Listened Stephen Wolfram recounts the entire history of mathematics in 90 minutes from Boing Boing

This is a fascinating lecture, and it also epitomizes Wolfram in that it is a magnificent feat that would have benefited immensely from editorial reflection. Wolfram announces that’s he’s giving the lecture off the top of his head, and as far as that goes, it’s incredibly impressive. And yet…it makes you wonder, if he had actually prepared a detailed crib or even written the speech out, how much more fluid would it have been? Would the transitions be smoother? Would he spend less time fumbling for names or dates, or backtracking?

Stephen Wolfram takes a walk through the history of Mathematics. This is a fascinating ramble through time and a reminder of the way in which the present is built on the discoveries of the past. It is interesting to think of this alongside Joel Speranza’s breakdown of mathematical ideas.
Bookmarked The Hopefulness and Hopelessness of 1619 (The Atlantic)

Marking the 400-year African American struggle to survive and to be free of racism

Remembering the 400 year anniversary of the arrival of African slaves in Northern America, Ibram X Kendi traces the stories of Angela and John Pory.

No one knows when Angela was born. But she was probably young. If she was 19 years old in 1619, she’d have been born in 1600, the year John translated into English and published A Geographical Historie of Africa, a book of racist ideas about Angela’s race. First written in 1526, and popular as late as the 19th century, its racist ideas apparently had to be true since they were written by an African Moor, Leo Africanus (who probably sought favor from the Italian court that had freed and converted him). “The Negroes likewise leade a beastly kinde of life, being utterly destitute of the use of reason, of dexteritie of wit, and of all artes,” Africanus wrote. “Yea they so behave themselves, as if they had continually lived in a forrest among wilde beasts.”

For Kendi, this is both hopeful and hopeless in how far we have and have not progressed. The New York Times has also collected a number of pieces reflecting on the legacy. This includes an alternative history of slavery and the intertwined tale of sugar and slavery.

Bookmarked The most popular social media networks each year, gloriously animated (The Next Web)

It’s hard to remember a world without social media, but it existed – as did a lot of other networks. We tracked their evolution.

This is an intriguing representation of social media over time:

It is useful as a provocation for many conversations.

Bookmarked 50 years after Apollo 11: what will we do in space for the next 50 years? (Bryan Alexander)

This week is the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the moon.  My son and I visited Washington, DC’s National Mall to see some of the commemorations. A brilliant team projected a …

Bryan Alexander celebrates fifty years of since man first landed on the moon by wondering what the next fifty years might bring. Another series of posts inspired by the anniversary is Julian Stodd’s Leadership Lessons from Apollo.
Liked HEWN, No. 312

Engineering is a social production not merely a scientific or technological one. And educational engineering is not just a profession; it is an explicitly commercial endeavor. For engineers, as historian David Noble has pointed out, are not only “the foremost agents of modern technology,” but also “the agents of corporate capital.”

“Learning engineers,” largely untethered from history and purposefully severed from the kind of commitment to democratic practices urged by Dewey, are now poised to be the agents of surveillance capital.

Liked The First Sony Walkman Was Released 40 Years Ago Today (Stereogum)

Like so many futuristic technologies of years past, the Walkman is now a relic and a bit of a punchline. Children think it’s ridiculous. But it left a stamp on our culture. That first version of the Walkman is the one that Star-Lord uses in the Guardians Of The Galaxy movies, and it’s selling for a whole lot of money online. If you can find it for $200, that’s a deal.

Bookmarked Metafoundry 72: Terraforma Incognita by an author (TinyLetter)

There are an infinite number of dystopian futures that we can fixate on, like rocks in our path. And there’s the lazy nihilism epitomized by ‘LOL we’re fucked’, like taking our bikes and going home. 

Or we can, together, learn to look at the line. Because there absolutely is a path through to a better future for everyone, one that’s sustainable and resilient and equitable. But we have to learn to see it, to stay focused on it, and to follow it down. That’s the work. 

Deb Chachra reflects on the past with an eye towards a more sustainable future. She explains the problems with the spoils of colonialism, especially our institutions.

I’m staking a claim on all UK institutions built with public money between 1670, when the Hudson’s Bay Company was founded and became the de facto government of much of Canada, and 1947, when India and Pakistan became independent.

Especially that it is overlooked and that it itself often overlooked what was already in place in regards to sustainability.

The implicit driver of colonization is always that the residents are using the land ‘incorrectly’, and sustainability always looks like underutilization when compared to resource extraction.

This is something captured by Bruce Pascoe in Dark Emu.

