The Elegance of Roller Coasters

i think roller coasters are the most elegant amusement park ride.

roller coasters are unique because they’re unpowered. they get all their energy from their first hill, and from that point on, nothing alters the course of the ride—just pure physics. other rides, like carousels, pirate ships, and the Scrambler, just consist of a motor moving you around repetitively for an arbitrary length of time. inherently boring, i say.

on a roller coaster, you feel the power of the Earth, not the power of a motor, which is so much more exciting. why is it that can’t you read about roller coasters without learning about potential and kinetic energy? people don’t care so much about the physics of the Scrambler. people love the physics of roller coasters. physics is the whole point of a roller coaster.

unlike most rides, roller coasters tell a story. the engineers have to decide things like, what should happen first? what should happen next? what will the audience be expecting now? how can we break those expectations? what’s the overall theme of the experience? in that sense, a roller coaster is more like a show or a tour than most other rides.

and some engineers apparently have a brilliant sense of humor. sometimes they’ll design a loop just right so that you slow down at the top and hang upside-down for a second before you come back down. i love this moment in The Riddler Revenge, which circles you around and looks as if you’re about to smash right into a rail you rode across earlier—and then flings you off to the side at the last second. that’s storytelling. it’s fun.

it’s the combination of all those elements together that, to me, makes roller coasters not just entertaining, but elegant.

Why the Korean Keyboard Layout Is Brilliant

five hundred years ago, the Korean writing system was specifically designed to be easy to learn. similar sounds are written with similar characters, and related sounds have consistent patterns. some characters are actually pictures of the way your mouth pronounces them. seriously, check out this video and come back when you’re done.

many years later, the Korean keyboard layout seems to have been designed according to the same philosophy.

1 - keyboard with letters.png

(don’t worry, i’ve written this article so that people with minimal knowledge about Korean can understand it.)

consonant–vowel split

the first thing you’ll notice is that the left hand takes all the consonants and the right hand takes all the vowels. you can’t do this with English, but you can with Korean, because it happens to have a similar number of consonants and vowels: 14 of each, not including combinations.

the vowels yae and ye are then placed on Shift modifications of ae and e, which fits all the letters onto 26 keys, just like in English. and because Korean uses roman-style rather than Chinese- and Japanese-style punctuation, this allows the punctuation keys to remain unchanged between Korean and English, making it easy to switch between the two.

splitting the keyboard into consonants and vowels not only makes it easier to remember, it also causes good hand alternation, which makes typing faster because while one hand is hitting the current key, your other hand can start reaching for the next one.

the one exception to the consonant–vowel split is that yu is a vowel, but it’s placed on the B key, the rightmost key typed with the left hand.

consonants

twin consonants

5 of the consonants have “twin” versions, not included in the individual 14: b j d g s and bb jj dd gg ss. twin consonants are “tense”, pronounced with more stress than their plain counterparts. (official romanizations differ slightly.)

the twin consonants are placed on Shift modifications of their plain counterparts, and these are placed on the first 5 keys on the upper row, which is easy to remember.

2 - twin consonants

if you’re curious, the twin consonants couldn’t be typed by hitting their plain versions twice in a row, because that would cause ambiguity: you wouldn’t be able to differentiate between one syllable ending with s and the next syllable starting with s too, versus just ss at the beginning of the second syllable.

aspirated consonants

4 of the consonants have aspirated counterparts, included in the individual 14: b j d g and p ch t k. see how they sound similar? aspirated consonants have an extra burst of air, which you can feel if you hold your hand in front of your mouth while saying p versus b, for example.

the aspirated consonants are placed on the first 4 keys on the lower row, and they correspond with the first 4 letters on the upper row.

3 - aspirated consonants

for some reason though, the aspirated consonants go in reverse order of their plain counterparts; i haven’t thought of a good reason for this. if they had gone in the same order, you would have been able to use the same finger for related pairs, like b and p, j and ch, and so on.

4 - aspirated directions

the consonant s has a twin version, but no aspirated counterpart, so that’s why it’s the 5th key in the upper row; it’s in the group of 5 twin consonants, but not in the group of 4 aspirated consonants.

that leaves just 5 more consonants, which don’t have any counterparts: m n (empty) l h. these are placed on home row.

5 - all consonants

vowels

horizontal and vertical vowels

Korean vowels are written as long horizontal or vertical lines with short perpendicular marks. each syllable block can have either a horizontal vowel, a vertical vowel, or a horizontal vowel followed by a vertical vowel.

6 - vowels.png

on the keyboard, horizontal and vertical vowels are grouped separately.

7 - vowel groups

merely separating the two groups of vowels makes them easier to remember, but the key is that the vertical vowels are above and to the right of the horizontal vowels.

this exactly follows how syllable blocks are written when they have two vowels, meaning the keys are arranged spatially. this has a remarkable effect: when you type Korean, you feel like you’re tapping directly on the letters where they appear in the syllable block.

8 - spatial 1
9 - spatial 2.png
10 - spatial 3.png

there are only so many possible vowel pairs, and they all start with one of o u eu and end with one of eo a i ae e. in all these pairs, the second vowel is placed above or to the right of the first vowel, and because all consonants are on the left too, the keys you type are all roughly mapped to their final positions in the syllable block you’re typing.

it really is a cool feeling.

direction of vowel markings

the horizontal and vertical vowels are then divided into subgroups. for the horizontal vowels, vowels with short marks above the long line are placed above, and vowels with marks below are placed below. likewise for the vertical vowels: vowels with marks to the left are placed to the left, and vowels with marks to the right are placed to the right.

this further makes the layout easier to remember and feel more spatial when you type on it.

11 - vowel marking directions

it’s not perfect—ae and e are exceptions, although it’s easy to remember those two as a separate group because they’re the only vowels written with two long lines.

i also wish that i were in between eo and a. since i has no mark, it would fit perfectly between eo with a left mark and a with a right mark. this would have broken up a and ya next to each other though.

number of vowel markings

finally, vowels with two marks are placed further away than their one-mark counterparts. two-mark vowels are pronounced the same way, just with a y- sound before them.

again, this makes the layout easier to remember, and it’s also practical because the y- vowels are less common than the regular vowels. and also again, ae and e are exceptions; their y- counterparts are on Shift modifications.

12 - vowel marking number

result

do you remember how long it took you to learn to type in English? Qwerty is nonsensical, not grouped by letter type in any way. the vowels are scattered, and good luck finding any relationship between D and T, or G and K, for example—most English speakers aren’t even aware of the relationships between these sounds, because the letters don’t indicate them.

logical grouping makes the Korean keyboard layout remarkably easy to learn. most people who learn it won’t analyze in such detail, but they’ll benefit from somehow being able to pick it up easily, and experience that unique feeling of spatially arranged letters.

the Korean keyboard layout follows the same philosophy as the Korean writing system: the easier something is to learn, the more people can make good use of it. these two systems were designed centuries apart, and yet they follow the same guiding principle. that, to me, is delightful and charming.

Clear Umbrella

clear umbrella

the only acceptable color for an umbrella is clear.

why would i want to block off almost half of my field of view? it feels restricting. isn’t it just nicer to see what’s around you?—and besides, there are views to be seen.

but clear also broadcasts the key feature of an umbrella: it’s waterproof. not all fabrics are waterproof; they have to be specific kinds, and usually treated with a coating. a clear canopy can only be made of plastic, which is an inherently waterproof material.

a clear umbrella makes its most functional aspect its most prominent one—a harmony of look and function. that’s good design.