Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Aratea, with extracts from Hyginus's Astronomica in the constellation figures (9th Century)

From HERE.

Pantograph (1631)

The Pantograph was invented by Christoph Scheiner in about 1603, but his book on the subject, Pantographice, was not published until 1631. 

The full title of the book is: Christophori Scheiner, e Societate Iesu Germano-Sueui, Pantographice, seu, Ars delineandi res quaslibet per parallelogrammum lineare seu cauum, mechanicum, mobile : libellis duobus explicata & demonstrationibus geometricis illustrata, quorum prior epipedographicen, siue planorum, posterior stereographicen, seu solidorum aspectabilium viuam imitationem atque proiectionem edocet


The Parish Review

The Parish Review is the magazine of the International Flann O'Brien Society.

The Irish writer Brian O'Nolan, also worked as Flann O'Brien, Myles na gCopaleen and too many other pseudonyms for scholars to track. 

Blackboard (2008)

Two stills from an Blackboard, an animated oil painting video by David O'Kane, from HERE

Image Copyright David O'Kane.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Interference experiment with electrons (1963)

The diagram from 1963 that shows Feynman's original thought experiment on electron diffraction. From  The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Volume III

Quantum Mechanics

Chapter 1. Quantum Behaviour

“Quantum mechanics” is the description of the behavior of matter and light in all its details and, in particular, of the happenings on an atomic scale. Things on a very small scale behave like nothing that you have any direct experience about. They do not behave like waves, they do not behave like particles, they do not behave like clouds, or billiard balls, or weights on springs, or like anything that you have ever seen.


In this chapter we shall tackle immediately the basic element of the mysterious behavior in its most strange form. We choose to examine a phenomenon which is impossible, absolutely impossible, to explain in any classical way, and which has in it the heart of quantum mechanics. In reality, it contains the only mystery. We cannot make the mystery go away by “explaining” how it works. We will just tell you how it works. In telling you how it works we will have told you about the basic peculiarities of all quantum mechanics.


We should say right away that you should not try to set up this experiment (as you could have done with the two we have already described). This experiment has never been done in just this way. The trouble is that the apparatus would have to be made on an impossibly small scale to show the effects we are interested in. We are doing a “thought experiment,” which we have chosen because it is easy to think about. We know the results that would be obtained because there are many experiments that have been done, in which the scale and the proportions have been chosen to show the effects we shall describe.
From HERE.

Controlled double-slit electron diffraction (2013)

A more recent version of the double-slit electron diffraction experiment, from 2013, is Controlled double-slit electron diffraction by Roger Bach, Damian Pope, Sy-Hwang Liou and Herman Batelaan New Journal of Physics 15 (2013) 033018

In this paper, the authors are arguing that the results they present are the first true implementation of an electron double slit experiment.

The general perception is that the electron double-slit experiment has already been performed. This is true in the sense that Jonsson demonstrated diffraction from single, double, and multiple (up to five) micro-slits, but he could not observe single particle diffraction, nor close individual slits. In two separate landmark experiments, individual electron detection was used to produce interference patterns; however, biprisms were used instead of double slits. First, Pozzi recorded the interference patterns at varying electron beam densities. Then, Tonomura recorded the positions of individual electron detection events and used them to produce the well known build-up of an interference pattern. It is interesting to point out that the build up of a double-slit diffraction pattern has been called ‘The most beautiful experiment in physics’, while the build-up for a true double-slit has, up to now, never been reported.

No doubt they will not be the last authors to claim they are the first. 

Monday, 20 March 2017

The Most Beautiful Experiment in Physics (1976)

In 2002 readers of Physics World voted Young’s double-slit experiment with single electrons as “the most beautiful experiment in physics” of all time. Although not credited by Physics World at the time, the physicists Pier Giorgio Merli, Gian Franco Missiroli, and Giulio Pozzi had carried out this experiment in a collaboration between the Italian Research Council and the University of Bologna almost three decades earlier.

The Bologna team had also made a movie for teaching purposes because the experience of watching an interference pattern build up electron by electron was so moving to them that they wanted to share this.

The stills above are from a wonderful movie made in 2010 that describes how the Italian physicsts carried out the experiment, the original movie they made and what they now think of their experiment ( HERE).

From the 2010 film, Gian Franco Missiroli explains why they made the original film:
For the experiment it was important to visualize it not just as a few shots that one can show in an article, but as a detailed sequence of hundreds of frames where you see the step by step growth of the interference pattern, with a psychological and emotional impact stronger than the one given by watching a photo in a scientific paper.

