Archives of the Planet

March 16, 2017

Who knew that colour photography was so old?

Actually I did, but it makes a good first line. The Lumiere Brothers invented a colour process in 1903 called Autochrome. It first became available in 1907 and within two years, a Paris banker Albert Kahn was inspired to use the process to compile a photographic record of the whole world. Over the next 22 years, the photographers that Kahn hired produced 72,000 pictures for the project entitled The Archives of the Planet .

These photographs (plus many films shot at the same time) are housed at the Musée Albert Kahn, just to the west of Paris. Fortunately the collection is also online (though you then miss out on the beautiful gardens).

There are some wonderful images in the collection and with so many to chose from, it is hard to pick a favourite.

A chief and his wives in Dahomey in 1930

Boulevard De La Chapelle 1912

Bosnian boys 1912

One particularly moving one from 1921 shows a market in the Syrian city of Homs, now bombed beyond recognition.

To mark the centenary of the First World War, the Musée has a special exhibition of photographs from the war.

Poste d'observation d'artillerie aux tranchées de 1ère ligne, Conchy-les-Pots, Oise  : 24 juillet 1915, Autochrome de Stéphane Passet, inv. A 5900. © Musée Albert-Kahn - Département des Hauts-de-Seine

Aside from the historic value of these photographs, many of them are also simply very beautiful pictures. A browse through the archive is very rewarding.


A Graphic View of Time

October 16, 2016

I have been fascinated by this view of time as presented graphically by Tim Urban on his website But Why Wait.

This is the clearest explanation I have seen of our place in the vastness of astronomical time. Several of the observations when seen like this are mind-blowing. For example, there have been mammals here for 200 million years but the arrival of Homo Sapiens doesn’t even register as a smear on that timeline.

Stegosaurus lived longer ago before Tyrannosaurus Rex was around than T Rex lived before the present time and that there were dinosaurs living on earth for 165 million years which sounds like a long time, until you see it in relation to the origin of life at 3.6 billion years ago. And that in itself is only a quarter of the way back to the origin of the universe.

My head hurts!


Birds with arms

September 17, 2016

This image caught my eye on a friend’s Facebook feed and in my usual ‘slacker’ fashion I went further and linked to the site that she had posted it from. This took me to a site I was unfamiliar with (but will be sure to visit again – Sad and Useless). As I often observe, people post the most wonderful things but neglect to attribute them to anyone.

I am always delighted to find people who have plenty of time on their hands but I also try to give credit where I can.

In this case, I am delighted to have found Birds With Arms which invites people to Photoshop arms onto birds and post them, though I can’t quite work out who is responsible for the individual images.

Here are some more.

“ I feel that if I can’t find a use for this GIF, I’ll have failed at something.

In addition, do look at other pages on Sad and Useless. You won’t be sorry.



So I had this idea on the 10th anniversary of my first blog here. I would go back and look at some of the earlier postings to see what had changed either in the world or my thinking about it.

The first thing I noticed is how few of the sites that I used to read and either comment on or write about are still around. Or if they are, haven’t been written on for years. I realise as I write that, that I didn’t write on this blog for nearly 4 years. For whatever reason, as I have observed here earlier, blogging seems to have become a dying art. Not as serious a decline as say personal letters in the post (with interesting stamps) but nonetheless noticeable and to my mind disappointing

The other overall observation is that not a lot has changed on the Internet in 10 years!

Anyway, here are some musings.

In 2006, I was amused by the apparent lack of progress in voice recognition. And has it got any better? Well, yes and no. The ‘yes’ applies to Google voice which is fantastically accurate and very useful. I used to use it constantly in the car to enable proper hands-free operation. I could ask it to dial numbers and find and navigate to addresses. So what about the ‘no’ then. My new car is equipped with something called Mazda Connect which turns out to have the most laughably useless voice input. If I say something like ‘call home’ or ‘ring home’ it it likely to ask me which hip-hop radio station I’d like to listen to or try to navigate me to the airport. I can find no word in common between what I ask and what it hears.

In a piece I wrote about new words, I mused on what words from the past would still be in use today and suggested that words can go as easily as they come. By way of a quiz, I asked readers to guess the year of origin of various words, assuming that would be hard as the words had disappeared from everyday use. Who would have guess that one of the words was ‘pokémania’?

As I said – not a lot has changed.





Back Again Again

August 3, 2016

It has been a few years since I wrote anything here. Why? Laziness perhaps, but more likely because of Facebook. It is easy to post something of interest on Facebook with a one-line comment. Some hardy souls do write longer posts there, but it is not really the place for the more thoughtful observations. I have noticed though, that I read fewer blogs than I used to and that many of those I used to read are no longer there.

I refuse to completely abandon the blog, thus this attempt to restart Cyberslacker.

And what inspired me to start? The discovery of a cartoonist who, cartoon after cartoon, has made me laugh out loud.

Canadian illustrator John Atkinson  combines a delightful cartoon style with a hilarious play with the English language, under the name Wrong Hands. (If he doesn’t do cryptic crosswords, he should)

Some favourites –

phonetically defined #4

(even more) phonetically defined

what separates us

simplified city map

movie plot generator

John generously allows these cartoons to be reproduced. I hope he is also making a living out of his work.

Age Quiz Time

July 27, 2012

People have been posting this sort of picture onto Facebook and elsewhere with the message – “you know you are old if you recognise this”.

Here are a few from my childhood.







One of the slightly surprising things that this exercise has thrown up, is in fact how little things have changed in the last 50 years or so. Setting aside the computer/mobile phone/ television examples, it is hard to find much that has changed so much that they are unrecognisable.

Even some of the objects I have shown here are in contemporary use in some form. The hand sprayer, the can opener and even the mini-blackboard (slate) for example.

The fundamental objects around us have been refined and re-designed but are generally fairly recognisable.

By the way, the objects are –

drive-in cinema speakers, sardine can opener, hi-fi stylus, US 45-rpm record centre, school inkwell, Philips videocassette, school slate, car starter-handle, clothes wringer, two can-openers, Tonette, fly-spray

Looks Can Deceive

July 4, 2012

The US Geological Survey has published this graphic showing how much water there is on the earth. The bubble represents all the water on the planet.

Picture of Earth showing if all, liquid fresh, and the water in rivers and lakes were put into spheres..

Apart from the obvious message about the preciousness of water, it is also a fascinating illustration of how differently we perceive volume and (almost) area. Almost, because in relation to the size of the earth, the oceans are not very deep.

It is the reverse of the surprising effect of seeing how far one drop of oil can spread on water.

For the geeks amongst you, the calculations are here.