Centralization vs. Decentralization: Two Centuries of Authority in Design

Smári McCarthy, design, society, architecture, authority, turing, general purpose computing, Turing

First, I’m going to tell you a bit about the war on general purpose computing. Then, we’ll talk about 19th century terrorism. Then a bit about urbanization and industrialization, before moving on to some weird ideas about languages. At the end, with any luck, it’ll all be interwoven quite nicely.


calendar, maya, 2012, time, date, timekeeping, BCE, CE

Joseph T. Goodman successfully deciphered the complicated system of the Maya calendar. He published his results in 1897, describing a “Long Count” system of a “count of days” based on several units or periods of increasingly larger size: the k'in (1 day), winal (20 days), tun (360 days), k'atun (7200 days), and bak'tun (144,000 days). The ancient Maya kept track of time using this system, which was combined with additional counts of 260 days (the tzolk'in) and 365 days (the haab) to produce Long Count dates. Goodman believed there was also a larger “Great Cycle” of 13 bak'tuns (1,872,000 days) and determined that the start of the present Great Cycle was on 4 Ajaw 8 Cumk'u (that is 13 bak'tunob, 0 k'atunob, 0 tunob, 0 winalob, and 0 k'inob, followed by counts on the tzolk'in and haab). Later scholarship showed that this was a sacred “Creation” date for the ancient Maya, who referred to it in their mythology as a kind of “birth” of the present world. The Gregorian equivalent of this date is August 11, 3114 BCE. The next day was, with each day clicking another unit in the count. According to scholars who support Goodman’s idea of a 13-bak'tun Great Cycle, the current period will conclude on 4 Ajaw 3 K'ank'in, the Gregorian equivalent of which is December 21, 2012 (or possibly December 23, or yet something else…)


60 years since the great smog of London

On Friday 5 December 1952, a thick yellow smog brought the capital to a standstill for four days and is estimated to have killed more than 4,000 people. London’s air may appear much cleaner today, but is still dangerously polluted. The coal pollution that caused the infamous ‘pea soupers’ has been replaced by invisible pollution – mainly from traffic fumes – resulting in 13,000 early deaths each year in the UK and 4,300 in London


Tools for Conviviality

Illich, tools for conviviality, tools, computing, society, community, production

To formulate a theory about a future society both very modern and not dominated by industry, it will be necessary to recognize natural scales and limits. We must come to admit that only within limits can machines take the place of slaves; beyond these limits they lead to a new kind of serfdom. Only within limits can education fit people into a man-made environment: beyond these limits lies the universal schoolhouse, hospital ward, or prison. Only within limits ought politics to be concerned with the distribution of maximum industrial outputs, rather than with equal inputs of either energy or information. Once these limits are recognized, it becomes possible to articulate the triadic relationship between persons, tools, and a new collectivity. Such a society, in which modern technologies serve politically interrelated individuals rather than managers, I will call “convivial.”


[1210.8144] Possible Bubbles of Spacetime Curvature in the South Pacific

south pacific, spacetime, bubbles, matter, curvature, physics, occultism, HP Lovecraft

In 1928, the late Francis Wayland Thurston published a scandalous manuscript in purport of warning the world of a global conspiracy of occultists. Among the documents he gathered to support his thesis was the personal account of a sailor by the name of Gustaf Johansen, describing an encounter with an extraordinary island. Johansen`s descriptions of his adventures upon the island are fantastic, and are often considered the most enigmatic (and therefore the highlight) of Thurston`s collection of documents. We contend that all of the credible phenomena which Johansen described may be explained as being the observable consequences of a localized bubble of spacetime curvature. Many of his most incomprehensible statements (involving the geometry of the architecture, and variability of the location of the horizon) can therefore be said to have a unified underlying cause.


Color Spaces

color, colour, colorspace, RGB, HSV, perception

Color input is processed at every stage of the nervous system, starting from the retina, and the experience of color is affected by numerous contextual and historical factors. Nevertheless, in broad strokes we can describe a color by three numbers. A common trope in science and math is that if we can describe an object by a set of numbers, we can think of these numbers as its coordinates in an abstract space, with each point in the space corresponding to a different object, and we can study the geometry of the space


Architecture and war are not incompatible. Architecture is war. War is architecture.I am at war with my time, with history, with…

“Architecture and war are not incompatible. Architecture is war. War is architecture.I am at war with my time, with history, with all authority that resides in fixed and frightened forms. I am one of millions who do not fit in, who have no home, no family, no doctrine, no firm place to call my own, no known beginning or end, no “sacred and primordial site.” I declare war on all icons and finalities, on all histories that would chain me with my own falseness, my own pitiful fears. I know only moments, and lifetimes that are as moments, and forms that appear with infinite strength, then “melt into air.” I am an architect, a constructor of worlds, a sensualist who worships the flesh, the melody, a silhouette against the darkening sky. I cannot know your name. Nor you can know mine. Tomorrow, we begin together the construction of a city.”

Lebbeus Woods (viadarklyeuphoric)

Context is everything - Charlie Stross

green, outside the box, environment, shaved apes, biological context, great oxygenation event

The short version of the environmentalist value proposition is: don’t shit in your own back yard. Ecosystems are complex and exhibit non-linear behaviour; it’s a bad idea to disrupt the natural balance, lest we find ourselves suffering from crop failures due to pollinator die-offs, for example. And because this is a complex, knotty, gnarly field of interdependencies, the precautionary principle should be applied: take disruptive action only with extreme caution.


(…) outside of the sphere of practical human concerns, nature is full of nonlinear phenomena. Highly complex processes can…

“(…) outside of the sphere of practical human concerns, nature is full of nonlinear phenomena. Highly complex processes can emerge from deceptively simple rules or parts, and small changes in one underlying factor of a complex system can engender radical, qualitative shifts in other factors that depend on it.”

Ramachandran, R.S. The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human. New York: W. W. Norton& Company, 2011. (viacarvalhais)

Developing 4X5 Sheet Film - An Alternative Method

4x5, darkroom, photography, developing, sheet film, DSF

The three tanks (Developer, Stop bath, and Fixer) are placed in a tempered water bath. An inexpensive plastic dishwashing tub seems to work very well for this purpose. Each tank contains one liter of solution. Actually, the tanks are capable of handling a slightly larger amount of solution, but one liter is sufficient to completely cover the films. Plain water can be used in the center tank, instead of acid stop bath, if an alkaline processing regime is being used. The center tank can also serve as a water pre-soak bath, if desired. A pre-soak is not an absolute necessity, since there is no danger of the films adhering to one another with this method. Also, Ilford does not recommend the use of a pre-soak. It seems that they have incorporated a wetting agent into the emulsion, or the coating of their films. They claim that pre-soaking may remove the wetting agent, possibly causing uneven development.