Linkfest 2021-05-24

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Assume a spherical fireball

“Simple but brilliant use of dimensional analysis by G. I. Taylor to estimate the rough yield of the first atomic bomb test by simply looking at photographs released in a popular magazine.”

As the old physics joke goes: assume a spherical fireball….

Good enough is good enough

Order-of-Magnitude Physics: Understanding the World with Dimensional Analysis, Educated Guesswork, and White Lies is a book in the tradition of Enrico Fermi, famous for making order of magnitude estimates that now bear his name.

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PC Game: Loom Post-mortem: The History of An Underappreciated Gem 25 Years Later

Loom is a game I still think abut 25 years later, which is quite an accomplishment. You can easily find it on Steam or GOG. I own a copy myself, and I feel like playing it again after reading this.

Wired: The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill

Wired has a great piece on how rules of thumb accidentally fossilize into conventional wisdom.

The Nuclear Secrecy Blog: How not to redact a warhead

A secrecy screwup on a nuclear warhead and some reflections on the limitations of any system of classifying information.

Palladium Magazine: Why Civilization is Older Than We Thought

Another example of the genre that adventure writers probably have a better sense of human history and pre-history than academics, at least the current ones.

The Emperor Ponders: Everything is Social

Xavier has a three part series on how social media has affected creative arts like drawing and writing. Not everything created by social media is bad, but the main thrust of Xavier’s argument is that social media creates self-reinforcing loops of ideas that impoverish the creative arts. The mechanism is that social media makes everyone an unpaid marketing assistant who filters and promotes various bits of art. Where trouble really starts is that the distinction between producers and consumers is broken down in an entirely notional equality, but in reality the void has been filled by a status hierarchy that becomes the functional equivalent of a pyramid scheme as social media status can translate into money and real-world status for a lucky few. There is a lot to think about here, take some time and read it all.


Martin van Creveld: Conquistadores

Martin van Creveld has some thoughts on how remarkable the Conquistadors really were.