Animations Visualize the Evolution of London and New York: From Their Creation to the Present Day

If you’ve ever lived in a metropolis like London or New York, you know the sometimes-disorienting feeling of experiencing several decades—or centuries—at once in the dizzying accretions of architecture, street, and park designs. Or, at least, if you’ve toured one of those cities with a longtime resident, you’ve heard them loudly complain about how everything has changed. Whether you study urban life as a historian or a city dweller, you know well that change is constant in the story of big cities.

The animations here illustrate the point on a grand scale, with a satellite’s-eye view of New York, above, from 1609 when the city was first built on Lenape land to its current configuration of five boroughs, dense thickets of high-rises, a massive, complex transportation system, and 8,600,000 residents. It ends with a quote from E.B. White that sums up the geography and vibrancy of Manhattan: “The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races, and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines.”




The New York video “animates the development of this city’s street grid and infrastructure systems,” writes its creator Myles Zhang at Here Grows New York City, “using geo-referenced road network data, historic maps, and geological surveys” to give us “cartographic snapshots” of every 20-30 years. Another project, the London Evolution Animation, uses similar techniques. But, of course, it reaches much further back in time, to over 2000 years ago when the Romans built the first road system across England and the port of Londinium.

Created in 2014, the visualization shows how the city evolved, “from its creation as a Roman city in 43AD to the crowded, chaotic megacity we see today.” As designers Flora Roumpani and Polly Hudson describe at The Guardian, the project drew from several sources, including the Museum of London Archaeology and the University of Cambridge’s engineering department. From these two institutions came “datasets from the Roman and Medieval periods as well as the 17th and early 18th centuries,” and “road network datasets from the late 18th century to today.”

Other archives offered information on the city’s historical buildings and monuments. Captions and a timeline provide a handy guide through its long history, as we watch more and more roads and buildings appear (and disappear after the Great Fire). These videos are useful references for students of urbanism, and they might give some perspective to the New Yorker or Londoner in your life who can’t stop talking about how much the city’s changed. Just imagine what these megacities could look like in another few hundred years.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

How to Take a Picture of a Black Hole: Watch the 2017 Ted Talk by Katie Bouman, the MIT Grad Student Who Helped Take the Groundbreaking Photo

What triggered the worst impulses of the Internet last week?

The world's first photo of a black hole, which proved the presence of troll life here on earth, and confirms that female scientists, through no fault of their own, have a much longer way to go, baby.

If you want a taste, sort the comments on the two year old TED Talk, above, so they're ordered  "newest first."

Katie Bouman, soon-to-be assistant professor of computing and mathematical sciences at the California Institute of Technology, was a PhD candidate at MIT two years ago, when she taped the talk, but she could've passed for a nervous high schooler competing in the National Science Bowl finals, in clothes borrowed from Aunt Judy, who works at the bank.




The focus of her studies were the ways in which emerging computational methods could help expand the boundaries of interdisciplinary imaging.

Prior to last week, I’m not sure how well I could have parsed the focus of her work had she not taken the time to help less STEM-inclined viewers such as myself wrap our heads around her highly technical, then-wholly-theoretical subject.

What I know about black holes could still fit in a thimble, and in truth, my excitement about one being photographed for the first time pales in comparison to my excitement about Game of Thrones returning to the airwaves.

Fortunately, we’re not obligated to be equally turned on by the same interests, an idea theoretical physicist Richard Feynman promoted:

I've always been very one-sided about science and when I was younger I concentrated almost all my effort on it. I didn't have time to learn and I didn't have much patience with what's called the humanities, even though in the university there were humanities that you had to take. I tried my best to avoid somehow learning anything and working at it. It was only afterwards, when I got older, that I got more relaxed, that I've spread out a little bit. I've learned to draw and I read a little bit, but I'm really still a very one-sided person and I don't know a great deal. I have a limited intelligence and I use it in a particular direction.

I'm pretty sure my lack of passion for science is not tied to my gender. Some of my best friends are guys who feel the same. (Some of them don't like team sports either.)

