Writing Tools: Etymology

Writing Tools: Etymology

As a writer of fiction, I'm always on the lookout for cool tools for the writing toolbox. I've known about this one for a while, but until the last couple of weeks. I've never really had much use for it. I refer to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Etymology is the study of word origin and ...
Fimbulwinter: mythology meets climate science

Fimbulwinter: mythology meets climate science

I grew up with the stories from Norse mythology. The sagas, the pantheon of gods, their fights, petty arguments, and underhand murders. How to keep them happy by offerings, how the vikings saw themselves and ordered their society and solved conflicts – which was not as bloody and brutal as you might think. The mythology also ...
The voyage of the Karluk – polar disaster

The voyage of the Karluk – polar disaster

We know the stories: heroics, suffering, death of exploration in polar regions. Amazing feats, hunger and stamina and team work. As for the story of the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913–16; not so much. It is a story of bad planning, bad preparations, egos, death and men divided and (probably) murder. Some years ago, I read ...
The Future Library is a forest in Oslo

The Future Library is a forest in Oslo

The future library is a forest in Oslo: 1000 trees was planted in a forest in Oslo in 2014. It is the future library. Each year, an author submits a manuscript, unread, unseen; that will be stored in the national library. In 2114, the trees will be cut down, milled and made into 1000 books ...
J. G. Ballard: Architecture of Decay

J. G. Ballard: Architecture of Decay

J.G. Ballard's novel High-Rise had been on my radar to read for many years, and I finally did so over the last month when I learnt it had been made into a movie by a film director whose movies I tend to seek out and watch (more on that in a moment). High-Rise is set ...
Darwin: murdering a fox, not helping a frog

Darwin: murdering a fox, not helping a frog

“A fox (Canis fulvipes (Lycalopex fulvipes)), of a kind said to be peculiar to the island, and very rare in it, and which is a new species, was sitting on the rocks. He was so intently absorbed in watching the work of the officers, that I was able, by quietly walking up behind, to knock ...
Kjell Aukrust: rural Norway in a nutshell

Kjell Aukrust: rural Norway in a nutshell

Kjell Aukrust was a legendary artist, humourist and illustrator. He is most famous for his wacky stories from a particular part of rural Norway, full of bizarre and hilarious people, inventions and creatures. They make little sense to people from other countries, the Danes certainly do not get it at all. I grew up with ...
My geologic timeline in the magazine Science & Vie!

My geologic timeline in the magazine Science & Vie!

A long time ago I made a geologic timeline as a (vector) brush in Illustrator, with .ai and .eps files free for anyone to use. The only thing I ask is that if you use it, let me see the result. Making the timeline was incredibly time-consuming and ludicrously fiddly. So, a while ago I got ...
Kurt Vonnegut: the shape of stories

Kurt Vonnegut: the shape of stories

Been an avid reader of Kurt Vonnegut for a years. Magic, mad, brilliant. I found this visualisation by mayaeilam fascinating (though I would have liked to see the visuals more in the Vonnegutian tratdition of doodlyness, and not quite so sleek-ish). From now on, stories will not be the same... by mayaeilam ...
Shel Silverstein – anything can be

Shel Silverstein – anything can be

“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” I only discovered Shel Silverstein a few years ago... I can only blame it on not having grown up in an ...
Bertrand Russell - in praise of idleness

Bertrand Russell – in praise of idleness

We are caught in the "cult of efficiency" where only the economic benefits of knowledge or the increase in power over others which these may bring, are valued. The notion that the desirable activities are those that bring profit has made everything topsy-turvy. Technically not very visual, here are some thoughts from Bertrand Russell on ...
Dangerous tectonic visualisations

Dangerous tectonic visualisations

Dangerous tectonic visualisations: Visualisations are good things. They should be beautiful to look at, informative and invite discovery. But they can be very dangerous. Visualisations can be used to make decisions, learn something new, connect surprising dots, showing unknown connections. If you want to buy a car, you might find a visualisation that shows the ...
Ruffen, my childhood sea dragon

Ruffen, my childhood sea dragon

Thore Hansen was one of my childhood heroes. His drawings were magic then, and they are still magic now. The best known of his children's books illustrations are the ones accompanying Thor Åge Bringsværd's stories about Ruffen. Ruffen is a "small" sea dragon, and the books tells the story of his adventures. This post was ...
Adam's book – Henrik the speedbump catches a car

Adam’s book – Henrik the speedbump catches a car

Many moons ago, when a friend of mine acquired his first nephew, he wanted to give him a story. We co-wrote the story in google docs, and I was to do the illustrations. I forgot all about it, until the day before I was due to fly to the US (and the deadline for producing ...
There is grandeur in this view of life – visualising Darwin

There is grandeur in this view of life – visualising Darwin

If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone has ever had, I had to have to give it to Darwin, ahead of Newton and Einstein and everyone else. It is not just a wonderful scientific idea; it is a dangerous idea. it overthrows, or at least unsettles, some of the ...
Voynich manuscript – secret knowledge or brilliant hoax?

Voynich manuscript – secret knowledge or brilliant hoax?

