Friday 31 May 2024

uvb-76 (11. 597)

Courtesy of ibīdem, we are directed to an omnibus post on numbers stations (see previously) featuring the enigmatic beacon designated also with the callsign MDZhB (МДЖБ, referred to as the Buzzer) broadcasting on short-wave radio. Mostly monotonous, there are sporadic interruptions with voice transmission, usually in Russian but sometimes audio-drops of Yosemite Sam and other memes but otherwise in strict messaging formats. This ostensible activation code was replaced with the ominous filler of Swan Lake during a brief period in November of 2010, a well-established preemption when all Hell is breaking loose to the consternation of monitors but regular programming soon resumed. While patently considered as a communications encoded directive for Soviet and Russian field agents, the transmitter does not possess the earmarks of a true numbers station, missives being too random, and is seen as sort of frequency- , domain -holding mechanism to dissuade others for future contingencies, including as some have suggested an automated “dead hand” signal which if broken would trigger a retaliatory response, assuming that command and control had been taken out by a first strike.

dalí atomicus (11. 596)

Via Strange Company, we enjoyed seeing the outtakes and creative process behind the 1948 surreal photograph taken after at least twenty-six attempts by Philippe Halsman and later published in Life magazine (see previously). The collaboration, one of many over decades of working together and complementing one another’s media, was instigated over his four year project of the Leda Atomica, the painting seen in the background, which dealt with ideas of suspension, repulsion and cohesion and reflected the Zeitgeist of the Nuclear Age. There was a countdown to coordinate the composition—on three, assistants threw the cats and buckets of water and on four, Dalí was to jump. After each take until both were satisfied, Halsman entered the darkroom to develop the film while the cats were collected and dried off.

 synchronoptica

one year ago: a spy whale

two years ago: an optical illusion plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: visualising marine traffic, Funky Town (1980), St Elizabeth plus the US Armed Forces Network Europe

four years ago: a US national protest map plus The Mythological Astronomy in Three Parts

five years ago: more punitive tariffs from Trump

Saturday 4 May 2024

8x8 (11. 539)

an elegant weapon for a more civilised age: the physics and power demands of a lightsaber  

defective fleet of fly sky-wreckage: nothing good has the acronym MRSA (Material Review Segregation Area) 

chic boutique: Messy Nessy to open a brick-and-mortar clubhouse and shop in Paris  

wopr: US urges China and Russia to pledge that AI will never have command and control of nuclear weapons  

poultice: an orangutan observed self-medicating a wound in the wild with a paste made of plants with healing properties 

serenity amid disaster: a short animation from Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, “The Flying Sailor,” examines the wonder and fragility of existence  

peak wtf: gun-mounted flashlights popular with American police officers 

oh, the asthma guy: a conversion with that one friend who’s never seen Star Wars

Friday 26 April 2024

8x8 (11. 514)

flightline: stunning visualisations of air traffic  

splinternet: ByteDance does not plan to divest itself of TikTok following US ultimatum  

megadeath: modelling the destruction caused by a nuclear bomb on a major city  

mtv buzz: a surreal montage of audio and video clips arranged by Mark Pellington (1990)  

celebrity endorsement: musicians, artists and novelist pose with the Sears’ appliances in this 1969 ad campaign for Kenmore—see also  

undiscovery: the Map Men chart phantom islands—including some that have made it into the era of Google Maps—see previously  

22,5 light hours: engineers debug a forty-seven year old computer remotely from twenty-four billion kilometres away to revive the data stream from Voyager I—see previously  

embarking: a luxury airline that caters to canines above their human companions

synchronoptica

one year ago: assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: dismantling Soviet-era monuments

three years ago: more links to enjoy plus a special issue of LIFE magazine

four years ago: fantasy urban map generators, more links worth the revisit plus geopolitical optics

five years ago: an elegant and modern personal seal, even more links plus a Victoria houseplant


Friday 1 March 2024

castle bravo (11. 393)

