Your Friday Pouring Molten Copper on a Giant Jawbreaker


The Monolith Returns

Back in December, we linked to a few stories about mysterious monoliths that were appearing and disappearing in various places around the world. Monolith mania faded, but last week, a new one appeared in Congo. Says Reuters:

The 12-foot metallic structure first appeared in Kinshasa’s Bandal neighbourhood over the weekend on Sunday morning. On Wednesday morning, a crowd of curious onlookers snapped selfies and debated its possible origins.

Alas, the Democratic Republic of Congo is not a very monolith-friendly nation:

Videos posted on social media later in the day showed residents destroying the structure with sticks and then setting it on fire.

Well, not everyone liked 2001.

Rebel Rebel

I Saw That

What could possibly go wrong? Via Core77: “The product-hacking content creator known as The Q, whose product hacks often involve bicycles, decided he wanted to ride a bike across a frozen lake. His solution was to replace the wheels with sawmill blades.” Et voilà: the Icycle.

Do not try this at home—or anywhere!

Be Mine…or Not

The Gathering Storm

Where do you fall in the “in-person gathering continuum”? Via Axios: “Our weekly national survey finds broad disagreement and confusion over which cues people intend to follow to decide what behaviors are safe again.”

Data: Axios/Ipsos survey; Note: ±3.4% margin of error for the total sample; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Goo Goo Goo Joob

Here’s a lede one could never have predicted a year ago. From Gizmodo: “Understandably, mask tech is having a moment. There’s whatever Razer’s doing with its RGB mask, and there were more than a few at this year’s CES.” Of greater bewilderment was this “egg mask”:

The mask, which is dubbed Blanc, is purportedly a “full-face modular mask” that filters air through two “high-efficiency, reusable, and replaceable HEPA filters” that last up to 14 days. It, uh, also has a one-way visor, adjustable straps, and 100+ magnetic panels and visors. So, in case the futuristic monochrome egg aesthetic just isn’t cool enough, you could go wild and snap on a leopard print panel.

Around the Web

Wild and Woolly Flora

And you thought the “vegan” label only applied to food. First, synthetic silk is potentially putting silkworms out of work. Now, an Indian company called Faborg is making synthetic wool to potentially replace sheep. Enter “vegan wool”:

VEGAN WOOL grows wildly at deserted lands with no water, no care, no pesticides. Production of vegan wool is mostly done by hand - it empowers women and helps rural economy in dry parts of the country where jobs are unsecured

The fibers are derived not from animals but plants, specifically, Calotropis gigantea and Calotropis procera, plants that are native to India and grow abundantly. According to Faborg, the unique characteristics of Calotropis plants are:

  • They don’t need “water, attention or pesticides”
  • “It is a pioneer plant that revives biodiversity and ecosystem and enables forest canopy to grow back”
  • It’s a perennial.
  • “It grows back in 6 months after harvesting– gives a yield 2 times per year”
  • “It provides two unique hollow cellulose fibres that [have] wool-like characteristics”

Not So Baaaahd

Speaking of sheep, Sheep, Inc., points out that, when we think of climate change, “Carbon is Not the Bad Guy.” Well, given that all life on Earth is based on carbon, that’s certainly true. The problem, however, is that “the speed at which we emit it does not meet the sequestration capacity of our natural resources.” How do we get the proper balance back? Soil. “[B]y adopting regenerative farming practices we can maximise our soil’s ability to remove carbon dioxide from the air by storing it as organic carbon.” They identify several basic principles that farmers use to build healthy soil and optimize it for carbon sequestration, but, given the name of the company, you can guess what one of them is. Yep, sheep are the good guys in terms of the climate crisis!

Including animals in farming systems closes the nutrient loop and reduces the need for fertilisers. Implementing rotational grazing techniques will ensure that grass is trimmed regularly (without being overgrazed) and has enough time to regrow, storing more carbon in its roots in this process.

Given the role that sheep potentially play, the least we can do is get a sweater out of the deal.

We are bemused by Sheep Inc.’s newsletter sign-up verbiage: “Want to receive regular sheep-verified information directly to your inbox? Register here.” Even if they are replaced by “vegan wool,” at least the sheep can get jobs in email management. Or will “vegan email” become a thing?

