Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘history’

01 JUNE, 2012

Rilke on Embracing Uncertainty and Living the Questions

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“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.”

Jacqueline Novogratz’s wonderful commencement address reminded me of a favorite excerpt from the Rainer Maria Rilke classic Letters to a Young Poet (public library) — a beautifully articulated case for the importance of living the questions, embracing uncertainty, and allowing for intuition.

I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Letters to a Young Poet is exquisite and timeless in its entirety, and inspired Christopher Hitchens’s Letters to a Young Contrarian.

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01 JUNE, 2012

Thomas Edison’s To-Do List, 1888

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What ink for the blind has to do with marine telegraphy and electrical pianos.

The to-do list might be the secret to willpower, and it is certainly an essential tool of creativity, as anyone from Leonardo da Vinci to John Lennon can attest. After peeking at the notebooks and sketchbooks of some of history’s greatest creators, here comes a rare glimpse of 41-year-old Thomas Edison’s to-do list circa 1888, found in The Papers of Thomas A. Edison: Losses and Loyalties — the seventh volume of Rutgers University’s digitized Edison papers.

Among Edison’s “things doing and to be done,” while he wasn’t busy inventing and scandalizing cinema, were:

  • Cotton picker
  • New standard phonograph
  • Hand turning phonograph
  • Deaf apparatus
  • Electrical piano
  • New expansion pyromagnetic dynamo
  • Artificial silk
  • Phonographic clock
  • Marine telegraphy
  • Chalk battery
  • Ink for blind

So: What are you doing today?

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30 MAY, 2012

Color Harmony: An Animated Explanation of How Color Vision Works circa 1938

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Vintage black-and-white film explains the wonders of color vision.

Human vision is one of the most remarkable capacities of our bodies, its precise mechanism the subject of much fascination, from gorgeous vintage illustrations to cutting-edge modern science to Sesame Street stop-motion. In 1938, The Handy (Jam) Organization — the same folks who brought us an homage to makers and hands-on creativity, an animated explanation of how radio broadcasting works, a visual tour of mid-century design, the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer animation, and a primer on ultraviolet light — produced Color Harmony: a fantastic animated explanation of how color vision works, how other animals use their eyes, and how the human eye functions to see colors both separately and in combination.

The irony, of course, is that on the timeline of film innovation, color didn’t permeate Hollywood until the 1950s — mainstream film technology in 1938 was confined to black-and-white, so all the live footage is devoid of color, complemented instead by hand-drawn color animation.

We are able to see mixtures of two-color rays as one color. We don’t need green light in order to see green, and we don’t need orange light to make us see orange. Mixtures of blue and yellow light and yellow and red light will create green and orange for us. To make the eyes see all color, then, only the three primaries — red, yellow, and blue — need be used. From these primaries, a complete color circle can be created. That is why it is possible to reproduce the brilliant colors of nature, faithfully, with just three primary colors in modern color reproducing processes.

Doobybrain

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