What does a music conductor do?

Excellent post from Kottke.org about the role of the music conductor. The thing is, it started as a curious post by the author, and ended up with a response from a professional conductor that made the post epic.

In orchestral conducting, two things are different. First, the musicians don’t need much help keeping time, so the patterns are either heavily modified or abandoned entirely-although you can often see downbeats and things if you look for them. Second, orchestral conductors conduct WAY ahead of the beat the musicians are actually playing. This helps the musicians respond in real time to the conductor’s instructions.

Go read!

Fraud on Who Wants to be a Millionaire (some time ago)

This is an old story, but a fascinating one nonetheless. (Also, I discovered it only recently.) A contestant (Charles Ingram) on the British Who Wants to be a Millionaire decided that he wanted to win the Big One—by hook or by crook, as they say. It’s an incredible tale of cheating, and using exceedingly simple means to gain answers that he didn’t know.

And then they made a TV episode of the whole affair. It’s awesome. Go watch! (There are eight segments in total; watch all of them.)

Earth is *underpopulated* with humans

Think we’re overrunning the planet? Too many people, too little space to fit them in? Guess what—you’re wrong.

Check out this amazing info-graphic, showing how large a city would need to be, if all of the Earth’s population was living at that one city. It shows a number of scenarios, depending on the population densities of various present-day cities.

(Spoiler: The largest area on the info-graphic is less than the area of the USA.)

Link via Cafe Hayek.

Earth’s latest close encounter with an asteroid

Come Monday, an asteroid, the 2011MD, will pass quite close to Earth. How close? It’ll be closer to Earth than the orbits of GPS satellites, and will be so strongly deflected by Earth’s gravity that it’ll almost go back the way it came!

Here are some amazing simulations of the asteroid’s flyby – these are a must watch!

Link via Ian O’Neill’s blog at Discovery News.

Crowdfunding the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence

You’ve heard of SETI, right? (If you haven’t, look it up.) In short: SETI runs a telescope array, looking for any signals from space that can be attributed to intelligent life forms, as opposed to natural sources. It’s a great scientific undertaking. Unfortunately, it turns out SETI is in a cash crunch, and has suspended operations.

This is terrible. SETI pursues a human dream, that we’re probably not alone in the universe, and it’s unfortunate that there aren’t enough funds for its operation. That being said, it is understandable that different funding agencies may be forced to withdraw funding, to support more urgent causes.

Yes, we as a race have enough problems to deal with and solve here on Earth to gaze at the sky waiting for a signal that we don’t know exists. But: our problems should not, must not, stop us from dreaming – we’re where we are, for better or for worse, because we dream.

Fortunately, we can all do something about it. Do you have $10 (or more) to spare? You can donate at SetiStars.org – they’re trying to collect $200,000 to get the Allen Telescope Array back online.

Go on: donate to make life better here on Earth, but contribute to keep our dreams alive too.