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To-Do List for When I’m Immortal

Mantis Paper

Longevity experts say death will eventually be a thing of the past. Once we’re able to manipulate our bodies with cellular precision or digitize our brain patterns so they can be backed-up and transferred to a fresh new body, we’ll be able to live on and on forever and ever. That’ll be great for me, since I’ve got a ton of projects that I just don’t have time for right now. I’ve started a to-do list so I don’t forget.

 
1
 
Stop and smell the roses.
All of them.
Rate their scents on a scale of 1-1000.

2
 
Catch up on all those past issues of National Geographic.

3
 
Proofread the internet.

4
 
Binge watch Days of our Lives

5
 
Get a new cat.
Film every moment of its life. When the cat dies, edit down the footage to one year’s-worth of highlights to create the greatest cat video ever.
Do a year-long screening of the film whenever I miss the cat.

6
 
Eat at every McDonalds.

7
 
Mess around with evolution.
Do some selective breeding to create:

      • Domesticated squirrels.
      • Bi-pedal wiener dogs.
      • Praying mantises to match my wallpaper.
      • A species of bird with a call that sounds like I’m Like a Bird by Nelly Furtado

8
 
Figure out once and for all how many blades of grass are on the front lawn by counting them individually.

9
 
Finally finish that Ken Burns Baseball documentary. Really take the time to study it. When it mentions a particular game, pause the documentary, track down a recording of that game and watch the whole thing.
When it mentions a particular player, do the same thing, but with every game in which that player appeared.

10
 
Open a museum for my socks.

11
 
Stage that one-man show I’ve always wanted to do: The Life and Times of Herbert Hoover. Reenact his whole life from birth to death. In real-time.
If it’s a hit, do all the other presidents.

12
 
Adopt a pet rock. Name it Roxy.
Leave it outside.
When it erodes down to almost nothing, change it’s name to Dusty.

13
 
Get into competitive tree racing.

14
 
Open a beach resort in Pittsburgh.

15
 
Start stockpiling sunscreen for when the Earth gets closer to the sun.

16
 
Write a series of books about a family. It will be a generation-spanning family saga. In each book, a different family member is the main character and you see the whole story from their perspective. Oh – and also the family is a family of bees.

17
 
Start planning my “End of the Holocene” party.
It’s going to be epoch.

Hey! What’s the Apple Watch Screen Resolution?

Apple unveiled the glamorous new Apple Watch on September 9, but they failed to mention what resolution the screen would have. For designers looking to start creating apps for this fancy little device, we’re left with the question: “What size do I make my comps?” Let’s see if we can put on our smarty-pants and solve this mystery right here.

Some might say resolution-dependent comps are a thing of the past in this multi-device era of liquid responsiveness, but I still like to use Photoshop to quickly set up an initial visual style. With that said, let us begin.

Firstly, how big is the screen? Already, we have a trick question. There are two sizes! A manly 42mm version as well and a dainty 38mm for the ladies. By performing a highly unscientific analysis of the screenshots from the Apple website, we can get a good idea of the aspect ratio and then the width.

watchsize

Next question: Do the two sizes have a different resolution? Or, to rephrase it, would Apple really add hours of frustration to the lives of developers and designers, just for 4mm? Let’s hope not, and assume they both display the same pixel dimensions, and that the small one’s just a little crisper than the big one.

That still doesn’t tell us much about the actual pixel density. But neither did Apple. And that actually does tell us something. It means there was no major breakthrough in screen resolution to get a display to fit onto your wrist. If there was, we would have heard the disembodied voice of Jony Ive waxing poetically about it over semi-pornographic close-ups of polished aluminium chip-faces.

So if it wasn’t a big breakthrough, then surely they’d use the best they’ve got – especially if they’re concerned about maximizing the legibility of typefaces at such a small size. So the best they seem to have available was unveiled the same day for the iPhone6 plus.

iphone_res
401 pixels per inch seems like plenty.

So assuming the smallest size device (32.3mm x 38mm) is using the best possible resolution (401ppi), we can quickly run the numbers through Photoshop’s image size dialog.

watchres2

Flipping the millimeters to pixels shows a resolution of 509 x 600. 600 is a remarkably elegant number, but I’ve never heard of an odd number of pixels on a screen, so I’ll assume my measurements were off by a bit and call it:


510 x 600

That’s my guess, at least. Feel free to post your alternate theories in the comments.

