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  • feedwordpress 09:01:18 on 2019/01/20 Permalink
    Tags: , Cesar Hildalgo, , , , LaMarcus Adna Thompson, , , roller coaster, ,   

    “Time moves in one direction, memory in another”*… 


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    lennon

    A few years ago a student walked into the office of Cesar A. Hidalgo, director of the Collective Learning group at the MIT Media Lab. Hidalgo was listening to music and asked the student if she recognized the song. She wasn’t sure. “Is it Coldplay?” she asked. It was “Imagine” by John Lennon. Hidalgo took it in stride that his student didn’t recognize the song. As he explains in our interview below, he realized the song wasn’t from her generation. What struck Hidalgo, though, was the incident echoed a question that had long intrigued him, which was how music and movies and all the other things that once shone in popular culture faded like evening from public memory.

    Hidalgo is among the premier data miners of the world’s collective history. With his MIT colleagues, he developed Pantheon, a dataset that ranks historical figures by popularity from 4000 B.C. to 2010. Aristotle and Plato snag the top spots. Jesus is third…

    Last month Hidalgo and colleagues published a Nature paper that put his crafty data-mining talents to work on another question: How do people and products drift out of the cultural picture?…

    Hidalgo explains the two ways that people and events drop from our collective memories at “How We’ll Forget John Lennon.”  Explore Pantheon here.

    * William Gibson

    ###

    As we muse of memory, we might recall that it was on this date in 1885 that LaMarcus Adna Thompson received the first patent for a true “switchback railroad”– or , as we know it, a roller coaster.  Thompson has designed the ride in 1881, and opened it on Coney Island in 1884.  (The “hot dog” had been invented, also at Coney Island, in 1867, so was available to trouble the stomachs of the very first coaster riders.)

    Thompson’s original Switchback Railway at Coney Island

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:18 on 2018/05/21 Permalink
    Tags: , amusement park rides, , , Kingda Ka, masculinity, physiognomy, roller coaster, ,   

    “Tradition wears a snowy beard, romance is always young”*… 


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    Thomas Gowing felt the mighty yet fragile English Beard to be threatened with extinction by an invasive foreign species, the Razor. So he set out to defend the furry face mammal in every conceivable way. The resulting lecture was received so enthusiastically by a bushy-faced audience in Ipswich that it was soon turned into The Philosophy of Beards (1854) — the first book entirely devoted to this subject.

    It is Gowing’s ardent belief that the bearded are better looking, better morally and better historically than the shaven. To call him a huge fan of the suburbs of the chin would be an understatement. “It is impossible” he writes “to view a series of bearded portraits . . . without feeling that they possess dignity, gravity, freedom, vigour, and completeness.” By contrast, the clean-cut look always leaves him with “a sense of artificial conventional bareness”. Gowing’s apology for the beard makes frequent appeals to nature, some of them amusingly far-fetched: “Nature leaves nothing but what is beautiful uncovered, and the masculine chin is seldom sightly, because it was designed to be covered, while the chins of women are generally beautiful.” Sometimes his argument transforms from a shield for the beard into a swipe at the chin: “There is scarcely indeed a more naturally disgusting object than a beardless old man (compared by the Turks to a ‘plucked pigeon’)”.

    Gowing was writing at a time when physiognomy — the art of reading a person’s character in their facial features — was still popular in Europe and America. So it is no surprise to learn that “the absence of Beard is usually a sign of physical and moral weakness”…

    More tonsorial teaching at: “The Philosophy of Beards (1854).”

    Read it in full at the Internet Archive; or buy a hard copy of The Philosophy The British Library republished it in 2014, for the first time since 1854.

    * John Greenleaf Whittier

    ###

    As we hail the hirsute, we might recall that it was on this date in 2005 that Kingda Ka opened at the Six Flags Great Adventure Park in Jackson, New Jersey.  The world’s tallest roller coaster (and the world’s second fastest roller coaster), it offers riders an experience that lasts 28 seconds… during which the roller coaster cars are “launched” to a speed of 128 mph (in 3.5 seconds).  At the end of the launch track, the train climbs the main tower (or top hat) and rolls 90 degrees to the right before reaching a height of 456 feet.  The train then descends 418 feet (straight down through a 270-degree right-hand spiral.  The train climbs a second hill of 129 feet, producing a brief period of weightlessness, before descending, turning toward the station, and being smoothly brought to a stop by the magnetic brakes.

    Cool.

    Kingda Ka’s “top hat”

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:11 on 2018/01/20 Permalink
    Tags: , , L.A. Thompson, roller coaster, screenless office, slow movement, ,   

    “The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug”*… 


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    The Screenless Office is a system for working with media and networks without using a pixel-based display. It is an artistic operating system. The office presents a radically alternative form of everyday human interaction with media. It is constructed using free/libre/open hard- and software components, especially for print, databases, web-scraping and tangible interaction. Currently, it exists as a working prototype with software “bureaus” which allow a user to read and navigate news, web sites and social media entirely with the use of various printers for output and a barcode scanner for input. While our existing software allows for interesting new ways of consuming media, we are currently working to expand the system to make it capable of publishing content and thereby, enabling a provocative possibility for active participation in contemporary social life…

    More about this intriguing art project at “The Screenless Office.”

    * Pico Iyer

    ###

    As we go slow, we might recall that it was on this date in 1885 that LaMarcus Adna Thompson received the first patent for a true “switchback railroad”– or , as we know it, a roller coaster.  Thompson has designed the ride in 1881, and opened it, on Coney Island, in 1884.  (The “hot dog” had been invented, also at Coney Island, in 1867, so was available to trouble the stomachs of the very first coaster riders.)