Already subjected to a series of nuclear weapons tests as host to Operation Crossroads (see previously, see also), on this day in 1954 the United States conducted the first in the battery of design experiments with Operation Castle, detonating the a high yield thermonuclear, fusion bomb on an artificial island platform in the lagoon of Namu in the Bikini Atoll of the Marshall Islands. The strongest tactile explosion in history, the bomb was more than one-thousand times stronger than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, exceeding expectations of developers and spreading fallout (the heaviest in the form of pulverised and irradiated coral) across the region and far beyond. Residents were not evacuated and the decision was made not to abort the test despite wind shear that imperilled the islanders as well as personnel involved in the research. Trace amounts of radioactive material detected as far away as Australia, Europe and North America turned Castle Bravo into an international incident, prompting worldwide monitoring of fallout levels and a ban on further atmospheric tests.

Monday 1 January 2024

spoiler alert (11. 235)

Turning our attention to past movies set in the then future of our present (hopefully not prophetic), the first round goes to the 1975 darkly, problematically comedic post-apocalyptic adaptation of the Harlan Ellison novella of the same name. A teenager portrayed by Don Johnson (Miami Vice) scavenges through the wastelands of the US southwest following a nuclear war accompanied by his telepathic dog (voiced by Tim McIntire). Orphaned at an early age with no formal education or socialisation, the adolescent is focused on survival, interested solely in food and sex—conquests secured with the aid of his canine companion in exchange for meals as the genetic modifications that bestowed super-intelligence leaves him incapable of tasks like hunting. After numerous run-ins with bandits, mutants and rogue androids, the teenager is eventually recruited by an aristocratic scout of a subterranean colony as a stud to help with low viable breeding population. A preview and links to the whole movie available at Weird Universe above.  Most other selections seemed to be based in 2024 for purely arbitrary reasons and only two to three years behind when they were produced—with the exception of the 1999 Josef Rusnak and Roland Emmerich vehicle that was overshadowed by the similarly themed Matrix and was a victim to the strange echo-phenomena of “twin films”that sometimes happens in Hollywood (due to screenplay shopping and submission to multiple studios, industrial secrecy and espionage), like the asteroid flicks Armageddon and Deep Impact, Dante’s Peak and Volcano, 1981’s The Howling, Wolfen and An American Werewolf in London, Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down, or on stage Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. A multibillion dollar computer company in then present-day Los Angeles is experimenting with a virtual reality simulation of the city in 1937 populated by individuals unaware that they are part of a program. Entering the simulation in order to solve the mysterious death of the company CEO, the protagonist and heir to the enterprise (and a prime suspect) finds clues that lead to the revelation that thousands of parallel virtual worlds exist but there is only one reality whose inhabitants have developed a virtual world of their own, but having a pocket metaverse within another does not necessarily result in privilege or insight. The protagonist disconnects and emerges into reality advanced a quarter of a century.

Sunday 17 December 2023

i’m not against wishful thinking—not now (11. 191)

As our faithful chronicler informs, just in time for the holidays, the bleak, apocalyptic adaptation of the Nevil Shute’s novel of the same name by director Stanley Kramer had its premier (on both sides of the Iron Curtain simultaneously) on this day in 1959. A cast including Fred Astaire, Ava Gardener, Gregory Peck and Anthony Perkins portrays the aftermath of a nuclear conflict (which unlike in the book version, no one is assigned blame for instigating World War III) where the entire population of the northern hemisphere is killed by the effects of radio active fallout. The lone surviving American nuclear-powered submarine berths in Melbourne as prevailing air currents are slowly carrying the nuclear debris south, threatening to make the other half of the globe uninhabitable as well. Despite a brief hope that dispersement calculations were too conservative and that there might be a chance for salvation, the radiation does not dissipate sufficiently to make it less lethal.

 synchronoptica

one year ago: Saturday Super Store plus assorted links to revisit 

two years ago: Saturnalia, an exceptional millipede plus Hunky Dory (1971)

three years ago: your daily demon: Murmur plus more links to enjoy

four years ago: Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (1989), dispatches from Kew Botanical Gardens plus navigating spaces not designed for accommodation

five years ago: a breakthrough for nuclear fission plus the origin of the word gun

