(Roughly) Daily

“There is an art to flying… the knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss”…

 

Some readers will recall that (R)D has kept an eye on the state of paper airplane engineering. Today, from Guinness laureate John Collins, a lesson in how to fold the world record paper airplane.

email readers click here for video

Enthusiasts can join Collins in his Kickstarter campaign to use paper aviation as way to stoke interest in STEM subjects in schools, museums, and libraries around the country and the world– now in its final days.

* Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything

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As we worry about wingspan, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that the New York City Board of Education voted to establish the Bronx High School of Science.  A report by the Board of Superintendents had recommended creating an institution to develop “a scientific way of thinking,” with courses to train prospective physicians, dentists, engineers and laboratory workers. Using entrance exams to screen for suitable ability, about 400 boys were admitted to the first cohort, which matriculated in September of that year in a repurposed building. The school has grown to a full enrollment of about 2,500, and is fully coed.

The school has graduated eight Nobel laureates, seven Pulitzer Prize winners, and six winners of the national Medal of Science; 29 of the 2000 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences are alums.  But the graduate cohort is an eclectic bunch, accomplished in other ways as well:  e.g., the great Otto Penzler, editor/collector/archivist of espionage and thriller books; Millard “Mickey” Drexler, CEO, J.Crew; ex-CEO, Gap; Jon Favreau, actor/director of Elf, Iron Man I & II, Chef and others: Mark Boal, journalist, screenwriter and producer, winner of 2010 Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay for The Hurt Locker; and Jonathan Kibera, Venture Hacker at AngelList.

The Gothic building at 84th St. and Creston Ave. that housed the school from its founding in 1938 until 1959

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Written by LW

February 23, 2015 at 1:01 am

“All things are subject to decay and when fate summons, monarchs must obey”*…

 

from Startape PhotoGraff, Flickr

 

from 95wombat, Flickr

 

From the collection of over 11,000 photos in the Flickr pool “Old Factories and Industrial Decay Around the World.”

* John Dryden

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As we celebrate the beauty in the ephemeral, we might recall that it was on this date in 1997 that Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell, and their colleagues at the Roslin Institute (part of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland) announced that they had successfully cloned a sheep, Dolly, who had been born on July 5, 1996. Dolly lived her entire life at the Institute, where (bred with a Welsh mountain ram) she gave birth to six lambs. She died in February, 2003.

Dolly’s taxidermied remains

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Written by LW

February 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Learning languages is like learning history from the inside out”*…

 

In a way that’s analogous to the evolution of morphology via mutation, the changes in the languages that we speak are driven by “mistakes” that get baked into practice.  For instance…

AMMUNITION

projectiles to be fired from a gun

It is common to misanalyze an article that precedes a word as if it were part of that word. Here the French phrase la munition was misanalyzed so the “a” of the article became part of the word, becoming l’ammunition

ARCHIPELAGO

a group of many islands in a large body of water

The etymology of archipelago seems like it should be from Greek arkhi meaning “chief” andpelagos “sea,” suggesting the importance of a sea with so many islands. The problem is that this form never occurs in ancient Greek, and the modern form is actually borrowed from Italian, with the intended meaning being “the Aegean Sea.” If that’s the case, then the archi- inarchipelago is actually a corrupted version of Aigaion, which is how you say “Aegean” in Greek…

More words that originated in error.

* Eric van Lustbader

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As we misspeak creatively, we might spare a thought for Baruch (or Benedict) de Spinoza, the Dutch philosopher who lived a quiet public life as a lens grinder– but whose rationalism and determinism put him in opposition to Descartes and helped lay the foundation for The Enlightenment, and whose pantheistic views led to his excommunication from the Jewish community in Amsterdam.  He died on this date in 1677.

As men’s habits of mind differ, so that some more readily embrace one form of faith, some another, for what moves one to pray may move another to scoff, I conclude … that everyone should be free to choose for himself the foundations of his creed, and that faith should be judged only by its fruits; each would then obey God freely with his whole heart, while nothing would be publicly honored save justice and charity.

Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670

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Written by LW

February 21, 2015 at 1:01 am

“If the people of New Zealand want to be part of our world, I believe they should hop off their islands, and push ‘em closer”*…

 

 

World Maps Without New Zealand is a stupid side project an attempt to raise the awareness of a very serious and troubling issue we are seeing taking place all around the world: the disrespectful cartographical neglect towards the country that gave you such amazing things as Lord of the Rings, Flight of the Conchords, Lorde, and ZORB. Here, we collect and share the real world examples of this atrocity.

