How #Article13 is like the Inquisition: John Milton Against the EU #CopyrightDirective

Censorship before or censorship after? The EU Copyright Directive rekindles the oldest fight in the history of free speech debates, first waged by John Milton in 1644. Then, like now, policy-makers were considering a radical change in censorship law, a switch from censoring material after it was published to requiring a censor's permission to publish in the first place. Read the rest

Auschwitz asks visitors to stop balancing on rail tracks for photos

The rail tracks at Auschwitz, where more than a million Jews, Poles and other victims of the Nazi regime were murdered, have become a popular spot for selfies and other photos. "Balance beam" poses are especially popular. The museum would appreciate it if this would stop happening. The BBC:

The official account for Auschwitz Memorial said on Tuesday: "There are better places to learn how to walk on a balance beam than the site which symbolises deportation of hundreds of thousands to their deaths." One respondent, Francesca, wrote: "This is a very necessary post, our picture taking habits are completely out of control. I may be visiting in the summer. I will make sure I am aware of your photography policy. Thank you for the essential work you continue to do. Without our historical memory we are nothing." Moran Blythe said: "I don't understand why people use Auschwitz as a photo op or how they take cheerful selfies at a site that saw the murder of thousands of innocent people."

Photo: Nelson Pérez Read the rest

Corroborating evidence that Herodotus wrote accurately about a boat

Prior to its recent discovery the baris was a ship best known through "the father of history," Herodotus' description. There were other references in literature but no physical sign this type of craft ever truly existed. A recent discovery shows Herodotus was no liar.

Science Alert:

In fragment 2.96 of Herodotus' Histories, published around 450 BCE, the Ancient Greek historian - who was writing about his trip to Egypt - describes a type of Nile cargo boat called a baris.

According to his portrayal, it was constructed like brickwork, lined with papyrus, and with a rudder that passed through a hole in the keel.

This steering system had been seen in representations and models through the Pharaonic period - but we had no firm archaeological evidence of its existence until now.

Enter Ship 17, of the now-sunken port city Thonis-Heracleion near the Canopic Mouth of the Nile, dated to the Late Period, 664-332 BCE. Here, researchers have been exploring over 70 shipwrecks, discovering countless artefacts that reveal stunning details about the ancient trade hub and its culture.

Although it's been in the water for at least 2,000 years, the preservation of Ship 17 has been exceptional. Archaeologists were able to uncover 70 percent of the hull.

"It wasn't until we discovered this wreck that we realised Herodotus was right," archaeologist Damian Robinson of The Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology told The Guardian.

Image source Read the rest

The Forbes Pigment Collection

How do you know for sure if your carefully-recreated 18th-century paint would fool pass muster as art dealers a legitimate recreation long enough to get away with it? of the authentic originals? Tom Scott visits the Forbes Pigment Collection.

The Forbes Pigment Collection at the Harvard Art Museums is a collection of pigments, binders, and other art materials for researchers to use as standards: so they can tell originals from restorations from forgeries. It's not open to the public, because it's a working research library -- and because some of the pigments in there are rare, historic, or really shouldn't be handled by anyone untrained.

Read the rest

Letterlocking: the long-lost art of using paper-folding to foil snoops

"Letterlocking" is a term coined by MIT Libraries conservator Jana Dambrogio after she discovered a trove of letters while spelunking in the conservation lab of the Vatican Secret Archives; the letters had been ingeniously folded and sealed so that they couldn't be opened and re-closed without revealing that they had been read. Some even contained "booby traps" to catch the unwary. Read the rest

Co-inventor of handheld electronic calculator dies

Jerry Merryman, who co-invented the handheld electronic calculator in 1965, is dead at 86.

Merryman told NPR's "All Things Considered" in 2013, "It was late 1965 and Jack Kilby, my boss, presented the idea of a calculator. He called some people in his office. He says, we'd like to have some sort of computing device, perhaps to replace the slide rule. It would be nice if it were as small as this little book that I have in my hand."

Merryman added, "Silly me, I thought we were just making a calculator, but we were creating an electronic revolution."

Kilby died in 2005: Microchip pioneer Jack Kilby Dies at 81

Photos: Smithsonia Museum; Montage: Matt Novak / Gizmodo Read the rest

Tiny Type Museum: own a time capsule of the print age

The Tiny Type Museum is a limited-edition handmade box set of traditional printing tech, including hot metal and wooden type, custom-made linotype slugs, plate molds, phototypes, plates, Monotype matrixes, other stuff besides, and a book about six centuries of reprographic technology that fits nice and kentucky in a slot. Read the rest

童絵解万国噺: a wonderfully bizarre 19th century Japanese fanfic history of America

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)." Read the rest

Ancient civilizations' fascination with AI, robots, and synthetic life

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 Press:

Who first imagined the concept of robots?

