The Most Intellectual Jokes Reddit Knows

This is a great thread on Reddit: the best intellectual jokes the members of the site know.

Here are three of my favorites:

1) It’s hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take things literally.

The response is equally awesome: “I don’t get it but I’m stealing this one.” 

2) Q: What does the “B” in Benoit B. Mandelbrot stand for?

A: Benoit B. Mandelbrot.

3) Two chemists walk into a bar. The first says, “Can I have a glass of H2O.”

The second chemist says “Can I have a glass of water too.”

The first chemist broke down in tears – his assassination attempt had failed.

I also enjoyed the counterresponse to this joke:

A photon checks into a hotel and the bellhop asks him if he has any luggage. The Photon replies “No I’m traveling light”. One redditor’s response: “

I object to this on the grounds that photons experience no time within their own reference frame and therefore could not possibly respond. The best they could do is give a wave.”

Lots more nerdery here.


(hat tip: @legalnomads

On Reddit and the Wisdom of Crowds

James Surowiecki’s analysis of Reddit’s crowdsourcing ability in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings is one of the best things I’ve read on the subject:

You can certainly fault the Redditors for not recognizing the limits of their own knowledge and for jumping to conclusions (even if a good deal of that jumping was done by the national press). But this isn’t a failing that’s specific to Reddit—on the contrary, official investigations fall prey to it all the time. Richard Jewell, of course, was seized on almost immediately by authorities as a prime suspect in the 1996 Olympics bombing, and continued to be treated as such for months before being cleared. The government investigated and harassed Steven Hatfill for years in connection with the 2001 anthrax mailings, before finally backing down. And the F.B.I., on the basis of faulty fingerprint analysis, accused Brandon Mayfield, a Portland lawyer, of assisting with the train bombings in Madrid in 2004; arrested him; and refused to acknowledge its mistake for weeks after Spanish authorities had definitively cleared him. These misidentifications were far more damaging and longer-lasting than anything Reddit did last week, yet one would hardly take them as per se evidence that the F.B.I. should stop investigating crimes.

I think this is an essential point:

The problem from Reddit’s perspective, of course, is that this method of sleuthing would be far less exciting for users, and would probably generate less traffic, than its current free-for-all approach. The point of the “find-the-bombers” subthread, after all, wasn’t just to find the bombers—it was also to connect and talk with others, and to feel like you were part of a virtual community.

Perhaps the secondary goal of Reddit was not to find the bombers, but to allow people to connect with one another after the traumatic event. In a way, participating in Reddit was a way of reconciling the event (and for some, a way to heal).


Related: Alexis Madrigal’s piece on how misinformation spread on Reddit.

A Reddit “Ask Me Anything” with Nassim Nicholas Taleb

I really enjoyed this Reddit “Ask Me Anything” with Nassim Nicholas Taleb. A few of my favorites Q&A exchanges below:

Q: How should a person use and not use the internet to make his life better?

Taleb: Bring email down to 15 a day. Meet internet friends in person.

His thoughts on cancer:

Q: Can you tell us more about your brush with cancer?

Taleb: I despise (that is have a moral revulsion against) cancer survivors like Armstrong who trade on it (and I got shellacked for saying it before his demise). And I hate the idea of boasting “winning” the war on cancer: radiation rooms are full of people who are “losing” for no fault of theirs.

On the obesity epidemic in the United States:

Q: According to your principles, how would you deal with the obesity epidemic hitting the U.S.?

Taleb: The general problem is that we are not made to control our environment, and we are designed for a degree of variability: in energy, temperature, food composition, sleep duration, exercise (by Jensen’s inequality). Depriving anyone of variations is silly. So we need to force periods of starvation/fasts , sleep deprivation , protein deprivation, etc. Religions force shabbats, fasts, etc. but we are no longer under the sway of religions… The solution is rules…

On the most important thing in the world:

Q: What is the most important skill or trait a human being can have in the modern world?

Taleb: A sense of honor. It puts you above everything else.

On having “skin in the game:”

Q: Should judges, jurors, and prosecutors have skin in the game?

Taleb: Skin in the game is about being harmed by an error if it harms others. Managers of large corporations can be forced to lose money beyond their compensation should the firm suffer. As to judges, I don’t know, but hopefully they have sufficient eye contact to suffer shame.

A lot more here.

Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan is one of the best books I’ve ever read and has significantly informed my view of the world.