UPDATE: September 15, 2014
Something important that was brought to my attention in the comments is that the entire watch face is not used for the display. There’s actually a generous black border around the rendering area. Once we take that into account, using the same 401ppi resolution for the 38mm version, we get a height of 480px (another number that commonly occurs in display sizes). The final dimensions then come out to:


386 x 480

imagesize

The Waterslide of Weirdness

waterslide photo by Charles Bodi
Photo courtesy of Charles Bodi

It wasn’t long ago that computing was solely the domain of nerd-boys like myself whose only hope of social redemption stemmed from Matthew Broderick’s romance with Ally Sheedy in War Games. Nowadays, if you’re not using a computer for your social interactions, you might as well be living in an Antarctic monastery.

And fifteen years ago, most of us would’ve been pretty shocked to see a waiting room full of people hopelessly enraptured by tiny glowing screens. But now we just shake our heads, post a snapshot to Instagram, and ask Siri to play The Times They Are A-Changin’.

Some pretty strange stuff is now more-or-less acceptable: Spending real money on a pair of shoes for your avatar, asking your phone if it’s raining in Denver, taking a photo of a taco, etc. There’s no question that technology is insinuating its way into our lives at an accelerating pace. But despite how adapted we’ve become to our shiny augmentations, it seems there are still a few lines we’re unwilling to cross.

The best example of where we’re at with this is Google Glass, which, in case you don’t know, is a pair of glasses that project a digital readout into your field of vision so you can always have important information when you need it. So, like, if you pass a Pizza Hut while you’re walking, you’ll always know they have 10% off all stuffed crust pizzas. It’s basically Google’s answer to the X-ray specs that were advertised in the back of comic books for so many years. The kids bought the x-Ray specs, put them on, looked at the cute girl in school, saw no underwear, and became angry at technology for being so limited. Now they are grown up and are enacting their sweet, sweet revenge.

Google Glass is a case where the technology is pretty much ready to go, but for most people, wearing crazy cyber-goggles in public is still just too weird. Adoption could probably be sped along with some better design, but even if the product was widely available, you wouldn’t be buying them for your mom for her birthday. At this point, the intrusion of such technology into our lives still feels kinda creepy.

Maybe it’s because we aren’t quite ready for the day when you put on a pair of glasses, and instead of seeing what’s in front of you, you’re seeing the view from your friend’s eyes as they walk through Shanghai, or you’re seeing the view from your own eyes when you visited Tomorrowland last year. While this may sound awesome to William Gibson fans, I’m guessing the average gadget buyer would prefer it if such mind-blowing possibilities remained in the realm of science fiction until further notice. Most of us have barely figured out how to do a video chat without at least one close-up of our nostrils.

Sometime soon, technological innovation will begin to outpace our ability to adapt to it. At which point, my monkey-level gut reactions will be all that’s preventing me from buying the style-o-matic closet that chooses my outfit based on the weather, my calendar events and my mood. And its inventors will be left wondering “why are some innovations easy to accept, and others just feel wrong?”

One place to start looking for an answer to this question is a place that robot-makers and other fans of digital biomorphism call the “uncanny valley.” The valley refers to a dip in the graph when you plot the human likeness of an object against its “familiarity” or how much you’d like to hang out with it.

The uncanny valley

If something doesn’t look remotely human, but still acts human, we love that – like Kermit the Frog. Most people would be fine having lunch with him. But as the object starts to look more and more human, we begin to get the willies. A ventriloquist’s dummy sits at the edge of the valley, the lady in this video sits at the bottom.

I suspect that somewhere close to the uncanny valley, is another form of creepiness that has more to do with how much technological immersion we can handle at any given time. This is a slightly different creepiness than the one found in the uncanny valley. The uncanny valley doesn’t seem to move with time. As far as we can tell, people have always been freaked out by dead-eyed clown puppets and they always will be. This other kind of weirdness fades over time as a technological concept percolates in the popular consciousness, until, quite suddenly, with the proper execution, it becomes something we should have had all along.

On a graph, this phenomenon would be the declining curve you get when you plot the time since a piece of technology was first mentioned in Star Trek against the likelihood of a user’s photo appearing on a single topic Tumblr page called Dorks with Newfangled Gadgets.

This curve would be less of a valley and more of an amusement park waterslide – a waterslide of weirdness. Time is the water rushing past our feet, scooting us ever closer to the possibilities offered by the new gadget. We’re up at the top where it’s dignified, trying to maintain some semblance of our former humanity, but the kids are rushing past us, diving in head-first, and our friends in line behind us are getting impatient. Finally, we say, “Why am I being such a fuddy-dud?”, put it in the Amazon cart and go sliding down into a new level of technological immersion. We hit the bottom and say, “This is great! I wonder if my mom would like one for her birthday?”

