Even more, Bonus Points 2.0!
Welcome back to Bonus Points, where we scrape the creme of yon frothing Internet to save you having to hunt down all the awesome yourself. This week was particularly fruitful with a metric ton of cool internet oddities for your browsing leisure.
The list includes some of the cool things that happen when satellites look up AND down, fantastical maps, nerd-friendly infographics, retro web-based emulators, tools to up your Starcraft 2-fu, a truly mesmerizing orrery, some Chinese war games, creative use of office supplies, the coolest and most literal “computer desk” EVER, some X-Muppets, and two different scientific studies with an interesting take on gaming.
Remember, send your internet awesome to email@example.com or hit me on the Twatters: @atlasimpure
Istanbul’s Urban Sprawl
Most large cities contain neighborhoods that used to be towns and villages in their own right (Barcelona). Today, many large cities have grown to the point that their borders meet (San Francisco Bay Area) and create metropolitan areas that are often viewed as cities in their own right (Los Angeles). Looking forward, many of today’s average-sized cities (2-5 million inhabitants) can be expected to join the current list of recognized megacities (21) as their populations shoot past the 10 million person benchmark. These megacities combine vast sprawl with intense development to leave little to no ground unexploited as seen with Istanbul, above. The rapid growth of Geographic Information Systems(GIS), ubiquitous GPS, and detailed infrared satellite imagery has allowed scientists to begin grappling with the true magnitude of the situation. In the meantime, we get to enjoy the pretty pictures.
Kirby, I AM IN YOU!
Ah, Christmas, 1989…how I loved you. We didn’t really have the money for me to get fancy toys most holidays, which left me completely unprepared for my Mom and Nana to go in on a joint purchase of the OG Gameboy. It was probably the best money either of them EVER spent on me as I not only played the hell out of the thing but I was still playing that exact same model until its death at sea in mid-2003. Yeah, it had lost the gray screen framing in ’98 and I’d been holding the battery cover on with duct tape since late ’01 but it continued to be my go-to portable time-sink until that fateful day when I tripped while crossing the flight deck of the USS Belleau Wood. As it skittered across the deck, launched over the side and disappeared into the Ryukyu Trench, it took nearly 10,000 joyous hours of game play with it.
I could never bring myself to replace the original system and emulators can be both a pain to set up as well as maintain. Fortunately, some enterprising gents have gone to the trouble of creating a browser version of nearly every GB and GBColor game ever made. They’ve also got one for your NES and SNES related needs.
Planck and Herschel, Asgard Edition
Last week, I gave a lot of love to NASA’s Hubble which means it’d only be fair to give equal love to the ESA (European Space Agency) and their twin scopes, Planck and Herschel. But instead, I’m just going to have to come out and say that P&H officially kick the crap out of Hubble due to one simple fact. As illustrated above, when tasked with recreating the grandeur and majesty of Asgard, French post-production house BUF knew they’d need to plumb the very depths of heaven. Fortunately, they happened to be neighbors with the best infrared and microwave telescope imaging teams on the planet. BUF’s got the full spread of what they eventually did with the images but I personally prefer to get them straight from the horse’s mouth.
Starcraft as Spectator Sport: A Study
Having Americans watching video game matches with the same intensity and potentially lucrative devotion experienced by major league sports has long been a Holy Grail for the gaming industry. Various E-sports Leagues have launched, failed, or struggled on with their dream but didn’t seem to have a large enough or consistent enough audience to make them truly viable. And then Starcraft 2 happened and things got a little crazy. The original Starcraft had a healthy but not sizable spectator following in the U.S. and an all too healthy, verging on rabid, spectator following in South Korea. With the advent of the sequel we are seeing three or four large leagues competing for top billing along with numerous smaller venues and a healthy number of shout-casters across the internet. Whether any of them end up outperforming the MLS (I’m setting the bar low…heh), is still up in the air, but it does beg the question of how the hell this one game has managed to do what nobody else has even scratched at previously.
Fortunately, when there’s a question to be answered, we have SCIENCE!!!
YABOT, how not to suck.
As Starcraft 2 attempts to hijack our viewing airwaves, more and more players are jumping into the bloody maelstrom for their chance to see how they measure up with the big boys. Given the open nature of Blizzard’s Battle.net, it’s entirely possible for you to end up facing one of the highly lauded “pros” in open combat.
Of course, I have found that you’ll never get there if can’t survive the first five minutes of a match.
SCIENCE!!! ENGINEERING!!! comes to the rescue with a handy little tool for you to practice your opening build. YABOT lets you design your own builds or import one of the thousands of recommended builds designed by other (better?) players over at sc2builds.com.
Have at it and please go gentle if you’re ever matched with a particularly wretched player by the name of “atlasimpure”.
Who’s Your Daddy?
