Explaining the world one sketch at a time

Red volcano gray volcano - a red volcano's effusive eruption has lava flowing down its slope while a gray volcano's explosive eruption shoots ash into the air

Red volcano, grey volcano

While each volcano is unique they can largely be divided into red volcanoes and grey volcanoes. Red volcanoes typically have effusive eruptions dominated by the classic red-glowing lava flow or lava lake. The constant mild eruptions of lava let gases escape reducing the chances of gas build-up and larger explosions. A classic red volcano is Kīlauea in Hawaii. Grey volcanoes are known for explosive eruptions. Trapped gases and heat can build up within the volcano releasing explosive eruptions that can shoot ashes and rock high into the sky and cause fast-moving pyroclastic flows of solidified lava and ash. Grey volcanoes are typically much more destructive than red volcanoes and can exhibit some behaviours like their red counterparts. A classic grey volcano is Mt St Helens. I learned this distinction from the remarkable film Fire of love. Also see: Dirty thunderstorm The 3 tallest mountains The Keeling curve Order of adjectives (came to mind as I wrote 'classic red-glowing lava flow' - try the adjectives in other orders =) )
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Braille reading and writing system: the letters of the alphabet in english braille showing how it's constructed from 6 dots


Braille is a tactile writing and reading system for the blind and visually impaired. It was invented by Louis Braille when just 15 in 1824. Respect! I don't know about you, but when I've tried braille on signs occasionally, it's always seemed difficult to train my fingers to differentiate the shapes and the dots. Perhaps it would have helped if I'd known how it worked. Braille is based on a pattern of 6 dots, like a 6 on dice, with different letters, numerals, or sounds being different combinations. It doesn't match the shapes of written letters though, instead breaking the alphabet up into groups of 10. The first 10 letters are combinations of the top 4 dots. The following 10 letters repeat the combinations and add dot 3 in the bottom-left. Then the remaining letters, except w start again adding with dot 6 added. W wasn't in Louis Braille's original French alphabet so appears tacked on at the end. Since its invention, it's gone through multiple iterations and languages, and there are combinations for punctuation (some common ones formed by shifting down the original 10 combinations), numbers, accented letters, maths symbols, and more. There is also agreed-upon shorthand where a letter may mean a common word eg l for like, and there are contractions where a symbol may mean a sound or set of letters like 'ch'. The sketch shows the Latin alphabet for modern English braille.
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A speaker is saved from confusing the listeners with a chart when one brave soul asks what on earth a TLA is

Ask the question at talks

At times we've probably all been confused or struggled to understand a talk or a class. When I'm lost or confused my rule of thumb is to ask, even when it's not easy. The desire to understand what's being said fights with the urge not to interrupt the talk or ask what may be a dumb question — perhaps everyone else already knows? But in my experience, if I'm confused, others likely are too. It helps to believe this because I know that asking will probably help others and not just myself — asking is a public service. It's very easy as a speaker to assume that others will know what you know and so jargon and TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms - really an initialism) so easily slip in. When someone asks it helps include everyone again. And you're not just doing a favour for the audience by asking — it's a gift for the speaker too. If I'm giving a talk I want people to get what I'm sharing and not suffer in silence thinking they're stupid and I'm confusing. I want everyone to follow from start to end. It's one more good reason to thank people for the questions you receive. Let's banish confusion and all get to the end together by asking the question. This advice stands provided you've been paying attention along the way. I was surprised to find there are a number of, mostly older, sketches on questions and asking: Challenge questions Don't fill the silence Perform good social research Prefer open-ended questions Ask a question early at conferences Start 3 mindmaps at conferences Ask for what you need Get more participation
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Two people are loving soaking up the low winter rays of sun in a park


It's hard to beat the feeling of the warmth of the winter sun on your face. There's a word for it too: apricity. Uplifting, hopeful, calming — even a few short moments to bask in an unexpected, weak but glorious gleam of winter sunlight is wonderful. A brief burst of apricity warms the spirits and your skin. It reminds me of distant warm, long, summer days, and the promise of spring in a few months. If it has been bleak and cold, apricity is that much more welcome. From the UK's position in the Northern hemisphere, with the sun low on the horizon, you can let the sun hit full in your face in the middle of the day without craning your neck or leaning back. It's never too hot to seek shade, and often just the right brightness that facing it dead on with your eyes closed is ideal. Together with the long shadows of winter, the effect can have you swept up with the rays, letting them soak into your skin and transporting you away from the cold under your feet. From the latin aprico, 'to warm in the sun', and in turn aperio, 'lying open', it has been around since at least 1623. It feels to me like we'd benefit from its resurgence.
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