Miscellany

Putting Sockrotation.com into lockdown

It has been almost a year since I last posted here, and there was a four month gap before that too, so I have decided to let my Premium subscription lapse on this blog from June 1st. This means it’ll revert to rapidnotes.wordpress.com and all of my CSS tweaks will vanish. But I plan to leave the content here for posterity and set the Sockrotation domain to redirect to here.

It’s sad to me really, because I enjoyed blogging here a great deal and I didn’t choose to stop because I got busy or lost interest per se, but because a sense of apathy and purposelessness gradually crept over my life. The kinds of things I blogged were things that delighted me, engaged me and piqued my curiosity, but these things started to feel meaningless. I stopped posting at my tumblr blog decodering.com for the same reason: A new CSS technique or web framework just kind of seemed trivial given the hellscape the modern web has become.

So anyway, it had a good 6+ year run all in all! And it’s always possible that I will get back to blogging at some point, or use the Sockrotation domain for something new. Until then I’m just going to leave the branding here. I don’t have the energy to change it.

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Three reasons why the periodic table needs a redesign

New Scientist: Chemists can’t agree on the best way to arrange the elements, prompting proposals of everything from spiral-shaped alternatives to radically elongated versions.

Theodor Benfey periodic table

Above: This reimagining of the periodic table, proposed by chemist Theodor Benfey in 1964, emphasises the continuity of the elements rather than imposing artificial breaks.

Mark Leach at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, keeps the internet database of periodic tables, which contains hundreds of versions.

See also: other posts tagged ‘science’

Miscellany

Why the periodic table needs a redesign

Redesigning the periodic table might seem a quixotic quest, but it could soon take on a new urgency. We are already on the trail of element 119. Where it will go, and how the table will morph to make space for it, remains to be seen.

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The Equal Earth Physical Map

Tom Patterson recently made available this high-resolution Equal Earth Physical Map as public domain.

Equal Earth - Physical Wall Map

The Equal Earth Physical Map focuses on the natural world—terrain, rivers and lakes, vegetation, land cover, and the ocean floor—free of obscuring country boundaries. Because the map projection is equal-area, continents and oceans are shown at their true sizes relative to each other.

The Equal Earth Wall Map is in the public domain. You may use the map any way you like, including modifying the content, reproducing it on any type of media, and selling it for profit. Consider it as yours.

 

It is a companion to his earlier Equal Earth political wall map, which is also provided in three versions, each centred on a different regions: Africa/Europe, the Americas, and East Asia/Australia.

Equal Earth - Political Wall Map

The Equal Earth Wall Map is for schools, organizations, or anyone who needs a map showing countries and continents at their true sizes relative to each other. Africa appears 14 times larger than Greenland as it actually is.

See also

Miscellany

High-res public domain maps of the world using the Equal Earth projection

The Equal Earth map projection is a new equal-area pseudocylindrical projection for world maps jointly developed by Bojan Šavrič (Esri), Tom Patterson (US National Park Service), and Bernhard Jenny (Monash University). It was created to provide a visually pleasing alternative to the Gall-Peters projection, which some schools and socially concerned groups have adopted out of concern for fairness. Their priority is to show developing countries in the tropics and developed countries in the north with correctly proportioned sizes.

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Medieval trade routes and geography

Even before modern times the Afro-Eurasian world was already well connected. This map depicts the main trading arteries of the high middle ages, just after the decline of the Vikings and before the rise of the Mongols, the Hansa and well before the Portuguese rounded the Cape of Good Hope.

Medieval Trade Routes and Geography

Credit for this map goes to Martin Månsson who posted this on /r/MapPorn, which has some interesting discussion.

The map also depicts the general topography, rivers, mountain passes and named routes. All of which contributed to why cities came to be, and still are, up until modern times.

The Silk Road is not just one, but many roads that leads through all of Asia, from Constantinople in the west, through Central Asia and the Himalayas, to Liangzhou in the east. During this time, the Chinese Song dynasty was in its height and it was one of those Chinese dynasties that were open to foreign trade and invested in commerce and infrastructure. Foreign trade was mostly concentrated to the southern ports were both Jews and Muslims had their own communities.

(via @stephenniem)

See also

Miscellany

Map of medieval trade routes

The high middle ages were a time when the stars aligned in terms of commerce for many areas of the world. In central Europe many German and French cities initiated annual trade fairs, some of which are still active today – most notably in Frankfurt.

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Tale Foundry: 5 Weirdest Genres of Fiction

A look at Steampunk, Fantastique, Slipstream, Bizarro, and Weird fiction.