But I couldn't help but experience a wee thrill that this young woman, a science nerd who admittedly could’ve used a few theater nerd tips regarding relaxation and public speaking, realized her dream—an honest to goodness photo of a black hole just like the one she talked about in her TED Talk,  "How to take a picture of a black hole."

Bouman and the 200+ colleagues she acknowledges and thanks at every opportunity, achieved their goal, not with an earth-sized camera but rather a network of linked telescopes, much as she had described two years earlier, when she invoked disco balls, Mick Jagger, oranges, selfies, and a jigsaw puzzle in an effort to help people like me understand.

Look at that sucker (or, more accurately, its shadow!) That thing’s 500 million trillion kilometers from Earth!

(That's much farther than King's Landing is from Winterfell.)

I’ll bet a lot of elementary science teachers, be they male, female, or non-binary, are going to make science fun by having their students draw pictures of the picture of the black hole.

If we could go back (or forward) in time, I can almost guarantee that mine would be among the best because while I didn’t “get” science (or gym), I was a total art star with the crayons.

Then, crafty as Lord Petyr Baelish when presentation time rolled around, I would partner with a girl like Katie Bouman, who could explain the science with winning vigor. She genuinely seems to embrace the idea that it “takes a village,” and that one’s fellow villagers should be credited whenever possible.

(How did I draw the black hole, you ask? Honestly, it's not that much harder than drawing a doughnut. Now back to Katie!)

Alas, her professional warmth failed to register with legions of Internet trolls who began sliming her shortly after a colleague at MIT shared a beaming snapshot of her, taken, presumably, with a regular old phone as the black hole made its debut. That pic cemented her accidental status as the face of this project.

Note to the trolls—it wasn't a dang selfie.

“I’m so glad that everyone is as excited as we are and people are finding our story inspirational,’’ Bouman told The New York Times. “However, the spotlight should be on the team and no individual person. Focusing on one person like this helps no one, including me.”

Although Bouman was a junior team member, she and other grad students made major contributions. She directed the verification of images, the selection of imaging parameters, and authored an imaging algorithm that researchers used in the creation of three scripted code pipelines from which the instantly-famous picture was cobbled together.

As Vincent Fish, a research scientist at MIT's Haystack Observatory told CNN:

One of the insights Katie brought to our imaging group is that there are natural images. Just think about the photos you take with your camera phone—they have certain properties.... If you know what one pixel is, you have a good guess as to what the pixel is next to it.

Hey, that makes sense.

As The Verge’s science editor, Mary Beth Griggs, points out, the rush to defame Bouman is of a piece with some of the non-virtual realities women in science face:

Part of the reason that some posters found Bouman immediately suspicious had to do with her gender. Famously, a number of prominent men like disgraced former CERN physicist Alessandro Strumia have argued that women aren’t being discriminated against in science — they simply don’t like it, or don’t have the aptitude for it. That argument fortifies a notion that women don’t belong in science, or can’t really be doing the work. So women like Bouman must be fakes, this warped line of thinking goes…

Even I, whose 7th grade science teacher tempered a bad grade on my report card by saying my interest in theater would likely serve me much better than anything I might eek from her class, know that just as many girls and women excel at science, technology, engineering, and math as excel in the arts. (Sometimes they excel at both!)

(And power to every little boy with his sights set on nursing, teaching, or ballet!)

(How many black holes have the haters photographed recently?)

Griggs continues:

Saying that she was part of a larger team doesn’t diminish her work, or minimize her involvement in what is already a history-making project. Highlighting the achievements of a brilliant, enthusiastic scientist does not diminish the contributions of the other 214 people who worked on the project, either. But what it is doing is showing a different model for a scientist than the one most of us grew up with. That might mean a lot to some kids — maybe kids who look like her — making them excited about studying the wonders of the Universe.

via BoingBoing

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City tonight for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

A Visualization of the United States’ Exploding Population Growth Over 200 Years (1790 – 2010)

The U.S. is barely even an adolescent compared to many other countries around the world. Yet it ranks third, behind China and India, in population. How did the country go, in a little over 200 years, from 6.1 people per square mile in 1800 to 93 per square mile today? We’ve previously featured maps of how the real estate came on the market. And we’ve brought you a map that tells the locations and stories of the peoples who used to live there. The map above takes a different approach, showing population density growth from 1790 to 2010, in numbers based on Census records.

