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Analog Compression

25th October, 2010

Andy Denzler does remarkable paintings in oil on canvas that looks like badly compressed JPEGs or stills from an old video tape. A fascinating crossover from digital to real.

In to the Black Woods

100 Million Sunflower Seeds

19th October, 2010

Tate Modern just opened an exhibition called Sunflower Seeds by chinese artist Ai Weiwei and it's just stunning.

Sunflower Seeds

Each seed has been individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. Far from being industrially produced, they are the effort of hundreds of skilled hands. Poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space, the 100 million seeds form a seemingly infinite landscape.

Porcelain is almost synonymous with China and, to make this work, Ai Weiwei has manipulated traditional methods of crafting what has historically been one of China’s most prized exports. Sunflower Seeds invites us to look more closely at the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon and the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today.

Be sure to watch the video on the intricate proces.

Creative Internet    

15th October, 2010

The internet is a funny thing. The endless stream of pointless status updates and silly youtube videos makes us look rather stupid as a race. On the other hand, the enormity of it also reveals how the extraordinary happens all the time. It's a matter of where you look.

It's wonderful being reminded of the creativity we're capable of. There are some truly remarkable things in this technology-focused collection.

Rouge Computer Traders    

5th October, 2010

The automated computer systems that trade stocks at high speed is a disaster waiting to happen. New York Times now has an article about how a 600 point drop of Dow Jones in minutes back in May was the result of these programs.

The mutual fund started a program at about 2:32 p.m. on May 6 to sell $4.1 billion of futures contracts, using a computer sell algorithm that over the next 20 minutes dumped 75,000 contracts onto the market, even automatically accelerating its selling as prices plunged.

I still don't get how this is legal.

On Programming Languages

1st October, 2010

Steve Yegge's Whirlwind Language Tour from 2004 is one of the best posts on programming languages I've read in a while.

All of computing is based on abstractions. You build higher-level things on lower-level ones. You don't try to build a city out of molecules. Trying to use too low-level an abstraction gets you into trouble.

We are in trouble.

There is a Horse in the Apple Store    

6th September, 2010

Lovely piece by Frank Chimero on not noticing the wonders around us

Can horses type? Probably not. But, you know, that clip-clop sound that their hooves make sounds an awful lot like the clip-clop sound my fingers make when I’m writing. I like that sound: it denotes progress. I wish we would still ride horses, because then we could have a sound we associate with progress and getting closer to somewhere we want to be. I didn’t know where I wanted to be, but I was glad I was here. Because there is a horse in the Apple Store.

There is only Triceratops

3rd August, 2010

New Scientist reports that we might wrongly be classifying young and fully grown dinosaurs as separate species.

Paleontologists John Scanella and Horner propose that some dinosaurs underwent remarkable morphological changes during their growth and that we are confusing these differences between juvenile and adult with distinct species, specifically that

... Triceratops is merely the juvenile form of Torosaurus. As the animal aged, its horns changed shape and orientation and its frill became longer, thinner and less jagged. Finally it became fenestrated, producing the classic Torosaurus form

ScienceDaily has a similar story about the Pachycephalosaurus:

Many paleontologists now realize that the elaborate head ornaments of dinosaurs, from the huge bony shield and three horns of Triceratops to the coxcomb-like head gear of some hadrosaurs, were not for combat, but served the same purpose as feathers in birds: to distinguish between species and indicate sexual maturity.

"Dinosaurs, like birds and many mammals, retain neoteny, that is, they retain their juvenile characteristics for a long period of growth," Horner said, "which is a strong indicator that they were very social animals, grouping in flocks or herds with long periods of parental care."

Color cycling online    

2nd August, 2010

Color cycling is an effect used widely in games of the 90s to create the illusion of animating backgrounds by changing only the colors used in a single image. The backgrounds for the classic LucasArts games are masterly done using color cycling.

Joe Huckaby has created an HTML5 implementation of color cycling using a few of Mark Ferrari's fabulous images. Ah, the memories...

The Secret Powers of Time    

1st July, 2010

Talking at RSA, Philip Zimbardo explains some absolutely amazing correlations between how we perceive time and how we interact with others and the world. Discoveries like this ought to have profound implications on how we structure our society.

There's a 10 minute animated extract for those with short attention spans :)

Architecture’s Modern Marvels    

1st July, 2010

Vanity Fair:

When V.F. asked 52 experts to choose the five most important works of architecture created since 1980, they named a staggering 132 different structures. Here are the top 21, in order of popularity.

Many of these are remarkable from an engineering view as well.

Incredible Technology    

30th June, 2010

iFixit has a teardown of the gyroscope inside the new iPhone 4. The images are stunning examples of the remarkable expertise and precision required to build the devices we have come to think of as everyday things. To think it started only 50 years ago with the invention of the transistor...

Sexual Hijacking    

30th June, 2010

Interview with Gail Dines about her new book Pornland:

Pornography, like all images, tells stories about the world. It tells stories about women, men, sexuality, and intimacy. In pornography, intimacy is something to be avoided, and—as I say in the book—“In pornography nobody makes love. They all make hate.” The man makes hate to the woman’s body. It’s about the destruction of intimacy.

Tuna's End    

29th June, 2010

Paul Greenberg writes for The New York Times about the declining population of Tuna:

But appetites continued to outstrip supply. Global seafood consumption has increased consistently to the point where we now remove more wild fish and shellfish from the oceans every year than the weight of the human population of China.

Tuna then are both a real thing and a metaphor. Literally they are one of the last big public supplies of wild fish left in the world. Metaphorically they are the terminus of an idea: that the ocean is an endless resource where new fish can always be found. In the years to come we can treat tuna as a mile marker to zoom past on our way toward annihilating the wild ocean or as a stop sign that compels us to turn back and radically reconsider.

We seriously need to reconsider what we eat or there will be none.

Why Farmville    

29th June, 2010

Astute analysis by A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz of the psychology in Farmville (yet another social game I'll never play) and why we need time to think:

The secret to Farmville’s popularity is neither gameplay nor aesthetics. Farmville is popular because in entangles users in a web of social obligations. When users log into Facebook, they are reminded that their neighbors have sent them gifts, posted bonuses on their walls, and helped with each others’ farms. In turn, they are obligated to return the courtesies. As the French sociologist Marcel Mauss tells us, gifts are never free: they bind the giver and receiver in a loop of reciprocity. It is rude to refuse a gift, and ruder still to not return the kindness.[11] We play Farmville, then, because we are trying to be good to one another. We play Farmville because we are polite, cultivated people.

On Sick Systems    

28th June, 2010

Everyone should read this. There's a real risk of finding oneself in a sick relationship or employment at some point in life – or knowing someone who is:

Make sure there's never quite enough money, or time, or goods, or status, or anything else people might want. Insufficiency makes sick systems self-perpetuating, because if there's never enough ______ to fix the system, and never enough time to think of a better solution, everyone has to work on all six cylinders just to keep the system from collapsing.

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