This illustration of a flea comes from Robert Hooke's Micrographia — an amazing collection of illustrations drawn from microscope images, first published in 1665. Think of it like a proto-viral blog post that somehow fuzed Nature and Buzzfeed. Something with a headline like "15 UNBELIEVABLE IMAGES OF EVERYDAY THINGS!"
Micrographia — the whole thing — is now available in ebook form. For free. In several different formats. To give you a sense of why this is worth checking out, here's Carl Zimmer on the book's social/scientific impact back in the 17th century:
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In January 1665, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary that he stayed up till two in the morning reading a best-selling page-turner, a work that he called "the most ingenious book I read in my life." It was not a rousing history of English battles or a proto-bodice ripper. It was filled with images: of fleas, of bark, of the edges of razors.
The book was called Micrographia. It provided the reading public with its first look at the world beyond the naked eye. Its author, Robert Hooke, belonged to a brilliant circle of natural philosophers who--among many other things--were the first in England to make serious use of microscopes as scientific instruments. They were great believers in looking at the natural world for themselves rather than relying on what ancient Greek scholars had claimed. Looking under a microscope at the thousands of facets on an insect's compound eye, they saw things at the nanoscale that Aristotle could not have dreamed of.
In 1879, Jean-Henri Fabre wrote a book about insects called Souvenirs entomologiques. Today it's considered a classic of entomology. An English translation, with some absolutely beautiful illustrations like the cicadas pictured above, was published in 1921.
You can read the full book online for free. Yes, both versions. The original French work is available at Gallica. Meanwhile, you can read the full English version at Google Books. Very neat!
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The Internet has been abuzz with Emily White, a intern at NPR, and her article about how she has never bought music and probably never will. and the response from David Lowery of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. Lowery's response is a powerful piece of writing, and contains some valuable insights into what the old music industry did well, but it's also a mess. He has some weird conspiracy theory that the "free culture" movement is funded by large tech companies as a stalking horse for their issues. Speaking as someone who's raised a fair bit of money for that movement, I'm here to tell you that he's just wrong. For example, most of my wages when I was at the Electronic Frontier Foundation were funded by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation. He also blames the tragic suicides of two musicians on the free culture movement and the alleged effect this has had on musicians' fortunes. Even if you stipulate that the fall in those musicians' fortunes could be blamed on the "free culture" movement (a pretty weird idea in itself), this would logically put the blame for all musicians' suicides prior to the Internet's disruption of the music industry on the shoulders of the major labels.
I thought Lowery's piece was so badly flawed, with its conspiracy theories and sloppy appeals to emotion, that it didn't warrant a response. But others didn't feel the same way. Techdirt's Mike Masnick has posted a guided tour of the best rebuttals, including Jeff Price from Tunecore on the real data on musicians' income in the Internet age; Steve Albini on the false picture Lowery paints of a golden age of the labels that never existed; Jonathan Coulton on the perversity of mourning for a loss of scarcity; former Warner Music CTO Ethan Kaplan on how the labels cut their own throats by fighting innovation; Travis Morrison from Dismemberment Plan on how access to music and compensation for artists are separate issues. Read the rest