Collection of letters by codebreaker Alan Turing found in filing cabinet | Science | The Guardian

Collection of letters by codebreaker Alan Turing found in filing cabinet | Science | The Guardian

A lost collection of nearly 150 letters from the codebreaker Alan Turing has been uncovered in an old filing cabinet at the University of Manchester.

The correspondence, which has not seen the light of day for at least 30 years, contains very little about Turing’s tortured personal life. It does, however, give an intriguing insight into his views on America.

In response to an invitation to speak at a conference in the US in April 1953, Turing replied that he would rather not attend: “I would not like the journey, and I detest America.”

The letter, sent to Donald Mackay, a physicist at King’s College London, does not give any further explanation for Turing’s forthright views on America, nor do these views feature in any of the other 147 letters discovered earlier this year.

The correspondence, dating from early 1949 to Turing’s death in 1954, was found by chance when an academic cleared out an old filing cabinet in a storeroom at the University of Manchester. Turing was deputy director of the university’s computing laboratory from 1948, after his heroic wartime codebreaking at Bletchley Park.

Turing was a visionary mathematician and is regarded today as the father of modern computing who broke the Nazis’ second world war Enigma code. While his later life has been overshadowed by his conviction for gross indecency and his death aged 41 from cyanide poisoning, a posthumous pardon was granted by the Queen in 2013. His life was featured in the 2014 film the Imitation Game.

Prof Jim Miles, of the university’s school of computer science, said he was amazed to stumble upon the documents, contained in an ordinary-looking red paper file with “Alan Turing” scrawled on it.

“When I first found it I initially thought: ‘That can’t be what I think it is,’ but a quick inspection showed it was a file of old letters and correspondence by Alan Turing,” he said.

“I was astonished such a thing had remained hidden out of sight for so long. No one who now works in the school or at the university knew they even existed. It really was an exciting find and it is mystery as to why they had been filed away.”

The collection focuses mainly on Turing’s academic research, including his work on groundbreaking areas in AI, computing and mathematics, and invitations to lecture at some of America’s best-known universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

It contains a single letter from GCHQ, for whom Turing worked during the war, asking the mathematician in 1952 if he could supply a photograph of himself for an official history of Bletchley Park that was being compiled by the American cryptographer William Friedman. In his reply to Eric Jones, GCHQ’s then director, Turing said he would send a picture for the “American rogues gallery”.

The collection also contains a handwritten draft BBC radio programme on artificial intelligence, titled “Can machines think?” from July 1951. The documents were sorted, catalogued and stored by the University of Manchester archivist James Peters and are now available to search online.

Peters said: “This is a truly unique find. Archive material relating to Turing is extremely scarce, so having some of his academic correspondence is a welcome and important addition to our collection.

“There is very little in the way of personal correspondence, and no letters from Turing family members. But this still gives us an extremely interesting account and insight into his working practices and academic life whilst he was at the University of Manchester.”

He added: “The letters mostly confirm what is already known about Turing’s work at Manchester, but they do add an extra dimension to our understanding of the man himself and his research.

“As there is so little actual archive on this period of his life, this is a very important find in that context. There really is nothing else like it.”


The Cadillac of First Aid Kits Could Turn Civilians into Life-Savers | WIRED

The Cadillac of First Aid Kits Could Turn Civilians into Life-Savers | WIRED

EARLIER THIS YEAR, Collin Smith came into possession of an “intelligent” first aid kit. When he did, the first thing he did was try to outsmart it.

The kit in question was the Comprehensive Rescue System, a sturdy, gray, 17-pound case of supplies custom-built by emergency management startup Mobilize Rescue Systems. It contains gauzes, bandages, and ointments like any first-aid kit, but also carries tourniquets, chest seals, and QuikClot—the kind of stuff you hope you’ll never have to use, but that can keep someone with severe injuries alive while they’re waiting on an ambulance.

But a first aid kit is only as effective as the person using it, which is why Smith wasn’t interested in the supplies so much as he was in the iPad embedded in its lid, which came installed with an interactive app that distills some 1,600 pages of triage and emergency-response decision-trees drawn up by Mobilize Rescue’s team of SWAT- and military medics, emergency medicine physicians, EMS providers.