The AtW Spirit Animal

Concrete Change

Who knew that manufacturing cement is a major contributor to carbon load in the environment? A few initiatives to address this are identified in this excerpt from Bill Gates's new book on climate change. 

Passenger cars represent less than half of all the emissions from transportation, which in turn is 16% of all emissions worldwide. Meanwhile, making steel and cement accounts for around 10% of all emissions.

Each year, America alone produces more than 96m tons of cement, one of the main ingredients in concrete, and we’re not even the biggest consumers of the stuff – that would be China, which installed more concrete in the first 16 years of the 21st century than the United States did in the entire 20th century.

How does cement-making contribute to climate change?

To make cement, you need calcium. To get calcium, you start with limestone and burn it in a furnace until you end up with the thing you want – calcium for your cement – plus something you don’t want: carbon dioxide. Nobody knows of a way to make cement without going through this process. It’s a one-to-one relationship; make a ton of cement and you’ll get a ton of carbon dioxide.

What to do? (No, sheep are not involved.)

One approach is to take recycled carbon dioxide and inject it back into the cement before it’s used at the construction site. The company that’s pursuing this idea, CarbonCure, has several dozen customers already, including LinkedIn and McDonald’s. So far it’s only able to reduce emissions by around 10%, though it hopes to get to 33% eventually.

Old Games

Squeezing Out SPARC

Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), is a startup that was spun out of MIT by co-founder Brandon Sorbom, a 34-year-old entrepreneur, backed by Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. Working in collaboration with MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, CFS “will build first-of-its-kind high temperature superconducting magnets, followed by the world’s first net energy-producing fusion machine, called SPARC. SPARC will pave the way for the first commercially viable fusion power plant, called ARC. CFS has assembled a world-class team working to design and build fusion machines that will provide limitless, clean, fusion energy to combat climate change.”

Do Not Pass Go


We appear to be sequestering a lot of carbon of our own in AtW this week, but one more carbonated item caught our eye. Lux Research recently released a new market research report, the gist of which is that, although carbon dioxide takes a lot of hits in climate change conversations, perhaps it can drive business growth via an area called “carbon capture and utilization.” Says the Executive Summary:

The global market size for CO2 utilization is set to reach a market value of $70 billion by 2030, which will then increase to $550 billion by 2040.

Building materials will become the largest sector for CO2 utilization, capturing 86% of the total market value by 2040. Technologies for CO2 utilization in the building industry have low technical barriers – adoption will only be impeded by regulatory constraints, which will likely ease up post-2030.

Lux recommends:

CO2 capture is an important solution for emitters with no near-term & economical alternatives for reducing emissions. Novel technologies are targeting capture costs of sub-$80/metric ton of CO2 but have yet to validate such claims at scale. Near-term deployment will therefore rely on aggressive carbon pricing and financial incentives to drive momentum.

What you should do: CO2 capture remains essential for a carbon- neutral energy system. Assess the current landscape of CO2 capture players and consider engaging with promising developers in anticipation of stronger penalties that will likely be implemented this decade in countries aiming for carbon-neutrality.

Pain in the…

Book Feed

How often have you only found out that a favorite author has a new book out several months—or maybe even years—down the road? And now, with bookstore browsing limited or inadvisable (even pre-COVID it was not always possible), stumbling across a favorite writer’s latest on the New Releases shelf is even less possible. And not all authors are on Twitter or other modern social media or have newsletters you can sign up for. But now, if you have an RSS feed reader, you can sign up for, a customizable RSS feed that will send you notifications when an author has published a new book.

Card Sharks

Dropping Imports

Maybe the reshoring of textiles and apparel is happening faster than we think, at least from the perspective of Chinese imports to the U.S., which are dropping dramatically. Says Just-Style, citing the December 2020 Textiles & Apparel Imports Report from the Department of Commerce’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA)—we were not aware such a thing existed; down that rabbit hole we must go!—year-over-year volume of apparel imports for 2020 were down 16.4% over 2019, and imports of textiles and apparel down 3.2% (textiles alone were up 5.4% over 2019). Apparel shipments from China alone dropped 23.6%—the third year in a row in which apparel imports from China had declined.


