Category Archives: Science, Technology & Curiosity

Science. Technology. Curiosity. There are a lot of interesting things in this world, and consequently, a lot to learn as well.

Why do Classic Cartoon Characters wear white gloves? Animation | Science, Technology & Curiosity 02 FEB 2017

I’m familiar with the concept of a cartoon hand in animation being drawn with four fingers only (image simplification, cartoon proportions, etc), but I’ve never really pondered as to why so many of the classic cartoon characters (like say Mickey Mouse and Goofy from the Disney stable for example) wore white gloves.

Luckily for us then, the Vox team went in and took a closer look at the possible reasons as to why:

In summary (just in case you can’t view the video, you know, thanks to work restrictions or something like that):

1) Image simplification to save time and thus money. (Less details, curves instead of angles, etc.)
2) To contrast black hands against a black body in the age of early black and white animation.
3) Humanizing an anthropomorphic creature by giving them more human-like hands.
4) Vaudeville and blackface minstrels style that was originally associated with the art of early animation performances.

So a good number of plausible, possible and quite interesting reasons then!

Related Link: YouTube | Vox

What is Region Locking and How does it Work? Science, Technology & Curiosity 11 OCT 2016

As the Internet makes the world grow ever smaller, the issue of region locking content becomes increasingly annoying. But what is region locking, why does it exist and how is it implemented?

region-lock-free-deadpool-ultra-hd-blu-ray

In the purest sense of the term, region locking is literally that – locking content to a set region through either hardware or software restrictions, so as to ensure content cannot be shared across different regions. There are a number of reasons for this currently, though historically this was often due to the different broadcast technologies being employed in various parts of the world. These days though, there isn’t really a technical reason behind this annoying practice of locking content away behind geographically bound doors.

(That said, sometimes region locking can be slightly useful, say in the case of price discrimination, where essentially some areas with weaker exchange rates can get offered the same content at a slightly better price. So good if you are in the cheaper region, but a bit unfair if not.)

Anyway, Linus Sebastian of Linus Tech Tips put together a great video on the subject, doing a good job of succinctly explaining the concept of region locking:

As he says, thanks to the localised content distribution system we currently have in place, the concept of region locking is not going anywhere soon.

Pity.

Related Link: Region Locking | Techquickie

The Pros and Cons of Police Sketches Science, Technology & Curiosity 13 SEP 2016

We tend to see facial composite or police sketch images in the news a lot. They’ve been around forever, and are essentially a graphical representation of an eyewitness’ memory of a face, as recorded by a composite (police sketch) artist. These are used pretty much exclusively by police as an aid in the investigation of serious crimes, though they are also sometimes used to reconstruct a victim’s face in hope of identifying them.

police-sketch-criminal-face

Therein lies the inherent problem however. Although there is a small success rate linked to the used of these identikits, this usually relies on the perpetrator having a really distinctive facial appearance. Human brains tend to process faces holistically, meaning that our ability to actually see (and remember) parts of the face when looking at a person and then recalling those pieces is not particularly great (never mind the fact that our recall of detail from memory is fallible to say the least!).

Vox had a look at this issue can produced a pretty good video around the topic:

As highlighted towards the end of the view, newer evolutionary systems based on full face recognition (like EvoFIT from the UK and ID from the University of Cape Town, South Africa) appear to hold a lot of promise going forward. Give it a couple of years and perhaps we may finally find it time to retire the venerable position of the police sketch artist?

Related Link: Vox | YouTube

The Origins of the Comic Book Font Science, Technology & Curiosity 02 SEP 2016

The basic font used in comic books is almost universally recognised – which is weird when you consider that there is no one comic book font.

Instead, fonts used in comic books generally all have the same look and feel, but for a very good reason – it all stems from the past where comic books were hand lettered, with the aim of getting as much information crammed into as small a space as possible, while at the same time keeping it legible enough despite the poor quality (read “super cheap”) of both paper and printing equipment of those early days.

comic book display

Vox’s Phil Edwards looked into it, and the result is this very slick video giving us a bit more information and history around the non-existent, yet universally recognised “comic book font”:

So, do you have a modern letterer whose comic book work you rather enjoy?

(I might not have a favourite, but I do know what I hate – the use of decorative cursive text in comic books. Those speech bubbles are pretty much entirely unreadable!)

Related Link: Vox | YouTube | Comicraft Fonts

Pills: Prescription Drug Ads on American TV Science, Technology & Curiosity 01 SEP 2016

One of the things that surprised me while I was over in the United States (California) this year was the sheer number and never ending stream of advertisements for prescription medicine on both television and radio.

