A webbed magazine of science, spanning anthropology, linguistics, neuroscience, psychology, medicine, and even some physics and astronomy. Designed for the intrepid fan of science as well as scientists.
Produced by William H. Calvin
Leap ahead to COMMENTARY || BOOKS || FEATURES || BACK ISSUES
Mark Twain liked to say that nothing was harder to predict than the future. Who would have predicted in 1992, when the first web pages appeared, that feature stories about the web would be seen daily in ordinary newspapers? Or that web sites would be advertised on radio and tv? The billboards even have URLs. (Just imagine trying to write down a URL as you drive by!)|
But you can probably recover that garbled URL pretty quickly. Just in the last year or so, we have seen a development which I thought would take another decade: full-text indexing of millions of web pages. Itís free: Digital Equipmentís Alta Vista search engine is essentially an advertisement for the speed of their RISC processors. For example, in one of my books which Iíve made available
|on the web, I say, "...when my grandfather Leebrick came west in a covered wagon." Iíve had two different Leebrick genealogical hobbyists contact me; they found me via those search engines at DEC, HotBot, and Infoseek, just from a name buried in chapter 1 of The River That Flows Uphill. Now, when you search under your own name (the best way yet to compare the coverage of the various search engines), you discover the strangest things.|
How Brains Think (Science Masters)
The Cerebral Code (MIT Press)
are now in the US bookstores.
There are some great places to read up on Memes these days. Start with Cosma Rohilla Shalizi's meme page and don't miss the link to Richard Dawkins' essay, "Viruses of the mind." A pop-psych approach that analyzes advertising is Richard Brodie's Virus of the Mind book, a bestseller at Amazon.com. || The Coming Comet has its own webzine now || The State of the Sun || The Phase of the Moon || This month's Astronomy Sky Almanac column || Astronomical Images || Elaine Morgan's Aquatic Ape leaflet addresses the defects of the savannah theory in comparison to a hominid scenario that also includes a period of shoreline wading specialization || Human Biology course notes || Skull Anatomy || the fascinating research on learning disabilities that shows a defect in auditory processing (and how to work around it!) || Volcano World || I'll write more on this later, but "Reward deficiency syndrome" is likely to change the way we treat addictions.
Designing web pages for the Brave New World of
Reading in Bed
There's no excuse for a web page that is slow to paint the first screen
Books: Kanzi || The Animal Mind || Language and Species
Books: Darwin's Dangerous Idea || City of Bits || An Unquiet Mind
Notice, if you will, that this line of type is one size larger than that in the epigram. The default font size
Staggered narrow columns is what SLATE has adopted, and I like it. Switching to
Consider, too, the |
And, of course,
One trick that page designers often use in print is the double column, but it has some limitations here. This example, from my new book The Cerebral Code, works because the text will fit on one screen without scrolling. (Well, at least once you finally get it positioned!)|
Its actually an early draft for the flap copy, the text that appears on the fold-in flaps for the dust jacket of a hardcover book, so its particularly appropriate to double-column it. But the following one, from the dust jacket flaps of my other new book, How Brains Think, has problems when webbed because the text is too long for the height of most screens, so that you have to page down, then back up, then down again. More than about 350 words, and youre in trouble:
My two other adventures into web design (or, at least, into commenting on it) are 1) hidden answers and 2) this comment that is seen following the first screen of my home page:
Painting Pages Promptly. Many of my web pages are 20-40k in length but I work at making the first several screens load quickly. Always specify the image size so that your browser can leave room for it, and thereby charge ahead with the painting of text. For example,
When people omit such courtesies to the viewer, it may not be because they know too little about HTML. Commercial sites with advertising, sad to say, are starting to use such tricks to force you to stare at the ads for a few seconds, waiting for something else to finally appear. Some of what people blame on slow networks is actually an intentional delay. Complain early and often. Well have to live for decades with the standards that are established in the early years of the web.
The background MIDI is Bach's The Passion According to St. Matthew, BWV.244, Erbarm' dich, Mein Gott (M.Yaskawa)