3 July 2018

Various editorial illustrations

Reflecting on the news

When I come across an interesting news article or topic, I sometimes like to reflect on this with an illustration. It allows me to share some thoughts on the matter, while also experimenting with new ways of quickly making the translation from editorial to illustration. Below are some illustrations I did in the first half of 2018.

ArsTechnica: Talking to Google Duplex

An illustration about an Arstechnica feature on how Google's Duplex, the new AI system to make phone calls on your behalf, is successfully making restaurant reservations. For now, it functions with a callcenter of humans as a backup in case it gets stuck

I found it fascinating but also completely bizarre to see so many resources and research efforts culminating into such a narrow task: services like Google Maps, years of research into natural language processing, and Deepmind's accomplisments in audio generation (WaveNet) are all necessary ingredients in a seemingly casual reservation call for two at 7.

Body metric extravaganza

Illustration about the maddening amount of bodily and nutritional metrics you can track.

You can count: calories, joules, your macros (protein, carb, fat intake) AND your micros (vitamins, minerals), phytonutrients, microbes, fluid intake, weight, various body measurements, energy burned in exercise, steps, bodyfat percentage, bone weight, muscle weight, base metabolic rate, and a lot more. On top of that, different diets prescribing what you should aim for with all this data are often contradictory! And then finally there's something called "intuitive/mindful eating" which is basically the anti-diet, claiming that aiming for anything other than your body's natural needs is unhealthy and might even be killing off your digestive microbes.

Considering all this it's easy to either lose yourself completely in tracking and dieting, or to opt out of being concerned with nutrition altogether.

Ironically, this illustration got shared the most by fitness and extreme dieting groups.

Microbial warfare

An illustration about the battle between bacteria and antibiotics. Here is what I learned:

Different antibiotics target different bacteria. There are gram negative and gram positive bacteria. The first can be pigmented to appear purplish blue in tests while the latter stay pinkish red. Antibiotics work by either killing bacteria or inhibiting their growth. If not used properly or too much, antibiotics become a training ground for resistant superbacteria through evolutionary pressure. New antibiotics are hard to come by, although a promising new one ominously called 'Malacidins' was recently discovered in the USA in dirt (of all places).

Although not yet approved in the Netherlands, bacteriophages might be a new promising alternative. These are virusses that kill bacteria by injecting their DNA into them, multiplying inside, and then exploding the bacterial host from within (called 'lysis'). Cozy!! And so we all live to see another day, hopefully.

Pride month: Brick by brick since 1969

Illustration about the Stonewall protests, sparking the beginning of LGBT pride and resistance almost 50 years ago.