On 10 April 1815, Tambora produced the largest eruption known on the planet during the past 10,000 years. As described in Gillen D'Arcy Wood's new book, the explosion was only the first dose of Tambora's destructive power. In terms of its enduring presence in folklore, as well as its status in the scientific literature, 1816’s cold summer was the most significant meteorological event of the nineteenth century. After the tsunami and famine came cholera, opium, and failed Arctic expeditions. [more inside]
A few months ago there was a list of links to classic video game emulators posted. Very recently, I'm pleased to report, those links all came true. The Internet Archive bespoke upon aforementioned consoles, computers, and mileposts on our way to the tech utopia of today, (seriously, where's my flying car?) and they asked us to do something: Imagine every computer that ever existed, literally, in your browser. And it was so. I have absolutely no affiliation with jscott, btw. Thought I should disclose that.
A hillbilly and his zaftig racoon friend dance on the porch. [SLYT]
"During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Dr. Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five-foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. Publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to compile and edit the right collection of works. The result: a 51-volume series of classic works from world literature published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf, which would later be called The Harvard Classics." (Via) [more inside]
A sweet little tribute to American composers. Put a little kid in your lap tonight, and let them watch this after the fireworks.
A confluence of factors has pushed me to post the following missive from one Benjamin Franklin–a noted American humorist who also did some other stuff. If from an overindulgence in rich and fatty foods on Fat Tuesday, you find yourself surfeit with internal pressure, follow the advice of a founding father…
Celebrate the 60th anniversary of the discovery of DNA's structure with a pictorial story behind DNA's double helix and the Rosalind Franklin papers, including correspondences and lab notes that detail some of her crystallography research, findings that laid the groundwork for Watson and Crick's later publication.
The county where no one's gay. The 2010 Census of Franklin County Mississippi shows no same sex couples. (pdf). CNN videographer Brandon Ancil and human rights columnist John D. Sutter tried to determine if the census was wrong, and see if they could find gay men and women willing to speak about "what keeps them hidden." Video
Bomb vessels were heavily-fortified sailing ships designed to carry explosive shells. The Hecla Class of bomb vessels lived particularly interesting lives. [more inside]
In the year 1968, at the height of her powers, one of the greatest singers America has ever produced was in Stockholm, where she served up a breathtakingly powerful and characteristically soulful performance that, lucky for us, was filmed by Swedish television. You know who I'm talking about, of course. "Lady Soul" - parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. [more inside]
Mapping the Republic of Letters is a cartographic tool designed by students and professors at Stanford that seeks to represent the Enlightenment era Republic of Letters, the network of correspondence between the finest thinkers of the day, such as Voltaire, Leibniz, Rousseau, Newton, Diderot, Linnaeus, Franklin and countless others. Patricia Cohen wrote an article about Mapping the Republic of Letters as well as other datamining digital humanities projects in The New York Times. The mapping tool is fun to play with but I recommend you read the blogpost where Cohen explains how to use Mapping the Republic of Letters.
The Franklin Institute Hawk Cam is giving viewers a close up look into the lives of a family of red tailed hawks who built a nest on an Institute window sill. Even better, there are babies! [more inside]
To celebrate the start of its 350th year, the Royal Society has put online 60 of its most memorable scientific papers. [more inside]
Costumed patriots channel forefathers: coming to a civic center near you! Need a little pump up music?
It is the central, most eyecatching feature of the modern Oval Office. But for over a year, abandoned by a captain said to be harsh and venereal, it drifted slowly, its huge frame creaking, locked in ice, in the land of endless night. [more inside]
On the Oct. 7th Daily Show, Sarah Vowell mentioned that she is so desperate for Presidential leadership that she listened to FDR's Fireside Chats (from the Great Depression of the 1930s) and felt a little better. Beginning March 4th, 1933, and running through March 1st, 1945 FDR's fireside chats were a staple in American Homes. The news of the day, brought to you directly from the commander in chief himself. These are those broadcasts. (#2 is his first, on the banking crisis.)
Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha.
The Year of Roosevelt Franklin. High on the list of forgotten Sesame Street characters is one Roosevelt Franklin, a reddish purple muppet with pointed black hair and a distinctly hep style of speech (provided by the late Matt Robinson, the show's original Gordon). Despite Roosevelt's funky musical sensibilities (demonstrated in an album called My Name is Roosevelt Franklin, later released as The Year of Roosevelt Franklin), the character's classroom behavior was, well, quite frankly, poison. His constant misbehavior in school might have been fun to watch, but was seen as representing a negative stereotype and a bad example, and so it was adieu Franklin.
