Seriously cold out (except in the West Country, according to the weather app) so best to stay in and read this lot instead
- The Great Paper Caper - "Years of running drugs and boosting cars left Frank Bourassa thinking: There's got to be an easier way to earn a dishonest living. That's when he nerved up the idea to make his fortune. (Literally.) Which is how Frank became the most prolific counterfeiter in American history—a guy with more than $200 million in nearly flawless fake twenties stuffed in a garage. How he got away with it all, well, that's even crazier.” The hardest part is getting the right paper, apparently.
- The Crazy Security Behind the Birth of Zcash, the Inside Story - Talking of making money: ”Wilcox is the CEO of a company called Zcash which designed and recently launched a new privacy-preserving digital currency of the same name… A secret ceremony was underway. Before the company could release the source code of its digital currency and turn the crank on the engine, a series of cryptographic computations needed to be completed and added to the protocol. But for complex reasons, Wilcox had to prevent the calculations from ever being seen. If they were, it could completely compromise the security of the currency he had built.”
- How Hollywood Gets Its Old-School Tech - "It can’t just be a computer from the ’80s — it has to be THE computer from the ’80s.” Interesting look at the work of set decorators who can end up travelling all over the USA searching for pieces of old technology to appear in the background of films and TV shows.
- Dutch Chocolate Letters - Today’s the day when Sinterklaas brings presents to Dutch children, and one essential gift is a chocolate letter deposited in your clogs, as explained on the excellent site Stuff Dutch People Like: ”You see, the Dutch love to give each other chocolate letters for Sinterklaas. These letters are supposed to correspond to the first letter of your first (real!) name. They are made from dark, milk or white chocolate – sometimes with hazelnuts or fruit & nut combos, decorated or plain – they are all lekker! Now, I think you’ll agree with me that those skinny letter ‘I’s don’t seem to match up to their weightier friend, the larger looking ‘W’s! So, for the next week, I’m officially Wilka to anyone who loves me enough to shove chocolate in my shoe.” HT to norrahe for this one, which she posted to her Twitter account Kitchen Exile the other day
- The Most Effective Weapon on the Modern Battlefield is Concrete - "Ask any Iraq War veteran about Jersey, Alaska, Texas, and Colorado and you will be surprised to get stories not about states, but about concrete barriers. Many soldiers deployed to Iraq became experts in concrete during their combat tours. Concrete is as symbolic to their deployments as the weapons they carried. No other weapon or technology has done more to contribute to achieving strategic goals of providing security, protecting populations, establishing stability, and eliminating terrorist threats."
- Searching for Lost Knowledge in the Age of Intelligent Machines - How advances in computers’ ability to trace connections between disparate pieces of knowledge could revolutionise our understanding of just about everything: ”On top of everything we don’t know, there’s everything we don’t know that we already know… The next wave of information systems promises to more deeply establish links between people, ideas, and artifacts that have, so far, remained out of reach—by drawing connections between information and objects that have come unmoored from context and history.”
- There Are Hundreds of Secret Underground WWII Bases Hidden in British Forests - Probably more appropriate to call them “woods” than “forests”, but still: ”During World War II, the British Army built more than 600 of these underground bunkers—possibly upwards of 1,000—to serve as bases for small groups of fighters who’d be mobilized in the event of a German invasion. These local Auxiliary Units weren’t meant to last more than a few weeks: they might slow the Nazi army down, but they’d likely die fulfilling that mission.”
- Inside the Whitechapel Bell Foundry - With the sad news last week that the famous bell foundry will be leaving the site where it has been based since 1738, when it was already nearly 170 years old, Peter Watts talks to the current master bellfounder Alan Hughes: ”Big Ben was one of theirs, as were the bells at Westminster Abbey, the cockney bells of St Mary-le-Bow and America’s Liberty Bell. ‘I feel more like a caretaker than the owner,’ says Hughes. ‘It’s so old. It was started by somebody walking these streets when Shakespeare was alive and Elizabeth I was on the throne. The world was unrecognisable. Yet it’s the same business, doing the same thing, essentially the same way.’”
- The British Sundial Society - If the bells ringing out the hours should fall silent, we’ll still have our gnomons to tell us the time: ”Compared to some societies, our numbers are not great but two things stand out: diversity of approach and the sheer enthusiasm of the members. Sundials attract people from varied backgrounds: astronomical, military, medical, artistic and craftsmanship to name but a few. Then there are the meetings. Any society which can regularly attract about 15% of its membership to a major conference, some from across the globe, certainly has some driving force! Indeed, the name British Sundial Society is a misnomer as almost a third of the members live beyond these shores.”
- These 19 Declassified CIA Maps Are Just Fantastic - "Earlier this month, the CIA declassified dozens of maps spanning more than 70 years. These are just a few of the highlights. Be sure to check out all of them over at the CIA’s Flickr account.”