Good day beautiful people, it’s Victor!
Here’s my monthly compilation of links I found enjoyable this December. Wishing you all happy holidays — as bizarre and lonely as they are this year — and sending plenty of good vibes.
Wikipedia is the best website
- Seasonal: the Eggnog Riots happened in 1826, after whisky was smuggled in the New York military academy.
- The missing stair is a metaphor for a person in a community who “many people know is untrustworthy, but who they work around by trying to quietly warn others rather than deal with openly. The reference is to a dangerous structural fault such as a missing stair in a home, which residents have become used to and accepting of, and which is not fixed or signposted, but which (most) newcomers are warned about.”
- Insbot is a robotic cockroach, in development since 2002. It “is able to fool the rest of the cockroaches into believing that it is a part of the group. Once this has been accomplished, it then is able to establish itself as leader of the group. In this position, the scientists hope it can get the rest of the cockroaches to follow it out of their hiding places into the open where pest controllers can target them”. It is also in an effort to study and prove that is it possible to change the global behaviour of a mixed robots-animals society by placing a certain number of robots in it. (As if Twitter bots wasn’t enough of a proof?)
- Pantone 448 C is “the ugliest colour in the world”.
- I swear I’m not blowing smoke up your arse: up until a couple of centuries ago, tobacco smoke enemas were a real thing to ‘help’ resuscitate patients with respiratory issues. Feeling blessed for the evolution of medicine.
- What it means to be Extremely Online.
- Rollercoaster article: Rebecca was a raccoon. Who was kept as a pet (?). In the White House (??). In 1926. The president and FLOTUS were meant to eat her for Thanksgiving (???) but then they decided to keep her as a pet instead (????). She mischievously broke everything but they loved watching her play, took her on a 1,800 mile rail trip along with presidential dogs and canaries (?????), eventually got her a male companion called Reuben, and got a tree house made just for her.
- Oh, and when the next president came into office, that tree house became occupied by a wild opossum, which was also adopted and named Billy Possum (??????).
- Snow goggles are a type of “glasses” that let light through a small slit, traditionally worn by Inuit and Yupik people to prevent snow blindness.
- The Begich Towers is a building in a small village of Alaska, notable for housing almost all of the 205 inhabitants of the town. The building itself include local services including police, mayor, hospital, a small church, a grocery store, and a small hotel; the local school was separate but “was connected by a tunnel at the base of the west tower so students could safely access school on days with bad weather.” It is a rare example of arcology, a community existing under one roof.
- Every year in mid-November, all households in Iceland receive for free a catalogue of the 700 to 800 new books which were published in the country that year. This is in preparation of the Jólabókaflóðið, literally “Christmas book flood”, where people gift each others books for Christmas.
This all started at the end of the Second World War; there were import restrictions on giftware, but “the restrictions on imported paper were more lenient than on other products, so the book emerged as the Christmas present of choice” — and in a nation that has come to love books like no other, the tradition remained.
- There’s a joke that in Iceland, one half of the country reads what the other half endeavours to write the rest of the year. However, they’re no longer the country with the most titles published per capita: this record is actually held by the UK since 2017.
- A study suggests that we may have an innate preference for nature’s fractal patterns.
- From my ex-PhD-mate James: the sound of medicine. The architecture, machinery and staff in hospitals all layer into a soundscape that may induce additional stress, communication difficulties, and potential PTSD on patients who spend a lot of time in there.
- Inside the (surprisingly) big business of packaged ice.
- The sighting of drones at Gatwick in 2018, which shut down the airport for two days, are still not resolved or explained. Turns out there may just not have been any.
- Rights lawyers in the US are planning to go to war on the hidden algorithms that trap people in poverty.
Everything is depressing
- An excellent, graspable explanation of the new Covid strain that appeared in the UK: how viruses mutate, how we’ve tracked this one so precisely (through sheer luck!), and what it really means for the coming months in terms of transmission and the vaccine.
- Die Zeit has a brilliant interactive visualisation explaining the transmission risks indoors with aerosols. (It’s in English, wait and click on the green button to open the article.)
- Earlier pandemics like the Spanish influenza and tuberculosis have had an impact on many details of architecture still visible today. Which is why many radiators are placed under windows, to allow steam to heat flats while aerating: “Anybody who’s thrown their windows open in January, when their apartment is stifling, is, in an odd way, replicating what engineers hoped would happen a century ago.” [via notoriousbigre]
- The Spellchecker’s Agenda is an artwork highlighting the racial bias of built-in spell checkers, showing wavy red lines under common African-American names but not the European ones.
- The paper that made Google fire Timnit Gebru, a leader in ethics research.
- From two of my favourite writers: an excellent article asking whether Trump ineptly attempted a coup (and whether it matters), and an equally excellent argumentation against the ideas in that article.
- We Live in a Society, a great longread on the possibility of socialism in America.
- The boom of electric vehicles is unsurprisingly leading to an environmentally devastating mining of lithium, the new “white oil” required to produce batteries. It may destroy swathes of central Portugal and South America, “but because they are helping to drive down emissions, the mining companies have EU environmental policy on their side.”
In my ears
Work! Design! Tech!
- A super fun, interactive article explaining cameras and lenses (from the same creator of articles on Lights & Shadows and Gears that I’ve shared in this newsletter before).
- Some great quotes and food for thought in these 100 design lessons for 2021, which (finally) consider the political power of designed materials and not just glossing over aesthetic details.
- Super cool article explaining how to develop games with hexagon grids, with step-by-step interactive examples to really understand the logic behind it.
And that’s all for this month.
May your bees thrive in 2021,