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Around the web XXXIV

Anyone concerned about recent lack of activity on this blog should refer their complaints to Eidos Montreal.

Sci/Tech;

  • Bell Labs have been behind many of the most significant inventions and discoveries in the past century - the transistor, the laser, UNIX, the CCD image sensor and C/C++ not being the least of them. With 25,000 patents and seven Nobel Prizes going back over 100 years, it’s hard to keep track of all those achievements, so they had a design firm create an interactive whiteboard to make their history of research and innovation more accessible. See story and video.
  • The two main approaches for dealing with a body after death have always been burial of various sorts and cremation. A US company is working on a third option, effectively chemically dissolving bodies. Sounds a bit bizarre, but they reckon it’s viable and more environmentally friendly than cremation, as the BBC report.
  • Earth’s core is a mysterious place that’s still not very well understood, particularly the processes behind the magnetic fields it generates. See BBC report.
  • Back in the late 1800’s, there was a horse called Hans who could apparently tap out numbers with a hoof when he saw them written on a blackboard. Various investigations seemed to confirm that he did indeed have the ability. The subsequent more detailed investigations and ultimate explanation of how Hans was able to perform his trick offer important insight into the necessity for “double blind” methods as used in modern scientific experiments. Read all about it.
  • Engineer and computer conservationist Tony Sale passed away recently. Amongst other things, he established the Bletchley Park computing museum in the UK and led the difficult rebuilding of the WWII-era Colossus code-breaking computer. The BBC have an obituary.
  • This is strangely compelling; a web app that uses a genetic algorithm to evolve better designs for small wheeled vehicles, by combining wheels and some basic 2D shapes. You can watch the results play out in realtime as it works (it can take a while to come up with useful designs). It uses the Box2D physics library for the vehicle simulation, incidentally.
  • Research from Cambridge has revealed that the cholera pandemic that has spread across the world for the past several decades has a single source in the Bay of Bengal; see BBC report. The research also shows how the disease “jumps” from place to place via long-haul air travel.

Dev;

  • Microsoft development manager Tim Heuer has been working at Microsoft’s main campus for the past year or so; he offers some interesting reflections on the experience in a blog post.

Gaming;

  • Jagged Alliance remakes and sequels and so on have appeared and disappeared over recent years in some kind of complex dance. In addition to the new Jagged Alliance game (JA: Back In Action) presented at E3, the latest one apparently involves a browser-based revival of the classic turn-based squad game; Jagged Alliance Online. Here’s a preview.
  • Speaking of such, old-school gaming site GOG.com have been adding their second batch of EA games from that publisher’s storied back catalogue. This includes some absolute classics; original god game Populous, seminal space sims Wing Commander 1&2, cult classic bad-guy management sim Dungeon Keeper 2, and from the mists of the 80’s, Ultima 1/2/3 and 4.
  • On a (much) more modern note, Rock Paper Shotgun have an interview with id’s Tim Willits talking about RAGE.
  • Again at the cutting edge, some Battlefield 3 material; a single-player preview from EuroGamer and some details on the vehicle system from the official blog. Amongst other things, vehicles will have slots for customisation and their health will recharge (within limits) to give non-engineers a chance. To give long-suffering engineers a chance, they’ll also stop moving when critically damaged so you can repair them without getting reversed over (though the weapons will still work, for Black Hawk Down/Zulu moments).

Misc;

  • The HMV store on London’s Oxford St has been around for some time (though not that long by London’s august standards) - here’s a photo set showing how things looked in there in the 60’s.
  • Namibia’s Skeleton Coast where the desert meets the ocean is a strange and desolate place, plagued by dense fogs and littered with shipwrecks and abandoned settlements, as this BBC travel story describes.
  • I’ve always been interested in different office designs, and this blog covers plenty of offices from tech companies and others.
  • Ever wondered how celebrities looked in their school yearbook photos? The BBC have gathered up a few youthful examples for you to peruse.
  • Small Lives is an exhibition of photographs of Irish children over the past century or so. The Journal.ie have a fascinating selection of them here.
  • Two Muslim chaps in the US set out on a road trip for Ramadan, profiling a diverse range of American Muslims in 30 mosques across 30 states, finishing up a few days ago. Read about it on the BBC, or see the project’s blog.
  • Again with the art and photos, here’s a gallery of 50 impressive pieces of graffiti art.

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