Tale Foundry is a YouTube explainer show “about made up stuff for people who like to make stuff up”. Although it is currently a small channel with ‘only’ ~6,000 subscribers, it is one of the better produced that serves this niche.

It’s also a really nicely structured channel, picking a fresh topic to explore each month, then starting with a general introduction of sorts (The Storytelling of Dark Souls), following up with a list episode (The Elements of Dark Souls Lore) and concluding with an original work of fiction inspired by the topic (“Faith in the Misbegotten”).

Other monthly topics so far have included Harry Potter, Creepypasta, Celtic folklore, Pokémon and Game of Thrones.

Shad
Miscellany

How realistic are the fantasy castles from films and games?

Shad M Brooks is a huge, huge fan of swords and castles, amongst other geeky subjects, all of which he enthusiastically explores on his YouTube channel, Shadversity. I’ve been really enjoying his castles playlist.

Skyhold from Dragons Age Inquisition apparently gets quite a lot right…

However, he’s less complimentary about the ‘castles’ of Skyrim, which get some basics right but completely fall apart when you look at the details…

There’s some praise for The Lord of the Rings, but also a lot about the castles that doesn’t make sense…

It’s worth starting at the beginning of the playlist with the first two videos on fantasy vs. reality and the names and terms of a medieval castle parts.

Honor Guard castle

In those videos Shad shows off and explains his own rather cool design for a more realistic fantasy castle he calls ‘Honor Guard’.

See also

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Arduboy
Miscellany

Arduboy: Game system the size of a credit card

Arduboy is a miniature, open-source, programmable game system based on Arduino.

Arduboy started on Kickstarter in 2015 and is now for sale at $49 (they expect it to sell out quickly, however). Features:

  • 1.3″ brilliant black & white OLED display
  • 6 tactile momentary push buttons
  • 2 channel piezo electric speaker
  • Durable polycarbonate and aluminum construction
  • Rechargeable thin-film lithium polymer battery

(via HN)

See also: Other posts tagged ‘electronics’.

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E-115
Miscellany

Crypto is hard: The secret cryptographic features of Barbie typewriters

The Barbie Typewriters are low-cost electronic typewriters developed as a children’s toy by Mehano in Slovenia (formerly Yugoslavia) and sold worldwide by Mattel.

Crypto Museum: Apart from a range of typesetting features, such as letter-spacing and underline, this children’s toy was capable of encoding and decoding secret messages, using one of 4 built-in cipher modes. These modes were activated by entering a special key sequence on the keyboard, and was explained only in the original documentation.

E-115 interior

When the E-115 was adopted by Mattel as an addition to the Barbie™ product line, it was aimed mainly at girls with a minimum age of 5 years. For this reason the product was given a pink-and-purple case and the Barbie logo and image were printed on the body. As it was probably thought that secret writing would not appeal to girls, the coding/decoding facilities were omitted from the manual. Nevertheless, these facilities can still be accessed if you know how to activate them.

German manual for E-118

(via @mwichary)

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The Big Hex Machine

The Big Hex Machine is a giant, yet simple, 16-bit computer designed by staff and students at the University of Bristol to explain how a computer works.

The giant machine, based in the Merchant Venturers School of Engineering, measures over eight square meters. It is built out of over 100 specially designed four-bit circuit boards, which enables students to be taught about fundamental principles of computer architecture from just a few basic components.

Tech Spark: David May (pictured right, above), Professor of Computer Science in the Department of Computer Science (pictured right, above), designed the Big Hex Machine with education in mind. David says, “You cannot understand how a computer works by taking one apart!”

“In our giant machine, all of the structure is clearly visible – as is the movement of information as it executes programs. It demonstrates the principle used in all computers – general-purpose hardware controlled by a stored program.”

(via HN)

Miscellany

The Big Hex Machine

The ‘Big Hex Machine’ is a giant, yet simple, 16-bit computer specifically designed to explain how a computer works. Its instruction set requires a very small compiler, but it is powerful enough to implement useful programs.

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See How an Insane 7-Circle Roundabout Actually Works

Wired: Your first thought upon seeing Swindon’s ‘magic roundabout’ might be: man, the Brits have really lost the plot lately. But this thing—which is actually seven roundabouts in one—has been working for 60 years.

You just point your vehicle towards where you want to go, yeild to cars already in the midst of the ‘magic’, then ‘brexit’ on the other side.

See also: The untold story of the British Rail logo

Sockrotation update
Miscellany

Welcome to Sockrotation.com

After three years, two months and almost 700 posts I have finally decided to upgrade this blog by paying for WordPress.com’s premium hosting package.

