Listened to Making sense of modern recipes It's not your fault; even professional chefs encounter problems by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

Peter Hertzmann tells a great story of a chef telling a bunch of students to go and double the recipe for a batch of cookies. Minutes later, one returned and said he couldn’t do it because the oven wouldn’t go up to 700 degrees. Ho, ho, ho.

But there’s a serious issue here for people who are trying to follow a recipe without a clear understanding of the process and methods beneath it. Come to think of it, Peter says, even for professionals, there can be big problems trying to follow some modern recipes. Which prompts me to wonder, how many people these days buy cookbooks in order to use the recipes?


  1. Peter Hertzmann’s website à la carte will keep you occupied for hours. If you just want the paper we were talking about, here it is.
  2. Measure for Measure is the article I mentioned by Raymond Sokolov on why Americans measure by volume. It was published in Natural History magazine, July 1988, pp 80–83, and there seems also to be a version in the 1988 Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cooking. Good luck finding it online. Or, drop me a note …
  3. I was pleasantly surprised to find a facsimile of the original Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book at Amazon.
  4. Thanks to Dr Ana Tominc and the organisers for allowing me to attend the 1st Biennial Conference on Food and Communication at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.
  5. Cover photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

So many useful and important things in this episode. We need more content about food that helps teach people how to really cook. There isn’t nearly enough basic knowledge about science among cooks for them to really do their job as well as they should. Too much cooking media these days is geared at aspirational cooking rather than actual cooking. Our sad dependence on recipes is just deplorable. It kills me that most people don’t know how to properly measure ingredients.

Read Digging up the top science blogs of yesteryear by Jeremy Cherfas (
This bafflingly huge waste of my time (and yours) was prompted by two seemingly unlinked events. (Of course, no two events are truly unlinked, but let that ride.) First, there was a bafflingly stupid "article" from Mother Jones: Let’s Remember Some Blogs – Mother Jones. Why stupid? Because as fa...

👓 Humane Ingenuity 9: GPT-2 and You | Dan Cohen | Buttondown

Read Humane Ingenuity 9: GPT-2 and You by Dan CohenDan Cohen (
This newsletter has not been written by a GPT-2 text generator, but you can now find a lot of artificially created text that has been.

For those not familiar with GPT-2, it is, according to its creators OpenAI (a socially conscious artificial intelligence lab overseen by a nonprofit entity), “a large-scale unsupervised language model which generates coherent paragraphs of text.” Think of it as a computer that has consumed so much text that it’s very good at figuring out which words are likely to follow other words, and when strung together, these words create fairly coherent sentences and paragraphs that are plausible continuations of any initial (or “seed”) text.

This isn’t a very difficult problem and the underpinnings of it are well laid out by John R. Pierce in *[An Introduction to Information Theory: Symbols, Signals and Noise](*. In it he has a lot of interesting tidbits about language and structure from an engineering perspective including the reason why crossword puzzles work.
November 13, 2019 at 08:33AM

The most interesting examples have been the weird ones (cf. HI7), where the language model has been trained on narrower, more colorful sets of texts, and then sparked with creative prompts. Archaeologist Shawn Graham, who is working on a book I’d like to preorder right now, An Enchantment of Digital Archaeology: Raising the Dead with Agent Based Models, Archaeogaming, and Artificial Intelligence, fed GPT-2 the works of the English Egyptologist Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) and then resurrected him at the command line for a conversation about his work. Robin Sloan had similar good fun this summer with a focus on fantasy quests, and helpfully documented how he did it.

Circle back around and read this when it comes out.

Similarly, these other references should be an interesting read as well.
November 13, 2019 at 08:36AM

From this perspective, GPT-2 says less about artificial intelligence and more about how human intelligence is constantly looking for, and accepting of, stereotypical narrative genres, and how our mind always wants to make sense of any text it encounters, no matter how odd. Reflecting on that process can be the source of helpful self-awareness—about our past and present views and inclinations—and also, some significant enjoyment as our minds spin stories well beyond the thrown-together words on a page or screen.

And it’s not just happening with text, but it also happens with speech as I’ve written before: Complexity isn’t a Vice: 10 Word Answers and Doubletalk in Election 2016 In fact, in this mentioned case, looking at transcripts actually helps to reveal that the emperor had no clothes because there’s so much missing from the speech that the text doesn’t have enough space to fill in the gaps the way the live speech did.
November 13, 2019 at 08:43AM

🔖 GLTR (glitter) v0.5

Bookmarked GLTR from MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab and HarvardNLP (
This demo enables forensic inspection of the visual footprint of a language model on input text to detect whether a text could be real or fake.

🎧 Episode 1: You Can Change | The Happiness Lab

Listened to Episode 1: You Can Change from The Happiness Lab

There are things you can do today to make yourself happier. Your life circumstances and personality aren't nearly as important as you think in deciding how happy you can be. Dr Laurie Santos explains how understanding the latest science will point you in the right direction to making you more satisfied with your life.

🔖 The En-Gedi Scroll (2016) | Internet Archive

Bookmarked The En-Gedi Scroll (2016) (Internet Archive)

The data and virtual unwrapping results on the En-Gedi scroll. 

