doodads we're immersed in daily, we tend be less aware of when our gadgets start sucking a wee bit more. What products are we talking about? Well ...

    #6. Smartphones Are Pretty Bad At Being Phones

    We'll cut right to the quick. When it comes to audio quality for longer conversations, smartphones rank a rough third behind landlines and two cans connected by a string. The problem is that we're willing to accept this lack of clarity in favor of being able to slide our phones into our skinny jeans.

    See, companies "often shrink, flatten, and cover speakers in plastic to improve their phones' overall functionality," which means that your general audio quality is being sacrificed for better performance of whatever Civilization V knockoff Kate Upton's boobs are selling now, as well as the ability to fit the damn thing in your hand. While there are scattered reports of new technologies on the horizon which promise to remedy the situation, there has been absolutely jack shit accomplished over the last couple of years.

    Promises of distant solutions are one thing, but the truth is that manufacturers likely don't give a gurgling shit. They've predictably gone the more profitable route by concentrating more on making phones into Fruit Ninja-ing, genital-uploading mini-computers rather than enhancing their usefulness in regards to the original purpose Alexander Graham Bell intended for them.

    Complaining about an innovation as wonderful as the smartphone can seem overly whiny, and we realize how wonderful it is to live in a time in which you can be virtually anywhere on Earth and stream any season of Friends on a pocket computer. It's just that on the off chance you need to dial 911 over a raccoon infestation, it'd help if your phone's audio quality ensured that the dispatcher could decipher your muffled screams.

    #5. Car Knobs Are Way More Useful Than Touchscreens

    As far as shapes go, circles are rather fantastic. This is why we've used them so often for things we need to rotate through. It's simply a quick turn from 97.5 WHOA to 98.1 WHAT on the radio, and all is right in the world.

    However, starting around the time Steve Jobs got bored with his iPod's revolutionary clickwheel, touchscreens began to take over the world. What used to be an interactive museum gimmick was suddenly a regular part of our lives. But if customer feedback is to be believed, touchscreens suck.

    It turns out that touchscreens can often be a whole lot less responsive than a good old-fashioned dial. Coupling this with the fact that the display setup is often a confusing jumble of boxes and text (not exactly a plus when you're trying to maneuver through rush hour traffic), our collective anger could rival Yosemite Sam trying to escape from a straightjacket. Irate customer feedback has prompted companies like Ford to bring knobs and buttons back to replace many of the annoying features of the touchscreens, as this automotive strategist explains: "Ford is making the change due to negative feedback they've received regarding several aspects of MyFord Touch. The system can be sluggish to the touch, while knobs and buttons obviously have a much quicker response. The four-quadrant system is also very text and information-heavy, making it overwhelming and confusing for some to do even simple tasks."

    #4. Virtual Reality Is Making Games Stupider

    Back in the '90s, headset gaming crashed and burned due to hardware that everybody assumed screwed up your eyes and, more importantly, crapsack games. Technology has since caught up with the concept, and we're ready for all the porn incredible adventures we could only have imagined before. The problem is that the novelty is going to wear off fast, and what we're left with is a gaming system that makes Mario Kart 64 look like the goddamned Mona Lisa.

    That up there is a demo for Lucky's Tale, a third-person platforming game created by one of the people behind Words With Friends and designed solely to show off the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. This would be cool if you the gamer were actually the main character, but you're really only hovering in space above it, like some kind of ghost that respects boundaries. There have been plenty of positive reviews, but we're also sure plenty of people like roller coasters after a 90-second ride, but not so much after riding in one for three hours straight.

    What developers have found is that player-character mobility and exploration options will likely have to be scaled way back, since "excessive camera movements make the player sick." Lucky's Tale deals with this problem by forcing the player to engage with the environment in the most basic way: Going from one goal to the next via the exhilarating, singular option of traveling in a straight line.

    As it stands, keeping things aggravatingly simple is something that all virtual reality games are likely going to have to do, if for no other reason than to keep their customer base from choking on their own puke. This is, of course, assuming that increasingly intricate VR doesn't utterly shitbox your brain, but that's a story for another article (which we already wrote).

  6. #6
    ^ (Continued)

    #3. 3D Printers Can Be Remarkably Unsafe

    The invention of the 3D printer has been touted as the greatest breakthrough in mankind's never-ending quest to one day never have to go to a store again. However, keeping one in your house can be about as safe as adopting a family of stray mambas.

