Your Friday Firing a Supersonic Baseball Cannon at a Gong

Paper Art

Vice’s new “The Mind’s Eye” video series “chronicle[s] the creative process of a unique creator, artist, or craftsperson as they produce an original work.” In a recent installment, they featured Polly Verity, a Welsh “paper sculptor” who “has enchanted her followers with her remarkable ability to create intricate, three-dimensional works of art using mainly plain, white paper.” She even made her skirt out of paper.

Pillow Talk

On-Demand Pianos

Over at Gizmodo we were intrigued by a story about Prelonic Technologies, a company that is working on keyboards and other electronics peripheral devices made from paper that can be printed on-demand. To wit, a playable, paper-based piano.

A simple piano, as demonstrated in a video on Prelonic Technologies’ website, is created by first printing a set of piano keys onto a piece of paper using a standard laser printer. The back of that sheet is printed with a circuit layout using conductive carbon and then sandwiched with another printed conductive sheet and a small NFC chip in-between. Unlike Bluetooth which can be power-hungry (think of the limited battery life of your wireless earbuds) the NFC chip draws all the power it needs from a smartphone placed atop it. When combined with an accompanying app running on the smartphone, the paper piano can be physically played, producing notes through the device.

And if this kind of keyboard can be printed, then so can other kinds of keyboards, like a computer keyboard.

Users could print out an entire QWERTY keyboard as needed, or a custom interface for a specific application. Such devices exist for complex applications like Adobe Premiere and Photoshop but are expensive investments targeted at professionals. With PIP, a custom controller could be printed on-demand. And when it’s no longer needed, the NFC chip could be salvaged, while the rest of it went into the recycling bin.

It would certainly be an improvement over an iPhone keypad.

Get Back

Skip to My Loo

NY Design Week recently hosted an interesting show that focused on unique artistic  interpretations of something most of us own, but rarely give much thought: the toilet paper holder. The exhibition was the idea of PlantPaper, a company that produces bamboo-based toilet paper that is said to be more sustainable than paper-based loo rolls. (Says Core77, “not only does it take 37 gallons of water and one gallon of chemicals on average to produce one roll of toilet paper, but these chemicals used to make comfortable toilet paper in turn release toxins into our waterways.”) So to help raise awareness of the environmental cost of TP and to promote their solution, PlantPaper partnered with NY Design Week to develop a show that opened November 13th with a reception at 106 Eldridge St in Manhattan. (Actually, Flushing would have been a more appropriate location. We continue.) “The design exhibition showcases artists'’ interpretations of a humble bathroom workhouse: the toilet paper holder.”

Lee Reitelman, one of the co-founders of PlantPaper, said when it came to thinking of how to organize an interesting creative event, "we became interested in the toilet paper roll holder, which like toilet paper has long been an afterthought for most people. It's something people don't really look at or take a lot of pride in choosing. So we thought, what better way to get people to look at their bathrooms and think a little bit differently about their choices than for artists to approach that particular design problem."

Atypical to your run-of-the-mill design week shows, "Under/Over East" operates more like a walking tour than a gallery show. Artists and designers were asked to create two editions of their toilet paper holders, and while one is mounted and viewable 24/7 in a window display on Eldridge Street in Manhattan, their other piece will be installed in a location in New York for people to experience up-close.

They don’t elaborate, but we assume that “up close” means what we think it means.

If you're interested in checking out the pieces yourself and enjoying a creative walking tour of the city, you can find all the locations on the Marta Gallery website. Each work was produced in an edition of 2 and are available for price inquiry via Marta Gallery.

Under/Over East will be on display in multiple locations around New York through December 31, 2021.

Dr. Joe Takes a Flight

The Call Is Coming from Inside the Packaging!

Scientists at McMaster University, with support provided by Toyota Tsusho Canada, Inc., have proven a method that will allow producers, packagers and retailers to detect bacterial contamination in milk products simply by reading a signal from a test printed inside every container. Says the paper describing the research:

There is a defined need for the direct, reagentless detection of microorganisms?specifically in the food industry?making new innovations frequent. (24) The developed LISzyme biosensors represent a premier tool in this space, as they provide unique capabilities for real-time hands-free detection of pathogens in complex food textures, highlighted by a 4-fold signal increase in the detection of E. coli within milk relative to unmodified sensing surfaces. The biosensor significantly outperforms currently available hands-free detection systems. Given that the lubricant used in this system is FDA approved, these LISzyme biosensors can readily be immobilized onto food packaging and within bottles, to enable real-time monitoring of pathogen contaminations without the need to open the containers.

