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 100: Spaceship Earth, Fake Hacking, List, Scientific Method, Owlbears

It’s Things 100. Time for some particularly epic Things.

I remember reading (in Critical Path, lent to me by John) that Buckminster-Fuller felt it was very difficult to watch a sunset or sunrise and intuitively apprehend that what you see is due to the earth turning – but that if we could succeed at doing so, we would come to better appreciate our place in the universe, and perhaps make wiser long-term decisions.

Even though I’ve seen plenty of night-sky time-lapse before, for some reason this video is the first I’ve seen that really gives me that feeling:

The Mountain from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

A while ago I thought it would be neat to make a program that took as input random keyboard mashing and produced as output  the appearance that you were doing some movie-style hacking, complete with big secret-service logos and password fields that flash up “ACCESS DENIED”, “ACCESS DENIED” and then “ACCESS GRANTED”, and obviously lines and lines of clever-looking code, but I didn’t have the know-how to make it happen.

Fortunately, the internet provides – it doesn’t do the whole window thing I imagined, but you do get to mash the keyboard while apparently producing reams of commented hacking-type code (none of which I understand). If you want a version that also makes bleeping noises for no reason, just like in the movies, you can use this one instead.

Tim Link
I blogged my responses to the first 10 questions in the “30 Days of Video Games Meme”. Probably worth reading if you’re interested in games, or in gamers, or the formative life experiences of me.

Quote kind of thing
Diving back into my own archive, I was quite pleased with this list of self-referential things I collected and created on my old Geocities self-referential page:

Imagine a world with no hypothetical situations.
This sentence has cabbage six words
There are no redundant redundant words in this sentence.
This statement is false
This statement is not provable by me. (Useful illustration of Godel’s incompleteness theorem)
The smallest number that cannot be stated in fewer than 22 syllables
Consider the set of all sets that have not yet been considered.
The ‘pre’ in prefix
Illiterate illiteration
“All clichés should be avoided like the plague” (attributed to Arthur Christiansen, found in “The Joy of Clichés” by Nigel Rees)
This is not the last example on the list.
Aibohphobia (credited to Imre Leader, although the Wikipedia cites the Wizard of Id)
Grammar message in Microsoft Word: “This may not be a complete sentence”
This sentence contains three a’s, three c’s, two d’s, twenty seven e’s, four f’s, two g’s, ten h’s, eight i’s, thirteen n’s, six o’s, ten r’s, twenty fives’s, twenty three t’s, three u’s, three v’s, six w’s, three x’s, and four y’s.
In order to understand the theory of recursion, one must first understand the theory of recursion.
I don’t speak English (Je ne parle pas Francais, etc…)
Stretching a metaphor to breaking point, then snapping it, shredding it into small pieces and mashing them into a pulp.
There are 3 kinds of people in the world; those that can count, and those that can’t.
Actually, there are 10 kinds of people in the world; those that can count in binary, and those that can’t.
“a7H.4hwJ?22i” is an example of a good password.
A rag man
This is the last example on the list.

What is going wrong with the scientific method? That’s a very long article, but it’s a very big question, so worth a read and a ponder. (And hey, this is Things 100 after all.)

And finally… what do Owlbears look like? The ArtOrder asked, and a bunch of different artists came up with a really fantastic range of answers.


Things 42: Baby Chaos, Gigapan, Energy Forecast

(Originally sent March 2009)

I saw and enjoyed Watchmen. I think having already read the graphic novel helped a lot, but it is certainly an interesting bunch of things to see on a screen in any case. Despite an unhealthy obsession with being true to the graphic novel (I personally think changes do need to be made to present a story in a different medium) the director couldn’t resist pumping up the strength of the characters, thereby undoing one of the most interesting aspects of the original, which was having superheroes that aren’t super, they’re just people who are a bit weird.

A time lapse video demonstrates how babies are agents of chaos:

is a clever system for taking and knitting together photos into a zoomable panoramic image such as this one.

Last week’s quote about a dog finding a chainsaw was from Disney’s Lilo and Stitch which I highly recommend to everyone.

This week, an amusing line from Rousseau’s ‘Discourse On Inequality’:

“Savage man, when he has dined, is at peace with all nature, and the friend of all his fellow-creatures.”

On the subject of the body’s constituent molecules being replaced every seven years, some interesting things to consider are tattoos, memories, teeth, and ova. A proper scientific answer with real experiments and references and everything can be found here.

Now, a geometry classic: if you had a piece of string long enough to go around the earth’s equator at sea level, how much longer would it need to be if you wished it to be one meter above sea level?

Below, a rather fascinating forecast of global energy production. Had I been asked to guess, I would have thought the yellow area indicated nuclear fusion, which turns out to be conspicuous by its absence. Presumably on the basis of always being about 30 years away.

(Click for big)