Thursday, December 9, 2010

Idea: A story in Vi commands

The thought occurs that, a bit like hearing one side of a telephone conversation and slowly piecing together the story, a particularly niche storytelling device could be to tell the story using only the vi commands. A series of searches, a replace, perhaps a :q! (runaway!).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Idea: An optimally diffusing reflector

In an unlikely twist of events, here's an actual idea, like I intended to be posting.

The problem

I have a consumer digital camera, but I hate the glare of the flash when I take an indoor photo at a family event. So I usually either find a bit of white paper or a spoon and hold it in front of the flash to bounce the flash off the ceiling or a wall behind me. This has its downsides; you look silly, you flash whoever's behind you, it's cumbersome (particularly when shooting vertically) and it doesn't work whenever there's a dark or far away wall or ceiling.

The concept

So I thought it would be good to have a little diffuser I could attach to my camera. But a little piece of plastic would waste a lot of the light by sending it out the sides, more so the larger the diffuser. And so that it actually improves the shot, I'd like the diffuser to be a reasonable size (A6?). So how about using 2 bounces? Firstly, a bounce in front of the flash to redirect it upwards, and then a second above the flash to bounce it forwards. If both of those were made of some kind of semi-diffusing reflector, like shiny paper, or had a bumpy surface like crinkled tin foil, then the light would be diffused without too much loss. I could also just use the first reflector to bounce of the wall or ceiling.

Optimizing the solution

What shape should the two reflectors be? If the first was concave it could focus the flash onto the second reflector, or even (via a paraboloid) create a fairly narrow beam. The second reflector would need to again diffuse the light to create the most diffuse source it could. So could we throw two surfaces of nodes and a light source into an optimising algorithm and see what answer it comes up with? The constraints would be to maximise diffuseness of the resulting light (so a given point in the field of view would be uniformly lit from as wide an angle as possible), minimise size, maximise the intensity within the field of view, etc.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Visualization: Analysis plus Design

In response to Dave McCandless' post on Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom:

I would say that the value visualization brings is not only design but also analysis. First, you must analyse the information, and then you have to communicate that analysis to others. You can generate a very well designed pie chart, but if the useful analysis is better done with a bar chart, you’ve missed the best visualization. That’s why you get mush – not because the design is missing, but because the analysis is.