Snowflakes

This post summarises the research I did for the Snowflakes eCard here. Some of the code and artwork from the eCard were re-purposed in this interactive snowflake maker which can create over 8 billion showflake shapes; one for each Earth citizen.

I was looking for a winter theme and started at the usual place with the WKSE (well known search engine). I found that what I thought of as snow flakes are in fact snow crystals; a snowflake can be composed of one or several snow crystals. There is a lot of information on the Caltech site that describes snow crystals and the mechanism of their formation, illustrated with some wonderful photographs, shown here.

The molecular lattice of a snowcrystal has a hexagonal form and this reflected in the structure of the snow crystals which can have either a 6-fold or more rarely a 12-fold symmetry. Man always needs to classify the world and snow crystals are no exception. Crystals can be simple plates, or rods or more complex stellate forms. The seemingly infinite number of form of snow crystals arises from small differences in the starting conditions of formation.

This site: pandasthumb.org cites Ukichiro Nakaya and his work on snowflake morphology in the 1950s and provides this diagram which relates snow crystal morphology to temperature of formation.

An alternative classification can be found on the NASA site.

This site directed me to the information on Wilson Bentley (Although I did get distracted to read about of the LOTR exhibit.)

Wilson Bentley, a.k.a the ‘Snowflake Man’, was a self-taught farmer who developed a technique to photograph snow crystals.

He published some of the photographs in Snow Crystals by W.A. Bentley and W.J. Hunphreys, Dover Press.

What appears to be the entire collection of his images is presented here.

The site includes an extensive list of links to other sites dealing with snow and has a number of items for purchase related to Wilson Bentley and his work. One that caught my eye was a poster of a montage of snowflake patterns in relation to temperature of formation.

If you want to try preserving snowflakes a guide is available here.

A number of other sites contain images of snow crystals.

snow crystals

snow crystals

snow crystals

Perhaps because of their symmetry and apparent infinite variety, snow crystals seem to be a source of inspiration for many artists. I came across a number of sites that offer snowflake designs, although strictly speaking they did not always adhere to the 6-fold or 12-fold symmetry, which I guess is artistic licence.

snowflake shapes

papercutting snowflakes

snowflake stencils

The shape of a snow crystal can also be abstracted as a fractal form known as the Koch Snowflake. An interactive display can be found here. It is created by drawing successively smaller equilateral triangles, to infinity. The bounding curve is infinite in length, but encompasses a finite area. Colours of Infinity. Various authors. Clear Press. 2004

I was also interested to see how snowflakes were implemented into interactive works.

This site uses Flash to allow the user to create their own snowflake by paper cutting. In the time honoured tradition, here is one I prepared earlier:

A similar Flash app is available here, with a better interface so you can see the flake develop as you cut. Although it is impossible to draw straight lines!

This flake maker runs on Javascript. The flake is made by clicking in the grid cells to make them either white or black and the app makes the 6-fold symmetry on the fly.

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I cannot (will not) use TLF text fields in Flash CS5

I was trying to understand how Flash uses the 3D settings (although it is really 2.5D and I’m still thinking about it…).

So I made a simple display MC and put some sliders on the stage with text boxes to see feedback as I changed the properties for the perspectiveProjection Class (fieldOfView projectionCenter) and the other 3D properties (rotationY, z etc).

I wanted to check the maths for FOV (small values give a wider view, which doesn’t seem right to me?). When I tried to access the stage.stageWidth property of my MC I got the error message:

Error #1009: Cannot access a property or method of a null object reference.

After deconstructing the document Class, the culprit was the TLF text boxes, which are the default in CS5.

I found others had problems with TLF:

Steven Sacks and Adrian Parr

Although these appear to be related to loading SWFs. Adobe provides guidance on how to workaround that problem:

I’m still unclear what Flash is doing here. I think it is related to how Flash loads the TLF Classes. If I use the Publish Setting > Advanced AS3 > Runtime Shared Library (RSL) > Merge into code the problem goes away.

But…..

The file sizes look like this (no embedded font):

Classic text field   20Kb

TLF text field   67Kb + SWZ file at 153 Kb

TLF text field   192Kb

At runtime the TLF field must be able to access the RSL, either on the local machine or from a server which is accomplished by downloading the additional SWZ file or embedding the code.

I do not like either of those solutions.

Not everyone has fast broadband. I wear both hats (developer and designer) and spend time optimising my SWFs for artwork, audio and scripting, before releasing them to my website. (I recently replaced a Papervision component with the PaperSprite Class from SoulWire, thereby saving 75Kb).

Before I make any changes to the content on my website, particularly the behaviour of the Flash content I always consider “What is the impact on the user?”.

TLF may give me improved formatting options and use of non-roman scripts. But if it means the download is inflated by 15% I will stick to Classic Text.

Posted in Flash | 2 Comments

Google Art Project

This week saw the launch of the Google Art Project.

Google has created an online repository of works of art from a number of galleries around the world. The interface allows you virtually walk through the galleries and to examine the artwork. The level of zoom on the interface is remarkable, and allows you to see the brushstrokes.

Google has captured the images using the same technology as used for Google StreetView. In some images of the museums, you can see the shadow of the camera on the wall.

The interface is pretty intuitive, although the gallery list box on the front page seems a bit flakey and does not allow you to scroll through all the galleries currently in the project. On one occasion I mis-clicked whilst touring the Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam I suddenly found myself standing outside in the street. Fortunately there were no trams coming.

