Friday, 1 September 2023

num8er5 (10. 974)

Via Web Curios (much more to explore on the weekly roundup), we are directed towards an list of the first ten-thousand digits as indexed by Erich Friedman with a distinguishing fact for each that makes the number special. Among the new and revisited concepts we learned about our favourites were seventeen possible wallpaper groupings that can cover a plane with an indefinitely repeating motif—patterns often found in textiles and tessellations, Mersenne Primes, the weird sequence in the eight thousand nine hundred and seventies that all equal 8 + 9⁴ + 7⁴ + n and Narcissistic Numbers, like 153 (=1³+5³+3³) which may be amusing for amateurs and in puzzles (see also) but hold no mathematical significance.


one year ago: Tina Turner’s What’s Love Got to Do With It? (1984) plus Gothic scribal styles and the push for greater legibility 

two years ago: AI-driven music mashups, the Carrington Event (1859), the Cod Wars (1958), assorted links to revisit plus re-train as a swan

three years ago: a lifeboat sponsored by Banksy,  an oath against modernism plus the several saints named Hyacinth

four years ago: more problematic upscaling plus a return to Mont Saint Michel

five years ago: more from the OED’s Weekly Word Watch, the West German Grundgesetz drafted (1948), the Village Voice folds plus a parchment iPad

Sunday, 27 August 2023

best in show (10. 967)

During a grouse hunting party four years earlier, the managing director of the brewery Sir Hugh Beaver became involved with a shooting companion over the identity of the fastest game bird in the region—owing to his having missed his quarry ostensibly—and realising that there was no easy way of settling this debate without recourse to experts saw an immediate niche in the reference book market. Beaver employed a London fact-finding agency run by brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter (both boasting encyclopaedic memories) compiled The Guinness Book of Superlatives and gave away a thousand copies to associates and to bars licensed to serve the beer. Due to its surprise popularity, a two-hundred page edition was bound the following year, released on this day in 1955 and became best-seller in the UK immediately, prompting a second edition before Christmas and entered the international market. Beginning in the early 1970s, the annual began to include record feats of strength and stamina by human individuals as well as facts about the natural world and is considered one of the best-selling books of all time.


one year ago: happy birthday George Jetson, St Monica of Hippo, experiments with OpenAI plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: the eruption of Kraktoa (1883), a clever, interactive CV and help wanted ad plus the origin of the word antidote

three years ago: the Zugspitze surveyed and summitted (1820), home shopping with Harrod’s, an abundance of caution, the Hatch Act (1939) plus a seventeenth century friends book

five years ago: pulp covers reimagined by Todd Alcott plus the Kellogg-Briand Pact against future wars (1928) 

six years ago: a pocket Wikipedia

Sunday, 20 August 2023

skolstrejk fรถr klimatet (10. 955)

On this day in 2018, when Europe was suffering from droughts and a heatwave (also inspired by students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida who refused to return after the shootings), ahead of parliamentary elections and the first day of class after summer break, then fifteen-year-old Greta Tintin Eleonora Ernman Thunberg sat on the steps of the Svergies Riksdag calling for a “School-Strike for the Climate.” Alone in her protest, the image was picked up by the Swedish press and garnering criticism from her parents and teachers for her truancy and message, Thunberg returned everyday for three weeks until the 9 September ballot, demanding that the government commit to reducing carbon-emissions aligned with the pledges of the Paris Agreement. Thunberg’s activism inspired the Fridays for Future movement of millions of students globally using the day to rally for environmental causes and has been a necessary gadfly to spur action, calling out greenwashing and repeating that “our house is still on fire.”

