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Around the web XXXVII (finally)

Well, that took a while. This is apparently now one of those intermittent blogs that struggle out a post once a month or so. I’m sorry, but I make no apologies, etc. Distracting you with notable anniversaries; today marks the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbour (1941) and the launch of the last Moon mission - Apollo 17 (1972), the crew of which took the iconic “Blue Marble" photo as they left Earth. Today also marks the birthday of linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky and the deaths of ancient Roman politician Cicero and one William Bligh (of mutiny on the Bounty fame).


  • In good news on the diseases and epidemics front, malaria appears to be on the back foot; the WHO recently announced that deaths worldwide from the disease have fallen 20%, as the BBC reports. There have also been some recent promising results and developments in both vaccines and treatment approaches.
  • Power supply to medical implants in the body is a constant problem, being as you can’t just swap out the batteries or plug into the nearest socket. Ideally, they could generate electrical power from the body itself, and research in that direction continues to progress, as the BBC report in this piece on biofuel cell development.
  • Holodecks in the Star Trek style are still a ways off, but virtual and augmented reality systems continue to advance, with MS Research’s HoloDesk a recent example. A combination of transparent projection surfaces and Kinect trackers allow you to look down at your hands and interact with 3D objects that appear to be floating around them - see Gizmodo report and video.
  • Why don’t more countries use plastic/polymer banknotes? (a few do). The BBC take a look at the challenges involved (they’re harder to make and don’t fold, but they’re much more durable, amongst other things).
  • Mount a few dozen small cameras in a foam ball, toss it up in the air and create large panoramic images with the results. A clever project from Jonas Pfeil, to be presented at SIGGRAPH Asia - see Gizmag article.
  • A British gentleman (Fauja Singh) recently ran the Toronto marathon at the age of 100. Sounds impossible, and it almost (but obviously not quite) is, according to the BBC’s look into the medical practicalities of such a feat.
  • Six degrees of separation? According to research by Facebook and the University of Milan, it’s actually even less. See CNet story.
  • The 100th anniversary of Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic fell recently, and the BBC report on some of the important discoveries that were made on the journey. They also have a gallery of amazing photos from the expedition’s almost perfectly preserved hut (now the obect of conservation efforts), still filled with items left behind at the time.
  • This ingenious Halloween costume involves two iPads and a hole in someone’s torso that you can see right through - see CNet article and video.
  • In July of last year, a container turned up in the port of Genoa that was emitting large amounts of radiation. No one knew what was in it. This lengthy Wired article reports on the investigation of the mystery box.


  • Skyrim is well out at this stage, to universal acclaim. This game may or may not have something to do with the recent dearth of posts on this blog. It really is a vast and amazing piece of work, and anyone with any interest in RPGs should absolutely buy a copy. Mods are already appearing (soon to be enabled directly through Steam), and PC Gamer have rounded up a dozen or two of the most useful tweaking and improvement mods on offer thus far.
  • It was revealed a while back that the new Syndicate game would be a FPS, moving away from its strategy/tactical roots. Thus far, it looks like it’ll be a passable shooter - a combat-heavy poor man’s Deus Ex, from what I’ve seen, but hey, that’s no bad thing. Rock, Paper Shotgun have a preview.
  • In a frankly much more promising revival, Planetside 2 continues to progress - PC Gamer have a couple of previews here and here.
  • The Gadget Show built a crazy full-immersion simulator for playing Battlefield 3; body-tracking, panoramic screen, weapon tracking, treadmill system, paintball guns for impact feedback, etc. See this brief video for a trailer, or this one for the full show. Amazing bit of work.
  • And last but certainly not least, GTA V was announced recently. Epic.


  • From Yacoset, an article detailing various signs that you may be a bad programmer (see the article’s Reddit and Hacker News discussions for some caveats and commentary).


  • In a blog post summarising a talk by the ever-interesting Jason Fried (of 37Signals fame), we get 10 points of advice for would-be entrepreneurs.
  • In an article for .net magazine, Des Traynor talks about the online customer experience, and how you need to make sure it really is a customer experience and not just user management. Des is, incidentally, a mate of mine - but he writes good stuff, so go read some anyway. Recent highlights from his other writing on the Intercom blog include the need for a strong core vision in startups, the dangers of iceberg features in projects and his MIX presentation on data visualisation for web apps.


  • The BBC have a collection of images from the Royal Geographical Society commemorating early British expeditions on Mount Everest.
  • This really is amazing. Some anonymous character deposited a series of 10 paper sculptures (created from books) at various literary sites around Edinburgh earlier this year. Beautiful work; see story.
  • LIFE magazine photos have included some iconic and remarkable images over the years - they round up 75 of their best here.
  • Also on the photography front, a while back I posted a link to a very cool project by photographer Irina Werning, where she exactly recreated childhood photos with the original, now adult subject. She’s since added another set.
  • What if you applied a minimalist design to some famous brands? The results are very interesting - see here.
  • In this fascinating video diary from the set of The Hobbit, Peter Jackson talks about the challenges of working with 3D cameras and the high frame rate tech he’s using for the new film. Amongst other things, two artists draw their pieces side-by-side with red and blue pencils to produce 3D concept art, and makeup and set colours have to be much stronger (appearing quite garish in normal camera footage) to reach the correct appearance with the new camera tech.

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