Sunday, 10 June 2007

Mousetrap - 106

Bring light
Light a candle for the victims of online child abuse
I have a deep-seated loathing for sites that needlessly hinder my wandering around the web by insisting on using massive, clunky flash files and no other navigation. But I’ll make an exception with this one (though its a huge offender) because its objectives are worthy, and ask you to drop by and take a look. It is focussed on what is, I think, the worst thing about the freedom of the web: sites that give perves access to child pornography.. The site features a TV commercial, and a few statistics, and asks you to light a symbolic virtual candle to join its protest against these scum. Please do. (Link courtesy Shaun Williams.)

Science Toys
This one’s for you and the kids. There’s a bunch of interesting toys that you can make with them, or for older kids, that they can make themselves, using common household items. . These toys help demonstrate a variety of scientific principles, like magnetism and electromagnetism, radio, thermodynamics, aerodynamics, optics, math, computers and more. There are simple instructions to make each toy, with photographs or illustrations for reference, and an encapsulation of the science that makes that particular toy tick. Or levitate, or hum, or whatever. Most of the toys can be made easily at home, though in India, one may have problems getting the articles the site specifies, since it takes a western audience for granted. (The site also helpfully offers to sell you stuff from its catalogue “to make it easier to build some of the toys described.” Careful though: in this day and age you may just get Intelligence after you if you’re out shopping and you mention that you and the pride-and-joys are making a Gauss Rifle.

There are, of course, many other sites that let you read public domain books online, and all the biggies will have a much bigger list than this one. So why am I recommending it? The positive difference here is that you’re not reading unformatted ASCII text; the books have been formatted for the web, and are in XHTML. You can read them on your computer, or—and the site will detect this for you, and adjust output accordingly—on a handheld device. Or you can print (again, no need to change formats manually) and read offline at leisure. And don’t be put off by my disclaimer about the limited list; there’s enough good reading here to keep you occupied for quite a while.

What’s the time?
Polar Clock
And a quickie to round things up: here’s a very unusual, very attractive online clock. You can just check out the page, or, if you like, download it as a screensaver. Check back to the main site for the latest versions; it’s a work in progress.

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to for past columns, and to comment, or mail The writer blogs at

Published in the Times of India, 10th June, 2007.

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