Thursday 16 May 2024

10x10 (11. 562)

crimes of atrocity: a long, dense episode of -ologies with Alie Ward on the hugely fraught and difficult subject of genocide with a powerful and circumspect post-script 

airoboros: artificial intelligence trained on AI made content is becoming highly problematic and only compounded—see previously  

the city on the edge of forever: public portal linking Dublin and New York City suspended after inappropriate behaviour  

palmerston’s follies: two maritime forts off Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight that have been converted into boutique accommodations go up for auction  

the deuce: the Greek grandmother who built an adult entertainment empire in Times Square before its Disneyfication 

foot on the gas: the inevitability of the climate collapse and humanity’s capacity for adjustment  

⌘ |: the lost history of pre-internet emoji and rendering software—via Waxysee previously 

flashing headlights: the giant Dana squid’s photophores in attack-mode  

eternal return: cosmic cycles and time’s resurgence  

first-day agenda: how Trump is framing his vision for a second-term


one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus a visit to Arnstadt

two years ago: St Brendan, more links to enjoy plus the Electrotechnical Exhibition of 1891

three years ago: a classic from Kim Carnes, a language quiz, more links worth the revisit plus an ancient action figure

four years ago: more Trump’s Space Force, birdhouses, the stress of social media moderation, a medieval manuscript game plus a musical typing tutor

five years ago: GenX, consular services at McDonalds, soliciting grievances, Japanese mascots plus office equipment

Thursday 9 May 2024

the (other) line (11. 548)

As much as the projected NEOM (previously) professed to be a technological utopia with minimal—or negating impact—on the environment, promises which are looking less and less deliverable, this AI-generated cityscape extending out in all directions but centred on a main traffic artery isn’t quite so much antithetical (at least behind the veneer) as regressive and a reminder that the technocrati over-promise and cannot offer a real escape from the crowded, dirty, decaying and hierarchical framework of capitalism that created and enabled them. The oasis in the desert is a mirage. More from AI-DA at the link above.


one year ago: a political cartoon attributed to Benjamin Franklin plus assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: Dianetics Day, all the .horse websites plus the musical origins of the seven-day week

three years ago: another MST3K classic, parahawking, Europe Week, television and the public interest, recycled sets, the skyscrapers of NYC, more text-based computer games plus early generative artwork

four years ago: a Roman festival to appease the restive dead, BBC backdrops, a planned alternative UN headquarters plus the Treaty of Winsor (1373)

five years ago: form+zweck, a US plan to bomb the Moon (1958), Watergate hearings commence (1974) plus a fire-chasing beetle

Tuesday 30 April 2024

primary endosymbiosis (11. 524)

An endosymbiont is an organism incorporated into the cell of another organism in a mutually beneficial relationship—though it’s hard to draw the line from what we would consider weeds, hitchhiking genes or parasitism—and this rare and seminal phenomenon evolutionarily energised complex life roughly two billion years ago when a cell-attacking virus absorbed a bacterium that eventually became the organelle of all advanced cell structures known as the mitochondria, the cellular power-house. Going forward another billion years, a similar auspicious capture of a cyanobacteria led to the development of chloroplasts that are common to the plant kingdom. Not on the same level as the above symbiogenesis but not insignificant are the nitrogen-fixing bacteria that cohabitate in the root nodules of legumes, the chimeric lichens and the algae that live in coral reefs. Now—via the New Shelton Wet/Dry—we learn that researchers are uncovering evidence of another possible biological sea-change—possibly comparable to the way animals and plants have terraformed the Earth but we shouldn’t count on this as our saving grace for what we’ve done to the environment—with signs that common marine algae is engulfing bacteria—like pulses, peas and beans above—that enables seaweeds to fix nitrogen. Aside from possible insights into the once-in-a-billion-years enhancement, it could present a fundamental change in agricultural practises and mitigate some factors in climate modelling.


one year ago: Wes Anderson’s Star Wars, the 1939 World’s Fair, hypertext markup language is released into the public domain (1993) plus more gashapon mania

two years ago: text-to-images plus modern medievalism

three years ago: your daily demon: Paimon plus a tiny Japanese fire truck on the streets of San Francisco

four years ago: the Church of Satan (1966), social-distancing headgear plus municipal flags of Russia

five years ago: more mass-transit upholstery, windowless houses, assorted links to revisit plus Walpurgis Night

