Urbano Monte’s Massive Map of the Earth (1587)
> In 1587, Urbano Monte made the largest known early map of Earth. The map consists of 60 panels that were meant to be assembled into a planisphere (a circular map that rotates about a central axis) measuring 10 feet across. The David Rumsey Map Center recently acquired a manuscript of Monte’s map and digitally assembled all 60 pieces into the full map (inlined above but click through to zoom/pan).
The Marvelous Mississippi River Meander Maps
> Fisk’s maps represent the memory of a mighty river, with thousands of years of course changes compressed into a single image by a clever mapmaker with an artistic eye. Looking at them, you’re invited to imagine the Mississippi as it was during the European exploration of the Americas in the 1500s, during the Cahokia civilization in the 1200s (when this city’s population matched London’s), when the first humans came upon the river more than 12,000 years ago, and even back to before humans, when mammoths, camels, dire wolves, and giant beavers roamed the land and gazed upon the river.
Vintage TV Test Patterns
> As you might expect, the BBC test card with the girl and clown has both a backstory and a cult following.
A Huge Collection of Apollo 11 Press Kits
> When Apollo 11 landed two men on the Moon and returned them safely to Earth, thousands of people at NASA were joined in the effort by dozens of companies that did everything from building the spacecraft to providing the cameras for the mission. Each of those companies was understandably proud of their involvement and wanted to use the mission to drum up interest in their products and services. Marketing strategist David Meerman Scott has been collecting the press kits produced by the Apollo contractors and has made them available online for free download in PDF format.
Main link: https://www.apollopresskits.com
It’s Time for Some Queueing Theory
> Queueing theory is the scientific study of waiting in line. It can apply to familiar lines like those at the grocery store or bank but also to things like web servers, highway traffic, and telecommunications…basically any situation where you have things entering a system, being processed by a system for a certain period of time, and leaving the system.
Assorted stories and links.
RIP Ricky Jay, Master of the Sleight of Hand Card Trick
> Magic aside, Jay’s performances were master classes in how to entertain. Even in grainy YouTube videos, it is impossible to look away:
The Curse of Winning “America’s Best Burger”
> A surprising number of lottery winners will later tell you that winning the lottery was the worst thing that ever happened to them. It can be the same for many restaurants who win awards and suddenly get more attention than they bargained for, driving away loyal customers in favor of food tourists.
> This isn’t just about restaurants. This is a parable.
A tip for a better media diet: delay reading the news
> A new car loses about 10% of its value as soon as you drive it off the lot; most news depreciates a lot faster than that. Humans are curious, hard-wired to seek out new information on a continuous basis. But not everything we haven’t seen before is worth our attention.
I’ve been running about two weeks behind in my RSS feed for a while now, and keep plugging away, but I’m not sure I really want to catch up. It’s not all bad being a bit behind.
Smells Like Teen Spirit in a major key is an upbeat pop-punk song
> This bent my brain a little: if you re-tune Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit in a major key, it sounds like an upbeat pop-punk song. Like, Kurt Cobain actually sounds happy when he says “oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile” and the pre-chorus — “Hello, hello, hello, how low” — is downright joyous. Although I guess it shouldn’t be super surprising…in a 1994 interview with Rolling Stone, Cobain admits that the song was meant to be poppy.
Planetary and the 1990s pulp comics revival
> Planetary’s main character, Elijah Snow, has a pretty classic superpower: he freezes things. Or rather, subtracts their heat. He’s a century-old detective, collector, and preservationist, and at the beginning of the story, he’s lost his memory. He joins a team of superpowered mystery archeologists, who beginning in 1999, aim to excavate the hidden wonders of the 20th century. Every one of its 27 issues explores a new mystery, in a new artistic style, while also propelling us to Elijah’s unlocked memories, the characters’ unraveled backstories, and an ultimate confrontation.
Card catalogs and the secret history of modernity
> Card catalogs feel very old but are shockingly new. Merchants stored letters and slips of paper on wire or thread in the Renaissance. (Our word “file” comes from filum, or wire.) But a whole technology, based on scientific principles, for storing, retrieving, and circulating an infinitely extensible batch of documents? That is some modern-ass shit. And it helped create the world we all live in.
The best photos and videos of the 2017 solar eclipse
A nice selection.
The web’s funniest stories
> This isn’t a scientific survey; this is a blog.
Norway’s new pixelated banknotes are gorgeous
Flatland II, curved landscape panoramas
Disney’s multiplane camera, an innovation in illusion
> In a short film shot in 1957, Walt Disney described the multiplane camera, one of the many inventions and innovations his company had developed in order to produce more realistic and affecting animations.
Black Mirror soundtracks
Something a little different.
The importance of seeing yourself
Did the introduction of mirrors lead to a more individualistic society? I’m wary of trying to pin down single causes for broad social changes (it can be very difficult to even prove such a change has occurred, let alone determine why), but it’s an interesting idea. And with obvious extension to the selfie era. Is it more important to do something or be seen doing it?