At one time or another you've probably rubbed your finger along the rim of a glass to produce a note. In 1761 Ben Franklin took the idea further with the invention of the glass (h)armonica. The instrument enjoyed some popularity, but is believed to have caused health problems due to lead content in the glass. Performers complained of loss of feeling in their hands, some even suffered nervous breakdowns. People became very frightened of the armonica, and by 1830 it was all but extinct. But there's been some renewal of interest: they're being played, and they're being made. You can play a surprisingly good-sounding virtual version. Or listen to a charming rendition of a seasonally appropriate tune. [more links inside] Oh, and: [previously]
"Our national bird may still be admired by those who are not familiar with its habits." Franklin knew knew most of this.
The Royal Society Digital Archive is now on-line and free to use ... until December. Until that time, every article in its collections, going back to 1665, is freely accessible. Poke around, who knows what you might find ... [pdf]
The War on Franklin (Orig. from the NYTimes). It's only fitting as we approach the tercentennial of the birth of the First American, Benjamin Franklin, that there is an ongoing debate as to whether we should "sacrifice essential liberties for a little temporary safety" and if we deserve either. To be sure, Franklin is likely the seminal Colonial American, who's philosophy, inventions, self-determination, self-improvement, entrepeneurship, and witicisms underpin most elements of modern American society, politics, and culture, as well as having edited our founding document, the Declaration of Independence. But Franklin the man was also self-involved, a neglectful spouse and parent, and (likely) a serial philanderer, as well as having never held elected office. (History erases many of the sins of the Foundering Fathers). Surely increasing criticism of both the man and his relavency is soon to follow. Perhaps we can all strive to emulate Franklin's greatest skill - the art of compromise.
The paper analogue of the blog is not the diary, but rather the commonplace book. With the availability of relatively cheap paper beginning as early as the 14th century, people began to collect knowledge in commonplace books. Bits of quotes, reference materials, summaries of arguments, all contained in a handy bound volume. This merchant's commonplace, for example, dates from 1312 and contains hand-drawn diagrams of Venetian ships and descriptions of Venice's merchant culture. An English commonplace dating to the 15th century, the Book of Brome, contains poems, notations on memorial law, lists of expenses, and diary entries. John Locke devised a method for keeping a commonplace. Thomas Jefferson kept both legal and literary commonplaces, and owned a copy of Sir John Randolph's legal commonplace, published in 1680.
Temperance. Silence. Order. Resolution. Frugality. Industry. Sincerity. Justice. Moderation. Cleanliness. Chastity. Tranquility. Humility. Benjamin Franklin's 13 virtues. "He committed to giving strict attention to one virtue each week so after 13 weeks he moved through all 13. After 13 weeks he would start the process over again so in one year he would complete the course a total of 4 times."
I never was before engaged in any study that so totally engrossed my attention and my time Ben Frankin's extensive experiments with electricity went well beyond his famous kite flying; he also proved that lightning was electrical (and invented the lightning rod), and was the first one to use the words "positive" and "negative" to describe electrical charges. It would no doubt please the ingenious Mr. Franklin to know that all of his writings on electricity are now available online (Note: link goes to 912k PDF file.) Franklin's excitement over his discoveries is palpable--and high school students can duplicate them on their own, thanks to Ben Franklin As My Lab Partner. And for a demonstration that combines Ben's knowledge of electricity with his mischievous sense of humor and fondness for political subversion, watch Conspirators, or The Treason.
The virtue of idleness is lost upon our modern society with its Puritan work ethic. Perhaps a little idleness is good for the soul and the mind. Some would say Ben Franklin is spinning in his grave, but he also enjoyed his idle hours as much as any man, at least according to the recent biography, "Ben Franklin: An American Life" by Walter Isaacson.
Ben Franklin was a member of a dinner club that evolved into a sort of secret society, think tank called The Junto. That group met every Friday from November, 1727 for several decades. Out of those meetings, the group invented the first subscription library in north america, the most advanced volunteer fire department of the time, the first public hospital in Pennsylvania, an insurance company, a constabulary, improved streetlights, paving and what became the University of Pennsylvania. Has anybody ever heard of this? Could something like this work today?