Hello, it’s Victor! I hope you’re enjoying the shy summer. Here’s links I thought were worth sharing this month:
Wikipedia is the best website
How we respond to sneezing in different cultures. From “bless you”, to not acknowledging anything and pretending nothing happened, down to us French having 3 different responses for successive sneezings.
List of artists who left right before their bands became famous.
Petrichor is the name for the earthy smell happening when rain falls onto dry soil.
Büsingen am Horchrein is a German village located… in Switzerland. A tiny exclave surrounded by Swiss land, a few kilometres away from the German border, to be more exact. This has led to a few odd practicalities: residents pay mostly in Swiss Francs and not Euros, and pay Swiss VAT rates; mail to the village can be addressed to either country, and they may use both stamps locally; they may choose either country’s phone provider and calling code; the policing and legislating is carefully divided between the two countries; and the football team is the only German team to play in the Swiss Football League.
- Are some words inherently funny? There is, obviously, an article about that which may or may not convince you that words containing the letter K are more funny than others. I was more convinced with that list of funniest words in English that don’t contain that letter (“gongoozle”, “hemidemisemiquaver” or “turdiform”).
- Not on the page, but tangentially related: a blobject is a category of visual objects defined by smooth curves, an absence of sharp edges and bright colours.
- The Thing is a spying device hidden a plaque gifted by the Soviet Union to the US Ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1945. Designed by Léon Theremin, it is notable for using passive techniques to listen to conversations: it did not require an energy source, and did not radiate any signal unless it was irradiated remotely to “reflect” what the membrane was hearing. It is considered a very early version of RFID technology, and remained undetected for five years.
The Visha Kanya (poison damsels) were young women reportedly used as assassins in Ancient India. The “story goes that young girls were raised on a carefully crafted diet of poison and antidote from a very young age, a practice referred to as mithridatism. Although many would not survive, those that did were immune to other poisons and their body fluids would be poisonous to others.”
Of the few level 5 nuclear events that ever happened, the 1987 Goiânia accident in Brazil has the worst timeline section. Scavengers were trying to sell some stuff they found at an abandoned hospital, and upon observing a deep blue glow coming from a radiation capsule, proceeded to… invite all their family and friends to come and see it, thinking it was supernatural. And then managed to extract some rice-sized grains and share it with them. There were 4 immediate fatalities, 129 people with internal contamination, and a fascinatingly complex process for decontaminating or disposing of contaminated material (including 42 houses, 3 buses, banknotes, and “50,000 rolls of toilet paper”).
The broken escalator phenomenon describes our tendency to misjudge how to step onto escalators and platforms that aren’t moving. Even when we know it isn’t working, humans measurably adopt a different posture and walking speed when stepping in and out, which is what we normally do on working escalators to stabilise our balance. This dissociation is used as an example of the separation between cognitive and motor systems: our brains still act on our previous experience of what happens on a moving escalator, and preemptively act on an upcoming threat to our balance, rather than reacting to an actual trigger.
- The carpet at the Portland International Airport has its own article, and what a ride. Nobody seems to know why but the carpet has reached “local icon” status, gained “a cult following” with a tradition of taking pictures with their feet on the carpet and hashtagging #pxdcarpet. Honestly I almost got sad when I reached the Replacement section.
- See also the Instagram account idontgiveaseat for more public transport textile design appreciation. (I’ve submitted one!)
I keep finding about new cognitive biases by accident, think “wow cool interesting”, and then proceed to never think about them when they actually happen. Is there a cognitive bias for that? Anyway, the Einstellung effect is where a problem-solver gets stuck on a particular solution, is convinced this is the right one, and is unable to backtrack mentally to see potentially superior solutions. With hindsight I can definitely relate to this.
A list of the largest organisms on Earth with an interesting side on deep-sea gigantism, the tendency for species in the deeper ocean to be larger than their shallow-water relative species. (TW, some of the images there are terrific).
- I bought maple syrup the other day which was labelled as Grade A, and I thought yeah baby that’s the real stuff, none of that lower-grade shit. It then occurred to me to look up what that actually meant and turns out all maple syrup sold is now Grade A — and the previous grades were reflecting different distinctions on flavour qualities based on the time of year it’s tapped, and how you should use it, not a quality indicator.
- The completely absurd world of underground business rappers in Japan, who turn to freestyle diss to say what would be inappropriate in their office. (It’s very bad.)
- America still doesn’t use the metric system, and this (might) be due to pirates in the Carribean.
- Talking about the sea, it may turn out lots of sea monsters drawn and recounted in early legends were probably just whale dicks.
- An explanation behind that zigzag optical illusion.
- How much would it cost to eliminate child labour from cocoa production in Ghana? The answer may be between a 2.8% increase to eliminate “the very worst forms” (which isn’t?), to 47% to remove it entirely.
- A new study suggests that plant roots follow acoustic vibes to travel towards water sources like rivers.
Good to look at
- The Mindfulness Conspiracy: the expanding business of self-care (sometimes mistaken for self-indulgence) may be promoting individualism and be “the enemy of activism”. Rather than being the promised way to cope with what’s around us, “mindfulness says the causes of suffering are disproportionately inside us, not in the political and economic frameworks that shape how we live”. (This obviously echoes that piece I mentioned in my first newsletter).
- I love these wind sculptures by artist Lyman Whitaker
- Ian Weldon is a wedding photographer who focuses on taking spontaneous photographs of real wedding moments: not posed, fake-smiles family pictures in white dress, but all the “real things that the spouses will never see that day”. The last-minute ironing, your drunk uncle lying dead in a corner, your best friends downing beers, the last dances rather than the first, the uncontrollable children… (via notoriousbigre)
- Why it pays to play: interesting thoughts about the role of play in biology and development, both in animals and humans. “One hallmark of play is that it suspends judgment so that we are no longer focused on selecting good ideas and discarding bad ones. That’s what allows us to descend into the valleys of imperfection to later climb the peaks of perfection.”
- Some fun animated things to look at:
- 507 Movements shows you how mechanical systems of movement work, some of them with cool animations.
- Animated Knots teaches how to tie knots step by step like a pro. Should you ever become a seafarer or something.
- Wipeout Model Explorer lets you ride about the original tracks from your browser, or use a free camera.
- A really good paper on the limits of empowerment with medical self-help apps.
In my ears
Design, tech, work!
- How to be great: just be good, repeatedly.
- dimensions.guide is a database of drawings that documents the standard sizes for objects and spaces around us.
- Trans-inclusive design: how to deal with gender fields, names and emails to minimise the friction that trans people may experience on what we create.
- The New York Times have open sourced a course on data journalism, and share why their reporters learned to love spreadsheets.
- You probably don’t need reCaptcha (this post has dubious ideas about accessibility and is a bit dated, but the points about Google’s influence and power remain — just like you shouldn’t use Google Fonts if you care about your visitors’ privacy.
- Talking of this, use self-hosting with Beautiful Web Type that references many open source typefaces in superb specimens.
- Self promo: we’ve released a typeface at Feeld to celebrate the Stonewall riots! And it’s free! And looks great!
- Luna is a new programming language for data processing that offers both visual and text representations. Haven’t tried it but it looks quite nice.
- The Dark Forest theory of the Internet is a good reflection on the current states and corners of the web, how we share things differently, and what we lose by leaving the dark forest to the mainstream.
Enjoy the sun
Hope you’re all doing well.