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What Khan Academy’s Fun, Free Learning Empire Has to Do with Dystopian Social Control

Over the Christmas break, I’ve been churning through Khan Academy math drills, so that I can be a more effective homeschool parent. It’s actually kind of fun watching my score go up, and earning badges. In the way that birds who are trained to peck buttons for food think it’s fun to peck their little beaks bloody. As a grad student ploughing through Kant and Derrida, I found it an intellectual relief to run a computer program through…

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How Bad Design Wrecked Steve Harvey’s “Universe”

The consequences weren’t as serious as the infamous Palm Beach County Butterfly Ballot; however, Eric Thomas has taken it upon himself to redesign the illogical “Miss Universe” results card. First, I’ve updated the brand to match. Just because this is simple and utilitarian doesn’t mean it can’t match the rest of the show. After that, I tackled the hierarchy. Now our “2015 Miss Universe” is now way more obvious. I’ve even…

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The Strangest, Most Spectacular Bridge Collapse (And How We Got It Wrong)

At a glance of the edited footage, it’s tempting to think that Gertie was brought down by resonance, given the vivid visual evidence of a bridge that undulates before it collapses, not unlike the wine glass that shatters under the vibrations of a singer’s voice…. How did the incorrect explanation persist for so long? In their paper about the event, Bilah and Scanlan cite 30 sources that mention resonance as a…

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Canon Australia video: 1 man; 6 backstories; 6 photographers; 6 photos

Canon Australia wants to sell cameras. This soft-sell video flatters the creative ambitions of customers in order to make them want to invest money in a fancy camera. We should be critical of the premise, because the video is not an art project or a psychological study. Still, this is good storytelling, and helps make a point about how media creates the reality that we perceive.  

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Play-Doh was Originally Wallpaper Cleaner

The story of Play-Doh began when Kutol, a Cincinnati based soap company, was about to go under in the late 1920s.  Cleo McVicker, just 21 years old, was tasked with selling off the company’s remaining assets, which at the time comprised mainly of powdered hand soap. Once that was done, the company would be too.  Cleo, however, managed to turn a nice profit in performing his task, the result of…

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It not only went VROOM, it carried chunky plastic letters that could *spell* VROOM.

Tonight, when I got home after all the evening’s ballet and piano lessons were over, I was plugging in my laptop at my desk and knocked down a little framed picture — it’s a photo my wife took of me on our first date. (On that same occasion, I also took a picture of her, and it’s framed on the other side of my desk.) I had completely forgotten that…