Originally appearing on Vivid Maps, the animated timeline contains no information about the how, who, or why of things. But we know that since it only accounts for those who were counted, the numbers of people actually living within the borders is often much higher. “Not only did the population boom as a result of births and immigrants,” writes Jeff Desjardins at the site Visual Capitalist, “but the borders of the country kept changing as well.” This change, and the fact that indigenous people were not recorded, leads to an interesting visualization of westward expansion from the point of view of the settlers.




As Desjardins notes, the state of Oklahoma appears as an “empty gap” on the map in the late-1800s, lightly shaded while its borders are surrounded by dark brown. This is because “the area was originally designated as Indian Territory…. However, in 1889, the land was opened up to a massive land rush, and approximately 50,000 pioneers lined up to grab a piece of the two million acres opened for settlement.” Thousands of the people living there had already, of course, been pushed off their land during the decades-long “Trail of Tears.” The question of who “exactly is counted as a whole person?” comes up in the comments on Visual Capitalist post, another key consideration for understanding this data in its proper context.

The ways people have been categorized are products of contemporary biases, political attitudes, and legal and social discriminations. These attitudes are not incidental to the populating of the country, but materially integral. As we see the massive, yet hugely uneven, spread of people across the expanding country, we might be given the impression that it constitutes a unified surge of expansion and development, when the historical reality, of course, is anything but. Of the many questions we can ask of this data, “who fully counted as an American during each of these periods and why or why not?” might be one of the most relevant, in 1790 and today. Or, if you’d rather just watch the map fill up with sepia and burnt umber pixels, to the tune of some martial-sounding drum & bass, watch the video above.

via Visual Capitalist

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

M.I.T. Computer Program Alarmingly Predicts in 1973 That Civilization Will End by 2040

In 1704, Isaac Newton predicted the end of the world sometime around (or after, "but not before") the year 2060, using a strange series of mathematical calculations. Rather than study what he called the “book of nature,” he took as his source the supposed prophecies of the book of Revelation. While such predictions have always been central to Christianity, it is startling for modern people to look back and see the famed astronomer and physicist indulging them. For Newton, however, as Matthew Stanley writes at Science, “laying the foundation of modern physics and astronomy was a bit of a sideshow. He believed that his truly important work was deciphering ancient scriptures and uncovering the nature of the Christian religion.”

Over three hundred years later, we still have plenty of religious doomsayers predicting the end of the world with Bible codes. But in recent times, their ranks have seemingly been joined by scientists whose only professed aim is interpreting data from climate research and sustainability estimates given population growth and dwindling resources. The scientific predictions do not draw on ancient texts or theology, nor involve final battles between good and evil. Though there may be plagues and other horrible reckonings, these are predictably causal outcomes of over-production and consumption rather than divine wrath. Yet by some strange fluke, the science has arrived at the same apocalyptic date as Newton, plus or minus a decade or two.




The “end of the world” in these scenarios means the end of modern life as we know it: the collapse of industrialized societies, large-scale agricultural production, supply chains, stable climates, nation states…. Since the late sixties, an elite society of wealthy industrialists and scientists known as the Club of Rome (a frequent player in many conspiracy theories) has foreseen these disasters in the early 21st century. One of the sources of their vision is a computer program developed at MIT by computing pioneer and systems theorist Jay Forrester, whose model of global sustainability, one of the first of its kind, predicted civilizational collapse in 2040. “What the computer envisioned in the 1970s has by and large been coming true,” claims Paul Ratner at Big Think.

