Things 97: Vertical Ship, Climbing Game, State of 3D

A brilliant solution to the problem of stability at sea:


GIRP, a really nice little climbing game (probably easier to get to grips with if you know from the start that feet are not involved).

Chris Lake, in his self-referential post 10 Reasons Why List Based Posts Work Well Online, makes the key point:

We are all cognitive misers

What is the oldest evidence of your own activity on the internet you can still provide a live link to now?

Last Week’s Puzzle
Last week I asked if it was true what they say, that 3D can never work. I think there are two compelling clues towards an answer here.

First, Box Office Quant takes a good solid look at what the money in 3D cinema is looking like. The conclusion is that after two years of 3D cinema being a serious consideration, it’s looking pretty solid. There’s lot of great data and visualisation of it over on the original post, but I’ll just reproduce the weekly revenues by dimension here:

It’s clear that something is working, anyway.

On the other hand, there was this development with Nintendo’s autostereoscopic 3DS by its producer Hideki Konno:

“We want to get software out to as many people as possible, and there are some people who just can’t see 3D […] We’re moving away from any stance that says if you don’t use the 3-D functionality you can’t play this game.”

While I’m yet to see some solid data, the picture that seems to be emerging is that a significant minority (10%?) really do have an issue with the convergence/focus conflict that Walter Merch identified (and which is, incidentally, the underlying science behind the apparent paradox highlighted in this XKCD), to the point that watching a full-length 3D movie or spending a significant time playing a 3D game is an uncomfortable experience for them. Naturally there’s also a small proportion of people that for various reasons do not perceive 3D in real life, for whom a 3D film/game has nothing to offer above a 2D one (and I suspect they are being used as a kind of smoke-screen to hide the bigger concerns about the former group in Hideki Konno’s quote above).

It seems that minority is small enough that 3D cinema revenue remains robust, but large enough that Nintendo don’t want to undermine their universal appeal by allowing 3D to be a barrier to participation.

Incidentally, I find it an incredible sign of the times that we now have three dimensional full-colour moving image experiences at a fully commercial scale, which is really quite an amazingly neat trick, and yet so many people I’ve spoken to seem to feel it’s not particularly worth having. Or in Louis CK’s words, “Everything is amazing right now, and nobody’s happy”:



Things 96: Rocket Path-Dependency, Lipstick Animals, 3D Doesn’t Work

When speculating on the subject of extraterrestrial space-faring life, it’s all too easy to forget the many development factors that are likely to be local to us, and to assume that too much of what we have done will generalise to other life forms out there. This article puts forward a compelling argument that our rocket-based space-faring only arose because of certain very specific and not particularly likely events.

While I don’t think it could be objectively assessed, I rather like Arthur Koestler’s observation on originality:

The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards.

This is one of the things that makes me think of that Arthur Koestler quote: lipstick animals.

Lots more here.

Why 3D doesn’t work and never will. Case closed.”
Roger Ebert quotes Walter Merch, as a Man Who Knows What He’s Talking About, who presents several arguments as to why 3D cinema can never work.

I’ve heard a lot of bad arguments on both sides of this debate, so it’s nice to see someone with a deep understanding of the medium draw out their arguments clearly. My question is, is he right?

Previous Puzzle
Last time I asked how a mouse could fall any distance and survive.

As Phil pointed out, the statement is strictly false: “a mouse certainly can’t fall further than the size of the universe, for example.” So instead we restrict ourselves to consider mice falling off things that are attached to the earth, and no higher than the point at which the atmosphere becomes too thin for a mouse to breathe, and that the survivability criterion is assessed upon landing, and that the landing area itself is not deadly to mice.