...because the growth of the interference pattern was something so ...touching so - from an expressive point of view - ...convincing, that a movie was the right way to show it. 
A recent appraisal of this beautiful experiment is HERE

The original paper: P. G. Merli, G. F. Missiroli, and G. Pozzi, “On the statistical aspect of electron interference phenomena” American Journal of Physics 44 (1976), 306–307.

Demonstration of single‐electron buildup of an interference pattern (1989)

The build up of an electron interference pattern one electron at a time as an electron beam passes through two slits in a barrier is not explainable with classical physics. Richard Feynmann "...absolutely impossible to explain in any classical way, and has in it the heart of quantum mechanics."

Here, from a paper by Tonomura and co-workers from 1989, is a series of experimental images of this phenomena. 

The Abstract:
The wave–particle duality of electrons was demonstrated in a kind of two-slit interference experiment using an electron microscope equipped with an electron biprism and a position-sensitive electron-counting system. Such an experiment has been regarded as a pure thought experiment that can never be realized. This article reports an experiment that successfully recorded the actual buildup process of the interference pattern with a series of incoming single electrons in the form of a movie.
The sequence of images shows what happens as electrons go through the pair of `slits' one at a time. Each white dot is a detected electron, point like and discrete. Over time as more and more electrons pass through the pair of slits an interference pattern builds up - a phenomena of continuous waves. Figure caption: (b) 100 electrons detected, (c) 3,000 electrons detected, (d) 20,000 electrons detected and (e) 70,000 electrons detected

Demonstration of single-electron buildup of an interference pattern. A. Tonomura, J. Endo, T. Matsuda, T. Kawasaki, and H. Ezawa. American Journal of Physics 57, 117 (1989); doi: 

Image from HERE.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Chances with Wolves

A superb piece HERE in The Paris Review by David Ramsey on the Internet radio station Chances with Wolves and the role it played as he cleared out his parents house in Nashville.

As we worked, I would find a photograph to keep, or I would find detritus to trash—say, the jewel box of a CD I bought in high school—and it was like uncovering old stories, a prior self, a lost language. A remembered moment or thought, long buried, would arrive with the jolt of discovery. Objects are sacred not when they become signifiers of nostalgia but when they collapse time altogether, when they are restorative of memory. When they are connective strands of the self, of the family, of the community. Our histories are fragile in flimsy recollection. Stuff is the durable stuff of our lives. Music, too, is like this.

Where else are you going to discover Watch ‘n’ Chain by Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation?

Image Copyright Chances With Wolves.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

...happiness is no more than a faculty for being surprised (1906)

It seemed to me a wonderful thing that at last I should see oranges growing on trees; and I felt so happy that morning that I could not but wonder at my happiness, and seeking for a cause for it I stumbled on the reflection that perhaps after all happiness is no more than a faculty for being surprised.

The Lovers of Orelay, printed in the Memoirs of my Dead Life by George Moore (1852-1933). Published 1906. HERE.

Painting of Moore by Edouard Manet from HERE

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The “buena vista” hypothesis (2017)

Massive increase in visual range preceded the origin of terrestrial vertebrates
Malcolm A. MacIver, Lars Schmitz, Ugurcan Mugan, Todd D. Murphey, and Curtis D. Mobley

doi: 10.1073/pnas.1615563114 PNAS March 7, 2017 


Starting 385 million years ago, certain fish slowly evolved into legged animals living on land. We show that eyes tripled in size and shifted from the sides to the top of the head long before fish modified their fins into limbs for land. Before permanent life on land, these animals probably hunted like crocodiles, looking at prey from just above the water line, where the vastly higher transparency of air enabled long-distance vision and selected for larger eyes. The “buena vista” hypothesis that our study forwards is that seeing opportunities far away provided an informational zip line to the bounty of invertebrate prey on land, aiding selection for limbs—first for brief forays onto land and eventually, for life there. 

Paper HERE.
Commentary HERE.
Image from HERE.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Report on the cholera outbreak in the Parish of St. James, Westminster, during the autumn of 1854

The map from the report by Dr John Snow on the Cholera outbreak in London in 1854. HERE.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Photocopier Art (1974-1983)

An exhibition of the work of Pati Hill 1974-1983. (HERE)

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Sonnet Signatures (2016)

A means to transform the lines of a Shakespearan Sonnet into a squiggle. From HERE.

