For a long time, I have been intrigued by the zipper. It is everywhere: on clothes, backpacks, shoes, sporting goods, suitcases, camping equipment, etc. But look at one closely and try to imagine how it works.
The basic principle is quite simple; two parallel chains of projections (teeth) lock and unlock to form a quick, easy, reliable means of opening and closing things. The chains of teeth are part of a truly ingeniously designed and engineered piece of precision equipment.
Given its ubiquity and generally flawless performance in so many everyday tasks, I believe the zipper truly deserves a place of honor on my list of what I like to call “extraordinary ordinary things.”
Continue reading Zipper—Extraordinary Ordinary Things
I live in Brussels. Every time I leave my house, I am bombarded with information about the air temperature because most pharmacies here seem obsessed with showing the air temperature on electronic signs outside their shops, along with the time of day (24-hour clock) and the establishment’s business hours. I imagine the same is true in cities throughout Europe, North America, and elsewhere. We can’t seem to live without constantly being reminded of how warm or cold it is. It is virtually an obsession.
But of course most of us don’t need to leave home to get temperature information. In my case, all I need to do is go out to my terrace and look at the thermometer hanging on the wall. This is something I do faithfully virtually every morning when I wake up, as well as two or three times during the day. It is like a game. I check the thermometer in the morning (usually about 7 a.m.), look at the sky, feel the moisture in the air, and try to guess how high the temperature will rise during the day.
I am talking about a simple liquid thermometer, i.e. the type in which liquid in a glass tube rises and falls as the temperature rises and falls. This is generally what most people mean when they say “check the thermometer.” However; there are many other types of thermometers they might be checking such as the type you reach for when feeling ill, the type you stick into meat when cooking it, the temperature gauge in your automobile, etc. Still, no matter where you go, there is almost always a thermometer around whether we notice them or not. And we cannot seem to live without them.
This is why I consider the thermometer, in whatever form, fully deserves to be included on the list of what I like to call “extraordinary ordinary things.“
Continue reading Thermometer: Extraordinary Ordinary Things
The purpose of this blog, like all the other “extraordinary ordinary things” blogs before it, is to offer information and entertainment. It is in no way a polemic or learned discussion. For the sake of simplicity, in this blog, we use the traditional either/or definitions of male/female, man/women, while fully recognizing that other more inclusive definitions would be more accurate.
Lipstick is the most obvious and probably the most widely used cosmetic product in the world. It has been so for centuries, largely because it has been deemed to be the one that made the wearer seem the most comely according to the mores of the day.
Personally, I detest lipstick. However setting aside my personal predilection for the unadorned mouth, I must admit that lipstick has played a significant role in human society throughout the ages. Because of its importance in the past, the present, and almost certainly the future, I believe lipstick very much deserves to take a place of honor on the list of what I like to call “extraordinary ordinary things.”
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I have recently joined the many people who have wondered what can be read from the face of another person, otherwise known as physiognomy. Aristotle considered it possible to infer character from features, at least for passions and desires. Opinions have oscillated over time, physiognomy enjoying certain respectability in the 18th century, before descending to the realm of pseudoscience in the 19th.
The advent of artificial neural networks in recent decades has revived the question of whether there might be a kernel of truth in the assertion that aspects of a person’s personality and character could be inferred from their appearance (see. e.g., Richard Wiseman, Roger Highfield, Rob Jenkins 2009 article in New Scientist, “How Your Looks Betray Your Personality.”
Continue reading AI-powered Facial Analysis is Pseudoscience: A Reflection on Physiognomy