As a plus at least maths would have once been fun for poets

Tuesday, 1 July, 2014

I’m not much of a poet, and don’t I know it, so I am thankful I did not live at time – think up until the sixteenth century – when mathematical equations were written as metered verse, because then I’d have been doubly bad at maths.

Why did people stop expressing maths problems as metered verse? Because it was around this time that mathematical symbols such as plus, minus, and equals, were devised, or at least started to come into more widespread use.

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For a healthier future should we eat like our Paleolithic ancestors?

Wednesday, 25 June, 2014

While we don’t need to send civilisation as a whole back to the Stone Age, there may be some benefit in adhering to the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors, one that consisted mainly of meat, fish, nuts, and berries:

The argument for the so-called “Palaeolithic diet” goes like this: the human body adapted to life during the Stone Age, and as our genetics has changed very little since then, this means biologically speaking we are far better-suited to the hunter-gatherers’ diet that existed before there was any agriculture. Details vary from diet to diet, but on the whole they advocate eschewing all dairy products, grain-based foods like pasta, bread or rice, and in some versions lentils and beans aren’t allowed. Proponents argue modern disorders like heart disease, diabetes and cancer have arisen primarily from the incompatibility between our current forms of diet and our prehistoric anatomy.

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Abandoned places, as photographed by Joe Reifer

Thursday, 19 June, 2014

Photo by Joe Reifer

Joe Reifer, a San Francisco based night photographer, also has a liking for abandoned places… his intriguing, yet mildly foreboding, portfolio includes motels, ski fields, farms, scrap metal yards, military bases, and of course ghost towns.

Via Hypnophant.

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There ain’t no idea that hasn’t been tried before

Monday, 16 June, 2014

Julius Neubronner's pigeon photographers

In 1908, long before Google’s search engine even existed, let alone any other Google product, German inventor, and pioneer of amateur photography, Julius Neubronner devised a miniature camera that could be attached to pigeons for the purposes of taking Google Earth like photos.

That the images collected by Neubronner and his team of pigeons were in fact sold as postcards is irrelevant, there you have the basis of the well known mapping application. In a way.

But the pigeon powered Google Earth variant isn’t the only seemingly modern concept that hasn’t been tried, in some form, before. GPS, FaceTime, Skype, ebook readers, and flat screen televisions, are also among ideas that aren’t quite as recent as they seem.

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One hundred year old photos of Antarctica’s Ross Sea Party

Friday, 13 June, 2014

Photo by Arnold Spencer-Smith?

Last year a box of photographic negatives, that were almost one hundred years old, was found in a room at Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition base at Cape Evans, Antarctica.

Rather than Scott’s team though, the images depict members of Ernest Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party, who were tasked with laying supply depots across the Great Ice Barrier, ahead of the Irish born polar explorer’s 1914 to 1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

Thought to have been taken by Arnold Spencer-Smith, who served as the advance group’s photographer, the photos have now been intricately restored, and can be viewed at the Antarctic Heritage Trust website.

Via Imaging Resource.

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If not for old web design mistakes the web wouldn’t be what it is now

Monday, 9 June, 2014

It was the date of this article, or the year it was published, 1999, that caught my eye. To my mind 1999 is possibly a point in time that inherently contains some sort of cosmic significance, almost as if it were the temporal junction point of the entire space-time continuum. Whatever. I thought I’d link to it anyway.

A list of the top ten web design mistakes of 1999, compiled by the much reviled, at the time at least, web usability consultant Jakob Nielsen, who, way back in 1999, was concerned that web designers weren’t giving much thought to the way information was archived on a website:

Old information is often good information and can be useful to readers. Even when new information is more valuable than old information, there is almost always some value to the old stuff, and it is very cheap to keep it online. I estimate that having archives may add about 10% to the cost of running a site but increase its usefulness by about 50%. Archives are also necessary as the only way to eliminate linkrot and thus encourage other sites to link to you.

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Introducing Maya Angelou to someone who is new to her work

Friday, 6 June, 2014

US author and poet Maya Angelou died last week, aged 86. While the many readers of her writings will probably never forget her, how might you explain who she was, and the significance of her work, to someone, who has not heard of her? An anonymous Quora member, whose name, I think, is Anita, outlines the answer she would give to her six-year old child:

Has anyone ever told you that you can’t do something? Because you’re too young? Or too weak? Or too stupid? Because you’re the wrong color? Or because you’re “just” a girl? How did it make you feel to be told those things? Did it hurt you? Did it make you sad? Did it make you mad? Well, there was a woman named Maya Angelou who felt all those things when she was your age.

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Photos of the combat aircraft of World War I

Monday, 2 June, 2014

German aircraft over Giza pyramids

World War I in Photos: Aerial Warfare, an In Focus photo collection. The Great War, or World War I, was the first major conflict to see the use of aircraft, yet it seems hard to believe that they were, initially at least, used for only reconnaissance purposes, rather than combat.

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The digital images of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Friday, 30 May, 2014

Painting by John La Farge 1891

I always love it when things like this happen, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has recently made some 400,000 digital images of artworks and artifacts from its collection available for download.

The above image, a part of this repository, is a 1891 watercolour titled “The Island of Moorea Looking across the Strait from Tahiti”, painted by US artist John La Farge.

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The ghosts of financial crises past

Friday, 30 May, 2014

Six to seven years down the line and the world is still working to recover from the last shock to financial systems, the Global Financial Crisis, of GFC. Unless you are, or were, a commerce major, the GFC, the Asian crisis, and the sharemarket crashes of 1987 and 1929, are probably the major crises you really know of.

Yet history is replete with such disasters, the South Sea bubble of 1720, for instance, caused all manner of chaos, but I’d say such crunches date back far earlier than that.

In other words there’s no way to prevent them, much as people would like to believe we should be learning from our mistakes as it were. Might there be a way to see them coming then? Hmm…

Five devastating slumps – starting with America’s first crash, in 1792, and ending with the world’s biggest, in 1929 – highlight two big trends in financial evolution. The first is that institutions that enhance people’s economic lives, such as central banks, deposit insurance and stock exchanges, are not the products of careful design in calm times, but are cobbled together at the bottom of financial cliffs. Often what starts out as a post-crisis sticking plaster becomes a permanent feature of the system. If history is any guide, decisions taken now will reverberate for decades.

And on the subject of financial crises, this is interesting, twelve banks have failed in the US since 1840 (PDF), but not one has folded in Canada during the same period. Surely there must be something to be learned there?

Via Link Banana.

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