Rapid Notes stats

The most notable changes are:

  • New domain! New name! The blog is no longer Rapid Notes at rapidnotes.wordpress.com, but Sockrotation.com.
  • New Twitter account! Follow @sockrotation for updates.
  • No ads! For now at least. I reserve the right to activate WordAds in the future.
  • New fonts! New CSS! Expect more visual tweaks over the coming weeks as I go mad with power now I can finally make these kinds cosmetic alterations.

Nothing of substance will change however. This is still the same blog posting the same kinds of posts with the same ‘regularity’.

See also

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

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Guide to Computing

This colourful series of ten historic computers, created in close collaboration between INK and Docubyte, documents the beginning of our computing history.

Featuring such famous machines as the IBM 1401 and Alan Turing’s Pilot ACE, Guide to Computing showcases a minimalist approach to design that precedes even Apple’s contemporary motifs.

What’s more, the combination of Docubyte’s photography and INK’s skilful retouching and post-production techniques has resulted in something wholly unique: the ageing historical objects as photographed by Docubyte have been ‘digitally restored’ and returned to their original form. As a number of these computers predate modern colour photography, Guide to Computing therefore showcases them in a never before seen context.

Photography by Docubyte. Retouching by INK.

See also

Miscellany

Colourful digital restorations of historic computers

This colourful series of ten historic computers, created in close collaboration between INK and Docubyte, documents the beginning of our computing history.

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The Bubble Nebula

NGC 7635 aka The Bubble Nebula: Although it looks delicate, the 7 light-year diameter bubble offers evidence of violent processes at work. Above and left of the Bubble’s center is a hot, O-type star, several hundred thousand times more luminous and around 45 times more massive than the Sun. A fierce stellar wind and intense radiation from that star has blasted out the structure of glowing gas against denser material in a surrounding molecular cloud.

Zoom in →

Miscellany

Hubble Bubble

“The intriguing Bubble Nebula and associated cloud complex lie a mere 7,100 light-years away toward the boastful constellation Cassiopeia. This sharp, tantalizing view of the cosmic bubble is a composite of Hubble Space Telescope image data from 2016, released to celebrate the 26th anniversary of Hubble’s launch.” — APOD

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The Chart of Cosmic Exploration

Probe the solar system from Mercury to Pluto with this stellar schematic of space exploration! From the Luna 2 in 1959 to the DSCOVR in 2015, this color-coded chart traces the trajectories of every orbiter, lander, rover, flyby, and impactor to ever slip the surly bonds of Earth’s orbit and successfully complete its mission—a truly astronomical array of over 100 exploratory instruments in all.

Available as a 39″ × 27″ poster from Pop Chart Lab.

(via Mental Floss)

See also

Miscellany

Chart of human space exploration

“Featuring hand-illustrated renderings of each spacecraft juxtaposed against the serried giants of our solar system, this galactic survey is a testament to man’s forays into the grand cosmic ballet.”

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OS Mars logo

BBC News: Ordnance Survey releases digital map of Mars surface

This is the first time that OS has produced a map of territory from another planet.

Ordnance Survey map of Mars

BBC: “It was a little hard at first to actually understand the data itself in terms of things like the elevation and the scale and so on,” said the OS cartographer behind the map, Chris Wesson. “But actually the physical process was almost identical to what was used to make an Earth map, or any OS map.”

The map itself covers roughly 10 million sq km (3.8 million sq miles) – or about 7% of the total Martian surface.

See also: Other posts on this blog tagged ‘maps’

Miscellany

Ordnance Survey map of Mars

“The planet Mars has become the latest subject in our long line of iconic OS paper maps. The one-off map, created using NASA open data and made to a 1:4,000,000 scale, is made to see if our style of mapping has potential for future Mars missions.” — Ordnance Survey

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OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Brewing System

With the thermos carafe, showerhead dripper and a variable temperature kettle that can be used separately, this machine has the potential to be a great coffee maker. I’ve been using a Clever Dripper for a few years now, but I do miss some of the convenience of using a drip machine. This could be the one to take me back.

OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Brewing System

If the clever pump that goes through the handle, over the top and out the spout of the kettle works as well as it seems (without leaking or making a huge amount of noise or anything) then this could well be one of the best coffee makers.

Seattle Coffee Gear overview

See also

On a dry lakebed in Nevada, a group of friends build the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits: a true illustration of our place in the universe.

See also

Miscellany

A scale model of the Solar System

On a dry lakebed in Nevada, a group of friends build the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits: a true illustration of our place in the universe.

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The Zipf Mystery

The of and to. A in is I. That it, for you, was with on. As have … but be they.