Monday 20 November 2023

 ▄▄▄ ▄▄▄ ▄ ▄▄▄ ▄▄▄ ▄ ▄ (11. 128)

Our faithful chronicler informs that on this day in 1983, ABC aired The Day After—portraying a skirmish at the East and West German border that quickly escalates in a full-scale nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States told through the lens of several farming communities seemingly far-removed from the front but near American missile silos. Starring Jason Robards, John Lithgow, Steve Guttenberg and JoBeth Williams, the made for TV-movie garnered an incredible audience-share of over sixty percent of households (no commercial interruptions) and showed the struggle and aftermath of nuclear fall-out for the survivors—see also—and was rather incredibly re-broadcast by Soviet state television (dubbed but true to the original dialogue) just four years later during the negotiations for the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty between Reagan and Gorbachev. The film ends with a disclaimer right before the closing credits that the work is fictional and the actual outcome of a nuclear war would be far worse.

 synchronoptica

one year agoCabaret (1966), assorted links to revisit plus Incense and Peppermint (1967)

two years ago: Dasius of Durostorum plus more adventures in Poland

three years ago: more links to enjoy, Italy’s fateful day plus St Felicity

four years ago: emoji storms plus the Occupation of Alcatraz and Unthanksgiving

five years ago: a variation on Nyan Cat plus another lesson in Slang School

Monday 23 October 2023

mol (11. 071)

As the unit of measurement for the amount of substance—proportional to the elementary entities (atoms, molecules, ions or other particles) within a volume, a way of bundling masses of into a magnitude of quantity after the conventions of a teaspoon, a dozen, a baker’s dozen or a gross so that chemical reactions, scientists can accurately express the concentration—recipe—of reactants. Despite the different natures, a mole of water (a chemical compound) and a mole of mercury (an element) have the same number of discrete particles in them—which is Avogadros’ Number, 6,022 x 10²³ mol, six hundred two sextillion, two hundred quintillion. It’s useful to have such a normalising proxy for grasping the number of atoms in a given object. Enthusiasts and educators celebrate Mole Day on this day (US calendar conventions) from 06:02 in the morning until two after six in the evening as a way to drum up interest in chemistry and scientific literacy.

synchronoptica

one year ago: visiting Crete 

two years ago: your daily demon: Sabnok plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: circuit judge Roy Cohn, a pretend Communist coup, more links to enjoy, the beginning of the world plus an appreciation of the colour russet

four years ago: more links worth revisiting plus more on the far future night sky

five years ago: the canals of Mars, swing sixties cover of Red Hot Chili Peppers, the first Russian rapper plus noteworthy files from the US National Records Archive

Tuesday 10 October 2023

operation nickel grass (11. 050)

To replace materiel spent in the first four days of the conflict, the Soviet Union began an airlift on this day in 1973 of military equipment to Syria and Egypt that led a coalition of Arab states against Israel (to gain purchase on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal and regain the Sinai) in the Yom Kippur/Ramandan War. The US followed suit with a massive resupply of Israel two days later, and having discovered that Prime Minister Golda Meir had authorised the assembly of thirteen nuclear warheads aimed at targets in Egypt and Syria, a move that was made easily detectable so as to conduce American aid and avoid further escalation, wanting officially to minimise the appearance of involvement. Upon receiving intelligence of this development, US president Richard Nixon ordered the deployment of the Air Force to transport all munitions possible to Israel via the Azores and along a narrow airspace over the Mediterranean to comply with European countries that did not wish to be party to a proxy war between the US and the Soviet Union. Although resupply missions on both sides slowed significantly after the 24 October cease-fire resolution, OPEC leaders enacted an oil embargo against America and her allies.

