From The Archives: May 2010

Seeing Carbon Dioxide

A Greenhouse Gas Visualization

This past Halloween, we approached a curious jack-o’-lantern with the solitary number 350 carved into its flesh.  A bright-eyed man emerged from the tiny home behind it.  My kids yelled “trick-or-treat!”  He dropped some candy in their buckets.  And then, I asked the question that he’d obviously been waiting for:

Industrial emissions.

Industrial emissions.

What’s with the 350 pumpkin?  Is that your house number?

After a brief dramatic pause, the man spoke passionately of greenhouse gasses and global warming, the well-intended but woefully-inadequate Kyoto Protocol, and that we must swiftly reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide to a level that scientists have determined will spare the planet:

350 parts per million!

We thanked “350 Guy” for the information and candy and continued on our way.

Later, to avoid another such embarrassing intellectual faux pas, I began to bone up on my climatology.  Now, for example, I know that the fraction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from a pre-Industrial 280 parts per million (ppm) to around 390 ppm today.

Some straightforward calculations reveal that this additional 110 ppm of CO2 amounts to a mass of 564,000 metric megatons and volume of 437,000,000 gigaliters – the shocking equivalent, per capita, of one bubble of pure carbon dioxide, 163 feet in diameter, for each man, woman, and child on the face of this earth (*):

The Per-Capita Bubble Of Industrial Carbon Dioxide.  Click to see it bigger!

The Per-Capita Bubble Of Excess Industrial-Age Carbon Dioxide. Click to see it bigger!

That’s 6.8 billion enormous spheres of greenhouse gas, each large enough to swallow the entire 129-foot length of a Boeing 737-800 airliner with room to spare.

On that note, please allow 350 Guy and Yours Truly to announce a collaborative effort – our Fall 2010 line of giant-CO2-bubble jack-o’-lanterns – coming in five months to a front porch near you!

Introducing The Glass Frisbee

A Giant Surplus Camera Lens

The faint diesel rumble, pitter-patter of delivery-man-sized feet, and thud of corrugated on concrete?  They could mean only one thing: my order from the Surplus Shed had arrived.  Aflutter, I tore to the front porch, shredded the box like a Kindergartner on Christmas morning, and, out of the scraps, hoisted my new lens towards the heavens!

You know the angelic “ahhhhhhh” chorus sound that plays whenever someone “sees the light” in the movies?  It rose to a crescendo in the background.

Because, like a first kiss, nothing can completely prepare a photographer for his or her initial encounter with a gigantic disc of aluminum and precision-ground optical glass:

A New Lens!

A New Lens!

That’s all 5.3 pounds of it, standing on edge, seven inches across and two inches deep, next to a twelve-ounce soda can and a Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens for the sake of scale.  Oooooh, baby.

Side View

Side View

Owing to its pancake shape – the opposite of the typical long-and-slender lens – it soon became known as the Glass Frisbee.

I bought the Frisbee for its incredible combination of 200mm focal length and f/1.3 aperture, which I’ll use to push the limits of narrow depth of field.  By the laws of physics, once shoehorned onto my large-format 4×5 monorail camera, it’s the optical equivalent of a 50mm f/0.35 lens on a full-frame SLR.  From there, I begin an epic journey into a dreamy portrait-esque frontier, with triple the background blur of any currently-available off-the-shelf photographic system!  All theoretically, at this point, of course.

In the meantime, the Frisbee will help with a handful of other projects.  When I’m feeling Evil, it’ll focus the Death Ray.  My respectable, gentlemanly side shall enjoy a Cyclopean monocle of remarkable refinement.  And, should the situation become particularly funky, as it does from time to time, well, damn yo, the Frisbee’s got it covered.

Accessorize with three feet of decorative gold chain, and the Frisbee transforms into a lens necklace mega-medallion that’d make Flavor Flav proud:

The Flavor Flav-style Lens Necklace

The Flavor Flav-style Lens Necklace

Blingetty blangetty blong, playuh!

To receive updates on future experiments with the Glass Frisbee, please subscribe!

That Xkcd, He’s Good People

Check out the detailed results of his excellent online color survey, and don’t miss the lists of color names most popular with women versus men!

Spoiler: It’s one of the rare blog posts that includes both an in-depth discussion of the RGB colorspace and the word “penis!”

All Your Tweets Are Belong To Us

Twitter And The Copyright Frontier

Tweets pepper the shoulders of the information superhighway.  Technically, each still belongs to someone, but now, they’re just sitting there, out in the open, unattended, for all to see.

“Use us!” they implore, as traffic flies by.

In real life, we’d probably shy away from scavenging freeway litter, but recycling Tweets, online?  Maybe… because it’s easy, clean, safe, and Twitter actually encourages us to do so in their Terms Of Service:

An excerpt from Twitter's Terms Of Service regarding "reuse."

An excerpt from Twitter's Terms Of Service regarding reuse.

Cool beans.  Next, consider another excerpt:

An excerpt from Twitter's Terms Of Service where you grant them a license.

An excerpt from Twitter's Terms Of Service wherein you grant them a license.

So, we grant Twitter an unrestricted “right to sublicense” our Tweets, and Twitter states that they “encourage and permit the broad re-use” of them.  Hmmm…

Does this mean that every Tweet issues forth with legal permission for anyone to do with it whatever they please?

Click here to read more →