Thursday 11 April 2024

daylighting (11. 482)

Having previously looked at the subject of hidden urban watercourses, we enjoyed revisiting the topic and

learning about efforts for resurfacing and rehabilitating rivers, creeks and streams that have been buried, culverted and diverted and otherwise forgotten to make way for city development in the metropolitan areas of Canada, as with many other locations around the world, in this interactive, scrollytelling article from the CBC—via Nag on the Lake—on the ancient waterways of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Restoration efforts hope to not only rewild municipalities but also seen as a means to mitigate flooding and the urban heat island effect.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus Old Testament caricatures

two years ago: the Ukranian tryzub plus Turkish Star Trek

three years ago: St Godebertha, an uneventful day plus a screen-test for A Clockwork Orange

four years ago: Lucas Cranach the Elder, German Sesame Street plus the Louie Louie Advocacy and Appreciation Society

five years ago: Hello Europe posters for Brexit, check-out etiquette, Venezuelan politics plus the elements of typography

Sunday 31 March 2024

timestamp (11. 460)

Though factors involved cannot purely be reduced to the effects of global warming, melting polar ice caps redistributing the mass to the Earth’s equator with other dynamics in play like seismic activity, the prospect of subtracting a leap second to compensate for the lag observed between the solar day and international atomic time does nonetheless—particularly given industry opposition to the adjustments in the first place—seem like a rather outsized development. Scheduled irregularly when the difference is seen to approach six-tenths of a second and bit less than a whole one with a half a year’s lead time for computer networks and servers to prepare, the process is controversial since it can lead to disruption and confusion, twenty-seven have been added since 1972, with the latest on New Year’s 2016. Owing primarily to tidal friction from the world’s oceans and centrifugal force, the Earth is not spinning slower but timekeepers are responding to the cumulative effects of applying precision time to a variable but since 2021, researchers found that the diurnal rotation was increasing, prompting the authoritative body to consider negative leap seconds to reorient the hour and minute and avoid a more significant shift.

Monday 18 March 2024

insatiable birdie (11. 433)

Via Miss Cellania, we not only learn the rather elegant physics and chemistry behind those sippy bird toys but also that researchers have given it an upgrade as a device to generate energy.

Sometimes mislabeled as a perpetual motion machine, the thirsty mechanism is a heat engine, two evacuated glass bulbs linked by a tube pivot on a crosspiece and turns the temperature gradient along the body into a pressure difference that translates to the mechanism. Water evaporates from the head (usually adorned with something absorbent like felt) and lowers the temperature and pressure and causes some of the vapour in the chamber to condense (usually ether, alcohol or chloroform) and the liquid is forced up the neck, causing it to tip forward. The ambient air temperature warms the bottom bulb and causes the cycle to repeat. The toy, originally called a Pulshammer was a German invention improved by Benjamin Franklin, after seeing one in action around 1768 and illustrates the principles of capillary action, wet-bulb temperature, heat of condensation as well as several laws of thermodynamics and idea gases and with the latest modifications also demonstrates the triboelectric effect (static electricity), harnessing it to power small appliances and seems overall like a pretty good educational apparatus, provoking thought while charging.  Who knew? More technical details and a video demonstration of the prototype at the link above.

one year ago: assorted links to revisit, Yugoslavian fashion plus climbing Everest (1923)

two years ago: more links to enjoy, two probes passing in the night, more shibboleths plus Arnold Schwarzenegger makes an appeal to the people of Russia

three years ago: RIP Yaphet Kotto, more links worth the revisit, Motown on tour (1965), mourning rings, fear of covering up plus the fashions of Birgitta Bjerke

four years ago: an iconic photograph from the battlefield (1942)

five years ago: Transit Driver Appreciation Day

Wednesday 28 February 2024

paleofutures (11. 387)

