People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.

– Seneca


Featured artist: Magdalena Kaczi Kaczanowska

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 219!

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2022 is done, sort of, and another 50 issues of DD have gone by like that. *fingersnap* In my final issue of the year, I want to say a quick but wholehearted ‘thank you’ to all readers, new and old, who followed my discoveries this year. I know that for many of you DD has become an inbox staple – a fact that motivates and at times daunts me.

Without much doing on my behalf the audience has grown to 41,000 readers. This number may seem trivial to people who fixate on scale, but I have regular moments of imagining a stadium full of people, all reading this email, and that image terrifies me more than I’d like to admit. 😉

DD will take the usual end-of-year break and is back with fresh discoveries on January 10th. I hope you get to enjoy some quality time with loved ones that’s mostly devoid of screens, news and Elons. See you in 2023! – Kai


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Important, Not Important →

Science for people who give a shit

Want to feel better and help unfuck the world? Get the 6x Webby-nominated weekly newsletter and podcast that’ll help you understand and take action on everything from climate to COVID, hunger to heat, to democracy and data privacy – for free.


Apps & Sites

Affinity Suite →

Adobe alternatives

I think I finally made the successful move away from Adobe’s main products (Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign). The recent launch of v2 of the Affinity suite was an excuse enough to give it another try, and it’s stuck so far. The 40% off launch special (till late January) and the fact that it’s a one-off payment, not a subscription, was certainly a major motivation.

Coffee →

Time tracking for macOS

Coffee is a small time-tracking app for Mac, ideal for freelancers to record time sheets. The screenshots look great, just one off-putting pet peeve: no info whatsoever on the cost of it all.

Talking Points for Life →

Handle difficult conversations

The internet at its best: “Talking Points for Life is a library of ready-to-use messages for challenging social situations.” From how to ask for the return of an object to finding words of sympathy for the loss of a friend’s loved one – this directory has you covered.

How Many Plants →

Illustrated plant guide

Indoor pot plants have never been more fashionable. This is one of the most beautiful and comprehensive online guides I’ve seen so far, covering not just the basics of watering and lighting, but more advanced topics like how to propagate and diagnose problems.


Mini-Interview with Jared Hanley


A short conversation with Jared Hanley, the founder of NatureQuant, a company that builds technology to assess and promote ‘nature exposure’.

First, please tell us what ‘nature exposure’ is and why it needs tracking.

‘Nature Exposure’ can certainly mean a lot of different things, but at the simplest level it is time outdoors away from the built environment. Tracking nature exposure is becoming increasingly important for two main reasons: Over 40 years of research have convincingly demonstrated that greater nature exposure results in improvements in mental and physical health. Numerous studies prove that exposure to nature can result in a longer, healthier, and even happier life. Secondly, our culture is shifting to a more indoor, urban lifestyle where most people rarely go outside, let alone get adequate nature exposure. Our urban/technology-focused lifestyle goes against our evolutionary history and needs to be measured to be managed.

How would you define the word ‘nature’?

I think of nature simply as the lack of any human modification. This obviously includes everything from plants and animals to the sun and the rain.

In this age of the quantification of everything, why are more tech and more tracking the right tools to get us to reconnect with nature?

We are fully aware of the irony in using technology to promote people ‘unplugging’ and getting away from screens! However, I think it is naive to think that phones are going away – or even that their use will decline. We should embrace the amazing, scalable power of technology to educate and incentivise time outdoors rather than simply taking an ‘anti-tech’ position.

Can you explain the terms ‘environmental equity’ and ‘nature deficit’?

A clean and healthy environment is a basic necessity of human life, as are balanced ecosystems and other elements of nature on which people depend. Indeed, more than 100 constitutions across the world now include a human right to a healthy environment. It is therefore imperative that governments consider equitable distributions of societal hazards and public goods – broadly ‘environmental equity’. There are a number of neighbourhoods that have little to no green infrastructure – and are therefore ‘nature deficient’. These areas are in need of increased governmental investment in nature access to improve public health.

Is there a benefit for nature when humans increase their exposure to it?

