Orange You Glad?

We’ve seen it a million times: a company with comfortably familiar branding does a major redesign and consumers hate it so much they stop using the product. Tropicana had this very problem—and it cost them $30 million.

Even if we don’t buy it, we’re probably familiar with Tropicana’s orange juice carton featuring an orange with a straw sticking out of it. Kinda cute, really iconic. But in 2008, they decided to peel the orange off the container. Via Boing Boing:

Tropicana’s brand managers thought they knew better. It’s time to modernize orange juice, they said. Let’s spend $35 million to rebrand our juice! First, we’ll get rid of a logo that's instantly recognizable to a couple hundred million people and replace it with a generic-looking glass of orange juice. Next, we’ll swap the stylish Tropicana typeface with a crisp contemporary font. As a finishing touch, we’ll turn the brand name sideways to make it hard to read.

They paid $35 million for that? Even worse, after the new carton came out, customers hated it and Tropicana lost another $30 million in sales. Adds product strategist Catalina Almeida:

Tropicana’s redesign consisted of replacing the popular orange with a straw, with a generic glass of orange juice replaced. Tropicana’s orange juice became generic, and customers stopped relating to it.

The rebranding failed to strengthen customers’ deep emotional bond with the original packaging; this clearly identifies the importance of a brand’s visual identity. Even if the final product remains the same, if the brand’s look doesn’t consider appropriate customer research and feedback, it can impact the brand significantly, in a negative way.

Kaleido Scope

Every now and then, we like to check in and see what is going on with E Ink and its epaper. Via Gizmodo, the company’s new high-res color epaper. Called Kaleido, the early iterations had their pluses and minuses: color epaper (plus) but severely limited in the number of colors it could display (minus).

E Ink has quickly iterated its Kaleido technology over the past couple of years, releasing updated versions that improve color saturation and performance. These include Kaleido 3, announced just a few weeks ago, which has improved responsiveness and refresh rates, allowing the screens to play videos and animations without ugly ghosting, plus a better front light for improved color reproduction when reading in the dark.. That makes Kaleido 3 an exciting option for tablets and other media consumption devices, but it’s still limited in both resolution and just 4,096 colors.

However, E Ink has now introduced its E Ink Gallery 3 which solves some of the limitations of Kaleido: 50,000 colors are displayable (vs. ~4,000 that Kaleido can display) and much higher resolution. But wait, there’s more:

E Ink’s electronic paper displays are flexible and durable as well, which means we could also eventually see foldable e-readers or e-notes that are just as easy to travel. Of course, there would feature screens nearly twice thesize, to accommodate the larger layouts of magazines and newspapers—two formats that don’t reflow well and are hard to read on devices like the Amazon Kindle. 

We remember covering E Ink in the mid-1990s when their original ereaders hit the market and were happy to see that they are still actively pushing their technology forward.

Tools of the Trade

It’s fair to say that there is a fair amount of packaging that is really difficult to open. Sometimes, this is a feature, not a bug, as it is made hard to get into to deter theft or even promote safety and prevent contamination of a food or pharmaceutical product. Some are just bewilderingly frustrating to get into, like any small computer peripheral which often cannot be extracted from its hard plastic packaging without ripping one’s flesh open. Then there is the subject of packaging that often requires a third-party tool to get into—we recall those little disc-knives that you would use to get through the plastic wrapper on a CD or DVD. (Why CDs and DVDs still have this unopenable plastic wrapping is a mystery since you can barely even give these things away anymore let alone have to worry about them being stolen.)

We were reminded of these frustrations when we learned, via Core77, about a tool called the Sanitone, which is used to help arthritic people peel off the plastic seals on yogurt, cream cheese, or other containers.


The round toothed bit on the other end is designed to open screw caps, and it also features a magnet so it can stick to the fridge. Undoubtedly useful for those with dexterity issues but, as Core77’s Rain Noe adds, “I say this as a former package designer—I wish that every package designer, or their boss that forces certain decisions, would be made to spend a weekend opening 1,000 of their creations.”

Through the Roof

Are you a big fan of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling? Wish you had a version of it? At 1:1 scale? If so, good news! Callaway Arts and Entertainment and Italy’s Scripta Maneant have published a three-volume book collection that features a reproduction of Michelangelo’s entire work—at the same size as the original. OK, it’s divided across 800+ pages and weighs 75 pounds. Theoretically, if you had the right ceiling dimensions, you could cut the pages out and tile them. Voilà! Instant Renaissance masterpiece.

A few caveats: the print run was limited to 1,999 copies by the Vatican, which also insisted that there will be no reprints. Printed in English and Italian, only a few English language copies remain. Hm…how much does it go for? $22,000. OK, then.