Bill Gates on a Reddit “Ask Me Anything”

Bill Gates took to Reddit this afternoon to do an “Ask me Anything.”  Here were a selection of my favorite questions and answers.

What do you give a man who can buy almost everything?

Q: What do people give you for your birthday, given that you can buy anything you want?

A: Free software. Just kidding.

Books actually.

On Windows…

Q: Windows 7 or Windows 8? Be honest Bill.

A: Higher is better.

And one more:

Q: Since becoming wealthy, what’s the cheapest thing that gives you the most pleasure?

A: Kids. Cheap cheeseburgers. Open Course Ware courses…

Cheap kids? Where is acquiring them from? Bill’s answer is hilarious.


Bill Gates does a great job reviewing books on his Web site. Here are his favorite books from 2012, which I recommend perusing.

Reddit’s Mind Blowing Sentences

This is a great thread on Reddit: “What is the most mind-blowing sentence you can think of?”

To start things off:

No one is going to remember your memories.

This one is my favorite:

The difference between billion and trillion is equivalent to the difference between your lifetime and the entirety of human history.

This rings close to home:

“When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.”

On exploration:

We know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the ocean floor.

I like this explanation of pi:

Pi is an infinite, nonrepeating decimal – meaning that every possible number combination exists somewhere in pi. Converted into ASCII text, somewhere in that infinite string of digits is thename of every person you will ever love, the date, time, and manner of your death, and the answers to all the great questions of the universe.

What would be your mind-blowing sentence?


(via SciencePopularis)

The Reddit “AMA” with the Mars Curiosity Team

Over on Reddit today, the members of the Mars Curiosity team did an “Ask Me Anything.” The list of participants included:

Bobak Ferdowsi (aka “Mohawk Guy”) – Flight Director

Steve Collins aka “Hippy NASA Guy” – Cruise Attitude Control/System engineer

Aaron Stehura – EDL Systems Engineer

Jonny Grinblat aka “Pre-celebration Guy” – Avionics System Engineer

Brian Schratz – EDL telecommunications lead

Keri Bean – Mastcam uplink lead/environmental science theme group lead

Rob Zimmerman – Power/Pyro Systems Engineer

Steve Sell – Deputy Operations Lead for EDL

Scott McCloskey -­ Turret Rover Planner

Magdy Bareh – Fault Protection

Eric Blood – Surface systems

Beth Dewell – Surface tactical uplinking

Below are a selection of questions/answers which I found to be most interesting.

Q. Since the Martian Day is 24 hours, 40 minutes, 40 minutes longer than an Earth day, do the JPL scientists and engineers live their lives on Martian days to stay in sync?

A. Yes. All of the operators (engineers, scientists, drivers, planners) live on Mars time, by shifting the schedule +40 minutes each day. This is order to maximize the efficiency of each sol.

On the computers aboard Curiosity:

Q. The processor you guys used feels ancient to me. How did you guys program on it? Is it only “CPU-instructions” or was there some higher level programming for it?

A. You are right that the processor does feel acient. Our current smartphones are more powerful. The reasoning for this is three-fold. First of all, the computer was selected about 8 years ago, so we have the latest and greated space certified parts that existed then. Second of all, it was the most rubost and proven space grade processor at that time. Thirdly, in order to make a processor radiation hardened it requires lots of tricks on the silicon that is not conducive to making it fast. Given that, it does not run any GUIs and can just focus on raw programming, and actually gets a lot done. All of the programming is done in C, and our toolchain is very similar to programming on any platform.

[Editor’s note: see this previous post about Curiosity’s 2MP cameras]

I was surprised by the answer to this question:

Q. How many of you have PhDs?

A. None of us in the room (14 of us).

And the best food-for-thought question came courtesy of Reddit user Terrik27:

Q. What are your thoughts on the quote by Carl Sagan: “If there is life on Mars, I believe we should do nothing with Mars. Mars then belongs to the Martians, even if the Martians are only microbes.” If we found Martian microbes, would we declare the planet a ‘nature preserve’? Would that mean no more missions there at all, or only scientific missions?

A. We abide by a set of planetary protection guidelines that you can read more about here. The groundwork:

1. All countries party to the treaty “shall pursue studies of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination.”

2. In accordance with the NASA policy, requirements are based on the most current scientific information available about the target bodies and about life on Earth. The Planetary Protection Officer requests recommendations on implementation requirements for missions to a specific solar system body, or class of bodies, from internal and external advisory committees—but most notably from the Space Studies Board of the National Research Council

3. If the target body has the potential to provide clues about life or prebiotic chemical evolution, a spacecraft going there must meet a higher level of cleanliness, and some operating restrictions will be imposed. Spacecraft going to target bodies with the potential to support Earth life must undergo stringent cleaning and sterilization processes, and greater operating restrictions.

