Saturday 31 March 2018

Lucida Calligraphy

Lucida is a large and diverse family of digital fonts created more than 30 years ago by Charles Bigelow and Kris Holmes. Notes on their Lucida designs are HERE. The image above shows one of their original drawings for Lucida Calligraphy on the left and an f  from the font to the right. 

Monday 26 March 2018

Paleontology and Cornets (2011)

Here is a great paper by the evolutionary biologist Niles Eldredge, on the evolution of cornets (trumpet like brass instruments). Eldredge uses his own expertise as a cornet player and collector to illustrate how human artefacts evolve, but in a different way to biological evolution. 


Tuesday 13 March 2018

The Long Game (2018)

For more than 200 years, geologists have been trying to build a clear understanding of the processes that have built the physical geography of the Earth since it formed about 4,500 million years ago. Some of these processes are very gradual, such as the deposition of sedimentary rock, and others such as volcanic eruptions are catastrophic. The timescale over which these geological processes happen are long. Really long. Our common language is not good at describing things that are much bigger, smaller, longer or shorter lived than we can directly experience as humans. We have no adequate language for the inordinately long time scales of the Earth's history. 

To deal with this, geologists have developed the concept of deep time: an extended time scale in which the smallest unit of time is a million years. One of the most memorable metaphors that relates deep time to the full extent of human existence was provided by the American writer John McPhee (b. 1931) in an essay in The New Yorker magazine, later published in book form as Basin and Range:

Consider the Earth's history as the old measure of the English yard, the distance from the King's nose to the tip of his outstretched hand. One stroke of a nail file on his middle finger erases human history.

Within the minuscule portion of time that humans have been alive on Earth, how can we orient ourselves? 

One way is suggested by an American not-for-profit organisation called the Long Now Foundation, which seeks ` provide a counterpoint to today's accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common'. As part of this mission, they define three time scales. Now; yesterday, today, tomorrow, Nowadays; last decade, this decade, next decade and, The Long Now, which is twenty thousand years long, from 8,000 BC to 12,000 CE (HERE).  

Unfortunately, The Long Now is much too long to relate to the important processes of human social life such as innovation (and births, marriages and deaths).  It is useful to have a more natural unit of time for human processes that are longer than a year, yet shorter than a century. A decade is almost useful, but ten years has no particular resonance with human lives, Nowadays is good, but is unfamiliar. A better, more human centred, and well understood unit of time for human social activities like innovation, is a generation. A simple way to define a generation is the average age of a woman at the birth of their first offspring. This varies, but the traditional figure of 25 years is not far off. Deep time for human social activity is not measured in millions of years, but in tens, hundreds or thousands of generations. Writing was first developed 200 generations ago. Modern humans first developed objects with symbolic meaning nearly 4,000 generations ago. 

The span of modern human existence. The largest square is the 4,000 generations since humans invented personal ornaments. The next square down is the 240 generations of the long lasting myths that are still known today. The next down is the 16 generations of the scientific revolution. The smallest square is a single generation of 25 years.}

Text & Image Copyright M.G. Reed 2018.

Monday 12 March 2018

Google Map's Moat (2017)

HERE is an incredibly detailed comparison between the latest Google Maps and Apple Maps offerings - by Justin O’Beirne. 

Tulip Mania? (1637)

Here is a great article on the Conversation website about the realities of the often mentioned, but little understood, tulip mania seen in Holland in the 1630s. In fact, the author argues, there was little in the way of mania, but nonetheless a fascinating story. (HERE)

Friday 9 March 2018

Emily's Numbers (2018)

Joss Langford is a friend of mine, he is a great inventor and innovator, and a long term collaborator. He has just published a wonderful book for children called Emily's Numbers. The creation of the book become part of his treatment for throat cancer after being diagnosed in 2017. 30% of the publisher’s proceeds will be donated to a cancer treatment charity.  

One of the reasons that Joss wrote the book is his belief that:
Maths is highly creative, but the full wonder of numbers can be difficult to convey in a formal syllabus. This simple and engaging narrative shows how, using just our imagination, we can discover endless possibilities in maths.
Available to buy HERE, and more on the background and code HERE.  

Tuesday 6 March 2018

Robert Bringhurst Interview (2017)

An interview with the Canadian writer Robert Bringhurst by Evan Jones (HERE) in The Manchester Review. 

Good carpenters get interested in wood. They stop thinking of it as board feet of lumber and start to see it as tissue – living tissue whose life has been arrested and whose form has been, for a while at least, preserved. They start to collaborate with the wood instead of simply sawing it up and nailing it back together. That’s how I try to work with wood myself, and that’s the way I like to work with language. Few things interest me less than regular picket fences or purely formalist verse, but sensual and intellectual pleasure both interest me a lot. A good piece of carpentry makes you want to reach out and touch it. A good piece of writing makes you want to say the words aloud, to feel them in your mouth and in your mind. That’s not everything in life, but it’s a part of what I’m after.

Image shows Left: A Haida wooden comb representing the bear. Top Right: A Tlingit wooden pipe in the form of a Killer whale. Bottom Right: A Haida `soul-case' carved from bone and inlaid with abalone shell. From HERE.

Manchester’s Irish Connection (2012)

Courtesy of The Manchester Review, the transcript of a brilliant speech by the Irish President Michael Higgins at Manchester University in 2012 - on connections, both historic and personal, between Ireland and Manchester (HERE). 

IMAGEManchester Ship Canal: The Making of Eastham Dock by Benjamin Williams Leader. 

Thursday 1 March 2018

Classification of Everyday Living (2018)

For the past 3 years or so I have been actively involved in developing the Classification of Everyday Living Open Standard with the OASIS organisation. The Committee Specification for this standard has just been published (HERE).  

The Objective of the standard is as follows:

The COEL Specification provides a clear and robust framework for implementing a distributed system capable of capturing data relating to an individual as discrete events. It facilitates a privacy-by-design approach for personalised digital services, IoT applications where devices are collecting information
about identifiable individuals and the coding of behavioural attributes in identity solutions. The COEL Specification contains an extensive and detailed taxonomy of human behaviour. The taxonomy allows data from different systems to be encoded in a common format, preserving the meaning of the data across different applications. This ability to integrate universally at the data level, rather than just the technology level, is known as semantic harmonisation and provides full data portability. The communication protocols needed to support system interoperability across a wide range of implementations are also included. Central to the specification is the separation of static and dynamic personal data. Static data are those pieces of information about an individual that do not change or change very slowly or infrequently which are often used as direct identifiers. Dynamic data are those that describe the sequence of behaviours of an individual over time. This separation of data types provides many advantages for both privacy and security; it is known as pseudonymisation. The COEL Specification provides the means to achieve this separation of data as it is collected rather than as a later operation (pseudonymisation at source).