Don’t Let’s Start

Just Say No

We’ll all been rejected at one time or other for some thing or other, whether it was applying for a job, submitting a novel to an agent or publisher, or perhaps even submitting a poorly formatted print job that was rejected by the DFE. Rejection can take its psychological toll, but the emotional trauma can be mitigated somewhat by submitting material to the newly formed Journal of Universal Rejection. The most exclusive of periodicals, it accepts nothing.

The founding principle of the Journal of Universal Rejection (JofUR) is rejection. Universal rejection. That is to say, all submissions, regardless of quality, will be rejected.

And there are many reasons why you would want to submit whatever you’d like:

  • You can send your manuscript here without suffering waves of anxiety regarding the eventual fate of your submission. You know with 100% certainty that it will not be accepted for publication.
  • There are no page-fees.
  • You may claim to have submitted to the most prestigious journal (judged by acceptance rate).
  • The JofUR is one-of-a-kind. Merely submitting work to it may be considered a badge of honor.
  • You retain complete rights to your work, and are free to resubmit to other journals even before our review process is complete.
  • Decisions are often (though not always) rendered within hours of submission.

So nevermore will you fret that your work is not up to snuff. It may very well be! They just never accept anything. We feel better already.


Battery of Tests

Was it a good week for graphene news? It’s always a good week for graphene news! As we cited in this space a couple of weeks ago, Graphene is finding one of its many uses in batteries and battery chargers. Now, graphene-based batteries are headed for the electric vehicle (EV) market as NanoMalaysia (NMB), working with UMORIE Graphene Technologies (UGT), has recently produced a working prototype of Malaysia’s first graphene-based pouch cell battery to be used in EVs. Says Graphene-Info:

This full-cell lithium-ion battery enhanced with graphene will reportedly be a more efficient storage platform for clean and renewable energy source that will aim to revolutionize the EV industry. The battery's intellectual property (IP) is jointly developed by NMB, UGT and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

…At ~200Wh/kg, it has a much higher energy density than commercially available batteries. Consequently, it addresses the issue of heavy conventional EV batteries impeding driving range.

As the graphene battery has a higher power output, its size can be decreased and result in EVs being driven further.

…NMB has identified two viable adjacent projects that can be enhanced with the graphene-enhanced battery, an electric scooter and a hydrogen-paired electric racecar (HyPER) after establishing a cohesive technological ecosystem with small to medium enterprise (SME) partners.

UGT says that the batteries can be scaled down for use in electronic devices such as mobile phones and laptops. They are about to begin graphene battery pilot production.

Snow Falling on Cybers


Eager to get a vaccination passport but don’t actually want to get vaccinated? Well, don’t do what one Italian man did. Says Vice:

A man in northern Italy brought a silicone arm to his COVID-19 vaccination in an attempt to obtain a green pass without actually getting the vaccine.

A green pass is Italy’s digital COVID-19 certificate which allows the holder, who has been vaccinated, has recently tested negative for the virus or has recently recovered, to enter busy indoor spaces as well as workplaces. 

The 50-year-old, who arrived at the clinic in Biella, Piemonte, was questioned after a healthcare worker became immediately suspicious about the colour and feel of his arm. 

He was asked to show his entire arm – and then promptly reported to the carabinieri, the Italian police, for fraud.

They add:

The Local Health Authority of Biella also reported that “similar events occur now because those who are coming to get their first does now essentially belong to three categories: those who have delayed it for health reasons and have a medical certificate, the doubters who have been convinced, and the rest who are opposed to it but need a Green Pass and then invent these things.” 

Side Effects

Hoist By Their Own Petard

We all know the phrase “hoist with his own petard,” immortalized in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The phrase essentially means “a bomb-maker is lifted (‘hoist’) off the ground with his own bomb (a ‘petard’ is a small explosive device).” We mention this because we came across a story at Gizmodo this week, “9 Inventors Who Were Killed by Their Own Inventions.” There was Franz Reichelt—“The Flying Tailor”—who invented a wearable parachute suit. In a well-publicized press event, he demonstrated it in February, 1912, by jumping off the Eiffel Tower. It did not go well.

Then there was Thomas Midgley Jr., a Pennsylvania-based mechanical engineer best known as the one who developed the “lead” used in leaded gasoline, earning him a reputation as “the most harmful inventor in history” (we’re not sure of that, although he’s up there). Disturbingly, he was done in not by lead poisoning or anything like that, but rather by accidentally strangling himself on a harness he had invented to help him get out of bed after he contracted polio.  