Via Waxy, we come across a retrospective volume of predictions for the world of 2024 solicited from luminaries and futurists from half-a-century earlier collected by The Saturday Review for its own Golden Anniversary (established in 1924 as compendium of essays and reportage on a wide range of subjects, folding in 1986). A retrospective to better see the way forward, it features hopeful assessments by ecologist Renรฉ Dubos, who popularised the maxim to “think globally, act locally” in his capacity as advisor to the UN and foresaw sounder and smarter environmental policies, the honorific “Madame President” for the United States contrasted by a more sobering view of continued wage-inequality and glass-ceiling, Trans-Atlanticism versus nationalism, and Issac Asimov forecasting that while computer prognostications were not perfect, they would be a requirement for insurance liability purposes and decision-drivers in medical treatment. There are also quite a few boldly wrong and aspirational claims by human rights champion Andrei Sakharov like orbiting power-plants, large scale terraforming and quadruped electric cars that would prance over prairies with minimal impact and didn’t require roads, along with Neil Armstrong’s poignant reflections of decades of continued space exploration and exploitation. On the other hand, Werner von Braun accurately predicted the world wide web, email and teleworking plus their implications. Much more at the links above.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit

two years ago: the Horodecki House of Kyiv, Guernica vandalised (1972) plus the paper art of Charles Young

three years ago: more on the Mountain Dream tarot, the finale of M*A*S*H* (1983), artist Edward Hopper plus redesigning the hypodermic emoji

four years ago: ranking ringed-planet emojis plus hauntingly familiar images from the 1918 influenza pandemic

five years ago: anti-Catholic sentiment and the Lincoln assassination conspiracy, resurfacing a lost urban river plus more links to enjoy

Tuesday 13 February 2024

9x9 (11.348)

unwanted legacy: Russia puts Estonian prime minister on wanted list for dismantling monuments to Soviet soldiers 

banned book rainbow: LeVar Burton hosts a very special episode on books banned by adults who don’t want kids to learn, grow or change—via Kottke  

clothesline, skyline: a look at Shanghai’s ubiquitous outdoors drying racks  

blinkerwall: ten-thousand year old megastructure in the Baltic could be Europe’s oldest  

everynoise: layoffs and downsizing at Spotify spell the end of the serendipitous musical encyclopaedia—see previously  

essentially cenobitical: one year in the life of a part time hermit—via the new Shelton wet/dry 

running amoc: the trajectory of the climate catastrophe blows past a calamitous tipping-point  

clearing the docket: upcoming inflection points in the criminal cases against Trump  

portal kombat: French authorities uncover a vast Russian disinformation network designed to overwhelm fact checkers

Sunday 11 February 2024

callsign (11. 345)

Via the always excellent Maps Mania, we are referred to the rather infamous interactive flight tracker from Jack Sweeney that amalgamates real-time, crowd-sourced transponder data that follows commercial and
controversially the flight-plans of private jets belonging to well-known figures, the open-source forum used by other aggregators to publicise and monitor the itineraries and environmental footprint of celebrities who would rather their outsized impact, hypocrisy and whereabouts to be known. Some believe that keeping tabs on soi-disant free-speech champion Elon Musk motivated him to purchase Twitter and try to silence his critics. Taylor Swift also recently expressed feeling her privacy and security violated by Sweeney’s site—but in response sold one of her private aircraft, possibly for an upgrade. We were surprised to see the quite a number of smaller, non-commercial flights over our airspace. More at the links above.

Sunday 21 January 2024

8x8 (11. 285)

80s chillpill: a nostalgic, slow-dance playlist 

topdressing: an appreciation of the world’s “ugliest” utility airplane, the Airtruk, designed for crop-dusting in New Zealand—via Clive Thompson’s Linkfest  

future-proof: an advertising campaign from a pen company in the early 1960s strangely forecasts our technological present 

these children aren’t french—they’re american: a retrospective look at the BBC’s language learning mascot Muzzy 

night-climbers: John Bulmer’s photographs of a secretive group that scaled the campus of Cambridge under the cover of darkness—more here  

crochet coral: an evolving nature and craft hybrid project to memorialise and raise awareness about our disappearing reef—see previously—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links 

money pit: a tour of the world’s abandoned airports  

doses & mimosas: a remix by Vintage Culture featuring Zerky

Sunday 31 December 2023

9x9 (11. 230)

unwound: a cartoon that speaks to the time-dilation of the Winterval—and the year in general 

politics or otherwise: year’s end Can’t Let Goes from NPR’s podcast contributors 

fast-forward: a century of New Year’s men’s party fashions

aitana lopez: the virtual, machine-generated influencers stealing jobs from humans  