If you’ve been watching HBO’s Game of Thrones, you may occasionally find yourself a little perplexed as to who the hell everyone is and how they’re related. Apparently, graphic designer Magda Maslowska was having a similar problem and decided to do something about it. Having not read the books, she sat down and collated every single possible piece of character info available on the HBO website and then made not one but TWO different pictures of all the relationships.
The first graphic shows every single possible relationship detail, from rivalry to service, that occurred before the start of the season. She designed the second graphic for those that feel the backstory of the characters is potential spoil-fodder and simply shows relatives and marriages.
On top of that, she designed a rather fetching map of the Kingdoms that she updates with markers highlighting the location of various key plot points, as they happen. She’s been making regular updates on her blog and you’ll find episode by episode breakdowns of existing relationships as well as changes that have occurred during the episodes. Definitely a go-to resource after your weekly dose of Westeros.
The last time most of us saw an orrery was during that scene in Pitch Black where they figure out that the most poorly timed solar eclipse EVER is about to ruin their day. These complex clockwork devices attempt to predict the locations of the various bodies in our star system as they rotate around the sun and one another. Modern orrery’s date back to 1700, when a Duke tasked a watchmaker with illustrating heliocentric motion, but we’ve been making them since at least 150 BC. As it would take kilometers of space to create the proper scale of distance between the various planetary orbits, astronomers have used a little creative math based on relative orbital rotations to time the exact motion of each marker. Since the clockwork involved in exactly matching this many moving objects of differing speed and relationship, physical orreries (like the one to left) can cost thousands and thousands of dollars.
The good news is, pixels are cheap and the wise guys over at Dynamic Diagrams are always more than happy to share their mad skills. Their digital orrery has the added benefit of readily switching between Copernicus’ heliocentric model and Tycho’s (mesmerizing) retro Earth-centric model. Personally, I enjoy picking random historical dates out of thin air to see where Uranus was located.
China at War Games
Back in 2002, the U.S. Army got the bright idea to make a video game about the experiences of life as a soldier both in and out of combat. It was initially conceived as a training tool but quickly morphed into a PR and recruiting tool as the service struggled to meet a rising demand for personnel to support the country’s multiple war fronts. The game was fairly careful to avoid naming specific enemies and actually focused more on tactical movement, first aid execution, and the operation of complex military hardware.
Now, the Chinese PLA (People’s Liberation Army) has commissioned their own in-house title, Glorious Mission aka Mission of Honor. The game takes a similar tack as the U.S. one, with its early focus on boot camps and squad training, but the big final mission is a large-scale open combat with invading U.S. troops. And thaaaat’s what has everybody’s attention. Personally, I wouldn’t give a crap except China recently, and successfully, campaigned to get themselves removed from the upcoming Red Dawn remake. You can piss all over a lot of things in this world…but you do not fuck with Red Dawn.
Aquaman != Suck?
In Andrew’s latest bid to compensate for the crippling insecurities that have plagued him ever since hiring me, he stated that my DCU equivalent was AQUAMAN. I know…killing words. How I resisted the urge to reach through the internet and choke-slam him is beyond me.
But, ultimately, as the bigger man, I understand the need to allow the little people their luxuries. Letting them eat cake…and such.
In light of that, I present this awesome “Big-Time Approved” list of reasons why being Aquaman (as if such a lowly fate is even vaguely attributable to my majesty) would still be a lot better than being Andrew.
Office Supply X-wing
This one doesn’t need a lot of lead-up. You’re bored at work, have unfiltered access to poorly monitored office supplies, and your cube farm does seem eerily reminiscent of a particular approach path canyon. This is, pretty much, the single best possible use of your time.
More MMO Means Less IRL
If you want to “succeed” at an MMO—and I mean really kick ass, get all the cool shit and see everything there is to see—you need to be willing to invest a shitload of your time. Sadly, time being a finite resource, that means you have a lot less of it for everything else. Personally, I found sleep to be the most readily expendable option as there are numerous legal solutions for fatigue. It turns out I’m the exception, as most of the players in a recent study found real-world social interactions to be a much more acceptable sacrifice. Don’t believe me? Just ask SCIENCE..2!!!
Truly Bitchin “Desktop” Computer
There is no acceptable world in which I do not own this desk. Seriously. I’m going to start holding my breath and I’m not gonna stop until this fucking thing sprouts out of the nearest wall. It is PURE sex with fully integrated cable management, full triple-monitor support, and pervasive liquid cooling. The liquid cooling would make ridiculous benchmarking pretty simple but the added space available in the desk format means reduced proximity of all components which in turn reduces the overall cross-effect of various heat sources. You can view the entire step-by-step construction process from rough cut sheet metal beginnings to the various intricacies of cabling and mounting to the final glorious reveal.
Peter, from Norway, I SALUTE YOU.