Wednesday 12 June 2024

11x11 (11. 625)

indemnity clause: a look at the exactingly detailed Sanborn maps created for US insurance firms in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries 

unseen persia: thousands of historic photographs of Iran during the Qajar dynasty leaked on-line from the archive of the Golestan Palace  

sweet thing: Chaka Khan’s debut Tiny Desk performance  

bahรญa de cochinos: Russian warships on drill visit Cuba  

doubly-disambiguated bishop non-capture statemale: a vlogger tries to categorise the rarest chess moves  

transponder: wood proves surprisingly durable material in space as agencies plan to launch experimental satellites, like ships on the high seas—via the Linkfest  

1337: a pretty exhaustive list of English words that can be spelled on a calculator turned upside down  

hollywood canteen: a fond farewell to Janis Page, recently departed at 101  

the brannock device: a better shoe-sizer based on the barley corn  

gallus gallus domesticus: photographer recreates exacting portraits of Edo-era Ito Jakuchu’s studies of chickens—via Nag on the Lake  

geochron: the incredible restoration of 1960s analog, electromechanical world clock and map

counting crows (11. 621)

Previously we’ve visited general corvid intelligence (see previously here and here) and numeracy in bees—and given the recent discoveries of a whale language (not forgetting the Plant Kingdom, ibฤซdem) and elephantine endonymy—it is no wonder that we learn, via Clive Thompson’s latest Linkfest, that our cawing friends too understand the concept of numbers, according to preliminary studies undertaken at the University of Tรผbingen. Crows furthermore have been shown to vocalise actual numerals, corresponding to values from one to four consistently and have sophisticated maths skills. More at the links above.


one year ago: assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: the precursor to the bicycle, Cleopatra (1957) plus good wine needs no bush

three years ago: Clash of the Titans (1981), shutter sounds, Russia Day, Deep Throat (1972), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) plus the tripartite devil

four years ago: Loving Day, more concatenation plus a unique geometrical construct

five years ago: Canada decriminalises abortion and homosexuality (1969), Volkswagen tries to clean up its reputation, vintage Kellogg’s advertising plus a horse of a different colour

Thursday 30 May 2024

aabba (11. 594)

Via Futility Closet, we are reminded of the anatomy of a limerick (with the above rhyme scheme, see previously) with the following meta-versification by John Irwin, poet and professor of the humanities: 

A limerick’s cleverly versed—
The second line rhymes with the first;
The third one is short,
The fourth’s the same sort,
And the last line is often the worst.

This rendition is almost certainly in homage to the anonymous exemplar: 

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I've seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

Heretofore, most often privileged showmanship, they often invoked exotic geographic locations as a way to subvert the rote teaching of the subject in schools, with several variations and violations. British wordplay and maths expert Leigh Mercer, best known for his palindromes, (¡“A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!), also famously a mathematical limerick:  

12 + 144+20 +3 ✖️ √4 / 7 + (5 ✖️ 11) = 9² + 0 

Or, as read: 

A dozen, a gross, and a score
Plus three times the square root of four
Divided by seven
Plus five times eleven
Is nine squared and not a bit more.

Sunday 5 May 2024

8x8 (11.542)

komoot: one testimonial for the international route-finding applicant to which we can personally endorse for its hiking trails recommendation and active community of contributors 

zillow gone wild: absurdist real estate listings go mainstream

dodecahedron: more on the mysterious Roman artefact puzzling archaeologists—see previously  

eidophone: a Welsh singer in 1885, wanting to give flower, fern and tree a voice, pioneered the discipline of cymatics 

democracy dies in darkness: amid faltering peace-talk, Israel shutters al Jazeera bureau in Israel  

live people ignore the strange and unusual. i myself am strange and unusual: a trove of behind the scenes stills from the 1988 production of Beetlejuicesee previously 

finsta: photo-dumps circa 2006 are the new chaotic and authentic social media trend—via tmn  

trudge: an arduous animated journey of many flights by Stephan Schabenbeck through the lens of taking relatable longer than expected excursions

Thursday 14 March 2024

ฯ€ (11. 420)

As our faithful chronicler reminds, today marks the annual celebration of the mathematical constant pi, expressed in US calendar conventions 3.14 (we also get the chance on the twenty-second of July, Pi Approximation Day, from the notional fraction known from the time of Archimedes—first observed in 1988 by physicist and curator of the the San Francisco Exploratorium Larry Shaw, and since designated by the US Congress and UNESCO as the International Day of Mathematics. Activities include learning about the irrational and transcendent number and its properties, memorising and reciting its digits, called piphilogy and relies on mnemonic techniques, such as composing so called piems—a portmanteau of the Greek symbol and poem in which the letter count of each word equals the corresponding digit: to the fourteenth decimal place, “How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy chapters involving quantum mechanics,” and eating circular foods. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology also traditionally dispatched its college admissions decision letters to applicants on this day.

