F-Stop in the Name of Love

I love photography. When I was younger, my dream was to shoot for National Geographic: to become the next Steve McCurry, the next Mike Yamashita, the next Ami Vitale, Nick Nichols, or Josh Haner.

One afternoon in my mid-20s, though, I visited the Newseum in Washington, DC, which included a photojournalism gallery with every Pulitzer Prize-winning image since 1942. There’s an almost other-worldly quality to great photography, an almost superhuman ability of great photographers to tell a story — to reveal an entire narrative — in the click of a single shutter. I spent hours staring at these images, marveling at the lighting, the layering, the angles and depth. And when I left the museum I thought, “I’ll never be that good.” It wasn’t an angsty realization. I wasn’t frustrated. I just knew, “These photographers literally see the world differently.” So I got into math education instead.

Indeed, photography is a way of looking at the world; it is a way of seeing. The difference with the naked eye, of course, is that this form of seeing involves a camera, an artificial device with its own virtues, but also its own limitations. Taking fully advantage of the artistic potential of photography, then, means understanding how a camera works.

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Pizza Pi

When you order pizza, how much is the cheesy, delicious part...and how much is crust?

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Vampires have become a big business in popular culture. Books, comics, movies: they're everywhere! Well, fictional ones are, at any rate. Nonfictional examples are harder to come by. So hard, in fact, that it's worth asking: do vampires actually exist?

There are a lot of conflicting stories about vampire behavior in pop culture, so before we can answer this question, let's first agree on some ground rules:

1. If you're bitten by a vampire, you become a vampire.

2. Vampires need to drink human blood.

3. Vampires need to feed once a week.

For the sake of argument, let's say there's a vampire out there who plays by these rules. What would that mean for the future of mankind?

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In late 2013, Nintendo found itself in a bit of a bind. A year after the release of its flagship Wii U, sales were slumping. In August, the company sold a mere 34,000 consoles in North America, far fewer than it had projected, and many wondered whether Mario & Co. were doomed.

In an attempt to boost sales, Nintendo dropped the price of the Wii U console from $300 to $250 the next month…and sales tripled. Crisis averted! Princess saved! Right?

Mmmmm, maybe not.

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Here Comes the Sun

As the world's population grows, so does the demand for smartphones, smart TVs, and even smart cars. But there's something not so smart about all of these "smart" devices: namely, the way we get the electricity used to power them. In America, electricity often comes from coal power plants, which fill our atmosphere with carbon dioxide while we're filling our iPhones with the latest pop hits. Unfortunately, as 60 Minutes reported, coal is cheap, which explains why we use it even though it's so dirty.

Thankfully, there are several alternatives to coal — e.g. wind, hydroelectirc, and solar power — that can generate much cleaner energy. Unfortunately, these alternatives can be expensive, meaning that when it comes to electricity, people are placed in the uncomfortable position of deciding between what's best for the planet and what's best for their wallets. Even though the cost of solar power has decreased recently, for many people it's still more expensive than coal. Which brings us to the question: are solar panels worth it?

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Pony Up

Normally the word explosion has sort of a negative connotation. And yet, properly managed, explosions are responsible for getting many of us safely to work in the morning, in the form of the internal combustion engine. If all goes according to plan, these explosions happen in the combustion chambers inside a vehicle's engine. The chambers sit on top of cylinders, which contain the pistons and valves that manage all of the important manipulation of fuel and gases flowing into and out of the engine.

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Police, Academy

Death and taxes are both mortal locks in this world, but the government can only spend one of them. Which they do. A lot. That's not terribly surprising, since governments have an incredible number of responsibilities that -- like many responsibilities -- require money. And because there's a finite amount of cash to go around, state governments have to make some tough decisions about where to lay it, which means spending has something important to tell us about priorities.

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iPod dPreciation

In an incredibly bold and almost certainly unprecedented move, Apple has decided to release a newer version of one of its popular products. That's right: as of Friday, the iPhone 6 is available for pre-order. Since you're currently connected to the Internet, that's probably not news to you. But what you might not know, what wasn't part of any cryptic e-whispering or subsequent media hullabaloo, is that — just a few days earlier — Apple wordlessly murdered the iPod classic. No press release, no farewell tribute. One day it was in the web store, and the next it just...wasn't. (RiP)

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Civic Duty

Back in 2006, Honda was pretty psyched about its new 50-mpg Civic Hybrid model. And, if this ad is any indication, so were the flowers, praying mantises, toucans, giraffes, and fishes. And why shouldn't everybody be psyched? Fifty is an awful lot of miles to be able to drive on a single gallon of gas, and less fuel consumption means lower emissions, spunkier fauna, happier customers. After all, not only can consumers feel good about doing something helpful for the environment, they can also spend a lot less money on transportation. So are hybrids a good deal, right? Well, that depends.

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Driving Question

It's football season again, so let's talk about professional basketball for a minute. That's right, basketball. In order to make games more exciting, NBA rules don't allow teams to hold onto the ball for too long during any given possession. Currently, the shot clock counts down 24 seconds, meaning that's the amount of time a team has to attempt a score before they're forced to turn the ball over. That's the law of the land.

Now imagine everybody gets together next week and agrees that they'll instead turn the ball over after 18 seconds. Not that the rule will change — there will still be 24 perfectly good seconds available for legal use — but that the new prevailing convention will suddenly be to give up 25% of your available possession time. Everyone would think that's nuts.

And yet that's more or less what happens in every single NFL football game. A team has four chances to advance the ball a minimum of 10 yards, but if they haven't succeeded after three plays, they typically sacrifice the last down in order to punt the ball over to the opposing side. Pretty much everybody thinks that's reasonable.

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