Friday, 8 October 2021

effective calculability

With its roots in the Latinisation of the Persian mathematician Muhammad bin Musa Al-Khwฤrizmฤซ as algorimus, we were quite pleased to learn about the education, contributions and legacy of the scholar of Baghdad’s House of Wisdom in the ninth century, in Greater Iran—presently Uzbekistan—whose the namesake for the unambiguous computational instructions that machines can act upon through tributes by several local artists hosted by a Tashkent gallery. Entitled Dixit Algorizmi after the opening line of his comprehensive manuscript, Thus Spake Al-Khwฤrizmฤซ, there is much more to explore at the links above.

Saturday, 18 September 2021


Via Slashdot, as the Independent reports because of Brexit—as if EU standards were the sole compelling reason that the UK was harmonised with the standard that (nearly) the rest of the world uses—that should legislation pass, markets and shops will be able to opt out of metric units and regress to customary measures. Albeit as valuable as the colour of one’s passport, in reality the matter is more complicated and bound in other treaties including with the International Organisation of Legal Metrology, agreeing that only one official system of measurement be used.

Monday, 13 September 2021


life finds a way
: samples from Perseverance suggest Martian surface was wet for a long time  

yan, tan, tethra: finger counting conventions across various cultures—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links

well-tempered clavier: the mathematical magic of JS Bach  

annals of improbable research: laureates of this year’s Ig Noble prizes announced—see previously  

uchuu: cosmologist create a detailed simulated pocket Universe—downloadable to the public, a hundred terabytes worth of data

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

conspicous calculation

Addressing the lexical weight of numeracy and the outsized weight we attribute to it as we do with all jargon from coding to spellbinding, we really enjoyed the panel discussion between host Helen Zaltzman and guest Professor Stephen Chrisomalis featured on the latest episode of the Allusionist on numbers and notation. 

We especially appreciated the disabusing reminders about bias, audience and the recent dominance of Indo-Arabic numerals (see also) and the vestigial systems, like Roman numerals, that accord prestige and the fact that I, V, X, L, C, D, Mwere not immutable from Antiquity until now with medieval abbreviations sometimes reflecting the Latin name or using Claudian letters and that the symbols were never meant to denote centum or mille but rather that half X is V and half C is L, and so on.

Friday, 20 August 2021


1:1: a growing collection of architectural models appearing in film and television—via Everlasting Blรถrt

brutsch 200 spatz: an unproduced concept microcar trialled in 1954  

hej, hello: the first episode of a Finnish television programme that taught English language skills featuring two very British bobbies and a cat on the Moon 

subway: a comprehensive map of subterranean Washington, DC—via Things Magazine  

purple prose: the 2021 Bulwer Lytton (previously) literature prize winners and dishonourable mentions—via Web Curios  

demosaicking: a biographical history of the pixel and its correspondence to reality

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

little twelvetoes

Having considered myself pretty familiar with the entire Schoolhouse Rock! catalogue (see previously here and here) and enjoying them as a kid, I was taken aback to be introduced to this segment that not only teaches one the twelves multiplication table but also about the duodecimal system and other bases—plus acceptance of actual polydactyly. Including My Hero, Zero and Three is a Magic Number, Bob Dorough performed and produced a dozen (the number one not given an episode) maths shorts during the course of 1973.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

the life of ฯ€

Whereas astrophysics suggest that extending out the significant digits to thirty-nine decimal places would be at the level of precision to measure the circumference of the known Universe to within the breadth of a hydrogen atom, we quite enjoyed the overkill and ambition, as reported by the Guardian, of a team of Swiss mathematicians that have calculated out the transcendental, irrational number, also known as Archimedes’ Constant and whose use of the Greek letter to symbolise it first attributed to Welsh professor William Jones in 1706, to sixty-two trillion places for the accomplishment in itself plus the bonus facts and anecdotes. Not only is it fiendishly useful to understand and is embedded in all sort of applications, there’s quite a bit of lore attached to pi. There’s its elegance in comprehending a bit of the Cosmos, cameo appearances and an infamously misguided attempt in 1897 by the Indiana state legislature to round it up to 3.2 and be done with it.

Sunday, 15 August 2021


In plane geometry, according to the theorem proved by mathematician John Horton Conway (see previously, *1937 - †2020), when the points of a triangle are extended by the length of the side opposite each vertex, the six points fall on a circle which shares the same centre as the triangle. Computationally, logically, this geometric construct demonstrates something that could have easily been included in Euclid’s Elements but took several millennia to be discovered.

