Saturday 17 February 2024

♐︎ (11. 357)

Via Boing Boing, we are directed towards a project by Matt Webb that resulted in this handy app that always points to the galactic centre of the Milky Way, the rotational point coincident with the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* surrounded by about ten million older red giant stars in close proximity. When I got my first model of iPhone, I got made fun of for first playing with the compass before anything else, and I’m not ashamed to say, especially for someone with a poor sense of direction, I still find it engaging even with no particular place to go. With little avowed programming skills and no experience in making apps, the details of realising this undertaking in collaboration with AI are really interesting and illustrative of the cooperative effort—it’s not just summoned into existence but was enabled and was a great leveller, but even more internet was the preamble about Webb cultivating a superpower to orientate himself to intuitively know where this dense, far away region was an imagine the waltz of the cosmos relative to this pivot-point and relative to himself—reminiscent of some insular and aboriginal languages using geographical features, landmarks or cardinal directions rather than the egocentric right and left. Webb’s navigational instinct has since sadly waned but can be supplemented by this little creation, grounding  to know even when it’s below one’s feet.

selenology (11. 356)

From the Amusing Planet’s archives, we are directed towards the 1874 work of engineer and hobbyist astronomer and photographer James Nasmyth of Edinburgh through his speculate volume on lunar geology called The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite, a compendium of research and observations, supplemented by a number of highly detailed photographic plates produced during a time when it was not technically possible to take such striking images directly through a telescope. Instead, Nasmyth improvised by making sketches from what he could see through his self-made observatory and transforming them into plaster relief scale models and photographing those under electric illumination to highlight the shadows and contours of his topographic globes. This work carried out after retirement from heavy industry, having invented the hydraulic press and the steam hammer and other machine tools, an impact crater (he had incorrectly theorised volcanic origins, though later research confirms lava flows) on the Moon is named in honour of Nasmyth himself, just to the west of the pictured Wargentin, for his lifetime of accomplishments.

Friday 9 February 2024

zoozve (11. 335)

This is an excellent constellation about how our Cosmos is appearing much harder to classify than at first glance, language and definitions and the predictability and reproducibility of familiar models—even in our own backyard—which Kottke invites us to contemplate in a podcast from Radiolab about a mystery on a child’s poster of the Solar System.  Better than a just-so story, it reminds us of the fictive hamlet of Agloe, New York, sort of a trap-street, that became a real settlement then vanished again. The companion satellite labelled for Mercury (a moonless planet as we learn in school) seemed to be sloppy work coming from NASA (the poster’s publishers)—or a bit whimsy—but meriting further investigation yielded some dead ends, googlewhacks or less, but eventually led to the discoverer of the quasi-moon, with the designation for the year of its finding 2002 VE68, the captured asteroid and the first found of its kind (see also) since renamed. Much more at the link up top.

Wednesday 7 February 2024

whole earth catalogue (11. 330)

Via Boing Boing, we are referred to a NASA project, “Eyes on Exoplanets,” that gives facts and figures on all the presently (at the time of posting) five thousand five hundred seventy-two confirmed discoveries of alien worlds complete with a hypothetical artist’s rendering of what the distant destination might look like.  Spread across four thousand solar systems (plus wandering rogue ones) and with ten-thousand more candidates identified,  especially interesting are those classified as Super Earths and the Ice Giants. Much more to explore at the link above.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus camouflage sweaters

two years ago: Facebook threatens to pull out of the EU plus bonfire of the vanities

three years ago: Martian New Year, East/West German broadcast propaganda plus a funerary train in Greater London

four years ago: a phantom island plus more links to enjoy

five years ago: a look at 1960s Space Age fashion, more links worth revisiting, phonosematics plus a Beethoven Line Rider doodle

Saturday 3 February 2024

transcendental aesthetic (11. 318)

A direct ancestor of the Laserium light show (collaborating with Henry Jacobs for his display at the Morrison Planetarium), we quite enjoyed this short 1961 abstract, experimental animation on 16mm film from Jordan Belson, a prolific artist, often with a nonobjective (his career was kicked off by a sustaining grant from the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, which later became known as the Guggenheim) but spiritual bent, who created an extensive portfolio of works over the course of six decades. Evoking a mediative, introspective experience like many of his works, in 2011, the US Library of Congress inscribed “Allures” in the National Film Registry.

