We can measure a crowd — even at an inauguration

If President Trump wants to cast doubt, he might pick a target that is less easily measured than crowd size. We can count people. People take up space. Here’s a rule of thumb, explained by Professor Steve Doig of Arizona Statue University.

A loose crowd, one where each person is an arm’s length from the body of his or her nearest neighbors, needs 10 square feet per person. A more tightly packed crowd fills 4.5 square feet per person. A truly scary mob of mosh-pit density would get about 2.5 square feet per person.

Read more about it via How big will inaugural crowd be? Do the math – politics – Inauguration | NBC News.


Golly Molly, let’s type

Old-school printers owned a collection of lead letters and numbers. They set the type for stories and headlines from that font. Limits can be freeing. Printers didn’t stand around every day wondering what typeface was best. They used what they had. I sometimes am overwhelmed by the choices before me. Designer Pablo Stanley, via The Type Snob, offers advice for choosing typefaces that are readable. That’s the point of text — to convey ideas. I even learned to make a real dash on the Mac — option shift hyphen. I know better than to use two em dashes in a row. But I had to practice.

Witnessing the birth of today’s stars | Space | EarthSky

Reporting about the very far away is difficult, as journalists routinely rely on interviews and observation. Deborah Byrd, editor of long-running EarthSky.org, has written a classic example of a “discovery story” about scientific observation of the long ago and very far away.

She uses simples techniques and summary. I love the literal bottom line:

Bottom line: Astronomers have used radio telescopes to obtain a first-ever look at the distant galaxies where most of today’s stars were born, 10 billion years ago.

She starts with a similar summary. Then she explains the discovery, the tools that allowed it, and the challenge for observers. She uses comparison to familiar items — dust and mobile phones.

Read it via Witnessing the birth of today’s stars | Space | EarthSky

Covering politics in a “post-truth” America | Brookings Institution

We’ve achieved a lot more transparency in today’s Washington—without the accountability that was supposed to come with it.

Does it matter if we seek the truth and report it? Here’s a short history of covering politics from the “print is king” era to now — by a woman who has lived it: Covering politics in a “post-truth” America | Brookings Institution