Smith, who oversees the Colorado School of Mines’ Energy, Mining, and Construction Industry Safety Program, has worked as a mine rescue trainer or team member for close to a decade. Having dealt firsthand with everything from heart attacks to crushed limbs, he immediately recognized the kit’s potential when he saw it at an industry conference in February. (The kit launched in December 2016.) The information in the app is presented in a series of simple, on-screen prompts designed to identify and treat the most serious injuries first. The goal: Make it as easy as possible for bystanders to provide lifesaving care to trauma victims.

“On remote job sites, a paramedic is almost always more than 20 minutes away,” Smith says. “And depending on the injury, you may not have 20 minutes.” Sure, you can train employees in first aid for severe trauma. But training wears off, and emergencies are stressful. “In a high-pressure scenario, you might not remember what you were taught six months ago, so it helps to be guided through it.”

Traumatic injuries have killed more than 2 million US civilians since 2001 and are the leading cause of death among Americans below the age of 47. Roughly half those deaths occur at the place of injury or on the way to a hospital. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine estimates that, of the 147,790 deaths from trauma in 2014, as many as 30,000 of them could have been prevented with better, faster medical care. Mobile Rescue designed the Comprehensive Rescue System with these statistics in mind.

To see if the kit functioned as advertised, Smith and his three-person team of emergency medical specialists quizzed it with scenarios involving severe breaks, burns, bleeds, and traumas that are difficult to diagnose, or whose treatment protocols had recently changed. Injuries like a severe lower-leg break with an arterial bleed. Smith says the protocol used to be to apply direct pressure to the wound, then to a major artery in the groin. “But even experts have a hard time finding that pressure point. You’re sitting there digging into the victim’s groin while they lie there screaming and bleeding out,” Smith says. “The new protocol says: If direct pressure doesn’t work, move straight to a tourniquet.” Which is exactly what the kit prescribed.

Smith and his team spent three weeks conducting this initial round of tests. They ran hypothetical, pen-and-paper scenarios with firefighters, and brought in a training dummy with moulage to test laypersons with zero medical experience. “The kit handled everything we threw at it,” Smith says.

Smith was so impressed, he’s incorporated the kit into his program’s Mine Safety and Health Administration training courses, and advocates for its adoption throughout the mining industry. “Something like this, especially for remote locations, could be as valuable as fire extinguishers of sprinkler systems, when it comes to increasing your probability of survival,” he says. “It’s a big deal. I would not be surprised if you saw something like this become standard at job sites in the future.”

What sets Mobilize Rescue’s kit apart from other heavy-duty kits is the relationship between its contents and the interactive app. The screen displays color-coded illustrations, animations, and planograms to help users locate supplies in the kit’s bottom half and provide step-by-step instructions for their use. (With the exception of a metronome that plays during the instructions for CPR, the kit provides no audio cues.) Those supplies are arranged according to whatever will kill you fastest, in an inverted-horseshoe shape.

“You can bleed to death in three minutes—that’s way faster than you’ll choke to death, so tourniquets, labeled red, go in the bottom left,” says Chris Strattner, Mobilize Rescue’s head of product development. Above those, marked in yellow, are pressure dressings and packets of QuikClot. Chest seals, labeled green, go above that. Moving across the top of the kit, you’ll find things like glucose, a CPR mouth-shield, and burn dressings, labelled pink, blue, and grey, respectively. Matching the kit’s contents to the on-screen instructions is like the easiest game of Apples-to-Apples you’ve ever played—only, you know, with higher stakes.

The kit’s got supplies for less critical situations, too. Splints, cold compresses, that kind of stuff. “And then, on the bottom right, there’s a little pouch in there with a bunch of bandaids. Because if you don’t have enough bandaids in your workplace, the OSHA guys will come and put you in OSHA jail,” says Strattner.

The fact that the Comprehensive Rescue System is approved by OSHA and the American National Standards Institute means that Mobilize Rescue can sell these kits not just to industry types, but schools, offices, airports, stadiums, and malls—which are also some of the only places that will be able to pay for them. The kit’s biggest drawback is its price: $2,250 for the hard-case model, $1,750 for the more portable soft-case. (The company does offer a smaller, sparser, $180 kit, the app for which runs on the user’s cell phone—but it’s a less impressive product, holistically.)

