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Owning the full-stack: A homesteading analogy on software, innovation, and freedom

Have you ever met a homesteader who owns a mansion? Me either. My neighbor, Bill (80), is a homesteader who tries to be as self sufficient as possible. From what I can see, it’s an immensely rewarding and humble existence. Life-satisfaction oozes out of his every pore and, eventually, even enduring the hardships must have become rewarding to him.

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When Earth is Like an Egg: 3D Terrain Visualization

Some of the most satisfying breakthroughs happen when technology gets used in a way it was never intended. While working with our graphic design group at Sasaki on ways to generate a dot pattern for a decorative screen, we came across some open-source software called StippleGen. Stippling is a way of creating an image by means of dots. StippleGen was created to optimize stippling for, among other things, egg painting. The software does a great job of laying out dots with greater density on the darker areas of the image while keeping a comfortable spacing between the dots. What's more, the voronoi algorithm it uses gives an irregular, organic pattern. The ah-ha moment came when I realized this could be applied to a different problem, visualizing terrain; specifically, optimizing terrain meshes in 3D software based off elevation data (a.k.a. Digital Elevation Model (DEM)).

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Einstellung Effect: What You Already Know Can Hurt You

The Einstellung effect is a psychological phenomenon that changes the way we all come to solutions and impedes innovation.

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Embracing the Hairball

One of the perennial challenges in visualizing complex networks is dealing with hairballs: how do you draw a network that is so large and densely interconnected that any full rendering of it tends to turn into an inscrutable mess? There are various approaches to addressing this problem: BioFabric, Hive Plots, and many others. Most involve very different visual abstractions for the network.

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