Jigsaw puzzle companies tend to use the same cut patterns for multiple puzzles. This makes the pieces interchangeable, and I sometimes find that I can combine portions from two or more puzzles to make a surreal picture that the publisher never imagined. I take great pleasure in “discovering” such bizarre images lying latent, sometimes for decades, within the pieces of ordinary mass-produced puzzles.
Tuesday, November 13th, 2018
Wednesday, June 13th, 2018
Refresh for a new design challenge.
Saturday, March 31st, 2018
Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017
Absolute genius! I’ll never hear Sgt. Pepper’s quite the same way again.
Wednesday, August 24th, 2016
I giggled at quite of few of these mashups.
Friday, March 11th, 2016
The thesis: any film is improved by playing Walk Of Life by Dire Straits over the ending.
The proof: this website.
(this is absorbing and brilliant)
Friday, October 4th, 2013
Radio Free Earth
Back at the first San Francisco Science Hack Day I wanted to do some kind of mashup involving the speed of light and the distance of stars:
I wanted to build a visualisation based on Matt’s brilliant light cone idea, but I found it far too daunting to try to find data in a usable format and come up with a way of drawing a customisable geocentric starmap of our corner of the galaxy. So I put that idea on the back burner…
At this year’s San Francisco Science Hack Day, I came back to that idea. I wanted some kind of mashup that demonstrated the connection between the time that light has travelled from distant stars, and the events that would have been happening on this planet at that moment. So, for example, a star would be labelled with “the battle of Hastings” or “the sack of Rome” or “Columbus’s voyage to America”. To do that, I’d need two datasets; the distance of stars, and the dates of historical events (leaving aside any Gregorian/Julian fuzziness).
For wont of a better hack, Chloe agreed to help me out. We set to work finding a good dataset of stellar objects. It turned out that a lot of the best datasets from NASA were either about our local solar neighbourhood, or else really distant galaxies and stars that are emitting prehistoric light.
The best dataset we could find was the Near Star Catalogue from Uranometria but the most distant star in that collection was only 70 or 80 light years away. That meant that we could only mash it up with historical events from the twentieth century. We figured we could maybe choose important scientific dates from the past 70 or 80 years, but to be honest, we really weren’t feeling it.
We had reached this impasse when it was time for the Science Hack Day planetarium show. It was terrific: we were treated to a panoramic tour of space, beginning with low Earth orbit and expanding all the way out to the cosmic microwave background radiation. At one point, the presenter outlined the reach of Earth’s radiosphere. That’s the distance that ionosphere-penetrating radio and television signals from Earth, travelling at the speed of light, have reached. “It extends about 70 light years out”, said the presenter.
This was perfect! That was exactly the dataset of stars that we had. It was a time for a pivot. Instead of the lofty goal of mapping historical events to the night sky, what if we tried to do something more trivial and fun? We could demonstrate how far classic television shows have travelled. Has Star Trek reached Altair? Is Sirius receiving I Love Lucy yet?
No, not TV shows …music! Now we were onto something. We would show how far the songs of planet Earth had travelled through space and which stars were currently receiving which hits.
Chloe remembered there being an API from Billboard, who have collected data on chart-topping songs since the 1940s. But that API appears to be gone, and the Echonest API doesn’t have chart dates. So instead, Chloe set to work screen-scraping Wikipedia for number one hits of the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s …you get the picture. It was a lot of finding and replacing, but in the end we had a JSON file with every number one for the past 70 years.
Meanwhile, I was putting together the logic. Our list of stars had the distances in parsecs. So I needed to convert the date of a number one hit song into the number of parsecs that song had travelled, and then find the last star that it has passed.
By the end of the first day, the functionality was in place: you could enter a date, and find out what was number one on that date, and which star is just now receiving that song.
After the sleepover (more like a wakeover) in the aquarium, we started to style the interface. I say “we” …Chloe wrote the CSS while I made unhelpful remarks.
For the icing on the cake, Chloe used her previous experience with the Rdio API to add playback of short snippets of each song (when it’s available).
Here’s the (more or less) finished hack:
Basically, it’s a simple mashup of music and space …which is why I spent the whole time thinking “What would Matt do?”
Just keep hitting that button to hear a hit from planet Earth and see which lucky star is currently receiving the signal.*
*I know, I know: the inverse-square law means it’s practically impossible that the signal would be in any state to be received, but hey, it’s a hack.
Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013
A superb piece by Marco Arment prompted by the closing of Google Reader. He nails the power of RSS:
RSS represents the antithesis of this new world: it’s completely open, decentralized, and owned by nobody, just like the web itself. It allows anyone, large or small, to build something new and disrupt anyone else they’d like because nobody has to fly six salespeople out first to work out a partnership with anyone else’s salespeople.
And he’s absolutely on the money when he describes what changed:
RSS, semantic markup, microformats, and open APIs all enable interoperability, but the big players don’t want that — they want to lock you in, shut out competitors, and make a service so proprietary that even if you could get your data out, it would be either useless (no alternatives to import into) or cripplingly lonely (empty social networks).
I share his anger.
Well, fuck them, and fuck that.
Wednesday, June 26th, 2013
This is a really nice and simple idea: view photos from a specific place taken at a specific time. Voyeuristic fun.
Sunday, November 18th, 2012
A nifty little mashup from Music Hack Day London 2012.
Sunday, December 25th, 2011
Steven Johnson describes the beautifully chaotic way that ideas collide and coalesce. Oh, and this bit…
Listening to Cerf talk about the origins of the Internet — and thinking about the book project — made me wonder who had actually come up with the original idea for a decentralized network. So that day, I tweeted out that question, and instantly got several replies. One of those Twitter replies pointed to a Wired interview from a decade ago with Paul Baran, the RAND researcher who was partially responsible for the decentralized design.
Monday, September 26th, 2011
I never expected to see a cross between responsive design and AR, but here ya go:
A silly mashup of HTML5 technologies: We use the canvas to capture the contents of a video element. The canvas then identifies the blue markers and overlays an iframe on top of it. The iframe contains our website (upperdog.se) which has a responsive design.
Sunday, September 25th, 2011
What if Mario had a portal gun?
Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
A visual representation of each track on the new Girl Talk album.
Monday, October 18th, 2010
A great write-up of the latest additions to the Guardian's Open Platform API including a lukewarm assessment of Semantic Web technologies like RDF.
Monday, October 4th, 2010
An inspiring presentation by Tom Armitage on the value of open data.
Sunday, September 26th, 2010
It's well worth paying attention to this site, the accompaniment to the four-part series of videos entitled "Everything is a Remix."
Monday, July 12th, 2010
A cute little mashup: find out what you were listening to according to Last.fm when you were posting to Twitter.
Friday, December 18th, 2009
An excellent way of visualising weather. Brighton is currently like Hoth.
Friday, August 21st, 2009
Since Amazon decided to require signed requests for its API, I'm going to have to use this code to keep Huffduffer and The Session working. Grrrr... cool APIs don't change.