Tag Archives: map

Things 123: Game weekends, Puffins, Lilith, Abstract Animated GIFs

Events - Sandpit this very weekend (25th August), Weekender later (Fri 14th-Sun 16th September)
Hide & Seek are running one of their curated ‘Sandpit’ game events, taking place on Saturday and Sunday afternoons this weekend (25th and 26th August), unusually but awesomely located at the Natural History Museum. NHM page is here; a longer article about what’s happening can be found on Wired.

Then, from Friday 14th through to Sunday 16th September is Hide & Seek’s Weekender (facebook event here), mostly in the Clore Ballroom in that Royal Festival Hall place, this being as usual a whole festival of games, largely drawn from Sandpit events from the last two years.

This happens to include Competitive Sandwich Making on the Friday, which Clare and I will be running (here’s what happened last year when we ran first), this time featuring a secret rank beyond Earl of Sandwich, if people are competitive enough to discover it. There’s also lots of other amazing things happening, including two of my favourites: Die Gute Fabrik’s Johann Sebastien Joust and Viviane Schwarz’s Treasure Maze.

Tim Link - You’re In A Room
I finally wrote up the game Clare and I made for a more recent Sandpit: You’re In A Room, a sort of Whose Line Is It Anyway version of Knightmare; you can find out what on earth that means here.

Video – Puffin Webcam
In the exciting new world of putting webcam streams onto my TV for background entertainment, now that the Miranda’s Kittens feed is no longer live, I’ve had to find something else. It turns out there’s a whole range of great feeds available on explore.org, including a puffin cam.

Bonus videovia Clare while I was writing this
Dog swims with dolphins!

QuoteLilith
I recently wondered what really is the deal with the biblical (or is she?) character of Lilith, so I turned to Wikipedia on the subject, and found it fascinating – here’s just the section headings to give you an idea of the span of cultural records she appears in:

Mesopotamian mythology
Siegmund Hurwitz
In the Bible
Jewish tradition
Greco-Roman mythology
Arabic mythology
In Western literature
In modern occultism

The highlight for me was discovering that Lilith only appears once in the bible, and even then arguably so, in Isiah 34:

(13) [Edom] shall become an abode for jackals and a haunt for ostriches. (14) Wildcats shall meet with desert beasts, satyrs shall call to one another; There shall the lilith repose, and find for herself a place to rest. (15) There the hoot owl shall nest and lay eggs, hatch them out and gather them in her shadow; There shall the kites assemble, none shall be missing its mate. (16) Look in the book of the LORD and read: No one of these shall be lacking, For the mouth of the LORD has ordered it, and His spirit shall gather them there.

This makes “lilith” (in the bible at least) a hapax legomenon, a word only occurring once in the source and therefore challenging to decipher – given only this context, is she a demon, or just some kind of regular animal with sinister associations?

I also recommend reading this translation of Isiah 34 in full (it’s only ~400 words), as it’s use of hyperbole puts our modern tabloid newspapers and comment trolls to shame.

Pictures – Abstract Animated GIFs
I’ve seen some interesting abstract animated GIFs floating around the internet, and tracked them down to two artists: David Ope, and Mr Div. Here’s one example of each, and do click through to view the rest of their work:

David Ope:

Mr Div:

Puzzle - The shrinking empires
Here’s an unfortunately small version of a fascinating visualisation of world history (which we bought as a poster for the office from Stanfords, although they don’t seem to have them any more), with time running from left to right, and rough location on earth from top to bottom, with identifiable countries/kingdoms/empires marked out:

You can just about see the Roman Empire as a big blob of orange in the middle, the Ottoman Empire in blue towards the right, and the British Empire stretching wide in patches of red before retreating back home by the time we reach the right-hand side representing the present day.

Even at this scale, one pattern is apparent: they just don’t make empires as big as they used to. The closer we get to the present day, the smaller the tribal groups become. Why is this?

Things 116: Cloud Phase Time-Lapse, 3D Map, Better Tube Map

Video
Point a camera at the sky, create a time lapse video of the clouds. Do the same thing every day of the year. Play back all the videos simultaneously in a grid. Voilà: a kind of phase-diagram visualisation, with seconds representing minutes and space representing seasons. Brilliant.

More detail here. Via Data Pointed.

Link
This is apparently pretty old, and with Google Earth and Street View already taken for granted it’s difficult to appreciate how impressive this is: in-browser 3D maps of major cities by Nokia. A plugin is required, and the sad thing is that I imagine that small barrier is enough to vastly reduce the number of people that will actually try it out.

Picture
Various incarnations of the London tube map regularly feature in Things: in the past I’ve posted about a to-scale tube map, a curvy tube map, and a travel-time interactive tube map.

Unsurprisingly, I rather like Mark Noad’s version, which is an ambitious attempt to make a tube map that is not just interestingly different but actually better than the current canonical version. By retaining the simplicity of design but improving geographic accuracy, I would say it succeeds.