    See, objects concocted in a 3D printer aren't smooth at all, and are in truth rife with microscopic nooks and crannies that are perfect for storing whatever manner of filth they come in contact with. Repeated physical contact with a 3D-printed object (you know damn well where we're going with this) can result in a veritable potluck of bacteria and viruses, and their porousness makes them more difficult to clean thoroughly.

    To use an even more innocent example, say an unsuspecting "cool mom" used a 3D printer to make some cool-looking forks and spoons for her kids. Unfortunately, scientists would warn that she'd better be extremely careful about it, unless she wants to spend the rest of the day explaining herself to Child Protective Services. Making flatware that won't shred your mouth parts is technically possible, but you'd better pony up for some specialized material, unless you want to risk your children showing up at school looking like you've been putting powdered glass in their popsicles (while simultaneously poisoning them with toxic chemicals).

    Last but certainly not least, merely having one of these printers in your house can give you the kind of symptoms that used to require decades of working maskless in an industrial plastics plant. See, the 3D printing process puts out plenty of toxic fumes when things heat up. An analysis revealed that it can fill the air with "ultra fine particles" that can cause a laundry list of ailments, such as "lung function changes, airway inflammation, enhanced allergic responses, altered heart rate and heart rate variability, accelerated atherosclerosis, and increased markers of brain inflammation," which you'll notice is about double the length of the warning label on a pack of Marlboros.

    #2. College Students Freaking Hate E-Books

    Given that you're reading this article on a screen instead of settling for the magazine that was left after all the copies of MAD were sold out, it's safe to say that digital words are the way of the future. Even academia has come around -- there are probably more college students today who have never seen the inside of a real book than ... wait, no. Can't be.

    Shockingly, it turns out that the people whom you might expect to fully embrace the new technology -- college-age millennials -- prefer paper books. Heck, according to this survey, e-books only account for a measly nine percent of textbooks bought on campus, while 87 percent were in old-timey print.

    Some people have theorized that perhaps it's a money issue, but while textbooks are still a monumental scam, modern students reportedly "prefer print for both pleasure and learning," and it's baffling the shit out of the people in academia who study this sort of phenomena for a living. Another survey, this one administered by Hewlett Packard to students at San Jose State, came up with similar findings. They found that when students were offered e-books free of charge, a quarter of them opted to pay cash money for the paper versions instead.

    It seems that students tend to skim over things and find it harder to keep track of important sections while studying digitally, while print books make the whole process of earmarking and mentally cataloging information more efficient. A good illustration of this came from one student's response to a survey question which asked what was the worst part about reading a physical book: "It takes me longer because I read more carefully."

    Finally, lest we think that today's college students are the last vanguards of paper books, whatever the hell we're calling today's children seem primed to carry the torch. In 2014, almost two-thirds of all schoolchildren said that they'll "always want to read books in print, even though there are e-books available". And that's up from 60 percent in 2012.

    #1. Automatic Faucets Are Gross

    It's still up in the air as to whether technology will ever succeed in making public bathrooms less disgusting, since human biological functions are inherently chock full o' poo. But by eliminating the need to touch the same handles that Coughy McSalmonella did, automatic faucets were supposed to be inherently safer. And they are, unless you count all the cases of Legionnaires disease, an infection that causes a 'roided-out form of pneumonia.

    It doesn't seem to make much in the way of immediate sense, but electronic faucets have been found to be teeming with infection in hospital environments, and some facilities have begun to put the old versions back in place in order to save lives. As Johns Hopkins infectious disease expert Dr. Lisa Maragakis put it, "Newer is not necessarily better when it comes to infection control in hospitals."

    So how is this possible, when we aren't even touching them? As it turns out, newer faucets have a "complicated series of valves" that are required for them to perform their magic, which also makes it very difficult to keep them clean. And because a janitor can't exactly flush the crap out of these faucets every time they're used, they become a breeding ground for all manner of transmittable filth. The moral of the story? Human innovation is basically a curse granted by an enchanted monkey's paw, and technology reached its zenith with the hoop and stick.

  7. #7
    Toys R Us founder dies days after chain’s announced shutdown

    Associated Press / 07:06 AM March 23, 2018

    NEW YORK - Charles P. Lazarus, the World War II veteran who founded Toys R Us six decades ago and transformed it into an iconic piece of Americana, died on Thursday at age 94, a week after the chain announced it was going out of business.

    Toys R Us confirmed Lazarus’ death in a statement.

