Friday 27 December 2013

Skeleton Alphabet 5

It's been a year and a half since my last post concerning Ann Camp's skeleton alphabet. But with a bit more time on my hands over the holidays, I thought I'd revisit it and add an interactive twist:

Again, there's no kerning and it's only been tested with Microsoft Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.

Sunday 22 December 2013

Venn Diagram T-Shirt

A: Data that can be represented by Venn Diagrams.
B: Data containing groups with interesting intersections.

Sunday 8 September 2013

Coat of Arms 2

A coat of arms for the 21st century (but a 20th century palette):

You can test it at

Saturday 7 September 2013

New Old Front Page

After many, many years, I've taken down my ancient Flash front page for the website, and replaced it with something even older:

For authenticity, I reverse-engineered the Teletext font from the Mullard SAA5050 datasheet:

Saturday 3 August 2013

Morphing Clock

Whilst working on the morphing animations of my Tube demo, I kept stumbling across references to the JS1K competition. As its name suggests, this is all about getting as much as possible out of only 1024 bytes of JavaScript. By comparison, the dataset required for Tube is enormous, but I experimented with something more tractable: Clock

And I've still got seven bytes spare...

Thursday 25 July 2013

Tube Map Evolution

It's eighty years since the release of Harry Beck's iconic London Underground Map. To celebrate, I've crafted a smoothly-morphing evolution of the map from 1933 to present day using HTML5 canvases and JavaScript.

If you don't have access to HTML5, I've rendered out a (slightly less impressive) animated GIF.

Original maps copyright © Transport for London. Reproduced with kind permission. Thanks Saskia!

Wednesday 3 July 2013

England Expects T-Shirt

"England1 expects that every man2 will do his3 duty4"
  1. And Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland
  2. Or woman
  3. Or her
  4. Providing it does not contravene the Human Rights Act, 1998

Friday 14 June 2013

Helical Periodic Table - Part II

Well, it didn't take long for someone to point out mistakes in the periodic tables I put together ... and in a pub, of all places! The stable mass numbers of some of the heavier elements were all wrong. I've now corrected the PDFs. But looking through the numbers again I noticed an interesting anomaly.

In a few places, the standard atomic weights [say W] (observed in nature) do not increase monotonically with the atomic number [say Z]. For instance:
  • Argon, Z=18, W=39.948
  • Potassium, Z=19, W=39.048
Wikipedia tells me this is all to do with the relative prevalence of naturally occurring isotopes. But I'm not 100% sure I fully understand all the subtleties. I suspect my lack of understanding will not inhibit my everyday life, however.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Helical Periodic Table

Flying in the face of nomenclature, the classic Periodic Table doesn't quite fit into a two-dimensional, rectilinear grid. There have been many attempts to improve the layout, some of which turn to the third dimension to solve the problem of those pesky lantha­nides and acti­nides. One of the most pleasing is Mendeleev's Flower, but even this is quite complicated and fiddly.

I decided to design a simple, three-dimensional, paper construction myself, based on data from Wikipedia. Here's a Google SketchUp rendering of my first attempt:

Each cell has six pieces of information:
  1. Top-left: the atomic number;
  2. Top-right: the atomic mass (or most stable mass number in square brackets);
  3. The chemical symbol;
  4. The English name;
  5. Bottom-left: the element's state at zero Celsius and one atmosphere pressure; and
  6. Bottom-right: the date of discovery or first isolation.
Here are the construction sheets for cutting out and gluing. Use the SVGs: they employ vector graphics.

There are little glue tabs to help you create the cylinders. Glue the purple strip within the gap in the lower-left corner of the main table.

So well and good, but the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that with the cylindrical scheme although hydrogen (Z=1) and helium (Z=2) are neighbours, helium (Z=2) and lithium (Z=3) are not.

The solution is to use a helical layout: the atomic numbers then spiral down in sequence. But in order for the construction to sit nicely on a flat surface, we need to skew the cells slightly:

I think it's fairly obvious how to make, but just in case...

First, print out the SVG on the largest sheet you can:

Then, cut out the two sections and fold forward the glue tabs:

Next, glue the lower section within the gap of the main table:

Finally, form a cylinder of the main table:

It's as simple as that. Not exactly nuclear physics...

UPDATE 2016-10-22 : As 'unlikelygrad' kindly pointed out, I misspelled "Noble Gases" in the original PDFs, so I've corrected that and uploaded the files as SVGs (there's now much better native support in browsers)

Monday 10 June 2013

Gratuitous Aphorism #7

Modern business practices do not promote excellence. They promote just-good-enough-ness.

Monday 13 May 2013

std::enable_shared_from_this is ugly, ugly, ugly

I've just had to use the rather esoteric (but fundamental) std::enable_shared_from_this template base class from C++11. Now I feel rather depressed.

Thursday 2 May 2013

Lies, damned lies, and Ayn Rand

Sometimes the talk pages of Wikipedia are more entertaining and informative than the articles themselves. Take the talk page for Ayn Rand's 1957 novel "Atlas Shrugged". It contains the following comments:
Is it worth mentioning that the most recent reference in popular culture is the 2007 video-game Bioshock? It explored many of the same themes and includes other references such as character names (Atlas, Andrew Ryan).

The BioShock franchise has released a total of 3 games by now, with aggregate sales of 9 million copies. These sales appear to be slightly above those for the book itself (8 million), secured over a shorter time span and without extensive give-aways by a well-healed nonprofit. The video games probably deserve their own (short) section. 
The game is currently mentioned (though scarcely) in the Wikipedia article itself, along with a reference to an Economist article pointing out recent peaks of Amazon sales of the novel. The print article suggests a link between negative financial news and spikes in the sales figures:

Perhaps it's just low-brow me, but no-one seems to have mentioned that the original BioShock game was released for Xbox 360/PC in August 2007 and Playstation 3 in October 2008. These dates spookily coincide with the spikes in sales of Ayn Rand's book. The Economist article doesn't even mention BioShock.

Heck, I even went out and bought "Atlas Shrugged" on the strength of playing and enjoying Bioshock. But then, I'm not an economist...

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Gratuitous Aphorism #6

Constants invariably aren't.