Filtered for space and smell

18.13, Tuesday 10 Nov 2015


2.8 million years ago, a nearby supernova caused apes to come down from the trees.

Based on the concentration of Fe-60 in the crust, Knie estimated that the supernova exploded at least 100 light-years from Earth - three times the distance at which it could’ve obliterated the ozone layer - but close enough to potentially alter cloud formation, and thus, climate.

(You know when Carl Sagan says we are made of star stuff. Fe-60 is a type of radioactive iron that is created only in stars, and gets out only when they explode. There is a very thin layer of Fe-60 dusting our planet, 2.8 million years down in the deposited mud at the bottom of the oceans.)


Around that time, the African climate dried up, causing the forests to shrink and give way to grassy savanna. Scientists think this change may have encouraged our hominid ancestors as they descended from trees and eventually began walking on two legs.

What an alarm clock for humanity! Where’s the snooze button, let me stay in my tree.


Video of the new sport of drone racing.

First-person drone racing through the trees: You wear a virtual reality helmet, and race the drone along the track through the trees, seeing through a camera mounted on the front.

The future!


Future Forms is a collection of space-age electronics, primarily dating from the 1960s to the 1980s.


See also this gallery of Soviet PCs. Look at how much bright orange there is! Yum.

I wonder. I wonder. Was it because these PCs were made in the heady days of the Atomic Age?

A uranium glaze on ceramics has a wonderful glossy, bright red-orange finish. Was the orange uranium aesthetic carried over to plastic PCs?

It reminds me of the days in the early 2000s when all electronics had to use blue LEDs to look futuristic – the technology of blue LEDs having been commercialised just a few years before. I saw my first blue LED - hot out of the labs in Japan and brought back to Oxford - in 1998. There were probably a couple hundred of us in the room when the LED was connected to a battery and lit up, and all of us saw the purest blue we had ever seen, all for the first time, the colour of the future. Physics. There was a collective sigh of awe.


Natural gas is used domestically for cooking and heating. A leak can explode or suffocate. So an odour of rotten eggs is added, in order that we can tell it’s there when it’s there. For safety.

So you wake up one morning after drunkenly playing some VR game and passing out, you forget you’re still wearing your retinal projection contact lenses and your ear plugs are still connected to the virtual world, not amplifying the real. What’s the odour we add to VR so you know you’re still in it? What should be the smell of the virtual?

See also, this slide and the next: Blue is the colour of hyperlinks.

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