Sketchplanations

Explaining one thing a week in a sketch

Sketchplanations

Explaining one thing a week in a sketch

Wishcycling

I've been there. I'm holding some packaging that kind of looks like it ought to be recyclable but isn't one of the standard products that are asked for. I could put it in the bin and then it'll head straight to landfill, or I could put it in the recycling and then it has a chance of being recycled, right? So it often seems better to recycle it in the hope that it might be recovered rather than consign it to certain landfill. This is known as wishcycling. Sadly, from all that I've read about wishcycling it's not the best approach. When we put in non-recyclables into a recycling bin it contaminates the high quality recyclable materials and several things can happen: A lot of dry recycling is still manually sorted in Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs). When the quality of the input goes down it can require more people to sort it. It's not a pretty job if it also contains items that are contaminated with food waste Non-recyclable items that processing machines aren't designed for can damage them and mean costly maintenance Items like batteries that make it into regular recycling can start fires in paper bales which is dangerous and expensive Non-recyclables mixed in can mean a lower quality end product to use to turn into new products. This can reduce what it can be used for and make it harder to sell Paying more pickers and sorters and servicing machines costs money, and selling lower quality products brings less in, both of which reduce the profitability and potential viability of recycling operations So the advice I have learned to take on board is: Check what you can recycle locally If in doubt, keep it out Counterintuitively, if we want to recycle more, it seems at the moment we have to recycle less. And even better is to reduce and reuse where possible in the first place.
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Binary

We find it handy to count in the decimal system using 10 numbers from 0,9, known as base 10, before we have to put two together to make 10 to keep counting further — 10 fingers and toes and all. But it turns out you can represent all numbers equally using just two digits, known as base 2, a 0 and a 1. This is called the binary system and is credited to Gottfried Wilhelm Liebniz in the 1600s. The binary system is handy because 1s and 0s can be represented by simply by on/off and reproduced in as simple means as pebbles in trays , the sign of a magnetic field eg positive/negative, or a gate as open or closed. This made them the choice for designing computers and is how digital information is stored and transmitted today. When we write a decimal number we use positional notation with each successive position representing 10 to the next power. So 739 is understood as (7 x 10^2) + (3 x 10^1) + (9 x 10^0). 10 to the power 2 is 10 x 10, so is the number of 100s in the number. Anything to the power 0 is 1. The same is true in binary, so 1101 is understood in decimal as: 1101 = (1 x 2^3) + (1 x 2^2) + (0 x 2^1) + (1 x 2^0) or 1101 = (1 x 8) + (1 x 4) + (0 x 2) + (1 x 1) = 8 + 4 + 0 + 1 = 13 Each 0 or 1 in a binary number is known as a bit — named by Claude Shannon as short for binary digit — and 8 bits is known as a byte. Translating to decimal looks fiddly, but computers don't have to do that, they can just add, subtract or multiply the binary numbers directly. Amazing to think that the device you may be reading this on now is just incredibly efficient at manipulating 1s and 0s. For a readable and visual introduction to the history and operation of computers — from binary, logic gates, transistors, circuits, and Moore's law through to software and AI — you could do a lot worse than my Dad's book The Computing Universe 😀
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Microadventure

Not all of us can ditch jobs, families and responsibilities and choose to spend the next few months trekking across some tundra or cycling to China. Those are adventures sure, but, argues Alastair Humphreys, we don't need something of that scale to get a perspective-shifting snap out of the daily grind and connection with nature — we can try a microadventure instead. A microadventure might be as simple as camping in the garden with your family, paddling down a local river and camping on the bank, or staying the night on a nearby hilltop under the stars, catching the sunrise with a wild swim to wake up and being back in time for breakfast. The essence is that they are short, simple, local, and cheap. No fancy gear, complex planning, big budgets or long travel. An achievable adventure for normal people without giving up the rest of our lives to do it. In this time when bigger trips are difficult it seems that people have been spending more time exploring locally and finding out the richness of the natural spots that are nearby. We could all use a microadventure from time-to-time. HT: Phil Graham
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Starting a company

Starting a company isn't easy. Reid Hoffman, cofounder of LinkedIn says: "Starting a company is like jumping off a cliff and assembling the plane on the way down." But just because it's hard, doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. I remember receiving some advice that you shouldn't wait around for the right time to have children as you'll never find it. I suspect starting a company is similar. It reminds me of this lovely quote I have taken to heart from Hugh Laurie: "It's a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you're ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any." As far as I could tell, unconsciously or separately, Reid's version relates to Ray Bradbury's earlier advice of jumping off a cliff and building your wings on the way down.
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Days of the week

The Norse Gods are still among us in the names of the days of the week. Tuesday — from Old English Tiw, for Tyr the Norse god of combat Wednesday — from Old English Woden, for Odin the one-eyed king of the gods Thursday — for Thor, the quick to fight god of ordinary people with his magical hammer Mjollnir Friday — for Frigg, wife of Odin and goddess of marriage and motherhood While Saturday, Sunday and Monday follow the celestial bodies Saturn, the sun, and the moon. As a wonderful introduction to the Norse myths and gods you could do much worse than the entertaining and beautifully produced Illustrated Norse Myths I was commanded to read by our 9-year old. Illustrations based off of those by the excellent Matteo Pincelli.
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