Friday, 13 August 2021

your daily demon: astaroth

Our twenty-ninth spirit is an infernal grand duke ruling from today through 17 August is part of the unholy trinity along with Beelzebub and Lucifer and likely derives his identity from the goddess Astarte, consort of Ishtar. Presenting as a fallen angel and commanding forty legions, Astaroth chiefly lures individuals to do wrong through laziness, self-doubt and rationisation but can be compelled to impart skill in mathematics and handicrafts as well as the power of invisibility. Treasurer of the Underworld, Astaroth is countered by the guardian angel Reyiyel as well as appeals to Bartholomew the Apostle who can repel the archdemon’s vices.

Sunday, 1 August 2021

the velocity of money

In the unfolding of the worst case of hyperinflation (previously here, here and here) and devaluation in history, the Hungarian pengล‘ (an onomatopoetic word for the ringing of silver struck, the clinking of coins), itself a replacement currency for the Austro-Hungarian korona, liquidated under the terms of the Peace of Saint-Germain that dissolved the joint bank of the monarchy, battered and bashed by the ensuing Great Depression and a second world war, was pegged to the reintroduced forint (in use prior to the imperial union in 1892 and named for city of Florence) at an exchange rate on this day in 1946 of one Ft for four hundred octillion pengล‘k, shedding twenty-nine zeros and starting over, notes in the millions and billions reused and reissued marked with exponentially higher values.

A last ditch effort to rescue the collapsing economy in January brought in a parallel currency that would hold its value called the adรณpengล‘ for tax and postal payments—sort of like those forever stamps that aren’t subject to rate hikes or the specie of old pennies with high copper content, starting at parity with what was then in circulation but eight months later each was worth two sextillion. The largest denominated bank note issued was the one hundred quintillion (ten to the twentieth power, one million billion and worth about two US dimes) featuring an anonymous Hungarian woman wearing scarf on her head who back in March appeared one the one hundred million pengล‘ bill.

Saturday, 10 July 2021


Coined by Welsh mathematician and physician Robert Recorde (*1512 – †1558), the equal sign (see also) entered common parlance on this day in 1557, and while not inventing +, he introduced the addition sign to England at the same time.
Wanting to avoid repetition in his treatise The Whetsome of Witte, he refers to the shorthand expression of balance as Gemowe lines—twin ones from Latin gemellus, Gemini. Appointed Comptroller of Mines and Monies under Edward VI and Queen Mary in Ireland, Recorde suffered libel from suit of a political enemy and died in a debtors’ prison, but not before leaving a legacy including authoritative works on algebra and geometry as well as the frequently cited Urinal of Physick.

Friday, 11 June 2021

geometry of circles

In 1979 Children’s Television Workshop animator Cathryn Aison, who first studied dance and choreography with Martha Graham before switching her academic concentration to industrial design created this very memorable interstitial for Sesame Street and commissioned composer Philip Glass, who gladly took a break from his opera Satyฤgraha (เคธเคค्เคฏाเค—्เคฐเคน, insistence on truth) based on the biography of Mahatma Gandhi and part of a decades’ long work on a trilogy including chapters on Akhnaten and Einstein on the Beach to help out, to set the transformations, arcs and bisections to music. I remember singing this choral piece over and over again in my head and being both engrossed and terrified by this incantation.

Friday, 21 May 2021

your daily demon: beleth

Ruling from today until 25 May this thirteenth spirit is an infernal king who presents as a feline riding a pale horse with a retinue of bewitching musical instruments. The exorcist must accord this demon due deference accorded to his high rank and office and must maintain courage though Beleth will try to frighten the summoner. Citing the Pseudomonarachia Dรฆmonum, the first conjurer to call on him was Noah’s son Ham after the Great Flood, who then co-authored a treatise on mathematics. Beleth commands eighty-five legion and is opposed by the angel Iezalel.

Saturday, 15 May 2021

stick your tongue out for the cause

Champions campaigning for more recognition for the contribution’s Mileva Mariฤ‡ (*1875 - †1948), Serbian physicist and mathematician who classmate at Zรผrich Polytechnic was the first wife of Albert Einstein, to his early work, including—and subject to sometimes tellingly fierce academic debate—collaboration on the three Annus Mirabilis Papers have appropriated the signature, candid image of her ex (1951 at a birthday party and growing fatigued with the press coverage and being asked to smile for the camera) as part of a wider programme to play a restorative role for women in STEM subjects and to encourage curiosity and ambition.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

