Wednesday, 1 Aug 2018

Fly like Iron Man (almost)  

Richard Browning of Gravity Industries, has developed a flying suit that allows the wearer to fly in a similar manner to Marvel's Iron Man. Its still very much in the development stage but is commercially available to those with enough money and lack of fear.

The video below goes through the design process that arrived at the current design - its a great example of iterative development using trial and error with quick iterations to arrive at a workable solution.

Richard Browning isn't the first person to fly like Iron Man - hydro board inventor Franky Zapata has created the FlyBoard Air, a jet powered hoverboard that looks like something straight out of science fiction.

Skiing down K2  

On 22 July Polish mountaineer Andrzej Bargiel became the first person to complete a successful ski descent of the worlds second highest mountain, K2.

While much less famous than Everest, K2 perhaps deserves more respect. Following this record-breaking season, still only an estimated 417 people have ever stood on the peak, and a full quarter of those who have gone after the summit have died in their attempt. It's considered by far most technical and deadliest peak in the world.
A handful of other accomplished mountaineers have tried to ski it before, including Italian Hans Kammerlander andAmerican Dave Watson, who skied down from approximately 400m below the summit. While both survived their attempts, two mountaineers – Italian Michele Fait in 2009 and Fredrik Ericsson in 2010– both fell to their deaths while attempting the ski descent. K2's most dangerous obstacle is said to be the 'Bottleneck' – a narrow, 50° couloir that has an extremely large serac hanging above it.

Bartiel's descent also benefitted another nearby climber. While filming drone footage, Bartiel's brother, Bartek, spotted and helped rescue Scottish climber Rick Allen who had been missing, presumed dead after becoming separated from his group.

Monday, 30 Jul 2018

Why Starbucks Australia is failing  

An interesting article in Gizmodo about the failure (so far) of Starbucks in Australia. It appears my fellow countrymen appreciate good coffee and won't pay more for the weak, sugary, milky stuff they sell in bucket sized cups at Starbucks.

So proud to call myself Australian after watching this - they nail it about the cafe culture, good coffee can be found easily in the large cities, and once you drink good coffee there's no going back.

Personally I like a double shot espresso, no milk, no sugar, with a nice rich crema.

Thursday, 26 Jul 2018

Facebook Shares Tumble  

…and a tiny violin played a sad little tune. The Wall Street Journal (paywall) suggests that Facebook has “felt the effects of a series of recent controversies” in its latest earning forecast.

Karma’s a bitch isn’t it?

Also: Check out this video that shows how much Facebook’s message has changed since 2005. To me Zuckerberg always comes across as someone desperately keen to prove Facebook was thanks to his genius and not just some, right place at the right time, freak corporate accident.

Sunday, 15 Jul 2018

Photorealist Fruit  

Dennis Wojtkiewicz paints large portraits of sliced fruit, at first glance they appear real but then you realise they’re just too perfect to be real.

Beautiful.

Via Colossal.

Wednesday, 11 Jul 2018

Thirty Years of Trump & Russia  

New York Magazine has published an extensive piece by Jonathan Chait looking at Donald Trump's thirty plus year relationship with Russia. If you have any interest in the ongoing Russia collusion investigation, this is worth reading.

Early in the article, Chait posits a sobering thought:

...suppose the dark crevices of the Russia scandal run not just a little deeper but a lot deeper. If that’s true, we are in the midst of a scandal unprecedented in American history, a subversion of the integrity of the presidency. It would mean the Cold War that Americans had long considered won has dissolved into the bizarre spectacle of Reagan’s party’s abetting the hijacking of American government by a former KGB agent. It would mean that when Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in on the president and his inner circle, possibly beginning this summer, Trump may not merely rail on Twitter but provoke a constitutional crisis.

Also worth reading is the evaluation of Chait's article by Tom Nichols from Politico Magazine. In his words, "Thirty years of contacts with Russia are hard to dismiss as a series of disconnected events".

Friday, 6 Jul 2018

Memorising Piano Music  

Jocelyn Swigger gives a great TEDx talk on how she memorises complex piano pieces.

I've played piano for years but I've never taken the process of learning to this level of detailed analysis.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Highways above the North Atlantic  

Howard Slutsken from CNN explains in simple terms how the hundreds of daily international flights are routed across the North Atlantic.

With the recent introduction of advanced navigation equipment and procedures, aircraft on the OTS cruise five minutes' flying time behind the preceding plane, which is about 40 miles. Laterally, there's a 25-mile separation from the closest plane on either side, and a 1,000-foot safety zone above and below.

The video below beautifully illustrates the concept of layering and staggering the air traffic across the Atlantic.

Thursday, 5 Apr 2018

2001: A Space Odyssey, how well did it predict the future?  

Fifty years after the release of Stanley Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stephen Wolfram makes a detailed analysis of how the future predicted in the film compares to the world today.

One of the most obvious is that the haircuts and clothing styles and general formality look wrong. Of course these would have been very hard to predict. But perhaps one could at least have anticipated (given the hippie movement etc.) that clothing styles and so on would get less formal. But back in 1968, I certainly remember for example getting dressed up even to go on an airplane.

This is a great read with lots of observations I would never have considered.

Tuesday, 20 Mar 2018

Why I Hate Facebook  

The New York Times continues to peel back the layers on the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica debacle. I’ve never trusted Facebook, never will, yet literally billions of people do. The quote below is just one example of why I dislike them so much.

…This wasn’t a breach in the technical sense. It is something even more troubling: an all-too-natural consequence of Facebook’s business model, which involves having people go to the site for social interaction, only to be quietly subjected to an enormous level of surveillance. The results of that surveillance are used to fuel a sophisticated and opaque system for narrowly targeting advertisements and other wares to Facebook’s users.

Facebook makes money, in other words, by profiling us and then selling our attention to advertisers, political actors and others. These are Facebook’s true customers, whom it works hard to please.

I fucking hate Facebook, did I mention that already?

Thursday, 8 Mar 2018

Blade Runner 2049 VFX Breakdown  

Framestore, recent Oscar winners for Best Visual Effects on Blade Runner 2049, share a number of videos showing the breakdown of their visual effects on various movies. The breakdown on Blade Runner 2049 is worth watching, the detail of the modelling and the sheer scale of the environments is stunning.