9x9 (10. 954)

cucumber castle: a star-studded promotional film for the Bee-Gee’s medieval-themed, chivalrous 1970 album  

as big as a football pitch: the vague rulers of informal metrology 

good(bye) design: a tribute to the aesthetic of vintage consumer tech by Miki Nemcek with a special focus on Braun  

grand master: World Chess Federation places restrictions on trans competitors  

1:25: a tour inside the scale model of St Paul’s, hidden in a chamber in the attic 

 : like Zuckerburg explored before—in violation of app store policies—Elon Musk is threatening to remove Twitter’s block feature  

magalog: combination magazine-catalogue that was successful print model in the 1970s  

langue รฉtrangรจre: faced with budget-shortfalls, US public university cutting foreign language from its ciriculum 

elephant in the room: the imprint of favourite songs of our formative years and what that says about our capacity for new things

Friday, 18 August 2023

rambles in search of flowerless plants (10. 951)

We found this brief tribute to the small cohort of female British and North American impassioned amateur mycologists to be quite resonant. It was their collecting and exquisite artistic and scientific renderings helped advance and ultimately legitimise the field of study amongst research dominated by men who tended to dismiss their hobby as unladylike as well as the ecological significance of toadstolls. Attempting to recognise and rehabilitate the professional contributions of dozens of nineteenth-century intrepid mushroom-hunters, the JSTOR article looks at the detailed drawings of Anna Maria Hussey (who has an agaric species named in her honour), Mary Elizabeth Banning (for whom a stinkhorn is her namesake), Margaret Plues (who was instrumental in popularising botanical books with the above series of titles though under the pseudonym Skelton Yorke) as well as children’s book author Beatrix Potter, who also produced over two hundred fungal paintings. More at the links above.

Thursday, 17 August 2023

9x9 (10. 948)

?: JWST captures an image of a distinct punctuation mark from the emerging Cosmos  

a/v: a history of corporate presentations from slide-shows to Power Point—via Things Magazine  

index librorum prohibitorum: an American school district is using ChapGTP to help it decide which books to ban  

an unacceptable grindset: driven to produce quantity over quality has yielded some high-profile errors in popular YouTube channels  

one on one: legendary interviewer and television presenter Michael Parkinson passes away, aged 88  

emerald and stone: an ethereal track by Brian Eno (previously) visualised with water, soap and paint  

bart: a trove of Kodachrome slides found discarded in San Francisco reveal the construction of the Bay Area Rapid Transit—see also 

einstein’s crosses: astronomers probe the effects of gravitational lensing


one year ago: ABBA’s last collaboration plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: more links to enjoy, the first animated film (1908), the constant ฯ€ plus terra incognito

three years ago: a tragedy in Australia in 1980, Operation Warp Speed plus the Turkic dotted-i

four years ago: some links worth the revisit plus the Cosmos prior to the Big Bang

five years ago: Animal Farm (1945) plus the complex genes of food crops

Friday, 11 August 2023

multihypenate (10. 937)

The term new to us as well despite being accustomed to its employ when the dual-hatted careers of creatives and academics—singer-songwriter and director-producer for example plus considering our particular pension for zealous double-barrelling and dashes as punctuation—and so we appreciated the induction through “multi-hyphante spaces,” in other words a new and hyper-hyphenated way to describe mixed-use zoning for residential and commercial campuses and neighbourhoods with terminology that’s been in circulation for decades.  More discussion at Language Log at the link above including hybrid and unhyphenated identifications.

Thursday, 10 August 2023

7x7 (10. 934)

latent stage—this is where boys and doing boy stuff, girls are doing girl stuff and most children typically purchase their second firearm: the state of Florida’s revised psychology advanced placement curriculum

songs in the key of z: a documentary about outsider musician Peter Grudzien who recorded one of the first gay country albums  

savey meal-bot: a frugal-minded grocery store app gives out a recipe for deadly chlorine gas  

the judgment of cambyses: documenting the thirty-eight luxury vacations that other billionaires have treated US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to—via Kottkesee previously  

lฤhainฤ: wildfires engulf the historic royal capital of Hawaii with dozens killed on the island of Maui 

the green m&m: Steven Miller of America First Legal complains that Kellogg’s is sexualising its products, violating federal statues by promoting diversity in its workforce—see previously 

handmaid’s tale: professors and teachers’ union challenge laws that forbid the teaching of reproductive rights

Wednesday, 2 August 2023

you chicken fink! after all we did to get accepted? (10. 921)

Before going into general release in cinemas in the US, American Graffiti premiered at the Locarno International Film Festival on this day, the director and writer George Lucas, disappointed by the financial performance of THX 1138, was challenged to make a nostalgic, coming-of-age movie by producer Francis Ford Coppola that more audiences could relate to and was inspired by recollections of teenage experiences “cruising” in Modesto, California. 