Most historians of science trace the first automatons to the Middle Ages. But I wondered, was it possible that ideas about creating artificial life were thinkable long before technology made such enterprises possible? Remarkably, as early as the time of Homer, ancient Greek myths were envisioning how to imitate, augment, and surpass nature, by means of biotechne, “life through craft”—what we now call biotechnology. Beings described as fabricated, “made, not born,” appeared in myths about Jason and the Argonauts, the sorceress Medea, the bronze robot Talos, the ingenious craftsman Daedalus, the fire-bringer Prometheus, and Pandora, the female android created by Hephaestus, god of invention. These vivid stories were ancient thought experiments set in an alternate world where technology was marvelously advanced.

Modern sci-fi movies pop up in several chapters. How do they relate to ancient myths?

Some 2,500 years before movies were invented, ancient Greek vase painters illustrated popular stories of the bronze robot warrior Talos, the techno-wizard Medea, and the fembot Pandora dispatched to earth on an evil mission, in ways that seem very “cinematic...” Movies and myths about imagined technology are cultural dreams. Like contemporary science fiction tales, the myths show how the power of imagination allows humans to ponder how artificial life might be created—if only one possessed sublime technology and genius.

Read the rest

The Curse of Bigness: Tim Wu channels Brandeis on Big Tech (and Big Everything Else)

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 origins in curbing the near-limitless power of the robber barons in the name of creating a pluralistic, open society where anyone could participate, only to have this vision perverted by extremists from the Chicago School, who sold (with the help of wealthy backers) a wholly fictional version of what Congress intended with its antitrust rules. According to Chicago's version of things, the only thing antitrust should concern itself with is the highly technical and speculative question of "consumer harm" (in the form of higher prices) and not competition itself. Read the rest

Restored video of High Street in Marseille, France in 1896

[Update 1/25/19 1:48pm PT: Eric Faden, a film professor who specializes in silent movies, says, "I was struck that the two videos uploaded were the exact Lumiere films I used in Visual Disturbances (given that the Lumieres made 2000+ films, it is quite the coincidence). These are most definitely NOT restorations. They are rips from a French Blu-ray called Lumiere Cinema's Inventors. The soundtrack has merely been replaced. The person uploading the videos notes that they adjusted the speed but the films on the Blu-ray are already correctly adjusted (as has been the norm with early cinema releases/restorations for many years now)."]

I appreciate all the work Guy Jones puts into restoring old movies. He replaces the herky-jerky motion with a more natural looking motion and adds sound that matches the action. Here's a short film of High Street in Marseille, France as it looked on April 11, 1896. There's an advertisement on a horse-driven tram for "Chocolat Russe Du Bebe" but when I google it, the only results are for a "Polar Bear Milk Hat" and "Pregnant Dwarf Hamster Behavior." Read the rest

"Capitalism has outlived its usefulness" -Martin Luther King, Jr

"I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic. And yet I am not so opposed to capitalism that I have failed to see its relative merits. It started out with a noble and high motive, viz, to block the trade monopolies of nobles, but like most human systems, it falls victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today capitalism has outlived its usefulness. It has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes." Read the rest

The Nazis and your privacy

The nonprofit organization to which I belong recently put the personal data of around 410,000 people on the internet, connected to interactive street maps of where they lived. The data includes their full names, date and place of birth, known residential address, and often includes their professions and arrest records, sometimes even information about mental or physical handicaps. It also lists whether any of their grandparents were Jewish. Read the rest

Check out this amazing collection of playable spoken word LPs

[Update 1-19-19: a Research Buzz commented that the site has malware. Caution is advised.]

Here's an incredible collection of digitized historical LPs you can listen to online. A lot of them remind me of podcast episodes, like this record about "big-lie-technique" master Senator Joseph R.McCarthy. This is a browser's treat. Read the rest

Watch this marvelous animation that summarizes humanity in five minutes

Director Fabio Friedli animated 3,000 images to tell the story of humanity "from a seed to war, from meat to love, from indifference to apocalypse."

“It is such an excessive amount of things, shown in such a short time, you are never able to perceive everything,” Friedli told Vimeo. “I like to believe it’s one’s subconscious that chooses what you see, hear and feel, depending on what is occupying your head and heart at the moment. No one has the same first ‘In A Nutshell’ experience.”

Read the rest

Medieval book opens six ways, revealing six different texts

A XVIth Century book held in the National Library of Sweden's collection features a "sixfold dos-a-dos binding," meaning that the book could be opened in six different ways to reveal six different texts ("devotional texts printed in Germany during the 1550s and 1570s,including Martin Luther, Der kleine Catechismus"), with the hinges doubling as latches. Read the rest

An interactive timeline of race categories in the US Census

Every ten years, the US government is constitutionally mandated to carry out a census: the first census, in 1790, only counted "the head of household and the number of free white males, other free persons and slaves in each household." Read the rest

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