Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘geek’

03 AUGUST, 2011

Paleo-Pundit: 1963 Educational Film about Lasers

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What microwave oscillators have to do with ray guns and the fundamentals of creativity.

Archival footage can be an endless source of paleofuture edutainment. We’ve previously enjoyed vintage educational documentaries on everything from the art of bookbinding to the dawn of computer music. Today, we turn to a 1963 educational film from Bell Laboratories. Titled Principles of the Optical Maser, it introduces the “optical maser” — the device that came to be known as “laser,” or Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, the first functioning Bell prototype of which made its debut in 1960. (A laser, in most basic terms, is merely a maser that works with photons in the light spectrum.)

More than anything, delightfully dorky as the footage may be, it’s also an illuminating glimpse of incremental innovation at work — a reminder that even the most advanced technologies of our time built upon the work of those who came before, as Steven Johnson keenly argues in his excellent Where Good Ideas Come From

via Laughing Squid

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28 OCTOBER, 2010

American Software: The Titans of Silicon Valley in 8-Bit Animation

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From Partizan director Gianluca Fallone comes this delightfully minimalist 8-bit short film about the giants of the American software industry. We love guitar-slinging Steve Jobs and hot-pink Bill Gates.

On a semi-related note, we highly recommend Profiles of Genius: Thirteen Creative Men Who Changed the World, a fantastic read about how the greatest iconoclastic (male) innovators of our time — including both Jobs and Gates, as well as Sony’s Akito Morita, CNN’s Ted Turner and FedEx’s Fred Smith — harnessed what the author calls an “innovisionary personality” to achieve remarkable entrepreneurial success. Meanwhile, however, we’re left impatiently finger-tapping for a sequel spotlighting 13 women of similar noteworthiness, of whom there is no shortage.

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26 OCTOBER, 2010

Everything Explained Through Flowcharts

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Flowcharts have risen to pop culture notoriety with their delightful intersection of geekery, design and humor. Today, a pinnacle of the flowchart cult makes its debut: Everything Explained Through Flowcharts by standup comedian and book designer Doogie Horner goes by the tagline “All of Life’s Mysteries Unraveled” and flowcharts the way to everything from world domination to getting laid to the religion that offers the best afterlife.

You may have recently sampled some of Horner’s work in the somewhat viral flowchart guide to Facebook portraits:

From a taxonomy of heavy metal band names to an illustrated matrix of WWF finishing moves, this gem of a book contains over 200 illustrations, 40 gargantuan flowcharts and various supporting materials — essays, graphs, annotations — bound to fill your semi-secret inner geek with glee.

We were particularly impressed with the clever review pitch, which also came in — you guessed it — a flowchart:

And because things this good are made to be shared, it’s worth noting that Everything Explained Through Flowcharts makes an ace holiday gift for the geek culture connoisseur in your life.

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