Everyone complains about taxes, prices, and how expensive it is to live any more. I’m not going to go into taxes – that way lies madness. But I can tell you that living has never been cheaper. We live in a country awash in stuff – food, clothing, appliances, machines, cheap crap from China … compared to a world where everything is made by hand – we’re talking barely 200 years ago – everything is cheap and plentiful, and we are appallingly ungrateful.
Let’s talk clothing. When the Industrial Revolution began, it started with factories making cloth. Why? Because clothing used to be frighteningly expensive. Back in my teaching days I gave a standard lecture, which is about to follow, on the $3,500 shirt, or why peasants owned so little clothing.
7 hours for sewing, 72 for weaving, 500 for spinning, or 579 hours total to make one shirt.
Source: SleuthSayers: The $3500 Shirt – A History Lesson in Economics by Eve Fisher
Directly after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, we cautioned the public and politicians to be “wary of any attempt to rush through new surveillance and law enforcement powers.” With depressing predictability, we’ve already seen that happen across the continent. Nowhere, however, has the attempt to bypass democratic debate been more blatant than in the United Kingdom, where a handful of unelected peers has taken the language of an old and discredited Internet surveillance proposal, and attempted to slam it, at outrageously short notice, into the wording of a near-complete counter-terrorism bill.
Source: Britons: You Have 72 Hours to Stop The Snooper’s Charter | Electronic Frontier Foundation
In major museums around the world, great works of art are hidden away from public view. What are they – and why can’t we see them?
the Tate shows about 20% of its permanent collection. The Louvre shows 8%, the Guggenheim a lowly 3% and the Berlinische Galerie – a Berlin museum whose mandate is to show, preserve and collect art made in the city – 2% of its holdings.
“We don’t have the space to show more,” says Berlinische Galerie director Thomas Köhler, explaining that the museum has 1,200 sq m in which to display works acquired over decades through purchases and donations.
A spatial deficit is only one reason why not. Another is fashion: some holdings no longer fit their institutions’ curatorial missions.
After a maximum of three months, Young Hare needs five years in dark storage with a humidity level of less than 50% for the paper to adequately rest.
Source: BBC – Culture – Why museums hide masterpieces away
We tend to think that technological progress is making us more resilient, but it might be making us more vulnerable
with each new generation of technological innovation, we edge closer and closer towards an age of sublimity. What’s less obvious in all this are the hidden, often surprising risks. … Just as technology pacifies once-dangerous events, sometimes the needle swings in the other direction. Call it a reverse sublime, a return of the repressed: a thing that was once safe becomes dangerous.
Source: Technological progress makes us more vulnerable to catastrophe | Aeon Essays
An exploration of life aboard the International Space Station, and the surprising reasons the mission is still worthwhile
It’s a little strange when you think about it: Just about every American ninth-grader has never lived a moment without astronauts soaring overhead, living in space. But chances are, most ninth-graders don’t know the name of a single active astronaut—many don’t even know that Americans are up there. We’ve got a permanent space colony, inaugurated a year before the setting of the iconic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a stunning achievement, and it’s completely ignored.
Source: 5,200 Days in Space – The Atlantic
It is painfully slow progress in real time, but progress is progress nonetheless and a hundred years from now I’d bet few people will know our space progress ever felt slower.