First we must address the idea some people recall from school that all objects fall at the same speed, as per Galileo’s thought experiment and his apocryphal dropping-objects-from-the-tower-of-Pisa experiment. This is clearly false as a feather falls more slowly than a hammer, and the confounding factor is air resistance. Rather excellently, the hammer-feather experiment was conducted on the moon to show that in the absence of significant air resistance, they will actually fall at the same speed:


When air resistance is introduced the shape and particularly the downward-facing area dimensions of the falling objects matter, and although it’s hard to have a good intuitive feel for this when comparing such random objects as animals, I find it’s much easier to imagine a kind-of equivalent parachute with a weight attached.

A small parachute with a big bag of hammers attached will be pulled down more quickly than the same parachute with a feather attached. Alternatively, if two parachutes have equal weights attached, but one parachute is much bigger than the other, it’s easy to imagine that the bigger parachute has greater air resistance and so will fall slower.

Now if we imagine a parachute the size of a mouse, with a weight attached that is the same weight as a mouse, we can imagine it will fall pretty slowly, particularly compared to a parachute the size of an elephant with a weight attached the same weight as an elephant. So we can intuitively understand that the mouse survives.

Or perhaps we can’t? I realise that wasn’t very scientific, but I tend to prefer thought experiments of this kind as they seem to help most people grok ideas better than formulae.

This article over at Everything2 also has some concise words to say on the subject of falling animals.


Things 88: Out of Sight Animation, The Past of Advertising, Ultimate Blackboard

A great concept, brilliantly executed, well worth carving 5 minutes out of your day for. For the impatient among you, you need to stick with it at least until 1’26” when the magic really starts.


Fast Company published an article on The Future of Advertising, which combined with AdLab’s curation of 15 similarly-positioned Fast Company articles from 1995-2005 raises the question of when a revolution actually starts. Given that you can spin a plausible-sounding article just by gathering together a few examples of something (and disingenuously cite economically driven contraction of traditional players as evidence of change), this kind of historical perspective is very useful for reminding us that in reality you can rarely pin down a single revolutionary moment.

I got an even greater sense of perspective taking a look at Hide and Seek’s highlights of a large collection of ‘cinema advertising tricks from the 1920s’, which include such techniques as interactive cinema, conversation-seeding, and ARGs.

Why do bedsprings occasionally make a ‘poing’ noise, seemingly without provocation?

A great screenshot from The film A Serious Man. I’m proud to say I attended lectures that looked a bit like this by the end, although never with so many diagrams so well executed. (Click for full, use-in-a-presentation size)

Last Week’s Puzzle
Last week I asked why people playing Tomb Raider felt compelled to direct Lara to jump from a great height after they had saved their game. Doug suggested the following (numbering mine):

1) Because the game has just spent the whole playing time frustrating you as you fly off the ledge. Flinging yourself of the ledge then turning off is reassertion that it’s you in control, not the game.
2) It’s nice to do something easy with gusto as relief to hours of trying to do something difficult and complex through careful control and concentration.
Either way it’s got something to do with liberation.

I think both of these no doubt play a part, but similar factors are at work in many other games, so the results only manifest thanks to at least two other additional factors that are at work here:

3) Jumping from a great height itself has a mysterious, mesmerising appeal.
Standing on a precipice, I’ve had to resist the nagging thought that jumping off is an action available to me, and it might be quite interesting, at least for a short time; others I’ve spoken to have had similar thoughts in similar situations. As videogames let us try things out in a risk-free way, it makes sense that we play out this urge in that environment.

Supporting this idea is a personal observation that once I’ve completed a game and am no longer concerned about death, if on a replay I find my character in a precipitous situation that I didn’t fall victim to before, I will often have them jump off just to see what it is like.

4) The architecture of the game and the save mechanism.
Games that have save points typically ensure they can only be used far from danger, presumably to avoid a player saving while in an unsurvivable situation. Tomb Raider had very few such scenarios and so permitted saving at any point. At the same time, death-by-falling was a near ever-present threat. As such, any given moment in which you saved the game was likely to be very close to just such an opportunity.

The icing on the cake was that through an undocumented combination of controls, you could execute an elegant swallow dive.