Friday, 31 August 2012

Start the weekend early! None of this is WORK.

And this miscellany includes one highly personal photograph. Comments welcome!

The man who made his own toaster
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker

I spent the weekend at the Aspen Environmental Forums, and one of the presenters I got to see there was Thomas Thwaites—a man who built a toaster from scratch. As a project for his design degree, Thwaites reverse-engineered a cheap toaster from the British equivalent of Wal-Mart and used it as a blueprint to build his own. The catch: Thwaites made everything that went into the toaster. He mined the metal. He drew out the wires on jewelry-making equipment. He even found a way to make the plastic casing.
The point of this project wasn’t to suggest that everybody ought to be capable of DIY-ing up their own toaster. (Really, if you wanted toast in a post-apocalyptic world, you’d really just be better off with an old-fashioned, pre-electric toaster, which held bread in a metal grille so you could toast it over the fire). Rather, Thwaites was trying shine a light on how much we rely on other people, on their skill sets that we don’t necessarily share, and on centuries of technological advance. It takes a village to make a toaster. Or, rather, in this modern world, it takes lots of villages, all over the planet.
Thwaites’ project was also an interesting perspective on industrialization. There are drawbacks to producing goods this way. But there are benefits, too. And when we have the necessary conversations about how to make our world more sustainable, we need to consider both sides of the coin ... and how we can get the benefits for less risk.
Cory wrote about this project back in 2009, when it was still a work in progress. The video above provides a short summary of the entire Toaster Project, including an amazing shot of the finished product which did (very briefly) work.
Thanks to Matt Blind for the YouTube link!

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The storytelling animal. Fiction is no mere escapist fantasy. Something about pages and print actually makes us better people... more

Huge Ancient Civilization’s Collapse Explained
via 3quarksdaily by Abbas Raza
Charles Choi in Discovery News:
The mysterious fall of the largest of the world’s earliest urban civilizations nearly 4,000 years ago in what is now India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh now appears to have a key culprit – ancient climate change, researchers say.
Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia may be the best known of the first great urban cultures, but the largest was the Indus or Harappan civilization. This culture once extended over more than 386,000 square miles (1 million square kilometers) across the plains of the Indus River from the Arabian Sea to the Ganges, and at its peak may have accounted for 10 percent of the world population. The civilization developed about 5,200 years ago, and slowly disintegrated between 3,900 and 3,000 years ago – populations largely abandoned cities, migrating toward the east.
Continue reading here and be very careful not to get sucked in to watching the various videos on the site, or reading related stories. Not that I would do that, oh no, not me.

Britain from Above, 1919-1951
When I see an item in ResearchBuzz which starts with “Wow!” I sit up and take notice.
Then the same item came up twice more so I felt I had to do something with it.
“More than 5,000 images from the Aerofilms Collection have been conserved and digitised, and they are available to be viewed online for the first time on the website, which also features about 12,000 other photographs from across the UK. Many shots were said to have been taken during the early days of aviation by former war pilots at very low altitudes.”
Check it out here
I could not find any mention of the names of the pilots/photographers involved in some of these shots. I wonder, I just wonder, if this man was one of them.
This is my grandfather Montague Sims in the plane he reputedly built himself.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The blues were born out of victimhood, racism, and the search for solace. Well, yes, sort of. But the music also came from the pages of the Sears, Roebuck catalog... more

Come Fly With Me: 1911
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive - Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Come Fly With Me: 1911
Washington, D.C., or vicinity circa 1911
“Senorita Lenore Riviero with Antony Jannus in Rex Smith aeroplane”
Please fasten your seatbelts (or skirts) while we prepare for departure. Tony Jannus, the pioneering but short-lived Washington aviator, a few years before his final flight landed him somewhere at the bottom of the Black Sea.
Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative
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Vitamin Donuts, WWII
via Retronaut by Chris

“The Doughnut Corporation sought endorsement from the Nutrition Division of the War Food Administration for its Vitamin Doughnuts campaign”
What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam: The Government’s Effect on the American Diet

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Scientism is folly. This has been shown time and time again. And yet, says John Gray, it is another folly to think that scientism will go away... more

Feel Like an Egyptian
via Big Think by David Ropeik
Egypt has a civilian president. For most of us — so what. These are distant events, physically and emotionally, without much meaning and certainly with little personal relevance for most of us. We may know about them, but how much do we care?
Read More
This is a story about feeling, a story about a woman who was there, who saw and, above all, felt the revolution.

Why Loneliness Can Shorten Your Life
via Big Think by Orion Jones
Article written by guest writer Rin Mitchell
In two recent studies, one by Harvard Medical School researchers and the other by researchers from the University of California-San Francisco, it was concluded that people who lived alone and had feelings of loneliness were more likely to die earlier or develop some kind of disability.
Read More

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