Earworm (n.)

An earworm is:

  • A song, or part thereof, that becomes stuck in one’s head — often inextricably and inexplicably going around and around and around and around and around…
  • Etymologically, a calque (ie: borrowed and phoenetically adapted into a similar-sounding English word) from the German word Ohrwurm, of the same meaning.
  • Called chiclete de ouvido in Portuguese: literally chewing gum of the ear.
  • Also known as: Phonological Loop, Last Song Syndrome, Repetuneitis, Aneurythm &c.
  • Usually carries negative connotations — as with advertising jingles and repulsive 1980s soft-rock intros (follow that link at your own peril). But in the right context, earworms can be a good thing. In exciting times, an internal loop of Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries creates just the right sense of dramatic ambience. The riff from Rage Against The Machine’s Wake Up is great for angry stomping in the city. And The Puppy Song (from You’ve Got Mail) burbles with overtones of an impending Springtime long weekend…At the moment, I’ve got the entire Darjeeling Limited soundtrack burrowing deep into my aural canals, and I love it.
    The Darjeeling Limited Soundtrack

If your earworm curiosity is particularly voracious, read Can’t get it out of my head, Vadim Prokhorov’s epic earworm article from The Guardian (June 2006):

“Earworms seem to be an interaction between properties of music (catchy songs are simple and repetitive), characteristics of individuals (levels of neuroticism) and properties of the context or situation (first thing in the morning, last thing at night or when people are under stress),” says Kellaris, whose study, Dissecting Earworms: Further Evidence on the ‘Song-Stuck-in-Your-Head’ Phenomenon, found that at one time or another nearly 99% of people have had earworms.

All Proof (v.) audio posts are archived under ‘Earworms’.

First published at tumblr Proof (v.)

LHC too cool/broken for its own good; helium-based hilarity ensues

In case you haven’t heard, our old friend, the Large Hadron Collider, is broken.

CERN had to fast-track the winter shutdown after a break [a ‘quench’? How cute!] between two of the super-duper magnets sent tonnes of helium leaking into the outer tunnel. HA HA! I challenge you not to laugh at the idea of flustered Swiss scientists in safety suits running about underground and yelling into walkie-talkies… in really really high-pitched squeaky voices.

Anyway, the inherent coolness of the LHC (somewhere around absolute zero) is proving to be somewhat of an impediment to speedy repair. Send engineers down there now, and they’d come back (or not) looking like this:

Liquid Nitrogen -- Terminator 2
(from Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991),
images via brneurosci and futurelooks)

So after all that time and money getting the LHC really cold, they’ve got to warm it up again.

Not cool, CERN. Not cool at all.

First published at tumblr Proof (v.)

Helvetica: A cryptic biography

Art, The Ether, Typography, Words


Allow me to explain why this is so gloriously witty.

Helvetica is the popular kid at the Swiss Modernist school of typeface design, where being sans serif is all the rage.

It’s also the new kid on the block (relatively speaking).

Before Helvetica, Akzidenz-Grotesk (from the Berthold type foundry) was everyone’s favourite. And then, in the true spirit of commercial competition (ie: a spirit most wily and cunning), Max Miedinger at the Haas type foundry was commissioned to model a new typeface on this ‘grotesque accident’.

He did. And then there was Helvetica.

Hence its original name, Die Neue Haas Grotesk: literally, the ‘new’ Grotesk, by Haas.

See Helvetica (the movie) for more generally useless and absurdly involved typeface trivia.

First published at tumblr Proof (v.)

Star-maker machinery*

The Large Helical Device: “The world’s largest stellarator”. That’s right: it pretty much makes stars.

Large Helical Device
(via Derestricted: click through for the LARGE version)

Hmmmm. Swirly.
Granted, it’s not as large as the Large Hadron Collider**, but it is incredibly, dazzlingly beautiful.

AND you can watch it in action — a truly awesome thing to behold:

(footage via stevebd1. Lots more (apparently unembeddable) clips at National Institute for Fusion Science, Japan

From what I can gather, this is superheated plasma — what stars are made of — whipping through the Tesla-creating swirly swirls of the LHD, at super fast speeds and super hot heats. Wow.

But, as the Caterpillar in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland might have asked if faced with such an existential quandry: Y?

Umm, for use as a potential source of nuclear fusion energy. I think.

Plasma is very hot, ionized gas that can conduct electricity – essentially, it’s what stars are made of. If heated to the point of ignition, hydrogen ions could fuse into helium, the same reaction that powers the sun. This fusion could be a clean, sustainable and limitless energy source.

…N’importe quoi
: whatever its purpose, this whatsit earns extra kudos for two simple reasons.

Firstly, when I think “Tesla”, I think Bowie.
(as Nikola Tesla in The Prestige (2006))

And secondly, when I think “power coils”, I think “arc reactors”, a là Iron Man (2008).
Iron Man Arc Reactor - NY Times Movies
(image via NY Times Movies)

To sum up, Large Helical Device = “stellarator” + beautiful + awesome + Bowie + Iron Man.***

So sorry, LHC, but I think this makes the LHD the world’s greatest unfathomably complicated sciency thing.

* Courtesy of Joni Mitchell, “Free Man in Paris”.

** CERN has to shut down the LHC during the northern winter. Not because the scientists all go on holidays, fagged out after a 20-year wind-up. Not because it’s dark and nobody wants to get out of bed and go to work underground. It’s because for the 22 days of mid-winter, when the French and Swiss are all using heaters to avoid turning into chocolate popsicles, there basically isn’t enough power to run the LHC and France at the same time.

*** Disclaimer: I haven’t solved an equation since Year 10 maths, and even then I got it wrong.

First published at tumblr Proof (v.)

It’s been a big week in paperclips

Everywhere I look, the universe (read: world of design blogs) is telling me that it’s perfectly okay to have a penchant for office supplies.

On the menu this week: paperclips.

Big paperclips:
The Big Clip - Arash and Kelly
Big Clip by Arash and Kelly
(via the girl in the green dress.)

Alphabet paperclips:
Alphabet Paperclips - Book of joe
Alphabet Paperclips by Stephen Reed
(via bookofjoe)

Expressive paperclips:
Clip Language
Clip Language by Mi-So Sim
(via Yanko Design)

I suddenly feel the need for an officeworks odyssey.

First published at tumblr Proof (v.)