customary units

Though the super-antiquated unit of measure might presumably have been settled by now with only one hold-out, we learn that there are significant surveying discrepancies in the United States with different jurisdictions employing different standards and tolerances, which while not making an appreciable change in demarcation between neighbours, on a grander scale can shift boundaries. While the overall harmonisation of America with the rest of the world has yet to accrue the necessary threshold for change, the US is being compelled by 2023 to settle on a uniform factor for conversion in order to eliminate dispute. The Mendenhall Order of 1893, an early attempt to put America on the metric system, defined a metre as 39.37 inches with a foot being twelve with forty out of fifty states using this measure for cartographical purposes with the remaining ten not specifying and six of those using both. Other obsolete feet in Europe prior to the adoption of mesures usuelles between 1817 and 1871 were the FuรŸ, voet, pied, stopa, and fod ranging from 270 to 350 millimetres in length and often varied, unpredictably from region to region.

Saturday, 24 April 2021


Courtesy of the New Shelton wet/dry, we are directed towards this helpful and thorough-going comparative resource of map projections (see previously here, here and here) from Jason Davies that covers the range of interrupted maps, two-dimensional flatten of the globe focused on choice areas of less interest that go far beyond the Spilhaus or transverse Mercator projection that’s a favourite television news studio wall-hanging to butterfly maps, the Berghaus Star, Foucaut’s Stereographoc equivalency globe, the loxodrome and the pictured geopolitical bounding box with animation and interactive features.

Friday, 16 April 2021


oh, i travel—a sort of licenced troubleshooter: a lexicon of the Bond franchise in all its forms 

riptide: an homage to the pre-code (previously) Hollywood actress Norma Shearer 

dead pilots’ society: CBS Summer Playhouse and similar vehicles were venues for anthologies of failed television shows—see also  

la vie รฉlectrique: Albert Robida’s 1893 vision of the future includes a remote courtship by means of a tรฉlephonoscope 

the sensational she-hulk: Marvel comics hand-lettering from Reagan Ray—previously  

buzz-saw: the ancient shark-like Helicoprion had spiral tooth-whorls 

reinventing the wheel: engineers in Seoul develop transforming, load-bearing tyre using principles of origami—see previously  

oh—the pint pot, half-a-pint, gill pot, half-a-gill-quarter-gill, nippikin and the brown bowl: conventional measurements of liquid (see also) anticipated the next in a binary fashion  

shaguar: if Austin Powers were to be revived today, he would have been cryogenically frozen in 1991

Monday, 22 March 2021


mรธbler, belysning, rumdesign: another dip into the iconic designs of Verner Panton—see previously  

fortuitous numbers: a few sums with the rare property where a number equals its letter count multiplied together 

avondklok: a photo-essay on the curfew in Amsterdam during the heights of the pandemic  

digital only trainers: Gucci is selling a virtual sneaker for augmented reality photographs  

yoshizawa-randlett system: rocket scientists and engineers are turning to origami for inspiration 

screen-time: a comic panel from 1997 about high school in 2021 A.D., see also

in memoriam: a pair of obituaries celebrating the life and work of designer Zeev Aram from Things Magazine

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

dare mighty things

Via Super Punch—and our thanks for letting us revisit a pretty incredible moment when Perseverance touched down—we have this flowing dress (see also) inspired by the Martian rover’s parachute, whose unfurled patterns encoded an inspiring, rewarding message. Mission planners and scientists have been dropping the motto in press-releases for some time, including a feature on Curiosity (the openings in that rover’s wheels spelled out JPL, Jet Propulsion Labs just as the hem of the dress, outer ring of the parachute gives the facility’s coordinates) with the same title back in 2013 but it’s really enjoyable to see it all come together.
In the spirit of a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, the invocation first appeared in an address (“The Stenous Life,” 1899) by Theodore Roosevelt: “Far better is it to dare might things, to win glorious triumphs, even though chequered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much—because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory not defeat.” Find out about more Easter eggs on the manifest, including an emblem of the Rod of Asclepius in deference to the present pandemic on Earth.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021


penn station’s half century: vignettes of the original New York Beaux Arts transportation hub painstaking brought to life to experience the station prior to its 1957 demolition and renovation 

delightful creatures: drone captures manatees and dolphins frolicking in Florida Everglades 

raven story: Alaska Tlingit artist features on new US postage stamp with a depiction of the trickster spirit

poisonous green: the paint that might have been the death of Napoleon and other toxic tinctures—see previously  

de-programming: interviews with children of parents radicalised by QAnon trying to get their moms and dads back 

morph and mindbuffer: a mesmerising hypersurface of a globe composed of expanding isohedrons 

preservation watch: conservationists fear that the iconic, Art Deco lobby of the McGraw-Hill Building might be under threat