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Posts Tagged ‘Instructables

Coded references…

Readers will recall the role that Alan Turing and the team at Bletchley Park played in cracking the German Enigma code; some analysts and historians reckon that their work may have shortened World War Two by “not less than two years.”

That code was generated by– and thus cracking it turned on deconstructing and understanding– an Enigma Machine.


Understandably, there were few such machines ever built.  And equally understandable, those that survive are extremely expensive collectables.  But readers need fear not!  Now, thanks to our friends at Instructables, one can convert a “Kid’s Game to an Enigma Machine“:

Step-by-step instructions at Instructables.

Readers might also want to visit Cabinet Magazine‘s wonderful “How to Make Anything Signify Anything,” a profile of American code breaker (and code maker) William Friedman:

By the time he retired from the National Security Agency in 1955, Friedman had served for more than thirty years as his government’s chief cryptographer, and—as leader of the team that broke the Japanese PURPLE code in World War II, co-inventor of the US Army’s best cipher machine, author of the papers that gave the field its mathematical foundations, and coiner of the very term cryptanalysis—he had arguably become the most important code-breaker in modern history.

As we reach for our decoder rings, we might recall that it was on this date in 1884 that the states of Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, with (at least) 50 tornadoes.  Known as “The Enigma Outbreak,” it did an estimated a total of $3–4 million in tornado damage (in 1884 dollars; plus an unknown amount of flood and other damage), destroying over 10,000 structures.

Photo: © D. Burgess / NOAA (source)



Shaken, not stirred…

Altoids tins are the “universal container,” repurposed into paperclip holders, sewing sets, survival kits– and now, from Instructables,  something genuinely useful: a portable emergency martini…


FURTHER TO “Hands Up!…” (and “Comply With Me”): airport security cartoons from The New Yorker


As we realize that we can streamline even further by simply eliminating the vermouth altogether, we might recall that it was on this date in 1942 that Rick (Humphrey Bogart) was first publicly heard to utter the famous words “of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine” in the premiere screening of Casablanca.

Later, he delivers an even more famous line– “Here’s looking at you, kid”– that’s not in the draft screenplays at all, but has been attributed to something Bogart said to Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa) as he taught her poker between takes.

They’ll always have Paris… (source)

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”…


Mark Twain’s quip has found an altogether modern kind of expression on the web, where entrepreneurs and enthusiasts have expanded from the how-to space (c.f. Instructables, …for Dummies, et al.) to arenas that were until recently the undisputed province of the traditional educational establishment. Two of your correspondent’s favorites:

Khan Academy is–literally– the brainchild of Salmon Khan, a 33 year-old who has no PhD and has never taught.  Khan quit his job as a financial analyst and began to produce short simple videos on the sorts of topics covered in advanced high school and college classes.  As The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, Khan has posted over 1400 videos on YouTube, covering everything from basic arithmetic and algebra to differential equations, physics, chemistry, biology and finance.

Squashed Philosophy is the work of Glyn Hughes:  “The books which defined the way we think now.
Their own ideas, in their own words, neatly honed into little half-hour or so reads”…  and so they marvelously are.

(TotH to reader PR for the CHE reference.)

As we resolve to improve ourselves, we might recall that today is the birthday of scholar and critic Adrien Baillet; he was born on this date in 1649.  While Baillet was on the faculty at the college of Beauvais, served as librarian to François-Chrétien de Lamoignon,  and was advocate-general to the Parlement de Paris, he is best remembered as the biographer of René Descartes.

Adrien Baillet

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