Things 49: Galaxy Rising, Tube Time Visualisation, Back Flip Variation

(Originally sent May 2009)

Time lapse of the stars at night – be sure to watch to the end to see the Milky Way rising:

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party from William Castleman on Vimeo.

A simplistic but interesting data visualisation showing travel times from and to different parts of the tube network – this explains why everything in London seems to be about 30 minutes away:

In a self-consciously long and disappointingly poorly argued article titled “In Defence of Distraction“, the following quote made reading it all worthwhile:

“Priorities are like arms: If you have more than two of them, they’re probably make-believe” – Merlin Mann

An animated gif (2MB) showing a fantastic variation on a back flip.

Puzzle: Newspaper eyeball value
We often hear that newspapers are in terminal decline and it’s all the internet’s fault. But much of a newspaper’s revenue comes from advertising, and many have created their own ad-supported websites, and many of these websites reach very large numbers of people. So they are losing eyeballs looking at print and gaining eyeballs looking at a screen, both of which will also see adverts. Why isn’t this helping?

(Perhaps more than other puzzles I have set in the past, there are many possible answers. Don’t hedge your bets – if you have multiple solutions, put them in order of importance! I’ll summarise the results and stick my own oar in next week.)


Things 37: Ideas of 2008, Centripetal Hamster, Pictures of 2008

(Originally sent January 2009)

It’s 2009. Time for some Things.

A quote
Richard Feynman:

“There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.”

A link
NY Times ideas of 2008, presented in a fascinatingly browseable format:

A video
Hamster demonstrates centripetal force:


A puzzle
Last time I asked if there were more households with dogs or with cats.

According to the data available to me (which covers the UK excluding Northern Ireland), 23.1% of UK households have 1 or more dogs, and 23.2% have one or more cats. So the answer is cats, but by an almost unbelievably small margin.

(6.1% of households have 1 or more cats and 1 or more dogs; there are about 14.7 million dogs and 17.7 million cats).

This week’s puzzle is a classic: the paradox of value.

Water is generally much more useful than diamonds, yet diamonds are more expensive by a gargantuan factor. Why is this?

The Boston Globe ‘Big Picture’ section always does the best round-up of a year’s photos. Three pages of amazing images start here: