If you are anything like me, when you hear the word “fork,” you probably automatically think of “knife” because the two go together like bread and butter, ham and eggs, shoes and socks, New York and skyscrapers, New Year’s and resolutions, and a host of other tightly conjoined tandems. However, the idea of a fork and a knife working together in common cause, e.g. eating, is relatively new. The knife in human history preceded the fork by many centuries. In its earliest manifestation, the eating fork was once a multi-bladed knife.Continue reading
Have you ever held an abacus in your hands? Chances are yes. Many grade schools use this ancient calculating device as a way of introducing students to some fundamental aspects of mathematics.
Have you ever held a slide rule in your hands? If you are a so-called “millennial” or slightly older, chances are not. Why? Because the slide rule, which in its day was considered by many as the eighth wonder of the world, has virtually passed away without a trace.Continue reading
Throughout this series of blogs, I have concentrated on “gadgets,” i.e. mechanical, electric, or electronic devices that have fundamentally affected the world. So far they have included the bicycle, the credit card, the elevator, the postage stamp, the toothbrush, and the wristwatch. The banana, being a product of agriculture, is of course not a gadget. However, its effects on the world have been significant, even primordial, in areas far surpassing agriculture such as art, literature, show business, humor, and even intelligent design. I, therefore, believe the “humble” banana is far from humble, and richly deserves a place of prominence on the list of what I like to call “Extraordinary Ordinary Things.”Continue reading
Imagine this: It’s morning and you are starting your daily routine—go to work, bring kids to school, etc. You are quite late. You lift the door handle of the car; able to recognize your fingerprints, the car unlocks. You speak, “To Helen’s school please, then Martin’s school, then to work.” The car doesn’t respond. It’s rush hour and you need to bring the kids to school on time and then rush to work.
Your car’s machine-learning algorithm predicts you are likely to get a fine or worse, despite your intentions to drive consciously when kids are on board and stay under the speed limit. Almost like the “pre-crime” police units of the Tom Cruise sci-fi hit “Minority Report,” the algorithm uses police report data on parents who speed during rush hour when late for school or work. It neglects your law-abiding attitude. Fortunately, the personal digital assistant in your watch, sensing your car has been disabled, is already contacting the schools and your workplace with your estimated times of arrival and an excuse for your tardiness.Continue reading