To be honest, the only reason we clicked on this rather morbid article was to see if it included a famous yet unfortunate example from our own industry—and it did. William Bullock was a Pittsburgh-based inventor who in 1863 had invented the web rotary printing press. Based on the rotary press, invented earlier by Richard March Hoe, Bullock’s improvements included automatic web feeding, perfecting, and inline folding and cutting capabilities. It could thus print at very high speeds and revolutionized the newspaper industry. Unfortunately, safety was not one of its features, as Bullock discovered when he got his leg caught in it while he was installing it at a newspaper plant in Pittsburgh. The leg was crushed, turned gangrenous, and he died nine days later while the leg was being amputated.

Signs of the Times: No Ice Cream

A Season in Hellmo

Two phenomena that emerged in the 1990s were the Unabomber and the Tickle Me Elmo doll, both freakish and upsetting in their own unique ways. However, they actually have something in common, which we learned this week via Boing Boing: the inventor of Tickle Me Elmo, Mark Johnson-Williams, spent years as a suspect in the FBI’s Unabomber investigation. Even though Johnson-Williams had no connection to Ted Kaczynski, who was eventually identified as the Unabomber, there were some eerie coincidences that attracted the FBI’s attention, such as a hat with the letters “F.C.” on it, which Johnson-Williams was wearing when the Feds came calling in 1995. What piqued their interest?

After mailing his 16th bomb in April 1995, Kaczynski mailed a letter to the New York Times and the Washington Post, where he referred to himself as "FC" and laid out his manifesto. While it wasn't part of the letter, the FBI was able to detect an impression of a note that said "Call Nathan R Wed 7 pm," which sent them on an effort to contact thousands of Nathans throughout the country.

But wait, there’s more.

"I owned blueprints to the type of plane Kaczynski tried to blow up [a Boeing 727, in 1979]. I had them because I'd worked on a talking warning system for McDonnell Douglas that Boeing planes were equipped with at the time.

I also travel a lot — back then, I was spending three-quarters of my life in China — and I ended up being at two different California airports on a day where the Unabomber had threatened those two airports.

They also asked me, "Have you ever been to Provo, Utah?" Strangely, I had. I'd worked on a product called Casey the Cassette Player — it was a robot toy — and I'd gone to a commercial shoot there in the mid-1980s at Osmond Studios. The Unabomber had also mailed a bomb from there."

All’s well that ends well—Kaczynski was arrested in 1996 and, after pleading guilty, sentenced to life imprisonment in 1998. Still, there is that Tickle Me Elmo doll that someone has to answer for…

All Maps Amazing and Terrible, Part the Infinity

Bridging the Gap

Sometimes, something is invented or constructed, and the public needs to be convinced of its safety. (No, we’re not going where you think.) We go back to the 1880s and the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, connecting lower Manhattan to Brooklyn. It’s History’s Ryan Socash looks at the construction and opening of the iconic bridge. Shortly after the bridge was opened, in 1883, on Memorial Day (then called Decoration Day), so many pedestrians crowded onto the bridge that there was nearly as stampede. As a result, thanks to word-of-mouth (this was before Facebook and Twitter), people uptown began to question the bridge’s safety. So, how to demonstrate that bridge could support a lot of weight? Exactly: get P.T. Barnum involved. Via Laughing Squid:

The rumors  of the Brooklyn Bridge’s supposed instability were categorically false. They ran rampant over the following year and the fact that the Brooklyn Bridge was the longest in the world and the first of its kind to use steel cables didn’t help…it wasn’t until 1884 when the famed American showman PT Barnum…led an incredible parade of 21 elephants across the bridge to prove its strength, reassuring the public and bringing a spotlight to his circus.

It seems to have worked.

Once Upon a Font

A Tough Nut to Crack

Here is something that may or may not become a holiday staple, but if you have any snack items—candy canes, hard candies, or indeed nuts—that require extra power to crack open or break down, why not try “Jaws,” Shane Wighton’s custom-made nutcracker obliterator powered by an explosive piston. Says Gizmodo:

Not only is the upgraded nutcracker capable of crushing nuts—or, more specifically, turning nuts and their shells into a fine powder—it’s also capable of destroying the metal nuts you’d thread onto a screw, and just about anything that’s small enough to fit into the nutcracker’s mouth. That includes fingers, which is why if you’re hoping to truly have a happy holiday this year, you will absolutely not try to build something like this yourself.

