The Levi’s 501 documentary

Thursday, 7 April, 2016

If you’re a fan of Levi’s jeans, particularly the iconic 501 cut, you’ll enjoy this short documentary that explores their history, design, and production. I have a few pairs of Levi’s in the wardrobe, though not 501s. They’re the wrong cut for me apparently.

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Galileo, just another ordinary mathematics professor then?

Tuesday, 5 April, 2016

A re-evaluation of the work of Renaissance era astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei, seems to suggest his achievements, and reputation, may be overrated.

Could that really be the case?

In 1609, Galileo Galilei was a 45-year-old, largely unknown, north Italian professor of mathematics, a profession with a low social status, well on his way to total obscurity. He had produced his brilliant experimental demonstrations of the laws of falling bodies years earlier but had not published them. He was known among his circle of friends as a purveyor of good wines and a castigating, razor-sharp wit. Then Galileo stumbled upon the recently invented telescope and began the astronomical observations that would make him famous. Realising that he had lucked onto the scientific equivalent of winning the lottery, he rushed into print in early 1610.

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The New York Public Library Digital Collections, images for everyone

Wednesday, 10 February, 2016

Hall of Fame for Great Americans, Bronx, NY

I always love it when things like this happen… the New York Public Library has recently made many, many, thousands of digitised images – including maps, postcards, photographs, and illustrations – freely available for anyone to use.

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Apollo’s on-board flight software source code, printed out

Thursday, 4 February, 2016

Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton, a computer scientist, lead a MIT Instrumentation Laboratory team that developed on-board flight software for the Apollo Moon flights. She is pictured here, standing beside print outs of the source code that was produced.

About the only time I see source code is on a screen, and if I’m lucky, it’s not too more than a thousand lines in length. Very rare is the occasion I see source code in printed format, if at all, and in this case, I suspect there’s somewhat more than one thousand lines of code.

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The history of Japan, a history lesson with a difference?

Thursday, 4 February, 2016

A quirky, yet engaging, recounting of Japan’s history… it might not be to your taste initially, but give it a minute, this is an informative method of teaching history.

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An oral history of Space Shuttle Challenger disaster

Monday, 1 February, 2016

It has been just over thirty years since the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, killing all seven members of the crew, just minutes after it lifted off the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, late on the morning of 28 January, 1986.

Popular Mechanics has compiled an extensive oral history of the tragedy, through interviews with numerous people who had a connection with the launch, that offers a touching, and unique, insight into the disaster.

I remember seeing the explosion, the two streams of white smoke, and realizing there was no shuttle in the middle. I remember thinking specifically: Wait, that doesn’t look right. I remember hearing cameras clicking. I remember one of our beloved teachers standing up on the cafeteria table and shouting, “Everybody shut up. Shut the hell up. Something’s wrong.” We respected him so much that when he did that, we got really scared, because he was scared.

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The best way to investigate UFOs, according to the CIA

Wednesday, 27 January, 2016

US intelligence agency the CIA had a keen interest in investigating would-be UFO activity, that was particularly rampant during the middle of the twentieth century, and recently published a summary of what they learned as a result of their earlier inquiries.

Rather than thinking extraterrestrial life was responsible for the strange flying objects that people had reported seeing however, the agency was more concerned that the Soviet Union was behind whatever was happening.

The CIA’s concern over UFOs was substantial until the early 1950s because of the potential threat to national security from these unidentified flying objects. Most officials did not believe the sightings were extraterrestrial in origin; they were instead concerned the UFOs might be new Soviet weapons.

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Classical composers and their curious subtleties

Thursday, 21 January, 2016

How much do you know about the best known composers of classical music? Did you know, for instance, that Ludwig Van Beethoven only made coffee that consisted of precisely sixty coffee beans? That Norwegian composer and pianist Edvard Grieg had a frog figurine as a good luck charm? Or that Antonin Dvorak, a Czech composer, was an avid trainspotter in his later years?

There’s more where that came from right here.

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Nomads of Mongolia, a short film by Brandon Li

Thursday, 14 January, 2016

Brandon Li, filmmaker, and self described global nomad, spent a few weeks in western Mongolia, filming the day to day, and still very much traditional, lives of the region’s nomadic Kazakh people.

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Privacy, three thousand years in the making

Monday, 30 November, 2015

US writer and editor Greg Ferenstein, who has no qualms publicly publishing his date of birth, writes about the long evolution of privacy. Given that privacy, as we know it, is only some one hundred and fifty years old, and as such is relatively new, the numbers who have taken to it are quite surprising. I mean, don’t we generally dislike the novel?

Privacy, as it is conventionally understood, is only about 150 years old. Most humans living throughout history had little concept of privacy in their tiny communities. Sex, breastfeeding, and bathing were shamelessly performed in front of friends and family. The lesson from 3,000 years of history is that privacy has almost always been a back-burner priority. Humans invariably choose money, prestige or convenience when it has conflicted with a desire for solitude.

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