The Pipwick Papers


Hello! Here are a few bits and bobs which caught my eye over the last week or so. The image in the header is from Lowe, Garwood, Simonsen, Bradley & Withers’ 2013 paper on metamorphosis.

German Forest Ranger Finds That Trees Have Social Networks, Too by Sally McGrane

Alice sent me this over the weekend when we were chatting about trees (we are usually chatting about trees). The article itself is about a year old but, as the piece says, “With a forest, you have to think in terms of 200 or 300 years” so really I’m pretty current. The book it talks about has an English translation now – here’s the Amazon link. I’ve just bought it for myself.

Penguin poo reveals how volcanic eruptions almost killed off the seabirds by Matt Burgess

A shorter read but interesting – it’s about how scientists can use the percentage of guano in sediment to work out gentoo penguin population sizes and then compare fluctuations in those with environmental changes.

John Coltrane Draws a Picture Illustrating the Mathematics of Music by Josh Jones

I think I first encountered the idea of maths and music being linked when I was a child devouring books by Enid Blyton. In her Malory Towers series there’s a girl called Irene who has a facility for both and tends to cover her workbooks with a mixture of both, such is the unlikely scatterbrain that she is. I found maths delightful and easy and music to be this impenetrable thing. I navigated it entirely by learning which mechanical movements and timings to make when reading the page and had no real connection with the resultant sound unless I already knew the song from radio or hymns or something. As such Irene seemed about as believable as a unicorn. Nowadays I like reading about the parallels between maths and music and just think of the latter as something I like when other people do it. That’s a revelation which could have saved my parents a lot of teeth-gritting if they had acquiesced before the year of French horn lessons.

May to seek snap election for 8 June, BBC News

Theresa May has just called for a general election in the UK on 8 June. It’s not a definite thing yet as the proposal needs to be put to a Commons vote but if you’re a UK voter/have the right to vote in UK elections it’s worth making sure you’re registered to vote and that your details are up-to-date. Here’s the Register To Vote Page.

3D Scans Reveal Caterpillars Turning Into Butterflies by Ed Yong

I’ve been seeing butterflies more frequently this week plus a moth who managed to eschew all of the brown, leafy things she would naturally be camouflaged against in favour of a bright turquoise front door. With that in mind I wanted to find out more about the specifics of how a caterpillar recombines or restructures its bits in order to take flight. I’d read about the idea of the larval form turning into soup and then rebuilding, but this set of images and Yong’s accompanying explanation (which incorporates forensic research amongst other things) was far more helpful. as the piece says, the images (now several years old) didn’t change much but the article is a good grounding in what happens.

Discovering Wild Beauty and Epic Solitude on a Cruise to Norway’s Arctic Svalbard Islands by Christoph Niemann

This is an absolutely lovely illustrated journey to the Arctic Svalbard Islands. The bird and animal sketches are glorious, but the whole thing is one of those web layout exercises which can be deployed to great effect when giving a sense of a journey. It’s like reading an illustrated storybook of ice and adventure! It’s essentially advertising one of the National Geographic cruises you can take, but it does a really good job of expressing the sense of place – just as well given the per person cost starts at $16,570.

Imagining Your Future Projects Is Holding You Back by Jessica Abel

This blog entry focuses on Idea Debt. You’ve probably come across the concept in some form or another even without that particular terminology – it’s the thing where you have the idea for a project but even though you’re using a bunch of energy nursing it, you’re not actually nurturing it. Maybe you’ve told a bunch of people you want to learn a new language and you browse holidays or job opportunities in countries that speak that language or imagine how cool you will be when you are bilingual…. but you never quite get round to the unglamorous hard work side of things. While Abel’s piece doesn’t necessarily say anything I hadn’t heard before I like reading those kinds of articles every now and again to prompt a mental decluttering. This time around I jettisoned a couple of old ideas I was still deluding myself that I would get around to when really they were just taking up a spot in my to-do list.

The Passenger Dragged Off A United Plane Is A Symptom Of Airlines’ Ridiculous Overbooking System by Daniel Gross

Usually when I’m pondering the logistics of overbooking and the way bumping passengers via incentives works it’s when I’m on the plane for a journey and not supposed to have my phone on to research such things. With United’s heavy-handed, disturbing and damaging treatment of a passenger who refused to be bumped Slate published this piece about why the incentives offered to passengers to take a different flight often don’t make sense – economic or otherwise. Generally I only fly for work and that means that being bumped would risk negating the entire point of the trip or incurring a bunch of penalties in terms of alternative arrangements on arrival that I may not be able to expense. The cost-benefit would generally come out to be appallingly against me and would likely have repercussions in terms of business relationships and reputation. Obviously United need to have a look at more than just their overbooking strategy, but after reading the Slate article, I wonder whether an industry-wide change is needed given why we fly right now and what that’s worth.


  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Welp, I guess I ought to give up on all my future projects.

    But really, I recognize myself in that article rather strongly. I’m always thinking about making this game or that, always in vague terms and lots of overblown mechanics and systems I’d never realistically be able to do on my own.

    Maybe I need to actually start something, instead of just thinking.

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    Aerothorn says:

    Part of me is surprised (as an American) that the UK doesn’t have automatic voter registration.