A glance at the archive that is TPD tells me that it snowed a year ago today. But although the weather isn't that bad this year, you shouldn't risk going outside when there's all this stuff to read online

  • Four Days Trapped at Sea With Crypto’s Nouveau Riche - Laurie Penny goes on a cryptocurrency cruise: ”Two months ago, an editor from BREAKER called and asked if I wanted to go on a four-day Mediterranean cruise with hundreds of crypto-crazed investors and evangelists. We’ll cover the travel, he said. Write something long about whatever you find, he said… The women on this boat are polished and perfect; the men, by contrast, seem strangely cured—not like medicine, but like meat. They are almost all white, between the ages of 30 and 50, and are trying very hard to have the good time they paid thousands for, while remaining professional in a scene where many thought leaders have murky pasts, a tendency to talk like YouTube conspiracy preachers, and/or the habit of appearing in magazines naked and covered in strawberries.”

  • Ancient, Unknown Strain of Plague Found in 5,000-Year-Old Tomb in Sweden - We have always been doomed: ”The finding suggests that the germ may have devastated settlements across Europe at the end of the Stone Age in what may have been the first major pandemic of human history. It could also rewrite some of what we know of ancient European history.”

  • A Pirate's pilfered atlas - Excerpt from Betsy Mason and Greg Miller's new NatGeo book All Over the Map: ”In 1680, English pirate Bartholomew Sharpe and 300 men crossed the Central American isthmus at Panama, captured a Spanish ship, the Trinity, and used it to raid Spanish vessels up and down the Pacific coast of Central and South America… we know that one of the most valuable treasures they seized was not gold or silver, but an atlas of Spanish sailing charts. Sharpe later commissioned a colorfully illustrated English copy of the stolen atlas and presented it to the king of England—a gift that likely saved his freedom, if not his life.”

  • The Thoughts of a Spiderweb - ”Spiders appear to offload cognitive tasks to their webs, making them one of a number of species with a mind that isn’t fully confined within the head.” Interesting proposition that artefacts created in the environment by creatures allow them to "extend" their cognition beyond their corporeal being.

  • A shot-in-the-dark email leads to a century-old family treasure — and hope of cracking a deadly flu’s secret - ”Late one night Michael Worobey began poking around on the internet, looking for descendants of a World War I British military doctor named William Rolland… The University of Arizona scientist had connected with a man named Jim Cox. And Cox just so happened to have in his possession a collection of human tissue slides that Rolland had handed down through the generations. Those slides, it turns out, could now help rewrite the history of the 1918 Spanish flu — altering our understanding of when it began and how it spread.”

  • Masha Ivashintsova (1942−2000) - A collection of photographs from late-Soviet Russia: ”My mother, Masha Ivashintsova, was heavily engaged in the Leningrad poetic and photography underground movement of the 1960−80s. She was a lover of three geniuses of the time: Photographer Boris Smelov, Poet Viktor Krivulin and Linguist Melvar Melkumyan, who is also my father… She sincerely believed that she paled next to them and consequently never showed her photography works, her diaries and poetry to anyone during her life.” This is a former statue of Stalin, photographed in 1978:

  • So, a supernova may have torched a star nearby - The Kepler Observatory appears to have captured a supernova exploding in tremendous detail: ”UGC 4780 was observed every 30 minutes, so there is plenty of data from before the star blew up and during the brightening phase itself. Together with ground-based observations… this is one of the best-observed Type Ia explosions ever seen.”

  • Bananas! - Nadia Berenstein explores myths and facts surrounding the banana, in particular the chemistry of its flavour: ” Fake banana flavor, the legend goes, is based on the Gros Michel. There's some evidence that isoamyl acetate — banana ester, the characterizing component of "fake" banana flavors — was a more prominent note in the Gros Michel than it is in the Cavendish… What is ‘real’ banana flavor, anyways?” HT to DoctorStrangelove for this one

  • Macho programmers, drum memory and a forensic analysis of 1960s machine code - And another HT to the good doctor for this re-examination of The Story of Mel, a classic tale of the drum-memory-based RPC-4000: ”Ed discovered that the closed loop was causing an overflow, that rewrote the instruction code. The outcome of the overflow was a jump instruction, moving control of the program to a different memory location. It’s a great story. But does it check out?”

  • Something About Maps - Daniel Huffmann appeared here back in 2011 with cool river maps, but this newer site contains many more of his experiments in cartography, such as this: ”It's become quite popular to aggregate data on maps using hexagonal bins. But, as I jokingly thought one day, what if cartographers instead used Penrose tiles?”

Happy invoicing!