cap d’agde: the restoration of the Art Nouveau Chateau Laurens—a palace also known for its connections with Catharism  

like a fridge in reverse: a visualisation of the science of heat-pumps—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links

fondue chinoise: a variation on the Swiss holiday tradition inspired by the Asian hot pot 

favourite global tech stories from publications not named rest of the world: like Bloomberg’s Jealousy List, staff compiles articles they wish they’d written—via Waxy  

cartoon cryptozoology: explore a chaotic archive of the earliest animations

Friday 29 December 2023

7x7 (11. 221)

pivot point: this year and the next will be judged as humanity’s failure to tackle the climate crisis  

fact check: a selection of debunked fake news from the past year  

sears & roebuck: through to 1971, a US department commissioned Vincent Price to assemble a collection of fine art to be sold in stores  

chronophoto: a challenge similar to GeoGuessr except one has to date an image on the map 

 ๐Ÿพ: the natural wonder material returning to the Moon and beyond 

jealousy list: articles that Bloomberg contributors wish they had scooped—see previously  

1%: the world population will stand at eight billion on the new year


one year ago: assorted links to revisit

two years ago: 2021 in review

three years ago: 2020 in review, Brexit on tech plus cleaning up space junk

four years ago: the legacy of Thomas Beckett, nanotechology, a visit to a bunker museum plus flat-earther and other science denialism

five years ago: the Fifth Day of Christmaslong-lived trees, dinosaurs of the year plus the competition to host Amazon’s second headquarters

Saturday 23 December 2023

11x11 (11. 208)

mmxxiii: the year in anniversaries, including the debuts of Question Hound, Casablanca, the World Wide Web, The Exorcist and the Yom Kippur War 

seasons greetings: decades of off-kilter Christmas cards from John Waters 

explainer: five video essays worth your holiday downtime 

tl;dr: public nominates longreads worth revisiting  

enigmatic chemical reactions: runaway chaotic catalysts are heating up two massive landfills near Los Angeles  

cash-on-deposit: leaving money in your bank-account also contributes to one’s carbon-footprint  

lithub: the biggest literary stories of the year 

a year in illustration: the collages accompanying Pluralistic posts  

re:view: Dezeen’s annual top tens 

et exaltavit humiles: a medieval token likely dispensed by a Boy Bishop, who held authority from the feast of Saint Nicholas through the Day of Holy Innocents, was discovered in Norfolk  

2023: the year in review from the Financial Times

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.


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

Tuesday 12 December 2023

10x10 (11. 184)

arrows of time: a timeline tracing the evolution of human understanding through various magisteria—via the new shelton wet/dry  

horary quandrant: oldest dated English time-keeping instrument goes under the hammer—see previously  

guten morgen: the newly launched Nightjet service between Berlin and Paris marks a return of sleeper trains—see previously 

the beef and dairy network: industry delegates and lobbyists triple at COP28 

theory of mind: researchers reveal a deep chasm in how perception varies from individual to individual  

animation v physics: Alan Becker’s follow on video to Animation v Maths—via Waxy  

oed: the joys of exploring the authoritative dictionary—see previously  

rewind: carbon removal technology is also a time-machine—though presently only able to move the needle a little—via Good Internet 

 the year in search: Google presents its annual review  

the great scrollback: the Verge’s features the best archived tweets

Friday 8 December 2023

krisenmodus (11. 172)

Echoing last year’s selection from Collins Dictionary of permacrisis, the Gesellschaft fรผr deutsche Sprache (previously) has chosen crisis-mode for the Worte des Jahres for 2023 as a reflection of the ongoing exceptional states of emergency that polarise a seemingly powerless, frightened and overwhelmed public between the extremes of apathy and alarmism. Runners’ up included Lesefรคhigkeit (reading comprehension) due to a sharp fall in functional literacy perceived to have been made worse by school closures during COVID, KI Boom (Kรผnstlichen Intelligenz, AI), a term for infighting among the ruling government coalition and Teilzeitgesellschaft—part-time society for more of a work-life balance.