Tuesday 12 March 2024

8x8 (11. 416)

studio nue: the meticulous and immersive sci-fi illustrations of Naoyuki Kato  

landsat lens: virtual rewinding maps created with historic satellite imagery

drawing for nothing: a growing e-book of storyboards and character studies from unfinished, shelved animation projects—via Waxy 

hag horror: Poseidon’s Underworld explores the genre with 1971’s Blood and Lace 

แน—s (t → ♾️) = 0: researchers find algorithms that only quantum computers can solve—via Damn Interesting—see previously  

all these worlds are yours, except europa: NASA reveals the plaque its probe will carry to Jupiter’s icy moon later this year  

rednaxela: unusual toponyms, including the named terrace in Hong Kong believed to be Alexander transcribed right-to-left, as was the practise in the past  

fantomah: outsider comic book artist Fletcher Hanks


one year ago: assorted links to revisit, domino theory (1947) plus more words with no English equivalent

two years ago: more links to enjoy,  World Day Against Cyber Censorship plus Mamma Mia (1975)

three years ago: the cosmography of William Fairfield Warren (1915), artist Caterina van Hemessen, St Maximilian of Tebessa, occultist Austin Osman Spare, listening to maps, more isogloss maps plus a celebration of veteran memes

four years ago: St Serafina plus COVID travel bans take effect

five years ago: resurrection plants

Sunday 3 March 2024

penrose tiles (11. 398)

Given the potential, inevitably of quantum computing to break even the hardest encryption and pose an existential threat to the digital framework of privacy and security that we’ve become accustomed to, a possible reprieve in the form of aperiodic tiling is welcome news. Rather than focus on the symmetrical and repeating approaches to tiling a surface, polymath and Nobel laureate Roger Penrose and others began to study inflation and deflation of imperfect coverage in the 1970s, and anticipating the models of quantum computing, physical qubits and the superimposed virtual states, the never-repeating mosaics are not in themselves a place to hide information but a check-digit redundancy to ensure calculations stay on course. Given the nature of quantum mechanics—measuring the in-between state, neither zero or one and both, will cause the value to collapse, making the circuitry a rather delicate and unreliable thing and could lead to a more robust and internally consistent way for encoding and encryption as we know it. More at the links above.

Monday 26 February 2024

7x7 (11. 383)

bacile calmette-guรฉrin: a century-old variolation against bovine tuberculosis technique might present a treatment route for dementia  

endangered language alliance: a survey of the rare forms of communication in communities in New York City  

marketable skill: Nvidia executive says kids shouldn’t learn to code 

icc: renewed calls to make ecocide the fifth international crime and within the scope of the UN’s court—via tmn  

kรผrschรกk’s tile: a visual proof a complex geometric tessellation  

project ceti: how, powered by AI, a first contact could play out between humans and whales—see previously, see also 

goldplate: research suggest that a treatment with nanoparticles of the element might be a cure for neurodegenerative diseases

Wednesday 21 February 2024

vielecke u. vielflache (11. 368)

This 1900 study of polyhedra by geometer Johannes Max Brรผckner, who taught at a Gymnasium (a secondary, preparatory school) in Bautzen after earning a degree in mathematics and physics from the Universities of Leipzig and Heidelberg and earned his teaching credentials for constructing many models of stellated shapes, compounds of the Platonic solids projected outward until the result in a new uniform and congruent three dimensional figure (see also), is not only noted for its aesthetic and inspirational value (M C Escher’s work was largely informed by exposure to this publication) but is considered among the foundational proofs of the field, documenting all the then known possibilities. In 1930, Brรผckner’s collection of models were donated to the institution in Baden-Wรผrttemberg, which in turn awarded him with another honorary degree. More at Present /&/ Correct at the link up top.

Friday 19 January 2024

kฤla (11. 280)

Via ibฤซdem, we enjoyed contemplating this display that shows the passage of different units of time side-by-side advancing relative to the observer. Named for the Jain concept of that which brings forth change (also meaning death), the second is the smallest practical measurement, made up of countless and indivisible samaya—like Planck time though the zeptosecond or one sextillionth of a second is the smallest fragment of time that can be reliably calibrated—and itself representing about forty-eight seconds and the kลŸaแน‡a about forty-eight minutes. Aside from the more familiar units and the Hindu-Sanskrit tradition of describing the cosmological cycle, from microseconds to trillions of years, there’s also the milliday, invented by the Swatch company as one-thousandth part of a day or a .beat, the lustrum to mark the five-year interval between Roman censuses, the indiction for the fifteen-year requirement for tax assessments in the Empire, a ghurry, the time it took a water-clock to empty, gauged to divide the day into sixty intervals or rather twenty-four minutes and the chelek (ื—ืœืง) one eighteenth of minute from the Babylonian for one degree of celestial rotation and a momentum, a medieval reckoning of the hours by the sun-dial, about forty moments for each twelve-hour solar day—as well as more informal but countable units.

