Commentary & Analysis
Around the Web: Offline Americans. Touring Greece. Loud Restaurants. Topical Typography.
10% of Americans do not use the Internet. The Comma Queen” tours Greece. The rise of the Post Office—and the decline of dueling. A new app measures the loudness of restaurants. The Presidential candidates’ typography. A requiem for the old Penn Station. All that and more in WhatTheyThink’s weekly miscellany.
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: April 26, 2019
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 10% of Americans do not use the Internet.
Internet non-adoption is linked to a number of demographic variables, including age, educational attainment, household income and community type, the Center’s latest analysis finds.
What’s In a Name?
A fly was very close to being called a ‘land’ because that's what it does half the time. MITCH HEDBERG— Quite Interesting (@qikipedia) April 24, 2019
Over at the New York Times, “A Passion for Punctuation Meets a Love for All Things Greek”: a new book by Mary Norris (author of Adventures of a Comma Queen) shares her love of all things Greek, including language, and punctuation.
In a small disquisition on the development of written language in ancient Greece, Norris tells us that the Greeks wrote words as run-ons: JUSTIMAGINETHAT. Spacing was “a great leap forward.” As was the invention of Norris’s beloved comma, which comes from the Greek word komma, and was invented to further clarify meaning.
Throwing Away Their Shot
Have you ever noticed that people don’t duel as much as they used to (if at all)? An interesting new study tracks the decline of dueling with the proliferation of...post offices.
Scholars have long tried to understand the conditions under which actors choose to use violent versus non-violent means to settle disputes, and many argue that violence is more likely in weakly-institutionalized settings. Yet, there is little evidence showing that increases in state capacity lowers the use of violent informal institutions to resolve disputes. Utilizing a novel dataset of violence --- specifically, duels --- across American states in the 19th Century, we use the spread of federal post offices as an identification strategy to investigate the importance of state capacity for the incidence of violent dispute resolution. We find that post office density is a strong, consistent, and negative predictor of dueling behavior. Our evidence contributes to a burgeoning literature on the importance of state capacity for development outcomes.
If only Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr had been mailmen. (h/t Marginal Revolution)
“I’ll Have the Chicken with a Side of Earplugs”
It’s not your imagination: restaurants are getting louder, and now you can prove it—and shame the offending establishments, with SoundPrint, a new app that combines a decibel meter with Yelp.
You Say Potato...
Last year, Italian designers created a packaging for French fries made out of potato skins, which meant that potatoes could be served in their original packaging.— Quite Interesting (@qikipedia) April 24, 2019
Type of Candidates
Over at Practical Typography, evaluating the 2020 Democratic Presidential contenders via their use of typography.
Lead Us Not Into Penn Station
Tragically demolished more than half a century ago, New York’s original Penn Station is recalled by few (if any) of us today, but many of us have...endured its current incarnation, a structure designed with what can only be called an utter contempt for humanity. Anyway, the New York Times looks back at what was lost—and how even the original magnificent structure that was Penn Station was controversial in its own time.
The letters Q, X and W were banned from the Turkish alphabet until 2013.— Quite Interesting (@qikipedia) April 25, 2019
This Week in Printing, Publishing, and Media History
1707: English novelist and playwright Henry Fielding born.
1724: German anthropologist, philosopher, and academic Immanuel Kant born.
1876: The first game in the history of the National League was played at the Jefferson Street Grounds in Philadelphia. This game is often pointed to as the beginning of Major League Baseball.
1899: Novelist and critic Vladimir Nabokov born.
1977: Optical fiber is first used to carry live telephone traffic.
1985: Coca-Cola changes its formula and releases New Coke. The response is overwhelmingly negative, and the original formula is back on the market in less than three months.
2005: The first ever YouTube video, titled “Me at the zoo,” was published by user “jawed.”
1704: The first regular newspaper in British Colonial America, The Boston News-Letter, is published.
1800: The United States Library of Congress is established when President John Adams signs legislation to appropriate $5,000 to purchase “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress.”
1905: American novelist, poet, and literary critic Robert Penn Warren born.
1940: B is for Birthday—American author Sue Grafton born.
1990: The Hubble Space Telescope is launched from the Space Shuttle Discovery.
1901: New York becomes the first U.S. state to require automobile license plates.
1908: American journalist Edward R. Murrow born.
1953: Francis Crick and James Watson publish “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid” describing the double helix structure of DNA.
1954: The first practical solar cell is publicly demonstrated by Bell Telephone Laboratories.
1961: Robert Noyce is granted a patent for an integrated circuit.
1564: Playwright William Shakespeare is baptized in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England (date of actual birth is unknown). Much ado about nothing?
1785: French-American ornithologist and painter John James Audubon born.
1889: Austrian-English philosopher and academic Ludwig Wittgenstein born.
1970: The Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization enters into force.
1989: People’s Daily publishes the April 26 Editorial which inflames the nascent Tiananmen Square protests.
1667: Blind and impoverished, John Milton sells the copyright of Paradise Lostfor £10. (He never regained it.)
1791: American painter and inventor Samuel Morse born.
1896: American chemist and inventor of nylon Wallace Carothers born.
1981: Xerox PARC introduces the computer mouse.
1926: American novelist Harper Lee born.
1948: Igor Stravinsky conducted the premiere of his American ballet Orpheusat the New York City Center.
1973: The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, recorded in Abbey Road Studios, goes to number one on the US charts, beginning a record-breaking 741-week chart run.