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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

20,000 visitors

Whoever visited zduk.co.uk at 1402 today, congratulations: you were our 20,000th visitor. Your prize? An intimate massage from Dingly. With candles. And oil. And feet.

I'll start on your back...

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony: What Should Have Happened

It began with the forging of the Great Rings. Five were given to Jacques Rogge, Belgian, bureaucrat, President of the IOC. Three to Kenneth Branagh, thespian and leader of the Dancing Brunels. And seven, seven rings were gifted to the Chosen Ones, the Unknown Children of Redgrave. But they were, all of them, deceived...


From its idyllic opening amidst the fields of the Shire, to the belching chimneys and forges of Isengard,  last night's celebration of The Lord of the Ringswas mesmerising. Apart from when the Dark Lord McCartney closed proceedings. Again. With a singalong of Hey Jude. Again. That part was boring.

"There will be no dawn for Men."


There were lots of "wow" moments: the Queen - the actual Queen - parachuting in with James Bond, Mr Bean playing with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and the dancing girl losing her phone but  then finding it (phew). But of course, the greatest surprise was saved until last: who was going to light the Olympic cauldron? Roger Bannister? Daley Thompson? Dane Bowers?

What actually happened was spectacular. From the moment that Lord Coe pulled down his trousers to reveal his running shorts underneath, we knew we were in for something special. Steve Redgrave lit the torch by striking a match on Bradley Wiggins's sideburn, starting a 1500m race between Coe and Ovett to see who could reach them first. The victorious Coe then handed the blazing torch to Daley Thompson who javelined it across the stadium, impaling Ashley Cole who had gamely dressed as a choc ice for the occasion. As Cole melted, Boris Johnson pulled the torch free and ignited Tanni-Grey Thompson with it, as she catapulted out of a Minas Tirith trebuchet across the stadium, wheelchair ablaze, before landing in the cauldron to officially open the Games of the XXX Olympiad.

What a sequence!

Shami Chakrabarti. "We salute her integrity." Do we f*ck.

Inspired by a post on Roll on Friday's discussion boards.


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Where is the North Pole?

I love maps. I'll pore over atlases like a cartophile at Christmas, and I could draw an accurate world map - with nearly all the countries correctly labelled - when I was in infant school. Give me a quiz on hardcore geography™ and I'm practically unbeatable.*

So, it came as quite a shock when I discovered that the North Pole is not where I thought it was. It's not even close to where I thought it was.

Take a world map. The one pictured below is the Winkel triple projection, a low-error method of showing the Earth on a flat surface. To turn this into a globe, you'd have to wrap it around a ball until all the edges met. It's impossible to do this perfectly. All maps, no matter how accurate, stretch and distort the true layout of our planet.


If you take Antarctica (that's the big long white thing at the bottom of the map above, in case any Americans are reading) and wrap it around a ball, it joins back on itself to form an enormous landmass around the South Pole.

Like so.


Enter Greenland. For nearly twenty years, I'd assumed that the same thing happened at the top of the map. I knew that the North Pole wasn't on land - the US Navy plonked a nuclear submarine under it in 1958 - but I'd always thought that Greenland, as shown on maps, depicted all of the land and permanent ice at the top of the world.  Granted, you can see Greenland in its entirety on most maps, unlike Antartica which only just creeps onto the bottom. This would suggest that Greenland isn't  at  the very 'top' of the Earth. However, I haven't looked at a globe in years and, when looking at maps, I've always just put this down to a northocentric bias 'tilting' the top of the map towards us, just as the Mercator projection makes Africa and South America look too small relative to the northern continents. Wrap the map around a ball and, just like Antarctica, I thought that Greenland would surround the North Pole. Therefore, the North Pole must be in Greenland, right?
An Azimuthal projection showing the North Pole. Nowhere near Greenland.
Incorrect! The map above shows the North Pole smack bang in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. The dark blue waters surrounding it are almost permanently covered with constantly shifting sea ice (this explains the lack of a research station at the North Pole). But just look at Greenland skulking off to the bottom of the map - it's nowhere near the Pole! In fact, there's no land whatsoever within 400 miles of the North Pole. It's even predicted that the North Pole may become ice-free in future summers as the Arctic warms around it.


What may explain my confiusion somewhat is the crazy-but-cool projection pictured below: Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion map. Right at the centre, you can see a large white mass of ice surrounding the North Pole. I'd always taken this to be Greenland 'joined up' around the top of a globe, but Greenland's distinctive shape is clearly visible below the Pole area, making me an idiot.

Icosahedral fun.



I finally learnt the true location of the North Pole last night and, needless to say, it BLEW MY MIND. And when the Legend learns, he shares with you. Breathe deeply as I waft the heady scents of knowledge in your general direction. 

* Hardcore geography™ encompasses maps and flags and capital cities: interesting stuff to quiz geeks and Asperger kids alike. Precipitation cycles and coastal erosion and all that crap are decidedly softcore.

The USS Skate surfacing near the North Pole in 1959.

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