The real reason people in old photos are almost never smiling

I always thought that the reason people look so grim in antique photos is because it would have been exhausting to hold a smile for long exposures that I imagined were required by ye olde cameras. Nope! From the always-informative Smithsonian magazine:

...Exposures from the early days of commercial photography only lasted about 5 to 15 seconds. The real reason is that, in the mid-19th century, photography was so expensive and uncommon that people knew this photograph might be the only one they’d ever have made. Rather than flash a grin, they often opted to look thoughtful and serious, a carry-over from the more formal conventions of painted portraiture, explains Ann Shumard, senior curator of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery.

According to Shumard, it wasn't until Eastman-Kodak founder George Eastman's 1888 invention of the mass market portable camera that informal snapshots of smiling people became common.

"Why Don’t People Smile in Old Photographs? And More Questions From Our Readers" (Smithsonian)

image: Eugene Pelletan portrait c.1855 by Gaspard-Félix Tournachon Read the rest

You can get a 5-tier wedding cake made of cheese at Costco

Costco is giving new meaning to "cutting the cheese" by offering five-tiered artisan wedding "cakes" made of 24 pounds of fancy fromage. Each one is estimated to serve between 105-150 lactose-tolerant guests.

These literal cheese cakes are packed by Massachusetts-based cheesemongers Sid Wainer & Son and are made of five different gourmet wheels: Red Leicester, Danish Blue, Murcia al Vino (a "drunken goat cheese"), Tuscan Sheep’s Cheese, and Brillat Savarin Triple Cream Brie. Couples who say "I do" to these non-traditional low-carb cakes will need to kick down $440 (which is roughly the same cost of its sugar-laden equivalent).

Floral adornments and crackers are sold separately. And, some assembly is required:

via Simplemost Read the rest

Using solar panels as a camera

Jeroen Boeye is a data scientist who was parsing the power output of his panels, and noticed that they were influenced -- as you'd expect -- by the trees near his house, which got in the way of direct sunlight.

That made him wonder: Could you use the solar panels' output as an imaging signal? Or rather, can you use your panels to effectively take a photograph of the world around it?

Turns out you can! After some very clever crunching of his data using R, Boeye produced this dataviz ...

... and then he took this panoramic picture of the landscape around his panels ...

... which, when he overlaid them, produces the image at the top of this post: A nice mirroring of the data to the trees.

I'd love to see this technique tried with big industrial arrays, or maybe with the combined data from a collection of urban solar rooftop arrays that are near each other. It makes you wonder what other interesting observations might be teased out of really big solar-array data sets.

BTW, Boeye has also written a few other posts about how he's parsed the data from his arrays (here and here), which are similarly fun and useful; and he's put all the code he used online so any R-wielding folks with their own solar panels could try their hand at it too.

(Images used with permission of Jeroen Boeye)

(Via Hackaday) Read the rest