Graphene in the Driver’s Seat

Was it a good week for graphene news? It’s always a good week for graphene news! Directa Plus has announced that it will be working with a leading worldwide supplier of automotive interiors to develop new products using its graphene plus technology. Says Graphene-Info:

The products will be based on the antimicrobial properties (antibacterial and antiviral), thermal comfort and electrical conductivity properties of Directa Plus’ G+ enhanced fabrics, according to the company's statements.

…“We have developed, with trusted like-minded partners, innovative new products exploiting the properties of our G+ graphene nanoplatelets in fabrics and materials,” said chief executive Giulio Cesareo. “These range from workwear, sportswear and shoe applications to industrial filtration applications. We are delighted to announce this partnership with a respected global innovator with deep knowledge and experience to address automotive interior markets.”

The Time of Our Lives

Here’s a paragraph from the New York Times that made us think for a second—or so we thought:

Get Ready For the New, Improved Second

Scientists are preparing to redefine the fundamental unit of time. It won’t get any longer or shorter, but it will be more precise — and a whole lot more powerful.


Well, we all know that the common units of length, mass, temperature, electrical current, intensity of light, the amount of a substance, and, yes, time (these are the seven basic units that define all measurement) are based on standards and strict definitions, and these are maintained by the International Bureau of Weights and Measure. How these units are defined has long been tweaked, and as recently as 2018, new definitions of the kilogram, ampere, kelvin degree, and mole have been approved. Interestingly, most of these units (except the mole) are themselves based on another basic unit: time. For example, one meter is defined as the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458th of a second. Likewise, the kilogram is based on the second, and we’ll spare you that explanation otherwise we’ll be here all day.

That means that conceptually, if clumsily, you could express other units, such as weight or length, in seconds.

“You go to the grocery and say, ‘I would like not one kilogram of potatoes, but an amount of seconds of potatoes,’” Dr. Dimarcq said.

And it would take less than 1/299,792,458th of a second for someone to start throwing those potatoes at you. At any rate, scientists are in the process of changing the definition of the second. Why? Because a new generation of clocks can measure it more precisely. Ironically, changing the definition of the second is not a fast process. Metrologists (scientists who develop ways of measuring things) are planning to have their final list of criteria that must be met in order for the new definition to be approved by June, and most will likely be fulfilled by 2026 and formal approval by 2030. So it’s not exactly 1/60th of a New York minute.

You can click through to read the history of the definition of a second, and how the current definition is based on a cesium clock (the natural resonance frequency of cesium 133 as the official length of the second), but now they have “optical atomic clocks” that measure atoms that have a much faster natural resonance frequency than cesium, and those frequencies are in the visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum. They have a few clocks to choose from, each based on a different atom: ytterbium, strontium, mercury, aluminum, and more. They’re still debating, and boy howdy we can imagine how the seconds drag during those debates.

Be that as it may, it won’t impact in anyway how we measure a second—and there still just won’t be enough of them in a day.

Ripping Yarn

Via Laughing Squid, stop-motion animator Kevin Parry duplicated the Netflix animated intro using $30 USD worth of yarn. And well, why not? “‘For no reason at all, I took on the challenge of recreating the Netflix “ta-dum” intro with YARN! Why? Because I love stop-motion and challenging myself.’”

Cat Naps

As anyone who has ever owned a cat can tell you, they sleep. So if any entity is likely to be an expert on sleep, it’s gonna be a cat. And a cat will sleep just about everywhere. But is it anywhere? A research group at Japan’s Hosei University asked the question: would humans be better off if they followed the sleep habits of cats? Via Core77:

To conduct the study, student Yuri Nakahashi--who owns five cats—randomly picked one to sleep next to for 24 nights, putting a sleeping bag down wherever one of the cats had set up to doze. A FitBit recorded Nakahashi’s sleep patterns (sleep times, awakening times and frequency, and light vs. deep sleep times).

Although, to be honest, what college student hasn’t slept like this on at least a few occasions?

So what did the data show? “After 24 nights of testing, the FitBit results showed virtually identical results to those from sleeping in a bed.” However:

“…The qualitative results showed several interesting psychological effects. For example, the researcher’s journal often described feelings of excitement and adventure in not knowing where she would be sleeping that night. Notably, there were also many new discoveries as the researcher was given the opportunity to reexamine her own dwelling from a completely different perspective.”

I wonder if she ever had to wedge herself into a windowsill?

Going Ape

Here is a paragraph that in a sensible world should never exist. From The Verge:

A hacker has stolen NFTs worth millions of dollars after compromising the official Instagram account for Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) and using it to post a phishing link that transferred tokens out of users’ crypto wallets.

There are passages from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake that are easier to parse than this.

