Links: early February 2014

I am busily cleaning up the archives of this blog. When I reach some kind of milestone I’ll reward myself (and maybe you) with an original blog post. In the meantime, here are some more links.

First, a shout-out to Irina Rempt, who has published a book. I haven’t read it, but I’m happy to help spread the word when friends publish books.



  • Interactive chart of American birds. An Australian version (and for other regions) would be cool.


  • The Firefox extension for rbutr was recently released, and I gave it a try. Unfortunately, it slowed the browser down too much so I de-activated it, but it is very much a work in progress and one to watch.

Some thoughts on synaesthesia

I’ve been planning to post about synaesthesia for some time, not because I have a lot to say, but to share the little I do have. This is part of a plan to write shorter posts about smaller topics, but hopefully more of them.

I’ll assume the reader has some idea of what synaesthesia is. One important aspect is the distinction between projective vs associative synaesthesia, which I first read about here. Usually when people think of synaesthesia, they think of the projective type, in which a literal experience of one sense is triggered by information detected by a different sense. In the associative type — which has less of a ‘wow’ factor and gets less press time — what is triggered is an abstraction rather than a literal sensory experience. It’s the difference between seeing the colour blue and thinking of the colour blue.

I am no synaesthete, as such. But people sometimes make the case that there is a continuum from the average person and a clear-cut synaesthete, and for the associative type I am inclined to believe this. I can certainly point to experiences of my own which might be dubbed ‘sub-synaesthetic’, in which I detect a certain rightness in complementing one sensory experience with the thought of another, even if I can’t say that one triggers the other. My impression is that most people can do the same, to differing degrees.

If you have either true synaesthetic or sub-synaesthetic experiences, please share them in the comments. Below are some of mine.

  • I have long felt that if written Dutch were a colour, it would be hot pink. There is just something inescapably hot pink–ish about written Dutch.
  • I’ve been known to connect music with certain tastes. For example this piece harmonises with the thought of soft toffee from an old-fashioned sweet shop, and this one (Ebb Tide by John Coleman) evokes a glass of chardonnay. Given how French the latter sounds it probably doesn’t surprise much, but there you have it. Other music evokes more complex associations, but that’s outside the scope of this post.
  • Certain vowel sounds seem best complemented by certain colours, if I think about it at all. I’ve long felt the only colour that properly belongs with the eeee vowel (that’s [i] to linguists) is yellow — possibly because yyyyellow — tending through orange to red as more open front vowels are considered. Sometime last year I asked myself whether I could similarly associate colours with the back vowels, and while this required a deliberate effort I found I was able to consider a candidate and say, “Yes, that’s the one”. Here is my sub-synaesthetic (and interpolated) vowel diagram:
  • That’s all I can think of, but I have a nagging feeling I’ve forgotten something. If so I can always add it later.

Your turn now.

P.S. I used this colour interpolating tool to make the above chart. Note that it has a bug that means it won’t work if the Red value is set to BB, but apart from that it’s a very nice tool.

Links: Late January 2014

Below are a few links for your entertainment, but first, a few words on my plans for the blog this year.

As described in a comment on a blog post by Irina, I want to do a thorough clean-up of my archives. I’ve already started editing old posts, and later I intend to restructure my category system. Meanwhile I have plenty of ideas for blog posts — many of them light and whimsical — but the archive cleaning is something I’ve been procrastinating on for ages and therefore a higher priority.

In recent years I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time reading, evaluating and sharing links, so I need to cut back on that. I’m currently inclined to share more links on Twitter but fewer links here on the blog. (Paradoxically, sharing more links can save time, because it means less time spent evaluating them to decide which are most worthy.) So if you want more links, follow me.

I think that’s all. On with the links.


  • Do super-earths have continents? It’s one of those questions to which every model gives a different answer, but this one says yes, and I hope they’re right. (Related: another article on super-earths that I linked to in 2009).
  • Responses to the question “What scientific idea is ready for retirement?“. I’ve barely read a fraction of it so far, but I’m sure it will prove worthwhile.


  • Fun website utility (via here) for making your own mock Jackson Pollock paintings. There is, unfortunately, no gallery, and the only way to save your work is with Printscreen, but please do save, upload and share if you feel up to it. A million monkeys splashing paint will eventually produce something of genuine aesthetic merit, so if you can create something more aesthetically pleasing than this (which is the best I could do), I’d love to see it.
  • For your musical entertainment, I give you this followed by this. The former isn’t really my musical style, but is very impressive as art. The latter is one of Youtube’s related video recommendations for the former. Together they complement each other nicely. (Themes: astronomy and mythology.)
  • For more astronomy, here’s a very nice Mars flyover. I think the background music is mood-appropriate.
  • Interactive tool that translates a word into various languages on a map of Europe. (Powered by Google Translate. Note disclaimers.)
  • Classic art, animated. Very impressive.
  • Planets. Fictional ones this time. Do you have a favourite? (Try #9.)

