James Joyce Encoded in Venter’s Artificial Life

You may have heard the news last week: J. Craig Venter and a team of scientists created the first living organism – a "synthetic cell" – by way of a computer-generated genome. We're now seeing the beginnings of artificial life. And it's a big story, with many far-reaching implications. But where does James Joyce fit into this picture? Let me add this little factoid to the mix: According to The Christian Science Monitor, Venter's team inserted DNA watermark codes into the genome so that they can distinguish between natural and synthetic bacteria moving forward. And when this code is translated into English, it will "spell out the names of the 46 researchers who helped with the project, quotations from James Joyce, physicist Richard Feynman and J. Robert Oppenheimer, and a URL that anyone who deciphers the code can e-mail." Lots of smarts packed into the tiniest of packages.

UPDATE: The quotes in watermark apparently read: "TO LIVE, TO ERR, TO FALL, TO TRIUMPH, TO RECREATE LIFE OUT OF LIFE." - James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; "SEE THINGS NOT AS THEY ARE, BUT AS THEY MIGHT BE.”-A quote from an Oppenheimer biography, American Prometheus; "WHAT I CANNOT BUILD, I CANNOT UNDERSTAND." - Richard Feynman.

David Simon Takes New York Down a Peg

Speaking in New York City, David Simon, the creator of The Wire, wasn't shy about taking the city to task. "There is no city more vain about its position in popular culture, more indifferent to other realities, more self absorbed than other cities." "Manhattan is [now] one big pile of money," which leaves it divorced from the real problems facing other American cities. So why are so many stories and television shows still centered in New York, and how can they tell the real tale of urban America in 2010?

This talk took place at The New School for Liberal Arts in NYC.

via The Daily Dish

Bill Gates Holds Office Hours; Talks about Giving Back

The Bill Gates college tour rolled through Stanford University in late April. And Gates brought with him a message for students: Philanthropy counts. No matter how young you are, you can start thinking about giving back.

His visit featured a large public talk where he drove home this point. (Get the full talk in video or audio here.) Then, like any good teacher, he held office hours and answered student questions posed through Facebook. Watch his responses above.

HuffPo on Literary One-Hit Wonders

HuffPo has pulled together a list of The 12 Greatest Literary One-Hit Wonders. And it's a strange list indeed. When you think of "one-hit wonders," you think of memorable songs recorded by very unmemorable artists – artists who got their 15 minutes of fame and then fell right off the radar. Meanwhile, the HuffPo list includes some of the most enduring names in American literature  –  F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.D. Salinger, and Herman Melville. They gave us their big novels – The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and Moby Dickthen wrote some other lasting pieces of fiction, both short and long. They hardly faded into oblivion. And, years later, we're certainly not asking, "what ever happened to old what's his name?"

Spring: A Short Film Based on Hemingway’s Memoir

British filmmaker Temujin Doran may be better known for his strong, highly opinionated views on democracy and politics, but his adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's memoir, A Moveable Feast, is something else entirely.

Though still narrated in Doran's characteristically urgent, restless tone, Spring offers a quiet tribute to Parisian urbanity and the richness of seasonality, captured with cinematic minimalism and eerily indulgent aesthetic austerity.

Maria Popova is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of eclectic interestingness and indiscriminate curiosity. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine, BigThink and Huffington Post, and spends a disturbing amount of time curating interestingness on Twitter.

Insults Shakespeare Style

Searching for a stinging insult that has a nice literary quality? Let the Shakespeare Insult Finder be your guide. And, if you find yourself needing a good insult on the go, you can always download a free app for the iPhone.

"Your means are very slender, and your waste is great."
Henry IV, part 2

(Thanks Veronica!)

Beyond Silicon Valley: Online Education in Emerging Markets

I live in Silicon Valley where it's easy to assume that you're living at the center of technological innovation. But, as Sarah Lacy reminds us today in TechCrunch, Silicon Valley will probably not realize the promise of e-learning. Rather, it will be investors and entrepreneurs in Brazil, India, South Africa and other emerging markets. Why will they get the job done? Because their educational systems haven't fully matured. They're still a work-in-progress. And this creates an environment much more favorable to innovation. You can get the rest of her thinking here.

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