Set during the last night of summer vacation, matriculating seniors and recent graduates about to depart for college out of state spend the evening driving from one end of town to the other, with a cast including Richard Dreyfus, Harrison Ford, Mackenzie Phillips, Ron Howard, Suzanne Somers and Cindy Williams and an omnipresent soundtrack sourced from its decade earlier setting (DJ’d by Wolfman Jack), this second attempt is heralded as among the most profitable films of all time with a world-wide boxoffice of over two-hundred million, giving Lucus the seed money to finance his long-planned space opera.

one year ago: assorted links to revisit

two years ago:your daily demon: Ronovรฉ, the dead man’s hand, the letter that encouraged the Manhattan Project plus more links worth revisiting

three years ago: a notorious piratess, Blessed Basil of Moscow plus more on malapropisms
four years ago: vintage sporting posters, the worst examples of gerrymandering turned into a font, terms for animal markings plus a weird vintage McDonald’s ad
five years ago: preserving process, skill and institutional know-how,  more on Foley artists and sound design plus welcome to the Anthropocene Era

Sunday, 30 July 2023

9x9 (10. 915)

polly pocket: following the success of Barbie, all the Mattel branded toys promised their own feature films 

freshmen fifteen: a nifty conversion tool in the style of Neal.Fun—via Pasa Bon! 

ugly american: the dark side of trends in tourism—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links (lots more to check out here) 

a sunday in the park with georges: the pointillist work by Seurat recreated in Wisconsin—see previously

eimreiรฐin: what became of trains in Iceland 

you gotta pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues: we appreciated this reminiscence about the Ringo Starr tune  

meteorological optical phenomenon: more on the Sun’s green flash as it disappears from the horizon  

seybold seminars: the outsized influence of desktop publishing conferences—see also 

return to tender: another exquisite John and Faith Hubley short courtsey of Fancy Notions

Sunday, 23 July 2023

twilight zone (10. 900)

Via Boing Boing, after going up on his space elevator, Neal Agarwal invites us to scroll down from the ocean’s surface through the pelagic zone through the midnight zone to the dismal seabed and explore with the denizens of the deep, like the cosmopolitan sixgill shark that spend their days at depths of seventeen hundred meters and their nights in swallower waters and the so called headless chicken fish that’s a sea cucumber with wing-like fins that propel them through the dark at nearly three thousand meters below or plunge to the ultra-abyssal hadal zone (the adjectival form of Hades), inaccessible places in the deepest trenches that have had fewer visitors than have been on the Moon.

Friday, 14 July 2023

๐Ÿœ‚๐Ÿœƒ๐Ÿœ๐Ÿœ„ (10. 881)

Via the always excellent Web Curios, we are referred to quite a grand and ongoing project soliciting nominees and showcasing one molecule per month, without fail, since 1996, which is not only impressive for its longevity but also for its accessible scholarship for each chemical compound. Recently showcased molecules include the alchemists’ White Phosphorus, Androstenone, the porcine pheromone that can stop dogs barking, wine lactone that gives the drink its fragrant notes and astaxanthin, the ingredient responsive for making flamingoes pink. Check it out and let us know what you’ve learned or what molecule you’d like to know more about.

Friday, 7 July 2023

jya (10. 864)

Sponsored by the University of Delaware, the first study abroad programme for US undergraduate students set sail this day in 1923 for Nancy under the guidance of chaperone and French professor Raymond Kirkbride with a group of eight junior year students attending six-weeks of intensive language courses before moving on the study at The Sorbonne in France. The school at first balked at the idea and refused to fund the outing (see also) but finally relented after a public appeal and private contributions by business magnate Pierre s du Pont and then-commerce secretary Herbert Hoover. The scheme to various centres of culture across the globe was adopted by other institutions of higher learning and considered a great success in terms of exposure and producing well-rounded graduates, though the popularity of such terms abroad has declined in recent years.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus an avid eighteenth century vulcanologist

two years ago: the invention of sliced bread (1928), the US reestablishes its navy and starts a proxy war (1798) plus a trip to Fladungen

three years ago: the portfolio of titleist Maurice Binder plus the castles and forts of the Moselle 

four years ago: the border between Spain and Gibraltar closed (1969), space for pollinators plus passing English of the Victorian Era

five years ago: more links to revisit plus Gabriel over the White House (1933)

