Every Dot a Person

Cue dropping of jaw. Clever geek takes US census data and renders it to a online map where each dot (341,817,095 in total) is a single person. Keep on zooming in and grey splotches and stipples gradually break down into tiny irreducible dots. The concentrations of said dots/people subtly reveal the presence of roads, mountains, rivers, rainfall patterns, soil types and more. Really amazing, and leaving one wishing for a whole world version.

Is it a Bird?

Science imitates nature and the result is art. German inventors have devised a rather beautiful mechanical bird that flaps, flies, soars and returns to land. It's interesting to contemplate humans one day flying in this way, but the lifting power required to get a human off the ground would probably be prohibitive. And the wingspan would be titanic. Armies around the world must be looking at this metal/composite bird as yet another potential surveillance robot.

There Was Life Before Google?

This fascinating project maps the correspondence-based connections between the key thinkers in the enlightenment 'project', whereby 18th century intellectuals helped realign the church and state, gave science tremendous impetus and create the modern world. The graphics on this site effectively illustrate the flow of ideas and influence and gives us some perspective on our own massively linked world.

Visualising Data

We live in a world ruled by information. Our surfing habits, entertainment preferences, travel destinations and social media behaviour all add to the raw data. There is an interesting new breed of blog that explores and interprets some of that information.  Information is Beautiful has posts ranging from the frivolous (peak break-up times on Facebook), to the political (the correlation of spikes in terror alerts with impending elections), to the simply jaw-dropping (a breakdown of global oil consumption). Flowing Data has recently discussed an animated record of US elections since 1920, mapped the worldwide distribution of tweeters and linked to relationships between various Mexican drug cartels. Both sites offer copious links to other lovers of order out of chaos.
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Open Culture, Open Minds

opencultureOpen Culture is a cracking site/service highlighting free literary, educational and cultural resources.  Podcasts, videos, movies and tertiary courses are all listed in great detail -- there's enough material to mine for years. In a world of moderated apps and walled garden devices such as the iPad, it's good to see plenty of resources that vindicate the vision of the web as an enabler of knowledge, connection and free minds.
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Robots in Space

With the imminent end of the Space Shuttle program, it is tempting to think space exploration is in decline. But the Shuttle stayed in low Earth orbit, and her robot brethren have been busy exploring an entire solar system. In fact, there are currently more craft orbiting, encountering, sampling, photographing, sniffing and trundling over other bodies than ever before. These devices are using more sophisticated instruments than ever, and returning amazing science results at a fraction the cost of anything containing a human being. We are uncovering a whole new solar system, full of unexpected wonders, and it is a pity that the general public is not more aware of it.
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Pick of the Podcasts

Podcasts have a narcotic appeal to me. The moment I start my car, have trouble sleeping or walk any distance longer than fifty metres, out comes the iPod, and on goes my podcast de jour. Here's my current list of the best and brightest of that cohort: Sound Opinions from American Public Media: a diverse survey of rock and roll in all its splintered glory, featuring album dissections, interviews, reviews and a caustic view of the commercial pop industry. Archaeology Channel: An earnest round-up of things excavated and interpreted, from the glories of the classical world to lesser known civilisations. Reason TV:  Provocative asides from the libertarian fringe, hacking away at the jungle of big government. Science and the City: Despatches from the New York Academy of Sciences, covering public lectures by prominent scientists, the intersection of art and science and on location with interesting research projects. Are We Alone -- Science for Thinking Species: A slightly whimsical survey of science, skepticism and astronomy, leavened by bad puns, two excellent presenters and a roll call of the world's best scientists. Design Tools Weekly: An advertorial laden, but still useful listing of recent software releases for design mavens. InDesign Secrets: one hundred episodes on one program, and the well is not yet dry. The hosts are enthusiastic and committed to their subject. Mac OS Ken: Mac News from a sardonic and well-informed commenter, retailing tenuous gossip and better founded analysis. Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo: frequent and entertaining rants on matters cinematic from Dr Kermode, with droll asides from the show's presenter. Material World: Science interfacing with engineering, a presenter with a taste for alliteration and wordplay and researchers fresh from the cutting edge. Media Watch: Web edition of an acerbic TV program dedicated to shining a light on the lower life forms of the media world New Yorker -- Out Loud: Featuring a discussion of an article in the current edition of the New Yorker, low key in that inimitable New Yorker way. New Yorker -- Short Stories: A prominent writer reads their favourite short story from the New Yorker, then discusses it with the show's presenter. Philosopher's Zone: Exploring all parts of the philosophical realm, the presenter a congenial and knowledgeable companion. Planetary Radio: fairly high-keyed look at space exploration from a space-activist point of view, with (literally) stellar guests. Slate's Audio Book Club: unashamedly elitist autopsy of a classic or recently published work, clubby feel but occasionally compelling insights. TEDTalks: inspirational people giving short, inspirational addresses to inspire the rest of us... very West Coast and often startlingly good. The Apple Byte: Jokey little video survey of Apple news with a slapstick-friendly presenter. The Skeptics Guide to the Universe: Hardcore skepticism for those tired of an increasingly pagan and scientifically illiterate world. This Week in Google: freewheeling extended discussion on the latest emanations from Google HQ, and the philosophical and business ramifications thereof. WNYC Leonard Lopate: pitching to those willing to listen to long, interesting and revealing interviews, with a strong humanist sensibility.
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Clear Thinking

  Skeptics Guide to the Universe Skeptics Guide to the Universe Most amateur podcasts are ... amateur. Long pauses, hesitant delivery, bad sound and worse material -- like community TV without the funding. The Skeptics Guide to the Universe is one of the few exceptions to this pattern.  Presented by Dr Steven Novella, a neurologist working at Yale University, Skeptics Guide targets the armies of con-artists, psychics, faith healers and creationists that prey so ceaselessly on the credulous. Dr Novella is ably backed up a by a team of four co-presenters. Their constant cross-talk and banter during the show is one of its strengths. Skeptics Guide does not confine itself to debunking cranks, but also interviews scientists, educators and fellow skeptics, giving the show a consistently positive and forward-looking tone. Unreason is everywhere, but this highly entertaining show celebrates the human capacity to sort out truth from untruth. The Skeptics also maintain the appropriately titled blog, Rogue's Gallery.
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Galaxy Zoo

[caption id="attachment_161" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="A few inhabitants of the Zoo"]
A few inhabitants of the Zoo
[/caption] The scientists behind Galaxy Zoo 2 want to use your pattern recognition skills to help them classify galaxies. They call it 'citizen astronomy' and participants page through images of galaxies taken by an automated telescope, answering a series of questions about the appearance of a particular galaxy. The human eye is better than software at sorting these images into appropriate categories. Well over 100,000 people have participated and 50 million categorisations have been made (each galaxy is viewed by several people, making the classification much more reliable). Results so far have helped change thinking about the abundance of certain kinds of galaxies and have also resulted in the discovery of a very odd structure.
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