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.

Mind Projection Fallacy (June 2016)

In the past 30 years there has been a pronounced shift in the acceptability of Bayesian methods of inference and in particular the work of the American physicist Ed Jaynes. This MSc thesis from the University of Amsterdam brings some of the story up to date, in particular referencing Jaynes' Mind-Project Fallacy ("...we are all under an ego-driven temptation to project our private thoughts out onto the real world, by supposing that the creations of one’s own imagination are real properties of Nature, or that one’s own ignorance signifies some kind of indecision on the part of Nature.").


Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Saturday, 17 December 2016

The (Un) Natural History of Coffee Cup Lids (2011)

The American Design writer Phil Patton (1952-2015) died late last year. His obituary in the New York Times is HERE

Patton focused his considerable intellect and intense observational skills on the mundane artefacts that suround us. He saw what most people do not see in mundane artefacts: they are all too complex to have been invented by a single human. They are all the result of a co-operative development of skills, materials and shared assumptions that have been developed over many generations.

A typical example of Patton's intense scrutiny was his study of the design, economics and utility of disposable coffee cup lids. HERE is his blog post on the subject.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Emergent Motion - Andrew Hoyer

Emergent Motion - Andrew Hoyer. From HERE

Cubic Limit 1973

A Cubic Equation by Manfred Mohr. Also a very early computer graphic film HERE.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Sunset in West Kirby December 2016

The best camera is the one you have on you.

Image Copyright M.G. Reed 2016

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Master Iitsu’s Chicken-Rib Picture Book (1823)

An abalone diver by Hokusai, from a great piece in the New York Review of books HERE on the Manga of Hokusai.
Image Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Aranei, or a natural history of spiders (1793)

From HERE.

A natural history of birds: Illustrated with a hundred and one copper plates, curiously engraven from the life (1731)

A superb image of a common Buzzard by Eleazer Albin (1690-1742). From the first of three volumes of an illustrated catalogue of common birds. Published and engraved by Eleazar Albin and hand coloured entirely by Albin and his daughter Elizabeth. There were only 89 published.  The Title Page reads, "Published by the Author Eleazar Albin, and carefully colour'd by his Daughter and Self, from the Originals, drawn from the live Birds."  From HERE.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Book Pages

All Copyright M.G. Reed 2016

Monday, 21 November 2016

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Chinese Fringetail Telescope Goldfish (1908)

 From HERE.

Baedeker's Switzerland and the adjacent portions of Italy, Savoy and Tyrol (1899)

A city map of Bern, from HERE.

Greensward (1858)

A superb piece HERE on the work of Frederick Law Olmstead, designer of New York Central Park, amongst others.

Below, a schematic of Olmstead's plan from his Greensward proposal with Calvert Vaux 1868 - a re-print of the plans from 1858 (HERE).

Saturday, 19 November 2016

A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia (1590)

HERE, by Thomas Harriot. A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia, : of the commodities and of the nature and manners of the naturall inhabitants. Discouered by the English colony there seated by Sir Richard Greinuile knight in the yeere 1585. Which remained vnder the gouernment of twelue monethes, at the speciall charge and direction of the honourable Sir Walter Raleigh knight lord warden of the stanneries who therein hath beene fauoured and authorised by her maiestie and her letters patents:

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Ladies Boating (1838)

By Utagawa Kuniyoshi. (HERE)

Coming Down the Wye (1942)

A chapter heading engraving from Coming Down the Wye by the Irish engraver and writer Robert Gibbings (1889-1958).

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

The Human Advantage: A New Understanding of How Our Brain Became Remarkable (2016)

A great review HERE of The Human Advantage: A New Understanding of How Our Brain Became Remarkable by  by Suzana Herculano-Houzel. 

The answer is that you need a counting method that can estimate up to 86 billion individual cells with high accuracy and precision. Below is the decision tree for choosing between the isotropic fractionator method used by by Suzana Herculano-Houzel and her colleaugues and unbiased stereology (from HERE).


Sunday, 13 November 2016

Falcon (c. 1814)

A falcon from Hokusai shashin gafu (The Picture Book of Realistic Paintings of Hokusa).c 1814. Image from HERE.


Image by Edward Tufte (HERE).

Friday, 4 November 2016

Men Fishing (1881)

Men Fishing by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798 - 1861) from HERE.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Olivetti Portable Typewriter (1949)

An Olivetti portable typewriter (1949) from the Museum of Modern art Design collection; selected objects 1970 HERE.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Curse of Dimensionality (1968)

Posted by Edward Tufte - The Curse of Dimensionality Saul Steinburg 1968 (HERE)

Hopton Wood Stone

Hopton-Wood stone is a very fine grained limestone found near Middleton-by-Wirksworth in Derbyshire. It is suitable for high quality architectural work and for carving. Some of the UK's most iconic buildings are made or cladded with it: the Bank of England, Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. The Hopton-Wood Stone Firms Ltd commissioned a book about Hopton Wood stone in 1947 that is HERE.

Above, the Hopton Wood quarry.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Hamrun (1922)

Hamrun by the Irish enraver Robert Gibbings (1889-1958).

The Dancing Deaths (1493)

 A facsimile of The Dancing Deaths from Schedels Liber Chronicarum Nuremberg 1493 from HERE.

Haystacks (1949).

More by Thomas W. Nason - this engraving is Haystacks (1949), from the collection of Nason's work atthe Smithsonian American Art Museum  (HERE).

