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Shapes for Sounds: A Visual History of the Alphabet

Shapes for Sounds: A Visual History of the Alphabet
by Maria Popova What the anatomy of your tongue has to do with ship flags and the evolution of human communication. I’m endlessly fascinated by the intersection of sight and sound and have a well-documented alphabet book fetish. So I absolutely love Shapes for sounds by Timothy Donaldson, exploring one of the most fundamental creations of human communication, the alphabet, through a fascinating journey into “why alphabets look like they do, what has happened to them since printing was invented, why they won’t ever change, and how it might have been.” While the tome is full of beautiful, lavish illustrations and typography — like 26 gorgeous illustrated charts that trace the evolution of spoken languages into written alphabets — it’s no mere eye candy. The alphabet is one of the greatest inventions; it has enabled the preservation and clear understanding of people’s thoughts, and it is simple to learn. Donating = Loving Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. Share on Tumblr Related:  Infographicsbrainpickings

Symbol Signs: Helvetica Man and Beyond by Maria Popova A man and a woman walk into a sign, or what Helvetica has to do with slipping on ice. In 1974, the U.S. Department of Transportation commissioned AIGA to produce Symbol Signs — a standardized set of 34 symbols for the Interstate Highway System. Five years later, 16 more symbols were added to complete what’s become known as “the Helvetica of pictograms” — a 50-piece symbol set so iconic and universally pervasive it has become an integral part of our visual language. But beyond their practical application, Symbol Signs have amassed a cultish following in the design community, generating derivative work ranging from the quirky to the wildly creative. Artist Iain Anderson’s symbol-based short film, Airport, was a finalist in the 2005 Sydney Film Festival. A few weeks ago, we tweet-raved about Symbolic Gestures — a wonderful exposé on all the creative ways in which the National Park Service has adapted the iconic symbols to convey a wide and incredibly rich range of contexts.

5 Must-Read Books by TED Global 2011 Speakers by Maria Popova What the pursuit of pleasure has to do with lie-detection, the history of money and the sorrows of work. TED is among the highlights of my year and, every time before the big event, I like to prepare by reading or re-reading books by that TED season’s roster of speakers. (Previously: Long Beach 2011 in two parts and TED Global 2010.) We’ve previously looked closely at the art and science of happiness, and one of the simplest ways in which we humans grasp after happiness is through the pursuit of pleasure. Bloom explores the prevalent theory of “essentialism” — the idea that things in the world, including other people, have invisible, distinct essences that make them what they are, and we are born with a predilection for subscribing to this worldview. If you look through a psychology textbook, you will find little or nothing about sports, art, music, drama, literature, play, and religion. One of the interesting things about success is that we think we know what it means.

OpenBible.info 5 Must-Read Cross-Disciplinary Cookbooks by Maria Popova What Dracula, liquid nitrogen and hackers have to do with IKEA furniture. Cookbooks are no longer the fascination of foodies alone. From culinary journalist Estérelle Payany comes Recipe for Murder: Frightfully Good Food Inspired by Fiction — an absolutely delightful anthology of signature recipes delivered by 32 of literature’s greatest hero-villains. The book features original artwork by illustrator Jean-François Martin, whose work has graced the pages of The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, The Los Angeles Times, and a slew of other beacons of modern journalism. From caramel apples from Snow White’s stepmother to The Big Bad Wolf’s pig-in-the-blanket special to Brutus’ Caesar salad, this scrumptious gem of a book, fresh out of the Flammarion & Rizzoli publishing oven, delivers unexpected home-style recipes by way of your favorite fairy tales and literary classics. Images © Jean-François Martin; courtesy of Flammarion & Rizzoli via Artslope via @AmritRichmond

Infographic Of The Day: The Insane Choices You Face At The Drugstore Just 10 years ago, getting something for a headache or a cold at the drugstore was a simple enough affair: Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen? No longer: Drugstore aisles are now an eye-melting maze of choices, with products advertising everything from time-release to gel-caps to flavors to different dosages. I half-expect to find tooth-whitening Tylenol, one day soon. But despite all the decision fatigue this induces, I’ll bet this infographic will come as a shock. [Click to enlarge] At first sight, you might assume that this is merely an illustrative chart--that all the branches are simply hypothetical choices that one might face. This, of course, is by design: The infographic is, after all, an advertisement for Help Remedies, a company which offers single-use packets at drugstores labeled simply with your symptoms. You can spy that trend in all manner of industries: Just think about what buying a computer was like 10 years ago.

