mm500: Blast from the Past! No. 54 – Edison vs. Tesla

September 22, 2008
© Kandasamy M  | Dreamstime.com

© Kandasamy M | Dreamstime.com

First day back at work after a bereavement leave, and we’re still not ready for the world of blogging.

Nevertheless, we’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of our favorite electrons. And with over 470 fresh daily posts in the past 16+ months, there’s lots to choose from.

I hereby stop apologizing for resuming our observance of the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

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Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

Originally posted November 16, 2007, titled “mm195: Edison gets the glory — Tesla won the war.”

MUDGE’S Musings

Every schoolchild, at least of MUDGE‘s generation, knew the name of Thomas Edison, America’s genius inventor. Not nearly so well known today is the reputation of Nikola Tesla, whose alternating current technology offered stiff competition to Edison’s direct current at the time when the nascent electric utilities were battling for the privilege of revolutionizing civilization.

That first battle ground, New York City, finally just yesterday, November 14 2007, after 125 years of service, converted the last direct current electricity service to alternating current.

Can you imagine any industrial artifact built today still being around in the year 2132, 125 years from now? We just don’t think that way any more. Ask the survivors and grieving families of those lost when the I-35 bridge at Minneapolis collapsed this past summer, at the youthful age of 40.

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mm385: Scientific victories are often ephemeral

May 19, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Here in the replete West, such as at the home of yr (justifiably) humble svt, rice is an occasional side dish, a refreshing change from a potato, or pasta, usually accompanying a steaming chunk of animal protein.

In the hungry not-West, rice is entirely it.

Rice has been distressingly newsworthy lately, as prices have been climbing.

Even before this month’s very bad news (the story below, as well as the Burma cyclone of a couple of weeks ago that hit Southeast Asia’s rice bowl (Burma’s Irrawaddy delta) the hardest), there were shortages and unrest, sometimes violent, due to skyrocketing rice prices.

But the NYTimes makes clear, the latest threat to rice, and thus to the staple food of billions, is the lack of momentum in agricultural research.

Today’s villain is called the brown plant hopper. And it could have been stopped in its tracks, had the research establishment kept its eye on the ball.

nytimes

The Food Chain

World’s Poor Pay Price as Crop Research Is Cut

By KEITH BRADSHER and ANDREW MARTIN | Published: May 18, 2008

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines — The brown plant hopper, an insect no bigger than a gnat, is multiplying by the billions and chewing through rice paddies in East Asia, threatening the diets of many poor people.

Researchers at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, the world’s main repository of information about rice, are trying to deal with problems like the rice hopper, which destroys plants, by developing stronger varieties of rice.

The damage to rice crops, occurring at a time of scarcity and high prices, could have been prevented. Researchers at the International Rice Research Institute here say that they know how to create rice varieties resistant to the insects but that budget cuts have prevented them from doing so.

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mm380: The return of cheap gasoline

May 15, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

…   Actually, it never left.

That’s right, faithful reader, that $3.899/gallon gasoline is still amazingly cheap.

That’s what yr (justifiably) humble svt paid yesterday to put 15 gallons of ExxonMobil’s 87 octane best into his mid-size sedan’s tank. Do the math. A Sunday paper less than $60.

Amazingly cheap, right?

Apparently so.

“May you live in interesting times”

mm370: How can you tell our president is lying?
mm347: It’s official, we’re depressed — er, recessed
mm344: Welcome to interesting times
mm337: Dare we trust the guys who got us into this mess?
mm335: Are you prepared for interesting times?
mm334: Rearranging deck chairs
mm333: “Great people shouldn’t have a resume”
mm331: Obama at Cooper Union: Lincoln?
mm328: Today’s economics lesson: Depression 101
mm309: The news Bush really hates you to hear
mm289: Recession: Paying the price for our power
mm285: Mayor Mike tells some hard truths
mm263: This man -so- wants to pull the trigger…
mm257: The R-Word – Not that racy television show
mm256: I don’t hate big corporations, either

I’ve seen this argument before; that compared with much of the rest of the world (except places like Mexico and Venezuela, where domestic prices are kept artificially low for political reasons), U.S. residents pay proportionately less to fuel their minivans and SUVs than most.

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mm374: Blast from the Past! No. 18

May 9, 2008

 MUDGE’s Musings  

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

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Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From our early days, originally posted August 27, 2007.

mm119: Creating the sequitur

Had this thought yesterday.

Any of you regular reader of this nanocorner of the blogosphere are aware that MUDGE often is slightly link-crazy.

I believe I learned this style best from one of my most regular reads, Slate.com, and good teachers they’ve been.

