James Vincent

James Vincent's Beyond Measure, a history of measurement, is out now.

Its Rolling Furious Eyes: Automata

James Vincent, 22 February 2024

The legend​ goes like this. In the spring of 1562, the 16-year-old prince Don Carlos of Asturias, grandson of the Holy Roman Emperor and heir to the Castilian throne, lay dying. The prince had been chasing a maid down a flight of stairs when he fell and hit the back of his head. He was taken to bed, weak and feverish, and his condition quickly deteriorated. His wound became infected, his...

It’sa truism that the phone in your pocket today is more powerful than the computer Nasa used to land humans on the moon in 1969. But the comparison isn’t as straightforward as it appears. First, raw power isn’t everything. Yes, your phone is speedier than the Apollo Guidance Computer – many millions of times faster – but Nasa’s machines were built with...

Keep It Clean: The Patron Saint of JPEGs

James Vincent, 20 October 2022

The flood​ of images is inescapable. Pick up your phone or surf the web and you will be immersed in pictures of war-torn cities and grinning politicians; friends’ holidays and strangers’ parties; heavenly salads and impish kittens. Yet despite their numbing infinite variety, these images all owe their sharpness and vibrancy to the legacy of a single photograph: a picture of...

Thelength of Christ was a spiritual matter in the Middle Ages. Sometimes referred to as the mensura Christi or longitudo Christi, it appeared in manuscripts as a hand-drawn bar or linea, as broad as the width of the page would allow. These lines could be measured by the faithful with a string or ribbon and multiplied so that they might draw the Son of God up to his full height. One...

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