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Posts Tagged ‘pencil

“All things play a role in nature, even the lowly worm”*…

 

worm

Artist’s rendering of Ikaria wariootia. It would have lived on the seafloor.

 

A worm-like creature that burrowed on the seafloor more than 500 million years ago may be key to the evolution of much of the animal kingdom.

The organism, about the size of a grain of rice, is described as the earliest example yet found in the fossil record of a bilaterian.  These are animals that have a front and back, two symmetrical sides, and openings at either end joined by a gut.

The scientists behind it say the development of bilateral symmetry was a critical step in the evolution of animal life.

It gave organisms the ability to move purposefully and a common, yet successful way to organise their bodies.

A multitude of animals, from worms to insects to dinosaurs to humans, are organised around this same basic bilaterian body plan.

Scott Evans, of the University of California at Riverside, and colleagues have called the organism Ikaria wariootia

How a 555 million year old worm paved our developmental path: “Fossil worm shows us our evolutionary beginnings.”  Read the underlying paper in the journal PNAS.

* Gary Larson

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As we celebrate symmetry, we might recall that it was on this date in 1858 that Hyman L. Lipman, of Philadelphia was issued the first U.S. patent for a combination lead pencil and eraser (No. 19,783).  The pencil was made in the usual manner, with one-fourth of its length reserved inside one end to carry a piece of prepared india-rubber, glued in at one edge.  Thus, cutting one end prepared the lead for writing, while cutting the other end would expose a small piece of india rubber.  This eraser was then conveniently available whenever needed, and not likely to be mislaid.  Further, the eraser could be sharpened to a finer point to make a more precise erasure of fine lines in a drawing, or cut further down if the end became soiled.

US19783-drawings-page-1 source

 

Written by LW

March 30, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Home’s where you go when you run out of homes”*…

 

home

 

When we imagine the homes of the future, we can’t just think about the technologies that could alter our domestic lives. We also need to think about the changing ways that people relate to their habitats.

For the past five years, Ikea has been on a mission to better understand people’s relationships with their homes by doing in-depth sociological studies of its consumers. The company publishes its finding in its annual Life at Home report, which began in 2014. Last year’s report involved visiting the houses and apartments of 22,000 people across 22 countries to better understand what everyday living looks like in today’s world.

What Ikea found was that our fundamental notions of home and family are experiencing a transformation. Plenty of demographic research suggests that major changes in where and how we live could be afoot: For instance, people who marry later may spend more years living with roommates. If couples delay having children—or choose to remain child-free—they may choose to live longer in smaller apartments. As people live longer, we might find more multigenerational homes, as parents, children, and grandchildren all cohabit under one roof.In addition to those demographic shifts, Ikea’s research uncovered something else: Many of the people in its large study were not particularly satisfied with their domestic life. For one thing, they’re increasingly struggling to feel a sense of home in the places they live; 29% of people surveyed around the world felt more at home in other places than the space where they live every day. A full 35% of people in cities felt this way.

Ikea surveyed 22,000 people in 22 countries, and came up with six visions for the future of our homes: “See Ikea’s 6 visions for how we’ll live in the future.”

* John le Carré, The Honourable Schoolboy

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As we settle in, we might send pointed birthday greeting to Nicolas-Jacques Conté; he was born on this date in 1755.  A painter, balloonist, and army officer, he is best remembered as the inventor of the modern pencil.  At a time when the French Republic was at that time under economic blockade and unable to import graphite from Great Britain, its main source of the material, Conté was asked by Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot to create an alternative.  Conté mixed powdered graphite with clay and pressed the material between two half-cylinders of wood– forming the first the modern pencil. He received a patent for the invention in 1795, and formed la Société Conté to make them.  He also invented the conté crayon (named after him), a hard pastel stick used by artists.

220px-Nicolas-Jacques_Conté source

 

 

Written by LW

August 4, 2019 at 1:01 am

“The peppery-sweet perfume of pinks”*…

 

Think of the early American pencil industry as the Wild West of office supplies.

Starting in the 1820s, pencil manufacturers popped up across the United States in an effort to secure their own piece of a booming, million-dollar business—quickly followed by a flurry of innovations and inventions. “A lot of people were developing similar things from similar ideas in different places, not knowing that somebody else had already done it,” notes Caroline Weaver, owner of Manhattan pencil shop CW Pencil Enterprise. “There was an enormous amount of competition.”

Today’s office supply industry is not characterized by the same sort of frenzied lawlessness. But we still owe the look of our writing instruments to the marketing decisions of those early 19th- and 20th-century pencil mavericks trying to stand out from the crowd.

