by Dave Kellam

Interview with a frozen food tester

Mike Dang interviews a freelance illustrator, named Matthew, about his side-job as a professional frozen food taster.

I’d come home with huge blisters in my mouth from the salt. Yeah, fried food doesn’t have the same appeal anymore. And the other amazing thing is seeing the whole world behind literally every product we consume. Every aspect of the foods, taste, appearance, texture, is so insanely focus grouped and tested. Every major food company has a similar testing process.

Sounds like fun.

April 2, 2014 ·

Cat physics

Cat falling diagram

A diagram from the 1969 study, A Dynamical Explanation of the Falling Cat Phenomenon, by Kane and Scher of Stanford University. Apparently one of the very few scientific papers on cat physics.

Kane and Scher neither lifted nor dropped a single cat. Instead, they created a mathematical abstraction of a cat: two imaginary cylinder-like chunks, joined at a single point so the parts could (as with a feline spine) bend, but not twist. When they used a computer to plot the theoretical bendings of this theoretical falling chunky-cat, the motions resembled what they saw in old photographs of an actual falling cat. They conclude that their theory “explains the phenomenon under consideration”.

October 31, 2011 ·

Algorithmic pricing

Michael Eisen found a good example of algorithmic pricing on Amazon which resulted in two booksellers pricing a book on fly genetics at almost $24 million (via yewknee).

On the day we discovered the million dollar prices, the copy offered by bordeebook was 1.270589 times the price of the copy offered by profnath. And now the bordeebook copy was 1.270589 times profnath again. So clearly at least one of the sellers was setting their price algorithmically in response to changes in the other’s price. I continued to watch carefully and the full pattern emerged.

Once a day profnath set their price to be 0.9983 times bordeebook’s price. The prices would remain close for several hours, until bordeebook “noticed” profnath’s change and elevated their price to 1.270589 times profnath’s higher price. The pattern continued perfectly for the next week.

I’m waiting for the algorithmic pricing that messes up in the other direction and nets me a Gutenberg bible for pocket change.