Puzzle
This week, a very first world problem. If voice recognition software fails to understand something you say (e.g. Google voice search, xBox 360 Kinect voice commands, or Siri), what do you do? Having had this happen a few times now, I’m very aware that the natural human response of just saying the same thing but louder might not actually be the best thing to do. (I also imagine my neighbours don’t need to hear me shouting “Xbox go back! Xbox! Go! Back! Xbox go frickin’ back! Fine, don’t then!”)

For example, other approaches to ensure your input is recognised could include: reduce background noise; enunciate more clearly; speak in a monotone; move closer to or further away from the microphone; use a different phrasing; or attempt to put on an American accent.

Which of these is most likely to work? Is there a better approach that I’ve not included here? Is just speaking loudly actually the best approach after all?

Or is the failure rate of voice recognition inevitable and unacceptable in most contexts, and the whole notion flawed from the outset?

@metatim

Things 107: Transmedia Hardware, Rorschmap, Cyborgs vs Robots

Puzzle
Here’s a cute data analysis puzzle, which I’m amazed I didn’t encounter sooner in my line of work.

You run a website that sells guns and banjos, and one day you notice from your web analytics data that the conversion rate of your site (orders divided by visits) is steadily declining over time.

Realising that you essentially cater to two quite different needs, you look at the performance of your two main site sections: the gun section and the banjo section. There is no significant overlap between the people visiting these sections.

Here’s the problem. The conversion rates in both the gun and banjo sections of the site are going up over the same period that overall conversion is going down. How is this possible?


Video
Some serious puppetry:

Link
Charlie Gower realised he could get old iPod shuffles cheaply on eBay and dedicate each one to a single artist. Generalising, he asks, “How does the (almost) free hardware affect the delivery of the (almost) free media?

Picture
I’ll let the name of the idea do the talking: Rorschmap.

Puzzle AnswerCyborgs beat Robots
In the last Things I invited you to guess who would win in a chess match in which humans and computers could team up in any combination.

I recently read of an empirical answer here, which makes the excellent point that there are actually three criteria at work in any team: the chess skill of the computer(s), the chess skill of the human(s), and the friction in the way they work together as a team.

Some may be surprised to learn the most basic observation from the event: that a team of human + computer is much stronger than even an extremely powerful chess-playing computer. As Kasparov puts it: “Human strategic guidance combined with the tactical acuity of a computer was overwhelming.” Humans are useful!

More impressively, the winner of the tournament was a team of two amateur players working with three computers. The lack of friction in their system of working together beat the raw power of chess-playing supercomputers and the strategic brilliance of grandmasters.

This has some serious implications, too. Most simply, since mediocre computers and mediocre humans are more common than highly skilled ones, and since systems can be invented once and then used by all, there is in some general sense much more potential to solve hard problems than we might otherwise have expected in the world.

More extremely, anyone worried about a technological singularity in which we invent AI that is smarter than us (leading to runaway self-improvement of the AI and a very dangerous 4 hours for humanity) can rest assured that human-AI combinations will probably be smarter than pure AI.

Short version: cyborgs are smarter than robots.

Things 47: Flying Robot Penguins, Hamster Wheel Projection, Space Stick

(Originally sent May 2009)

Film
I saw Wolverine. I found it to be acceptable. I was particularly impressed that they held almost all shots of the enjoyably over-the-top climactic battle back from the trailer.

Video
In this video there are giant flying robot penguins, after the small swimming robot penguins, after the pre-roll ad, after the video loads. But worth the wait.

Link
Since the media make it very difficult to tell if a manageable disease outbreak has grown into a rampant society-threatening pandemic of doom, here’s a map that collects data on the progress of Swine Flue cases.

Semiotically speaking, the size of the circles when zoomed out subconsciously suggests a more severe situation than is actually the case, but zooming in quickly brings things into perspective.

Quotes
Going through my old archive of things-I-heard-people-say-and-wrote-down recently, I found a cluster of baffling utterances all made by the same individual, who shall remain nickless. Er, I mean nameless.

“I’ll take your word for it – but I’m still not convinced.”

“Is it one of those things you can only see when you look at it?”

“I don’t like shopping, it’s really boring. Except when you’re buying something for yourself… or someone else.”

Picture
I’ve come across this three times this week, but feel compelled to add to its viral propagation. Here and There is a “horizonless projection” map of Manhattan, which some have more intuitively described as a “hamster wheel projection”.

Previous Puzzle – The Inconvenient Hobby

Last time I asked for a time-based goal that can easily become part of a routine but sits somewhere between once-a-day and once-a-week. Given some of the answers, it became clear I hadn’t emphasised the ‘easy’ part sufficiently!

One answer was to tie different aspects of the same goal to different days of the week For example, if the goal is to exercise 3 times a week then one could do three activities once a week each, assigning each one to a particular day of the week.

My own answer has been to create a spreadsheet which automatically pops up when I boot up my PC and tells me how many days have elapsed since I last did the six things I’m trying to do with non-trivial frequencies, and whether that exceeds my target number of days to elapse for each one. Or at least, that will be my solution, but I haven’t got around to implementing it yet, which perhaps speaks to a greater problem.

Puzzle – the Space Stick
Information cannot travel faster than the speed of light. If it did, you just need to apply a bit of special relativity (not even general relativity) and you quickly get paradoxes. There’s a deeper argument to be made there, but trust me, if information could travel faster than the speed of light, It Would Be Bad, in the Ghostbustersian sense.