Image copyright Nicholas Rougeux.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Exogenetic Heredity (1985)

Exogenetic heredity is the form of heredity that is mediated not through the chromosomes but through other - generally speaking, "cultural" - means of information transfer. That which is propagated is knowledge, know-how, and various products of mind such as books, laws, rules of behaviour, and mechanical and other inventions. 

From Aristotle to Zoos: A Philosophical Dictionary of Biology by P.B. Medawar & J. S. Medawar.

You should be very kind when you explain something (2004)

A wonderful intervew with Haruki Murakami in the Paris Review of Summer 2004 (HERE).

Image from HERE.

Friday, 17 February 2017


The official motto of the City of Liverpool: DEUS NOBIS HAEC OTIA FECIT.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Forget about equipment. See with a third eye. (2017)

Forget about equipment. See with a third eye.

Dennis Morris.

Interview HERE
Image from HERE.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge (1942)

The following is a taxonomy of the animal kingdom. It has been attributed to an ancient Chinese encyclopedia entitled the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge:
On those remote pages it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's hair brush, (l) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance.
 The Analytical Language of John Wilkins. J.L. Borges, 1942.
Image from HERE.

An affordance-based taxonomy of screwdrivers and screws (2004)

From: Taxonomies of Form Based on Morphogenesis, by Timothy Jachna & John Frazer. Paper  HERE.

Exogenetic Heredity (2003)

There is a good deal written abut cultural evolution. Over the past year or so I have read some of it. There are two particularly good explanations of the role that culture plays in evolution and both of them use the same strange form of words: exogenetic heredity. The people who use this formulation are Sir Peter Medawar, a Nobel prize winning biologist, and Robert Bringhurst a Canadian poet, typographer and translater. 

Here is Robert Bringhurst's formulation of the idea:

With very few exceptions, all the world's birds and mammals train their young. Like human beings, they transmit information from generation to generation in two forms: genetic and exogenetic (inside the genome and outside the genome). 

Both of these avenues depend on language. Genetic information is transmitted through chemical languages, whose morphemes and phonemes are made out of ribonucleic acid. Exogenetic information is transmitted through other kinds of language: behavioural languages, some of which are spoken, like the language I am using at this moment, and some of which are silent. 
From Wild Language. In The Tree of Meaning. Robert Bringhurst. Gaspereau Press. 2006.
Image from HERE.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Burn, Baby, Burn (1960s)

HERE is a fantastic article on the assembler code that ran the Apollo 11 space mission, now available on GitHub.

The Art of Computer Programming (1962 - 2017)

The brilliant American computer scientist Donald Knuth has been writing and publishing The Art of Computer Programming since the early 1960s. He hasn't finished yet. In fact what he does is create small chunks of material, he calls Fascicles, and releases them in PDF form before finally collating these into printed volumes. 

One of his latest is HERE (Volume 4 Pre-fascicle 5C). I can't pretend that I am able to understand what he is doing, but I can appreciate his playfulness is setting problems to the more serious reader. 

Above is a game he includes in the fascicle.

Dominosa is a solitaire game in which you `shuffle' the 28 pieces of dominoes and place them at random into a 7 x 8 frame. Then you write down the numbers of spots in each cell, put the dominoes away, and try to reconstruct their positions based only on that 7 x 8 array of numbers. 

The image above is the example he shows.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

The Nature & Aesthetics of Design (1978)

Artefacts are fundamental to human life. Designing, making and using artefacts constitutes a complex and never ending cycle of human activities. 

Quite surprisingly, there appears to be a small set of `laws' that describe the habitual behaviours of humans who are involved in the process of designing, making and using artefacts. Some of these laws were described in an entertaining way by the designer David Pye (1914-1993) in two books: The Nature & Aesthetics of Design (1978) and The Nature and Art of Workmanship (1968).  

For example, Pye describes how humans seem to be unable to make useful things, without also expending a great deal of avoidable work (what he calls useless work) that adds nothing to the object's usefulness. Human makers habitually expend a great deal of effort to ornament, polish, smooth, decorate or otherwise embellish an object. None of which are required for the object to be useful. 

Extracted from The Nature & Aesthetics of Design, the picture above shows some of Pye's concepts around the Design/Making process.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Sumi-e. An Introduction To Ink Painting (1966)

This character, pronounced `ei' in Japanese and meaning `long', contains the eight different basic strokes necessary to write all the characters. 