The problem with are facing is that by failing to respond to the problem now we are colonising the future:

We’ve been colonizing the future: extracting resources and degrading our ecosystems, rather than maintaining ‘enough and as good left in common for others’. Its inhabitants, both human and non-human, are on track to face a reduced set of options compared to ours.

via Clive Thompson

Bookmarked Decades of history could be ‘erased from Australia’s memory’ as tape machines disappear, archivists warn – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

In the age of the 4K smart TV, audio-visual companies are looking forward to ever-greater digital innovations. Few are looking back at the cavalcade of tape formats that came before, which never had the same desirable aesthetic that made film so enduringly popular.

Mr Ficker says it is “very unlikely” that archives around the world could raise the capital to have tape machines manufactured again, even if they worked together.

But he said he “hadn’t written it off”, because “if that’s what it takes, will then we will be pursuing those strategies”.

He also suggests future digital innovations might make it possible to read the data off magnetic tapes in a different way, using software to reconstruct the images.

James Elton discusses the demise of tape machines and the memories kept on them. Lauren Young also provides an interesting take on magnetic tape. This reminds me of Celia Coffa’s keynote at Digicon15 Digital Stories and Future Memories.
Bookmarked The story of handwriting in 12 objects (

A new exhibition traces the remarkable evolution of writing. Cameron Laux picks 12 highlights offering insights into one of humanity’s greatest achievements.

Cameron Laux reports on a new exhibition involving 100 objects which capture the development of writing over time. Laux documents 12 of the items to demonstrate change over time. I wonder if the last item in the exhibition involves the end of handwriting? This collection also reminds me of the BBC Radio 4 series from a few years ago A History of the World in 100 Objects.
Replied to |k| clippings: 2019-04-14 — baby was a star (Twitter)

A story that truly deserves the adjective “extraordinary” in many ways: who the book collector was, the volume and variety he collected, that he read and summarized the books…and that some of that index survived. → ‘Extraordinary’ 500-year-old library catalogue reveals books lost to time Thanks, Reader K! ※ Linked within that story is another worth reading: How Christopher Columbus’s son built ‘the world’s first search engine’

This makes me wonder about the fragility of archiving, especially after reading Damon Krukowski’s recent reflections associated with MySpace. What happens when someone finds something like a zipdisk in 500 years time? Let alone in 50 years time.
Bookmarked I dare you to read this and still feel good about tipping (Washington Post)

If you knew the history of tipping, you’d never see it the same way again.

Roberto Ferdman and Saru Jayaraman discuss tipping and its origins. Jayaraman discusses the two dollar hourly rate that waiters are often paid, how there is a confusion for who they are working for and the association with slavery. This practice is so deeply rooted as was demonstrated in a post from Jason Kottke.


Our research shows that all of that sexual harassment—from customers, coworkers, and management—can be traced back to this whole culture of forcing women to make their income based on pleasing the customer. To me it’s all summed up by this one quote from Texas, where they earn $2.13 an hour before tips. This waitress was speaking at a Senate press conference, and she said: ‘Senators, what would it be like for you if your income depended on the happiness of the people you serve? Because my income depends on the people I serve, I have to put up with a guy groping by butt every day so I can feed my four year old son every day.’

via Daniel Goldsmith

Bookmarked The surprisingly radical politics of Dr Seuss by an author (

Seuss himself didn’t necessarily see a huge disconnect between what he was doing during the war and what he did afterwards. “Children’s literature as I write it and as I see it is satire to a great extent – satirizing the mores and the habits of the world,” he is quoted in Cott’s book.

Fiona MacDonald takes a look at the political side of Dr. Suess’ work. This includes commentary from another author/illustrator Art Spigelmen and discussion of Suess’ work on propaganda during World War II.
Liked How Telegraphs and Teletypes Influenced the Computer (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

We may not discuss our connectivity speed in baud anymore—not when we can measure data by the gigabits per second—but these points of evolution have clearly had an impact on what we, as modern computer users, actually got to use at the end of the day.

A trackpad is, of course, infinitely more functional than a straight key, but if you squint hard enough, maybe you’ll see the resemblance.

Bookmarked Why Do Americans Love Ice Cubes So much? (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

Why are ice cubes seemingly as American as unnecessary medical debt? Perhaps it’s all the hard work we used to put into acquiring all that ice back in the day.

Andrew Egan discusses the place and importance of ice in American history and the impact that it has had on the world today (7/11). I remember Steven Johnson discussing this in his book/series How We Got to Now: Six innovations that made the modern world.