Tracked while reading about being tracked at work

While reading this NYT article, by Jodi Kantor and Arya Sundaram, on the drawbacks of activity and time tracking for work, the article itself tracks your reading behavior. You see counters for the time you spend reading and scrolling, clicks, keystrokes, idle time, and active time. It comes complete with snippy comments and a final grade — and a bitter taste for productivity tracking.

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Visual explanations for machine learning

As part of a teaching initiative by Amazon, MLU-Explain is a series of interactive explainers on core machine learning concepts. Learn about training sets, decision trees, random forests, and more. Seems like a good way to spend a Friday night if you ask me.

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Sequoia tree wildfire protection

For Reuters, Travis Hartman, Ally J. Levine, and Anurag Rao describe the measures taken to protect giant sequoia trees from wildfire. The trees have their own protections with thick bark and dropped branches. Firefighters help by watering the ground underneath and directing giant flames to other areas.

I’m into the vintage-y illustration. It starts you at the top of the tree and guides you down the trunk to the ground, with highlights along the way.

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Melting popsicles to visualize a heat wave

Many European countries are experience record high temperatures, so The Washington Post used melting popsicles to attach something relatable to the numbers and standard heatmap. But:

It turns out that it takes popsicles much longer to melt than we had expected. In this unscientific experiment, the shortest melt time was around 12 minutes, in 90 degrees Fahrenheit, under Madrid’s beating sun. It took as long as 50 minutes earlier in the day and in the shade.

I wish they’d taken it one or two steps further with a more scientific method. Try to use the same color or type of popsicle, put the popsicles out at the same time of day, or get a time-lapse of a control popsicle so that there’s a way to compare something. As it was made, the melting popsicles are just background images.

I’m sure there were time and resource constraints across countries, but it was such a good idea.

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Why the galaxy pictures from the Webb telescope are pretty cool

The first public picture from the James Webb telescope is kind of cool and all, but you can’t fully appreciate it unless you know what those glowing blobs represent and how they came to be. For Washington Post Opinion, Sergio Peçanha provides context for why NASA’s recent accomplishment is so awesome:

Everything about the Webb telescope is mind-boggling. Ponder this: Humans sent a telescope the size of a tennis court into space and parked it four times farther away than the moon.

There it orbits the sun along with us, just so we can get some pictures.

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Income ladder for the children of immigrants

You’ve probably seen the moving bubbles that show how something changes over time. NYT Opinion lowered the abstraction level and showed little people climb the steps of income. The graphic is based on research by Ran Abramitzky and Leah Boustan:

Using the data set, Mr. Abramitzky and Ms. Boustan were able to compare the income trajectories of immigrants’ children with those of people whose parents were born in the United States. The economists found that on average, the children of immigrants were exceptionally good at moving up the economic ladder.

Abramitzky and Boustan just published a book on the topic.

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Money distribution for streaming music

From the listener perspective, we pay our monthly or annual fees and just turn on our music streams. The path those fees take from our wallet to musicians is less straightforward. For The Pudding, Elio Quinton does a good job of visually explaining where the money goes (and some of the better ways you can support artists).

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Money distribution for streaming music

From the listener perspective, we pay our monthly or annual fees and just turn on our music streams. The path those fees take from our wallet to musicians is less straightforward. For The Pudding, Elio Quinton does a good job of visually explaining where the money goes (and some of the better ways you can support artists).

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Absurd trolly problems

You’ve probably heard of the trolley problem, a thought experiment that imagines a trolley approaching a fork in the tracks. There are five people stuck on one path and one person stuck on the other. If the trolly continues on its current path, five people will die, but if you consciously switch the tracks, you could save them and only one person dies. Do you switch or let the trolley continue?

Neal Agarwal, who continues to gift the internet with fun projects, reframes the trolley problem with increasingly more absurd choices. You also get to see how others answered, so you can compare your own choices against the moral compass of the internet.

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Imagining carbon food labels

By purchasing certain foods, we make decisions about the carbon footprint from the production of those foods. Most of us don’t have a good idea of how much difference our choices can make though. Financial Times reports on policymakers working to make the footprint more obvious through food labeling.

Based on estimates from CarbonCloud, a scale on the FT piece weighs the carbon footprint per kilogram of various foods. The scale metaphor threw me off at first, because the item with a lower carbon footprint appeared visually higher. Of course with a scale, something heavier pushes down more, but my brain was thinking in terms of x-y-coordinates. Maybe that’s just me staring at too many charts.

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