Does this thing have a manual?

Well, I didn’t think an escalator needed one, but the numbers seem to say different:


For those who can’t read the poor quality text, it says « Last year: 1,024 injuries ».

The number drew my attention for two reasons:

  1. What are the probabilities of the number of injuries on escalators being a power of 2?
  2. How can there be almost 3 injuries per day on something as trivial as an escalator? (that’s an interrobang, in case you’re wondering)

Sure, the escalators on the London tube can be impressive:

Tube Escalator
(CC) Flickr swh

But still…

Y a un manuel utilisateur pour ce machin ?

Je ne pensais pas qu’un escalator en aurait besoin, mais les chiffres semblent indiquer le contraire :


Pour ceux qui n’arrivent pas à lire le texte, c’est marqué « Last year: 1,024 injuries », c’est-à-dire « L’an dernier : 1024 blessés ».

Le chiffre a attiré mon attention pour deux raisons :

  1. Quelles sont les probabilités que le nombre de blessés dans un escalator soit une puissance de 2 ?
  2. Comment peut-il y avoir presque 3 blessés par jour dans quelque chose d’aussi trivial qu’un escalator ? (c’est un point exclarrogatif, au cas où vous vous posseriez la question)

Bien sûr, les escalators du métro de Londres peuvent être assez impressionants :

Tube Escalator
(CC) Flickr swh

Mais quand même…

¿Hay un manual para esta cosa?

Pues, nunca pensé que una escalera eléctrica necesitara uno, pero las cifras indican lo contrario:


Para los que no logran leer el texto, dice « Last year: 1,024 injuries », o sea « El año pasado: 1024 heridos ».

El número me llamó la atención por dos razones:

  1. ¿Cuáles son las probabilidades de que el número de heridos en escaleras eléctricas sea una potencia de 2?
  2. ¿Cómo puede haber casi 3 heridos por día en algo tan trivial como una escalera eléctrica? (es un interrobang, por aquello de las dudas)

Claro, las escaleras eléctricas del metro de Londres pueden ser bastante impresionantes:

Tube Escalator
(CC) Flickr swh

Pero igual…

Bionic monkey-talk at TED

OK, maybe the title doesn’t mean much, but I couldn’t think of anything better. So how about you just watch the videos?

I was barely finished with last week’s TED post when I stumbled upon the first of this week’s recommendations. I know I said that TED videos were only 18 minutes long, but I guess when you’re Jane Goodall you’re inherently expected to need a little more:

As inspiring as Mrs. Goodall might be, I would have preferred a longer talk from Alan Russell, the speaker on this video called Why can’t we grow new body parts?:

Your help is needed to find Jim Gray!

I know I have a tendency to abuse exclamation marks, but this time it is really important.

On Sunday, January 28th, 2007, Jim Gray, a renowned computer scientist was reported missing at sea. As of Thursday, Feb. 1st, the US Coast Guard has called off the search, having found no trace of the boat or any of its emergency equipment.

Follow the story here.

Through the generous efforts of his friends, family, various communities and agencies, detailed satellite imagery has been made available for his last known whereabouts.

The satellite images have been put on the Amazon Mechanical Turk and you can help with the search efforts by dedicating some of your time to looking for Jim’s boat.

So put whatever you intended to do on the Web today aside for a couple of minutes. I am sure Jim’s family will appreciate it very much.

Click here to go to the Mechanical Turk.

The International Language of Gestures

We take most of the gestures we make every day for granted: nodding means « yes », shaking your head means « no », a thumb up means « OK », etc. But are they universal? Will people from other regions, countries, cultures understand what you mean when making these gestures?

The answer is no.

A while back, I wrote a post about counting with your fingers, commenting another post by Alex Barnett. Based on the comments received by Alex’s post you can already conclude that people around the world use their fingers in different ways to represent numbers. What about other gestures?

Well, I just read this article: Why do we nod our heads for « yes » and shake them for « no »?

They talk about how things as simple as saying « yes » or « no » can be represented by different gestures around the world, even though nodding and shaking your head is almost universal.

Other gestures, however, such as the « thumbs up » can have several different meanings. Depending on cultures and, of course, context it can mean:

  1. OK,
  2. number 1,
  3. give me a ride, 🙂
  4. or « screw you »

You can see that, if you’re not careful, not knowing what the gesture you’re making means can get you in quite a lot of trouble. I’m thinking of the hitchhiker (meaning 3) walking on a Greek (meaning 4) road giving drivers the « thumbs up » 😛