The extinction of the dinosaurs, like you never heard before

For some reason, every now and then – like now – I remember the Dinopocalypse episode of Radiolab. It’s such an awesome account of the science involved on the day the dinosaurs died. Give it a listen and stick with it if you’re not familiar with the comedic delivery of the main presenters.

So much of the science is unimaginable until you hear the physics explained bit by bit. Terrifyingly inspiring stuff.

In turn, reminding me of my favourite ever XKCD What If? What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?

Before it was famous: Celebrating smartphone photography

Once again, Apple is inviting people to share their best photos in order to promote the abilities of the iPhone camera, and rightly so, it’s raised concern about giving credit where due.

In my opinion, both full credit and payment should be given. No question. Because while the iPhone camera is great, good photography (especially consistently good), is all about the eye behind the camera and practically nothing to do with the technology.

The case in point that comes to mind is – what must be the first ever ‘shot on camera phone’ ad campaign – the 2008 ad campaign for the ‘Samsung 8-megapixel Pixon camera phone‘.

This was not a good camera. Nor a good phone. But the project was super innovative for the time (2 years before instagram) and the choice of Nick Turpin was spot on. The photos from his month away were fantastic, and still hold up today I think, even if the website design and video editing have dated rather poorly.

Read and see more about the project here. View some of the project on Nick’s Flickr, for however long that lasts.



Not always useful, but not altogether useless

99% Invisible, Mini Stories Vol 5 just reminded me of Chindogu. Irreverent objects that are designed to be all but useless, while also humerus and perhaps a little thought provoking. Like these classics:

In turn, this reminded me of the RuckJack, which is a jacket, that turns into a bag. Or a bag, that turns into a jacket.

Give it a moment. Think for a while about the RuckJack and try to imagine scenarios where it would be useful.




How did you get on? Personally I’m still at a loss for any real world scenario where having a RuckJack would be useful, beyond a Chindogu level of usefulness.

Bonus fact from the 99PI story: The selfie stick was invented in the 90s as a Chindogu.

Economics is like astrology

Anyway, that’s a large part of what economics is—people arbitrarily, or as a matter of taste, assigning numerical values to non-numerical things. And then pretending that they haven’t just made the numbers up, which they have. Economics is like astrology in that sense, except that economics serves to justify the current power structure, and so it has a lot of fervent believers among the powerful.

This short musing amused me in Red Mars today. Also, one of those fourth wall breaking bits in a book, where the authors own opinions seem to pour out.

The differences between piston and rotary engines

I’d never heard of a rotary engine before today. Saw an interesting cross section of one somewhere and just through it was interesting. Searched, read a bit, and then found this:

I love discovering things that I don’t know. And especially like this, when I wager there are millions of people that know this subject inside out, and who would likely be dumbfounded that I’d never heard of rotary engines before.

There’s something comforting about discovering your own ignorance of a largely know subject. Like there’s always more to the world than you realise. More to learn and more to rely on each other for. Can’t do or learn it all alone.

Signs without an audience

Who is this sign for? Someone that’s likely to run up or down the stairs at a train station – a place where people tend to rush and run – but someone that’s also going to read and take heed of a coddling health and safety sign:

Would love to know the story behind it. Who said it was needed. Who they thought it was for. What risks exist without it, and what stats exist to suggest it will help.

Surprising book companions: Red Mars and The Woodland Year

Unrelatedly over New Year, I started rereading Red Mars (first part of a sci-fi trilogy about the colonisation and terraformation of Mars), at the same time as The Woodland Year (a condensed yet very informative guide for managing woodland in the UK, by the inspiringly talented woodsman Ben Law), and I’m finding that they actually share a great deal from a sustainability, bioengineering / biodiversity point of view.

Can’t quite figure if it’s coincidence or unconscious planning. Either way, a nice little pairing. Recommended.