Ever keeps on Given
The world rejoiced as the banking of the possibly good, but mainly just rather big, ship Ever Given at the southern end of the Suez Canal supplied an endless source of memes, a new unit for the horizontally stupidly oversized – about 0.5 Burj Khalifa – and a threat to global commerce and trade that wasn’t coronavirus. Or Brexit in UK parts, for that matter.
Our favourite related time-waster is a site brought to our attention by Elizabeth Barner from Leeds, UK: evergiven-everywhere.glitch.me.
Starting from a position that (shame on us) only by zooming out very, very far do we identify as the harbour of Boston, Massachusetts – whose famous tea parties were also some sort of statement about global trade practices back in the day – it allows us to “get the Ever Given stuck wherever you want it. Drag and zoom the map to move this big old boat somewhere else. Click the rotate button to get it wedged perfectly. Hit the ‘to scale’ button to make it approximately the right size. Or you can make it whatever size you feel like: get it stuck in a swimming pool or across the entire Atlantic Ocean.”
Great fun, and all in the good cause of encouraging donations to the Boston Public Library’s Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center, we see.
Something has agitated the citizens of Leeds, as Martin Pitt also writes in from that city to add ire to our disparagement of “experiential” units of measurements rooted in no one’s experience (27 March).
The example we highlighted from The Wall Street Journal of an elephant suspended by a rope the diameter of a table tennis ball is meaningless for its stated purpose of measuring tension, or tensile force, he fulminates. “What the analogy should express is the tensile stress, which is the force per unit area, which would have been clear if they had also expressed it in conventional units such as Newtons per square metre.”
We are far from demurring, Martin. Mind you, the whole thing reminds us of the entry that used to stand in the good old Yellow Pages telephone directory under “Boring”: “See civil engineers”.
Don’t drink the water
We mean that only in self-referential jest, of course, as we do when we also say that our natural inclination on encountering any message beginning with the words “as a chemist” is to avert our eyes and hurry onwards in the hope we haven’t been seen.
Bill Appelbe writes in from Toronto, Canada, to take issue with our ridiculing of hydrogenated water as a facial exfoliation agent (13 March). Hydrogenated water, or H3O+, Bill points out, also using equations, is in fact a natural product of the ionisation of water in most environments save interstellar space – an environment where, he rightly points out too, few New Scientist readers are to be found, enjoying a facial scrub or not.
We stand corrected, Bill. We aren’t so sure about your advice to use a concentrated solution of sulphuric or hydrofluoric acid to get a really good dose of hydrogenated water with all its exfoliation benefits, but we understand you were writing as a chemist, not a beautician.
What we can only moodily and obliquely refer to as “other duties” leads Feedback to the website of the Oversight Board (motto: “Independent Judgment. Transparency. Legitimacy”), a body whose mission is so transparent it is apparently not necessary to state in its name what its independent judgement is lending legitimacy to.
To fill in the gaps, it has to do with a well-known social media company, which by appointing said board hopes to convince the world – we paraphrase, slightly – that while its medium may sometimes seem antisocial, it isn’t actually media, so doesn’t need regulating as such.
Not increasing our faith about the outfit’s resourcing is that, approaching its website using a well-known open-source browser, we see a confused mishmash of text and hyperlinks resembling the web circa 1999. Repeated links saying things like “A person scrutinizing a sphere she’s holding in her hand, while shapes and clouds float around her”, suggest images, yet lead to more text. The only thing that isn’t entirely 20th century is a warning that appears hovering above a “Share” link saying that if we click on it, a well-known social media company will be able to track our visit.
Oddly, when we use a well-known web browser associated with a well-known search company, we are transported back to the third decade of the 21st century, drawings of people scrutinising spheres surrounded by other geometry included. The power of big tech, eh?
In a policy violation that our own Oversight Board shall investigate forthwith, we highlight Marc Abraham’s discovery of a paper from 2005. Very much in the spirit of a paper on incontinence by J. W. Splatt and D. Weedon that brought to life the monster of nominative determinism the best part of three decades ago – 5 November 1994, to be precise, we remember it as if it were yesterday – “Transparent Organic Light-Emitting Devices With LiF/Mg:Ag Cathode” is by B. J. Chen, X. W. Sun and S. C. Tan.
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