March 3, 2017

Written by

Chris Gonzales


Simon Stålenhag

Welcome to this week’s [evening] edition of our Friday Quality Linkage column. Please enjoy this week’s collection of interesting and entertaining links. Pour yourself a drink, find a comfortable place, and relax.

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Photo: SpaceX

Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX to Send Privately Crewed Dragon Spacecraft Beyond the Moon Next Year »

If you thought last week’s exoplanet discovery was big space news, here’s something else that’s huge in a different way, since it will actually affect people here at home in the near future: This week SpaceX announced that in 2018, they’re going to be sending two private citizens beyond the moon and back:

We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission. Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration. We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year.

If this trip works out, the space tourism industry is going to explode. Imagine a day in the future when we actually land private citizens on the moon, and that that’s closer to happening than you probably think.

In an article about the announcement, the folks at The Verge put together this video that adds more perspective to the story:

  • Speaking of the exoplanet discovery last week, The Atlantic published a story about Tim Pyle and Robert Hurt, the illustrators who rendered what those seven planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system might look like. Fascinating how that sort of thing gets put together with so very little data.

Illustrations: MinaLima Studio

Illustrations: MinaLima Studio

The Graphic Art of Harry Potter »

You may not have heard of Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima’s MinaLima graphic design studio, but you’ve probably seen their work, as this story by Rachael Steven of Creative Review will explain:

Since 2001, Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima have been immersed in a fantasy world – designing props, merchandise and memorabilia for the film adaptations of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter novels.


“One of the best things about working on the Harry Potter films was being able to try out so many different styles, from Victorian letterpress to modern design,” says Lima.

The Daily Prophet was designed to look very Gothic, as [was] the architecture of Hogwarts. When an organisation called the Ministry of Magic takes control in later films, the school becomes a kind of totalitarian state, so we started looking to Russian constructivist design to reflect that,” says Mina.

As I discovered from their Instagram feed — hat tip to Jason Kottke — they’re also the folks who designed those snazzy new book covers for classic books like Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, and The Beauty and the Beast.

The Surreal Sci-Fi Paintings of Simon Stålenhag »

I discovered this artist’s incredible (and sometimes heebie-jeebie-inducing) work via Khoi Vinh:

These subtly surreal paintings […] depict a future or alternate reality where things look very much like our own except for the nearly incidental presence of robots, strange sci-fi constructions or alien spacecraft. […] The scenes are always calm, as if the people in this universe have come to accept these bizarre phenomena as facts of life. Stålenhag offers no comment on their existence, really, which in some ways makes them feel even more sinister or unnerving.

Here’s one of my favorites in full:

“The Art of Storytelling” — A Free Online Course by Pixar »

For the third installment of their “Pixar in a Box” series in partnership with Khan Academy, Pixar are releasing a free online course on their approach to storytelling, with lessons by Pixar alums such as…

  • Pete Docter (director, Inside Out and Up)
  • Mark Andrews (director, Brave)
  • Domee Shi (story artist, Inside Out)
  • Sanjay Patel (animator, Ratatouille)

The first section of the course (“We Are All Storytellers”) is already available, with a second section (“Character”) coming soon (and more to come throughout 2017).


Logobook »

In their own words, the new Logobook site is a “showcase of the finest logos, symbols & trademarks.” This immense, well-organized archive of black-and-white logos is an awesome resource that designers will love poring over.

The Largest Coal Plant In The Western U.S. Is Closing Decades Ahead Of Schedule »

Adele Peters, Fast Co. Exist:

Three years ago, the EPA struck a deal with the owners of the largest coal plant in the Western U.S. to close the plant by 2044. Now—because of economics, not regulation—the owners plan to shut the plant down by 2019 instead.

The Navajo Generating Station, 12 miles from the Grand Canyon near Page, Arizona, is the seventh largest individual source of climate pollution in the country, pumping out more than 14 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year. It’s also a major source of air pollution for people living nearby; by some estimates, shutting it down will also save more than $127 million a year in health costs.

I’m glad to see such an egregious source of pollution going away sooner than later. However, there are two points to consider:

  1. Despite its effect on the environment, this plant was an important revenue generator and local employer for the Navajo nation, and while they knew the end was coming at some point, suddenly moving up the transition timetable like this is forcing them into an awkward situation.

    Over on Reddit, /u/gar37bic sums it up well:

    The big problem here is that the Navajo were working on a five to 10 year transition period based on the power company’s previous plan. This would have given them time to build solar or whatever. Now the primary employer for the tribe, as well as the source of a big chunk of the Reservation government’s revenue from mining royalties, will disappear overnight.

  2. I don’t yet know what the Navajo Nation will do in the wake of the plant’s closure, but there is a chance they will turn to the natural gas fracking industry, which on paper might look like the smart decision — at least, in the short term. I hope they consider embracing the oncoming solar farm revolution instead, because that’s the real future of energy.

Croissants »

Sometimes you just need to unwind with an old-ish video of a dude making croissants set to CCR’s version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”. Happy Friday folks, we’ll see you next week.

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