synchronoptica

one year ago: AI movie posters plus conjuring Swedish nonsense words

two years ago:  assorted links to revisit plus Upstairs, Downstairs (1971)

three years ago: revolutionary China, happy birthday to the Candy Bomber, the moon Triton, the role of sharks in vaccines plus coin-op convenience

four years ago: Dunbar Number, guerilla advertising plus more on noise pollution

five years ago: more on Osaka’s Expo’70 plus a shopping cart that gauges one’s mood

 

Wednesday 13 September 2023

sacred stuggle (10. 999)

Arriving his private armoured train over the sliver of a shared border between Russian and North Korea, Kim Jong Un (whom rarely leaves the country) with Vladimir Putin at the Vostochy cosmodrome to tour the facilities and discuss a weapons deal, occasioned by Russia running a deficit on munition shells due to the protracted invasion of Ukraine and turning to the heavily stockpiled peninsula dating from the Cold War, reportedly offering in exchange to the isolated and destitute nation food aid and expertise in developing reconnaissance satellites in furtherance of the developing atomic weapons programme. Though once opposed to allowing unstable neighbours going nuclear and participating in sanctions against North Korea for its pursuit, Russia now seems willing—as with its cache of drones from Iran, to take these risks including the possibility of selling on technologies to arms-dealers even less allied and a bipolar geopolitical landscape with the West on one side and Russia’s sphere of tenuous influence. Kim reaffirmed his support for “to defend its state sovereignty and protect its security” echoing rhetoric used to justify invading Ukraine and Putin graciously accepted his counterpart’s invitation for a state visit.

 synchronoptica

one year ago: the Poet Laureate’s tribute to the Queen, the Beatles’ Apple Electronics venture plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: your daily demon: Marchosias, more links to enjoy, the first teenage all music and dance show plus the release of Super Mario Brothers (1985)

three years ago: dissecting the original COVID hotspot, more on radio alphabets, The Stand, the stately manor that inspired Wuthering Heights plus St Venerius

four years ago: more links to enjoy

five years ago: willpower and endurance, more on the monomyth plus an ad-filled rocking chair

Monday 28 August 2023

ydinjätteen loppusijoitustila (10. 968)

Via fellow internet peripatetic Messy Nessy Chic, we are directed towards a quick but ruminative tour of an installation in Finland, which in two short years will see no human traffic for the next hundred thousand. The deep geological repository of Onkalo near the Eurajoki power plant on the western coast will be the first long-term disposal facility for spent fuel rods and other highly radioactive material currently warehoused in storage depots around the world, the site chosen for its geologic stability and informed by residents around the site’s location. The reflections of being among the last to tread these caverns is particularly poignant as one imagines the surface landscape taking on a new character in the intervening aeons and how might these seals remain unbroken for untold future generations.

 synchronoptica

one year ago: Culture Beat’ Mister Vain (1993) plus the short-lived BBC spy drama Quiller

two years ago: your daily demon: Asmodeus assorted links to revisit plus the art of Arthur Tress

three years ago: the death of Emmett Till (1955)

four years ago: the iconic artwork Marianne Saxl-Deutsch

five years ago: the Ramstein Air-Show Disaster, Late-Stage Capitalism, more links to enjoy plus more on the Great Span

 

Saturday 5 August 2023

7x7 (10. 926)

strange new worlds: Star Trek’s upcoming musical episode  

peaceful transition of power: US Department of Justice requested to issue protective orders following Trump’s threats to go after prosecutors during a fund-raising event in Alabama 

nuclear noir: a selection of psychological thrillers at the cusp of the Cold War and the malleability of McGuffins  

carbon black: Massachusetts Institute of Technology develops supercapacitors that store energy in cement

family-friendly: the Kids On-Line Safety Act is posed to severely curtail speech on the internet and anonymous browsing—see also—via Waxy  

and until this battle station is fully operational, we are vulnerable—the rebel alliance is too well equipped: the US Space Force headquarters to remain in Colorado Springs  

english, do you speak it: a foretaste of Pulp Fiction—the musical

Friday 28 July 2023

7x7 (10. 912)

barbieworld: a survey of a thousand advertisements contextualises the box-office phenomenon—see also 

