Instagram idiocy, marshmallows or the moon, and some very tricky knots in this week’s Staff Picks

Digital Trends Staff Picks

jeff van camp

Jeff Van Camp: Wii U today or Moon trip tomorrow?

In 1972, researchers at Stanford University studied deferred gratification on 600 young children. The kids were put alone in a room with a single marshmallow. They could either eat the marshmallow or wait a few minutes with the promise of many more marshmallows. For the first time, I can understand what those hungry children were going through. I’ve got one big delayed gratification test on my hands.

A company called Golden Spike is planning to launch a commercial travel service to the moon. I really want to go to the moon … very badly. It would be a good story to tell my friends – you know, over a round of beers, or something. Here’s the problem: Ticket prices to the moon will start at a budget price of $700 million dollars apiece, which means that I can either get a Wii U now and re-enter my life as head of the Mushroom Kingdom, or start saving up cash.

Math: The Wii U costs about $350, which leaves a little less than $699,999,650 to win, earn, or steal over the next eight years. I can either play Mario now, or begin my structured, multiyear plan to make $700 million. I haven’t worked out the details yet, but if I’m able to sell several organs, win a few lotteries, steal a bunch of blood diamonds (very bloody), hedge some complex derivatives, file absurd software patents, sue huge corporations with said patents, become real close with Mitt Romney, rob the homeless, and invest in whatever John McAffee’s next venture is, I might be able to squeak by, assuming there’s no taxes on moon trips. Good plan, right? If you have any other ideas, let me know. I think I can hold out for the moon. I mean it’s just eight years, and that is one hell of a marshmallow.

andrew coutsAndrew Couts: A gallery of life lessons

There are just some things in life that you just need to know how to do. Like how to quickly fold a shirt, the four standard ways to properly tie a tie, or how to properly read other people’s emotions. Luckily for all of us, some anonymous do-gooder has put together a comprehensive gallery of useful infographics that explain dozens of nifty life tips. Sure some of them – like how to build a military-grade incendiary grenade – might not be exactly practical. But then again, it never hurts to know how to whip up a 4,000-degree flame, just in case. To get you started, I highly recommend this Google Cheat sheet, this primer on organized crime, and this handy reminder to always infuse your pancakes with bacon.

google cheat sheet

Jennifer BergenJen Bergen: It’s pronounced ‘Jiff,’ not ‘GIF’

Turning 25 this year, GIFs have been around for a long time. Though the GIF is slightly younger than me, it wasn’t until today that I learned the proper way to pronounce the word. Yes, GIF is actually pronounced with a soft G – like the peanut butter brand Jiff – and not with a hard G. After a quick poll of some of the Digital Trends staff, I can attest I’m not the only one making this mistake. Thankfully, Legs Media’s Sean Pecknold created a video that regales us with the tale of the GIF. From its birth in 1987, the GIF has had an interesting history, helping creepy babies dance on Ally McBeal in 1998, fizzling out a little in the early 2000s, and coming back in a triumphant renaissance in recent years with countless animated GIF Tumblrs. In fact, we even named 2012 the Year of the animated GIF. There’s a GIF for everything, and if you’re not familiar, we suggest you take two minutes out of your life to watch this stop-motion-animated video about the Graphics Interchange Format.

A Short History of the Gif | Moving the Still from LEGS MEDIA on Vimeo.

ryan flemingRyan Fleming: To live and die, and die, and die in Australia

Australia is apparently an incredibly dangerous place. So much so that the government seemed to feel the need to warn its citizens not to accidentally kill themselves by doing stupid things like poking a grizzly bear with a stick or lighting their hair on fire.

In order to warn people of the dangers of, well, life I guess, Metro Trains in Australia created this adorably horrifying public service announcement. The main goal is to educate people not to be idiots around a train, but while they were at it, they must have figured that it was a good time to address certain key danger areas plaguing humanity. Things like hiding in a dryer, or keeping a rattlesnake as a pet.

In all fairness, the song – written and performed by Tangerine Kitty – is cute and clever, and it will stick in your head. Like a virus. In fact, we should probably apologize for that right now, since it has a great chance of getting stuck in your head. But with over 31 million views and counting, there may be a few people that are now aware of the foibles of diving genitals first into a stream of piranhas.

instagram idiocy marshmallows or the moon and staff picks les shuLes Shu: The Dark Side of the Planet

Forty years ago, on December 7, 1972, the crew of the Apollo 17 took a photo of Earth as they headed toward what would be the last manned mission to the moon. The “Blue Marble,” as it is known, has become one of the more famous photos of our planet. According to NASA’s first caption draft for the image, “this translunar coast photograph extends from the Mediterranean Sea area to the Antarctica south polar ice cap. This is the first time the Apollo trajectory made it possible to photograph the south polar ice cap.”

While NASA has released updated editions of the “Blue Marble” every few years, the U.S. space agency has just launched a new series called “Black Marble,” which captures the Earth in darkness. According to Pop Photo, the image is captured using the day-night band of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite, which went into orbit earlier this year. The sensor is strong enough to detect the glow provided by a single ship at sea.

NASA writes, “Unlike a camera that captures a picture in one exposure, the day-night band produces an image by repeatedly scanning a scene and resolving it as millions of individual pixels. Then, the day-night band reviews the amount of light in each pixel. If it is very bright, a low-gain mode prevents the pixel from oversaturating. If the pixel is very dark, the signal is amplified.”

Whether seen in day or night, images of Earth will never cease to amaze.

natt garunNatt Garun: We’re all guilty of these Instagram tropes

I hate to admit it, but Instagram is a pretty self-indulgent little app. You use it to show off the awesome meals you’re eating, cats you’re playing with, and how awesome the sunset looks from your office window. You can’t go anywhere without wanting to slap a little Valencia filter on that pint of beer before telling everyone what bar you’re hanging out in. It’s pretty shameful, but the process is so damn addictive. We live for the Likes and Hearts that show up on our phones’ notification centers.

So consider me fascinated when College Humor unveiled “Look At This Instagram,” a parody song based off Nickelback’s “Photograph.” Everything in this music video is so on point with every Instagrammers I’ve ever known, it’s almost kind of sad. Sadder, of course, is the catchiness of the song, given the Nickelback reference. Just give the video a watch and try your best not to Instagram a reactionary portrait.