7 Platforms Changing the Future of Publishing by Kirstin Butler Cutting out the middleman, or what the Nobel Peace Prize has to do with harnessing the potential of tablets. Depending on whom you ask, these are either the best or the worst of times for the written word. As with every other branch of traditional media, the Internet has pushed the publishing industry to a critical inflection point, something we’ve previously discussed. Byliner, whose beautifully designed site officially launched last week, is easily the most ambitious of the initiatives featured here. The startup’s first original offering, Three Cups of Deceit, tells the story of the now-disgraced Nobel Peace Prize nominee and bestselling author Greg Mortenson. With the tagline, “longer than an article, shorter than a book,” The Atavist considers itself a “boutique publishing house” that turns out bespoke nonfiction and narrative journalism for digital devices. Bringing a crowdfunded model to books, the U.K. Read our full feature on 40K Books here.

Internet Privacy Infographic: Google Privacy & Your Privacy on Facebook This Infographic is Property of WordStream, Inc. WordStream is an Internet marketing software company, specializing in pay-per-click advertising software and a suite of SEO tools, which contains a FREE keyword tool for discovering profitable keywords, including long tail keywords for SEO and PPC. Share This Infographic: Internet Privacy: Is Your Right to Privacy Threatened? At WordStream, we recognize that retaining privacy on the internet has become an increasingly difficult task. Online privacy is continuously threatened, as evidenced by Facebook's constant changes to its online privacy policies. As illustrated by our infographic, Facebook's altering of the default privacy setting results in serious internet privacy issues as more users end up sharing more of their private information, often without realizing the changes that have taken place. Google and Privacy: Does Street View Help Burglars? Google's Street View project has also brought up an array of privacy concerns.

Proteus: Ernst Haeckel at the Intersection of Art & Science by Maria Popova More than a year ago, we featured Art Forms in Nature — a fascinating 1904 book by German biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel, full of beautifully illustrated artistic interpretations of the biological forms Haeckel studied. His work had a profound influence on art movements, scientific thought and entire ideologies, from Art Nouveau and Surrealism to Thomas Edison to Freud and Lenin. Proteus is a remarkable documentary about Haeckel’s work and others he influenced, a breathtaking intersection of science and art 20 years in the making. Every age has its own image of the world, and every image reflects the vision of its time and of its maker.” Among other marvels, the film features stunning images of the mineral exoskeletons of ancient one-celled marine organisms known as radiolarian — Haeckel single-handedly named, classified and illustrated nearly 4,000 of the 5,000 existing species, finding in their dazzling variety the key to the creative power of nature. Share on Tumblr

Applying Sentiment Analysis to the Bible « OpenBible.info Blog This visualization explores the ups and downs of the Bible narrative, using sentiment analysis to quantify when positive and negative events are happening: Full size download (.png, 4000×4000 pixels). Things start off well with creation, turn negative with Job and the patriarchs, improve again with Moses, dip with the period of the judges, recover with David, and have a mixed record (especially negative when Samaria is around) during the monarchy. The exilic period isn’t as negative as you might expect, nor the return period as positive. Methodology Sentiment analysis involves algorithmically determining if a piece of text is positive (“I like cheese”) or negative (“I hate cheese”). I ran the Viralheat Sentiment API over several Bible translations to produce a composite sentiment average for each verse. The visualization takes a moving average of the data to provide a coherent story; the raw data is more jittery. Update October 10, 2011 Full size download (.png, 2680×4000 pixels).

Happy 5th Birthday, TED Talks: 5 All-Time Favorite Talks by Maria Popova Democratizing knowledge, the meaning of life, and why everything we know about creativity is wrong. Today marks the fifth anniversary of TED talks becoming available to the world. As of this week, there are 1000 TED talks online in 81 languages, and they’ve been seen a cumulative half billion times. I can’t overstate how much TED has changed my life personally, and what a tour de force it has been culturally. Some time ago, I channeled my love for TED in a remix project called TEDify, collaging and animating soundbites from TED talks into narratives along different themes. Today, to celebrate the big occasion, I’ve tried to curate my five favorite TED talks of all time — operative word being “tried,” since it felt a bit like asking a parent to pick out her favorite child. When Elizabeth Gilbert took the TED stage in 2009, it didn’t take long to realize her talk would be among TED’s finest. Don’t be daunted. That is our poetry. That is how innovation happens. Share on Tumblr

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