Those predictions include population growth and pollution levels, “worsening quality of life,” and “dwindling natural resources.” In the video at the top, see Australia's ABC explain the computer’s calculations, “an electronic guided tour of our global behavior since 1900, and where that behavior will lead us,” says the presenter. The graph spans the years 1900 to 2060. "Quality of life" begins to sharply decline after 1940, and by 2020, the model predicts, the metric contracts to turn-of-the-century levels, meeting the sharp increase of the “Zed Curve" that charts pollution levels. (ABC revisited this reporting in 1999 with Club of Rome member Keith Suter.)

You can probably guess the rest—or you can read all about it in the 1972 Club of Rome-published report Limits to Growth, which drew wide popular attention to Jay Forrester’s books Urban Dynamics (1969) and World Dynamics (1971). Forrester, a figure of Newtonian stature in the worlds of computer science and management and systems theory—though not, like Newton, a Biblical prophecy enthusiast—more or less endorsed his conclusions to the end of his life in 2016. In one of his last interviews, at the age of 98, he told the MIT Technology Review, “I think the books stand all right.” But he also cautioned against acting without systematic thinking in the face of the globally interrelated issues the Club of Rome ominously calls “the problematic”:

Time after time … you’ll find people are reacting to a problem, they think they know what to do, and they don’t realize that what they’re doing is making a problem. This is a vicious [cycle], because as things get worse, there is more incentive to do things, and it gets worse and worse.

Where this vague warning is supposed to leave us is uncertain. If the current course is dire, “unsystematic” solutions may be worse? This theory also seems to leave powerfully vested human agents (like Exxon's executives) wholly unaccountable for the coming collapse. Limits to Growth—scoffed at and disparagingly called “neo-Malthusian” by a host of libertarian critics—stands on far surer evidentiary footing than Newton’s weird predictions, and its climate forecasts, notes Christian Parenti, “were alarmingly prescient.” But for all this doom and gloom it’s worth bearing in mind that models of the future are not, in fact, the future. There are hard times ahead, but no theory, no matter how sophisticated, can account for every variable.

via Big Think

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Explore Meticulous 3D Models of Endangered Historical Sites in Google’s “Open Heritage” Project

One brisk thumping by a natural disaster, totalitarian regime, or terrorist group is more than enough to reduce an awe-inspiring heritage site to rubble.

With that sad fact in mind, Google Arts & Culture has paired with CyArk, a non profit whose mission is using the latest technologies to digitally document and preserve the world's significant cultural heritage in an easily shareable format.




The resulting project, Open Heritage, is a massive browsable collection of 3D heritage data, already the largest of its kind, and certain to increase as its creators race against the clock.

As of this writing, visitors can explore 3D models of 27 heritage sites from 18 countries.

Even those of us who’ve had the good fortune to visit these sites in person have much to gain from the drone’s eye view of the Caracol observatory that’s part of Mexico’s ancient Mayan metropolis Chichén Itzá or Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate.

Each model is accompanied by an expedition overview that details the site’s history and significance, as well as its location on a map. Time lapse photos help give a sense of the site’s human traffic during the time it was being documented, as well as the nature of the work CyArk does on location. Significant details are highlighted, and their symbolism discussed.

CyArk will share project data with viewers who request it, using a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Equally important is the role these comprehensive 3D scans can play in current and future restoration efforts, by identifying areas of damage and documenting existing color and texture with down-to-the-millimeter precision.

Begin your virtual explorations of such Open Heritage sites as Greece’s Ancient Corinth, Lebanon’s Temple of Echoun, and Ayutthaya, Thailand’s Wat Si Sanphet, here.

Learn more about aerial photogrammetry, 3D laser scanning, stereoscopic 360 imagery, and other tools of the digital preservation trade here.

And stay abreast of CyArk’s work by subscribing to their free monthly newsletter here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her solo show Nurse!, in which one of Shakespeare’s best loved female characters hits the lecture circuit to set the record straight premieres in June at The Tank in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Download 240+ Free eBooks on Design, Data, Software, Web Development & Business from O’Reilly Media

Last year we highlighted for you 20 Free eBooks on Design from O’Reilly Media. Little did we know that we were just scratching the surface of the free ebooks O'Reilly Media has to offer.

