Best Of MetaFilter

Posts from May 2012

The keys to the kingdom

RSA Conference USA 2011RSA Conference USA 2011 by Riebart (cc by)

In a recent thread discussing an introduction to cryptography, member Rhomboid explains why a seemingly simple problem at the root of all internet security, figuring out the two prime numbers multiplied by each other to get a 309-digit number (that would unlock the ultimate root certificate) is so incredibly difficult:

Actually doing this is quite another matter. By the prime number theorem, we have about 2512 / log(2512) ≈ 3.8 × 10151 prime divisors to test. Suppose we had a computer that can perform such a test division in a single clock cycle, and say that it runs at 100 GHz. Say that we have 100 billion such computers on the planet, and heck, say we have 100 billion such planets. You're still looking at ≈ 6 × 10110 years on average to find the answer; not even close to realistic.

by mathowie

A bit about Mercia

Tamworth CastleTamworth Castle by ell brown (cc by)

"Vote Mitta Romenig in 752!"

by jessamyn

this is just how I dealt with the issue of finding some time for 'me'
How 2010 became The Year of the List for MeFite joinks.

by jessamyn

We've never used it, and hopefully, we never will

Transmitter ArrayTransmitter Array by Modern Relics (cc by)

You might have been watching TV before and heard an emergency alert interrupt your show with information on weather or news. A similar new text messaging system will soon be online to warn you of severe weather alerts (and a mysterious Presidential Alert). Turns out there are several levels of interruption including the most serious, a total takeover of the US airwaves by the President. MeFi member eriko explains it all:

Despite the fact that really the only message the President would send is "So this is it. We're all going to die," the capability remains, and by law, is required to remain. So, WEA may allow you to block advisories, like AMBER alerts (CAE -- Child Abduction Emergency, but sent with an Advisory/Statement flag) but you will not be able to block an EAN.

by mathowie

Second highest mountains

Mount Erebus at NightMount Erebus at Night by Alan R. Light (cc by)

Indeed, one of the odd things is that climbing the Seven Second Summits -- the 2nd tallest mountain on each continent, is a harder task than climbing the Seven Summits.

by jessamyn

Make up your own rules

Famous fantasy author Neil Gaiman recently did a great commencement address at the University of the Arts (embedded above) and it is currently making the rounds. MeFi member Rory Marinich was in the audience and recounts the experience:

As great as I'm sure this speech is as standalone inspiration, for our graduating class everything Neil said really struck home. Art school is a weirdly draining and exhausting place, and I think that caught a lot of us off guard – definitely me; I'm just getting over a panic attack that hit in waves over the course of a very rough last week. The weirdness isn't that it's exhausting (I'm sure all colleges are like that), but that it comes from the same thing that also makes art school exhilarating: the freedom you have to pursue your own creative path, to be as strange and as personal as you can bear being.

by mathowie

"There are HUGE anthropological challenges to building any service like this."
Why does gmail say "loading 20 out of hundreds" instead of giving us real numbers? Some "why is gmail the way it is" conundrums explained.

by jessamyn

Why did Dan Harmon get fired from Community?

the genius (aka dan harmon) is in the middlethe genius (aka dan harmon) is in the middle by irina slutsky (cc by)

If you wondered why the creator, writer, and show runner Dan Harmon was fired from his own show, what it means, and what will happen going forward, MeFi member Navelgazer explains the situation along with his own perspective from within the TV industry.

by mathowie

the power of information

Tom Watson MPTom Watson MP by Benjamin Ellis (cc by)

Plucked from a user's facebook page:

"Digging around in the back-waters of my go-to websites can reveal some interesting things. This one's a bit meh until you realise that baggymp is Tom Watson MP asking for help writing his 2008 Power of Information speech."

by jessamyn

"The use of the word hot to refer to something sexually arousing also dates back to the 1500s"

ManuscriptManuscript by Muffet (cc by)

An amazing thread on Ask MetaFilter has a simple premise: What are some current-sounding phrases that go back further than you would think--used the way we use them today? The thread is filled with gems like this jawdropper:

"Newfangled" appears in Chaucer's works, circa 1390

by mathowie

"My strife specibus is 'cookiekind.'"
Sometimes a cookie isn't just a cookie.

by jessamyn

A Cigar Seller's Guide to Stogies

Cuban dreamingCuban dreaming by gilbrit (cc by)

When a question came up about drinking liquor and pairing it with cigars, MeFi member Scientist mentioned selling cigars and drops knowledge on what kinds of cigars go with various types of booze, what the sizes mean, what brands are good, and how best to enjoy them.

by mathowie

Remember tag clouds?

social media, social networking, social computing tag cloud (#2)social media, social networking, social computing tag cloud (#2) by daniel_iversen (cc by)

Tag clouds were all the rage in 2005, as a way to show items most often used. They were added to MetaFilter (and subsites) back then but have been mostly forgotten. MeFi member Homeboy Trouble stayed up late Saturday night, crunched some numbers with our infodump of data and weighted recent tags more heavily than older ones and got some interesting results:

The new hot tags have lots of current technology references as well; ios, ipad, android, ereader, tumblr, cloud, win7, kindle, droid, app, chrome, etsy, socialmedia, facebook, tablet, twitter. But there's a few new trends bespeaking a more diverse audience; lgbt, transgender, queer, polyamory, kink; trauma and ptsd; preschool, daycare and nanny; awkward and boundaries, psychiatrist and selfesteem, lowcarb, radiation, newjob, catfood, horse, bedbugs, istanbul, introvert, whiskey.

by mathowie

The Secret Spies Among Us

swiss re artswiss re art by phogel (cc by)

In a thread about the odd new Swiss/US dual-citizenship of Michele Bachmann, MeFi member The 10th Regiment of Foot tells the tale of being "a 12 year old Alabama dirt child" given French lessons from a former Swiss spy.

There she would have some sort of cultural lesson, usually centering around her incredible collection of antique goods pilfered from war-torn Europe (and why not turnabout is fair play, non?). She'd have laid out on her horsehair divan a spectacular tapestry, ceramic, or other artwork and we'd discuss its provenance and the story behind the person depicted.

by mathowie

Only you can help improve nerd TV

asavageAdam working with his model by mathowie (cc by-nc-sa)

A certain someone on a certain awesome TV science show is looking for examples of movies showing cars flipping in interesting ways. The "test-able" part sounds a lot like the best answers may very well end up re-created on a TV show soon.

by mathowie

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