(Side note: that link was an example of something Kevin Kelly has spoken about – bringing the tools we have for literacy (cut and paste, footnoting, referencing) to moving pictures. Unfortunately the audio is very quiet on the YouTube video I linked to so it probably doesn’t quite work, but it’s close. See http://kk.org/ct2/2008/06/tools-for-vizuality.php )

[We now see further problems interfering as the video has been taken down. It linked to the utterance of the phrase “that would be bad” in Ghostbusters. – T.M. 30/4/11]

Unfortunately this important speed limit on information transfer seems to break if you have an extremely long stick.

It’s difficult to state the problem both precisely and concisely, but here we go:

Imagine you are at one point in space and your friend is one light-year away. You are about to have a baby and your friend will want to know if it is a boy or a girl as soon as possible. If you were to send this message at the speed of light, which is incredibly fast, it would still take one year for the message to reach them, since you are one light-year apart.

Anticipating this issue, you have got hold of a Space Stick, which is one light-year long and as rigid and low-mass as a substance can possibly be. With the Space Stick spanning the distance between you and your friend, you arrange for it to sit above a button that activates a buzzer at their end, the idea being that you simply press on your end of the Space Stick and the button is pressed pretty much instantaneously.

With a pre-arranged code (tap for a boy, long press for a girl) it seems as if this could be used to transmit information faster than light. Why could it never work?

Things 47

Film

I saw Wolverine. I found it to be acceptable. I was particularly impressed that they held almost all shots of the enjoyably over-the-top climactic battle back from the trailer.

Video

In this video there are giant flying robot penguins, after the small swimming robot penguins, after the pre-roll ad, after the video loads. But worth the wait.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16996-bionic-penguins-take-to-the-water–and-the-skies.html

Link

Since the media make it very difficult to tell if a manageable disease outbreak has grown into a rampant society-threatening pandemic of doom, here’s a map that collects data on the progress of Swine Flue cases:

http://flutracker.rhizalabs.com/

Semiotically speaking, the size of the circles when zoomed out subconsciously suggests a more severe situation than is actually the case, but zooming in quickly brings things into perspective.

Quotes

Going through my old archive of things-I-heard-people-say-and-wrote-down recently, I found a cluster of baffling utterances all made by the same individual, who shall remain nickless. Er, I mean nameless.
“I’ll take your word for it – but I’m still not convinced.”

“Is it one of those things you can only see when you look at it?”

“I don’t like shopping, it’s really boring. Except when you’re buying something for yourself… or someone else.”

Picture

I’ve come across this three times this week, but feel compelled to add to its viral propagation. Here and There is a “horizonless projection” map of Manhattan, which some have more intuitively described as a “hamster wheel projection”:

http://schulzeandwebb.com/hat/

Previous Puzzle – The Inconvenient Hobby

Last time I asked for a time-based goal that can easily become part of a routine but sits somewhere between once-a-day and once-a-week. Given some of the answers, it became clear I hadn’t emphasised the ‘easy’ part sufficiently!

One answer was to tie different aspects of the same goal to different days of the week For example, if the goal is to exercise 3 times a week then one could do three activities once a week each, assigning each one to a particular day of the week.

My own answer has been to create a spreadsheet which automatically pops up when I boot up my PC and tells me how many days have elapsed since I last did the six things I’m trying to do with non-trivial frequencies, and whether that exceeds my target number of days to elapse for each one. Or at least, that will be my solution, but I haven’t got around to implementing it yet, which perhaps speaks to a greater problem.

Puzzle – the Space Stick

Information cannot travel faster than the speed of light. If it did, you just need to apply a bit of special relativity (not even general relativity) and you quickly get paradoxes. There’s a deeper argument to be made there, but trust me, if information could travel faster than the speed of light, It Would Be Bad, in the Ghostbustersian sense.

[Side note: that link was an example of something Kevin Kelly has spoken about – bringing the tools we have for literacy (cut and paste, footnoting, referencing) to moving pictures. Unfortunately the audio is very quiet on the YouTube video I linked to so it probably doesn’t quite work, but it’s close. See http://kk.org/ct2/2008/06/tools-for-vizuality.php ]

Unfortunately this important speed limit on information transfer seems to break if you have an extremely long stick.

It’s difficult to state the problem both precisely and concisely, but here we go:

Imagine you are at one point in space and your friend is one light-year away. You are about to have a baby and your friend will want to know if it is a boy or a girl as soon as possible. If you were to send this message at the speed of light, which is incredibly fast, it would still take one year for the message to reach them, since you are one light-year apart.

Anticipating this issue, you have got hold of a Space Stick, which is one light-year long and as rigid and low-mass as a substance can possibly be. With the Space Stick spanning the distance between you and your friend, you arrange for it to sit above a button that activates a buzzer at their end, the idea being that you simply press on your end of the Space Stick and the button is pressed pretty much instantaneously.

With a pre-arranged code (tap for a boy, long press for a girl) it seems as if this could be used to transmit information faster than light. Why could it never work?