    “There have been many sad moments for Toys R Us in recent weeks, and none more heartbreaking than today’s news about the passing of our beloved founder, Charles Lazarus,” the company said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Charles’ family and loved ones.”

    Lazarus, who stepped down as CEO of Toys R Us in 1994, transformed the toy industry with a business model that became one of the first retail category killers — big stores that are so devoted to one thing, and have such an impressive selection, that they drive smaller competitors out of business.

    More recently, Toys R Us found itself unable to survive the trends of the digital age, namely competition from the likes of Amazon, discounters like Walmart, and mobile games. No longer able to bear the weight of its heavy debt load, the company announced last week that it would close or sell its 735 stores across the country, including its Babies R Us stores.

    But for decades, it was Toys R Us that drove trends in child’s play, becoming a launch pad for what became some of the industry’s hottest toys.

    Lazarus, the son of a bicycle store owner, modeled his business after the self-service supermarkets that were becoming popular in the 1950s, stacking merchandise high to give shoppers the feeling it had an infinite number of toys. The stores created a magical feeling for children roaming aisles filled with Barbies, bikes, and other toys arranged in front of them.

    The chain has its roots in Children’s Bargain Town, the baby furniture store that Lazarus opened 1948 in his hometown of Washington, D.C. He began selling toys after a couple of years when customers began asking for them, and he quickly concluded that, in the baby-boom years, toys were a more lucrative business than furniture.

    He opened his first store dedicated to selling only toys in 1957, calling it Toys R Us with the “R” spelled backward to give the impression that a child wrote it. Shopping carts stood ready for customers to grab and fill up themselves, supermarket-style.

    In 1965, Geoffrey the Giraffe became the company’s mascot, appearing in his first TV commercial in 1973. By the 1980s and early 90s, Toys R Us dominated the toy-store business and its jingle, “I’m a Toys R Us kid” became an anthem for children across the country.

    In 1992, Lazarus traveled with President George H.W. Bush for the opening of the first Toys R Us in Japan.

    He himself loomed large over his industry at the heyday of his company, personally traveling to the annual Toy Fair in Manhattan. Thousands of buyers from around the world attend but back then, it was Lazarus whom manufacturers were most anxious to impress, said Marc Rosenberg, a veteran toy marketer and founder of SkyBluePink Concepts.

    The opportunity to give “Mr. Lazarus” a tour of your showroom was right of passage for marketers, said Rosenberg, who first met Lazarus on such an occasion in 1987 as marketer for Tiger Electronics.

    Lazarus walked through the showrooms giving feedback on the playthings arrayed before him, trailed by a group of employees feverishly taking notes on his every word, Rosenberg said.

    “As a young marketing guy, if Charles Lazarus liked something you were doing, it was like the greatest thing in the world,” Rosenberg said. “He had a dry sense of humor. If he liked something, he would show it. He would laugh but it wasn’t easy to get him to laugh.”

    Rosenberg said Lazarus understood that the success of Toy R Us stemmed from creating a “circus-like atmosphere to keep kids wanting to come back every week.”

    Geoffrey the Giraffe soon started a family, with wife Gigi, and a son and daughter. The giraffe family would make regular visits to the stores, parades, and other events.

    Rosenberg said the company cut down on such events after Lazarus left and struggled to find a model that could help it compete with the likes of Walmart, which offered a similar selection at lower prices; and later, Amazon.

    Lazarus, who was born on October 4, 1923, was inducted into the Toy Industry Association’s Hall of Fame in 1990. /kga

  8. #8
    Stephen Hawking: ’His laboratory was the universe’

    Associated Press / 09:59 PM March 14, 2018

    WASHINGTON — Everyone knew of Stephen Hawking’s cosmic brilliance, but few could comprehend it. Not even top-notch astronomers.

    Hawking, who died at his home in Cambridge, England, on Wednesday at age 76, became the public face of science genius. He appeared on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “The Big Bang Theory,” voiced himself in “The Simpsons” cartoon series and wrote the best-seller “A Brief History of Time.”

    He sold 9 million copies of that book, though many readers didn’t finish it. It’s been called “the least-read best-seller ever.” Hollywood celebrated his life in the 2014 Oscar-winning biopic “The Theory of Everything.”

    In some ways, Hawking was the inheritor of Albert Einstein’s mantle of the genius-as-celebrity.

    “His contribution is to engage the public in a way that maybe hasn’t happened since Einstein,” said prominent astronomer Wendy Freedman, former director of the Carnegie Observatories. “He’s become an icon for a mind that is beyond ordinary mortals. People don’t exactly understand what he’s saying, but they know he’s brilliant. There’s perhaps a human element of his struggle that makes people stop and pay attention.”

