Science & technology: the cool, the useful, and the awesome

A brief history of the Digital Public Library of America project, including its growth out of the fears and flaws involved in Google Books.

Falsehoods programmers believe about time, which can screw up your programs in new and exciting ways.

What motivates humans to do more, better work? Money? Only up to a point. Once you’re making enough to live on, earning more can actually drag your performance down. Feeling that you’re mastering new skills and doing meaningful work is much more important.

Case in point: “What happens if you give a thousand Motorola Zoom tablet PCs to Ethiopian kids who have never even seen a printed word? Within five months, they’ll start teaching themselves English while circumventing the security on your OS to customize settings and activate disabled hardware.

Straightforward study on gender bias among scientists: “On a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 being highest, professors gave John an average score of 4 for competence and Jennifer 3.3. John was also seen more favorably as someone they might hire for their laboratories or would be willing to mentor. The average starting salary offered to Jennifer was $26,508. To John it was $30,328.” On the plus side, the Onion sheds light on a foolproof way for women to achieve equal pay

Cecelia Payne: the astronomer who figured out that the Sun is mostly hydrogen (as opposed to the conventional wisdom of her time, “made up of basically the same stuff as Earth”), after discovering the whole process of reading stars’ compositions from studying their spectral lines. Born in 1900. Did all this work as part of her Ph.D., earned in 1925. Served at Harvard in the functional capacity of a professor, even though she wasn’t formally recognized as such until 1956.

Look at your planet. Now back to me. This planet is now diamonds. (55 Cancri e is about twice the diameter (?) of Earth, eight times the mass, with 18-hour years and a composition of approximately 1/3 pure diamond.)

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