Friday, 30 June 2023

biden v nebraska (10. 846)

In a succession of more punching down, the US Supreme Court has struck down the Biden administration’s signature student loan forgiveness programme meaning millions of indebted borrowers burdened. Along the political leanings of the justices, they ruled that federal law does not authorise the Department of Education the right to reduce or discharge loans taken out to cover tuition fees that have become exorbitant, impacting the personal economies of some one in eight citizens, some forty million Americans. The suit, the plaintiff being one of the largest student debt servicers, alleged that erasing the financial obligations would impair its ability to offer future aid to college students and was a “direct injury to the host state itself.” The dissenting argument pointed out that the states (mostly Republican dominated ones that wanted to kneecap this perceived concession to young voters for transparently political reasons) did not have a right to sue and the court was overreaching its mandate by hearing it at all. Repayments are expected to resume in October.  In the same session, the court also struck down a law preventing businesses from discriminating against LGBTQI+ individuals.


one year ago: the standoff at Snake Island, International Asteroid Day, document 5 (1972) plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: more links worth the revisit, leap seconds introduced (1972) plus the history of stereotype

three years ago: French video-text service (1980),  happy birthday Kate Bush and Emily Brontรซ, the first dada exhibition (1920), a car by Raymond Loewy plus more Japanese yลkai

four years ago: burning draft cards plus a Thunderbirds hotel in Slough

five years ago: Marybel the Doll that Gets Well plus mothballed commemorative statues of the US presidents

Thursday, 29 June 2023

students for fair admissions inc v president and fellows of harvard college (10. 845)

In a split down ideological lines, the US Supreme Court effectively banned the use of affirmative action in college entry assessments, tossing out over four decades of precedent that were put in place not to redress historic wrongs but in order to foster a more diverse learning environment and better serve all students. Reasoning that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was meant to be colour-blind or race-neutral and using background-conscious considerations as a factor violated this principle, the ruling reiterated the suggestion that the time for preference and quota had concluded and stand on merit alone. Not only does the decision deny historical advantages curried among those that have suppressed and extorted members outside that class and will have immediate effect on college and university composition, creating an echo chamber for the elite to justify their status quo and punching-down, it further sends the message, like with the shrill complaints of critical race theory weaponised as its antithesis and the 1619 Project and de-funding the police, that racism in America is somehow solved and people need to move on. While this counter-factual proposal, now enshrined in law, might placate the conscience of some who believe that preserving the comfort of white people is paramount, the signal to higher learning will erode the pluralism and diversity hard-won over the last fifty years of struggle for civil rights and a more equitable society, telegraphing to businesses and the public at large that equal opportunity is something superannuated.

Wednesday, 28 June 2023

10x10 (10. 840)

⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️: Neal Fun’s (previously) infuriating password game  

ceiling cat: the European Souther Observatory in the Chilean mountains discovered a feline nebula

bad odds: wagering on climate change to bring the danger and risk to present and personal 

backstage: newsletters (from 1962 to 1980) published for Disneyland crew members, scanned in full—via Super Punch  

homage to magritte: a 1974 tribute in five vignettes to the Surrealist artist 

independent legislature theory: US Supreme Court strikes down suit that would cut checks and balances and judicial review of laws passed 

monkey bars: the first jungle gym (see previously) was built in hopes of teaching children about three-dimensional space and Cartesian coordinates 

magma: mining volcanoes could provide a more ecologically-friendly way to extract metals  

power of ten: NASA’s coding commandments focused on testability, readability and predictability that keeps critical systems safe and running in outer space  

goodnight phone: an interactive web comic for our shared present—via tmn


one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus a surprise session of the January Sixth hearings on the US Capitol Insurrections

two years ago: body language, the UN International Criminal Court (1993), Miss Continuous Towel and other spokesmodels plus Pitman shorthand

three years ago: a corporate typeface, a performative masculine simulator game, Martian meteors plus cataloguing one’s possessions

four years ago: the Stonewall Riots (1969), surveying Titan plus bringing back the chestnut tree

five years ago: Paul Simon on Sesame Street, silent cooking videos, assorted links to revisit plus combating fake product reviews

