What’s better than sliced bread? Advice on how to actually slice bread

Wednesday, 29 March, 2017

Gallager's cigarette card

Earlier last year, the New York Public Library made a huge number of digitised images freely available. Included were cards like the one above, once sold with packets of cigarettes, that offered all sorts of useful tips.

Some of the advice these inserts dispensed may still be useful today. For instance, even in this age of sliced bread, by warming a bread knife in hot water, you should be able to slice bread like a pro, should you encounter an unsliced loaf.

See the rest of the set, there’s one hundred, I think, and useful tips from another age, here.

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The questions we ask today, the questions we asked centuries ago

Tuesday, 12 May, 2015

Spotted at HypnophantAeon Magazine, whose articles I link to now and again, is interested in discussing ideas that matter, and of these, surprise, surprise, there is no shortage.

Here are but a handful of the items that are up for discussion, some of which are waiting for an initial thought:

  • What is your favorite philosophical thought experiment?
  • Should the self-help sections of bookshops be re-labelled “wishful thinking”?
  • Are there more things you regret saying than things you regret not having said?
  • Is it possible for every person in the world to have the job of their liking?
  • Is comedy the last bastion of free speech?
  • Is it depressing or empowering to think of life as a performance?
  • Does gossip have any social utility?
  • How far away from earth will humans travel?
  • Does street art enhance a city?
  • Are some people just innately bad at math? (yes, I am)

Our thirst for knowledge, and the answers is insatiable, and always has been, as these questions, posed to journalists by the readers of the publications they wrote for, in the late seventeenth century, attest to.

  • Why is thunder more terrible in the night time?
  • Dancing, is it lawful?
  • What is anger?
  • Is it proper for women to be learned?
  • What is the cause of the winds?

They’re certainly a sign of the times, aren’t they?

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Misconceptions so common you could fill a chart with them

Thursday, 20 November, 2014

Goldfish have three second memory spans.
Albert Einstein failed mathematics.
Bulls hate red.
Waking a sleep-walker is dangerous.
Chewing gum takes seven years to digest if swallowed.

True or false?


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Stewards, Wikipedia’s integral inner circle

Friday, 14 November, 2014

Wikipedia, the encyclopedia of the web, is likely a place any half way active internet user visits at least once a day. And while few of us give the matter much thought, what happens behind the scenes at Wikipedia, and the other “Wiki” or Wikimedia group of websites, is actually fascinating.

Between them, thirty-six people, referred to as stewards, weld complete control over this realm, and all the more intriguingly work gratis, or for the love of it:

But at the very top of this tree are 36 users who demonstrate Wikimedia in its most concentrated form: the stewards. They wield “global rights” – the ability to edit anything – and respond to crises and controversies across all Wiki platforms. They come from all around the world, receive no compensation, and rarely, if ever, encounter each other offline. You definitely don’t know them – but their work is essential to understanding how Wikimedia’s unique existence has thrived.

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Fredkin’s Paradox and the difficulty in making some decisions

Friday, 26 September, 2014

Do you find yourself unable to decide whether to have a choc-top ice cream, or pop-corn, while at the movies, or stuck when it comes to choosing between a three-door hatch back car, or a four-door sedan? It just may be a mild case of Fredkin’s Paradox

As the options get closer to each other in quality, the difference in the effect they have on your life necessarily shrinks. This is true for big decisions as well as little ones. Sure, buying a car means making a large investment, but there’s only so much one mid-sized practical car can do for you that another mid-sized practical car can’t. If you try to distinguish between them by cup-holder size, you’ll spend a long time thinking about something that you know is just going to hold one half-full bottle of water and two paper napkins until you set the whole car on fire and roll it into a ditch.

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A simple guide to the not so simple task of rebooting civilisation

Monday, 7 April, 2014

Noah, whose efforts to re-start life, and civilisation on Earth, are the subject of US film director’s Darren Aronofsky’s latest work.

If you were charged with a similar sort of task though, how would you go about it? Assuming there was a limit to the amount of knowledge and information you could preserve, what might you retain to reboot civilisation, as it were?

The great physicist Richard Feynman once posed a similar question: “If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis that all things are made of atoms – little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another.”

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How frequently do things happen? Quite frequently, possibly

Monday, 24 February, 2014

How often, on average, does something, being just about anything you care to think of, happen? Quite possibly, quite frequently, could be the answer.

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Questions, and answers, for the insatiably curious

Thursday, 9 January, 2014

If you’re still on holiday and looking for some longer reading, then walk this way… a list of 270 of the best answers to questions asked on question-and-answer website Quora, compiled by Murali Krishnan.

Anything goes here, as you’d expect with 270 questions, from why does dark chocolate taste so nasty (does it really?), to how does one cultivate a positive attitude, to what do call girls know that other people don’t, to if we all end up dying, what’s the purpose of living, through to is China the new world leader… and that’s only a mere selection.

Especially recommended for the insatiably curious.

Via Kottke.

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Is it time to reboot restaurant menus?

Friday, 11 October, 2013

Might the way many of us browse content online, by way of websites and social media channels that offer their readers a varied selection of items and articles to peruse, be playing some part in changing restaurant menus, and even the way dishes are prepared?

“The big word now on the Web is curate,” says Mitchell Davis, a cookbook author and James Beard Foundation executive. So the best chefs don’t just create whatever food their customers want; they instead offer customers the chance to eat the best food they have. Davis says this leads to a power struggle between diners and chefs, but in the digital age this approach makes sense. With so much information available to diners before they ever step into a restaurant, their real choice is made when they decide where to go.

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Jobs always look different when seen from the inside looking out

Tuesday, 3 September, 2013

People from a variety of occupations share all sorts of inside information, about their work, that, who knows, maybe they shouldn’t. While I can’t vouch for the veracity of everything posted here, it still makes for absorbing reading. For instance, does this description of working in an ore mine match your perceptions of the job?

Nowadays, in bigger mines, it’s actually really safe and clean job. Down in 1.5km main level, everything’s well lit, the walls are white (think of your basic underground garage), there are offices, repair and part shops, restaurant, sauna and even a cell “tower”, so your cellphone works down there. Everything is done with big machines that have soundproof and air conditioned cabins, with MP3 players etc. The machines can also be operated remotely or even operate completely independently, by themselves. There are no (big) accidents.

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