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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It’s not a toy, it’s to make sense of three-dimensional geometry

Thursday, 29 May, 2014

Erno Rubik, the Hungarian architect who created the Rubik’s cube, that by the way turned forty the other week, originally designed the device to be a working model to help explain three-dimensional geometry, rather than a toy.

After designing the “magic cube” as he called it (twice the weight of the current toy), he realised he could not actually solve the puzzle. The more he moved the coloured squares, the more mixed up they became. “It was a code I myself had invented!” he wrote. “Yet I could not read it.” The cube, made up of nine coloured squares on each side, can be rearranged in 43 quintillion different ways. That is 43,000,000,000,000,000,000.

A fortuitous misapplication I’d say, it seems to me interest in a “working model to help explain three-dimensional geometry” would be somewhat limited, so to speak.

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Musicians who die at 27, is there a connection other than age?

Wednesday, 28 May, 2014

Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Amy Winehouse, are among rock musicians who died at age twenty-seven.

It may be an unfortunate instance of chance, though many people could be forgiven for wondering if there was a connection of some sort, or that there was something about being that age. Zachary Stockill, writing for PolicyMic, finds there were some similarities in the way these musicians lived, that may have contributed to their deaths at such a young age:

There’s a strange trend in the club members’ relationships, too. Pain attracts pain, and drug abusing musicians often attract, either willfully or not, other drug users into their lives. Most members of the 27 Club were romantically involved with other drug users at the time of their death. Jim Morrison’s girlfriend lied to police when her boyfriend died as a means of covering up her own drug abuse, adding to already-intense speculation surrounding the demise of the Doors frontman.

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And all roads shall lead to London

Friday, 23 May, 2014

An animation charting the development of road ways through the British capital from the time the Romans arrived there, almost two thousand years ago – during which period the bustling town was home to some thirty thousand inhabitants – through to the present day.

Actually there’s a lot can be learned about London’s past from the way its roads evolved.

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Not what you thought? The reason the “Mona Lisa” is so popular

Thursday, 15 May, 2014

You haven’t lived until you’ve stood before Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic sixteenth century “Mona Lisa” painting in The Louvre. Of course there’ll be a couple of hundred people between you and the much revered portrait, but there’s little you can do about that, settling for a back of the room view is, after all, part of the viewing experience.

What exactly gives the painting its allure though? Those eyes that seem to follow your every move? Not really. The fact it is the work of one of the world’s best known polymaths? Again, no. It is the brazen 1911 theft that appears to have sparked our enduring obsession with the picture:

In the 1850s, Leonardo da Vinci was considered no match for giants of Renaissance art like Titian and Raphael, whose works were worth almost ten times as much as the “Mona Lisa”. It was only in the 20th century that Leonardo’s portrait of his patron’s wife rocketed to the number-one spot. What propelled it there wasn’t a scholarly re-evaluation, but a burglary. In 1911 a maintenance worker at the Louvre walked out of the museum with the “Mona Lisa” hidden under his smock. Parisians were aghast at the theft of a painting to which, until then, they had paid little attention. When the museum reopened, people queued to see the gap where the “Mona Lisa” had once hung in a way they had never done for the painting itself.

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