Just for fun: Wordles

Wordle is a free online java applet for generating ‘word clouds’ from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text, by making them larger, and the wordle is therefore a sort of visual summary of the text. I was introduced to it by an example on RealClimate, where someone had used it to summarise the IPCC Extreme Weather Event report I talked about here.

climate wordle

Wordle is fun and is an easy way for the artistically challenged to produce interesting graphics. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and colour schemes, and you can ‘rig’ the results by deleting words from it or by pre-loading the text with multiple repetitions of the words you want featured.

More text makes your wordle a more representative overview of the subject, while less will usually give you a more dramatic-looking result.

Update, December 2020: The original wordle creation site has succumbed to the tyranny of time but spawned imitators before it did so. Look them up…

Grab bag: Just for (slightly geeky) fun

The web brings me lots of cute and/or entertaining snippets which are worth sharing but don’t really deserve a whole page to themselves. Here’s a selection of recent ‘grabs’, with thanks to those who pointed them out to me.

Tata Develops Car That Can Run On Air

A car that runs on air sounds like an interesting idea that’s too good to be true. I followed it up to the extent of finding more technical details, here, and it is, in fact, both.

It should indeed be cheap to run and reduce pollution in the cities – both good – but it is essentially another ‘long tail pipe’ technology in that the power source is really  mains electricity, since the compressed air, like hydrogen or batteries, is just a way of storing energy. Until the mains electricity is generated from renewable sources the Tata ultimately runs on coal or oil, so there is still a pollution cost. This link points to a way around that problem, but it is some distance into the future.

IgNobel prizes

The Ignobels are awarded annually for ‘achievements that first make people LAUGH then make them THINK,’ as the website says. They do that.

Fate of the World game

Computer strategy game Fate of the World gives gamers the chance to save a virtual world from climate catastrophe.

Using real climatic models, it gives gamers and environmentalists the chance to test policy ideas on a global scale. Its developers intend the game to be fun and to help increase awareness of the complex nature of fighting global warming.

Initial reviews are positive in terms of game enjoyment.

Quantum levitation


I sent this link to a young relative (relatively young, anyway) working in quantum physics and he sent me a link to Tested.com by way of explanation. (That content has been removed but Tested.com is still full of geeky fun, so it could be worth a visit.) Another knowledgeable friend said, ‘What you are seeing with the superconductor is a result of the diamagnetism and flux pinning of the superconductor,’ and pointed to

World Solar Challenge

This is the first time Green Path has covered a sporting event (and may be the last) but it is a pretty special event: the World Solar Challenge is a cross-continental road race for solar powered cars.

2009 winner, Tokai Challenger
The 2009 winner, Tokai Challenger

The official site announced that, “The field for this year’s World Solar Challenge 2011 Darwin to Adelaide is the largest yet. On Sunday October 16, 42 teams from 21 countries will take to the starting line, among them three teams from Australia, to do battle for line honours 3,000 kilometres away, in Adelaide.”

Good ol’ Wikipedia is better on the history than the official site:

The race attracts teams from around the world, most of which are fielded by universities or corporations although some are fielded by high schools. The race has a 20-year history spanning nine races, with the inaugural event taking place in 1987. The objective of this competition is to promote research on solar-powered cars. Teams from universities and enterprises participate. In 2005, 22 teams from 11 countries entered the primary race category. …

By 2005, several teams were handicapped by the South Australian speed limit of 110 km/h (68 mph), as well as the difficulties of support crews keeping up with 130 km/h (81 mph) race vehicles. It was generally agreed that the challenge of building a solar vehicle capable of crossing Australia at vehicular speeds had been met and exceeded. A new challenge was set: to build a new generation of solar car, which, with little modification, could be the basis for a practical proposition for sustainable transport.

That change of emphasis, with its accompanying rule changes, has effectively capped the average speed of the winners at about 100 kph, even as the technology keeps improving.

The latest news on this year’s race as I write after lunch on the 18th, is that they are half way, about to reach Alice Springs, and making good time – hitting speeds of 130 kph, in fact – after delays caused by road trains and bushfires.

Thursday 20 October: We have a result – the Japanese team won, defeating the Dutch by a very small margin. Read more at ABC News.

Tackling WordPress

At last – time to get to grips with WordPress!

I tried to install it on my new server during the summer school holidays but ran into a technical problem, then ran out of time to find a solution as the weather kept us busy. (Remember Yasi? Yes, of course. What was the name of the cyclone just before Yasi? Jeez, I dunno.)

Oh, and there was going back to school, and then deciding to install a solar PV system and more floods and … here we are.