my anime watchlist

AICN has a synopsis of the plot of the anime “Death Note” that makes it sound really quite intriguing:

The titular Death Note is a note pad of a shinigami (death god, comparable to the notion of a grim reaper), which allows its owner to dictate the time and cause of death for the victim whose name is inscribed on one of its pages. This is a very rule based process, starting with the clause that if no cause is specified within 40 seconds, the victim will die of a heart attack, and getting more complex from there.

Bored by the listlessness of his people, the shinigami Ryuk decides to amuse himself by dropping a Death Note into the human world. There, it is picked up by ace student Light Yagami. To Ryuk’s amusement, Light proves unphased by the power to kill, the revelation that shinigami exist, or that using the Death Note ensures that a human will neither travel to heaven or hell upon death. After using the book to kill, the only repercussion incurred is that the user’s name will be written in the book by its original shinigami owner upon the user’s death.

When it comes to shock, Light is revealed to have iron fortitude. After the ability to kill on a whim is dropped into his lap, he proves able to compose himself and push forward with his agenda.

The certainty with which he embraces that power makes Light an intriguing character.

The description of Light as a character both arrogant and idealistic make for a very righteous archetype, like a paladin convincing himself of the greater good and a ends-justify-means crusade. I am reminded of the Kingpriest from Dragonlance Chronicles as well. At any rate, I’ll see if I can find the torrents for this one.

I am also determined to watch Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei – though from what I read at Astro’s, its unclear if the fansubbers will finish subbing season 1. I’m also fascinated by the premise of Moyashimon, which has the visual appeal of a science lab on LSD. My friend Jon also dropped by Marshfield on his way home to Appleton from the Twin Cities, and brought Read or Die (the pilot as well as the full season), Ranma, Ergo Proxy, FateStayNight, Gankutsuou, Noir, and Samurai7. That’s a feast of anime that should keep me and my baby daughter fed through the holiday season (I typically watch anime while bottle-feeding her; we both just zone out and do our respective thing). Suggestions as to which I should tackle first are welcome (and requested).

I also have to get off my arse and write something about The Girl who Leapt, Twelve Kingdoms, and (waaaay overdue) Someday’s Dreamers. However, of late I’ve been distracted by something decidedly non-anime: Heroes. More on that later 🙂

unreal Great White shark photos

If you’ve seen the Planet Earth series on DVD (or even better, high-definition DVD) then you’ll recall the astounding footage of a great white shark hunting seals for food, leaping out of the water like a leviathan and twisting in midair while it lunges towards its prey. Now you don’t need the DVD – check out this astounding hi-speed photography of a great white hunt. These pictures are simply awesome. In the original sense of the word.

woah, that’s like deep

Surfer dude comes up with the Theory of Everything?

An impoverished surfer has drawn up a new theory of the universe, seen by some as the Holy Grail of physics, which has received rave reviews from scientists.
Despite this unusual career path, his proposal is remarkable because, by the arcane standards of particle physics, it does not require highly complex mathematics.

Even better, it does not require more than one dimension of time and three of space, when some rival theories need ten or even more spatial dimensions and other bizarre concepts. And it may even be possible to test his theory, which predicts a host of new particles, perhaps even using the new Large Hadron Collider atom smasher that will go into action near Geneva next year.

Although the work of 39 year old Garrett Lisi still has a way to go to convince the establishment, let alone match the achievements of Albert Einstein, the two do have one thing in common: Einstein also began his great adventure in theoretical physics while outside the mainstream scientific establishment, working as a patent officer, though failed to achieve the Holy Grail, an overarching explanation to unite all the particles and forces of the cosmos.

Intriguingly, the theory apparently has something to do with “E8“, an 8-dimensional mathematical shape with 248 points that pops up in theoretical physics and in nature. So, the universe might well look like this, in a sense:


There’s a lot more information about E8 at the American Institute of Math – including some clever marketing text describing E8’s mysteries as containing more information that the human genome, and the calculations delving into its nature being the size of Manhattan if written out in tiny print on paper.

we can dance like Cthulhu

C, c, c, c
T, t, t, t
H, h, h, h
U, u, u, u
L, l, l, l
H, h, h, h
U, u, u, u


We can dance like Cthulhu
We can answer to his call
Watch him kick Lady Liberty’s head
down the road like a soccer ball

Say, we can dance like Cthulhu
Live it up while the livin’s good
Cause once he awakens, the world starts shakin’
and there goes the neighborhood

Say, we can dance, we can dance
Great Old Ones are in control
We can dance, we can dance
Hear them callin’ the call
We can dance, we can dance
Terror makes you go in a trance
We can dance, we can dance
Everybody’s shitting their p-a-a-nts

The Cthulhu Dance
The Cthulhu Dance
The Cthulhu Dance


lyrics by Mr. Nice Gaius, a frequent commenter at Ain’t It Cool News (with the best Galactica-fan screen name ever).

social linkages online

Earlier, I mused about whether the inherent limit on human interaction group size would apply to online social networks or not. That limit is called “Dunbar’s Number” and is estimated to be ~150, based on observations of social networks among primates and then extrapolating to humans taking increased brainpower into consideration. An intriguing piece in the WSJ asks whether online social networks are still bound by Dunbar’s number or whether technological innovation might permit us to exceed it:

But there is reason to believe that the social-networking sites will enable their users to burst past Dunbar’s number for friends, just as humans have developed and harnessed technology to surpass their physical limits on speed, strength and the ability to process information.
Robin Dunbar, an Oxford anthropologist whose 1993 research gave rise to the magical count of 150, doesn’t use social-networking sites himself. But he says they could “in principle” allow users to push past the limit. “It’s perfectly possible that the technology will increase your memory capacity,” he says.

The question is whether those who keep ties to hundreds of people do so to the detriment of their closest relationships — defined by Prof. Dunbar as those formed with people you turn to when in severe distress.

The problem here is the definition of the word “relationship”. Dunbar’s definition of “closest” is just one of many possible ones, and the various definitions might well overlap. But does that mean that business relationships are excluded from Dunbar’s limit? If so, then you might expect to see many more contacts on LinkedIn, which caters to a business networking model, than on Facebook which is primarily stalker heaven. LinkedIn is approaching critical mass in terms of network effect; RWW found over 80% of their business contacts already using it, for example.

There are surely other models one could employ to map relationships: blogrolls, chat client lists, twitter fans/friends, etc. I think any one of these – or a weighted combination of all of them – would be good data sets to see whether Dunbar’s number truly holds online or not.