gigo: a fundamental law of computing will ultimately thwart digital dictatorships  

lake berryessa: Dorothea Lange (previously) documented the flooding of a Napa Valley community in the 1950s—via Strange Company 

chamber music: a poorly received Baroque Beatles Book from 1965

i want to do whatever common people people do: a new genre was born in the sixteenth century when Pieter Bruegel began specialising in peasants, merchants and mongers  

word vectors: a bit of demystifying for Large Language Models—via Waxy 

 a census-designated place: explore Oppenheimer’s secret city of Los Alamos

Sunday 23 July 2023

perhaps booze would alleviate this situation (10. 899)

Preceded by the educational short A Date with Your Family promoting good etiquette at the dinner table, the 1952 Alfred E Green Cold War drama set in a desultory Manhattan bar peopled by a demographic cross-section of Americans was given the Mystery Science Theater treatment on this day in 1994. Drinking brandy from a conspicuously large snifter, a mysterious pollster, gadfly assesses the attitudes of various patrons including a news presenter, an industrialist, rancher, socialite and congress member regarding international relations and foreign policy, whom to a person express their weariness of bad news from abroad and although treasure their safety and security, appear to have little will to be engaged participants. On cue the expository news channel reports that the US has been invaded by a foreign power (unnamed but ostensibly the USSR) and the situation quickly escalates into a nuclear conflict—mostly with incongruous stock footage of combat training. The guests rush to return to their lives with a more patriotic posture and do what they can for the war effort. As strikes continue unabated, the cadre suddenly find themselves back in the bar, the brandy-drinker having freed them from his hypnotic trance with a changed outlook, which ironically is to suborn their individual concerns for the good of the collective. Composer and music director Albert Glasser also scored The Saga of the Viking Women and their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent, Teenage Caveman and a number of other MST3K classics and the film was a critical and commercial success, one of the few 1950s movies to gross a box-office of over a million dollars.

synchronoptica

one year ago: some hidden places in Scotland plus Highlands moorlands

two years ago:  your daily demon: Glasya Labolas, a Roman holiday plus Telstar I (1962)

three years ago: assorted links worth revisiting 

four years ago: abstract drone photography,  a near universal paper format plus a large format camera

five years ago: a visit to the Playmobil factory plus Alexander Gerst aboard the ISS



Sunday 16 July 2023

batter my heart, three-person’d god (10. 889)

The first demonstration resulting from the Manhattan Project, a race to harness the destructive power of a nuclear weapon—the allied US and Great Britain urged to master the technology before fascist powers, Trinity, occurred on this day in 1945, the test carried out in the Jornada del Muerto desert in New Mexico, using the only pre-existing structures in the area as a laboratory to study the effects of “the Gadget,” the McDonald family ranch requisitioned by the American government and also where bomb components were assembled. J Robert Oppenheimer recalls that the project’s code name was inspired by the poetry of John Donne and of witnessing the dread blast with a retinue of some four-hundred fifty scientists and military observers that a parallel verse from the Bhagavad Gita also came to mind, knowing the world would not be the same and narrating the feelings of the awe-struck, the hysterical and inconsolable, thought of Vishnu’s attempt to persuade Prince Arjuna to perform his duty and overcome his moral dilemmas in a state of war and appeared before him in the aspect of his universal form, announcing, “Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.” A near copy of the bomb was detonated in August over Nagasaki.

tc-497 or long things which are long (10. 888)

Via Things magazine, we are directed towards the experimental overland train that the earthmoving company LeTourneau developed for the US army as a supply-chain solution to quickly dispatch equipment and materiel to remote locations without roads or tracks. Each carriage was equipped with its own electro-diesel motor to contribute in tandem to the locomotion and also benefitted from regenerative breaking, short configuration pictured but any number trailers could be inserted between cab and caboose. Under the code name Project OTTER (Overland Train Terrain Evaluation Research) in 1961, the TC-497 was prototyped and trialled in hopes of establishing the DEW (Distant Early Warning) Line, a series of radar substations stretched over Alaska and Canada to detect incoming Soviet bombers during the Cold War and was suggested that instead of traditional (hybrid) internal combustion engines, the convoys would be nuclear-powered. Ultimately, the project lost out to ever larger cargo planes and helicopters. Learn more at the links above.

