An Algorithm and 7 Million Unique Nutella Jars

Earlier this year, Milan-based design agency Ogilvy & Mather partnered with Nutella manufacturer Ferrero to unveil its “Nutella Unica” jars. The agency created an algorithm that generated 7 million unique variants of Nutella jars, from an assemblage of various patterns and colors. Ferrero sold these jars in Italy throughout the month of February; each of the 7 million unique jars sold out in a month.

Here’s a brief video of the manufacturing process showing the unique designs:

A 30-second spot in Italy highlighting these unique jars:

Due to the success of the campaign in Italy, Ogilvy & Mather and Ferrero have decided to sell these jars elsewhere in continental Europe, beginning with France.

It will be cool to see the unique jars make it to the United States. Also, from a coding/machine learning perspective, it would be really neat to see the source code/implementation of this algorithm.

 

On Bob Dylan’s Influences from Literature

Bob Dylan recently recorded a lecture for his 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, which you can watch below:

Dylan beautifully describes how three works of literature—Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, and Homer’s The Odyssey—have influenced his song writing. The transcript is worth reading through entirely if you don’t watch the video above.

When Odysseus in The Odyssey visits the famed warrior Achilles in the underworld – Achilles, who traded a long life full of peace and contentment for a short one full of honor and glory –  tells Odysseus it was all a mistake. “I just died, that’s all.” There was no honor. No immortality. And that if he could, he would choose to go back and be a lowly slave to a tenant farmer on Earth rather than be what he is – a king in the land of the dead – that whatever his struggles of life were, they were preferable to being here in this dead place.

That’s what songs are too. Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read. The words in Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days. I return once again to Homer, who says, “Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.”

 

NASA’s Glorious Recreation of the “Earthrise” Photograph from December 24, 1968

On the morning of December 24, 1968, the onboard cameras on NASA’s Apollo 8 spacecraft were focused on the lunar surface. However, that morning unfolded with a tiny bit of the unexpected. On board the spacecraft were astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders. They all later recalled that perhaps the most important thing they discovered on their mission was Earth:

The famous image now known simply as Earthrise.

The famous image from Apollo 8 now known simply as Earthrise.

In a newly released video by NASA, seen below, NASA scientists use a number of photo mosaics and elevation data from their Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to reconstruct for the very first time, 45 years later, exactly what these Apollo 8 astronauts saw on that December morning. As you listen to the talk, narrated by Andrew Chaikin (author of A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts), you’ll understand how this famous image (now known simply, elegantly as Earthrise) almost did not come to exist. Earthrise was captured on colour film with a modified Hasselblad 500 EL at 1/250 seconds at f/11, as you’ll hear in the film. The video, which can be viewed in 1080p HD, is well worth the seven minutes of your time:

Per the caption of the video:

The visualization draws on numerous historical sources, including the actual cloud pattern on Earth from the ESSA-7 satellite and dozens of photographs taken by Apollo 8, and it reveals new, historically significant information about the Earthrise photographs. It has not been widely known, for example, that the spacecraft was rolling when the photos were taken, and that it was this roll that brought the Earth into view. The visualization establishes the precise timing of the roll and, for the first time ever, identifies which window each photograph was taken from.

The key to the new work is a set of vertical stereo photographs taken by a camera mounted in the Command Module’s rendezvous window and pointing straight down onto the lunar surface. It automatically photographed the surface every 20 seconds. By registering each photograph to a model of the terrain based on LRO data, the orientation of the spacecraft can be precisely determined.

A still from NASA's new visualization of how Earthrise came to be.

A still from NASA’s new visualization of how Earthrise came to be.

NASA's visualization of Earthrise.

NASA’s visualization of Earthrise.

Remembering Carl Sagan: “We Are the Custodians of Life’s Meaning”

We lost Carl Sagan on this day, seventeen years ago. It was only in the last few years that I have discovered his voice and his wisdom. And I wanted to share one of the best compilations in his memory, compiled by Reid Grower and simply titled The Sagan Series. It’s a series of ten YouTube videos with Sagan narrating the wonder of our planet, space exploration, and our life’s purpose.

My favourite is probably the first video, which to this day, is still the best encapsulation of why man should and will venture out into space.

But my favorite quote probably comes from the third video, titled “A Reassuring Fable.” In it, Sagan notes on the meaning of life:

We long to be here for a purpose. Even though, despite much self-deception, none is evident. The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life’s meaning.

He goes on to say:

We long for a Parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better, by far, to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable…If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.

Amen.

Regardless of where you stand in the religion/science spectrum, The Sagan Series is the best thing you can watch today.

The Space Race and The Lebanese Rocket Society

During the 1960s, the United States and the Soviet Union competed for supremacy in space. But little known at the time, there was another contestant in the race: the Lebanese Rocket Society, a science club from a university in Beirut and the subject of a recently released film. The BBC investigates in a radio program and this story about Manoug Magnougian and his founding the Lebanese Rocket Society:

Manougian’s passion for space began as a boy in the 1940s growing up in Jericho in the West Bank. Inspired by Jules Verne novels, he would climb the nearby Mount of Temptation and gaze at the night sky. At school he carved rockets onto his desk.

A maths and physics degree from the University of Texas followed, before Manougian returned to Lebanon for a teaching post at Beirut’s small Haigazian College at the age of 25. In an attempt to drum up numbers, in November 1960 he renamed the science club the Haigazian College Rocket Society.

“To my surprise a number of students decided to join,” he says. “I had no finances and there was little support for something like this. But I figured I could dip into my meagre salary and convince my wife that I could buy what I needed for the experiments.”

It was a successful program, albeit “in the slow lane” compared to the U.S.S.R.:

The Cedar IV launched in 1963 was so successful that it was commemorated on a stamp. It reached a height of 90 miles (145 km), putting it close to the altitude of satellites in low-earth orbit.

For those curious, below is the trailer for the film, The Lebanese Rocket Society:

 

 

 

Louis C.K. on Loneliness and Cell Phones

Louis C.K. went on Conan last night and talked about why he won’t give his kids cell phones.

 

A brief transcript:

You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person. Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty—forever empty. That knowledge that it’s all for nothing and that you’re alone. It’s down there.

But does reaching for the phone in times of sadness make the sadness go away? Louis C.K. admits:

I started to get that sad feeling and reached for my phone, but I thought ‘don’t’ — just be sad, let it hit you like a truck. I pulled over and I just cried like a bitch, it was beautiful. Sadness is poetic.

All this to say: I am reminded of this powerful video that went viral recently, “I Forgot my Phone”:

 

Sometimes we need to take a break from our phones. Have a great weekend, everyone.