Friday, September 23rd, 2022

Door knobs, sitemaps, reusing laptops and a timber skyscraper

Black and white photograph of Ely Cathedral. The building is on left of frame.

Hello. Hope you had a good week.

Have you ever wondered how the size of the knob affects how you use your fingers? Me neither, but it was a question Professor Matsuzaki Gen and his team at the Chiba Institute of Technology felt compelled to answer. For their efforts they won the prestigious(?) Ig Noble award for Engineering.

I’m a fan of the Ig Nobles. Each year random scientists are given awards for seemingly ridiculous research. The prize is pointless and a small child will tell you they’re bored if your acceptance speech goes on too long.

All quite silly until you think about what the winners have done. Professor Gen’s research created a reference for design engineers involved in everything from bottle tops to car controls to the thermostats on your radiators.

I think this is the genius of the Ig Nobles that quite a few of the tabloids miss. It’s not about the grand discoveries that revolutionise science, but the small ones that nudge us forwards a bit. If we can have some fun along the way I’m all for it.

Whatever random research you decide to do this coming week, I hope it’s as unexpectedly useful as Professor Gen’s.


Updates from the blog

Tenjoji on Mount Maya

Photograph of a Buddhist shrine with rocks arranged in the foreground

Near the summit of Mount Maya is a temple dedicated to the mother of Buddha. Of all the temples I’ve visited in Japan it is my favourite. A place of calm, where it’s all too easy to fall into a quiet meditation.

Taming the WordPress sitemap

Image of multiple WordPress icons with a you are here sticker over the top

Following the rebuild of the site, I’ve been writing a series of posts on key learnings. First up is the WordPress sitemap. A feature introduced a few months ago, it’s a vital tool in helping search engines discover your content. In this post I walk through how I tweaked it to better reflect my site.

From around the web

It wouldn’t be right just to share my own work. These are a few things that caught my eye this past week.

“Racist” Bored Apes and Ryder Ripps

Are the “Bored Apes” racist? Part artist / part Internet troll Ryder Ripps thinks so. He argues there’s a swathe of racist and far-right tropes running through the NFTs. ArtNews explores his theory, and offers a fascinating insight into this controversial character.

Make do and mend: laptop edition

Maybe you don’t need to buy a new laptop. They take a lot of energy and resources to produce, are expensive to buy and can be a little delicate. Kris De Decker has been using various second hand laptops for years, keeping them running with a mix of sensible software choices, hardware repairs and being willing to compromise. He’s written a long-read on both the practicalities and thinking behind it.

Sayaka Murata

Japanese novelist Sayaka Murata is best known for her tale of a contented konbini clerk enduring the social pressure to be something more. Her work has a disturbing edge that challenges what we accept as “normal”, sometimes taking it to grotesque extremes. Wired has a profile of the authoress, punctuated with Murata’s peculiar musings on life.

Connecting gardeners to gardens

Years ago an elderly neighbour let her odd-job man look after her garden. He transformed a wilderness into a product vegetable patch with a beautiful garden for her to sit out in. It was a chance meeting that brought them together, but part of a long standing tradition in the UK. As The Guardian reports, technology has expanded the potential for those with unmanageable plots to connect with those who have green fingers.

A (wooden) skyscraper rises

Fancy living in a wooden skyscraper? A 39 storey, 189 metre tall tower is going up in Sydney, so your wish might soon come true. It certainly won’t be the last as construction companies and engineers test what’s possible with wood.

Pizza onboard

And finally, if you moar your boat in Christmas Cove and fancy getting a freshly cooked pizza delivered, help is on hand. Pizza Pi offers a unique delivery service for mariners in the US Virgin Isles.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.