Magnitude and Direction, Issue #25 | 25 Jan 2019


For those of you keeping count, this is the 25th edition of Magnitude andDirection and it's being released on the 25th of January. Despite what you might think, this was not planned.

Hardware, Prototyping, and Fabrication

🤩 The Y-Brush is perfect for anyone who cares about oral health but doesn't have the time to dedicate two minutes twice a day to brushing their teeth.

✒ From The PreparedDumb Cuneiform is a service that lets you save your stupid tweets (among other strings of text) as honest-to-god cuneiform tablets a-la Hammurabi, ziggurats, Ur, et al. I'm guessing, though, that many of the deep nuances of modern English are lost on ancient Mesopotamian languages.

👟 Nike's new sneakers don't have laces as we typically think of them, but they can "lace themselves up" on their own, so that you can finally get on that McFly level.

Software and Programming

🎶 Moodify let's you easily generate mood-based spotify playlists by adjusting sliders to emphasize different musical qualities.

💾 Do you miss the web and desktop apps of your youth? OldApps is the software repository for you.

💻 HTTP codes as acted out by Beyonce.

📝 Anybody can make a short url (like and but how many people can make an extra-long URL?

🤷🏼‍♀️ Turns out, to no one's surprise, most of the internet is fake.

🌆 If you're like me, you've been watching Valley of the Boom on NatGeo for the past two Sundays and have probably heard mention of Geocities, competitor to Even though this internet "community" (in a slightly more literal sense of the meaning than we use it today) is now shuttered, all 652GB of its data was mapped out by artist Richard Veijen in a spatial approximation of the kind of communities and personal lots you could claim while the site was still live. The result is a data plot reminiscent of a midwestern city's street grid. (Also, if you read this newsletter and haven't been watching Valley of the Boom, then you've definitely gotta go and catch up. The last episodes of the mini-series airs this Sunday!)

Science, Engineering, and Biomedicine

🔍 Did I scare you all enough in 2018 with my articles about AI-generated faces and videos? Do you think you're more aware of the phenomenon now that you were at the start of last year? Then take this test from MIT to try andspot the fake faces. (In case you were wondering, I picked correctly 80% of the time.)

⚪⭐💎 White dwarves are the remnants of some small- and medium-sized stars like our own Sun. Physics and chemistry has long predicted that, over time, these stars would turn into crystals, comprised largely of solid oxygen andcarbon (possibly diamond at those pressures!). Now, for the first time, astronomers have found direct evidence of this crystallization phenomenon - and it's more common than originally expected.

🌧🧥In the future, energy-harvesting raincoats may mean you really want to go outside in bad weather.

Mapping, History, and Data Science

☠ If you think things are bad now, you should've seen 536 A.D.

🌳 Visualizations of historical US immigration data is typically shown as several overlaid line graphs, enforcing a "separateness" between ethnic or regional groups. Drawing inspiration from the rings of trees, a team from the University of Minnesota developed a new method of visualization that reflects the blurred lines that actually exist between different immigrant groups and historical trends.

☠ This map of medieval violence and murder documents all the different, andsometimes gruesome ways Londoners got into trouble in the first half of the 14th century.

🌍 Lots of countries are covered in the news every day, but there's often one country that finds itself in the news more than the others. This visualization from Pudding documents the nations that have occupied the collective consciousness of the US since 1900.

🗺 I hadn't heard about Scott Reinhard until I read the Web Curios newsletter two weeks ago, but man are his maps beautiful.

Events and Opportunities

There's a wide variety of cool (and hot) things going down in the coming weeks:

  • [TEMPORARILY CANCELED]Friday, 1/25 The new NYC Entrepreneursmeetup group is having a casual mixer at the Empire Hotel rooftop. Stay tuned to find out when this group will be convening next.

  • Monday, 1/28 The ECHO Bio-Entrepreneurship networking group is having their next get-together at the W Hotel in Times Square.

  • Wednesday, 1/30 The Transit Techies host their next meetup featuring presenters working on projects that include anticipating public transit demand in Brazil and building an intercity rail map of America.

  • Saturday, 2/2 Glassblowing, fire-throwing, beer-drinking extravaganza Hot Glass Cold Beer is back at Brooklyn Glass. As always, buying a ticket in advance also gets you a hand-blown drinking glass and unlimited beer to drink out of that glass.

  • Tuesday, 2/5 Learn how to explore the wealth of open data NYC makes available to the public at Civic Hall for a meetup focusing on public safety data.

Some other upcoming events to keep on your radar...

  • Wednesday, 2/13 The Fab Lab at NYDesigns is holding an open house for members of the NYC maker and hardware startup communities to mix, mingle, and check out the fabrication resources available at NYDesigns.

  • Friday - Sunday, 3/8-3/10 The 2nd Annual Washington Heights Jazz Festival features musicians who live and work in Washington Heights andis happening at a bunch of venues between 181st and 187th streets.

  • Tuesday, 3/12 In high tech fields, it can be tough to put together a strong pitch deck without also giving away your secret sauce. To help provide some guidance about how to gain investment without losing your tech, JLABS, Mount Sinai, and Golden Seeds are coming together to host a session on how to craft a non-confidential pitch deck.

  • Monday, 3/18 The Mid Atlantic Bio Angels hold their first 1st Pitch event of 2019 at Columbia University.

Map of the Month

🚇 You'll need the whole month to properly take in this geographically accurate map of the entire NYC subway system, designed by transit mapping royalty Vanshnookenraggen.

Odds & Ends

🥁🎹 I didn't know until recently there was such a thing as a choreographed marimba competition, but now that I know you can be sure I'll be looking out for other ones!