Where Everybody Knows Has Forgotten Your Name

Many of us have a favorite watering hole in or near our hometowns—or even in commonly visited destinations. Long-time attendees to, say, Graph Expo/PRINT have their favorite Chicago haunts, and even regular visitors to Las Vegas have places they hate less than others. Now, via Maverick, the website I Miss My Bar lets you recreate—or at least try to simulate—the ambiance of your favorite local.

Plug your device to a decent speaker set and use it as a background sound for your zoom parties, or just for your daily wind down cocktail at home.

Faders let you adjust the sound mix of the various components, such as background chatter, a cocktail shaker and other bartender noises, and so on.

Still, there are some places we’d rather not simulate.

In the Mix

In some ways, the I Miss My Bar’s approach to sound mixing owes a huge debt to someone whose name may be unfamiliar, but who had a major impact on the sound of recorded music. Rupert Neve, who passed away last weekend at the age of 94, was a British-born audio engineer whose innovations in the area of equalization (EQ) design changed the way that music was recorded, such that The Guardian referred to him as “the Steve Jobs of audio.”

In 2015, Neve reflected on one of his earliest innovations: “You bring a bunch of musicians in and make a recording; and they find that the guitar is kind of lost. So, what do you do? You bring all the musicians in again? Scouring the various nightclubs and so on into which they’ve all disappeared over the last week? Get them all together again and rerecord? Very expensive, difficult.” A revolution was needed. “Is there any way we can change that mix?” he asked himself. “Well, EQ occurred to me.”

Equalization is the process of altering different frequencies—boosting the bass, toning down the drums, bringing out the vocals a bit more. Essentially, Neve invented what we know of as the mixing console.

Neve crafted the altarpieces of many of the world’s finest recording studios, including Abbey Road, the Kinks’ Konk Studios, New York’s Electric Lady and George Martin’s AIR studios in London and Monserrat. “George had become a trusted friend, far more than a customer,” Neve recalled following Martin’s death in 2016. “I was not a musician, and he helped me to understand the finer nuances of his approach.”

Pump Down the Volume

Life Is But a Stream

Do you want to use your phone as a webcam “to look amazing on video calls”? Granted, you’re probably limited by your source material, but an app called Camo accesses high-quality iPhone and iPad cameras to offer 1080p and super hi-res streaming, works with all the old favorites—Zoom, Meet, Teams, Skype, Slack, Google Chrome, WebEx Teams—and features hardware and software controls to adjust lenses, lighting, colors, zoom, crop, and focus. No word of whether it supports kitten filters.  

The Keyboard is Toast?

Trailer Park

Last week, we linked to a tweet from a special effects artist who had digitally inserted his child into scenes from disaster movies. This week, via Laughing Squid, a black cat named Wayne was added to the trailer for the upcoming movie Godzilla vs. Kong:

Aiman Samat of JKK Films quite humorously inserted his cat Wayne into the trailer for the film Kong vs Godzilla so that a giant version of the black feline was simultaneously terrorizing people and destroying buildings alongside the legendary creatures.

So, like any cat, basically.

Too bad it wasn’t the lawyer with the cat filter from last week.

Cat-Tion Figure

This Week in Printing, Publishing, and Media History

February 15

1564: Italian astronomer, physicist, and mathematician Galileo Galilei born.

1870: Stevens Institute of Technology is founded in New Jersey, USA and offers the first Bachelor of Engineering degree in Mechanical Engineering.

1946: ENIAC, the first electronic general-purpose computer, is formally dedicated at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

1954: American animator, producer, and screenwriter Matt Groening born.

1972: Sound recordings are granted U.S. federal copyright protection for the first time.

2001: The first draft of the complete human genome is published in Nature.

February 16

1740: Italian publisher and engraver Giambattista Bodoni born.

1933: The Blaine Act ends Prohibition in the United States. We’ll drink to that.

1937: Wallace H. Carothers receives a United States patent for nylon.

1944: American novelist and short story writer Richard Ford born.