    With Einstein, most people are familiar with e=mc2, but they don’t know what it means. With Hawking, his work was too complicated for most people, but they understood that what he was trying to figure out was basic, even primal.

    “He was asking and trying to address the very biggest questions we were trying to ask: the birth of the universe, black holes, the direction of time,” said University of Chicago cosmologist Michael Turner. “I think that caught people’s attention.”

    And he did so in an impish way, showing humanity despite being in a wheelchair with ALS, the degenerative nerve disorder known in the U.S. as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He flew in a zero-gravity plane. He made public bets with other scientists about the existence of black holes and radiation that emanates from them — losing both bets and buying a subscription to Penthouse for one scientist and a baseball encyclopedia for the other.

    “The first thing that catches you is the debilitating disease and his wheelchair,” Turner said. But then his mind and the “joy that he took in science” dominated. And while the public may not have understood what he said, they got his quest for big ideas, Turner said.

    Andy Fabian, an astronomer at Hawking’s University of Cambridge and president of the Royal Astronomical Society, said Hawking would start his layman’s lectures on black holes with the joke: “I assume you all have read ’A Brief History of Time’ and understood it.” It always got a big laugh.

    “You’d find the average astronomer such as myself doesn’t even try to follow the more esoteric theories that (Hawking) pursued the last 20 years,” Fabian said. “I’ve been to talks Hawking has given and cannot follow them myself.”

    Hawking, who was born 300 years to the day after Galileo died, was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University. It was the same post that Isaac Newton held. Both physicists and astrophysicists claimed him as their own. And much of Hawking’s work was in the field of cosmology, a deep-thinking branch of astronomy that tries to explain the totality of the universe.

    Hawking’s title “is not relevant here; what matters is what his brain did,” said Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium. “We claim him as an astrophysicist because his laboratory was the universe.”

    And Hawking’s black hole work in the mid-1970s made a crucial connection in physics. Until Hawking discovered radiation coming from black holes — named “Hawking radiation” after him — the two giant theories in physics, Einstein’s general relativity and quantum mechanics, often conflicted. Hawking was the first to show they connected, which Turner and others described as breakthrough at the time.

    The concept that stuff, radiation, comes out of black holes may have upset science fiction authors, but it inspired young scientists such as Tyson, who described it as “spooky profound.”

    The idea behind this was also novel because it said “black holes aren’t forever,” Turner said.

    Hawking also pioneered a “no hair” theory of black holes that they were simple, with just spin, mass and charge and nothing else.

    Both of those concepts are cornerstones of current black hole theory.

    Hawking’s other work went beyond black holes into the more cosmic, the origins of the universe. Initially he theorized about the “singularity” of the baby universe in thick but elegant mathematical equations comparing early time to wave functions. Later, his own work contradicted some of that and he was instrumental to theories about inflationary cosmology, where the universe’s beginning is more of a half ball. That theory got its kick-start at a conference Hawking hosted in 1982 with a dinner party and croquet match, Turner said.

    The high-concept theory-making didn’t quite match the personality behind it. Colleagues often mention his off-the-wall humor, his big grin, his stubbornness.

    And even the public picked up on his cheeky attitude instantly, Turner and Freedman said.

    “He added a human face to science,” Turner said. “It goes well beyond the wheelchair.”

    The bigger story was how the public became fascinated with this small man, stuck in a wheelchair with a worsening disease, and an intellect that few could fathom. They related to the man, Stephen Hawking, and his story, Freedman said.

    The insight he gave on the mysteries of the cosmos was just a bonus.
    Last edited by Joescoundrel; 03-23-2018 at 08:24 AM.

  9. #9
    From The Straight Dope ...

    An airplane taxies in one direction on a moving conveyor belt going the opposite direction. Can the plane take off?

    February 3, 2006

    Dear Cecil:

    Please, please, please settle this question. The discussion has been going on for ages, and any time someone mentions the words "airplane" or "conveyor belt" everyone starts right back up. Here's the original problem essentially as it was posed to us: "A plane is standing on a runway that can move (some sort of band conveyer). The plane moves in one direction, while the conveyer moves in the opposite direction. This conveyer has a control system that tracks the plane speed and tunes the speed of the conveyer to be exactly the same (but in the opposite direction). Can the plane take off?"