Saturday 27 January 2024

pasiphaรซ (11. 300)

The retrograde satellite Jovian discovered on this day (by re-examining older plates for confirmation) in 1908 by Belgium-British astronomer Philibert Jacques Melotte was later awarded with the namesake of the above mythological figure (known until 1975 as Jupiter VIII), Cretan co-regnant and mother of the Minotaur after Daedalus designed a hollow cow for her compliance after being cursed by Poseidon to become besotted with the bull as her husband Minos failed to make the prescribed sacrifices. She really got a bad rap considering that it was her husband’s refusal to slain the finest specimen in order to propitiate the gods and according to some versions of the legend, hid the handiwork of Daedalus and Icarus until they could complete their wax wings. Astronomers believe that the small moon is a captured asteroid.

Thursday 11 January 2024

11x11 (11. 259)

cheesemongering: a specialist seller experiments with fifty-six varieties to find the perfect grilled sandwich 

vector portraits: photographs of drivers at speed traveling in Los Angeles  

decision 2024: this is the biggest year yet—and possibly democracy’s biggest test with over half the world’s population voting within the next twelve months  

run, rabbit, run: an AI-powered gadget designed to use one’s apps for one sells out 

electronics gives us a way of classifying things: Microsoft (now the most valued company in the world thanks to its part in AI, a font of misinformation) once explained to author Terry Pratchett how technology referees would make propaganda a thing of the past  

squaring the circle: Substackers against Nazis—reloaded—and a reminder that one can’t be just a little bit facist  

re-migration: a coalition of the far-right met outside of Berlin in November to discuss mass deportations  

blanket immunity: Trump’s legal team presents arguments for a president above the law—setting up the US Supreme Court to either rule on his exoneration or eligibility  

proxima swarm: US space agency supports bold proposal to reach the next nearest star system with a wall of tiny craft propelled by photons—see previously 

flower taxi: a mobile florist from 1960s London  

marie harel: producers of Camembert in Normandy fear EU recycling regulation could mean the end for their traditional wooden box packaging

Saturday 6 January 2024

8x8 (11. 249)

the gift of the magi: the 1952 classic adapted from the O Henry short story 

ed people: Belgian dancer travels the world asking others to teach him their favourite moves—via Waxy

diminishing returns: the Golden Age of solar eclipses is receding  

all i know about magnet is this, give me a glass of water, let me drop it on the magnets, that’s the end of magnets: Trump rally in Iowa  

amicus brief: US Supreme Court agrees to review a ruling by a lower court that disqualified Donald Trump for his participation in the insurrection, could have implications for Maine’s ban

kodachrome: artist Jessica Brill invokes nostalgia by painting found photographs  

my fellow peripatetics: research confirms the therapeutic value of walking 

 kinder der berge: Liechtenstein’s singular domestic feature film—via Strange Company

Friday 5 January 2024

zoo hypothesis (11. 246)

Via tmn, the supposition of renowned astrophysicist Enrico Fermi (see previously, one of several observations, later expanded and championed by others, why we might appear to be alone in the Universe) that advanced extraterrestrial civilisations are keeping terrestrials in the dark about their existence and holding humans under a technological veil is gaining traction—especially in the light of seven decades on, how many exoplanents we have found that could harbour life. Perhaps, like Star Trek’s Prime Directive, there is a general consensus towards stewardship and insulating primitive cultures so not to influence their beliefs and outlook but it hardly seems like something that would be universally adhered to across the vast distances and time of space—though I guess it would only take one to throw a veil over us and any civilisation capable of exploring the Cosmos could surely do so under cloak, at least to us—but I suppose there could be glimpses and difference factions of aliens that think humans and their ilk would benefit and should be afforded a more inspiring and aspirational view (why let us see the stars at all and keep us happily content with our geocentric point of view). What do you think? I suspect the Great Silence is a combination of factors (see above) with intelligence out there being too alien for our comprehension, maybe that we are kept creatures and possibly too uninteresting to be bothered with.