We can’t wait to see how they upgraded the ballet.

Cozying Up

Hold the Mayo—Please!


Now, we will grant that Terry’s Chocolate Oranges are improbably good, but that kind of mashup should really stay limited to two ingredients—and if you’re going to add a third, it should not be mayonnaise. But does anyone listen to us? No! So, via Bustle, there is a limited edition (mercifully) Christmas condiment from Heinz called “Terry’s Chocolate Orange Mayonnaise” which, they say, “will change the way we all think about condiments forevermore.” No doubt. Supposedly, it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Then again, good news!, it turns out you can’t actually buy it.

the product actually isn’t going on sale and is only available to ‘win’ if you enter a prize draw to secure one of the limited edition line. You can enter via Heinz’s website. You’ve got until Dec. 13 to try your luck.

It’s a definition of “luck” with which we are unfamiliar..

We Had a Hunch

This Week in Printing, Publishing, and Media History

December 6

1877: The first edition of The Washington Post is published.

1953: Vladimir Nabokov completes his controversial novel Lolita.

1955: American actor, comedian, and screenwriter Steven Wright born.

December 7

43 BC: Roman philosopher, lawyer, and politician Cicero dies (b. 106 BC).

1902: German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast dies (b. 1840).

1923: American actor and comedian Ted Knight born.

1930: W1XAV in Boston, Massachusetts telecasts video from the CBS radio orchestra program, The Fox Trappers. The telecast also includes the first television commercial in the United States, an advertisement for I.J. Fox Furriers, who sponsored the radio show.

December 8

65 BC: Roman soldier and poet Horace born.

1861: American businessman, and founder of General Motors and Chevrolet, William C. Durant born.

1894: American humorist and cartoonist James Thurber born.

1951: American essayist, travel and science writer Bill Bryson born.

1962: Workers at four New York City newspapers (this later increases to nine) go on strike for 114 days.

1980: John Lennon is murdered by Mark David Chapman in front of The Dakota in New York City.  

2013: Metallica performs a show in Antarctica, making them the first band to perform on all seven continents. (Master of Penguins?)

2019: First confirmed case of COVID-19 in China.

December 9

1608: English poet and philosopher John Milton born. (“There goes paradise,” said his mother.)

1793: New York City’s first daily newspaper, the American Minerva, is established by Noah Webster.

1897: Activist Marguerite Durand founds the feminist daily newspaper La Fronde in Paris.

1906: American admiral, computer scientist, and designer of COBOL Grace Hopper born.  

1960: The first episode of Coronation Street, the world’s longest-running television soap opera, is broadcast in the United Kingdom.

1965: A Charlie Brown Christmas, first in a series of Peanuts television specials, debuts on CBS.

1968: Douglas Engelbart gives what became known as “The Mother of All Demos,” publicly debuting the computer mouse, hypertext, and the bit-mapped graphical user interface using the oN-Line System (NLS) at the Association for Computing Machinery/Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (ACM/IEEE)—Computer Society's Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco.

1979: The eradication of the smallpox virus is certified, making smallpox the first of only two diseases that have been driven to extinction (rinderpest in 2011 being the other).

December 10

1520: Martin Luther burns his copy of the papal bull Exsurge Domine outside Wittenberg's Elster Gate.

1768: The first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica is published.

1815: English mathematician and computer scientist Ada Lovelace born. Working on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, she s often considered the first computer programmer. (She was also the only legitimate daughter of Lord Byron.)

1830: American poet and author Emily Dickinson born.

1851: American librarian and educator, creator of the Dewey Decimal Classification Melvil Dewey born.

1884: Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is published.

1909: Selma Lagerlöf becomes the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

1936: Italian dramatist, novelist, and poet Nobel Prize laureate Luigi Pirandello dies (b. 1867).

1946: American newspaperman and short story writer Damon Runyon dies (b. 1884).

December 11

1918: Russian novelist, historian, short story writer, and Nobel Prize laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn born.

1972: Apollo 17 becomes the sixth and final Apollo mission to land on the Moon.

December 12

1821: French novelist Gustave Flaubert born.

1901: Guglielmo Marconi receives the first transatlantic radio signal (the letter "S" [***] in Morse Code), at Signal Hill in St John’s, Newfoundland.

1999: American novelist, short story writer, and playwright Joseph Heller dies (b. 1923).

2020: English author John le Carré dies (b. 1931).