Matt Novak (aka Paleofuture) is a historian and blogger who writes about the history of innovation and the history of the way we imagine the future. A couple of weeks ago, at South by Southwest, he gave a fascinating presentation that I wanted you guys to hear more about.
The basic thesis: Tesla vs. Edison — UR DOIN IT WRONG.
Whether you think Tesla > Edison or Edison > Tesla, Novak says you're missing something important. In reality, technology isn't shaped by one guy who had one great idea and changed the world. Instead, it's a messy process, full of flat-out failures and not-quite-successes, and populated by many great minds who build off of and are inspired by each other's work. This is about more than just getting history right. Letting go of The Great Man paradigm has implications for everything from copyright law, to how we go about innovation today. When we focus too much on Great Men, Novak says, we lose sight of what innovation actually looks like ... and we impede our ability to build the future.
A friend of Boing Boing introduced me to the work of artist Kii Arens this weekend. We visited his studio for a karaoke party. It was great. I love his work. You can buy it in reasonably affordable poster form, through his website: lalalandposters.com. I would like one of everything, please. Kii is on Twitter and Facebook. (Thanks, Alex!)
Sidney Perkowitz is a physics professor at Emory University, and the author of several books that blend science and pop culture, including Hollywood Science: Movies, Science, and the End of the World. Seth Shostak is a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute and a science advisor to multiple films, including Contact and the 2008 re-make of The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Together, they fight crime.
Okay, that last part isn't technically true. But it does make for a good story, and, in that, it actually does a really good job of showing you what these two men actually do. Both Perkowitz and Shostak work to bridge the gap between the people who do science and the people who make science fiction. They're involved in the Science and Entertainment Exchange — a National Academies of Sciences effort to bring scientists together with directors, producers, and writers. The goals: Help scientists do better public communication and make sci-fi more awesome. But there's a catch here, because "awesome" and "totally 100% accurate" are seldom the same thing.
This week, I spoke to Perkowitz and Shostak about what happens when science and entertainment cross streams, how you illustrate things nobody has ever seen, and why — even when the science in the movies is bad — science still wins.
X-Ray Specs — the cheap glasses that ostensibly allow you to see the bones in your own hand and/or ladies' undergarments — are instantly familiar to anybody who read comic books in the 20th century. Last week, The Onion AV Club shared a fascinating video showing that immature gags about x-ray vision began long before the Marvel Comics' advertising department was even a glimmer in somebody's eye.
"The X-Ray Fiend" was a short film produced in 1897 — just two years after William Rontgen gave x-rays their name. It's basically an X-Ray Specs gag writ large, with the aforementioned fiend checking out the insides of a necking couple. You can watch it at The Onion.
That video sent me toodling around through some of the fascinating history surrounding x-rays in pop culture. Rontgen wasn't the first to discovery x-rays, but he was the first person to really study them in depth and his x-ray photograph of his wife's hand kicked off a public sensation. To give you an idea of how into x-rays everybody was for a while, the AV Club story actually includes a link to a 19th century Scientific American how-to that promised to teach the reader to make their own x-ray machine at home. You know. For funsies.
It's kind of crazy how popular x-rays became, considering how dangerous they can be. The Scientific American piece, for instance, now comes with a 21st century disclaimer warning that "Many operators of the early x-ray systems experienced severe damage to hands over time, often necessitating amputations or other surgery." Which brings us to Clarence Dally ...
Richard Metzger at Dangerous Minds introduces us to Call of the Giles, which he describes as a "gun-totin’, Bible-quotin’, homo-hatin’, and obviously over-compensating for sumpthin’ macho, macho man douchebag Doug Giles and his “kickass” Christian family’s low-brow version of Keeping Up With the Kardashians." — Xeni
Revellers attend the Wave and Goth festival in Leipzig, on May 25, 2012. The annual festival, known in Germany as Wave-Gotik Treffen, features up to 150 bands and musicians playing Gothic rock and other styles of the "dark wave" music subculture attracting a regular audience of up to 20000, according to organizers. The festival runs through May 28.
Muslim women hold posters during a protest objecting to U.S. singer Lady Gaga's Indonesian concert, at Jakarta's business district May 24, 2012. Pop star Lady Gaga has been refused a permit to perform in the Indonesian capital on June 3 over security concerns, police said last week. Three Islamic groups have expressed their opposition to the concert, demanding it be stopped, national police spokesman Saud Usman Nasution said by telephone. More on the controversy: WSJ, AFP, Washington Post, NYT, AP, Jakarta Post. (REUTERS/Supri)
Above, Alin Nava (C) stands in a checkout line at a supermarket in Monterrey April 5, 2012. Nava, 25, is dressed in the so-called "Lolita" fashion style (ロリータ・ファッション Rorīta fasshon), a fashion subculture from Japan influenced by clothing from the Victorian or Rococo eras. The basic style consists of a blouse, petticoat, bloomers, bell-shaped skirt and knee-high socks. Nava is the co-founder of the "Lolitas Paradise" club in Monterrey and for members of the club, the Lolita style is not only a fashion statement but also a way to express their loyalty, friendship, tolerance and unity.
Christians attend a prayer meeting being held as they pray to stop the concert of Lady Gaga, at a church in Seoul April 22, 2012. The Christians blame Lady Gaga for promoting indecency and "homosexual love." Gaga performed live in Seoul today, despite the incantations. Below, her performance during the MTV Video Music Aid Japan event in Chiba, near Tokyo, last year.
The BBC airs an hour-long documentary tonight about "Interviews Before Execution," a hit talk show in China in which host Ding Yu interviews prisoners on death row. Some 40 million viewers in China tune in to the show each week.
Days, hours, or minutes before they are killed, the host talks inside prison to those who have been condemned to die. The BBC doc combines clips from the show with "never-before-seen footage of China's death row," and includes an interview with a local judge who questions the future of the death penalty in China.