From Sumi-e. An Introduction To Ink Painting by Nanae Momiyama (1924--2002).
Scanned copy HERE.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

A horse. (late 1400s)

In Chinese and Japanese visuals arts, the same type of brush and ink are used for both writing and sketching. In Japan, painting in black ink is known as Sumi-e. In common with Japanese calligraphy, the emphasis in sumi-e is to achieve beauty in each of the individual strokes of the brush. 

One of the greatest masters of monochrome sumi-e art was Sesshū Tōyō (1420--1506). Sesshū was born into a samurai family and educated as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist priest. He became a pupil of another sumi-e master, Tenshō Shūbun (1414--1463), and later in life became  widely known for his exquisite art work throughout Japan and China.

The figure shows an ink sketch of a horse on paper by Sesshū. In this media there is no room for hesitation or re-work. Each stroke must be delivered to the paper with confidence and fluidity. The quality of the result is continually at risk during the process of making. When executed by a master like Sesshū, a handful of confident brush strokes are sufficient to capture the essence of a horse. 

Image from HERE.

A Ticking Clock (2016)

Ellen Fullman is a San Francisco based sound artist who invented and plays a Long String Instrument (almost a hundred feet long). Here is an interview with Fullman that includes the image above  - one of her scores for the instrument. 

Image Copyright Ellen Fullman.

Friday, 27 January 2017

ABTRWY (2017)

Made using the Sino-Roman script of David B Kelley(HERE)

Trout Flies: Naturals and Imitations (1955)

By Charles M. Wetzel (Author & Illustrator)
The Stackpole Company; Harrisburg, PA

Waves and Beaches: The Dynamics of the Ocean Surface (1964)

From HERE.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates (1955)

Reanimation Library (2017)

Much more HERE.

Typewriter Art (1975)

From HERE.

Report on the Measurement of Roundness (1966)

From HERE.

More cover ideas

All copyright M.G. Reed 2017

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (1973)

A very good review of Clarkes book HERE

A Better Way - Cover ideas (2017)

Image Copright M.G. Reed 2017.

A Better Way (2017)

Some blurb notes for a short essay that I am writing and hopefully publishing this year: A Better Way

Innovation is neither an art nor a science. Though it is undoubtedly vital for both. This short essay argues that innovation is simply what human groups naturally do for fun and that very often, the urge to innovate is nothing more noble than the nagging thought that somehow, there must be a better way.

The book is aimed at a non-technical audience and begins:

If you thread a coloured bead onto a cord or string, then an artefact will begin to take shape in your hands. If you add a few more beads onto the string, then a pattern will begin to develop. This pattern could represent an abstract idea, a name, a quality, an emotion, or a memory that is important to you. If you now tie this string of beads into a loose loop around your wrist, then you will have created a unique personal ornament. An object that captures within it's simple material form a few scraps of symbolic meaning.

Below is a typical page. The book design is heavily influenced by Robert Bringhurst's book A Solid Form of Language. The page size is A Format - 178 mm x 110 mm.  The text face is Chapparal Pro from Adobe. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Toward the Discovery of Citation Cartels in Citation Networks (2016)

HERE is a paper that describes a statistical method to unearth potentially misleading and dishonest use of scientific citations - so called Citation Cartels. To a scientist who retains the romantic notion that science is mainly about the discovery of the laws of nature this type of dishonesty is dispiriting to say the least.

Image Copyright M.G. Reed 2017 

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Koya Bound (2016)

HERE is a wonderful website by Dan Rubin and Craid Mod based on their recently published book Koya Bound.

The blurb: 
Koya-san - home to esoteric Buddhism - is the name of a sacred basin eight hundred meters high and surrounded by eight mountains. It is roughly one hundred kilometers of trails north from the Kumano Hongu Taisha shrine in Wakayama, Japan. Though the name of the basin is often incorrectly translated as Mt. Koya in English, Mt. Koya is only one of the eight peaks, and is remote from the central cluster of temples.

We walked towards Koya-san, but we did not touch Mt. Koya.

