All posts made in Feb. 2016:

Filtered for rambling thoughts


Position. How fast position changes is velocity. How fast velocity changes is acceleration. How fast acceleration changes is... jerk. Then snap, crackle, and pop.

Here it is explained:

So each one is a measure of how fast the previous one is going. Position is the location of your car, velocity is the speed of your car, acceleration is how hard you have the foot on the gas. jerk is how fast your foot is moving on the accelerator, snap is how fast your foot is accelerating on the accelerator. It can be conceptually visualized as the pedal controlling the thing you're looking at as you just keep repeating it.


The thing is that large variations in 'snap' can be visible as "unnatural" or "uncanny" ... A very consistent 'snap', even when "jerk" is strongly controlled, can make things feel overly precise or planned. Imagine someone "doing the robot dance"


Scientifically accurate images of Earth's sky with Saturn's rings taking into account shadows and latitudes.

See also: Views of Jupiter from the top and bottom.

I was getting the tube back home the other day, just after sunset -- the sky was burnt umber, all deep orange and brown and shadowed. And because it was late, it was dim, that low light where it's not bright and not dark, but the clouds look painted on horizon, unlit. But so, yeah, it looked like a gas giant, a planet just hanging there.

And I thought... Well, Nasa have their Pluto time widget which tells you at what time of day it's the same brightness as it is around Pluto, for where you are. So I worked it out for Jupiter, where it's about 1/27th as bright as Earth -- which, it turns out, for London, on a winter's evening, is about 6pm.

So by coincidence, that day in the late afternoon, I was looking out at a sunset with the colours and pattern of Jupiter, just as bright as Jupiter itself would look, if I was hanging by it in orbit, gazing across its deep clouds and churning storms.

See also: Images of whole galaxies as if they were teeny-weeny.


Back in 2007, it used to be that tech startups were old Unix tools warmed over for the Web. grep is Google. finger is Facebook.

Then there was an era where tech startups were about individuals doing stuff publicly. YouTube, blogging, Twitter.

I think there's a similar, simple pattern now: There are a ton of big startups aimed at doing stuff your parents used to do for you.

Uber is being carted around. On-demand laundry and odd jobs is about having someone pick up after you. Food delivery is about being cooked for.

I know I have this preoccupation about being infantilised by brands -- cynically: modern coffee is a thin excuse for grown adults to drink hot sweet milk from a sippy cup.

But there's a difference between doing stuff for me (while I lounge in my Axiom pod), and giving me superpowers to do more stuff for myself, an online Power Loader equivalent.

And with the re-emergence of artificial intelligence (only this time with a buddy-style user interface that actually works), this question of "doing something for me" vs "allowing me to do even more" is going to get even more pronounced. Both are effective, but the first sucks... or at least, it sucks according to my own personal politics, because I regard individual alienation from society and complex systems as one of the huge threats in the 21st century.

This user experience "stance" is similar to the dichotomy we see in Internet of Things consumer products: Is it me controlling the product with my smartphone, or does the product have smarts of its own? I favour the second. There are a lot of smart home gadgets that you need a phone to control. Fine.

But when you use Sonos speakers you find that they connect to the streaming music services across the Internet themselves. You ask the speaker to "tune in" to music using your phone. Then somebody else can use their phone to adjust the track, change the album, whatever.

The difference between these two stances sounds minuscule and academic... but one approach leaves the product diminished, no more than a physically rendered version of an app. And the Sonos approach allows the speaker to stand alone, and consequentially become more social and more part of the home.

I don't know how to refer to this design challenge (in Internet of Things, in artificial intelligence) except as stance. There must be a better way of talking about it.


Some more imagery...

Beautiful photos of Tokyo.

Geometrica, patterns by Guy Moorhouse.

The gorgeous landscapes of Grand Theft Auto V.

Augustus and Caesarion

I'd like to read a story about these two.

Cleopatra, from an ancient civilisation and a family that rules an even more ancient civilisation, in 250 years the first to really put her roots down and speak the language.

Caesar, bringing about the end of the republic, the expansionist warmonger of the upstart empire.

They fall in love. Love and politics. She has a son with him to cement the throne. For Caesar this is possibly his only son.

Caesar is assassinated in the death spasm of old Rome. Cleopatra falls in love with his right hand man.

Caesar's adopted son - after a second war that engulfs the Mediterranean, the first being Caesar's civil war - succeeds him: Augustus.

Cleopatra's son, Caesarion, succeeds her.

Then the upstart empire takes the most ancient one, and Augustus kills Caesarian.

Did they meet? Caesarion escaped for a time and was lured back. Did they have a final conversation? That must have been something.

Two sons, two brothers. One by blood, one anointed; one with history on his side, the other with the future. Augustus was the founder of the Roman Empire, which would last 400 years.

Another story says that Caesarion escaped.

Filtered for some nice words


From this article about how computers play chess,

The values [of moves] are commonly measured in units of 0.01 called centipawns -- figuratively hundredths of a pawn.


See also: The micromort which is unit of risk measuring a one-in-a-million probability of death. For example, simply living in England and Wales exposes you to 24 micromorts daily; flying 12,000 miles adds one more.


Look, it's awkward to mention anything by Ezra Pound -- and by "awkward" I mean, wasn't he a fascist and wildly antisemitic? Not the kind of ideas I want near me.

Anyway, he wrote Revolt Against the Crepuscular Spirit in Modern Poetry which is... well, full of feeling.

I bid thee grapple chaos and beget

Some new titanic spawn to pile the hills and stir

This earth again.

See also Ozmandius by Shelley which I hadn't realised was so short, just a sonnet, but picture-packed to the rafters.


The fall of Jersey: how a tax haven goes bust, an article which includes this gorgeous phrase:

45 square miles of self-governing ambiguity entirely surrounded by water.

The ridiculous physics of the free market.


So there are rumours that gravity waves have been detected.

But waves in what? Waves in the fabric of spacetime itself, or in physics words: it's perturbations to the Metric (a description of the curvature of spacetime), where zero-amplitude corresponds to Minkowski space.

From the linked paper,

There are also a number of “exotic” effects that gravitational waves can experience ... scattering by the background curvature, the existence of tails of the waves that interact with the waves themselves, parametric amplification by the background curvature, nonlinear coupling of the waves with themselves (creation of geons, that is, bundles of gravitational waves held together by their own self-generated curvature) and even formation of singularities by colliding waves

You know that feeling where you're listening to choral music in Latin, or Buddhist chanting, and you don't know the words but the sound of them is enough? Yeah. Perturbations to the Metric.