    There are some difficulties with the wording of the problem, specifically regarding how we define speed, but the spirit of the situation is clear. The solution is also clear to me (and many others), but a staunch group of unbelievers won't accept it. My conclusion is that the plane does take off. Planes, whether jet or propeller, work by pulling themselves through the air. The rotation of their tires results from this forward movement, and has no bearing on the behavior of a plane during takeoff. I claim the only difference between a regular plane and one on a conveyor belt is that the conveyor belt plane's wheels will spin twice as fast during takeoff. Please, Cecil, show us that it's not only theoretically possible (with frictionless wheels) but it's actually possible too.

    Berj A. Doudian, via e-mail

    Cecil replies:

    Excuse me — did I hear somebody say Monty Hall?

    On first encounter this question, which has been showing up all over the Net, seems inane because the answer seems so obvious. However, as with the infamous Monty-Hall-three-doors-and-one-prize-problem (see The Straight Dope: “On Let’s Make a Deal” you pick Door #1, 02-Nov-1990), the obvious answer is wrong, and you, Berj, are right — the plane takes off normally, with no need to specify frictionless wheels or any other such foolishness. You’re also right that the question is often worded badly, leading to confusion, arguments, etc. In short, we’ve got a topic screaming for the Straight Dope.

    First the obvious-but-wrong answer. The unwary tend to reason by analogy to a car on a conveyor belt — if the conveyor moves backward at the same rate that the car’s wheels rotate forward, the net result is that the car remains stationary. An aircraft in the same situation, they figure, would stay planted on the ground, since there’d be no air rushing over the wings to give it lift. But of course cars and planes don’t work the same way. A car’s wheels are its means of propulsion — they push the road backwards (relatively speaking), and the car moves forward. In contrast, a plane’s wheels aren’t motorized; their purpose is to reduce friction during takeoff (and add it, by braking, when landing). What gets a plane moving are its propellers or jet turbines, which shove the air backward and thereby impel the plane forward. What the wheels, conveyor belt, etc, are up to is largely irrelevant. Let me repeat: Once the pilot fires up the engines, the plane moves forward at pretty much the usual speed relative to the ground — and more importantly the air — regardless of how fast the conveyor belt is moving backward. This generates lift on the wings, and the plane takes off. All the conveyor belt does is, as you correctly conclude, make the plane’s wheels spin madly.

    A thought experiment commonly cited in discussions of this question is to imagine you’re standing on a health-club treadmill in rollerblades while holding a rope attached to the wall in front of you. The treadmill starts; simultaneously you begin to haul in the rope. Although you’ll have to overcome some initial friction tugging you backward, in short order you’ll be able to pull yourself forward easily.

    As you point out, one problem here is the wording of the question. Your version straightforwardly states that the conveyor moves backward at the same rate that the plane moves forward. If the plane’s forward speed is 100 miles per hour, the conveyor rolls 100 MPH backward, and the wheels rotate at 200 MPH. Assuming you’ve got Indy-car-quality tires and wheel bearings, no problem. However, some versions put matters this way: “The conveyer belt is designed to exactly match the speed of the wheels at any given time, moving in the opposite direction of rotation.” This language leads to a paradox: If the plane moves forward at 5 MPH, then its wheels will do likewise, and the treadmill will go 5 MPH backward. But if the treadmill is going 5 MPH backward, then the wheels are really turning 10 MPH forward. But if the wheels are going 10 MPH forward . . . Soon the foolish have persuaded themselves that the treadmill must operate at infinite speed. Nonsense. The question thus stated asks the impossible — simply put, that A = A + 5 — and so cannot be framed in this way. Everything clear now? Maybe not. But believe this: The plane takes off.

  10. #10
    On “Let’s Make a Deal,” you pick Door #1. Monty opens Door #2 — no prize. Do you stay with Door #1 or switch to #3?

    November 2, 1990

    Dear Cecil:

    I was perversely flipping through the Parade section of my Sunday newspaper when I stumbled upon Marilyn vos Savant's "Ask Marilyn" column. Even more perversely, I read it. It wasn't a total loss, though, because it appears she made another mistake, even worse than the one you pointed out in a very entertaining column a few months ago. Here's the question:

    Suppose you're on a game show and you're given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what's behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, "Do you want to pick door No. 2?" Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?

    ANSWER: Yes; you should switch. The first door has a one-third chance of winning, but the second door has a two-thirds chance. Here's a good way to visualize what happened. Suppose there are a million doors, and you pick door No. 1. Then the host, who knows what's behind the doors and will always avoid the one with the prize, opens them all except door #777,777. You'd switch to that door pretty fast, wouldn't you?