4. Careful mission design and planning are essential to meeting this requirement. For example, at the end of an orbiter mission the spacecraft may be placed into a long-term orbit so that radiation and other elements of the local space environment can eliminate any Earth microbes that might be onboard. After navigation considerations are taken into account, missions must meet stringent cleanliness requirements. Spacecraft and their components must be cleaned very carefully, and sometimes sterilized. After cleaning, spacecraft are tested to ensure that cleanliness requirements have been met and can be maintained until launch.

Also, props to the Curiosity team for liking Bill Nye the Science Guy, which I watched religiously as a kid as well.

You can dig through the entire AMA right here.

I Can Hear Music for the First Time Ever, What Should I Listen To?

A reddit user, deafstoryteller, writes:

I’ve never understood it.

My whole life I’ve seen hearing people make a fool of themselves singing their favorite song or gyrating on the dance floor. I’ve also seen hearing people moved to tears by a single song. That was the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around.

I was born profoundly deaf and all music sounded like trash through my hearing aids.

That is until a couple days ago when I put on a new pair of hearing aids for the first time in years.

The first thing I heard was my shoe scraping across the carpet; it startled me. I have never heard that before and out of ignorance, I assumed it was too quiet for anyone to hear.

I sat in the doctor’s office frozen as a cacophony of sounds attacked me. The whir of the computer, the hum of the AC, the clacking of the keyboard, and when my best friend walked in I couldn’t believe that he had a slight rasp to his voice. He joked that it was time to cut back on the cigarettes.

That night, a group of close friends jump-started my musical education by playing Mozart, Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Elvis, and several other popular legends of music.

Being able to hear the music for the first time ever was unreal.

I realized that my old hearing aids were giving me a distorted version of music. they were not capable of distributing higher frequencies with clarity, instead it was just garbled gibberish.

When Mozart’s Lacrimosa came on, I was blown away by the beauty of it. At one point of the song, it sounded like angels singing and I suddenly realized that this was the first time I was able to appreciate music. Tears rolled down my face and I tried to hide it. But when I looked over I saw that there wasn’t a dry eye in the car.

I finally understood the power of music…

And then he goes on a “binge of music”, with the following five favorites in his brief exposure:

  1. Mozart’s Lacrimsoa
  2. The soundtrack to Eleven Eleven… I can see how this comes off as narcissistic, it being my own film and all but it’s such a personal work that when I listened to it for the first time I broke down. I felt like I was truly seeing the film for the first time ever. I’m grateful that Cazz was able to capture the tone perfectly. We discussed the film and specific scenes with essay-sized reasoning/deliberations on what should be conveyed. The critical response to the film surprised me and I still didn’t quite get it until seeing the visual images coupled with the soundtrack.
  3. Sig Ros’s Staralfur
  4. IL Postino-Luis Bacalov
  5. Minnesota’s A Bad Place

The comments are excellent. I echo those that are saying to start a blog and document your music listening adventures!

Explaining How Money Works to a Five-Year-Old

One reddit user was confused about the current financial crisis and posed the following question:

Where is all the money? I hear nothing but bad news about financial crisis all over the world, and it seems that there is a shortage of cash – like it is some sort of natural resource.

People haven’t stopped buying stuff. They still need food, clothing, medicine, shelter. Taxes are still collected. Fines are still levied.

So where is all the money? I mean, labor has been produced to make things and wages paid to the laborers. The things are purchased by other laborers, who were paid for producing goods or services, etc. It’s a closed loop, right?

And he wanted it explained as though he were a five-year-old. So in steps user otherwiseyep who offers the following detailed explanation. It’s excellent and well-worth the read:

All actual “money” is debt. All of it, including monetary gold, etc. (Don’t argue with me yet, I’ll get to that.)

