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“Making ornaments / Of accidents and possibilities”*…

 

This solemn group of posters teaching safety to British citizens comes from the archive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. The images are from the Wellcome Library’s website; I first saw them on the blog the Passion of Former Days.

The RoSPA displayed a series of its 20th-century posters in a 2012 exhibition, after rediscovering a small archive of them in an outbuilding. In the exhibition notes,RoSPA curators noted that the society, which dates back to World War I, focused on road safety and pedestrian awareness in the 1920s and 1930s (much like analogous American safety organizations).

From the redoubtable Rebecca Onion: “Stark, Spare, Beautiful Midcentury British Safety Posters.”

* Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire

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As we put safety first, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that the Great New England Hurricane (AKA, The Long Island Express) dissipated.  It had made landfall on Long Island on September 21. With impact felt from New Jersey all the way north to Canada, the storm was estimated to have killed 682 people, damaged or destroyed over 57,000 homes, and caused property losses estimated at $306 million ($4.7 billion in current value).

Storm surge from the 1938 hurricane at the Battery, New York City

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“It’s hard for me to get used to these changing times. I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty.”*…

This fall’s entering college students, the class of 2020, were born in 1998 and cannot remember a time when they had to wait for anything. They also can’t recall a time when the United States was not at war, or when someone named Bush or Clinton was not running for office.

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students about to enter college.

In their lifetimes they have always had eBay and iMacs, and India and Pakistan have always had the bomb. The Sopranos and SpongeBob SquarePants have always been part of popular culture, Gretzky and Elway have always been retired, and Vladimir Putin has always been in charge in the Kremlin.

And although they think of themselves as a powerful generation—Sanders voters, consumers—they are faced with the prospect of student loan debt and of robots and foreigners taking their jobs making them feel anxious and weak…

This year’s Mindset List

* George Burns

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As we muster to matriculate, we might recall that it was on this date in 1862 that President Abraham Lincoln signed the (preliminary) Emancipation Proclamation, announcing that if the rebel states did not end the fighting and rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863, all slaves in those states would be free.  No Confederate state capitulated, and on the first day of 1863, President Lincoln issued the Proclamation declaring “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

Despite it’s expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, of course, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.

Still, it captured the hearts and imagination of millions of Americans and fundamentally transformed the character of the war.  After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom.  Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators.  By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.

“First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln,” by Francis Bicknell Carpenter

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Written by LW

September 22, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Note, to-day, an instructive, curious spectacle”*…

 

Domino builder Hevesh5 spent 25 hours over eight days building the pattern with 15,000 dominoes. The entire structure takes less than two minutes to come down as the chain reaction works its way along three separate paths at three different heights…

More at “Watching 15,000 dominoes fall in a triple spiral will make your day.”  And here it is in reverse:

* Walt Whitman

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As we line ’em up and knock ’em down, we might spare a thought for Frank Hornby; he died on this date in 1936.  A visionary toy designer, he created the Meccano construction set (in 1901), a toy that used perforated metal strips, wheels, rods, brackets, clips, and assembly nuts and bolts to allow kids to build unlimited numbers of models.  A huge success, it spawned a monthly magazine– and U.S. competition (e.g., the Erector Set).  He introduced Hornby model trains in 1920 (originally clockwork and eventually electrically powered with tracks and scale replicas of associated buildings); the “Dinky” range of miniature cars and other motor vehicles was added in 1933 (spawning such competitors as Corgi, Matchbox, and Mattel’s Hot Wheels).

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Written by LW

September 21, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Arguably the greatest technological triumph of the century has been the public-health system”*…

 

The car seat: one of the objects that shaped public health

Public health impacts all of us, in every corner of the globe, every day of our lives — not only our health and safety, but also how we live, what we wear, what we eat, what happens to our environment and the stewardship of our planet. For better or worse, these 100 objects have made their mark on public health. Some, such as vaccines, have helped keep us healthy. Others, including cigarettes, have made us sick. Some are surprising (horseshoe crabs?) and others make perfect sense (bicycle helmet). Some are relics from the past (spittoon) and others are products of our digital age (smartphone)…

In celebration of its centennial, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has compiled a list of the “100 Objects That Shaped Public Health.”

* “Arguably the greatest technological triumph of the century has been the public-health system, which is sophisticated preventive and investigative medicine organized around mostly low- and medium-tech equipment; … fully half of us are alive today because of the improvements.”
― Richard Rhodes, Visions of Technology: A Century of Vital Debate About Machines Systems and the Human World

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As we buckle our seat belts, we might send thoughtfully-seasoned birthday greetings to David Marine; he was born on this date in 1888.  A pathologist, he is best remembered for his trial, from 1917 to 1922, during which he supplemented the diets of Ohio schoolgirls with iodine, which greatly reduced their development of goiter— and led to the iodization of table salt (one of Johns Hopkins’ 100 Objects).

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Written by LW

September 20, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The Turn of the Screw”*…

 

* Henry James

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As we turn clockwise, we might spare a thought for Pieter van Musschenbroek; he died on this date in 1761. A one-time student of Isaac Newton (who helped transmit Newton’s ideas throughout Europe), van Musschenbroek was a professor of mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, and medicine. (Those were the days…)  Fascinated by electrostatics, he used what he learned from his father, an accomplished designer and manufacturer of scientific instruments, to build the first capacitor (that’s to say, device that can store an electric charge), the Leyden Jar– named for the city that was home to van Musschenbroek’s university.

Leyden jar construction

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Written by LW

September 19, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee / And I’ll forgive Thy great big one on me”*…

 

Religion in the United States has “revenues” of $1.2 Trillion a year– more than the combined revenues of the top 10 technology companies in the US, including Apple, Amazon, and Google– making it equivalent to the 15th largest national economy in the world.

Read the pecuniary particulars at “Religion in US ‘worth more than Google and Apple combined’.”

Download the underlying research– “The Socioeconomic Contributions of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis” by Brian Grim of Georgetown University and Melissa Grim of the Newseum Institute– as a pdf here.

And for a concrete example of evangelical economic activity that may be happening off of the reader’s radar, consider the phenomenon that’s the subject of the film reviewed here.

* Robert Frost

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As we pass the offering plate, we might recall that it was on this date in 1895 that Daniel David Palmer gave the first chiropractic adjustment to Harvey Lillard in Davenport, Iowa. Palmer had been practicing in Davenport for thirty years as a magnetic healer.  During this time, he developed the theory that misalignment of the bones in the body was the basic underlying cause of all “dis-ease,” and the majority of these mis-alignments were in the spinal column.  On learning that Lillard, the janitor in his building, had a hearing problem, Palmer adjusted his spine, which, Palmer reported, cured the ailment– a claim that was seminal to Chiropractic history.

Davenport is now the home of Palmer Chiropractic College.

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Written by LW

September 18, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The ice caps are melting, Leonard. In the future, swimming won’t be optional”*…

 

 xkcd

* “Sheldon,” The Big Bang Theory

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As we turn up the air conditioner, we might spare a thought for Sir Karl Raimund Popper; he died on this date in 1994.  One of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century, Popper is best known for his rejection of the classical inductivist views on the scientific method, in favor of empirical falsification: A theory in the empirical sciences can never be proven, but it can be falsified, meaning that it can and should be scrutinized by decisive experiments. (Or more simply put, whereas classical inductive approaches considered hypotheses false until proven true, Popper reversed the logic: conclusions drawn from an empirical finding are true until proven false.)

Popper was also a powerful critic of historicism in political thought, and (in books like The Open Society and Its Enemies and The Poverty of Historicism) an enemy of authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

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Written by LW

September 17, 2016 at 1:01 am

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