The Atlantic:

Every so often scientists notice a rule or a regularity that makes no particular sense on its face but seems to hold true nonetheless. One such is a curiosity called Zipf’s Law. George Kingsley Zipf was a Harvard linguist who in the 1930s noticed that the distribution of words adhered to a regular statistical pattern. The most common word in English—”the”—appears roughly twice as often in ordinary usage as the second most common word, three times as often as the third most common, ten times as often as the tenth most common, and so on. As an afterthought, Zipf also observed that cities’ sizes followed the same sort of pattern, which became known as a Zipf distribution. Oversimplifying a bit, if you rank cities by population, you find that City No. 10 will have roughly a tenth as many residents as City No. 1, City No. 100 a hundredth as many, and so forth. (Actually the relationship isn’t quite that clean, but mathematically it is strong nonetheless.) Subsequent observers later noticed that this same Zipfian relationship between size and rank applies to many things: for instance, corporations and firms in a modern economy are Zipf-distributed.

“A Complete History Of The Soviet Union Through The Eyes Of A Humble Worker, Arranged To The Melody Of Tetris” (2010) by “Pig With The Face Of A Boy”

The food on your plate; now belongs to the state

Brilliant visuals.

EightByEight magazine looks at the ‘cheat sheets’ of two sports commentators:
BBC’s Nick Barnes and NBC’s Arlo White.

Barnes creates a detailed two-page spread for each match he commentates for BBC Radio Newcastle. The notes are divided into two color-coded segments: The left-hand page contains background information on Sunderland’s opposition—the club’s starting XI from its last fixture, previous results, and stadium details—while the right-hand side is updated in real time as the action happens.

NBC Sports’s lead football commentator Arlo White devised his system of note-taking from watching other commentators in action. He cites legendary commentator Barry Davies as a personal hero—and his notes, which White was once shown at Wembley Stadium, as an inspiration. “They were beautifully handwritten, detailed and meticulous,” he said.

Miscellany

The art of sports commentary

“Behind every great football match is a great commentator, and in front of every commentator is a set of notes. BBC Radio Newcastle’s Nick Barnes and NBC Sports’ Arlo White have some of the best—and most unique—in the business.” – EightByEight magazine

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The Fermi Paradox — Where Are All The Aliens?

The universe is unbelievably big – trillions of stars and even more planets. Soo… there just has to be life out there, right? But where is it? Why don’t we see any aliens? Where are they? And more importantly, what does this tell us about our own fate in this gigantic and scary universe?

Casio F-91W range
Miscellany

Casio F-91W: terrorist watch

Casio F-91W disassembled

Reading a blog post about the Apple Watch today, I became aware of the fact that the old Casio F-91W I wore as a teenager is still in production! Then I was reminded of the story from 2011 that this model of watch is favoured by hipsters and… terrorists:

It is cheap, basic and widely available around the world. Yet the Casio F-91W digital watch was declared to be “the sign of al-Qaida” and a contributing factor to continued detention of prisoners by the analysts stationed at Guantánamo Bay.

Osama bin Laden wearing a Casio F-91W

Osama bin Laden wearing a Casio F-91W. The image is genuine, as far as I can tell.

The report states: “The Casio was known to be given to the students at al-Qaida bomb-making training courses in Afghanistan at which the students received instruction in the preparation of timing devices using the watch.

Casio A-159W

Casio A-159W

“Approximately one-third of the JTF-GTMO detainees that were captured with these models of watches have known connections to explosives, either having attended explosives training, having association with a facility where IEDs were made or where explosives training was given, or having association with a person identified as an explosives expert.”

More than 50 detainee reports refer to the Casio timepieces. The records of 32 detainees refer to the black Casio F-91W, while a further 20 make reference to the silver version, the A-159W.

Al Qaida watch timer on perf board

This improvised timer for a time bomb was captured in the early 2000s


“We purposely don’t market it as anything cool or trendy,” Tim Gould, head of marketing at Casio UK told the BBC.

“It’s not pretentious and doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. It just a basic watch that is reliable and good value.”


The Casio Retro Range

I’m definitely going to buy one of these watches — in fact I may get a variety of colours and the steel A-159W. I’m also tempted to get one of these ‘Reworks’ editions…

Finn Magee – Reworks

The reworks series gets inside the Casio F-91W digital wristwatch, one of the most commonplace items of consumer electronics.

Casio F-91W Rework - Steel colour range

Mass produced Casio F-91Ws are stripped down and their components reworked using a combination of industrial and craft processes. They’re then carefully reassembled to build at once familiar and unique timepieces.