The blog is curated by this guy, who is a humble Auckland based web developer by day, and an extra lazy one by night…

Many, many more at “World Maps Without New Zealand“–“It’s not a very important country most of the time…”

* Lewis Black

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As we get antipodeal, we might recall that it was on this date in 1954, at an athletics meeting in Gisborne (New Zealand), that Yvette Williams broke the long jump record held by Dutch athlete Francine Blankers-Koen.  Williams record of 20 feet 7½ inches (6.29 m) stood for another 18 months.

Williams had already achieved international recognition by winning Gold in the Long Jump event at the at the 1950 Commonwealth Games and at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952.  She took Gold again at the Commonwealth Games later in 1954, but did not surpass her own record.  She was inducted into the New Zealand Hall of Fame in 1990.

Williams, mid-jump

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Written by LW

February 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you”*…

 

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, “The Triumph of Death” c. 1562

 

Researchers at Oxford University have compiled a “scientific assessment about the possibility of oblivion”

The scientists from the Global Challenges Foundation and the Future of Humanity Institute used their research to draw up a list of the 12 most likely ways human civilization could end on planet earth.

“[This research] is about how a better understanding of the magnitude of the challenges can help the world to address the risks it faces, and can help to create a path towards more sustainable development,” the study’s authors said.

“It is a scientific assessment about the possibility of oblivion, certainly, but even more it is a call for action based on the assumption that humanity is able to rise to challenges and turn them into opportunities.”

* Joesph Heller, Catch-22

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As we count the ways, we might send heavenly birthday greetings to Nicolaus Copernicus. the Renaissance polyglot and polymath– he was a canon lawyer, a mathematician, a physician,  a classics scholar, a translator, a governor, a diplomat, and an economist– best remembered as an astronomer ; he was born on this date in 1473.  Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres; published just before his death in 1543), with its heliocentric account of the solar system, is often regarded as the beginning both of modern astronomy and of the scientific revolution.

Of all discoveries and opinions, none may have exerted a greater effect on the human spirit than the doctrine of Copernicus. The world had scarcely become known as round and complete in itself when it was asked to waive the tremendous privilege of being the center of the universe. Never, perhaps, was a greater demand made on mankind – for by this admission so many things vanished in mist and smoke! What became of our Eden, our world of innocence, piety and poetry; the testimony of the senses; the conviction of a poetic – religious faith? No wonder his contemporaries did not wish to let all this go and offered every possible resistance to a doctrine which in its converts authorized and demanded a freedom of view and greatness of thought so far unknown, indeed not even dreamed of.

- Goethe

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“Getting struck by lightning is like winning the lottery, except of course, not as lucky”*…

 

On the coast of Venezuela, in the small fishing village of Ologa, lies a square kilometer that is struck by more lightning than anywhere else on the planet almost every other night of the year.  Reuter’s photojournalist Jorge Silva offers an illustrated tour at “Venezuela’s eternal storm.”

* Jarod Kintz

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As we take cover, we might send highly-charged birthday greetings to Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta; he was born on this date in 1745.  Volta was a physicist who studied what we now call electrical capacitance; he developed (separate) means to study both electrical potential (V ) and charge (Q ), and discovered that for a given object, they are proportional.  This is often called “Volta’s Law”; the unit of electrical potential is universally called the “volt.”  For all of this, Volta may be best remembered as the inventor of the first battery (which he called the “voltaic pile“).

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Written by LW

February 18, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Make things as simple as possible but no simpler”*…

 

Botticelli, “The Birth of Venus”

 

Posters promoting the Masters and their masterpieces:  From Sydney-based designer Nicholas Barclay, a ten classic works of art, reduced to their essences…

Peruse each of them (about half-way down the page), and check out his other distillations, on Barclay’s site .

* Albert Einstein

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As we wonder what the docent will make of these, we might recall it it was on this date in 1979 that The Clash played the Harvard Square Theater on the first leg of their first American tour, “Pearl Harbor ’79.”

The band, backstage, with their idol (and opening act on the tour), Bo Diddley

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Written by LW

February 17, 2015 at 1:01 am

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