Holiday links

Here are some links that I found either shortly before, or during, my Christmas holidays. Links from the last few days (since I got home) are not included.


  • Crocodiles very possibly use sticks to lure prey. (They don’t, however, disguise themselves as coconut trees except in Roald Dahl books, so we’re not all doomed.)
  • The trade-off between photographing your holidays and remembering them.
  • Possible plate tectonics on Europa.
  • Via Open Lab 2013, an article on the limits of a raw food diet. (You’re probably familiar with the theory that cooking made human brain growth possible, but there are likely details here you didn’t know.)



  • My uncle discovered a story written by my father’s father’s mother’s father in 1895, and serialised in a left-wing newspaper that he edited for a time. He was no literary genius, but it’s interesting simply because of being written a hundred years ago. You can start reading here, but I can provide a more convenient link on request. He also wrote some poetry.
  • Discovered that a certain pizzeria I know has a website. I recommend the King’s Secret. Sadly, they don’t deliver to my suburb, or I’d order regularly.

Links: early December 2013

This may be my final collection of links for 2013. From now on I’m on holiday mode.

My computer is currently being serviced, and I am dreading the worst case scenario while hoping for the best. Meanwhile, I’m on my laptop.



  • Invisible bike helmet: essentially an airbag for the head. (In Swedish with English subtitles.)
  • Toy dinosaurs gone wild. I’m not sure this counts as setting a good example for your children, but it’s cool.
  • It’s hard to imagine, but this video is probably even funnier if you know German.
  • 3D tour of the International Space Station. (Alternates between 2D and 3D views without indicating, so stay alert.)
  • Musical instrument combining piano with cello. (The media hook is that Leonardo da Vinci once sketched something similar, but he is a bit player in the real story. The idea is obvious; what’s remarkable is that it was built.)
  • I’ve booked tickets to see this (science comedy show) in February.


  • Stories like this (a case study on the abuse of solitary confinement in American prisons) make me seethe with rage. I didn’t watch the video — I couldn’t.
  • Hans Rosling’s Don’t Panic covers the same material as his TED talks, but for television. Worth a look.

Elke at six months

I spent some time today with my parents and my niece, Elke, who is now six months old. The photos I took are so cute that I couldn’t possibly narrow them down to a small selection, so here’s a slideshow. Right-click for full-size images.

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Compare with Elke at twelve weeks to see how she’s grown.

Nine calendars in my collection

I’ve blogged about my calendar collection before, but since I add a new one every year, it is worth posting an update.

This year, I decided to create a Youtube video showcasing all of the calendars in the collection so far, including the one I recently bought for 2014.

From the video description:

Since 2006, I’ve been keeping a collection of wall calendars: adding one calendar each year and always choosing a theme that I’ve never had before. This video showcases my collection so far, with nine calendars.

There is no sound, which is just as well, because half the time I’d be saying “My knees hurt!” (if less eloquently). The shaky bits toward the end of the video? Sore knees.

I think collections are significant as a form of self-expression. What someone chooses to collect, and how, can say something very deep about them as a person. That’s why sharing our collections can be so interesting.

Please, feel free to be liberal in the comments. You might comment on the collection as a whole, you might describe a collection of your own, you might nominate which calendar is your favourite (mine’s the 2008 one), or you might write something tangential inspired by a particular page. Just imagine: if I were showing you this collection over my dining table, what would you bring to the conversation?

Links: Late October & Early November

Some links, covering the last 4 weeks.


  • Projected angular areas of astronomical objects.
  • All-too-brief article on a fascinating ocean parasite.
  • Quantum mechanics vs gravity. Towards an experimental analysis of the conflict.
  • Article on the myth that the War of the Worlds radio adaptation caused mass panic. I’ve heard podcasts on this before, but not a printable article.
  • Synaesthetic sex. Brief, but fascinating. (Incidentally, as a personal opinion, I propose that if sex were music, it would be Dusty Wine Bottle by Kíla.)
  • New analysis of hwaet in Beowulf. Somewhat vague, but that’s because there’s no real modern equivalent. I don’t think the “how” comparison works. Ask in the comments if you’d like me to expand on that thought.



My local wood nymph

I’ve known for a while that the recreation park near my home is inhabited by fairies. But I recently made the acquaintance of a wood nymph called Lucinda, who inhabits and personifies the tree shown in the slideshow below.

It seems Lucinda is quite a common name among mythological folk, but she chose it, not me. Of course, she’s invisible to those by whom she does not wish to be seen, even in photographs.

(This blog post may not be intended entirely in earnest. You never know.)

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Monato photos

Here are some photographs taken on a visit to Monato Zoo. Many of them were taken from a bus, with dirty windows, which may even have been moving. I did my best under the circumstances.

— Giraffe and Eland —



— Giraffe and Ostrich —


— Ostrich —


— Zebra (and Ostrich) —


— Cheetah —


— Rhinoceros —


— Hyena —



— Oryx —