Imagine a pretend world with no money, some kind of primitive villiage or something. Now let’s invent paper money. You can’t just print a bunch of paper that says people have to give you stuff, because nobody would honor it. But you could print IOUs. Let’s walk through this…

  • Let’s say you’re an apple-farmer and I’m a hunter. You want some meat but haven’t harvested your crops yet. You say to me, “hey, go hunt me some meat and I’ll give you 1/10th of my apple harvest in the fall”. Fair enough, I give you meat, you owe me apples. There’s probably a lot of this kind of stuff going on, in addition to normal barter. In time, standard “prices” start to emerge: a deer haunch is worth a bushel of apples, or whatever.
  • Now, let’s say a week later, I realize that my kid needs a new pair of shoes more than I need a bushel of apples. I come back to you and say, “Hey remember that bushel of apples you owe me? Could you write a marker, redeemable for one bushel of apples, that I can give to the shoemaker in trade for a pair of shoes?” You say okay, and we have invented a transferable note, something a lot like money.
  • In time, our little villiage starts to figure out that a note redeemable for a bushel of apples can be swapped for all kinds of things. The fisherman who doesn’t even like apples will accept apple-certificates in trade for fish, because he knows he can trade them to boat-builder who loves apples. In time, you can even start to hire farm-workers without giving them anything except a note promising a cut of the future harvest.

Now, you are issuing debt: a promise to provide apples. The “money” is a transferable IOU– your workers get a promise to provide value equal to a day of farm-work, or whatever, and it’s transferrable, so they can use it to buy whatever they want. The worker gets fish from the fisherman, not in exchange for doing any work or giving him anything he can use, but in exchange for an IOU that the fisherman can redeem anywhere.

So far so good. But there are a couple of forks in the road here, on the way to a realistic monetary system, that we’ll address separately:

  • What happens if your apple orchard is destroyed in a wildfire? Suddenly all the notes that everyone has been trading are basically wiped out. It didn’t “go” anywhere, it’s just gone, it doesn’t exist. Real value was genuinely destroyed. There is no thermodynamic law of the conservation of monetary value– just as you and I created it by creating transferable debt, it can also be genuinely destroyed. (We’ll get back to this in a minute, it gets interesting).
  • The second issue is that, in all probability, the whole town is not just trading apple-certificates. I could also issue promises to catch deer, the fisherman could issue promises of fish, and so on. This could get pretty messy, especially if you got the notion to issue more apple-certificates than you can grow: you could buy all kinds of stuff with self-issued debt that you could never repay, and the town wouldn’t find out until harvest-time comes. Once again, value has been “destroyed” people worked and made stuff and gave you stuff in exchange for something that doesn’t exist, and will never exist. All that stuff they made is gone, you consumed it, and there is nothing to show for it.

The above two concerns are likely to become manifest in our village sooner or later, and probably sooner. This leads to the question of credit, which is, at its most basic, a measure of credibility. Every time you issue an apple-certificate, you are borrowing, with a promise to repay from future apple-harvests.

After the first couple of town scandals, people will start taking a closer look at the credibility of the issuer. Let’s say the town potato-farmer comes up with a scheme where his potato-certificates are actually issued by some credible third-party, say the town priest or whatever, who starts every growing season with a book of numbered certificates equal to the typical crop-yield and no more, and keeps half of the certificate on file, issuing the other half. Now there is an audit trail and a very credible system that is likely to earn the potato-grower a lot of credit, compared to other farmers in town. That means that the potato-grower can probably issue more notes at a better exchange rate than some murkier system. Similarly, the town drunk probably won’t get much value for his certificates promising a ship of gold.

Now we have something like a credit market emerging, and the potato-farmer is issuing something closer to what we might call a modern “bond”…

  • So some time goes by and people start catching onto this system of credit-worthiness, and farmers and fishermen and so on start to realize that they can get better value for their IOUs by demonstrating credibility. People with shakier reputations or dubious prospects may not be able to “issue money”, or might only be able to do so at very high “interest”. E.g., a new farmer with no track-record might have to promise me twice as many potatoes in exchange for a deer haunch, due to the risk that I might never see any potatoes at all.
  • This obviously gets very messy fast, as different apple- and potato-certificates have different values depending on whether they were issued by Bob or Jane, and everyone has to keep track of and evaluate whose future apples are worth what.
  • Some enterprising person, maybe the merchant who runs the trading-post, comes up with the idea to just issue one note for all the farms in town. He calls a meeting with all the farmers, and proposes to have the town priest keep a book of certificates and so on, and the farmers will get notes just like everyone else in exchange for the crops they contribute to the pool, and the merchant will keep a cut of the crops with which to hire some accountants and farm-surveyors to estimate the total crop yields across town and so on.
  • Everyone agrees (or at least, enough farmers agree to kind of force the other ones to get on-board if they want to participate meaningfully in the town economy), and we now have something like a central bank issuing something like fiat currency: that is, currency whose value is “decided” by some central authority, as opposed to the kind of straight-up exchange certificates that can be traded for an actual apple from the issuer, for example.
  • Now we have something that looks a lot like a modern monetary system. The town can set up audit committees or whatever, but the idea is that there is some central authority basically tasked with issuing money, and regulating the supply of that money according to the estimated size of ongoing and future economic activity (future crop yields).
  • If they issue too much money, we get inflation, where more apple-certificates are issued than apples grown, and each apple-note ends up being worth only three-quarters of an apple come harvest-time. If they issue too little currency, economic activity is needlessly restricted: the farmers are not able to hire enough workers to maximize crop yields and so on, the hunter starts hunting less because his deer meat is going bad since nobody has money to buy it, and so on.