Friday 12 January 2024

erfundene mittelalter (11. 262)

Via Strange Company, we find ourselves directed to a real rabbit-hole of a conspiracy theory wrapped in the guise—possibly earnest and wholly without cause (like the counterfeit Donation of Constantine)—of scholarship articulated by academician Heribert Illig in 1991 known as the Phantom Time Theory, positing that events occurring in a three-century span from 614 to 911 were fabricated, advancing the Anno Domino dating system ahead in order to place the rule of either Pope Sylvester II, Holy Roman Emperor Otto III (plus legitimising his claim to the throne) or Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus in power during the millennial of the death of Christ and ruling at the moment of the return of Jesus. Otto and the Pope made it but not Eastern emperor.  The fact that many manuscripts from the time are acknowledged copies of lost originals and including forgeries (see also), the preponderance of Romanesque architecture present after the influence should have abated and the introduction of the Gregorian calendar, adopted in phases, did not mathematically correct its predecessor (the reform was never intent on correcting and revising the the length of the year back all the way to its inception in 45 BC but rather to its state during the Council of Nicaea—covering this supposed three century discrepancy—when tying the date of Easter to the vernal equinox) and a fact that an alliance between the above three rulers, each preserving his magesteria, was likely, led Illig to conclude that personages and events like Charlemagne and his dynasty (for whom Otto had specious claim as no Caroligian, Frankish heir) led Illig to conclude that this period of history was an elaborate fraud, with retrograde, retroactive chronicles created and a populace willing as well to spring forward in time to be present for the Second Coming, though later the loss of a couple of weeks (or an hour) was seen to draw popular ire.  The alliance amongst these three potentates was strong enough, the theory suggests, to collaborate to create a revised timeline, though the idea is refuted as pseudoscience by medievalists, archaeological evidence, dendrochronology and of course recorded histories outside of western Europe.

Sunday 7 January 2024

nine times nine to dispel the cold (11. 252)

In northern parts of China, where the winter months can seem particularly long and bleak, a folk-reckoning of the time until spring’s arrival emerged in ancient times called “Counting the Nine” (shujiu, ๆ•ธไน) and is still observed. Beginning on the solstice, the season is divided into nine intervals of nine days each, this form of almanac or Advent calendar (the number nine chosen as a seasonally accurate number and concept of renewal or reset as it the last digit before leaping to a new exponent) was not only important to farmers and herders for anticipating the planting season and return of growth, they also were a welcome distraction (eighty-one days is a long time) that taught numeracy and literacy—families devising activity posters, like with plum blossoms, mnemonics or other early indicators in the environment, to countdown the days.

Saturday 30 December 2023

gromatici (11. 228)

A committed flaneur and a bit obsessed with getting my steps in myself, we were pleased to learn of the bematist-set—those specialist ฮฒฮทฮผฮฑฯ„ฮนฯƒฯ„ฮฑฮฏ employed in Ancient Egypt and Greece—whom for one assignment at least proved to have accurately measured the distances crossed by the army of Alexander the Great—with such precision, it was said that they gauged their paces with an early odometer, suggested by Pliny the Elder and Hero of Alexandria, though no direct evidence exists. Later on the philosopher and polymath, with the assistance of a bematist, Eratosthenes pretty closely calculated the circumference of the Earth around 240 BCE. The first application—the above title—of this skill however augmented, was in land surveyors and tax assessors, possibly also with instrumentation aid and a professional class endorsed by attendant religious officers.

Saturday 16 December 2023

8x8 (11. 190)

a portrait of justice: the iconography of Ruth Bader-Ginsburg’s judicial collars—see previously 

kreuz am bichl: a uniquely divided church in Carinthia  

oh little town of bethlehem: this year’s creche and other required reading—see more

location scouting: historical movies and filming sites mapped  

modern day umarell: Defector contributor unravels a construction mystery with the help amateur experts—see previously  