Independently, each of the stolen Apes is worth well into six figures based on the most recent sale price. The lowest priced Ape, #7203, last sold four months ago for 47.9 ETH — equivalent to $138,000 at current exchange price. Ape #6778 was last sold for 88.88 ETH ($256,200), while Ape #6178 sold for 90 ETH or $259,400. And Bored Ape #6623 was the most valuable of all, sold three months ago for 123 ETH ($354,500) — meaning that collectively the total value of the four stolen Apes is just over $1 million.

We can’t even come up with a punchline for this.

Bear With It

OK! Gummy bears! That we understand! Indeed, 2022 year marks the 100th anniversary of the gummy bear, and the squishy candy has a bit of an involved history, which the New York Times looks back on.

In 1922, candy maker Hans Riegel of the then-new company Haribo altered a recipe for fruit-flavored pastilles and launched the first “gummy bear”—or Gummibär, German for “rubber bear.” Why a bear? Dancing bears—real ones—were a thing at the time, and the candy was intended as a tie-in. They were later rebranded as Goldbears. It took a while—the 1980s—but the gummy bear eventually caught on in the US

In 1981, the Herman Goelitz Candy Company (later renamed Jelly Belly) introduced the first American-made gummy bear. A year later, Haribo set up its first distribution center in the United States. The Indiana-based company Albanese unleashed its famously soft bears in 1983 and soon, gummies abandoned the bear altogether — cue Trolli’s writhing worms and the Sour Patch Kids from Mondelez.

Today, you can find just about anything modeled in gummy.

By the way, the history of the gummy bear has not been without controversy.  

Like many German companies, Haribo has come under scrutiny for its operations during World War II. In 2000, Time magazine reported that the candy maker had been “named in the German parliament as having used forced labor,” after it declined to join other German companies in donating money to support surviving enslaved or forced laborers. In 2017, the company said it was investigating assertions that slave labor was being used at plantations in Brazil that supplied the carnauba wax it used to keep gummies from sticking together.

Ultimately, though:

In response, Haribo said last week that it had looked into all the allegations and found no evidence that it or its wax suppliers had ever used forced labor. The company said it had helped start an initiative to improve working conditions in production of carnauba wax, and now uses only beeswax.

A Soap Opera

As we start traveling again and getting back into once-familiar routines, old question and concerns will start to occur to us again. Such as, what do hotels do with the millions of partially used bars of soap that guests leave behind, and is it sustainable? As it turns out, they usually just chuck it, but one organization sought to reclaim it, process it, and distribute it to parts of the world where personal hygiene products are hard to come by, and something as simple as hand-washing can help spread disease. From the Hustle:

There are  ~5m hotel roomsin the US alone.

Pre-pandemic, the average occupancy rate was ~66%.

That means that, in normal times, hotels go through ~3m bars of soap every day.

Every year, it has been estimated that the hospitality industry generates ~440B pounds of solid waste — much of it soap and bottled amenities. That’s the equivalent weight of 2m blue whales.

In 2008, technology executive and frequent traveler Shawn Seipler began looking into what hotels did with discarded soap. Turns out, it just went into a landfill. He then had an epiphany and decided he had to do something about it. Collecting shards and shards of soap from hotels eager to get rid of it, he and some friends went to work in an Orlando garage.

The group sat on upside-down pickle buckets and scraped the outside of the soap bars off by hand with potato peelers, pulverized them in a meat grinder, melted them down in Kenmore slow cookers, poured the mixture into soap molds, dried it overnight, and cut it up into new bars.

With this low-tech process, he could manufacture about 500 new bars of soap a day. But what to do with it?

He laid out a bunch of stats and came to a realization:

Hotels were wastingmillions of bars of soap.

At the time,~9k children under the age of 5 were dying from hygiene-related illnesses every day globally.

Studies showed that regular hand-washing couldcut those deaths in half.

Seipler launched Clean the World and set out on a mission of getting those millions of bars of wasted soap to children in need.

He set up a process whereby hotels could easily and inexpensively donate their used soap and built a scaled up manufacturing process.

Once the soap is repurposed and ready for its second life, Clean the World works with humanitarian partners like UNICEF, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, World Vision, and Children International to determine where it’s most needed around the world.

With these partners, they’re able to work with local clinics and schools, where they teach kids hygiene protocols and monitor effectiveness.

The organization played a big role in providing soap to Syrian and Somalian refugees, and Haitian residents in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.

As you would expect, the pandemic hit Clean the World in a big way, as no one was going to hotels and using travel soap.

Facing a diminished supply, Clean the World launched a new arm that provides at-home kits consumers can fill up with unused soap and other toiletries at home.