“It’s the Cadillac of first aid kits, but not everybody can afford a Cadillac, and affordability is everything when it comes to consumer-level first aid kits” says Dave Hammond, who has been designing color-coded, audio-guidance first aid kits for more than 20 years. “It’s an exceptional product, just very expensive. I mean, it’s comparable in price to an automated external defibrillator.”

Which might actually be a fitting comparison. The automated external defibrillator’s AED’s design made it possible for someone with no prior training to shock and resuscitate a heart attack victim. “It was the single greatest intervention for decreasing out-of-hospital deaths from cardiac arrest,” says Eric Goralnick, the medical director of emergency preparedness at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Today, we need to find the equivalent to the AED for hemorrhage control.”

On this front, Goralnick says Mobilize Rescue’s kit looks very promising. So promising, he’s currently designing a study to test the kits under tightly controlled conditions—similar to what Smith did, only more rigorous. “When you first pop this thing open and see the way it’s designed, the way the iPad walks you through all these steps—it’s impressive. It’s simple, clean, with clear descriptions. Comprehensive, too. It can do more than just hemorrhage control. It looks wonderful, very innovative, and I think solutions like this are certainly the future of first aid.”

“It’s exciting,” he says. “But now we’ve got to do our due diligence and test it.”

Microsoft changes tune on forced Windows 10 updates | CIO Dive

Microsoft changes tune on forced Windows 10 updates | CIO Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Microsoft announced it will no longer force Windows upgrades on customers, according to Beta News.
  • The company made the announcement following an ongoing legal battle with Germany’s Baden-Würtenberg consumer rights center, according to the report. The organization claims Microsoft forcibly downloaded gigabytes of files to upgrade users from Windows 7 and 8 to Windows 10 without consent.
  • The way Microsoft enacts updates changed with the Creators Update. Windows 10 users can now schedule times when they would like to install updates. They can also choose to “snooze” an update for three days if necessary. Along with the Creators Update changes, “active hours” for devices were tweaked to make sure Windows 10 does not update while the device is in use.

Dive Insight:

When Windows 10 was released in 2015, Microsoft was aggressive about getting devices to upgrade. In some instances, it pushed several gigabytes of upgrade files to customers without their knowledge or consent. Consumer backlash caused the company to stop the practice, but two years later, Microsoft is still facing legal repercussions. While the company claims the tactics were in customers’ best interests, the company’s forced upgrades turned into a PR mess for Microsoft.

Last year three Florida men also filed a lawsuit against Microsoft, stating that the company “coerced” them into the upgrade which resulted in damaged PCs, as well as lost time and money. Some customers even complained that a red X option that appears in the Windows 10 update box actually initiates an upgrade, rather than dismissing it as users would commonly expect.

Microsoft has since backed down from some of its more aggressive tactics, and now offers customers options, including “upgrade now, schedule a time to upgrade, or decline the free offer for the new OS.”

Galactic Map of Every Human Radio Broadcast – How Far Have Our Signals Traveled Into Space?

Galactic Map of Every Human Radio Broadcast – How Far Have Our Signals Traveled Into Space?

Carl Sagan’s famous line from his 1990 speech about the Pale Blue Dot image—”Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark”—is an understatement. We might consider our Milky Way, with its estimated 100 to 400 billion stars, a significant fixture in the cosmos. But there are some 100 billion galaxies just like it in the observable universe. It’s a daunting reality to consider when we’re thinking about the possibility of making contact with any intelligence that might be out there.

This map designed by Adam Grossman of The Dark Sky Company puts into perspective the enormity of these scales. The Milky Way stretches between 100,000 and 180,000 light-years across, depending on where you measure, which means a signal broadcast from one side of the galaxy would take 100,000 years or more to reach the other side. Now consider that our species started broadcasting radio signals into space only about a century ago. That’s represented by a small blue bubble measuring 200 light-years in diameter surrounding the position of the Earth. For any alien civilizations to have heard us, they must be within the bubble.

