Machine Age

  • Local Journalist Struggles With Bite-Sized Pun, Fails, Moves On: Who can forget the historic day, July 21, 1969? The headline makes it all clear again: "HOLY SHIT. MAN WALKS ON FUCKING MOON. Neil Armstrong's Historic First Words on Moon: 'Holy Living Fuck.' " Started by University of Wisconsin undergrads in 1988 and launched online in 1996, The Onion (theonion.com) has become the sharpest, most consistently funny media-josh out there. Our Dumb Century, their first book, debuted last week at number nine on Amazon.com's bestseller list. It's a brilliant tour of history askew. For each year, The Onion mocks up a fake front page to the newspaper, from 1924's "Lenin Dead From Massive 'Stroke of the People'; Glorious Lack of Oxygen Distributed Equally Through Brain," to 1993's "New President Feels Nation's Pain, Breasts." No one is spared. They even got the crappy USA Today info-graphics perfect. Read it once and you'll be stuck with one of their headlines forever.

  • Slaves of the Machine: Got an available computer? Feeling nostalgic for your years on the math team? The Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org) is offering prizes up to $250,000 for discovering new prime numbers— numbers that can only be divided by 1 or themselves— in the million and billion digits. The largest known prime is only six digits long: 909,526. The idea is to encourage massive parallel processing. "The EFF awards are about cooperation," says cofounder John Gilmore, in a press release. Cooperation maybe, but definitely not generosity. After all, if you've got so much spare machinery that you can dedicate a PC to doing long division full-time, you might also consider donating it to charity. Or is that kind of thinking as rare as 909,526?

    contributor: Austin Bunn

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