A colourful visualisation of flights in and out of London in a day

Friday, 24 July, 2015

A colourful visualisation of aircraft traffic arriving and departing from the five major airports surrounding London. Apparently just about all of these flights, 99.8% of them, experience no ATC related delays. Not bad for what must be some of the busiest airspace in the world.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

The potato… the world’s most nondescript game changer?

Friday, 24 July, 2015

The potato, such a nondescript vegetable, yet it has played a surprisingly significant part in shaping the world we live in today.

Geographically, the Andes are an unlikely birthplace for a major staple crop. The longest mountain range on the planet, it forms an icy barrier on the Pacific Coast of South America 5,500 miles long and in many places more than 22,000 feet high. Active volcanoes scattered along its length are linked by geologic faults, which push against one another and trigger earthquakes, floods and landslides. Even when the land is seismically quiet, the Andean climate is active. Temperatures in the highlands can fluctuate from 75 degrees Fahrenheit to below freezing in a few hours – the air is too thin to hold the heat.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

The illustrated work of Niki Fisher

Thursday, 23 July, 2015

Illustration by Niki Fisher

The more you look at the work of Melbourne based designer and illustrator Niki Fisher, the more you see to like.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Had to happen eventually… the Pluto conspiracy theories

Thursday, 23 July, 2015

There’s always someone trying to spoil everyone else’s fun, and only days after the New Horizons flyby of Pluto. Yes, the conspiracy theorists have started crawling out of the woodwork already.

One line of their… thinking on the matter says that the images returned to Earth last week were (somehow) faked, while another claims that an alien spaceship base was spotted on the distant member of the solar system, but was hushed up, and presumably, Photoshoped off, the images that NASA released.

A variant of the conspiracy theory exists that suggests that the NASA New Horizon mission happened and that it reached Pluto. However, the theory posits, the space agency is covering up the discovery of an alien, UFO base on the former ninth planet. Clearly a bone chilling orb at the edge of the Solar System would be prime real estate for such a facility, the better for the UFOs to make the occasional foray to Earth to abduct humans and perform disgusting experiments on them.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Putting the bobsled track to good use during summer

Thursday, 23 July, 2015

What to do during the summer months, when there’s no snow on the local bobsled track? Ride your mountain bikes along it, of course.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

All those great photos of Pluto, thanks to an aluminum camera

Thursday, 23 July, 2015

To date, the photos of Pluto, its moons, and their surroundings, taken by the New Horizons space probe, have been breathtaking. But the story of the camera, named Ralph, responsible for all these images, is also incredible.

Obviously no ordinary camera could be used for the job, and the team constructing Ralph had to, among many other factors, consider the freezing conditions in which it would be operating.

And because the various materials that make up a normal camera would respond, or shrink, at different rates, due to the ultra low temperatures – we’re talking well below minus two hundred degrees Celsius here – it was decided to build Ralph almost entirely from aluminum.

With the exception of the lens, being glass, the aluminum construction meant that the camera’s components would all shrink at the same rate.

“Going out that far, there are some fluctuations,” Hardaway says. “It can get quite cold, and materials will shrink as they get colder. But different materials shrink at different rates.” The answer, then, was to build almost the entire camera out of just one type of material. “We actually built the mirrors and the chassis out of aluminum so that as they shrink, they would shrink together, to maintain the same focal length. We could do a reasonable test on Earth and still expect the same quality image,” she says.

Read more posts on related topics

, , ,

Fingerboarding, that’s skateboarding for your fingers

Wednesday, 22 July, 2015

When you take a replica skateboard, that might be as long as a credit card is wide, and substitute your fingers for your feet, what do you have? Fingerboarding, of course. And to all intents and purposes, it may as well be another form of skateboarding, so seriously is it taken as a sport:

Over the last ten or so years, fingerboarding has developed from a do-it-yourself hobby to a full-on industry. The best fingerboarders – mostly guys in their late teens and early twenties – even have full brand sponsorships. They receive free gear and are flown around the world to events and meet-ups as fingerboarding ambassadors.

Still think it’s a gimmick? Watch some of the tricks carefully though, there’s definitely some skill to good fingerboarding.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

The high wire hammock, relaxing or not?

Wednesday, 22 July, 2015

We’ve probably all heard about the transparent capsule hotel rooms that are bolted to the side of a cliff, some one hundred and twenty metres above the ground, not far from Cusco, in Peru. If that isn’t holiday accommodation that’s not for the faint hearted, what is?

So how about a hammock, a rather large hammock, that is suspended about one hundred and fifty metres above a canyon near Moab, in Utah? The hammock itself is probably a relaxing enough place to while away an hour or two, but I doubt the same could be said of reaching it.

In this regard there are – or were, the hammock in question was only there for a week last year – three options. Cable car sling, slackline walk, or sky diving, some very precise sky diving I would think. Easy choice, right?

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Would another way of spacing words help our comprehension?

Wednesday, 22 July, 2015

Asym spacing of text

Which of the above two paragraphs do you find easier to read, or comprehend? That on the left, as formatted normally, or the text to the right, that features Asym spacing?

But one tech company believes something as simple as increasing the size of spacing between certain words could improve people’s reading comprehension. Research going back decades has found that “chunking”, a technique that separates text into meaningful units, provides visual cues that help readers better process information.

I can’t say I noticed much difference, but maybe an instance where Asym spacing is used more extensively, such as in the very article I’m linking to, would be the go?

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Worried about radiation? Relax, you’re already immersed in it

Wednesday, 22 July, 2015

A longer read about radiation, something many of us fear, yet constantly surrounds us, albeit in minute, or background form.

First, there is cosmic radiation from the Sun and the rest of the stars in our galaxy and beyond. How much we get depends on the altitude at which we live and on fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field. And then there’s radiation from the Earth itself, including radon. Here, too, geography is a factor: in some places radon can be found leaking into the atmosphere in significantly larger amounts. Naturally radioactive solids such as uranium and thorium in rock and soil also make their contribution. The global average annual radiation dose is 2.4 mSv. To put this in perspective, that’s about the same as 120 chest X-rays.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,