It’s a ridiculous amount of hard, direct to consumer advertising that basically tells you if you feel something is slightly wrong, you should definitely see your doctor and ask him for drug X. (Thankfully though, the adverts are all forced to list major side effects of the advertised medicine as well, leading to quite interesting adverts where you learn that you can cure an upset stomach at the potential cost of developing low blood pressure).

medicinal-pills

Apparently in most parts of the world, this direct advertisement of prescription medicine to the public is deemed illegal, and I’m not sure as to whether or not that applies here in South Africa – but I do know that we don’t see half as many of these adverts as what the poor Americans are forced to sit through.

The team over at Vox had a look at this issue, weighing in on both the positive and negative impact that this massive surge in prescription medicine advertising on TV has on Americans:

A difficult one for sure. I suspect that I’m a bit on the fence here: I get the being better informed part definitely, but the concern of people pressuring doctors to prescribe medicine when it isn’t really necessary – that’s a bit worrying, isn’t it?

That said, this is America we are talking about. Rampant capitalism and all that…

Related Link: Vox | YouTube

How to Choose Your Sunscreen Science, Technology & Curiosity 31 AUG 2016

Skin cancer really is no joke, and now that we the general public are much better informed about the risks of staying out in the sun for extended periods of time, we tend to do a much better job of protecting ourselves.

However, the question still remains – which sunscreen should you choose?

Sun protection

Broadly speaking, the higher the SPF factor, the better the protection from the harmful UVA and UVB rays that penetrate the skin, damaging DNA and promoting cancer cell growth in the process. SPF30 is a good starting point, as it can block up to 97% of the harmful rays.

The next thing to consider then is whether to go for mineral or carbon-based solutions. Although thicker to apply than carbon-based solutions, mineral based sunscreens are usually less of a skin irritant if you have sensitive skin, and surprisingly have less of an environmental effect on the water in which you might be swimming.

Oh, and if you use the spray, make sure that you actually spray enough to form a thick (in other words useful) barrier!

Narrated by Julianna Zarzycki, Mary Poffenroth joins forces with TED-Ed to bring us this nicely animated explainer video:

Related Link: TED-Ed | YouTube

Gorilla Glass vs Sapphire Glass in Touchscreens Science, Technology & Curiosity 30 AUG 2016

Most of us are pretty familiar with the term “gorilla glass” when it comes to selecting which phone we need to next buy, but did you know just why gorilla glass is so tough? (Hint, it is strong on a molecular basis!)

gorilla kissing glass with reflection

And then there is the new kid on the block known as sapphire glass, which is more or less made from, well sapphire.

Linus Sebastian’s team at Techquickie have put together a great little video explaining Touchscreen Glass as fast as possible:

Not that you need it for smartphones as such, but if you are looking for glass resistant to thermal shock, then there is always Borosilicate glass to be considered…

The science of glass – who knew? ;)

Related Link: Techquickie YouTube | Gorilla Glass | Sapphire Glass

Netflix Worthwhile Watch: Apex: The Story of the Hypercar Fast Cars | Live-Action 12 AUG 2016

There is a lot of varied content on Netflix, which is great because you can pretty much always find something to watch which you haven’t seen before. I tend to favour watching documentaries on the odd occasion that I do find myself in front of the television, and one of the most interesting ones that I recently caught is definitely well worth the watch – particularly if you love beautiful fast cars!

mclaren p1 hypercar

APEX: The Story of the Hypercar is a slickly put together documentary detailing the rise of the hypercar, a class of car that is so exotic, so beautiful, so rare and so unobtainable!

The current era of the hypercar (essentially supercars that are elevated to even higher levels of perfomance, perfection and price) is exciting for any petrolhead, and APEX (which was put together over a period of 3 years by a team lead by directors Josh Vietze, J.F. Musial) stitches interviews with car journalists and car creators together with jaw dropping footage of these cars in action against a variety of exquisite backdrops all across the world.

All the big names seem to be chasing the move to electric/petrol hybrids, with the result being a stunning subset of cars that include the likes of the Porsche 918, McLaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari, and now the Koenigsegg One:1 (on which the film does focus quite a bit).

Also featured is the Pagani Huayra and the nod of the head to the original hypercar, the Bugatti Veyron.

Pulse pounding stuff!

Related Link: Apex Website | Trailer

How does Garlic Grow? Science, Technology & Curiosity 06 AUG 2016

It is no surprise that Garlic is considered a super food these days, with this plant having been used both for food flavouring and traditional medicine for thousands of years now. Native to central Asia, Garlic has of course traversed the world and garlic crops can be found pretty much anywhere these days.

garlic field being picked

Nicole Cotroneo Jolly and her team over at How Does it Grow? put together a fantastically slick video showing us just how garlic is grown and farmed on a commercial scale in the USA:

Next up, the New Zealand team at POD Gardening show us just how to go about planting our own garlic, with the big things to take away from the process being to make sure that you have the soil well prepared and getting the garlic cloves the right distance away from one another as well as below the soil (Oh, and pointy end up!):

Related Link: Garlic | YouTube | How Does it Grow? | POD Gardening