*blows off cobwebs* 40th roundup of links arrives a little late. Nonetheless; today marks the first ringing of Big Ben (in 1859), the initial publishing of To Kill A Mockingbird (in 1960) and the Los Alfaques Disaster (in 1978).
- Time zones are a complicated business (as anyone who’s worked with software localisation in particular will know). This BBC feature goes into some detail on their quirks and history.
- Banging some electricity into your brain seems to improve performance at tasks and learning, based on several studies, although the reasons aren’t fully understood. This New Scientist article describes such a research project, using electrical stimulation to bring about a “flow” state of focus on a task.
- In WWII, PoWs in prison camps sometimes created improvised radios from scavenged parts and junk. John Graham-Cumming decided to try and reproduce one, and ended up with a working radio created from a toilet roll tube, a pencil, razorblades and other parts. See his blog post for details and photos.
- An 83 year-old woman has had her lower jawbone replaced with an artificial one made from titanium, with working joints, guides for nerve and blood vessel development, attachment points for muscles and replacement teeth, etc. Once designed, the replacement jaw was created in a 3D printer in a few hours, apparently the first time this has been done. See BBC article.
- Over the years, many scientific treasures have gone missing or been lost under mysterious circumstances. This New Scientist article collects the stories of nine of them, from a Soviet seed bank captured by the Nazis, to missing moon rocks from the Apollo missions, to the secret of ancient napalm or “Greek fire”. On a related note, this BBC story looks into the fate of the moon rocks that are missing around the world (one sample is buried deep in a Dublin dump, amongst other strange stories).
- In this article, the Seven Days news blog profiles Jerry Manock, one of Apple’s first industrial designers, who designed the Apple II and later Macs. He discusses his history with Apple and reminisces about working with Steve Jobs.
- In Portland, Oregon, there’s been a vast amount of tunnelling and construction work carried out for a city sewer system upgrade. Wired has a photo gallery demonstrating the scale and technical challenges of the project.
- Dutch scientists are trying to produce artificial hamburger meat in a lab by growing strips of muscle tissue from stem cells. This would take a considerable weight off the environment if successful, as the BBC reports.
- Glass eyes provide at least a cosmetic return to normality for folks injured badly enough to lose an eye. There’s quite a bit to their history and manufacture - which is a dying art, as modern replacement eyes are usually made from plastics, not glass. See BBC story.
- This is an odd one. It seems there’s a fair bit of historical and scientific evidence that, up to a century or two ago (i.e. pre Industrial Revolution), people used to sleep in two different periods, waking for night-time activity in between, instead of the continuous 8 hours we aspire to now. BBC has the story.
- James Cameron recently made it down to the deepest point of the Earth’s oceans - the first time anyone’s done that since the 60’s. This BBC feature shows the science behind it all, and details Cameron’s and others’ attempts to reach the bottom of the Marianas Trench (including an interactive scroll down to the bottom).
- Thinking of opening a bookshop? This blog post has 25 tips and lessons learned from the experience.
- Joel Spolsky still blogs from time to time; here’s a great new post from him about the perils of “software inventory”, and how you can still have pallets and barrels of stuff clogging up your business and costing money, even if you only work with laptops, whiteboards and servers. Oh, and if you haven’t seen Trello, his new project/task management product yet, check it out. This is how software can be.
- Massive scalability is tough, especially when it has to be developed to keep up with massive growth. Here’s some links offering insights into how scaling and tech stacks work for Tumblr (hundreds of millions of views a day, terabytes of new data generated every day), StackExchange (via Nick Craver’s blog) and Instragram.
- There have been various novel features added to Skyrim over the past few patches and the new expansion - kill-cams for ranged combat, Kinect voice commands, flying vampire characters, etc. Most of these originate from a week-long hackathon that Bethesda held after the game was done, where devs threw together whatever weird and wonderful features they wanted. This hectic video from DICE 2012 demos a good few - mounted combat, an epic mudcrab, flowing water, seasonal foliage changes, etc etc.
- Chuck Wendig delivers a rundown of 25 bad things writers shouldn’t do, in his usual inimitable style.
- If you’re self-publishing e-books with Amazon’s KDP or similar from outside the US and need to sort out tax withholding issues (that 30% Amazon have to hang on to for the IRS unless you’re registered) with tax numbers and all that madness, you’ll want to be reading this blog post.
- Sticking up one’s middle finger is a pretty universal gesture of insult (and has been for thousands of years). Where does it originate from? The BBC takes a look.
- The Atlantic magazine’s In Focus photography blog has posted a fascinating collection of photos from the US Civil War - see Part 1 (The Places) and Part 2 (The People).
- In a Manhattan basement, there’s a vast arsenal of weapons created and stored - prop weapons, supplied to a wide films and TV shows. Gizmodo took a look around.
- Here’s a gallery of amazing looking animal sculptures created from chopped-up CDs and other waste computer parts.
- Also on the art front, this sculpture depicts a torrent of thousands of books gushing from a building - see photos. Pretty cool.
- If you need somewhere to chill, this blog collects images of remote cabins of all shapes and sizes.
- Giving fruit as a gift is a common custom in Japan. It also gets taken to some pretty extreme lengths when it comes to growing and buying the perfect fruit - an apple for $25, a dozen strawberries for $83 or three perfect melons for $420. See fascinating BBC story and gallery.