My knees have joined Twitter

My knees have joined twitter, originally uploaded by moleitau.

I’ve got two weeks until I run my first half-marathon in Helsinki, and for reasons of disaster, debauchery, duty and plain-old laziness I’m well behind in my training.

So, I thought I would try some auto-cyber-bullying.

I’ve often said that my favourite people on twitter are inanimate objects, so I’ve created a twitter account for two things that won’t be animate for much longer: my knees.

The theory being that you can follow along the final two weeks of my training, and if you see me skipping or slacking, you can shout marine-corps-drill-instructor-full-meta-jacket-style abuse @moleitausknees.

In order to further-up-the-social-pressure, I’m running to raise money for The Parkinson’s Disease Society, so please do pop-along to my justgiving page and put something in the pot to make sure I finish

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A palimpsest for a place: TheIncidental at Salone Di Mobile 2009

THE INCIDENTAL 01, originally uploaded by dcharny.

The year of the papernet continues a-pace!

Very exciting this morning to see the first edition of The Incidental, a project done for the British Council by Schulze&Webb, Fromnowon, Åbäke and others, for the Salone Di Mobile furniture and design event in Milan, which is about the biggest event in the product design world

I was lucky enough to get contacted by Daniel of Fromnowon early on in the genesis of the project, when they were moving the traditional thinking of staging an exhibition of British product design to a service/media ‘infrastructure intervention’ in the space and time of the event itself.

Something that was more alive and distributed and connected to the people visiting Salone from Britain, and also connecting those around the world who couldn’t be there.

From the early brainstorms we came up with idea of a system for collecting the thoughts, recommendations, pirate maps and sketches of the attendees to republish and redistribute the next day in a printed, pocketable pamphlet, which, would build up over the four days of the event to be a unique palimpsest of the place and people’s interactions with it, in it.

One thing that’s very interesting to me is using this rapidly-produced thing then becomes a ‘social object’: creating conversations, collecting scribbles, instigating adventures – which then get collected and redistributed. A feedback loop made out of paper, in a place.

We were clearly riffing on the work done by our friends at the RIG with their “Things our friends have written on the internet” and the thoughts of Chris Heathcote, Aaron and others who participated in Papercamp back in January. In many ways this may be the first commercial post-papercamp product? Or is it an unproduct?

Anyway – very pleased to see this in the world. The team in Milan is working hard to put it together live every night from things twittered and flickered and sketched and kvetched in the galleries and bars. It seems they turned it around in good time, with the distributors going out with their customer-designed delivery bags and bikes at 8am this morning…

Can’t wait to see how the palimpsest builds through the week, and also how ideas like this might build through events throughout the year.

Remember, if you have quests or questions for the roving reporters of The Incidental, then you can get hold of them @theincidental on Twitter.


I asked the roving reporters via @theincidental to track down Random International with Chris O’Shea‘s installation at Milan ’09, and they did!

Action-at-a-distance = Magic!

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Earth abides, originally uploaded by moleitau.

“So let me begin by saying that I think we are nature. I don’t think that any of our technologies are unnatural, I think that the tram I came on today, B52 bombers, the chairs you are sitting on, this technology, I think it is all nature, because we are biological beings and we created it. As a biologist, the question for me is not whether our technology is natural, but how well adapted it is to life on earth over the long term. And as designers, I think we are realising that perhaps our designs are not that well adapted yet. We’re a young species at this point in our evolution; other species have been here before. It is the point at which you try to match yourself to the context, to the conditions that are out there. And you put out an artefact, just like a robin’s nest is an artefact, and the context decides yes or no, well adapted or not well adapted. And in the same way I think that our artefacts will be judged by natural selection. The question for the robin’s nest and the question for our buildings and our artefacts is the same, the question is, “How will the chicks fare here? “

For us to become better adapted, quickly, will I think take help. What the world needs now, in addition to love, is some great ideas, and luckily we are surrounded by genius. When I walked over here today, I was surrounded by the flow of this city, and I was surrounded by another city, another flow: a vital city in which this one is embedded. I thought about miles up in an air column, above us, I thought about the organisms like aerial plankton. These organisms, insects, mites, ballooning spiders, fungal spores, bacteria: millions of organisms, hundreds of thousands of these species in this air column, in this aerial plankton, some of them never come down. And I thought about the column of the soil beneath us, in which there are bacteria making soil, making fertility, crumb by crumb.

There is more biomass beneath us, we think now, than there is on the surface. That world, that flow, is full of organisms doing the same things we are doing, all facing the same design challenges. Put yourself inside one of those systems and pretend that you’re walking or swimming through it. Thousands of chemicals are being made, and none of them are interfering with the ozone, water is being pumped, water is being purified, miracle materials are being made, lightweight materials, using local, abundant raw materials. Homes are being produced, and young are being cared for. The same design challenges that we have are happening there; these are industrial zones to me. What is different is that there is not a part of that place that is unsightly, there is not a bad part of town here. And when you walk through these places, you don’t need to wear a hardhat, ear protection, or eye protection. To me, this is proof that a carbon-based life form can live on this earth for a very long time and get its needs met, and get the needs of its offspring met, and take care of the place that takes care of its offspring. Without destroying it, actually enhancing that place. And that is a great relief to me.

And it is also a relief to know that it’s not just a few species, there are thirty million survivors, one percent of all the species that have even been on earth, are here today. And they are the survivors. And we are learning a lot about them.”