Tuesday 19 December 2023

9x9 (11. 196)

mister jingeling: a dozen, beloved department store Christmas characters—see also—via Miss Cellania

bubblenomics: pondering the consequences of when AI goes the way of crypto and NFTs 

indefinite causal order: quantum batteries are powered by paradox—via Damn Interesting  

a winter’s tale: selected readings of Christmas ghost stories—via Things Magazine  

the waitresses: the cynical anti-holiday hit Christmas Wrapping that became a festive classic 

infinite jukebox: a clever AI application that extends songs forever  

high ground: study of the competition for space dominance between the US and China suggests America occupy Lagrange points to counter malign ambitions  

52 snippets: facts gleaned from economics and finance from the past twelve months 

snoopy come home: Gen Z rediscovers and identifies with the Peanuts’ character

Friday 15 December 2023

radio silence (11. 189)

Weird Universe points us to an event that took place in mid-August 1924 in the US that reminds us this other potential coordinated effort to make astronomical observations more successful and reminds how from the earliest days of the communication medium, forerunners like Guglielmo Marconi, Lord Kelvin and Nikola Tesla believed that radio transmissions could be exchanged with extraterrestrial civilisations, the existence of intelligent life on Mars being widely accepted. With the Red Planet approaching its closest point to the Earth for nearly eight decades, scientists at the Naval Observatory used a blimp to lift a “radio-camera” to an altitude of three kilometres and arranging with broadcasters along the eastern seaboard to observe an hourly five-minutes’ cessation of transmissions in order to eliminate interference from terrestrial sources and increase the chance of intercepting a message from Martians. Military cryptologists were on stand-by to decipher any alien signals.


one year ago:  assorted links to revisit plus Last Christmas

two years ago: Gingerbread Dreamhouses, artist Brad Holland plus more links to enjoy

three years ago: more links worth the revisit, Esperanto Day plus Trivial Pursuit

four years ago: more links, the Nobel banquet plus Lisztomania (1975)

five years ago: even more links, the mythos of Zermatism, Wort des Jahres plus early Home Office

Thursday 7 December 2023

9x9 (11. 169)

sub-space: the potential problems of communications with relativistic spacecraft, traveling at a fraction the speed of light with solar-sails  

new quality productivity: Chinese buzz-words of the year, including a coinage by President Xi 

ailex: artist Alicia Framis announces her marriage to a hologram  

der nussknacker: the Fรผchtner family who made the first traditional nutcracker is still in the business  

wallsynth: Love Hultรฉn’s custom, one-of-a-kind musical creations have a Mid-Century Modern aesthetic  

the day of the animals: a 1977 nature rampage film from William Girdler  

network effects: building a better, unbundled Craigslist turned out like the trajectory of Twitter 

american dream: Investopedia’s most searched economic terms of the year reveal a lot about how people feel about their financial situation 

 in space, no one can hear you kern: when lost in the inner Solar System, typography can come in handy


one year ago: Blue Marble (1972), Sovereign Citizens plus using AI to invent a language

two years ago: galaxies outside our own plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: birdsong in December, more links to enjoy, non-conterminious territory plus more words of the year

four years ago: the Guzman Prize awarded (1969), Scientology HQ plus a lunar cruise

five years ago: the etymology of chauvinism, Dr Magnus Hirschfeld, circular economies, more movie typography plus juxtaposing photography