Take the eraser. In 1770, a British engineer named Edward Nairne produced the first eraser using a South American tree rubber known as caoutchouc. English chemist Joseph Priestley was quite impressed with the results, dubbing the substance “rubber” that same year, after its ability to rub out black marks from pencil lead…

Explore the aesthetics of eradication: “Why Erasers Are Pink.”

* Kate Atkinson

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As we reach for the rubber, we might might send a hand-made birthday card to William Joseph “Dard” Hunter; he was born on this date in 1883.  Active in the Arts and Crafts movement, he was an American authority on printing, paper, and papermaking, especially by hand, using the tools and craft of four centuries prior.  Hunter produced two hundred copies of his book Old Papermaking, preparing every aspect of the book himself: he wrote the text, designed and cast the type, did the typesetting, handmade the paper, and printed and bound the book.  A display at the Smithsonian Institution that appeared with his work read, “In the entire history of printing, these are the first books to have been made in their entirety by the labors of one man.” He later wrote Papermarking by Hand in America, a larger, but more conventional undertaking.

Dard Hunter’s self-portrait in watermark

source

 

Written by LW

November 29, 2017 at 1:01 am

“You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be lead”*…

 

The oldest known pencil in the world, from the early 17th century, on display at the Faber-Castell castle near Nuremberg, Germany

The pencil’s journey into your hand has been a 500-year process of discovery and invention. It began in the countryside of northern England, but a one-eyed balloonist from Napoleon Bonaparte’s army, one of America’s most famous philosophers, and some of the world’s most successful scientists and industrialists all have had a hand in the creation and refinement of this humble writing implement…

The story of everyone’s go-to writing implement:  “The Write Stuff- How the Humble Pencil Conquered the World.”

* Stan Laurel

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As we keep our erasers handy, we might spare a memorial thought for Hugo Gernsback, a Luxemborgian-American inventor, broadcast pioneer, writer, and publisher; he died on this date in 1967 at the age of 83.

Gernsback held 80 patents at the time of his death; he founded radio station WRNY, was involved in the first television broadcasts and is considered a pioneer in amateur radio.  But it was a writer and publisher that he probably left his most lasting mark:  In 1926, as owner/publisher of the magazine Modern Electrics, he filled a blank spot in his publication by dashing off the first chapter of a series called “Ralph 124C 41+.” The twelve installments of “Ralph” were filled with inventions unknown in 1926, including “television” (Gernsback is credited with introducing the word), fluorescent lighting, juke boxes, solar energy, television, microfilm, vending machines, and the device we now call radar.

The “Ralph” series was an astounding success with readers; and later that year Gernsback founded the first magazine devoted to science fiction, Amazing Stories.  Believing that the perfect sci-fi story is “75 percent literature interwoven with 25 percent science,” he coined the term “science fiction.”

Gernsback was a “careful” businessman, who was tight with the fees that he paid his writers– so tight that H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith referred to him as “Hugo the Rat.”

Still, his contributions to the genre as publisher were so significant that, along with H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, he is sometimes called “The Father of Science Fiction”; in his honor, the annual Science Fiction Achievement awards are called the “Hugos.”

(Coincidentally, today is also the birthday– in 1906– of Philo T. Farnsworth, the man who actually did invent television… and was thus the inspiration for the brand name “Philco.”)

Gernsback, wearing his invention, TV Glasses

 source

Written by LW

August 19, 2016 at 1:01 am

“No one has yet tested the pencil/To see how many words it can write”*…

 

Johnny Gamber cares about pencils– so much so that he’s into his tenth year of blogging about them.  Fellow lovers of lead (and of superior sharpeners, stationery, erasers, and the like) will want to head over to his site: Pencil Revolution.

(Readers might also want to luxuriate in Henry Petroski’s glorious paean, The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance.)

* Xi Chuan, Notes on the Mosquito: Selected Poems

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As we crank the sharpener, we might recall that it was on this date in 1811, in Arnold, Nottinghamshire, that the angry textile artisans attacked a textile factory– the first of the Luddite Riots.

The Luddite movement emerged during the harsh economic climate of the Napoleonic Wars, when stocking frames, spinning frames, and power looms introduced during the Industrial Revolution threatened to replace the artisans with less-skilled, low-wage laborers. Although the origin of the name “Luddite” is uncertain, a popular theory is that the movement was named after Ned Ludd, who allegedly smashed two stocking frames in 1779, and whose name had become emblematic of those who fight against technology that eliminates traditional jobs (or culture).

 source

 

Written by LW

March 11, 2015 at 1:01 am

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