Tuesday, 20 June 2023

reward hacking (10. 823)

A step below paraphrasing, we are introduced to the term and practise of rogeting—that is, the methods that catch-penny academia uses to spin articles and lure researchers and advertisers to pay-walled content with the promise of good sources, only to be sorely disappointed in the obvious spamdexing. Select tortured phrases, usually ones for no other tenable substitute exists, would be systematically replaced with some stock synonyms though would evade simple plagiarism-detectors posing as original content. Large language models and generative chat pose the possibility of saturating the internet with such content, making the screening process even more fraught and maybe less transparently fake, presenting a perfect example of Goodhart’s Law, in its corollary: risk models collapse on themselves when used for regulation or policing, or that in the gauge of citation impact, that when a feature becomes an indicator, its liable to be gamed.

Sunday, 18 June 2023

human computer (10. 817)

Despite a posthumous and four-decade late official acknowledgement by the world records authority, Shakuntala Devi (เฒถเฒ•ುಂเฒคเฒฒಾ เฒฆೇเฒตಿ), nonetheless a celebrated author, mental calculator, political opponent to Indira Ganhdi in parliamentary elections after her prime-ministership and astrologer—without any formal education (though born into the Brahmin caste her father was a circus performer, a trapeze artist and lion tamer before taking his prodigious daughter on tour), achieved her record setting calculation on this day in 1980 at Imperial College, London, multiplying two randomly-generated thirteen digit numbers in under half-a-minute, rivalling the processing times of contemporary computers. In addition to authoring several books on arithmetic to teach people some of her methods for simplifying and intuiting solutions, including Figuring: The Joy of Numbers, Devi also wrote several cookbooks, crime novels and a rather controversial though suppressed and not widely and first study on homosexuality in India (which possibly delayed recognition by Guinness), written in order to understand her gay husband and to better understand the community.

Saturday, 10 June 2023

8x8 (10. 799)

within the wok’s embrace, the dance begins, as secrets blend with savoury sins: Scott D Seligman asked ChatGPT for a pad thai recipe in the style of Emily Dickinson and got an epic 

dockhands: the latest line from Faith O’Hare is inspired by the workwear of the shipyards of the Cylde

hongmeng project: China’s space agency is placing a ring of telescopes in orbit around the Moon to explore the cosmic Dark Age just after the Big Bang  

take care now: inclusive Pride post by Cracker Barrel provokes conservative fury over the loss of this family-friendly bastion—see previously 

reference material: Ars Technica contributor Benj Edwards purchased a copy of the only encyclopaedia still in print  

supergranulation: Parker probe exploring the Sun offers science clues on the origin of solar wind 

blitz kids: a celebration of the fashion of Gary Kemp and Spandau Ballet—previously here and here

 expandart: B3ta community teaching AI how to think beyond the frame—see previously—via Waxy

Thursday, 8 June 2023

9x9 (10. 794)

all star festival: the 1963 charity concert sponsored by the UN for refugee aid with headliners Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day and Louis Armstrong  

smoke from a distant fire: New York City’s air quality falls to the most hazardous in the world—see also  

progressive punishment: a speeding driver in the ร…land region gets a six-figure ticket  

bezold-brรผcke shift: the Sun shines green  

better living through chemistry: a glossary of manufactured terminology  

wopr: Nicolas Temese creates dioramas of miniature vintage computers—see previously  

espionage act: Trump summoned to the federal courthouse in Miami on charges of illegally retaining classified files  

cop 28: the warming weather cycle of El Niรฑo is upon us  

wall of sound: the logistics of touring that defies credulity