The Waterslide of Weirdness chart

 

This waterslide might explain why people are generally uncomfortable when futurists like Ray Kurzweil spout off about how, in fifty years, we’ll all be uploading our souls to the cloud, recording our every action with retinal-implant cameras, and upgrading our brains to genius-level intellect. Those things might be great when we get there, but we haven’t gone down those slides yet.

And what about the vat-grown hamburger? The design-your-own baby gene-splicer app? How far away, and how steep are the waterslides for those innovations? Even if such things were made available today, we’d need some time to adapt to them before they attain widespread acceptance.

On the other hand, I’ll take a USB enabled hearing implant if I’m going deaf, and I would gladly rearrange my kids’ chromosomes if it would keep them healthy. Nothing weird about that. Those slides I’ve already gone down.

As neuroscience and bioengineering begin to converge with digital technology, we may soon reach a point when the fear of plummeting down the waterslide of weirdness is the only thing separating us from a completely cybernetic future – or maybe those willies we get when installing the latest neuro-implant will be the last vestige of our old-fashioned humanity.

An Out of This World Exhibit

teylersinvite

The Teylers Museum in the Netherlands is presenting Out of This World – The Search for Planets. It’s a fascinating exhibit that deals with the history of space exploration.

Besides the beautiful exhibit design (that makes exquisite use of vintage sci-fi art), one highlight for visitors is, of course, the chance to sit down at a computer and try out “If the Moon Were Only One Pixel.”

If you happen to be somewhere near Haarlem, be sure to stop by and contemplate your place in the universe. Click here for more info about the exhibit. 

Updating the Solar System Map

moon-update-art

A lot of interesting people have stopped by to scroll through the scale map of the solar system. If there was one reward from this unpaid “curiosity project” it was that I was reminded just how many kind and smart people are alive in the world today.

Many of them shared words of support, some shared inspiring thoughts and others had ideas for improvements. Just recently I managed to implement a few of those ideas, with help from even more kind and smart people. I got quite a nice head-start on the scripting thanks to Kyle Murray (Krilnon at kirupa.com) who I’ve never met, and am beginning to suspect is some kind of benevolent super-being.

Here are the new digital accoutrements you can enjoy on your next journey through scaled-down space:


Fancy language translator.

I definitely couldn’t have done this part on my own, mostly because I only speak English (and Google translate would make my writing appear as though it were written by, well… a computer. A computer with brain damage.) For those unfortunates whose first language is not the official tongue of the global monoculture, you can now find a little icon in the upper right that lets you convert the text on the map to whichever archaic language is spoken on the streets of your charming village.

This feature was made possible by the translation work of friends, family, and kind, foreign pen-pals. I will name them here, so when people Google their names, they will be directed to this page: Niaz Uddin, Naomi Kasahara, Shirley Worth (my Aunt), Thorsten Frey, H-D Honscheid, Marcel Schäfer, José Roberto V. Costa, Fransje Pansters at the Teylers Museum, Lorenzo Matellán, Claudia Rodriguez-Ortega, David Chatenay, Pierre Houzé, and Khrys from France.


Light Speed!

Another new, much-requested feature is the light-speed button in the lower right, which, when pressed, will demonstrate just how ridiculously slow the universe moves, relativitively speaking. (Note the hilarious wordplay.) Even though I was aware that light takes 8.5 minutes to get from the sun to the earth, I was alarmed at how impatient I felt when I first saw the tick marks inching along. I never thought I would say I felt like the speed of light was too slow. It makes our hopes of getting to a distant planet seem pretty bleak, unless we can outsmart physics.


Unit Selection

Now the vast distances between the sun and planets can be measured using the scale of your choosing. I even figured out how to insert comma delimiters, in case that somehow helps you to better grasp ridiculously large numbers.


Scrolling Shortcuts

And finally, for the truly lazy, I added some hidden shortcuts to help you traverse the expanses in a less tiresome manner. You’ve got a couple secret buttons that auto-scroll from one point of interest to the next, and there’s a script that, if working properly, will convert the vertical movement of your scroll-wheel to horizontal scrolling. While these features almost entirely defeat the purpose of the project by eliminating the need to actively scroll through the endless void, they will hopefully allow people to resume their productive activities in a more timely manner.



Thanks again to everyone who supported this project through their Likes, Retweets and words encouragement! And thanks to my Dad, Al Worth for the debugging help!