The following galleries are currently included in the project:

  • Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin – Germany
  • Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, Washington DC – USA
  • The Frick Collection, NYC – USA
  • Gemäldegalerie, Berlin – Germany
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC – USA
  • MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art, NYC – USA
  • Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid – Spain
  • Museo Thyssen – Bornemisza, Madrid – Spain
  • Museum Kampa, Prague – Czech Republic
  • National Gallery, London – UK
  • Palace of Versailles – France
  • Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam – The Netherlands
  • The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg – Russia
  • State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow – Russia
  • Tate Britain, London – UK
  • Uffizi Gallery, Florence – Italy
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam – The Netherlands

Only the art works annotated with a small ‘plus’ sign may be viewed at high resolution.

These images are from ‘The Shipwreck” by Turner at the Tate Britain. You can see the zoom control box at lower right.

"The Shipwreck" Turner

"The Shipwreck" Turner Detail

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What is so funny about the name Bernard?

The film ‘Stardust’ is full of British quirkiness, plus some Hollywood big names to ensure its’ overseas appeal (ie the USA). It is only slightly spoiled by Clare Danes’ acting and the presence of Ricky Gervais.

At one point, witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) transmogrifies a boy (Jake Curran) into a goat and subsequently the goat into a voluptuous girl (Olivia Grant). This girl has only one line in the entire film; when asked her name, she replies, in a male voice: “Bernard”.

Why does that make me laugh?

(Possibly more importantly, why the magic has not altered her voice……?)

Series 2 of the brilliant UK comedy ‘Blackadder’ (apart from series 1) is based in the Elizabethan period. Queen Elizabeth I is portrayed as capricious and childlike by Miranda Richardson. Her rather rustic ‘nursie’ is played by Patsy Byrne.

When the queen asks ‘nursie’ for her real name, she replies: “Bernard”.

That makes me laugh too.

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Even more eCards from harveyline

A couple more eCard to video conversions…..

You can see the full resolution eCards and more options on harveyline.

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Yet more eCards from harveyline

Here are some more eCard to video conversions.

I particularly like the way the Christmas Star turned out. The particle effect is not too overwhelming and Trevor’s music works very well.

You can see the eCards at better resolution on the harveyline website.

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eCards from harveyline

As part of the unashamed promotion of my commercial venture at www.harveyline.com I am in the process of converting (although I’m not sure that is the right word) the eCards to video animation.

Here are two. You can see the eCards at better resolution on the harveyline website.

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The correct form of greeting when meeting an extraterrestrial

This is not original.

The correct greeting is:

“Gnorts”.

Or in full:

“Gnorts, Mr. Alien”.

Which of course is “Neil Armstrong” backwards.

A coincidence? I think not.

Posted in Life, the universe etc | 3 Comments

We have the same birthday! What are the chances of that?

No it’s not my birthday.

Some random neuron fired on brain today and I recalled an item in one of Martin Gardner’s books:
How many people do you need to ensure that two of them will have a better than 50-50 chance of have the same birthday (day and month)?

Since most people, including me, have a poor grasp of probability (hence the success of the lottery and the idea of synchronicity) the reply is usually: “Lots”.

The answer is 24.

The probability that two people will have different birthdays is 364/365.

The probability that a third person will have a birthday different from the other two is 363/365.

For a fourth person the probability is 362/365 and so on, continuing to the 24th person who has a probability of 342/365.

This gives us 24 fractions which when multiplied together gives the probability that all 24 birthdays are different: 23/50.

So the next time you are in a gathering of 24 people or more, there is a better than 50/50 chance that two of them will have the same birthday. And probably did not realise it.

By one of those strange quirks of the cosmos, 24 is the number of people who have travelled to the Moon, from Apollo 8 – 17.  We find that Eugene Cernan and Frank Borman were both born on March 14th. Furthermore Ken Mattingly and James Irwin were born on March 17th, and Edgar Mitchell and Tom Stafford were born on November 17th.

Birth dates were obtained from the List of Apollo astronauts at Wikipedia

[This is a rephrasing of how the paradox is posed in the book "Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions", Martin Gardner. Pelican books 1959. And Gardner is referencing an earlier book by George Gamow "One, Two, Three - Infiinity"].

A short curiosity about aliens is here…….

Posted in Life, the universe etc | 2 Comments

25 reasons to dislike a website

When I started the harveyline website I wanted to make sure it provided a ‘good visitor experience’.

The book ‘Don’t make me think!’ By Steve Krug provided a lot of insight.

Website’s That Suck has been around for a while and is always worth a visit, just to make sure your own site is not as cringe-worthy as some of the examples shown.

Many of the contributors to the UKBusinessForums regularly have something to say on the matter.

So, in no particular order:

  1. Flash websites.
  2. Intros (including Flash intros).
  3. Requests to register for no apparent reason.
  4. Loooong pages that scroll forever.
  5. Sound that plays as if from nowhere.
  6. Videos that auto play.
  7. Poor quality images or at the wrong resolution, often pixelated to death.
  8. Stock images of unreal people.
  9. Popups.
  10. Popups that say “Are you sure you want to leave?” as you try to leave the site.
  11. Poor speeling.
  12. Poor grammar, innit.
  13. No replies to your contact email.
  14. Pages not found.
  15. Links not working.
  16. Requirement to download specific software to use the site.
  17. So what do I click on?
  18. Slow load times.
  19. Complete this survey request as you enter the site for the first time.
  20. Embedded ads….where is the content on this page please?
  21. No design (mad fonts especially Comic Sans, garish colours).
  22. No real contact address (as required in the UK by the Office of Fair Trading).
  23. Incomplete.
  24. Inaccurate.
  25. Out-of-date.

I usually string the last three together during a rant about how 80% of the information on the internet is valueless. But shown like this brings the list to nice round number.
So if you think there is something you dislike about harveyline, please tell us.
Contact me.

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