At this point, you may be asking, “Why the hell go through all this complexity just to trade apples for deer and shoes? Isn’t this more trouble than it’s worth?”

The answer is because this is a vastly more efficient system than pure barter. I, as a hunter, no longer need to trade a physical deer haunch for a bushel of apples to carry over to the shoemaker in order to get shoes. You, as an apple-farmer, can hire workers before the crop is harvested, and therefore can grow more, and your workers can eat year-round instead of just getting a huge pile of apples at harvest-time to try and trade for for whatever they will need for the rest of the year.

So back to money…

The thing to remember is that all throughout, from the initial trade to this central-banking system, all of this money is debt. It is IOUs, except instead of being an IOU that says “Kancho_Ninja will give one bushel of apples to the bearer of this bond in October”, it says “Anyone in town will give you anything worth one bushel of apples in trade.”

The money is not an actual thing that you can eat or wear or build a house with, it’s an IOU that is redeemable anywhere, for anything, from anyone. It is a promise to pay equivalent value at some time in the future, except the holder of the money can call on anybody at all to fulfill that promise– they don’t have to go back to the original promiser.

This is where it starts getting interesting, and where we can start to answer your question…

(for the sake of simplicity, let’s stop calling these notes “apple certificates”, and pretend that the village has decided to call them “Loddars”).

  • So now you’re still growing apples, but instead of trading them for deer-haunches and shoes, you trade them for Loddars. So far, so good.
  • Once again, you want some meat, except harvest time hasn’t come yet so you don’t have any Loddars to buy meat with. You call me up (cellphones have been invented in this newly-efficient economy), “Hey otherwiseyep, any chance you could kill me a deer and I’ll give you ten Loddars for it at harvest-time?”
  • I say, “Jeez, I’d love to, but I really need all the cash I can get for every deer right now: my kid is out-growing shoes like crazy. Tell you what: if you can write me a promise to pay twelve Loddars in October, I can give that to the shoe-maker.” You groan about the “interest rate” but agree.

Did a lightbulb just go off? You and I have once again created Money. Twelve loddars now exist in the town economy that have not been printed by the central bank. Counting all the money trading hands in the village, there are now (a) all the loddars that have ever been printed, plus (b) twelve more that you have promised to produce.

This is important to understand: I just spent money on shoes, which you spent on deer meat, that has never been printed. It’s obviously not any of the banknotes that have already been issued, but it’s definitely real money, because I traded it for new shoes, and you traded it for a dead deer.

  • Once you and I and others start to catch on that this is possible, that we can spend money that we don’t have and that hasn’t even been printed yet, it is entirely possible for a situation to arise where the total amount of money changing hand in the village vastly exceeds the number of loddars that have actually been printed. And this can happen without fraud or inflation or anything like that, and can be perfectly legitimate.
  • Now, what happens if another wildfire hits your orchard? Those twelve loddars are destroyed, they are gone, the shoe-maker is twelve loddars poorer, without spending it and without anyone else getting twelve loddars richer.

The money that bought your deer and my shoes has simply vanished from the economy, as though it never existed, despite the fact that it bought stuff with genuine economic utility and value.

The above pretend history of the pretend village is not how modern money actually came to be. In reality, things are much less sequential and happen much more contemporaneously without the “eureka!” moments. The above was a parable to illustrate how money works to a 5-year-old, not an actual history of how money emerged.

Until fairly recent times, paper money was not really very useful or practical for most purposes, especially if you wanted to spend money in a different village than where it was printed.

