The dominant myths in internet history focus on the trajectory of a single military-funded experiment in computer networking: the Arpanet. Though fascinating, the Arpanet story excludes the everyday culture of personal computing and grassroots internetworking. In truth, the histories of Arpanet and BBS networks were interwoven—socially and materially—as ideas, technologies, and people flowed between them. The history of the internet could be a thrilling tale inclusive of many thousands of networks, big and small, urban and rural, commercial and voluntary. Instead, it is repeatedly reduced to the story of the singular Arpanet.
What Happens When You Offer Grammar Advice to Complete Strangers in Manhattan
In the late afternoon of September 21, 2018, Ellen Jovin left her New York apartment building carrying a folding table and a big sign reading GRAMMAR TABLE. She crossed Broadway to a little park called Verdi Square, found a spot at the northern entrance to the Seventy-Second Street subway station, propped up her sign, and prepared to answer grammar questions from passersby. At LitHub, she writes about what happened next.
The complex history of lipstick
The first known lipstick was created somewhere around 3500 BCE and was worn by Queen Schub-ad of ancient Ur. The lip tint contained a mix of “white lead and crushed red rocks” and became so popular that people would be buried with cockleshells full of it. In Egypt, all genders used makeup as part of a daily routine, the vibrant color coming from red ochre, “either applied alone or mixed with resin or gum for more lasting finish.” Other popular colors included orange, magenta, and blue-black, and as in Ur, those with the means were buried with at least two pots of lip color.
The most successful pirate in history was a woman named Ching Shih
Imagine Al Capone. Now imagine that, instead of running Chicago’s Mafia, Capone comes to control most of the criminal gangs operating in America. He destroys or absorbs his rivals, to the point where more gangsters work for him than are enlisted in the US Army. But then Capone wants to retire. Rather than buying a private island, he decides he’d prefer to stay in the US. Instead of dying in jail from syphilis, he works out a deal with the government. He gets a nice mansion in Napa Valley, with a generous pension. Capone spends his retirement tending bar until he passes away quietly of old age, filthy rich. That's the story of Ching Shih.
How Thai Activists Troll the Monarchy
From early 2020 to late 2021, Thailand experienced near-daily protests, much of them focused on the monarchy and the royal family. But criticizing the government directly was risky, so the protesters adopted a different agenda: They dressed up as Minions from the movie Despicable Me to mimic the yellow shirts worn by royalists and pro-military activists or paraded around in Tyrannosaurus rex costumes to represent Thailand’s “dinosaur-age” establishment. Many protests were characterized by a tongue-in-cheek brand of humor that Thais call kuan teen—literally, “causing an itch to one’s foot.”
An illustrated scroll from 1850 depicts how sake was made
Nearly 7 metres long, an illustrated handscroll made around 1850 shows the process of making sake in 16 consecutive painted panels, including the office and tasting room — depicting the manager, the bookkeeper with his abacus, and shop assistants pouring sake into small containers for customers — and preparing the shubo. Shubo is a mixture of steamed rice, water, yeast, and koji (a sake mould which emits useful enzymes). Sake quality is closely related to yeast quality, and the handling of the shubo - the yeast starter - has always been considered the foundation of sake brewing.
The bionic hand arms race: Who does it serve?
Reporters can’t get enough of sophisticated, multigrasping “bionic” hands with lifelike silicone skins and organic movements, the unspoken promise being that disability will soon vanish and any lost limb or organ will be replaced with an equally capable replica. Prosthetic-hand innovation is treated like a high-stakes competition to see what is technologically possible. We are caught in a bionic-hand arms race. But are we making real progress? Britt Young, an amputee, says it’s time to ask who prostheses are really for.