Why were pies in the 1600s baked in such improbable shapes? Over at HiLobrow, Tom Nealon investigates, and Deb Chachra drops some science on the question.
Chachra, an engineering professor, offers this hypothesis:
Why are the shapes of the pies so fabulously baroque compared to today’s plain round or square pies? One reason might be to help provide structural integrity to a high-walled pie that wasn’t baked in a supporting tin. Thin walls tend to buckle or fall over when they’re flat; adding an angle or a curve makes them much more stable. (You can see this by trying to balance a piece of paper on its edge, then folding it in half and trying it again.) Especially in the larger pies, having scalloped or sharply curved edges would make the pie walls more stable without having to use a thicker crust. The same principle can be seen in crinkle crankle walls, serpentine walls that are usually only one brick wide — the alternating curves means that the wall can be made very thin, while still not falling over (and thus use fewer bricks). Of course, using different patterns of curves and angles for each type of pie may also help differentiate the contents, and would also provide different ratios of crust to filling for different kinds of pies.
Nealon's has some really funny history in it, so it's worth reading the whole piece.
Japanese historian Nick Kapur unearthed "Osanaetoki Bankokubanashi" (童絵解万国噺), a wonderfully bizarre illustrated Japanese history of the USA from 1861, filled with fanciful depictions of allegedly great moments in US history, like "George Washington defending his wife 'Carol' from a British official named 'Asura' (same characters as the Buddhist deity)."
Stanford folklorist and science historian Adrienne Mayor has a fascinating-sounding new book out, titled “Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology.” It’s a survey of how ancient Greeks, Romans, Indian, and Chinese myths imagined and grappled with visions of synthetic life, artificial intelligence, and autonomous robots. From Mayor’s interview at Princeton University […]
Tim Wu (previously) is best known for coining the term "Net Neutrality" but the way he got there was through antitrust and competition scholarship: in his latest book, The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, Wu takes a sprightly-yet-maddening tour through the history of competition policy in the USA, which has its […]
Use a single password for every website, and you’re compromising your security. Use a different one each time, and you’re bound to lose track of them. The solution? RoboForm Everywhere, a catch-all tool that will not only manage the passwords on every site you visit but generate better ones. As a simple password database, it’s […]
Just a reminder: Print isn’t dead. And now that printers are becoming as portable as cell phones, it might be around for quite some time. Enter the MEMOBIRD Mobile Thermal Printer, a mini-printer that is versatile, portable – and most importantly, never needs a refill on ink or toner. Measuring just a few inches around, […]
What do Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google all have in common? Somewhere in their framework, they all use MySQL, that most versatile (and free!) of database management systems. And they’re not alone. If your company or the one you’d like to work for wrangles data (and who doesn’t?), they’re going to need someone with a […]