If we go back in time a period before ATMs, wire-transfers, widespread literacy, etc, then a piece of paper written in Timbuktu is not likely to get you very far in Kathmandu. You could take your apples and deer-haunches and shoes around with you to trade, but the earliest naturally-emerging currencies tend to be hard things that were rare and easily-identifiable (jewels, colored shells, etc), and they frequently coincided with the personal decorations of the rich, in a self-reinforcing feedback loop (people with a surplus of time and food could decorate themselves with pretty things, which became valuable as status symbols, which made them more valuable as decorations, which made them more valuable as barter objects, which made them more prestigious shows of wealth, etc).

Gold emerged as a sort of inevitable global currency, before people even thought of it as currency. It is rare, portable, easy to identify, can easily be made into jewelry, and can be easily quantified (unlike, say, jewels or seashells, which are harder to treat as a “substance”). Once word got around that rich people like it, it became easy to barter with anyone, anywhere, for anything.

In the early stages, it was not really the same thing as “money”, it was just an easy thing to barter. But it had money-like characteristics:

  • If someone walked into your apple-orchard offering to trade a yellow rock for apples, you might look at them a little funny. What use does an apple-grower have for a yellow rock?
  • But if you know that rich people in town covet this soft yellow metal as something they can make jewelry out of, then you might be happy to trade apples for it.
  • Once everyone knows that rich people will trade for this stuff, it becomes something like actual currency: neither the hunter, the shoemaker, nor the fisherman in town has much use for it, but because they know they can redeem it for the stuff they do want and need, it becomes a sort of transferable IOU that can be redeemed anywhere, i.e., money.

The early history of paper money did not evolve the way I described in the earlier posts (although it could have, and would have got to the same place). Instead, the early history of paper money was certificates issued by storage-vaults of precious metals (i.e., early “banks”). Instead of carrying around yellow and silver rocks, you could deposit them somewhere and get a piece of paper entitling the holder to withdraw a certain quantity of gold or silver or whatever.

(via reddit)

From a Reddit Response to Big Budget Film

I love reading stories like this. One day James Erwin was browsing and stumbled upon an interesting hypothetical question: Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU [Marine Expeditionary Unit]? He clicked through, answered some questions, and the rest, they say, is history:

It’s common for random questions to appear on Reddit’s front page, like “Is there a magnet capable of pulling the iron out of your body?” or “What is the most awkward thing you could say to a cashier while purchasing condoms?” That day, as Erwin scanned Reddit, a question caught his eye. It was posed by someone calling themselves The_Quiet_Earth: “Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU [Marine Expeditionary Unit]?” Erwin clicked on the question and a lively comment thread unfurled. Hundreds of people were whipping hypotheticals back and forth, gaming out the implications of a marines-versus-Romans smackdown. What’s the range of a Roman spear? How would the Romans react to a helicopter? What would happen when the Americans ran out of bullets?

Erwin, who studied history at the University of Iowa, had been posting on Reddit for about five months. He used the alias Prufrock451, a dual reference to the schlubby protagonist of a T. S. Eliot poem and the Ray Bradbury novel Fahrenheit 451. Prufrock451′s contributions were all over the map. One day he wrote about the historical roots of the civil war in Liberia; another day he told a funny story about a shooting range in Iowa. He also uploaded a few pictures of European forts that he thought looked cool and a quote by Voltaire. In his atypicalness—Prufrock451 was pretty clearly a quirky character—he was entirely typical of a habitual Reddit user, and like many other redditors, as they are called, he found the site addictive. More than just a creative outlet or time-killer, Reddit was a game. The object was to amass points—”Reddit karma.” Every time Erwin saw his karma level increase, he felt a little squirt of adrenaline. “People are sweating to make you laugh or make you think or make you hate them,” Erwin says. “It’s the human condition, plus points.”

Now, in response to The_Quiet_Earth’s question about time-traveling marines, Erwin started typing. He posted his answer in a series of comments in the thread. Within an hour, he was an online celebrity. Within three hours, a film producer had reached out to him. Within two weeks, he was offered a deal to write a movie based on his Reddit comments. Within two months, he had taken a leave from his job to become a full-time Hollywood screenwriter.

So what was Erwin’s financial gain from this personal endeavor?

Erwin won’t disclose what the deal is worth, but he is now a member of the Writers Guild of America, West, and the guild compensation for an original screenplay plus treatment for a movie with a budget above $5 million is $119,954. According to Kolbrenner, Rome Sweet Rome is “definitely a big-budget movie,” but whether that means $30 million or $150 million will depend on Erwin’s script.

Read the full story here.