1968: In Haleyville, Alabama, the first 9-1-1 emergency telephone system goes into service.

1978: The first computer bulletin board system is created (CBBS in Chicago).

February 17

1673: French actor and playwright Molière dies (b. 1622).

1781: French physician and inventor of the stethoscope René Laennec born.

1890: American publisher and politician and inventor of the first commercially successful typewriter Christopher Latham Sholes dies (b. 1819).

1904: Madama Butterfly receives its première at La Scala in Milan.

1933: Newsweek magazine is first published.

1996: In Philadelphia, world champion Garry Kasparov beats the Deep Blue supercomputer in a chess match.

February 18

1564: Italian sculptor and painter Michelangelo dies (b. 1475).

1745: Italian physicist and inventor of the battery Alessandro Volta born.

1885: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is published in the United States.

1896: French author and poet André Breton born.

1911: The first official flight with airmail takes place from Allahabad, United Provinces, British India (now India), when Henri Pequet, a 23-year-old pilot, delivers 6,500 letters to Naini, about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) away.

1930: Elm Farm Ollie becomes the first cow to fly in a fixed-wing aircraft and also the first cow to be milked in an aircraft. (That’s why you never want to be in Southwest’s C boarding group.)

1931: American author, Pulitzer Prize winner, and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison born.

February 19

1473: Polish mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus born.

1847: The first group of rescuers reaches the Donner Party. They politely decline a dinner invitation.

1878: Thomas Edison patents the phonograph.

1949: Ezra Pound is awarded the first Bollingen Prize in poetry by the Bollingen Foundation and Yale University.

1951: French novelist, essayist, and dramatist, Nobel Prize laureate André Gide dies (b. 1869).

1952: American novelist, essayist, and short story writer Amy Tan born. Much joy luck.

1953: Georgia approves the first literature censorship board in the United States.

1956: American singer-songwriter and guitarist Peter Holsapple born.

1963: The publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique reawakens the feminist movement in the United States as women's organizations and consciousness raising groups spread.

2016: Italian novelist, literary critic, and philosopher Umberto Eco dies (b. 1932).

2016: American author Harper Lee dies (b. 1926).

February 20

1792: The Postal Service Act, establishing the United States Post Office Department, is signed by United States President George Washington.

1816: Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville premieres at the Teatro Argentina in Rome.

1872: The Metropolitan Museum of Art opens in New York City.

1877: Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake receives its premiere at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

Yeah, we’re basically philistines.

1902: American photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams born.

1926: American author and screenwriter Richard Matheson born. He was legend.

1933: The U.S. Congress approves the Blaine Act to repeal federal Prohibition in the United States, sending the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution to state ratifying conventions for approval. And there was much rejoicing throughout the land.

1943: The Saturday Evening Post publishes the first of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms in support of United States President Franklin Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union address theme of Four Freedoms.

1946: American singer-songwriter and guitarist J. Geils born.

1962 : While aboard Friendship 7, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth, making three orbits in four hours, 55 minutes.

February 21

1804: The first self-propelling steam locomotive makes its outing at the Pen-y-Darren Ironworks in Wales.

1821: American publisher and founder of Charles Scribner’s Sons Charles Scribner I born.

1828: Initial issue of the Cherokee Phoenix is the first periodical to use the Cherokee syllabary invented by Sequoyah.

1842: John Greenough is granted the first U.S. patent for the sewing machine.

1848: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish The Communist Manifesto.

1874: The Oakland Daily Tribune publishes its first edition.

1878: The first telephone directory is issued in New Haven, Conn.

1903: French-American essayist and memoirist Anaïs Nin born.

1925: The New Yorker publishes its first issue.

1947: In New York City, Edwin Land demonstrates the first “instant camera,” the Polaroid Land Camera, to a meeting of the Optical Society of America.

1958: The CND symbol, aka peace symbol, commissioned by the Direct Action Committee in protest against the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, is designed and completed by Gerald Holtom.

1962: American novelist, short story writer, and essayist David Foster Wallace born.

1967: American author and screenwriter Charles Beaumont dies (b. 1929).

Anything catch your eye “around the Web”? Share it with us at [email protected].