Planetary Society’s 2005 in pictures

On December 31 last year (yes, I know, I am late) the Planetary Society, or rather its head blogger Emily Lakdawalla, posted it’s Year in Pictures, photos resulting from the exploration of our solar system. Apparently our ability to photograph or videotape space is becoming greater and greater, because there are some real beauts in there, from the continent that Huygens landed on to the Deep Impact video, from our newest (discovered) planet to the spongy surface of Hyperion.

And there probably wasn’t room for everything, as I seem to be missing the photo ESA took of what looks suspiciously like water on Mars.

[photo of an ice lake in a crater on Mars]
Photo credit: ESA
Photo of a crater made by ESA’s Mars Express, published 28 July 2005. The crater is located on Vastitas Borealis, a broad plain near Mars’ north pole. It is approximately 35 kilometers wide and the height measured from its floor to the top of the rim is approximately 2 km.

Of course this is just the space stuff that the Planetary Society concerns itself with. Last year also produced photos of a mock-up of the new Russian space shuttle Kliper, and of the Firefox star cluster (it’s not actually called that, but I find the name I gave it much better).

It’s incredible how much we learned about space in just the last year.

P.S. I cheated. The Firefox star cluster is from 2004. But I only cheated because I wanted to, not because 2005 needs it. Because it doesn’t.

P.P.S. The photo of the crater was made by Mars Express, not the crater itself.

P.P.P.S. Don’t you just miss writing real letters, on real paper?

The Golden Calf in English

You have to love pedestrians. Pedestrians make up the greater part of humanity. The best part, no less. Pedestrians created the world. It was they who built the cities, raised skyscrapers, laid sewage and water lines, paved the streets and lit them with electric lights. It was they who spread civilization throughout the world, invented movable type, thought up gunpowder, flung bridges across rivers, deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs, introduced the safety razor, abolished the slave trade and established that soybeans can be used to prepare 114 tasty, nutritious dishes.

And when everything was ready, when our home planet had taken on a comparatively comfortable form, the drivers appeared.

Maciej Ceglowski and Peter Gadjokov are translating The Golden Calf (1930). Sez Maciej: “The Russians are skeptical of our ability to do the text justice, but in the hopes that anything is better than nothing, we’re making our initial draft available online as we proceed.” Help still appreciated.

Question: public domain through copyright shield?

This is the fourth of my questions to the copyright lawyers, a taciturn lot judged by the results so far: is it possible to create a public domain image based on copyrighted sources?

Here’s the idea: suppose I take five different, recent photos from Michelangelo’s David. These photos are likely copyrighted, following the doctrine from Bridgeman v. Corel and similar European cases. Then, I use a tool like Photomodeller to recreate a 3D-model that is as close a reproduction of the original as possible. Bridgeman v. Corel holds that a faithful reproduction of a public domain work is “sweat of the brow”, lacking originality, and is not burdened by copyrights. But does that theory hold for a reproduction that was based entirely on copyrighted works?

Previous questions:

1. Why does a work published after the death of an author receive a copyright? (answer)
2. How can SNTE (the firm that maintains and exploits the Eiffel tower) claim a copyright on the image of the illuminated Eiffel tower when the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas has had a very similar lighted Eiffel tower since two years before?
3. What rights does Microsoft base it’s licenses for protocols on?
(2+3 as yet unanswered)

To be extra clear, I am not solliciting advice, I am solliciting opinion.

Just say when

A guy decided to pay his way through college by selling pixels of his homepage for a dollar a piece. An excercise doomed to end in tears of course, since you wouldn’t find enough idiots to even cough up ten bucks collectively. Did I just say cough?


Apparently the planet has enough idiots to pay up for 999,000 pixels. So I would have liked to tell my new best friend; just take the money and run. You already did do the impossible and netted 999,000 dollar.

If somebody did give him that advice, he ignored it. The last 1000 pixels are up for bid at eBay, and are currently going for 43,000 dollar. That’s 43 dollar per pixel.

H. G. Wells on golfers

These golfers are strange creatures, rabbit-coloured, except that many are bright red about the middle, and they repel and yet are ever attracted by a devil in the shape of a little white ball, which leads them on through toothed briars, sharp furzes, pricking goss, and thorns; cursing the thing, weeping even, and anon laughing at their own foolish rambling; muttering, heeding no one to the right or left of their career,—demented creatures, as though these balls were their souls, that they ever sought to lose, and ever repented losing. And silent, ever at the heel of each, is a familiar spirit, an eerie human hedgehog, all set about with walking-sticks, a thing like a cylindrical umbrella-stand with a hat and boots and a certain suggestion of leg.

H. G. Wells on golfers in “The Amateur Nature-Lover” in Certain Personal Matters, 1901, to appear soon at Project Gutenberg.

Via Odd Ends. interviews is a Russian Project Gutenberg. But instead of limiting itself mostly to public domain books, it publishes a large amount of in-copyright works, even translations of popular modern American novels, with permission from the authors and translators, according to founder and maintainer Maksim Moshkow (Teleread interviews: part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4). has approximately 40,000 books in its catalogue. Is Russian copyright so different, or do Russian authors have a greater desire to be read?

(This entry posted to Slashdot, but rejected.)

The Lost Son

A long, long, long time ago, I used to help publish an amateur comic strip magazine called Iris. We had a couple of artists on board that went on and made a name for themselves, entirely deserved (Maaike Hartjes, Mark Retera), but the ones we liked best are still relatively unknown today.

I (we?) called these cartoonists The Big Three: Jan Krol, Gnoe and Paul Hoogma. What made their comics work was that their authors were stark raving mad, or, to put it nicely, busy hacking away several yards outside the mold. I think if you had shown them a mold, they would not have known what to do with it. In other words, they were light-years ahead of us.

To my delight I discover on this my birthday that Gnoe has started a website several years ago. A bit out of character perhaps, but I’ll take it.

[sample cartoon]
Translation: “Another one of those dubious achievments from the sixties: gay men kissing in public. They frighten our muslims and give us a bad name in Poland.”
(Cartoon copyright 2005 by Gnoe. Part of a series mocking the Christian fundie Back to the Fifties movement.)