One last link collection for the year:
- Stan Carey asked people how they use the words “whilst”, “amongst” and “amidst”, and discussed the results in a blog post. The meat is in the links and comments (and not just mine).
- For those of us who have fantasised about having a head reconstruction made from our skulls just to see how accurate it is, here’s someone who’s done that.
- An article about a very clever spider.
- Dogs are better at driving than they are at playing the piano.
- Beautiful ice formations.
- Voyager in new territory.
- A code and an 18th century secret society (parts don’t make sense, but the rest is fascinating).
- Feathercraft. Brilliantly done.
- Convert pictures to embroidery. Or just get an idea of what it would look like.
- Australian weather calendar (on a British site, which I found via an American link).
- Most ambitious journalism project ever?
- History of extraordinary evidence (the saying, anyway).
- Sean Carroll has moved his blog posts, and Ed Yong will soon be moving too.
I had planned to devote an entire blog post to Uwingu, a company asking the public to help fund space science by suggesting names for exoplanets, and by voting for suggestions made by others (with more projects to come in the future). But with the Christmas rush approaching, I’ve simply run out of time to write this. The reason I wanted to give it extra space is that I cannot give it unqualified support, and I wanted to set out clearly where all the red flags are. We know it’s not an outright scam (because otherwise reputable people like Phil Plait and Pamela Gay would not be supporters) but on the other hand donations imply trusting Uwingu’s business sense, and good intentions only go so far. In theory, half the money goes directly to space science, and the rest goes to developing future space-science-funding projects, in which I see little reason to be confident. As for the nominated names, the idea is that the top 1000 will be presented to the astronomical community as suggestions, and one would be a fool to assume that any astronomer will ever actually use them. They might, but I wouldn’t bet on it, even assuming a consensus is reached that exoplanets need names. The Uwingu website fails to spell out how unlikely the names are to be used, putting what I think is a disturbingly optimistic gloss on the question. You can vote as many times as you pay for, which leads to some clearly inappropriate names (e.g. “No New Taxes”) getting disproportionate numbers of votes.
That said, it does no harm to donate a little money (it can be fun, but don’t let it become addictive), and you can be confident that at least some of it will go to a worthy cause. I donated ten dollars altogether — one dollar nominating the name of the house where I was raised — Olivigne (vote for it here) — and the rest voting for Enkidu, Wardenclyffe, Vetinari and Jabberwocky, which you can find via Uwingu’s search facility (annoyingly, there’s no really convenient way to link to nominations). If you think Vetinari should be joined by other Discworld-themed nominations, then Wuffles, Lipwig and Dunmanifestin are just three of many that have not yet been nominated (Lipwig would be particularly apt if you find the scheme just a little fishy). On a Doctor Who theme, someone kinda nominated Gallifrey, but they spelt it wrong.
- I encountered a bug in Thunderbird recently, but an Internet search lead me to this fix, which works. (But a little shocking that it’s been a problem since version 10).
- On a whim, I made an animated GIF of a tuna meal I make most fortnights. Could try this with other meals if there is demand.
That is all — and I hereby declare myself to be on Christmas break as far as the Internet is concerned.