Sunday 26 November 2023

7x7 (11. 143)

sonic deconstructions: 1950s radio broadcaster’s album of Foley art, “Strange to Your Ears”  

onfim’s homework: a Wikipedia rabbit hole inspires an individual to get a tattoo of an eleventh century Novgorod pupil’s writings and illustrations discovered preserved on birch bark—via Hyperallergic’s Required Reading  

year in review: Time magazine’s one hundred top images of 2023—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links (lots more to explore here) 

amaterasu: scientists detect an ultra-high energy cosmic ray—the most powerful in thirty years of observation 

<!--: a collection of historic HTML innovations—see also  

kenough: the story of Denny Fouts, hustler and literary muse for Truman Capote, Gore Vidal and Christopher Isherwood  

pie hole: a silly twenty-year-old vocal exercise that holds up

Sunday 19 November 2023

laserium (11. 127)

Premiering on this night in 1973 at the Griffith Observatory in San Francisco when Ivan Dryer arranged to lease a laser projector from CalTech after disappointment upon reviewing a film he had commissioned as a laser-light show, insisting the audience experience the beauty and brilliance first hand, his presentation inspired companies and individuals to produce their own versions for various venues while launching his own national tour that lasted until 2002 and continues as special events through to the present. Though not certain if it was a part of the officially sanctioned road-show, I recall somewhere in East Texas circa 1992 seeing a rather nice spectacle beamed onto the faรงade of a court house or some big brick municipal building in the lead-up to Christmas when we’d drive around looking at decorations with musical accompaniment by the Indigo Girls (possibly just on the car’s radio though I’d like to remember it as on the PA, synchronized to the music nonetheless and that made me gay). I call on the resting soul of Galileo, king of night vision, king of insight.

Monday 13 November 2023

luminous flux (11. 118)

Though doing nothing to help those looking up at with the naked eye restore some of the wonder of the unadulterated night sky, a group of astronomers in Russia have taken advantage of a clever hack in the proliferation of LED lighting to diminish the glow of street lamps. Reversing technological advances in observatory by washing out the field of vision—to the point where stars are vanishing at a rate of ten percent per year, scientists are combatting light pollution by making the diodes flicker at a rate imperceptible to humans synchronised with shutters on the telescope’s aperture to capture images of stellar objects only during those milliseconds that the lights are out. Practical trials seem promising in yielding clearer, more detailed exposures. Getting a whole municipality to coordinate their blinking lights seems like a logistical challenge but maybe a worthwhile one.

Saturday 11 November 2023

uhz1 (11. 112)

A collaborative discovery between JWST and the Chandra x-ray survey (the latter launched in 1999 and not with the former’s visual infra-red spectrum) has identified the oldest, super-massive black hole, emerging just half a billion years after the Big Bang. Whist we never thought of the occurrence to be a sign of cosmic urban decay, to see the Universe to have the right conditions to seed their formation, most probably from a collapsed cloud of stellar gas rather than the accretion of early giant stars, does make one pause to assess what the natural order and tendency is, with the black hole confirmed as the identity of this background galaxy (ranging from a tenth to one hundred percent of its mass, and ten-fold larger than the one in the centre of the Milky Way), one wonders what the trajectory of the Universe is and how we might comprehend it.

Tuesday 7 November 2023

9x9 (11. 101)

dark universe: Euclid space mission to map the Cosmos and glean insights into the mysterious majority of matter and energy composing it  

the earth dies screaming: an effective but bare-bones 1964 British apocalyptic horror flick from 1964  

go fish: the (possibly apocryphal) origin of the name of the city of Slow Low, Arizona  

qr-monster: the artistry of AI prompters—see previously  

๐Ÿš‰: a teaser for a Backrooms-like game taking place in the Tokyo metro Shinjuku station 

lignum vitae: looted leaves of the Golden Tree of Lucignano recovered 

purity pals: new US Speaker of the House of Representative announces that he and his seventeen year old son monitor each other’s web consumption  

future imperfect: a strangely engaging 1974 series of filmstrips warning against the utopian novel and utopian-thinking orbital plane: an exoplanet’s singular path around a binary star system—via Damn Interesting’s Curated Links  


one year ago: Operation Able Archer (1983), Ukraine to change the date on which Christmas is observed plus a gallery of bad Jane Austen book covers

two years ago: a documentary on picking the wrong venue, a bombing in the US capitol plus the Riace bronzes

three years ago: your daily demon: Bifrons,  awaiting US election results, the collection point for cataloguing art looted by the Nazis plus the first female US vice-presidential candidate announced

four years ago: an unused deck of tarot cards by Salvatore Dalรญ

five years ago: assorted links to revisit, Nixon’s concession speech (1962) plus more from the Center for American Politics and Design


