All posts filed under “Design

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Into the wild blue yonder


Have you heard about Virgin Galactic’s White Knight 2? It was unveiled Monday at Scaled Composite’s Mojave complex.

I’m quite happy that I’ve got an interesting connection to it… one of my good friends from back at the University of Michigan (and the Solar Car Team) was the lead aero designer for WK2! Yes, I’m hoping to score some cool points by association here.

For background, WK2 is designed to carry a spaceship to ~50k feet in the air, and then drop it so that the spaceship can start its rocket motor and actually get into space. It’s built to carry a lot of weight, so it’s got a big wingspan. Because it’s got to drop a spaceship, it’s designed to have two fuselages. WK2 is of very advanced construction, the main structure being built completely of composites. (Strong, lightweight… you know the drill.)

The cool part is that if WK2 isn’t carrying the spaceship, it’s quite an impressive plane on its own. Imagine dropping a V12 into a Dodge Dart and you’ll have an idea of what I mean. It will be massively overpowered without a very large extra bit attached, which should make it very fun and interesting to fly!

Head on Comparison WHITE.jpg

So well done to the entire team; I can’t wait until I have the chance to someday take a ride for myself.

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Chumby – I’m strangely intrigued

I’m strangely intrigued by the Chumby. I was recently reminded of it after reading David Pogue’s review. While I heard about it ages ago, it only recently has gone to regular production.

What is it? Well, it’s essentially a little screen with some speakers and other sensors. Most importantly it has a wireless internet connection so that it is always connected.

What does it do? Whatever you want it to, and a little bit of everything. There are a ton of little “widgets” that have been written for the Chumby. They apparently include alarm clocks, little games, live weather for anywhere in the world, your photos from Flickr, and a bunch more. You can even write your own if you’re so inclined.

It seems like a really neat thing to have on your desk or bedstand. I think you can even program it so that it shows different things at different times of the day. It would be AWESOME if it showed weather and the status of the London Tube lines in the morning and late afternoon. (I hate making my way to the station only to find out there are delays; right now I just have to remember to pay attention to the radio in the morning. Having a bit of warning makes the delays easier to deal with.) During the day it would be great to have a Flickr slide show on the desk.

Anyway, I don’t plan on purchasing one anytime soon, but it seems like a neat little gadget. It will be interesting to see how the company develops.

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Twenty years of film in one computer window

So I read this article in the New York Times the other day about how last year was such a blockbuster for films that this year will almost certainly look bad in comparison. But what absolutely blew me away was the “interactive chart” that went with the article.

You HAVE to check it out by clicking here.

It shows in one single graph every major film that’s been released in the last twenty years, how much it made per week by week, and how much it made total. WOW!


I’m sure Edward Tufte would be proud of this. It’s an absolutely amazing chart. It definitively shows that the blockbuster films are put out in the early- to mid- summer and Thanksgiving to Christmas periods. It’s also interesting to see how some films die quite quickly, but others last for quite a bit. Oscar winners in particular seem to have a January to March boost, or at least “extension”.

The first time I saw the chart I thought it was pretty interesting, and then I realised it went back twenty years. As a kid who grew up in the Midwest, I saw a lot of films growing up; it seemed to be the standard thing to do on dates. Scrolling through the chart was a pleasant trip down memory lane.

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Somewhat weekly-ish round-up of cool stuff

  • First of all, get a load of this woman (Amy Walker). Talk about a talent!

  • This site should be your only source for your hamsters in a 12-pack (Ready to Eat), your koala bears and your baby seals:


  • If you want to have a better university educational experience, encourage your professor to lie. Huh?

    Well, read this post on the Overcoming Bias blog. Essentially an economics professor would lie to his students at least once a lecture, and they were responsible for discovering it. He started out with easy lies, but they got harder and harder as the term went on. Because students were looking out for errors, they were MUCH more engaged than they would have been otherwise, and had a much better experience.

  • Earlier this week I caught a documentary on Richard Rogers, a Pritzker Prize-winning architect. His famous buildings include the Lloyd’s of London building, the Millenium Dome, and Heathrow’s new Terminal 5. He’s a fascinating person, and strangely enough I’m just two degrees of separation from him. (Friend of a friend/colleague.) Plus, I row past his practice’s headquarters every time I’m out on the river; it’s on the riverbank near Hammersmith Bridge.

    Anyway, I found one particular project of his that I had never seen before: the Bordeaux Law Courts. The building looks completely and totally unsuited for a courthouse, yet when they dug into it, the building really did make sense. Take a look at it here:


    Check out more photos in this article and more on the project at the firm’s website. Very cool!