We’re lucky, you and I, as we sit here on our wet, rocky orb, careening around the Sun’s gravity well like a roulette ball refusing to pick a number. It’s nice out here on the goldilocks ellipse.

Ever wonder what would happen if a giant space finger suddenly brought Earth’s solar orbit to a screeching halt? If your intuition says “bad stuff”, then you’re on the right track.

Aatish Bhatia has written an informative and frightening account of Earth’s final 64.5 days, and since we’ve just completed another trip around our life-giving hydrogen fusion reactor, it’s a good time to remember why we shouldn’t take Earth’s forever fall for granted. 

Read more at Wired. 

At 10:02 AM on August 27th, 1883, a volcanic island in modern day Indonesia called Krakatoa erupted. The blast sent shockwaves across the ocean, triggering tsunamis that destroyed the coast of Java and Sumatra. The sound was so loud it was heard 3000 miles away.

As Aatish Bhatia notes in this recent article:What we’re talking about here is like being in Boston and clearly hearing a noise coming from Dublin, Ireland.

Barometric readings at the time clocked the sound pressure at 172 decibels ONE HUNDRED MILES AWAY from the island.

Here’s a handy reference:

  • Using a jackhammer – 100 decibels
  • Human threshold for pain – 130 dB
  • Standing next to a jet engine – 150 dB

And the scale is logarithmic - so a 10 dB increase doubles the loudness.

Volcanoes seem to be a common topic these days. Yesterday Nautilus published a great piece by Aatish Bhatia on the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, which tore the island apart and unleashed a sound so loud it was heard more than 4800 km away:

The British ship Norham Castle was 40 miles from Krakatoa at the time of the explosion. The ship’s captain wrote in his log, “So violent are the explosions that the ear-drums of over half my crew have been shattered. My last thoughts are with my dear wife. I am convinced that the Day of Judgement has come.“

In general, sounds are caused not by the end of the world but by fluctuations in air pressure. A barometer at the Batavia gasworks (100 miles away from Krakatoa) registered the ensuing spike in pressure at over 2.5 inches of mercury. That converts to over 172 decibels of sound pressure, an unimaginably loud noise. To put that in context, if you were operating a jackhammer you’d be subject to about 100 decibels. The human threshold for pain is near 130 decibels, and if you had the misfortune of standing next to a jet engine, you’d experience a 150 decibel sound. (A 10 decibel increase is perceived by people as sounding roughly twice as loud.) The Krakatoa explosion registered 172 decibels at 100 miles from the source. This is so astonishingly loud, that it’s inching up against the limits of what we mean by “sound.” #

Those are some mindbogglingly enormous numbers. Aatish does a wonderful job of explaining the science behind an explosion whose effects ricocheted through the atmosphere for days afterward. Check out the full article over at Nautilus.  (Image credit: Parker & Coward, via Wikipedia)


Is this fractal a better dancer than you?

Aatish Bhatia wired a Microsoft Kinect to a fractal generator to create this dancing fractal tree. You can shake like lightning, sway like a river, and get those moves like Mandelbrot.

Read more about how it was created at Wired, and head here for a web-based, interactive version.

Bonus: Ever wonder what the “B” in Benoit B. Mandelbrot’s name stands for?


7 stages of love
     3. عشق - Ishq - love 
Ishq par zor nahin, hai yeh woh aatish
Ja lagaye na lage, aur bujhaye na bane

Love can’t be tamed, it’s like a fire that overpowers everything else
At times, it doesn’t start even after repeated tries; but once started,
it’s impossible to extinguish

  • Bulleya
  • Junoon
  • Parvaaz

Bulleya - Junoon

The original kalaam of Baba Bulleh Shah, that inspired this song, is “Bulla Ki Jana Main Kaun”

Na main momin vich maseetaan
Na main vich kufar diyan reetaan
Na main paakaan vich paleetaan
Na main Moosa na Firaun

Bulla, ki jaana main Kaun

Na main andar ved kitaabaan
Na vich bhangaan na sharaabaan
Na vich rindaan masat kharaabaan
Na vich jaagan na vich saun

Bulla, ki jaana main Kaun

Na vich shaadi na ghamnaaki
Na main vich paleeti paaki
Na main aabi na main khaki
Na main aatish na main paun

Bulla, ki jaana main Kaun

Na main Arabi, na Lahori
Na main Hindi, shehar Nagauri
Na Hindu, na Turak, Peshawri
Na main rehnda vich Nadaun

Bulla, ki jaana main Kaun

Na main bheth mazhab da paaya
Ne main Aadam Havva jaaya
Na main apna naam dharaaya
Na vich baitthan na vich bhaun

Bulla, ki jaana main Kaun

Avval aakhir aap nu jaana
Na koi dooja hor pehchaana
Maethon hor na koi siyaana
Bulla! ooh khadda hai kaun

Bulla, ki jaana main Kaun

10 Amazing Articles about Linguistics

The Language of the Future by Henry Hitchings - A fascinating look at how English is mutating as it becomes the world’s lingua franca.

The Interpreter by John Colapinto - Has a remote Amazonian tribe upended our understanding of language?

What the World Will Speak in 2115 by John H. McWhorter - A century from now, expect fewer but simpler languages on every continent

Vowel Movement by Rob Mifsud - How Americans near the Great Lakes are radically changing the sound of English.

Writing Right by Jared Diamond - “Some written languages are a precise reflection of a people’s speech, while others, like english, are a complete mess. Is this alphabetical evolution? Or the unequal application of logic to literacy?”

The Crayola-fication of the World by Aatish Bhatia - How naming things can change the way we perceive them.

Say No More by Jack Hitt - “Linguists now estimate that half of the more than 6,000 languages currently spoken in the world will become extinct by the end of this century.”

Linguists are like, ‘Get used to it!’ by Britt Peterson - Why a new way to quote has taken English by storm

English, Loanword Champion of the World! by Britt Peterson - It’s the number-one lender of words to other languages–but not everyone wants to borrow them

Utopian for Beginners by Joshua Foer - An amateur linguist loses control of the language he invented.

LitHub has a good post up about contemporary fiction, mostly in English, “by and about Muslims,” including Laila Lalami, Rabih Alameddine, G. Willow Wilson, Mohsin Hamid, Mohammed Hanif, Saladin Ahmed, Leila Aboulela, Ali Eteraz, Ausma Zehanat Khan, and Tahmima Anam.

I would add the following, just to start:

Daniyal Mueenuddin - In Other Rooms, Other Wonders
Hanan Al-Shaykh’s retelling of One Thousand and One Nights
Naguib Mahfouz - Midaq Alley
Orhan Pamuk - Snow, A Strangeness in My Mind
Ayad Akhtar - American Dervish
Dalia Sofer - The Septembers of Shiraz
Hisham Matar - Anatomy of a Disappearance
Diana Abu-Jaber - Crescent
Elif Shafak - The Bastard of Istanbul
Jamil Ahmad - The Wandering Falcon
Rabih Alameddine - The Hakawati
Emine Sevgi Özdamar - The Bridge of the Golden Horn
Tariq Ali - Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree
Aatish Taseer - Noon
Zoya Pirzad - Things We Left Unsaid
Leïla Marouane - The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris
Youssef Ziedan - Azazeel
Tayeb Salih - Season of Migration to the North
Venus Khoury-Ghata - A House at the Edge of Tears
Hakan Günday - More

Who else should we add to this list?