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As you may know, I love audio plays as a storytelling format. I have the good fortune of being acquainted with the magnificent Dirk Maggs, who is a real champion of audio plays, and has produced more than you can shake a stick at. Some high-lights include the tertiary through quintessential phases of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, adaptations of Adams’ Dirk Gently books, several DC superhero stories, a very entertaining UK version of the events in the film Independence Day (appropriate, since ID is a remake of War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, a story of great importance to audio play-history), and a an adaptation of Stephen Baxter‘s touching story of a mission to Mars; Voyage.

Last year, Maggs cooperated with Neil Gaiman to bring Gaiman’s Neverwhere to BBC Radio 4. Neverwhere actually started at the BBC, as mini-series on television, but in my opinion (and despite good performances by among others Peter Capaldi in the TV-version) the radioplay is much, much better. Apparently the collaboration was a success, and this year the two teamed up with Gaiman’s co-author Terry Pratchett, to work on a radio adaptation of their joint work Good Omens (which, by the way, I have a signed Swedish edition of!). All right, we’re getting there… To commemorate this, artist and cartoonist Ray Frisen drew a portrait of the production team as cartoon characters, which I thought prompted the need for a comic about the production. Two months (?) later I got around to making it. Hope you like it!

Dirk Maggs in Work Gently

A comic about the production of Gaiman’s and Pratchett’s Good Omens for BBC Radio 4. Characters based on designs by Ray Frisen.

42³

A 42-cube, which reads 42 from three directions, a project I have wanted to realise for fifteen years, but until recently I thought it was impossible. Then I realised that given appropriate rotations combined with an appropriate font, it could be done.

This quick mockup was made using NumPy, SciPy and Mayavi. Ultimately, I would like to have it in physical form, but there remains some tweaking for that to be feasible.

Rotating 42 cube.

Rotating 42-cube.

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Så oskyldigt

Another political song, once again — surprise, surprise! — directed mainly against the People’s Party in Sweden (surprise, surprise! ^^ /skymandr). The leader of this party is currently in charge of educating our kids, and he hardly had time to put on his minister hat after the recent election before he started his campaign to make primary school education more similar to what it was when his ideology was really in vogue — the 19th century.

The melody is perhaps not as well known as the one in the previous songs. It is “Balladen om dagen efter” by Bengt Sändh, which I cannot find on YouTube, but there are CDs with this melody (I have one), so it is available.

Unlike the other songs, however, this is written together with S. I wrote one verse, and challenged him to write the next, and so on.
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Scientists in virtually every field are repeatedly inundated by popular science. Continue Reading »

Lately I’ve been preoccupied with typography, which lead me back to cartography. I’ve been meaning to make touched up versions of the maps I made of Anarres and Urras last year, and so I started looking for tutorials for Inkscape and/or Gimp and came across the brilliant Cartographers’ Guild. More specifically, I came across a very nice tutorial (updated version here) by Rob Antoishen. The result, after an afternoon’s work, was this:

Anarres, azimuthal equidistant projection of both hemispheres; digitally remastered.

Another rendition of Anarres. Continents are lined up at the equator, but unfortunately I used an old version as template, so the Northern parts don’t line up. Too late to do anything about that, though. Not too fond of it, too be frank.
(License: CC:By-NC-ND, with caveats as stated below.)

For several reasons, some of which are mentioned below, I’m not very fond of it, and therefore I’m putting a CC:By-NC-ND license on it: feel free to share it (mentioning me and Ursula K. Le Guin as the originators), but please don’t base any derivative works on this version of the map: use the versions from my previous post for that!

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A very small update. I decided to take a few days off from coding, instead spending them digging, swimming and drinking beer (all both in game and IRL). I hope to get back on track again, but we’ll see. There’s a bit too much pollen in the air for any sort of major commitments. Speaking of commits, my friend Bam decided to make me socially awkward by cloning my repository, implementing a benchmarking suite and then requesting a merging of the two repositories. All in all, it wasn’t too bad, and since he’s a very competent programmer, his contribution (and praise) was appreciated.

Since the last update, I’ve implemented the simple linear fader, which perhaps gives even more predictable results than Gaussian. I also toyed with the light settings, but I’ve sort of concluded that I like it best when then light follows the camera precisely, though I may tweak that a bit in the future. Most importantly, however, I’ve made a new ship, which while being (I hope) a clear homage to it, isn’t just an imperfect clone of the Zarch/Virus Lander:

New ship trying to do an Immelmann and over-compensating...

New ship, and slightly updated house model. Click for full-size! (CC: BY-NC-SA-2.5-SE)

The new ship is red, to reflect its designation as a “Fire Fighter”. I tried giving it stripes, but I didn’t like the look, so I reverted to the more simple design. The house has also been updated slightly, by dividing the faces into more triangles (4 per rectangle rather than 2) which gives it better sorting and shading properties.

Some more progress today:

  • The colours now fade to black with distance. After much discussion with my friends who work professionally with 3D graphics, I implemented a function neither of the suggested, but that seems all right to me, namely, Gaussian luminescence. This has the property, that the lighting stays roughly constant near the camera, then gradually decays to zero further off. There are many ways of doing the same thing, but Gauss is very convenient to me as a physicist, since it has a well defined scale to it which can easily be tweaked (the physicist in me chooses not to think to much about the fact that the light should really fade like 1/R²…). I also tweaked the light source to have a very faint red hue, but it’s very subtle.
  • I’ve implemented rotations for the objects (and refactored that piece of the code since it was becomming stupidly redundant). This means that the engine is now visible! I’ve implemented the rotations by using explicit rotation matrices, which is what I know and understand, but its probably not very efficient compared to quarternions. If, at a future stage, this appears to be a performance issue, then maybe I’ll have to learn about those…

Next on the list are (in no particular order):

  • Depth culling
  • Better object sorting
  • Controls (mouse + keyboard)
  • More objects
  • Shadows
  • Particles
  • Variegated ground

But that’s all for another day!

Lander-craft  doing aerial acrobatics. The small house has turned and repositioned to have a better view in the dimming light.

Lander-craft doing aerial acrobatics. The small house has turned and repositioned to have a better view in the dimming light. Click for full-size! (CC: BY-NC-SA-2.5-SE)

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