Sunday 5 November 2023

9x9 (11. 097)

falling for fall: an epic attempt to capture the Christian Girl Autumn aesthetic—via the morning news  

paradox: NASA climate group issues a bleak warning on climate change—controversially suggesting that a reduction in aerosol pollution will accelerate warming 

the hunting of the earl of rone: one individual’s quest to catalogue the folkways and traditions of the United Kingdom  

they’re all good dogs: the winners of the annual world canine photography award presented—plus a bonus vocabulary term for one who is favourably disposed to dogs—via Nag on the Lake  

ja-da, ja-da, ja-da, jing jing jing: a soothing 1918 jazz standard covered for decades after  

mechanical turk: exposing autonomous cars’ vast human support network to maintain an illusion of safety, reliability 

roll on: a clever phonophore logo for a transport and logistics company in Hong Kong 

cape canaveral: a 3D animated billboard recounts the chronology of the Kennedy Space Centre 

momiji tunnel: a stunning section of the Eizan railway showcases the turning foliage—via the ever excellent Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links


one year ago: the Gun Powder Plot, a Commodore accordion, more McMansion Hell plus a Wikipedia list of common fallacies

two years ago: the Saint Felix Flood (1530) 

three years ago: a tri-lingual dictionary (1499), a flashpoint labour strike (1916), a sรฉance on a wet afternoon plus the Rebel Rabbit GIF

four years ago: more on Guy Fawkes, Voyager 2 leaves the Solar System, ghoulish guacamole plus Facebook’s shift to the right

five years ago: representative Shirley Chisholm, an ancient boardgame, photographer Denise Scott Brown, words for the Winter Blues plus mapping the US mid-terms

Saturday 4 November 2023

wait a second (11. 096)

Whilst the leap second (previously), by dint of their frequent insertion, can cause havoc for computer systems, meant to compensate for the drift between the drift between official Earth time and variations in the planet’s orbit around the Sun, the suggestion for their replacement with a higher order of magnitude every half-century by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) by a Leap Minute has been met with opposition. The Russian delegation, according to the Bureau international des poids et mesures, is opposed as its satellite global positioning system, GLONASS, competing with the US-standard GPS won’t be fully synchronised until 2040 as well as the Vatican, which has concerned itself with accuracy in time-keeping since its inception and the advent of the Gregorian Calendar, as well as the technology community, citing the annoyance of these drills (the difference between Atomic Time and Universal Coordinated Time), a longer gap in resetting the clocks could result could result in a lapsed skill set and the subsequent experiential debt could lead to short-sighted problems that contributed to the y2k problem.

Wednesday 11 October 2023

9x9 (11. 052)

bennu: scientist reveal recovered sample of primordial dust from an asteroid (see previously) may help us better understand the formation of the Solar System 

mansions, pensions: revisiting the dwellings of Leonora Carrington (previously) and how they informed her art  

upscale: Adobe to introduce an AI-powered extension to improve the quality, loopiness of legacy, low-resolution GIFs 

pimeyes: the reverse image search technology that can retrace one’s digital detritus  

decide which elvis is king: the consequential public debate over a commemorative US postage stamp  

the golden horseshoe: UK’s Natural History Museum unveils the winners of Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition—via Nag on the Lake 

beasts: Nigel Kneale’s 1976 horror anthology has a book companion to the series  

tower to cockpit: listen live to airport radio transmissions around the world—via the new shelton wet/dry  

panspermia: a thought-provoking conjecture about alien life emerging with the Big Bang