January 23, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
Timothy J. Jorgensen delved into the weird history of energy drinks:
- Today’s energy drinks provide energy through chemical stimulants like caffeine.
- In the past though they provided actual energy. RadiThor was radium (a radioactive element which releases radiation) dissolved in water sold in the 1920s.
- This energy is, despite what The Hulk would have you believe, entirely useless at providing an energy boost to human beings.
- The dangers of radium were well known at the time. On the other hand a study had shown that Radithor increased “the sexual passion of water newts”. It was a successful product.
- Fortunately, radium is expensive, limiting the number of people who could afford it, and thus the number of people who suffered radiation sickness.
- Its chief celebrity endorser developed a psychological addiction to the drink, and died from radiation related complications.
- His radioactive skeleton is buried in a lead-lined coffin.
Read more on Live Science.
January 22, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
The disastrous “restoration” of the Ecce Homo, shown above, went viral in 2012. Kaushik wrote about the surprisingly positive aftermath:
- The 1930 painting was thought to be of “little artistic importance” which is probably why an 83-year-old amateur was allowed to fix it when it started flaking.
- The global reaction to the effort sent the artist into depression.
- Since then however the town that hosts it has become a tourist hotspot. Travelers from around the world stop to look at, and take photos with, the mess of a portrait.
- A comic opera about the painting’s story is in the works.
- Sales of “ironic” merchandise such as mugs, wines, and posters depicting the botched repair job, have saved a town that was dealing with an economic crisis before the notoriety.
- Having risen from the depths of depression, the artist that made the fateful decision to restore the painting is owed 49% of the money from souvenir sales.
Read more on Amusing Planet.
January 20, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
Today Donald Trump is sworn in as 45th President of the United States. In separate articles John Wagner, Karen Tumulty, and, Leada Gore looked at the economics of the event:
- Trump’s original plan was to make the swearing-in ceremony one of the more flashier ones in recent memory, with the real estate magnate beginning the parade in Manhattan and then flying to Washington D.C.
- Things have since been scaled back substantially. There will be a parade limited to D.C. and it should last 90 minutes – in the past they’ve lasted more than four hours.
- The costs of the swearing in ceremony are paid for by the US government, and should run to about $1 million.
- Post ceremony concerts, balls, and gatherings are paid for the Presidential Inauguration Committee, which raises money from companies and individuals.
- This year it has raised $100 million – almost double the $55 million that Obama’s committee raised in 2009.
- Companies are capped to donating $1 million, while individuals face no such limit.
- Any funds that remain unspent are expected to be donated to charity.
Read more on The Washington Post, and AL
January 19, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
The Japan Times wrote about a new thing for the tech obsessed to worry about:
- Cameras today are good enough to capture individual ridges on a person’s fingers.
- This can then be used to re-create their finger prints.
- In the future we may see cameras that automatically distort individual prints, to protect user privacy.
Read more on the Japan Times.
January 18, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
Merchants are using our smartphones to track our movement within stores, wrote The Economist.
- If a retailer see’s that shoppers often go from drinks to frozen foods, then they might want to push the sections closer together – or further apart, to expose customers to more products.
- If you’re in a Westfield shopping mall and you search for a rival, you can expect to see a discount offered to you on the spot.
- Once the systems become precise enough they could also be used to help guide customers to the exact spot where they’ll find their desired product.
- Apple and Google are looking to build systems that will allow for this kind of tracking. Those who use public Wi-Fi shouldn’t expect privacy anyway – Wi-Fi agreements often confer the right on the provider to track location.
Read more on The Economist.
January 15, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
Amy Hawkins wrote about experimental restaurant technology in Beijing:
- KFC has setup a system where it predicts a customer’s order based on their face and mood.
- Some of the recommendations seem uncomfortably gendered. A young male customer is expected to be recommended a fried chicken hamburger with coke. An older female will be recommended porridge.
- If you don’t like your recommendation, the machine will show you other things you might want.
- Once you identify your meal, you merely let the machine know, pay for it, and the food preparers will have it for you in a few minutes.
- Ultimately it is hoped that the machine will remember your face and your preference – and learn so that the next time it sees you it does a better job of making recommendations.
Read more on The Guardian.
January 13, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
The Force Awakens revealed that its main villain was Leia and Han’s son, Vader’s grandson, and Luke’s nephew. The latest Robin is Bruce Wayne’s long-lost son. Batman chose not to kill Superman because their mother shared the same name. Modern media is all about the family and Nicholas Barber wondered why:
- Adding family drama to something like Star Wars makes it more accessible. We know what it feels like to resent our father. Less so what it feels like to blow up a planet destroying superweapon.
- Culture has become more narcissistic. We think the world revolves around us – and expect the same of the protagonists in our stories.
- Globalization means that it’s difficult to find compelling narratives that don’t offend someone. It’s easy to just make the villain a member of the family.
- And then there’s just lazy screenwriting. It’s easy to raise the stakes and add a touch of drama by throwing in some shared genes into the mix.
Read more on 1843.
January 12, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
Last week was CES, a technology event where businesses introduce us to their vision of the future. Lauren Goode wrote about a pair of high heels:
- Zhor Tech has a pair of heels with adjustable heights. Through a smartphone, the height of the heel can be lowered from about 7.9 centimeters (3.1 inches) to 4.3 centimeters (1.7 inches).
- The soles of the shoe are heated, with temperature controllable via smartphone.
- They also serve as fitness tracking devices, monitoring your activity.
- The footware is advertised as lasting four days on a single charge.
- You can expect to shell out $300 for a pair.
Read more including Goode’s impression of the aesthetics of the shoe on The Verge.
January 10, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
James Tarmy wrote about the Oscars of currency:
- Since 2005 the International Bank Note Society has awarded a “Bank Note of the Year” to a single bill in general circulation.
- The key criteria evaluated are beauty and security.
- The Comoros, a small island nation in the Mozambique Channel, once won the award after featuring a poem on its banknote.
- Kazakhstan managed a hat trick of wins between 2011 and 2013.
- Widespread use is not enough for victory – which perhaps explains why the American greenback has never won.
- The award is prestigious enough that countries will reach out to the organization in advance of the award, hoping to boost the chances of their country’s notes.
- In recent times currency with vibrant colours and depictions of nature rather than people, have had the edge.
Read more about the award, and see past winners on Bloomberg.
January 9, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
Park West is a firm that holds art auctions on cruises, earning as much as $400 million a year. Vernon Silver somehow convinced his editors to pay for a ticket on a ship so he could observe the auction:
- Wi-fi onboard ships can be unreliable making it difficult to validate the price quotes that auctioneers offer on a boat.
- The organizers also make sure they supply bidders with plenty of alcohol as they hold up their cards.
- Attendants will identify high-spenders and sit with them, offering off the record “tips” about smart buys.
- Bidders don’t take the art off the boat themselves. Instead Park West will mail to them the pieces that they bid on.
- What customers may not be aware is that Park West pieces are mass-produced, and the art they see on the ship is illustrative – what they end up getting might not be a perfect replica of what they bid on.
- This leads to some shady tactics. In one bidding cycle the auctioneer asked which participants would be willing to pay $5 for a piece of work – with everybody putting their paddles up. The auctioneer progressed to $70, where eight paddles remained aloft, and then abruptly ended bidding.
- Park West had just earned $560 selling multiple replicas of the same art. Bidders later confessed that they thought only one person would win – giving them more of an opportunity to think about putting down their paddles.
- Park West, for its part, defends itself by claiming that it has a 40-day refund policy and a 40-month exchange policy.
Silver’s firsthand account of the auction is fascinating and worth a read. Find it on Bloomberg.