To date, the organization has distributed 5m+ of these kits to US homeless shelters and other countries facing sanitation supply chain shortages.

Lest anyone think this is all trivial, Clean the World has had a substantial impact: “Clean the World has helped lead to a 60%+ reduction in the number of children who die from diarrheal diseases each year.”

“I know it sounds funny,” he said, “but that little bar of soap on the counter in your hotel room — that thing can literally save a life.”

That’s the Way the Cookie…Well, Doesn’t Crumble

Two related imponderables: why do we twist Oreos apart and, after doing so, why does the frosting only stick to one of the wafers? This puzzled some engineers at MIT, who invented a special 3D-printable Oreometer to study the phenomenon, which securely holds an Oreo cookie and uses pennies and rubber bands to control the twisting force. (Instructions can be found here.) What it comes down to is that the act of twisting part an Oreo mimicks a standard test in “rheology”— the study of how a non-Newtonian material flows when twisted, pressed, or otherwise stressed. From MIT News:

In pursuit of an answer, the team subjected cookies to standard rheology tests in the lab and found that no matter the flavor or amount of stuffing, the cream at the center of an Oreo almost always sticks to one wafer when twisted open. Only for older boxes of cookies does the cream sometimes separate more evenly between both wafers.

The researchers also measured the torque required to twist open an Oreo, and found it to be similar to the torque required to turn a doorknob and about 1/10th what’s needed to twist open a bottlecap. The cream’s failure stress — i.e. the force per area required to get the cream to flow, or deform — is twice that of cream cheese and peanut butter, and about the same magnitude as mozzarella cheese. Judging from the cream’s response to stress, the team classifies its texture as “mushy,” rather than brittle, tough, or rubbery.

So what about the sticks-to-only-one-wafer question?

“Videos of the manufacturing process show that they put the first wafer down, then dispense a ball of cream onto that wafer before putting the second wafer on top,” says Crystal Owens, an MIT mechanical engineering PhD candidate who studies the properties of complex fluids. “Apparently that little time delay may make the cream stick better to the first wafer.”

The study, “On Oreology, the fracture and flow of ‘milk’s favorite cookie,’” appears in Kitchen Flows, a special issue of the journal Physics of Fluids.

Next up: quantifying the number of licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

This Week in Printing, Publishing, and Media History

April 25

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.

April 26

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.

2019: Marvel Studios’ blockbuster film, Avengers: Endgame, is released, becoming the highest grossing film of all time, surpassing the previous box office record of Avatar.

April 27

1667: Blind and impoverished, John Milton sells the copyright of Paradise Lost for £10. (He never regained it.)

1791: American painter and inventor Samuel Morse born.

1882: American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson dies (b. 1803).

1896: American chemist and inventor of nylon Wallace Carothers born.

1981: Xerox PARC introduces the computer mouse.

April 28

1926: American novelist Harper Lee born.

1948: Igor Stravinsky conducted the premiere of his American ballet Orpheus at 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.

April 29

1863: American publisher and politician William Randolph Hearst born.

1953: The first U.S. experimental 3D television broadcast showed an episode of Space Patrol on Los Angeles ABC affiliate KECA-TV.

1968: The musical Hair opens at the Biltmore Theatre on Broadway.

1980: English-American director and producer Alfred Hitchcock dies (b. 1899).

1986: A fire at the Central library of the City of Los Angeles Public Library damages or destroys 400,000 books and other items.

1996: The off-Broadway musical Rent opens on Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre. No day but today.

April 30

1897: J. J. Thomson of the Cavendish Laboratory announces his discovery of the electron as a subatomic particle, over 1,800 times smaller than a proton, at a lecture at the Royal Institution in London.

1927: Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford become the first celebrities to leave their footprints in concrete at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

1938: The animated cartoon short Porky’s Hare Hunt debuts in movie theaters, introducing Happy Rabbit, an early version of Bugs Bunny.

1939: NBC inaugurates its regularly scheduled television service in New York City, broadcasting President Franklin D. Roosevelt's N.Y. World's Fair opening day ceremonial address.

1993: CERN announces World Wide Web protocols will be free.

May 1

1753: Publication of Species Plantarum by Linnaeus, and the formal start date of plant taxonomy adopted by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature.

1786: In Vienna, Austria, Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro is performed for the first time.

1840: The Penny Black, the first official adhesive postage stamp, is issued in the United Kingdom.

1971: Frank Romano’s national holiday—Amtrak (the National Railroad Passenger Corporation) takes over operation of U.S. passenger rail service.

1999: SpongeBob SquarePants premieres on Nickelodeon after the 1999 Kids’ Choice Awards.

2002: Dr. Joe Webb’s national holiday— releases version 1.0, the first stable version of the software.