Thursday 15 September, 2022

Free speech in a time of mourning

Interesting column by Marina Hyde on the difficulties PC Plod has in drawing the distinction between bad manners and illegality.

Yesterday, police arrested a 22-year-old man in Edinburgh after Prince Andrew was heckled as he walked behind the Queen’s coffin. “Andrew,” the shout was heard, “you’re a sick old man.” Hand on heart, I’ve heard worse. And if Prince Andrew hasn’t, he certainly will. Money and position and expensive lawyers can insulate you from a huge number of consequences in our imperfect world, but if some boy in the streets wants to go full Emperor’s New Clothes on you, you might just have to suck it up, even if it is bad manners in the circs.

This isolated incident, in police parlance, is not an isolated incident. In Oxford, a man was arrested then de-arrested for shouting “Who elected him?” at the local proclamation of the new king. In Westminster, a police officer was filmed demanding the details of a man who had held up a blank sheet of paper. The man (a barrister) asked what would have happened if he’d written “Not My King” on it, at which point the officer requested his details, “because you said you were going to write stuff on it that may offend people around the King … it may offend someone.” Hmmm. Thank you, PC Brains. The idea that the UK is a cradle of free speech is one of those comforting stories the country likes to tell itself, when all manner of things from the libel laws to teachers being hounded to the Daily Mail devoting its entire front page to outrage that a comedian mocked Liz Truss says differently.

I really like the bit about the barrister and his blank sheet. Quite a smart experiment, that.

Interesting also that when the Queen’s children walked behind the gun carriage yesterday, they were all in military uniforms except for Andrew. As I recall, after he settled the Epstein case (with the aid of shedloads of family money, no doubt), his late mother insisted that he give up his military roles — actual and honorary. So his appearance in civvies was a nice confirmation of her enduring influence.

Quote of the Day

“The psychological mid-Atlanticism of the UK is so often a drag. The nation wants American taxes and a European state. And so it has neither. It is more influenced by laws made in Brussels but more engrossed with elections in Iowa. And so its politics are dire.”

  • Janan Ganesh, FT, 10/11 October, 2011.

Just about sums it up.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Beethoven | Sonata for Horn and Piano in F Major, Op. 17 | MinJee Lee (piano) & Sergey Akimov (horn)


New to me. Just stumbled on and enjoyed it. Hope you do too.

Long Read of the Day

 How Social Media Influences Our Behaviour, and Vice Versa

Useful review by Tamsin Shaw of Max Fisher’s new book,  The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World.

Fisher, a New York Times journalist who has reported on horrific violence in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, offers firsthand accounts from each side of a global conflict, focusing on the role Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube play in fomenting genocidal hate. Alongside descriptions of stomach-churning brutality, he details the viral disinformation that feeds it, the invented accusations, often against minorities, of espionage, murder, rape and pedophilia. But he’s careful not to assume causality where there may be mere correlation. The book explores deeply the question of whether specific features of social media are truly responsible for conjuring mass fear and anger.

I’ve just bought the book.

Apple’s latest contributions to ‘computational photography’

Spoiler alert: probably of interest only to camera nerds

Apple had a somewhat low-key event a few days in which they introduced the latest iPhones and changes to the Apple Watch. Many commentators greeted the event with a yawn, but, being a photographer I wanted to know what exactly they had done with the camera.

Clearly Andrew Williams of TechRadar heard my plea and produced a pretty good account. As you might guess from the intro, it’s really only for those of us who like this kind of thing, but still…

The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max feature a 48-megapixel sensor with an f/1.78 lens. This is the first time an iPhone has used a pixel-binning sensor, meaning as standard it will shoot 12MP images, just like other iPhones.

Combine four pixels and they effectively act as a larger 2.44 micron pixel. It works this way because the color filter above the sensor groups four pixels in red, green and blue clusters.

Pixel binning sensors have been around in Android phones for years. The first we used was not an Android, though. It was the Nokia 808 PureView, from 2012.

The quad pixel arrangement of the iPhone 14 Pro means this is not a “true” 48MP sensor in one sense, but you can use it as such. Apple’s ProRAW mode can capture 48MP images, using machine learning to reconstruct an image and compensate for the fact we’re still dealing with 4×4 blocks of green blue and red pixels.

A similar method is used for the iPhone 14 Pro’s 2x zoom mode, for “lossless” 12MP images. This complements the separate 3x optical zoom sensor, which shares its hardware with last year’s models…

You get the idea. But this is news because the iPhone has probably become the most important camera on the market. At any rate Apple claimed  the other day that 3 trillion photos were taken on iPhones last year. Benedict Evans said that this compared with the 89 billion photographs taken in 1999, which was apparently the year when film use peaked.

My Commonplace Booklet

  • From Jonty Bloom’s blog:

    I was reminded yesterday of a story I had heard about the aerospace industry which is suffering from much higher raw material prices, as is everyone else. Apparently titanium is not available for love nor money at the moment and the industry uses a lot of titanium. So they looked at what other industries were competing in the market for the precious stuff and discovered it was golf club manufacturers. An industry that has to have a raw material out bid by an industry that doesn’t. Oh well that is the free market for you…

  • Geoff Huntley has a fabulously ingenious interactive illustration of what social media use would be like on ‘Web3’ as imagined by the crypto crowd. Basically you get charged for everything you do.

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