    Correct me if I'm wrong, Cecil, but aren't the odds equal for the remaining doors — one in two?

    P.S.: If the questions she answers are any indication of the intellect of the general population, this country is in a lot of trouble.

    Michael Grice, Madison, Wisconsin

    Cecil replies:

    This is getting ridiculous. You’re perfectly correct. If there are three doors your chances of picking the right one are one in three. Knock one out of contention and the chances of either of the remaining doors being the right one are equal — one in two. This business about a million doors is a bit of pretzel logic that maybe only somebody with the world’s highest IQ (according to Guinness, anyway) can properly appreciate. Parade’s editors really ought to read the copy before they put it in the magazine.


    Dear Cecil:

    I certainly won’t be the only one to catch your latest error, but the perverse joy I get pointing it out offsets the small chance this letter has of being printed. I refer to your answer to Michael Grice’s question about the game show conundrum — one prize, three doors, you pick Door #1, the host opens Door #3 to reveal no prize. Should you switch to the remaining door or stick with your original choice? You agreed with Grice that the odds of winning are equal for both — one in two. Wrong! The easiest route to the truth is to notice that resolving never to switch is equivalent to not having the option to switch, in which case, I’m sure you’ll agree, the odds of winning remain one in three. Switching, therefore, has a two-thirds chance at the prize.

    Your mistake was not realizing that opening Door #3 tells you more about Door #2 than about the door you originally picked. The reason for this is subtle. The host, in picking Door #3, does not choose from the full set of doors but rather from the subset of doors you did not pick. Each subset’s probability of winning does not change but the probability for a particular door in the second subset does. If you don’t get it find a friend who looks like Monty Hall and play 20 rounds. It will soon become obvious which strategy wins most often.

    — Robert E. Johanson, Chicago

    Cecil replies;

    Hmm. I’ll admit I wasn’t paying much attention when I wrote that column, assumed this was another instance of carelessness on Marilyn vos Savant’s part, and fell into a sucker’s trap. But now that I’ve had a chance to study the matter, it’s apparent there is a subtlety that you eluded you as well.

    First, though, I feel obliged to eat a bit of crow. The “common sense” answer, the one I gave, is that if you’ve got two doors and one prize, the chances of picking the right door are 50-50. Given certain key assumptions, which we’ll discuss below, this is wrong.

    Why? A different example will make it clear. Suppose our task is to pick the ace of spades from a deck of cards. We select one card. The chance we got the right one is 1 in 52. Now the dealer takes the remaining 51 cards, looks at them, and turns over 50, none of which is the ace of spades. One card remains. Should you pick it? Of course. Why? Because (1) the chances were 51 in 52 that the ace was in the dealer’s stack, and (2) the dealer then systematically eliminated all (or most) of the wrong choices. The chances are overwhelming — 51 out of 52, in fact — that the single remaining card is the ace of spades.

    Which brings me to the subtlety I mentioned earlier. Your analysis of the game show question is correct, Bobo, only if we make several assumptions: (1) Monty Hall knows which door conceals the prize; (2) he only opens doors that do NOT conceal the prize; and (3) he always opens a door. Assumptions #1 and #2 are reasonable. #3 is not.

    Monty Hall is not stupid. He knows, empirically at least, that if he always opens one of the doors without a prize behind it, the odds greatly favor contestants who switch to the remaining door. He also knows the contestants (or at least the highly vocal studio audience) will tumble to this eventually. To make the game more interesting, therefore, a reasonable strategy for him would be to open a door only when the contestant has guessed right in the first place. In that case the contestant would be a fool to change his pick.

    But that’s absurd, you say. If Monty only opened a door when you’d chosen correctly in the first place, no one would ever switch. Exactly — so it’s likely Monty adds one last twist. Most of the time he only opens a door when you’ve chosen correctly — but not always. In other words, he tries to bluff the contestants, then counterbluff them.

    This strategy changes the odds dramatically. In fact, it can be shown that if Monty always opens a door when the contestant is right and half the time when he’s wrong — a perfectly rational approach — over the long haul the odds of the prize being behind Door #1 versus Door #2 are 50-50.

    The lesson here is that probability isn’t the cut-and-dried science you might assume from high school math class. Instead it involves a lot of educated guesses about human behavior. I’ll admit I jumped to an unwarranted conclusion on this one. Don’t be too sure you haven’t done the same.

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