Since we are on a roll with old books and manuscripts, I give you the  240-page Voynich manuscript. It is an unsolved enigma: a manuscript found in Italy; the paper has been dated to between 1404-1438. It contains text in an unknown script, unknown language, and illustrations of non-existing plants, constellations and humans apparently doing inexplicable ...
Ledger binding

Sofie’s book – bookbinding in the digital world

Back in the mist of time, I did my apprenticeship in hand bookbinding. There are basically two directions; two different apprenticeships: literature binder, or ledger binder. I am a literature binder (also called publishing or library binding). But back then it was considered essential to have a broad understanding. So part of the apprenticeship was ...
Dangerdust

Dangerdust

Came across Dangerdust; anonymous students at Columbus College of Art & Design. Each week they make a new piece of art on a blackboard. Head over to their Bēhance page, and take a look at their stunning work. Here is a quote from Paul Klee and classic from Calvin and Hobbes ...
Creativity, according to the creative

Creativity, according to the creative

Creativity, according to the creative - what they say is the essence of creativity..: Any mental occurrence simultaneously  associated with two habitually incompatible contexts.  Arthur Koestler That moment of insight becomes the creative act as a joining of two previously incompatible ideas. Lyall Watson The association of two, or more, apparently alien elements on a plane ...
W. B. Gould: artist and convict

W. B. Gould: artist and convict

William Buelow Gould (1801 – 1853) was an English artist convicted for stealing a coat and was sentenced to seven years of labour in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). He constantly got into trouble, also in the penal colonies, and was regularly punished for offences such as drunkenness, petty theft and forgery. His talent, however, got him assigned as a house ...
Design and information

Design and information

Confusion and clutter are the failure of design, not the attributes of information. – Edward Tufte ...
Fritz Kahn: the human as industrial palace

Fritz Kahn: the human as industrial palace

(I was horrified to discover that Wikipedia does not have an entry on Fritz Kahn in English. I was utterly unaware of how deep into obscurity this multitalented man had fallen. Update: my pigheaded ability to pester strangers have resulted in an solid entry on Kahn on Wikipedia. Many thanks to Yngvadottir ). Fritz Kahn (1888-1968) ...
The Life Cycle of Ideas, Accurat for Popular Science

The Life Cycle of Ideas, Accurat for Popular Science

Giorgia Lupi once again comes up with stunning, informative and elegant data visualisation. This time, the life cycle of ideas. You can see another of hers in my post Design is where science and art breaks even ...
Hackers and painters

Hackers and painters

Paul Graham has a background in computer science and art. He wrote on the connection between the two in the essay Hackers and painters. It begins: When I finished grad school in computer science I went to art school to study painting. A lot of people seemed surprised that someone interested in computers would also be ...
Curiosity

Curiosity

The only reason people do not know much is because they do not care to know. They are incurious. Incuriousity is the oddest and most foolish failing there is. – Stephen Fry ...
Sunsets and roses

Sunsets and roses

I saw a sunset in Querétaro that seemed to reflect the colour of a rose in Bengal.  – Jorge Louis Borges ...
Doodles, creativity, alphabets and cognitive noise

Doodles, creativity, alphabets and cognitive noise

‘…qualities like quiveriness and vulnerability come to mind when I think of creativity… creativity requires a sense of smell, a palate to taste the scents that make brilliance. All life feeds upon the random. Creativity is the haute cuisine.’ -Douglas Hofstadter ...
Ernst Haeckel: art and science through the microscope

Ernst Haeckel: art and science through the microscope

Ernst Haeckel (1834 – 1919) was what we call a renaissance man. He was a professor, biologist, philosopher, physician, naturalist and artist. His contribution to biology, evolutionary theory and art is still mind-boggling; we owe a great deal of biological understanding and terminology to him. He was a great promoter of Darwin's theory of evolution, ...
Creativity

Creativity

…qualities like quiveriness and vulnerability come to mind when I think of creativity… creativity requires a sense of smell, a palate to taste the scents that make brilliance. All life feeds upon the random. Creativity is the haute cuisine. – Douglas Hofstadter ...
Cholera map, Broad street

Images in the time of cholera

In 1854 there was a cholera epidemic in London. The accepted theory at the time was that illness and epidemics spread through the "miasma", a form of "bad air", pollution and smell emanating from decomposing organic matter. The mechanics of germs was not understood. Dr. John Snow was sceptical to the miasma theory, but not entirely grasping germ mechanics, ...
The difference between science and engineering

The difference between science and engineering

In science if you know what you are doing you should not be doing it. In engineering if you do not know what you are doing you should not be doing it. Of course, you seldom, if ever, see the pure state. – Richard W. Hamming ...
italian Wikipedia use

Visual Italian Wikipedia use

I do not read Italian, but I can certainly appreciate these wonderful multivariate visualisations. Valerio Pellegrini made this gorgeous visual representation of Italian Wikipedia use for 2013. Months are distributed clockwise with Italian initial for each month. It has three layers of information and data: the inner level; overall top edits, the second it is drilled ...
Piet Hein: astro-gymnastics

Piet Hein: astro-gymnastics

Go on a starlit night, stand on your head, leave your feet dangling outwards into space, and let the starry firmament you tread be, for the moment, your elected base. Feel Earth's colossal weight of ice and granite, of molten magma, water, iron, and lead; and briefly hold this strangely solid planet balanced upon your ...
Wilton dipthych

The colour blue – the devil, the virgin and the red dyers’ bribes

Today, blue is probably the most popular colour around. We associate good things with it, it represents all sorts of positive things: air, sea, freshness, calm, and a few not so; feeling blue, blue monday. At least in this day and age, blue get a good deal of attention. But it was not always so. Prehistory ...
da Vinci: love

da Vinci: love

One has no right to love or hate anything if one has not acquired a thorough knowledge of its nature. Great love springs from great knowledge of the beloved object, and if you know it but little you will be able to love it only a little or not at all. – Leonardo da Vinci ...