Thursday 31 December 2020

The Liminality of Craig Mod (2020)


HERE is a good piece in the Chicago Review of Books on Craig Mod's book Kissa by Kissa, which was published this year.

Last day of the Year (2020)

 Image Copyright M.G. Reed 2020

Tuesday 29 December 2020

Landscapes of Detectorists (2020)



From Uniform books, (HERE), is a scholarly exigesis of the TV programme Detectorists. It includes a Foreword by the programme's writer and lead actor, Mackenzie Crook:

I was detecting on my own… and dug down four inches to find an exquisite bronze hawking whistle. I took a few minutes to unclog the mud with a piece of straw, then held it to my lips and blew. The note that issued from the whistle was a ghost, a sound unheard for centuries, and the last person to hear that sound, that exact sound, was the person who dropped it just yards from where I was standing. And it wasn’t a faint, feeble ghost either: it was an urgent, piercing shrill that echoed across the field and back through time.

Charts from a year like no other (2020)


The Financial Times has (justifiably) celebrated its own use of data visualisation this year (HERE).  Their COVID tracker was exceptional - an exemplar of high quality data journalism.  

Monday 28 December 2020

The Bit Player (2020)


HERE is the web site of a new documentary, The Bit Player, on Claude Shannon. The film was  commissioned by the IEEE Information Theory Society - and celebrates Shannon's ground breaking 1948 paper in the Bell System Technical Journal, and the impact that this work on communication theory has had on modern life. 


Sunday 27 December 2020

Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence (3rd Edition)


One of my first posts on Data Deluge in 2009 was on 'evidence' as a general concept. I noted that lawyers are pretty hung up about evidence, and that the way that evidence in a scientific, engineering and statistical sense, interacts with the law was the subject of a very large and authorative US Federal government Handbook on how to use scientific evidence in law courts. This manual is now in its 3rd edition (HERE).

The manual has extensive chapters on science, statistics and engineering, and how evidence from these different fields of endeavour should be considered by lawyers and judges.

The chapter on How science works is by David Goodstein - it is excellent. It includes a well informed and irreverent description of what actually happens in science rather than what theoretically happens.

Thursday 24 December 2020

A soap bubble exhibiting interference colours (1883).


Optics: a soap bubble exhibiting interference colours.

Coloured mezzotint [?] by M. Rapine, c. 1883, after B. Desgoffe. (HERE). 

A progressive wave of concentric circles (1986)


Image above derived from an original image by S. Taneda of a progressive wave of concentric circles created by surface flow around a vibrating cylinder immersed halfway under a water surface. Original by S. Taneda, published in Fluid Dynamics Research, Vol.1, No.1 (1986) 1.

Monday 21 December 2020

Homes at Night (2001)


Todd Hido (b. 1968) is a San Francisco Bay Area-based artist. Above from his site is a selection of his photos which were included in a monograph called House Hunting published in 2001 (HERE). 

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Beer Can Photography (2020)


A wonderful story HERE about a record breaking image that was accidentally created by someone doing a Fine Art degree at the University of Hertfordshire.  Regina Valkenborgh was interested in capturing images without modern technology, so she created a pinhole camera from a beer can lined with photographic paper. She left the camera in one of the University's telescopes in 2012. Eight years later it was removed and the image was developed. The image is a superposition of 2,953 arcs, each of which is a record of the Sun's path in the sky. The University claims it is "...the longest exposure image ever taken".


Saturday 12 December 2020

Erik Spiekermann's Experiments in Digital Letterpress (2017)


For printing and typography nerds, a piece on how the German designer Erik Spiekermann has been able to create a hybrid digital -  letterpress printing process (HERE).

Thursday 10 December 2020

Pachinko Road (2020)


One of the two or three people I follow on Twitter is the American author Craig Mod. 

Craig is based in Japan, and over the past 5 years he has developed an interesting set of email newsletters, and a distinctive approach to long-distance walks across Japan. 

His most recent long walk has just finished (HERE): it was nearly 700 kilometers over five weeks. Most of that distance was along the Tokaido, the historic highway that connects Tokyo and Kyoto.  During the walk he sent a daily email and photo (which were great), and invited readers to respond to his walk. HERE is his immediate post-walk summary, but he will no doubt write and publish a book on his experiences. 