Wednesday 12 July 2023

international commission on stratigraphy (10. 875)

Putting the hubris and destructive nature of humanity on the same level as the meteor impact that wiped out the dinosaurs—after a fashion—which began the Cenozoic Era some sixty-six million years ago, a working group of scientists have chosen a representative Gold Spike (see previously) as a marker to symbolise the start of the Anthropocene Epoch in the sinkhole Lake Crawford in Ontario. Though overwhelming evidence abounds of humans’ negative impact on the environment from ocean plastics, the supersaturated, warming atmosphere, mass-extinctions, in particular this body of water that ought to be pristine and far removed (see above) shows exponential increases in impurities the early 1950s on, documenting nuclear tests and fertilisers and mining-runoff polluting waterways. Researchers are gauging Plutonium fallout in the silt and sediment (a faithful though frightening annual record) the lakebed as a sign of the start of the epoch and is expected to mark the beginning of a new, dread and disruptive geological time period.

synchronoptica 

one year ago: Saint Veronica plus assorted links to revisit

two years agoIn the Year 2525

three years ago:  the end of a politically independent judiciary in the US plus a double-duty face mask

four years ago: a creative video for Kate Bush’s Running Up that Hill, protests in Hong Kong plus the pitfalls of self-assessments

five years ago: predictive policingThe Americans and Operation Ghost Stories, generative Tarot cards plus Trump’s plan for stacking judges

Sunday 28 May 2023

williamsburg, as a site, was the site of the first representative assembly and the second university in the colonies which then became the united states–it has been a particularly appropriate place in which to rededicate ourselves to these principles (10. 772)

Hosted in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia and remarkably the only international meeting chaired by Ronald Reagan during his administration, the ninth annual summit of the Group of Seven—an informal gathering of the richest, industrialised countries—opened on this day in 1983, running through 30 May, and was attended by French president François Mitterrand, West Germany Chancellor Helmut Kohl—their predecessors having first proposed such a forum in 1975—the Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the Italian Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani, the Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, the Prime Minister of the UK Margaret Thatcher, plus the president of the European Commission, Luxembourgish statesman Gaston Thorn. Though normally reserved as a venue for resolving and harmonising trade and monetary policy amongst members, Reagan shifted the focus to missile deployment in Europe aimed to encourage the Soviet Union to return to disarmament negotiations in Geneva. Having met with Thatcher for bilateral consultations ahead of the summit, the UK and the US wanted support from the G-7 to affirm NATO’s stance on basing Pershing II rockets in Turkey and West Germany, pressing others for agreement despite the objections of Mitterrand and Trudeau, this concord was considered essential for Reagan’s first encounter with Gorbachev for talks two years later.

Friday 19 May 2023

9x9 (10. 752)

x-date: unless a compromise is found to work with the statutory debt ceiling, the US could default on paying its bills and unleash chaos in global financial markets 

the house of mouse: Disney is cancelling plans for a billion dollar Florida annex—and shuttering its immersive Star Wars experience resort hotel—in an ongoing feud with the state’s arch-conservative governor  

garbage patch kids: creepy dolls being washed ashore are auctioned off to benefit marine habitats—see also 

superimposition: researchers at the Zurich Institute of Technology create the world’s largest ‘Schrödinger’s Cat” 

the great silence: we are probably not alone in the Universe but we might as well be—see previously  

random access memory: previously unreleased tracks from retired duo Daft Punk  

interior design: browser-based application to create and share voxel rooms, via Waxysee previously  

byte-dance: American state of Montana passes a ban of the social media platform TikTok over conflated fears of violations of users privacy  

seat at the table: G7 summit hosted in Hiroshima—with nuclear deterrence on the agenda