London From Space

http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/image/0304/london_iss_full.jpg

“London is the epitome of our times,” wrote Emerson, “and the Rome of to-day.” He never saw it from this angle, of course — by night, from the international space station. To the south are the “London Orbital” bypass, the M25, and below that the lights of Gatwick airport. Heathrow is just inside the M25 to the west. The Thames fans out to the east, and Hyde Park and Regents Park are two dark spots just west of the city’s center.

Number Names

The smallest number whose name is spelled with:

  • 3 letters is 1 (one)
  • 4 letters is 4 (four)
  • 5 letters is 3 (three)
  • 6 letters is 11 (eleven)
  • 7 letters is 15 (fifteen)
  • 8 letters is 13 (thirteen)
  • 9 letters is 17 (seventeen)
  • 10 letters is 24 (twenty-four)
  • 15 letters is 103 (one hundred three)
  • 20 letters is 124 (one hundred twenty-four)
  • 25 letters is 1104 (one thousand one hundred four)
  • 30 letters is 1117 (one thousand one hundred seventeen)
  • 40 letters is 13,373 (thirteen thousand three hundred seventy-three)
  • 50 letters is 113,373 (one hundred thirteen thousand three hundred seventy-three)
  • 100 letters is 11,373,373,373 (eleven billion three hundred seventy-three million three hundred seventy-three thousand three hundred seventy-three)

A World of Good

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Dymaxion_map_unfolded.png

“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at,” wrote Oscar Wilde, “for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.” Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion map avoids the weird provincialism of other global projections — it does a good job showing the relative sizes of the continents, and there’s no “right side up.” Makes sense.

L’Enfant Sauvage

FeralChildren.com has harrowing stories of almost 100 resilient children — kids raised by ostriches, raised in henhouses, running with jackals, or simply living alone in a forest.

Tarzan and Mowgli were hugely romanticized fictions. Real feral kids walk on all fours, their growth is retarded, they have keen senses, and they’re impervious to heat, cold, and rain. What an awful life. Linnaeus even classed them as a separate species.

The Earth Moved

The New Madrid Compendium collects eyewitness descriptions of the worst earthquake in American history. The Richter scale hadn’t been invented in 1811, but this quake would have measured 8.0:

The vibration of the earth shook down trees, thousands of willows were swept off like a pipe stem, about waist high, and the swamps became high ground, and the high land became low ground, and two islands in the river were so shaken, washed away and sunk, as not to be found.

The kicker: This happened in Missouri, rocking the state hard enough to ring bells in Boston. Seismologists say there’s a 90 percent chance of a magnitude 6.0 to 7.0 quake in the same area before 2040, affecting as much as 20 times the area of a West Coast quake. I wonder if their insurance rates reflect this?

A Great Big Hand

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Polydactyly_01_Lhand_AP.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Once thought to be a sign of witchcraft, extra digits are actually the most common developmental abnormality found at birth. About two children in a thousand have extra fingers or toes.

They’re even more common among the Amish, probably due to the “founder effect” — because the original settlers were few, their genetic legacy is amplified among their descendants, and apparently one of them had an extra finger.

If it’s so common, why does it creep people out? Fictional villains from Hannibal Lecter to Count Rugen have been given extra digits, to make them seem alien and somehow menacing.

They’re actually in quite good company. Marilyn Monroe didn’t have extra digits, urban legends notwithstanding, but Anne Boleyn and Winston Churchill both did. And Atlanta Braves pitcher Antonio “The Octopus” Alfonseca was born with six fingers and six toes. I’d like to hear him play the piano.

Vischeck

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Parrot.red.macaw.1.arp.750pix.jpgUpload any image and Stanford’s Vischeck program will show you how a color-blind person would see it.

The program lets you choose among three flavors of color blindness. This macaw appears as a protanope would see it, someone who can’t distinguish between colors in the green-yellow-red section of the spectrum.

About 10 percent of American men have some deficiency in color perception, but it’s not always a handicap. In some situations it’s actually an advantage: Color-blind hunters are unusually good at picking out prey against a confusing background, and color-blind soldiers can sometimes “see through” camouflage that fools everyone else.

In fact, it’s possible that in extreme situations we’re all color-blind. Some people claim that in extreme emergencies, like a train or aircraft crash, the brain’s visual system suspends color processing and switches to black and white. If that’s true, then designers should pay even more attention to the color of emergency brake handles, phones, etc.

If you’re interested, the Stanford page can also display your Web page as the color-blind would see it, and it even offers free PhotoShop plugins so you can experiment further.