Trees in Snow / The Wood-Pile (1961)

Thomas W. Nason (1889-1971) was an American engraver. This image by him is Trees in Snow, -- used in 1961 as the cover of Robert Frost’s The Wood-Pile, printed by The Spiral Press. Image from HERE. A complete catalogue of Nason's prints HERE.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Pomologia Britannica (1841)


Pomologia Britannica : or, Figures and descriptions of the most important varieties of fruit cultivated in Great Britain by John Lindley HERE.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska (1920)

In 1918, Rockwell Kent (1882 - 1971) and his son, Rockwell Kent III, spent six months on Fox Island in Alaska's wilderness. His journal entries and sketches were used to create this book. HERE.


Tuesday, 25 October 2016

An Essay on the Forgotten Art of the Punchcutter (1965)

By R Hunter Middleton. An Essay on the Forgotten Art of the Punchcutter. HERE

The Permanence of Japanese Pigments (1928)

Below an extract from a biographical sketch of Chiura Obata (1885-1975), a well known Japanese-American artist and art teacher, from California Art Research  Volume 20 Part 2 (1936), edited by Gene Hailey. (HERE)

Gene Hailey art critic, in an interview with Obata, learned from him many secrets of the methods employed to make Japanese paintings on silk. Miss Hailey writes in the Argus of May 1928, under the title, The Permanence of Japanese Pigments:

Peace and permanence are spiritual ingredients of the Oriental traditions. The sense of permanence is always subject to disaster but the good sense of the artist who grinds the plants and pigments used in the Orient is always founded upon the calm facts of some survival of works of art made in centuries past. The formula for paint pigments and mixtures is as settled as the formula reciting reactions to nature in either picture or poem. The Japanese and Chinese, and many Asiatic and Indian artists, are sure scientists in the matter of chemical make-up of paints and mediums.

Japanese white of the utmost permanence is made from oyster shells. The thickest shells are selected and buried for about one year, then taken out and water poured over them in a steady stream for another year, to whiten them even more. Then the nicest shells are ground and sifted one hundred times through trays of screening. The last and finest powder is never discolored or changed by sunlight directly upon it. Each artist mixes his own powder in a cup, molds it to the consistency of dough and pounds it one hundred times, then fills the cup with water and lets it boil one. minute to purify and rid it of certain chemicals. Each artist gauges the thickness of his paint to the type of stroke he plans to use, or habitually uses, and mixes his paint accordingly. The white paint is beautifully transparent when mixed with other paints.

Blue is ground into twenty different shades equally permanent, all of them from semi-precious jewels,such as lapis lazuli, turquoise and others.

Green is found in thirty shades, made from the peacock stone, a blue green which is laboriously separated into blue or green by the water process. Agate, coral and amber are all used in Japanese painting powder. White-gold, green- gold, platinum and silver powder are also used in pictorial decorations and screen designs.

Yellow is also made from natural color found in stones. Red, in pure Vermillion shade is quick-silver burned. Orange-vermillion is lead treated chemically. Pink is the hardest color to make permanent. It is done, however, by a secret process of steaming the stems of certain high-altitude flowers found on Fujiyama. Prussian blue, a blackish blue, is the leaves of a vegetable.

Black is a smoke from an oil, slowly burned by a secret process. This process was perfected about twenty-five years ago by Baisen Suzuki, a wealthy Japanese recluse who gave forty-five years of his life to research. He believed that he could find a better black than the Chinese black of those times. His wife deserted him and he devoted the rest of his days to trials and tests with black pigments. He lived in a distant place in the mountains and did not return to the city until he had achieved his end — a permanent and blacker black.
The article then gives this interesting story of the silk and brushes as used by Japanese artists:
The silk used for Japanese paintings is selected from the first spring threads of the best silk-worms. These threads are expertly woven by hand with five shuttles. The result is a very expensive surface to paint upon. The silk for.painting about eight feet by five costs today more than $100. The silk is stretched with rice paste which the artist mixes himself. Then the silk is washed with warm water over the whole surface with a big Japanese brush, which is very thin and flat. The handle is bamboo and the hairs are a mixture of rabbit and fox. The sturdy winter hairs are always chosen. The whole family of furry animals is liable to contribution to Japanese brushes. Deer, bear, rabbit, badger fox and cat are used in the brushes for different characters of stroke.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Macaroni Wheats (1901)

Macaroni wheat (also Durum or Pasta wheat) Triticum durum is a very widely cultivated hard wheat. It was developed in the near east about 7000BC by artificial selection of the domesticated emmer wheat strains that were grown there. More HERE.

I manoscritti di Leonardo da Vinci della Reale biblioteca di Windsor: Dell'anatomia, fogli B (1901)

See, Think, Design, Produce (2014)

A full transcript of a superb talk by Jonathan Corum: See, Think, Design, Produce. HERE.

An image of the Foucault Pendulum in the Chemistry Department at the University of Liverpool. Image Copyright M.G. Reed 2016.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Old Ash Tree (2016)

Copyright M.G. Reed 2016

Friday, 7 October 2016

Anatomical Tables of the Human Body (1756)

A Camera Obscura being used to draw an upside down torso. From the frontispiece to the seventh edition of Anatomical Tables of the Human Body by William Cheselden (1688-1752). This is from the seventh edition, published by Hitch & Dodsley in London in 1756. The copper plates in this edition were engraved by Gerard Vandergucht (1696-1776). From HERE.

Anatomical Tables of the Human Body (1796)

From Anatomical Tables of the Human Body by William Cheselden (1688-1752), published in Boston 1796. The original edition of this influential text on anatomy was published in 1713. Scanned copy HERE.


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