See the following papers for more information:
Seales, William Brent, et al. "From damage to discovery via virtual unwrapping: Reading the scroll from En-Gedi." Science advances 2.9 (2016): e1601247. (Web Article)
Segal, Michael, et al. "An Early Leviticus Scroll From En-Gedi: Preliminary Publication." Textus 26 (2016): 1-30. (PDF)

🔖 Digital Restoration Initiative

Bookmarked Digital Restoration Initiative (Digital Restoration Initiative)
The written word has been used throughout history to chronicle and contemplate the human experience, but many valuable texts are “lost” to us due to damage. The words of these documents and the knowledge they seek to impart are locked behind the destruction and decay wrought by time and injury, while the physical manuscripts themselves form an “invisible library” of sorts — closeted away on dark shelves, well-protected but prevented from proffering knowledge and encouraging inquiry. For more than 20 years, Dr. Seales has been working to create and use hi-tech, non-invasive tools to rescue these lost texts from the blink of oblivion and restore them to humanity. We call this innovative process “virtual unwrapping.”

h/t Dan Cohen newsletter #1

📺 EDUCE: Imaging the Herculaneum Scrolls | YouTube

Watched Imaging the Herculaneum Scrolls from YouTube
The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius covered the city of Herculaneum in twenty meters of lava, simultaneously destroying the Herculaneum scrolls through carbonization and preserving the scrolls by protecting them from the elements. Unwrapping the scrolls would damage them, but researchers are anxious to read the texts. Researchers from the University of Kentucky collaborated with the Institut de France and SkyScan to digitally unwrap and preserve the scrolls. To learn more about the EDUCE project, go to

They haven’t finished the last mile, but having high resolution scans of the objects is great. I’m not sure why they’re handling these items manually when they could very likely be secured in better external casings and still imaged the same way.

🎧 Triangulation 413 David Weinberger: Everyday Chaos | TWiT.TV

Listened to Triangulation 413 David Weinberger: Everyday Chaos from

Mikah Sargent speaks with David Weinberger, author of Everyday Chaos: Technology, Complexity, and How We’re Thriving in a New World of Possibility about how AI, big data, and the internet are all revealing that the world is vastly more complex and unpredictable than we've allowed ourselves to see and how we're getting acculturated to these machines based on chaos.

Interesting discussion of systems with built in openness or flexibility as a feature. They highlight Slack which has a core product, but allows individual users and companies to add custom pieces to it to use in the way they want. This provides a tremendous amount of addition value that Slack would never have known or been able to build otherwise. These sorts of products or platforms have the ability not only to create their inherent links, but add value by being able to flexibly create additional links outside of themselves or let external pieces create links to them.

Twitter started out like this in some sense, but ultimately closed itself off–likely to its own detriment.

🔖 Everyday Chaos: Technology, Complexity, and How We’re Thriving in a New World of Possibility by David Weinberger

Bookmarked Everyday Chaos: Technology, Complexity, and How We’re Thriving in a New World of Possibility by David WeinbergerDavid Weinberger (Amazon)

Make. More. Future.

Artificial intelligence, big data, modern science, and the internet are all revealing a fundamental truth: The world is vastly more complex and unpredictable than we've allowed ourselves to see.

Now that technology is enabling us to take advantage of all the chaos it's revealing, our understanding of how things happen is changing--and with it our deepest strategies for predicting, preparing for, and managing our world. This affects everything, from how we approach our everyday lives to how we make moral decisions and how we run our businesses.

Take machine learning, which makes better predictions about weather, medical diagnoses, and product performance than we do--but often does so at the expense of our understanding of how it arrived at those predictions. While this can be dangerous, accepting it is also liberating, for it enables us to harness the complexity of an immense amount of data around us. We are also turning to strategies that avoid anticipating the future altogether, such as A/B testing, Minimum Viable Products, open platforms, and user-modifiable video games. We even take for granted that a simple hashtag can organize unplanned, leaderless movements such as .

Through stories from history, business, and technology, philosopher and technologist David Weinberger finds the unifying truths lying below the surface of the tools we take for granted--and a future in which our best strategy often requires holding back from anticipating and instead creating as many possibilities as we can. The book’s imperative for business and beyond is simple: Make. More. Future.

The result is a world no longer focused on limitations but optimized for possibilities.

h/t Triangulation

Watched A bold idea to replace politicians by César Hidalgo from
César Hidalgo has a radical suggestion for fixing our broken political system: automate it! In this provocative talk, he outlines a bold idea to bypass politicians by empowering citizens to create personalized AI representatives that participate directly in democratic decisions. Explore a new way to make collective decisions and expand your understanding of democracy.

“It’s not a communication problem, it’s a cognitive bandwidth problem.”—César Hidalgo

He’s definitely right about the second part, but it’s also a communication problem because most of political speech is nuanced toward the side of untruths and covering up facts and potential outcomes to represent the outcome the speaker wants. There’s also far too much of our leaders saying “Do as I say (and attempt to legislate) and not as I do.” Examples include things like legislators working to actively take away things like abortion or condemn those who are LGBTQ when they actively do those things for themselves or their families or live out those lifestyles in secret.

“One of the reasons why we use Democracy so little may be because Democracy has a very bad user interface and if we improve the user interface of democracy we might be able to use it more.”—César Hidalgo

This is an interesting idea, but definitely has many pitfalls with respect to how we know AI systems currently work. We’d definitely need to start small with simpler problems and build our way up to the more complex. However, even then, I’m not so sure that the complexity issues could ultimately be overcome. On it’s face it sounds like he’s relying too much on the old “clockwork” viewpoint of phyiscs, though I know that obviously isn’t (or couldn’t be) his personal viewpoint. There’s a lot more pathways for this to become a weapon of math destruction currently than the utopian tool he’s envisioning.