What linking does for yours truly, and here comes that flash of insight –drum-roll please — linking sequiturizes.

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mm368: Knowledge: Blast furnace of the 21st century

May 3, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Do you feel buffeted by the forces of the post-industrial revolution? How can you not?

The history of technology is a frequent visitor to this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©, mostly because it has long been of interest to yr (justifiably) humble svt. Also, because the macro changes occurring all around us are, of course, culminations, or at least stops along the way, of trends that began when humans created civilization, perhaps 10,000 years ago.

L-HC‘s History of Technology

mm361: Gin, television, Web 2.0
mm359: The Navy’s ferry tale — unhappy ever after
mm278a: Don’t look back: Something gaining on you
mm272: What the devil time is it anyway?
mm228: Toothpicks — Good to great to gone
mm224: Dec. 17, 1903: A seminal date in history
mm195: Edison and Tesla
mm159: Sputnik | Spacemen are from Mars
mm119: Creating the sequitur
mm104: There She Blew

The ages of human development have long been characterized, and popularized, by the most important attribute of the era. Thus we can cite some of the various ages, stone (which actually predates modern homo sapiens), agriculture, discovery, mercantile, industrial.

Have we moved beyond the industrial age? David Brooks tackled this topic in yesterday’s NYTimes.

nytimes

The Cognitive Age

Op-Ed Columnist | By DAVID BROOKS | Published: May 2, 2008

If you go into a good library, you will find thousands of books on globalization. Some will laud it. Some will warn about its dangers. But they’ll agree that globalization is the chief process driving our age. Our lives are being transformed by the increasing movement of goods, people and capital across borders….

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mm361: Gin, television, Web 2.0

April 27, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Ever have one of those moments? You know, the ones where you read or see something that just simply closes a loop in your mind that you didn’t know was open? Where you (one hopes, figuratively) slap yourself on the face and say (one fervently hopes, subvocally): Wow, I wish I thought of that?

Had one of those today.

I’m a history of technology guy; I even alluded very briefly to that a couple of posts ago (featuring one of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite headlines, if I may be so unhumble to say so!).

So, I enjoy taking a global, macro view of technology, and how it shaped the story of civilization (technology = civilization — can’t have the latter without the former). And I also enjoy making connections.

So, my attention was captured today by the first paragraph of this post, found during typical stream-of-consciousness blogging today.

So, I read on, and the connections and insights about technology and where it’s taking us, and why it’s taking us there, were jaw-dropping.

See, I’ve often said (once, here) that one of the things I really like about this blogging mania obsession habit of mine is that after more than 15 years of consuming the Internet, now, in my infinitesimal, nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© way, I’m now contributing.

And, that’s the point:

herecomeseverybody

Gin, Television, and Social Surplus

By Clay Shirky on April 26, 2008 10:48 AM

I was recently reminded of some reading I did in college, way back in the last century, by a British historian arguing that the critical technology, for the early phase of the industrial revolution, was gin.

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mm359: The Navy’s ferry tale — unhappy ever after

April 25, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

The U.S. Navy has long been a favorite subject for yr (justifiably) humble svt, long before he became your svt, quite long before.

The elemental battles of men against the implacably overwhelming forces of nature, while simultaneously battling to the death a human enemy, has always captured the imagination.

Lord Nelson at Trafalgar; Monitor going where no ship had gone before (thus tweaking our simultaneous lifelong interest in the history of technology ); Morison’s epic of the U.S. Navy in the four years of its Second World War: all these read as a kid, reread as an adult, and by the by, picked up by my older son, perhaps pointing him toward his own Navy career.

Now, that’s a cautionary tale! Parents! Be careful what reading material you leave around for your kids to find! Or, maybe, turn off the TV and read a book or two — you are influential beyond your ken.

Faithful reader might recall a couple of recent posts with the Navy as the theme (here and here).

In these unfortunate times of general governmental ineptitude, cultivated by an administration that consistently over-controls what should be left alone (found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq yet?), and leaves alone too many negligible details (such as: armor for Humvee personnel carriers!), why should the Navy be left out?

nytimes

Lesson on How Not to Build a Navy Ship

By PHILIP TAUBMAN | Published: April 25, 2008

With the crack of a Champagne bottle against its bow, the newly minted Navy warship, bedecked with bunting, slid sideways into the Menominee River in Wisconsin with a titanic splash.

Moments before the launching on Sept. 23, 2006, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chief of naval operations, told the festive crowd of shipbuilders, politicians and Navy brass assembled at the Marinette Marine shipyard, “Just a little more than three years ago, she was just an idea; now Freedom stands before us.”

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