Translating the Internet

Luis von Ahn, one of the founders of CAPTCHA and coincidently, re-CAPTCHA, has devised a way to use the power of the world community to translate the internet into every major language.

So, what is CAPTCHA and who will translate the internet?

CAPTCHA, for those who didn’t know this “thing” had a name is the squiggly words you end up typing on the internet when you are filling out a form:

Essentially re-CAPTCHA is a newer version of the line squiggles with 2 words — one word for the human checking part, and one from an old book that a computer could not digitalize. It effectively out-sources book digitalization to the masses. At the moment, this amount of CAPTCHA-ing adds up to 2.5 million books a year being digitalized.

All of this is explained in the talk, as well as how the newest project, Duolingo, will use this idea of collective time & knowledge to translate the internet … one word, one sentence at a time.



The paradox of infinite spears all coming from the same sphere. Why? Because a theoretical sphere isn’t made of atoms so it can clone itself forever (?). Wikipedia it.

A complex concept turned Danish music video set to the Duck Sauce version of “Barbara Streisand” and filmed in the University of Copenhagen’s Math Department.

via boing boing

Detroit Bike City

This is a great mini-doc by Alex Gallegos on biking in Detroit. It’s got a totally positive and uplifting feel and talks about everything from biking as a youth and social movement to the popularity growth for Critical Mass. It’s pretty nifty how the low density of this otherwise mid/large-sized city is seen as an asset here — the extra space on roads can be used by bicycles.

via Urban Times

São Paulo: 5 years with no outdoor ads

Some of the remains of São Paulo's advertising - a Flickr set by Tony de Marco

In 2006 the mayor of São Paulo, Gilberto Kassab, passed the “Clean City Law” with the intention of curbing pollution — visual pollution included. This required the removal and ban of all (most) outdoor advertising such as that on billboards, store fronts, and transit.

Today the law is still in effect and according to a recent survey 70% of the population has found the ban beneficial to the city. According to a article,

Unexpectedly, the removal of logos and slogans exposed previously overlooked architecture, revealing a rich urban beauty that had been long hidden.

While many great aspects of the city were revealed by this movement, some of the shantytowns that may have preferred to hide behind such large signs were exposed. The same article sited that, having these inequalities suddenly

… [brought] to light incited residents to improve conditions and begin discussing solutions. No longer could actual problems be masked by artificial solutions.

The documentary below discusses the ban and its effects. Apparently several years ago there was talk of a reversal of the ad law, but as of today it appears to still be in effect. As one of (or the only?) democratic countries with this type of legislature, hopefully the success of São Paulo’s visual pollution curb can inspire other like-minded cities to follow.