    Thompson’s original Switchback Railway at Coney Island

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:07 on 2015/09/26 Permalink
    Tags: , awards, , , , report cards, roller coaster, , ,   

    “Since my last report, your child has reached rock bottom and has started to dig”*… 


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    Between 1830 and 1860, historian Carl F. Kaestle has written, American schools, influenced by theories stemming from European educators Joseph Lancaster and Johann Pestalozzi, began to favor the inculcation of “internalized discipline through proper motivation.” In practice, this kind of discipline might include positive reinforcement, like these certificates, as well as corporal punishment. 

    Schools that wanted to teach children to be “obedient, punctual, deferential, and task-oriented,” Kaestle writes, were responding to the exigencies of a classroom environment that could easily descend into chaos. (Nineteenth-century schoolrooms might be crowded with large numbers of students or be required to serve a wide variety of ages and abilities; teachers were sometimes young and inexperienced.)

    This range of merit certificates shows what kinds of behaviors were valued in 19th-century students: selflessness, “correct deportment,” and diligence…

    The digital archive of The Henry Ford has a group of 60 examples of rewards of merit given to 19th-century schoolchildren; more at “School Certificates of Merit For Good Little 19th-Century Boys and Girls.”

    * actual comment made by a New York Public School teacher on a report card; see others– equally amusing– here

    ###

    As we polish the apple, we might spare a thought for Ron Toomer; he died on this date in 2011.  Toomer began his career as an aeronautical engineer who contributed to the heat shields on NASA’s Apollo spacecraft.  But in 1965, he joined Arrow Development, an amusement park ride design company, where he became a legendary creator of steel roller coasters.  His first assignment was “The Run-Away Mine Train” (at Six Flags Over Texas), the first “mine train” ride, and the second steel roller coaster (after Arrow’s Matterhorn Ride at Disneyland).  Toomer went on to design 93 coasters worldwide, and was especially known for his creation of the first “inversion” coasters (he built the first coasters with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, loops).  In 2000, he was inducted in the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Hall of Fame as a “Living Legend.”

    Toomer with his design model for “The Corkscrew,” the first three-inversion coaster

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    “The Corkscrew” at Cedar Point Amusement Park, Ohio

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:42 on 2015/08/02 Permalink
    Tags: , Bakken, California Adventure, Copenhagen, , , roller coaster, ,   

    “Like the bee, we should make our industry our amusement”*… 


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    Your correspondent is off for his annual sojourn in the land of dunes and deep fried food; regular service should resume on or around August 11.  Meantime, in the hope of inspiring readers to new heights of summer fun…

    Dyrehavsbakken (“The Deer Park’s Hill”), commonly referred to as Bakken (“The Hill”), a ten minute drive north of Copenhagen, is the world’s oldest continuously-operating amusement park.  Its origins trace back to 1583, when residents of Denmark’s capital would retreat to “The Hill” for its clean spring water.  The large crowds attracted entertainers and hawkers, the forerunners of the attractions that make up the modern park.

    Bakken at the turn of the 19th Century

    Today, Bakken is home to six roller coasters, the most famous of which is Rutschebanen (Danish for “The Roller Coaster”; pictured above, top), a wooden roller coaster open since 1932 (and a designated American Coaster Enthusiasts Coaster Classic), to dozens of other flat (or amusement) rides, and to gaming halls, restaurants, and shows.

    Visit Bakken.com, then Bakken… just be careful not to hop onto The Rollercoaster of Death by accident.

    [Image sources: Rutschebanen and 19th Century]

    * Oliver Goldsmith

    ###

    As we keep our arms within the car, we might recall that it was on this date in 1989 that 36 Disney executives gathered (for the next 3 days) to brainstorm ideas for a very different kind of amusement park– a second Anaheim-based theme park to be built next to Disneyland.  The result was a plan for an attraction celebrating a place (and a state of mind) that hadn’t even been imagined when Bakken got going: Disney’s California Adventure.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:28 on 2014/09/26 Permalink
    Tags: , , computer program, , , roller coaster, , , ,   

    “If you think this Universe is bad, you should see some of the others”*… 


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    In cosmology as in so many branches of the scientists, theorist tend to get most of the attention.  But in the end, it’s experimentalists who covert hypothesis into knowledge.  Current theories suggest that our universe– which could be “the universe” or could be one of many– could be a hologram, a computer program, a black hole or a bubble—and, experimentalists suggest, there are ways to check…

    Ponder their proofs at “What Is the Universe? Real Physics Has Some Mind-Bending Answers.”

    * Philip K. Dick

    ###

    As we practice our pronunciation of “billions and billions,” we might spare a thought for Ron Toomer; he died on this date in 2011.  Toomer began his career as an aeronautical engineer who contributed to the heat shields on NASA’s Apollo spacecraft.  But in 1965, he joined Arrow Development, an amusement park ride design company, where he became a legendary creator of steel roller coasters.  His first assignment was “The Run-Away Mine Train” (at Six Flags Over Texas), the first “mine train” ride, and the second steel roller coaster (after Arrow’s Matterhorn Ride at Disneyland).  Toomer went on to design 93 coasters worldwide, and was especially known for his creation of the first “inversion” coasters (he built the first coasters with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, loops).  In 2000, he was inducted in the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Hall of Fame as a “Living Legend.”

    Toomer with his design model for “The Corkscrew,” the first three-inversion coaster

    source

    “The Corkscrew” at Cedar Point Amusement Park, Ohio

    source

     

     
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