18¢ piece: making change, the Greedy Algorithm and the Shallit system of optimal coins  

penguin drama: two aquaria in Japan meticulously update a flow chart to document the changing relationships of their residents  

free mickeys: Disney’s flagship character (see previously) to enter the public domain following a US Supreme court ruling that copyrights cannot be extended with trademarks


one year ago: Kurt Cobain’s Unplugged session (1993), assorted links to revisit plus OpenAI authors Hallmark holiday specials

two years ago: a triple album from George Harrison plus the mental acumen of rarefied genius

three years ago: awards recognising the best of Quarantine Culture, the great apes, St Adelaide plus a classic spy story from John le Carrรฉ

four years ago: the seasonal designs of Jen Nollaig

five years ago: redundant acronym syndrome, Queen Medb plus the Moon on flags (and flags on the Moon)

Wednesday 13 December 2023

life is omniperiodic (11. 185)

Via Good Internet, we are directed towards a research paper that posits that in Conway’s Game of Life, the cellular automata within a defined framework of an environment demonstrates periodicity over a vast amount of generations and this repeating pattern is called an oscillator. Complex behaviour emerging from simple rules on a grid, oscillation (the hunt for these stable organisms, a wandering jam or mould pictured, beginning in the 1970s with such taxonomy as pulsar, tumbler, pinwheel, glider gun, queen bee shuttle, dirty splitters, toad hasslers) over all periods of the game. The full cycle of only two catalysts remained elusive until just recently with the final two being cribbage and 204P41, another reflector loop that looks like a circuit of marching insects.

one year ago: assorted links worth revisiting, a Christmas Number One plus a collection of seasonal drinks
three years ago: St Odile plus a Christmassy version of Hamilton
four years ago: the Feast of St Lucy plus a Ford concept truck
five years ago: young pioneers, more links to enjoy, Brutalist Brussels plus isogloss maps

Thursday 23 November 2023

q* (11. 132)

Though unable to independently verify the existence of the supposed memo circulated to the staff and board of OpenAI, sources suggest that the catalyst for the abrupt ousting and re-hiring of founder and CEO Sam Altman was a potential breakthrough towards artificial general intelligence, gauged not by simply stringing words together in a convincing way but rather by solving maths problems, albeit rudimentary ones but exercises that are transparent and comprehensible enough for human minds to know that the answer was correct and not merely persuasive and betraying a real understanding of the task the computer was given. The organisation has been forthcoming with the research project (pronounced Q-Star) and its aims to apply it to scientific application (fields where only one, non-trivial answers exist) but reports suggest that the board was harbouring reservations about releasing the new application. The next day the board fired Altman.


one year ago: the Festival of the Five Grains plus Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)

two years ago: artist Agnolo Cosimo

three years ago: your daily demon: Crocel, St Felicity of Rome, the invention of acting (534 BCE) plus Project Cybersyn

four years ago: a foundation document for press freedom, The Bounty Hunter’s Tale, Simpsons’ memes of the 2019 box office plus Disney streaming options

five years ago: assorted links to revisit, the eight-hour work day plus the premiere of Dr Who (1963)

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

Sunday 22 October 2023

11x11 (11. 070)

post-amazon era: monopsonic retailer’s workers’ are writing about the dystopian company to fight back—via Slashdot  

sublet: tech startups are relinquishing office space office space back to their landlords  

stop making sense: negative manifestos, rule-breaking and by defined by what one is not  

deci-lon 10: an outstanding collection of slide rules curated by the analogue computer’s appreciation society—named after their seventeenth century inventor, William Oughtred of Cambridge—via Web Curios  

dancing delicacies: 3-D printed plate and nano technologies promise interactive meals  

primer simposium tecno: a 1981 electronic music concert in Madrid  

piramida: updated plans for the restoration of Tirana’s Brutalist landmark  

destroilet: an automatic combustion plumbing solution popular in the 1960s and 70s 

down in the underground: agencies of the subsurface 

fiver: a new adaptation of Watership Down as a graphic novel 

proposition m: San Francisco passes a punitive tax of vacant housing speculation  

the faanmg index: the blush has worn off Amazon’s rose—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links (lot’s more to explore there)


one year ago:  brittle egos bristling at Karen’s Garden plus modern sundials

two years ago: the International Meridian Conference of 1884, The Last Picture Show plus an early alternative currency

three years ago: the father of psychophysics, red food dye, another failed doomsday prophecy plus the Humument series

five years ago: the US Gun Control Act of 1968, the WWII bombing of Kassel, the spread of disinformation, anticipatory libraries for other worlds plus RIP to the inventor of the Little Library

Tuesday 26 September 2023

all objects and some questions (11. 026)

Via Kottke, we are referred to this rather elegant two-dimensional plot that at the core of a presentation that surveys the thermodynamic history of the Cosmos, for the dense and energetic Big Bang to the cold, lonely Heat Death of the Universe, with time as a function of density and gravity as a governing factor. Some assumptions are made and I can’t pretend to comprehend it all but one can view the entire slide deck with notes and see if you reach the same conclusion posited the the Universe is a black hole.

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