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Wednesday, July 13, 2005
TED is the Technology Entertainment Design conference, usually held in Monterey every February. The organisation's first UK event finishes in Oxford tomorrow, having breezed through an impressive line-up of contemporary thinkers. We came to the site via a news story on Richard Dawkin's pronouncement that the universe is "too queer" to fully comprehend; indeed, we will probably never understand it in its entirety. Dawkins' talk was called 'Meme Power', and his quote is probably an extrapolation of JBS Haldane's famous remark in his book Possible Worlds (1940): "Now, my suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose".

Dawkins' point was that humankind has done a fine job of creating 'middle worlds,' realities that make sense of the immense complexity that surrounds us through essential simplification. The universe is made up of countless billions of things, yet as humans we can only perceive things of a certain scale, those that are not too large and not too small, and this is the 'middle world' we inhabit. Haldane, a keen entomologist, speculated that the larger an organism gets, the more complex it becomes, what has come to be known as Haldane's Principle (Haldane, a quotable chap, also coined the word 'clone'). Others, most notably Jane Jacobs, applied this principle to organisational systems, arguing that complexity doesn't make things big, but bigness makes things complex. That's not to say complexity doesn't occur on the microscopic scale: Haldane was once asked what his research had led him to think about God. 'He must have an inordinate fondness for beetles,' he replied. Not to mention beetle horns.

*

Other things. Oskar goes nuts, a weblog / someone pointed out to us yesterday that the current things colour scheme is far from ideal if you suffer from protanopia, deutanopia or tritanopia - colour blindness. Try using the Colorfilter on the site and you can see the problem. More changes... / Lucy Pringle has a hugely comprehensive website all about crop circles, with conclusive photos like this one of a hostile alien symbol / speed limits go up in some US States / TED Global discusses future cities: apparently 130 people a second move to urban areas around the globe.

Thanks to Olli at Shinerclay for the pointer towards Uniform Freak, which continues to serve up classic air hostess style / nice to get a mention on a Flaming Lips forum / the LiveJournal mood tracker / 70s stuff, via Life in the Present / photographs by Tobias Hegele / Russian interiors, a series by photographer Christian Houge (via Conscientious).

One of the world's largest container ships, the OOCL Shenzhen / crates and barrels (via coudal). I feel they're missing a trick somewhat, by posting whole screen captures rather than the little 8x8 pixel barrels themselves / a modern set of Russian dolls by Marco, via Nebo Peklo (via i like) / pins and needles, a knitting blog / Swiss publishing giant Birkhauser takes over Lars Muller / Why I bought a typewriter on eBay. Related, Chuck and Rich's Antique Typewriter Museum. The toys are especially fun.

London's two-minute silence was genuinely eerie, almost completely quiet save for the clatter of an idling taxi pulled over on Waterloo Bridge.