From Doors7: Jenine Benyus

“The fantastic that denies it’s fantastic”: Science & Science-Fiction talk at The Royal Institution

Science & Science Fiction at the Royal Institution

A funny, interesting but sometimes scatter-gun talk at the Royal Institution by two engaging academics in the field of science communication.

My favourite quote is above in the title of this post, which they take from Prof Mark Rose: “Science Fiction is the fantastic that denies it’s fantastic”.

Rough notes follow.

Science & science-ficiton / RI
Introduced: Jenny rowan , lablit magazine
Prof Mark Brake / Rev Neil Hook (uni of glamorgan)
Their book: “Difference engines: how science drives fiction and fiction drives science”

“I like to think of the earth as an alien planet” (this reminds me of BLDGBLOG/Geoff Manuagh’s contention that “the earth is becoming unearthly“)

copernican revolution made it that way

infinite, inhuman universe as opposed to earth-centric Aristotelean cosmos (earth myths populated heaven)

“if copernicus wasn’t enough, then came Darwinism”

“a series of demotions”

“SF is a response to the cultural shock of discovering our marginal place in an alien universe”

“an attempt put the stamp of humanity back on the universe”

we can identify 4 themes (based on prof mark rose)

1. space
2. time
3. machine
4. monster


something to be conquered, part of dominion over nature


flux, change, process, revealed over time
contradiction, paradoxes

computers atom bombs, robots, but also 1984, Brave New World: social machines

about us, the monster within.
remaking of human.
super heroes = upbeat monsters


copernican rev:
if the earth is a planet, then the planets can be earths
Galileo gave this evidence: mountains, craters, features on moons
sudden decentralisation, diversity, possibility
Kepler: 1st book of sci-fi 1630s “Somnium”
Bishop Godwin: 1st alien contact story

new discoveries, mediated by SF: the play between: alienation / sensawunda

kepler to gallileo: “there will certainly be no lack of human pioneers when we have mastered flight…” look up

Bishop Godwin of Llandaff: “man in the moon” – kept it secret, published posthumously
shipwrecked Spanish buccaneer trains flock of 40 geese in an apparatus, geese fly to the moon in winter, moon white because covered in geese, so travels to the moon.
meets king of moon
moon = utopia, earth is the dumping ground for the moon’s rejects.

robert goddard wrote to h.g. wells to tell him how he was inspired by ‘wotw’

rocket launch countdown was invented by fritz lang as a cinematic shortcut, and then adopted by science.


industrial revolution, earth working, fossil record: the long now evident, species that walked the earth

time was something to be mastered (baconian/enlightment science: nature to be mastered)

mechanised time travel = industrialised britain

kronos/ charios – Greek words for time

kronos – more concerned with measurement and mastery of time
industrialised time

HGWells: 4th dimension, to be measured, managed and mastered

1894 The Time Machine / 1905 special relativity

space-time is born. a revolution in time.

the time machine – double meaning to the title.
time traveller sets out to master time, but finds time is the master.
we are all trapped in the time machine.

Ballard, Drowned World: (not mentioning his fixation race-memory, mitochondrial time?)


Carel Kapek Rossums Universal Robots
Asimov’s 3 laws (+ zeroth law) – based on Hippocratic oath
now enshrined in s. Korean laws!
machine takes human form (stamping humanity on the unknown)
martin rees – industrialisation might be a mass-extinction event (a 400 year ELE)

atom bomb imagined by hg wells in ;the world set free 1914 (cf. de groot)
influenced leo szilard, initiated/lobbied roosevelt to create manhattan project

red alert peter george 1956, adapted by kubrick to strangelove


Godzilla: a proxy for dealing with the consequences of the WW2 atomic warfare
took a machine and turned it into a monster (with two legs and two arms – again the stamp of the human on the new)

Most monsters and aliens are proxies or cyphers for ourselves
(only unknowable alien in SF is Lem’s Solaris)

Giger’s Alien and Hannibal Lecter are the same? Monsters and aliens – we are in the middle, examining ourselves through these characters.

closing remarks from prof. brake.
we’re the first generation living in a science-ficitonal world, sf is hardcore reality, not escapism…


aldiss: SF is ‘hubris clobbered by nemesis’
prof mark rose: SF is: ‘the fantastic that denies it’s fantastic’

questioner mentions: greg egan short story (wang’s carpets? may have misheard) sea of carbohydrates performing computation.

question (from a biologist): the attitude to progress and evolution in much of SF
is not very sophisticated in it’s understanding of biology. eg. 2001.

Brake: much of SF is very physically determinist, hierarchical in its view and many of the 20th’s spokespersons about biology thought there was not life other than on earth. interesting to see what astrobiology brings to it.

My first Cloudmade map style: “Lynchian_Mid”

I’m attempting to make a map style for possible use in Dopplr that follows the principles outlined in Kevin Lynch’s "Image of the City".

Lynch contended that we make legible mental maps of the city with 5 types of object: paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks.

I’m trying to make a style that emphasises these, and eschews the ‘satnav’ style car-oriented mapping. It must be noted that this is a style that works most effectively at city-scale zoom levels, which it’s intended for. It looks pretty useless at country-scale.

I’m really enjoying using the Cloudmade editor, and it’s intriguing to think of the presentation of maps with dynamic/swapping styles that are fitting for certain contexts of scale, rather than the same scheme all the way from satellite to street view (no pun intended…)