Website Image - Copyright Rubin & Mod. Their work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Ear-marks (1943)


Just as there is a heraldry of raddle by which every farm has its blazoning of red, blue, or black on shoulders, back, or rump of the sheep, so each owener has a distinctive mark punched in the ear of his lambs. It may be in the right ear, it may be in the left, it may be in both... One register that I saw showed over a thousand variations from a few simple brands. When we consider that it is possible with only two different marks to get fifteen different badges of owenership we see what an infinity there can be when the motifs are more varied. 
From Coming Down the Wye by Robert Gibbings, a scanned copy is HERE.

Image re-drawn by M.G. Reed 2017, from original. 

Friday, 13 January 2017

Hammers (2017)

From a short essay called A Better Way that I am writing on the meaning of innovation.

Image & text Copyright M.G. Reed 2017

Thursday, 12 January 2017

A manifesto for reproducible science (2017)

Above is a figure from the latest paper by John Ioannidis and chums, just published by Nature Human Behaviour - A manifesto for reproducible science - the full paper is free to download HERE.

The ABSTRACT reads:
Improving the reliability and efficiency of scientific research will increase the credibility of the published scientific literature and accelerate discovery. Here we argue for the adoption of measures to optimize key elements of the scientific process: methods, reporting and dissemination, reproducibility, evaluation and incentives. There is some evidence from both simulations and empirical studies supporting the likely effectiveness of these measures, but their broad adoption by researchers, institutions, funders and journals will require iterative evaluation and improvement. We discuss the goals of these measures, and how they can be implemented, in the hope that this will facilitate action toward improving the transparency, reproducibility and efficiency of scientific research.
As a tax payer, already supporting millions of pounds worth of research by UK state, I don't think it is unreasonable to ask why all science isn't already done in the way that is described in this paper.

PS. I particularly like the acronym HARKing - meaning hypothesizing after the results are known - which I had not come across before. The original reference is Kerr, N. L. HARKing: hypothesizing after the results are known. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Rev. 2, 196–217 (1998).

PPS. Kerr's original paper from 1998 has the following ditty as an epigraph:

A reader quick, keen, and leery
Did wonder, ponder and query
When results clean and tight
Fit predictions just right
If the data preceded the theory


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Book of English trades (1827)

Rope making is an ancient and highly skilled trade that in many advanced economies is now based on man-made fibres and is highly automated. The image above shows what rope and cord making was like in the 1800s. Full book HERE

Monday, 9 January 2017

What to Do Till the Computer Scientist Comes (1968)

By George Forsythe, born 100 years ago this year  (1917-1972). Full paper HERE.

Image from HERE

A detailed and balanced appraisal of Forsythe's contributions to computer science as a discipline by Donald Knuth HERE

Saturday, 7 January 2017

The Concept of a Meta-Font (1982)

By Donald E. Knuth - full paper HERE.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

How We See Ourselves and How We See Others (2008)

Perhaps appropriately for New Years day, here is a superb, short, review by Emily Pronin on the psychological literature on how people see others and themselves.

The Abstract reads:
People see themselves differently from how they see others. They are immersed in their own sensations, emotions, and cognitions at the same time that their experience of others is dominated by what can be observed externally. This basic asymmetry has broad consequences. It leads people to judge themselves and their own behavior differently from how they judge others and those others’ behavior. Often, those differences produce disagreement and conflict. Understanding the psychological basis of those differences may help mitigate some of their negative effects.

The full paper is avilable HERE (for a fee).

Friday, 30 December 2016

Portico (1921)

Portico - from J.J. Lankes Painter-graver on wood (1921) HERE.

Fine Threads of Quartz (1890)

Fine experimental physicists are woefully under appreciated. In a science that is now dominated by fearsomely mathematical and abstract frameworks it is easy to forget that the outstanding breakthroughs of this science have been driven as much by exquisite experimental invention as mathematical pyrotechnics. 

This paper from 1890 is a superb descripton of the experiments that the British scientist Sir Charles Vernon Boys (1855-1944) performed more than 125 years ago - using a small pine cross-bow to drag small blobs of molten quartz into fibres that were well below the resolving power of a light microscope. As well as being a Fellow of the Royal Society, C.V. Boys was renowned for his manual dexterity in his public demonstrations of his experiments, and for his sense of humour as a practical joker.

The image above is a summary of this work and HERE is the full paper. 

Thursday, 29 December 2016

A=B (1995)

Science  is  what  we  understand  well  enough  to  explain  to  a  computer.   Art  is everything else we do.

From Donald Knuth's introduction to A=B by Marko Petkovsek, Herbert Wilf and Doron Zeilberger.  The book is avilable to download HERE.


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