The growing appreciation of the powerful impacts of nature on health will create more support for protection and investment in our green areas – essentially creating a circular benefit for people and a healthy ecosystem. Nature will stop being seen as a luxury and will become a necessity.

(Did you know? Friends of DD can respond to and engage with guest contributors like Jared Hanley in one click.)


Books & Accessories


The Persuaders →

How to change minds & bridge division

In his newest book, Anand Giridharadas goes inside campaigns and movements that try to persuade those who disagree with them to find a way out of extreme polarisation. “As the book’s subjects grapple with how to ‘call out’ threats and injustices while ‘calling in’ those who don’t agree with them but just might one day, they point a way to healing, and changing, a broken country.”


Sociotype Journal →

Editorial explorations in type

London-based type foundry sociotype just launched the second issue of their type-specimen-cum-cultural-magazine, Sociotype Journal. Titled ‘Makeshift’, issue #2 of this beautifully produced ‘bookazine’ is “an investigation of old things made new and new things made weird; a celebration of ingenuity on the hoof and ad hoc creativity under extraordinary circumstances.” Friends of DD enjoy a 10% discount. Become a Friend to access specials like this.


Overheard on Twitter

I do not want to be on the computer ... I want to be an elderly Mediterranean man who spends all day sitting outside a cafe and complaining with his friends.



Food for Thought

The Dangers of Elite Projection →


“Elite projection is the belief, among relatively fortunate and influential people, that what those people find convenient or attractive is good for the society as a whole.” This is a piece about the design of cities/public transport, but it made me realise once again how exemplary urban planning issues are for wider society problems. “As a multi-millionaire, this man belongs to a tiny minority, so it makes no sense to design a transit system around his personal tastes. Successful transit is mass transit, and there is no mass to be achieved by pursuing him as a customer. Perhaps he could be attracted by a service to his door featuring on-board wine bar and massage service, but few other people would consider that good value for their more limited dollars.” (via)

The Real Name Fallacy →


There is a persistent argument that using real names/identities on social media would somehow reduce abuse and harassment. This in-depth analysis shows where the perception originated and why current research tells us that it’s simply not true. “When people’s names and photos are shown on a platform, people who provide a service to them – drivers, hosts, buyers – reject transactions from people of color and charge them more. Revealing marital status on DonorsChoose caused donors give less to students with women teachers, in fields where women were a minority. Gender- and race-based harassment are only possible if people know a person’s gender and/or race, and real names often give strong indications around both of these categories. Requiring people to disclose that information forces those risks upon them.”

Ads Don’t Work That Way →


There is a general understanding that advertising works mostly by ‘emotional inception’: because of the ads you see, you subconsciously start associating certain values with a brand. In this piece, Kevin Simler argues that advertising works mostly because of ‘cultural imprinting’, “a the mechanism whereby an ad, rather than trying to change our minds individually, instead changes the landscape of cultural meanings – which in turn changes how we are perceived by others when we use a product.” There are some gaps in his argument. I think it’s a mix of both. Nevertheless, an interesting read if you’re curious about the psychology behind advertising.


Aesthetically Pleasing

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I recently came across the absolutely stunning pottery work of Melbourne local Sophie Moran.

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Casa Gialla is a beautiful, functional transformation of a tiny rooftop apartment in Italy. Almost every piece of joinery has multiple functions and reveals new aspects of the apartment. Even the tiny terrace hides a bath tub and a shower.

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How wonderful are these moody oil paintings of Japanese urban nightlife by Keita Morimoto? (via)

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Timonium is a distinctive sans serif with an optimistic voice. The crisp, high-contrast forms are perfect for articulating forward looking communications in any context.


Notable Numbers


In Europe, the top 1% by income drive nearly four times more than the median driver, accounting for some 21% of their personal climate footprint.


China aims to build 450 GW of solar and wind power in the Gobi and other deserts. To put that number in perspective: the total power generation capacity in the US as of this February stood at 1200 GW – and that includes natural gas, coal, nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar.


94% of non-human mammal biomass is livestock. This means livestock outweigh wild mammals by a factor of 15-to-1.



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The Week in a GIF


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