If you head over to this page, you can access 240+ free ebooks covering a range of different topics. Below, we've divided the books into sections (and provided links to them), indicated the number of books in each section, and listed a few attractive/representative titles.

You can download the books in PDF format. An email address--but no credit card--is required. Again the complete list is here.

Note: An earlier version of this post originally appeared on our site in January 2017.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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Smartify, a Shazam for Art, Lets You Use Your Phone to Scan, Identify & Learn About Major Works of Art

Not so long ago, art museums were known as temples of quiet contemplation, despite daily invasions by raucous school groups.

Now, the onus is on the museums to bring the mountain to Mohammed. Those kids have smartphones. How long can a museum hope to stay relevant—nay, survive—without an app?

Many of the museums who’ve already partnered up with Smartify—an app (Mac-Android) that lets you take a picture of artwork with your phone and instantly access information about them—have existing apps of their own in place: the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, to name a few.




These institutional apps provide visitors with an expanded view of the sort of information one commonly finds on a museum card, in addition to such practicalities as gallery layouts and calendars of events. More often than not, there’s an option to “save” an artwork the visitor finds captivating—no word on what this feature is doing to postcard sales in museum shops, so perhaps print isn't dead yet.

Given all the museum apps free for the downloading, for whom is Smartify, a "Shazam for art," intended?

Perhaps the globetrotting museum hopper eager to consolidate? Its developers are adamant that it’s intended to complement, not replace, in-person visits to the institutions where the works are housed, so armchair museum goers are advised to look elsewhere, like Google Arts & Culture.

Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries will be the smaller galleries and museums ill equipped to launch freestanding apps of their own. Smartify’s website states that it relies on “annual membership from museum partners, in-app transactions, advertising and data sales to relevant arts organisations.”

Early adopters complained that while the app (Mac-Android) had no trouble identifying famous works of art, it came up empty on the lesser-known pieces. That's a pity as these are the works visitors are most likely to seek further information on.

One of the developers compared the Smartify experience to visiting a museum in the company of “an enthusiastic and knowledgeable friend telling you more about a work of art.”

Maybe better to do just that, if the option exists? Such a friend would not be hampered by the copyright laws that hamper Smartify with regard to certain works. A friend might even stand you a hot chocolate or some pricey scone in the museum cafe.

At any rate, the app (Mac-Android) is now available for visitors to take for a spin in 22 different museums and galleries in the UK, US, and Europe, with the promise of more to come.

Those whose knowledge of art history is vast are likely to be underwhelmed, but it could be a way for those visiting with kids and teens to keep everyone engaged for the duration. As one enthusiastic user wrote:

As a childhood Pokemon fan and avid art fan, this is a dream come true. This is like a Pokedex for art lol. If you ever watched the anime, Ash Ketchum would scan a Pokemon with his Pokedex and get the details of its name, type, habits, etc. This app does that but instead of scanning monsters, it scans and analyzes art work then gives you the load (sic) down about it.

Those with Internet privacy concerns may choose to heed, instead, the user who wrote:

Be aware, they want to gather as a "side effect" your private art collection. I just wanted to try it out with some of my art pieces (Günther Förg, Richter, etc) but it doesn't work if you don't give them your location data. Be careful!

 

Museums and Galleries Whose Images/Art Appear in Smartify as of January 2018

USA:

J. Paul Getty Museum

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Laguna Art Museum

Museum of Contemporary Photography

Freer | Sackler GalleriesThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met Cloisters

 

UK:

The Bowes Museum

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

Ben Uri Gallery

The Wallace Collection

Royal Academy of Arts

National Gallery

Sculpture in the City

 

Europe:

Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum Twenthe

Little Beaux-Arts

Museo Correr

Museo San Donato (MPSArt)

The State Hermitage Museum

The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

 

Download Smartify for Mac or Android.

via Dezeen

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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