The Reworks story begins with growing up in the 1980’s. Back then a Casio digital watch was mandatory and when the F-91W was introduced 1991 it was the model to have. The watch felt hi-tech and was reliable, accurate and cheap too. It achieved near ubiquitous product status, gracing first and third world wrists alike.


Further reading

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A diagram of the geological time scale

The Geologic Time Spiral — Designed by Joseph Graham, William Newman, and John Stacy

The Earth is very old—4.5 billion years or more according to scientific estimates. Most of the evidence for an ancient Earth is contained in the rocks that form the Earth’s crust. The rock layers themselves—like pages in a long and complicated history—record the events of the past, and buried within them are the remains of life—the plants and animals that evolved from organic structures that existed 3 billion years ago.

USGS: The Geologic Time Spiral (via Wikipedia)

See also: 4,000 years of human history in one chart

Miscellany

The Geologic Time Spiral

This timeline of evolution of life represents the current scientific theory outlining the major events during the development of life on planet Earth. […] The similarities between all present day organisms indicate the presence of a common ancestor from which all known species, living and extinct, have diverged through the process of evolution. Although more than 99 percent of all species that ever lived on the planet are estimated to be extinct, there are currently 10–14 million species of life on the Earth. –Wikipedia

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465

This post marks the two-year (and one day*) anniversary of this Rapid Notes, so I thought I would celebrate with an epic gallery post. This blog now has 456 posts! Which is rather a lot considering that I’ve never really figured out what this blog should be about. Browsing through this post will probably give you a better idea than any description I could write.

Another way to explore is via the table of contents (or the menu at the top of the site).

Thank you if you are one of the 315 subscribers to this blog! I know that number is inflated by bots, spammers and the like, but I figure some of you have to be real. If you want to join the ranks of the non-bot subscribers you can find the option at the bottom of this post (or again, in the menu above). I have bigger plans for this blog, so it should only get better!


April 2013

May 2013

More. So much more →

Miscellany

Two years of Rapid Notes

Celebrating two years of this blog with a scroll-tastic gallery post.

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Airport Codes

Every airport has a unique three-letter IATA code. Some make sense if you know the city or the name of the airport and others, well, what the heck?

Turns out there’s usually a reasonable explanation. Knowing what each IATA code stands for isn’t super useful, but it sure can be fun.

See also: Wikipedia: International Air Transport Association airport code

Miscellany

Airport Codes

A fun little site about the secrets behind those three letter airport codes.

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Icon by Stephen JB Thomas
Miscellany

New category: Craft and creativity

It was always my intention with this blog that the categories I used would be under continuous refinement. Today I’ve deleted the Aesthetics category and replaced it with Craft and creativity.

(Oh, and I’ve also added a new tag for explainers, which are typically those YouTube videos which, well, explain something.)

Continue reading

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Our engineers designed multiple tools in each 17-4 stainless steel bracelet link, making usable tools like Allen wrenches, screwdrivers and box wrenches available at a moment’s notice. Adjustable to ¼” to accommodate any wrist size and fully customizable with the links you need most.

Tools include a cutting hook (for safely cutting tape, cord, tape, seatbelts and other materials), a bottle opener, an oxygen tank wrench (a rectangular cutout used to slot over an oxygen tanks to open. ideal for EMS, fire department or first responder use), a carbide glass breaker (a small, pointed tip made of carbide, a very hard material, which is ideal for shattering auto glass, various screwdrivers and wrenches, and a pick/sim card tool (a small pick meant for removing sim cards or other small pieces from tight spaces).

(via BoingBoing)

Miscellany

A smartwatch and wearable, Leatherman style

This isn’t an ad, I just thought it looked very cool. Probably not the most comfortable thing to wear though!

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Miscellany

How to comfortably live out of a 26 litre backpack

Stop packing so much: The minimalist packing list

James Turner and his partner were UX designers who quit their jobs, founded their own design agency and started working remotely for clients as they travel the world. James carries everything he needs in his 26 litre Smart Alec backpack, and he’s written this Medium post detailing what he needs “for the gear freaks and professional travellers. Newbies and veterans alike.”

This sort of travel isn’t for everyone.

But for me, there is no going back. To do this lifestyle we had to sell everything we owned. Beds, plates, books, everything. We didn’t own anything particularly nice so it wasn’t that hard, but it did make me reconsider how I related to ‘things’. I now love not owning much. I love that I can pack up my entire life in 5 minutes (yes, I timed it). And I love that everything I carry has been carefully curated so that it’s reliable and fits in with my life perfectly.

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