Yawny Yawn (2019)


Bill Ryder-Jones is a musician who lives and works in my home town of West-Kirby. As a teenager he played in The Coral, leaving it to go solo in 2008. His latest album Yawny Yawn was released in 2019, it's a solo piano re-working of an earlier album called Yawn. He has a small studio in the town, also called Yawn, which is located in a quiet back street close to the sea front (he has his coffee breaks at the Aubergine - the cafe my son works at). His lyrics have some of the tenderness and strangeness of other bands from this part of the world - such as Echo and the Bunnymen.  Examples include: 'There’s a fortune to be had from telling people you’re sad' and the following couplet: 'I remember what we did and when / and the smell of your breath / and even all the names of your dickhead friends'.

From a piece in The Quietus on him (HERE) the following:

Ryder-Jones holds great affection for West Kirby, a picturesque town near the coast, seven miles from Birkenhead. “If you turn left out of my mother’s house you can see the river Dee and North Wales,” he describes. “I love being at the water, I walk the long way to my studio every day so I can be by it. I walk from my house to the studio through a lovely park, then on to the beach and back around, it’s one of my favourite places in the world. It’s funny how I tried to escape it for all of my 20s before I gave in and said ‘this is where I’m meant to be’. I still live in my West Kirby bubble, and I live there mainly because no one cares what I do. If I go to Liverpool, people say ‘oh I like your music,’ whereas in West Kirby they just remember me from school. Or they wanna ask how The Coral are doing,” he laughs.

Monday 7 December 2020

The Significance Filter, the Winner's Curse and the Need to Shrink (2020)


The Significance Filter, the Winner's Curse and the Need to Shrink.

E.W. van Zwet & E.A. Cator
September 22, 2020



The ‘significance filter’ refers to focusing exclusively on statistically significant results. Since frequentist properties such as unbiasedness and coverage are valid only before the data have been observed, there are no guarantees if we condition on significance. In fact, the significance filter leads to overestimation of the magnitude of the parameter, which has been called the ‘winner's curse’. It can also lead to undercoverage of the confidence interval. Moreover, these problems become more severe if the power is low. While these issues clearly deserve our attention, they have been studied only informally and mathematical results are lacking. Here we study them from the frequentist and the Bayesian perspective. We prove that the relative bias of the magnitude is a decreasing function of the power and that the usual confidence interval undercovers when the power is less than 50%. We conclude that failure to apply the appropriate amount of shrinkage can lead to misleading inferences.


From HERE.

Sunday 6 December 2020

Charity of interpretation (2019)

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) is a Swiss-born British philosopher and author. He has a knack of being able to write in a philosophical way about things that people face in their lives today. His prose is clear and readable, and the insights accessible and sometimes amusing. His books are examples of 'Popular Philosophy' (if such a thing can be said to exist).  In 2008 he co-founded The School of Life, which is '...dedicated to helping people lead more resilient and fulfilled lives'. From one of their latest books - The School of Life: An Emotional Education (HERE) - is the following reflection on the charity of interpretation.

At its most basic, charity means offering someone something they need but can’t get for themselves. This is normally and logically understood to mean something material. We overwhelmingly associate charity with giving money. But, in its widest sense, charity stretches far beyond financial donations. Charity involves offering someone something that they may not entirely deserve and that it is a long way beyond the call of duty for us to provide: sympathy.


Saturday 5 December 2020

Reasons to be cheerful (Parts 1,2 and 3)

A permanent part of my own musical landscape since about 1978 has been occupied by the band Talking Heads. They were a brilliant blend of art school edge, punk energy, and funk. 

HERE is a great profile of Talking Heads' lead singer David Byrne from 2018. At the time Byrne was touring with a Powerpoint presentation called Reasons to be Cheerful

One of his global reasons to be cheerful is the Knock-on effects of culture

We in the arts and humanities often complain that our work is undervalued, at least in terms of being beneficial to society compared to the Stem disciplines. Finally we have some proof, and the effects are somewhat unexpected. A recent study by the Social Impact of the Arts Project at the University of Pennsylvania showed that when libraries and other cultural institutions are placed in the boroughs around New York, there are surprising knock-on effects:

a. The kids’ test scores go up
b. Spousal abuse goes down
c. Obesity goes down
d. The crime rate goes down

Things that might seem to be unrelated are actually connected. To lower crime, maybe we don’t need more prisons or stiffer sentencing; part of the solution might be to build a library.