Sunday 3 December 2023

woty 2023: people’s choice (11. 159)

Oxford English Dictionary has a shortlist of nominees that were pitted against one another for several brackets including: Swiftie (a Taylor Swift enthusiast) vs De-Influencing, Heat Dome (a high-pressure weather system that traps hot air below it with deadly consequences) vs prompt—as in an improvisational cue for a Language Model), rizz vs Beige Flag (a warning sign that a partner is rather too tame and unoriginal, vis-a-vis the above) and parasocial (characterising a one-sided relationship that a fan has for a celebrity) vs situationship (an undeclared relationship) Check back soon to see if your favourite has won.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus The Book of Leaves

two years ago: Drake’s Equation, SMS (1992) plus a collection of airline safety cards

three years ago: your daily demon: Balam, a Roman holiday plus fifty-two gleanings from the year

four years ago: Camelot (1960) plus a Chicken Little opera

five years ago: a deck of Mayan playing cards, healthy brain flora, the cries and criers of Old London plus a deployment to the US-Mexico border

Tuesday 28 November 2023

9x9 (11. 146)

the big easy: Bonapartist diaspora had designs for Napoleon to retire in New Orleans—via Messy Nessy Chicsee also courtesy of Super Punch  

holiday emporium: Kottke’s annual gift guide returns after a hiatus  

triple word score: players and lexicographers are a bit mortified with Scrabble’s new tournament rules  

colophon: the rise and fall of Borders Books 

moonlight towers: during the infancy of electric lighting, there was a predecessor to serial lamps  

pump and dump: insurance companies are exacerbating the climate crisis 

fiat: during the bank strikes of Ireland in the 1970s, pubs stepped in to fill their function—via the new shelton wet/dry  

ai garage sale: haggle with robots for real items—via Waxy  

pas de goulots d’รฉtranglement dans la production: a strange 1940 diagram from linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf presenting French as a factory assembly line

Tuesday 21 November 2023

7x7 (11. 129)

last mile-problem: 2003 ad from a defunct automotive line lampooning the absurdity of cars—especially redesigning cities around them 

broken record: the cover of the UN’s Environmental Programme Emissions Gap Report  

whistle-blower: ufologist who testified before the US Congress urges declassification of documents on alien technology for America to get ahead of the coming, catastrophic leak  

whole heap of zing: new studies may have found the culprit in the phenomenon of the red wine headache  

oculi mundi: a gorgeous and interactive collection of antique and ancient depictions of the world to peruse—via Maps Mania  

keith number: seemingly recreational, rare and hard to find repetitive Fiboncci-like digits whose sum are a whole of its parts 

the marshmallow test: famous experiments in psychology recreated in LEGO


one year ago: an early exercise craze

two years ago: assorted links worth revisiting

three years ago: the Nurnberg Trials (1945), more links to enjoy, artist Magritte plus cardboard cat shrines

four years ago: more Words of the Year, a Trump appointee turns, Martha Gellhorn plus reforming Ukrainian exonyms

five years ago: the Mayflower Compact, more links to enjoy, a ram registry plus the backstory of an IKEA poster

Saturday 18 November 2023

terraforming (11. 125)

Via Good Internet, we learn that AI-powered robot chemist, analysing Martian meteorites as a proxy for available materials in-situ (see previously) the Red Planet, has devised an efficient method for splitting the abundant reserves of water ice into its components—hydrogen and oxygen not only for air for potential human explorers to breathe but also for fuel—by trialing millions of molecular compounds (metallic ores bonded with those component elements are normally inert) apparently readily present in the Martian terrain to find the best catalyst to set off the reaction with the least need for extra energy to trigger the reaction and least effort of extraction. Though accomplished without human-intervention—drawing on the sum of human learning—the proposal would still need to be vetted by scientists for unintended consequences or biases for Earth gravity and weather. If proven safe and effective, maybe as an encore, the robot chemist could come up with the best way to capture and store carbon back home.


one year ago: The Mouse and his Child (1977), the first book printed in English (1477) plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: bias in photo developing, the consecration of Old and New St Peter’s plus not all symbols are universal

three years ago: your daily demon: Haagenti, more medieval remixes, a Star Trek TOS fashion show plus the origin of the asterisk

four years ago: the Triadic Ballet reprised, Super Robot manga, separating texting from emails plus the Rabbrexit tapestry

five years ago: exterior walls of Japan plus a 1950s scrapbook of Moscow