How vaccine scares spread

Ben Goldacre of The Guardian interviewed on NPR’s On The Media:

There’s something very interesting about vaccine scares. These are cultural products. They’re not about evidence. If vaccine scares were about genuine scientific evidence showing that a vaccine caused a disease, then the vaccine scares would happen all around the world at exactly the same time, because information can disseminate itself around the world very rapidly these days. But what you find is that vaccine scares actually respect cultural and national boundaries.

Viral marketing, indeed.

Listen while you work

While you’re chasing away the end-of-summer blues, Core77 has a great set of articles they’ve commissioned entitled Hack2Work. (Props to whoever came up with the scull-and-crossbones–inspired coffee mug and Artimide lamps logo.) Among my favorite posts is Michael Bierut’s inspired take on designer-client dynamics entitled How to Make Your Client’s Logo Bigger Without Making Their Logo Bigger, Liz Danzico’s Check Please: How to Learn About Your Clients From Their Table Manners, Alissa Walker’s pithy Dos and Don’ts For Your Design Firm Blog, and, most of all, Lisa Smith’s Listen While You Work: Try These Podcasts Instead of Music.

Smith, who sports a longer list of queued podcasts than I do (which is truly saying something), shares classics like This American Life and Kurt Anderson’s Studio 360 along with new favorites like UBUweb’s Avant-Garde All the Time, which highlights “audio works that you really should know about about but most likely don’t.” Also new to me: podcasts from the Slought Foundation, which features “leading theorists and practitioners of our generation in conversation about contemporary debates in art and architecture, geopolitics, and critical theory.” First on my new podcasts playlist: Werner Herzog in conversation with Karen Beckman from 2007.

Taking Yucca Mountain

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Above: Yoshi Hozumi researched the ancient practice of salting the earth in her response. She presented her findings in a chapbook along with renderings of the barren strip she proposed salting at the outskirts of the site.


The following was broadcast on an NPR news report:

In 2002, [Desert Space Foundation Director Josh] Abbey created a design competition to find a permanent warning sign for the proposed nuclear waste site [in Yucca Mountain, Nevada]. The purpose of the competition, he says, is to find a universal warning sign which conveys that the deposit is highly dangerous. One caveat: the symbols have to work even if language or communication breaks down in the future. And the design has to last at least 10,000 years.

Take a moment to consider this design challenge. Then, respond to it in whatever manner you feel is most appropriate.

This assignment is from the class Typographic Research. It was inspired by several projects from the Long Now Foundation.

17 is also prime

"On Monday, a correspondent called from National Public Radio to discuss the implications of typesetting a number with twelve million digits." So begins this great post from Hoefler & Frere-Jones’s blog on the typographic implications of setting the world’s largest known prime number, a Mersenne Prime of, according to H&FJ, at least 17 miles in length. (That’s at 12 pt, BTW.)

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Brian recommends you (and I) listen to this segment from The Leonard Lopate Show last week featuring microfinance pioneer and Nobel Prize-winning economist Muhammad Yunus. “We can use business techniques, like we can have a separate social stock market. A business stock market is about making money, you try to find out which company will give you the best return that you can think of. A social stock market would be listing all the social business companies, you want to find out which company is changing the world, helping poor people get out of poverty, or bringing beautiful health care programs to the poorest person possible. In a business way, I can put my $500 or my $1000 into the social stock market and I’ll feel very happy with that.”

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Artist Fritz Haeg was recently interviewed on his “Edible Estates” project for Studio 360, and I found his ideas on provocation in art very interesting. He said, “I’m ultimately just really interested in this contrast between taking something that’s really primitive and old-fashioned and almost kind of ‘grandma,’ like a vegetable garden, and making it provocative. Because I don’t think it’s interesting anymore to be provocative with violence and sex and all of those things that are very easy to turn off. We don’t respond to them any more because we see them so much, but I think there’s more subversive ways to be provocative. Today it seems like it’s with knitting and gardening and things like that. They go against our highly mediated and commercialized society.” As digital things become the norm in our culture, I wonder how this trend situates the analog things Haeg is interested in, the kitting, the vegetable gardens, etc, along a more subversive and provocative axis of activity.

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"Three weeks ago, [Evan] Guttman went on a quest to retrieve a friend’s lost cellphone, a quest that has now ended with the arrest of a 16-year-old on charges of possessing the missing gadget, a Sidekick model with a built-in camera that sells for as much as $350. But before the teenager was arrested, she was humiliated by Mr. Guttman in front of untold thousands of people on the Web, an updated version of the elaborate public shamings common in centuries past." NYT on a cell phone lost and found. More thoughts on the case from Clay Shirky here at NPR’s On the Media.

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"In 2002, [Desert Space Foundation Director Josh] Abbey created a design competition to find a permanent warning sign for the proposed nuclear waste site [in Yucca Mountain, Nevada]. The purpose of the competition, he says, is to find a universal warning sign which conveys that the deposit is highly dangerous. One caveat: the symbols have to work even if language or communication breaks down in the future. And the design has to last at least 10,000 years." Wow. That’s quite a challenge. Read on in this thoughtful NPR piece on Yucca Mountain.

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Economist Tyler Cowen unpacks the economics of Radiohead’s new release, "In Rainbows" for NPR’s On the Media. Among his interesting comparisons are other voluntary payment situations like tipping. Read more at Cowen’s blog, Marginal Revolution.

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One of my favorite recent jazz covers is Brad Mehldau’s version of Nick Drake’s “River Man.” NPR has a great segment on how Meldhau decided to cover “River Man,” and what makes it such an intriguing, emotional song.