The very first experimentation with electromagnetic radiation was conducted some 200 years ago, when Danish physicist and chemist Hans Christian Ørsted discovered that electric currents create magnetic fields. This research was expanded by scientists including Michael Faraday, and it eventually resulted in James Clerk Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism outlined in 1865 and demonstrated by German physicist Heinrich Hertz’s experiments more than two decades later. Even then, it wasn’t until Italian inventor and electrical engineer Guglielmo Marconi developed long-range radio transmission technologies around the turn of the 20th century that our species really started broadcasting its existence out into the void.

If we are optimistic, and we assume an advanced extraterrestrial species has the technological capabilities to detect humanity’s very first radio waves (and distinguish them from the general background noise of the universe), we can estimate our farthest signals are a little more that 100 light-years away. If you threw a dart at the map of the Milky Way, and wherever that dart landed is where an advanced alien species resides, there would be a cosmically small probability that they live close enough to be aware of our existence. Even if you threw 100 darts, it’s a near certainty that none would land in the little blue bubble of our radio waves.

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) institute is constantly listening with our most capable radio telescopes, and they are broadcasting messages from us as well. But given the sheer size of the galaxy, SETI will likely have to listen and transmit for tens of thousands of years at least to have a chance of making contact with another intelligent species—and even that might not be long enough. Perhaps, in the meantime, we should contemplate Carl Sagan’s next line in his Pale Blue Dot speech:

“In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”

[Given what we have been broadcasting this is a good thing.]

Get a Close Look at the World’s Best Mechanical Calculator

Get a Close Look at the World’s Best Mechanical Calculator

Mechanical calculators are an engineering marvel unknown to most people. The most advanced mechanical calculator ever built, the Curta calculator, fits into the palm of your hand and uses dozens of tiny gears and an intricate mechanism to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Each Curta is an incredible piece of art, but so few exist that one in reasonable condition can cost thousands of dollars. Instead, one man decided to make his own. Using 3D-printed parts, Marcus Wu built a 3x scale model fully functional Curta.

If you want a 3D-printed Curta calculator of your own, you can head over to Thingiverse to find all the instructions to print the parts. Just be aware that there are more than 300 parts involved in the calculator so assembly is not going to be easy.

For Centuries, Readers Annotated Books With Tiny Drawings of Hands – Atlas Obscura

For Centuries, Readers Annotated Books With Tiny Drawings of Hands – Atlas Obscura

In the list of rarely-used punctuation marks—amid the interrobang (‽), hedera (❧), lozenge (◊), and asterism (⁂)—the manicule is a pointedly unique symbol. Quite literally: it takes the form of a hand with an outstretched index figure, gesturing towards a particularly pertinent piece of text.

Although manicules are still visible today in old signage and retro décor, their heyday was in medieval and Renaissance Europe.

Despite its centuries-long popularity, the first-ever use of a manicule is surprisingly difficult to pinpoint. They were reportedly used in the Domesday Book of 1066, a record of land ownership in England and Wales, but widespread use began around the 12th century. The name comes from the latin word manicula—little hand—but the punctuation mark has had other synonyms, including bishop’s fist, pointing hand, digit, and fist.

As far as punctuation marks go, the manicule’s function was fairly self-explanatory. Usually drawn in the margin of a page (and sometimes between columns of text or sentences), it was a way for the reader to note a particularly significant paragraph of text. They were essentially the medieval version of a highlighter. Although mainly used by readers, occasionally a scribe or a printer would draw a manicule to indicate a new section in a book.

The use and dynamic of manicules changed once books began to be printed. This new technology allowed writers and publishers to highlight what they believed to be significant. As Keith Houston notes in his book Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols and Other Typographical Marks, “the margin, once the reader’s workspace and sketchbook, was gradually colonized by writers seeking to provide their own explanatory notes or commentaries.”

Despite its simplicity, the style of the manicule could vary. Some had elaborate sleeves, some were strangely proportioned with extra-long fingers, as the one leading this article, and some were otherwise anatomically incorrect. The Italian Renaissance scholar Petrarch drew manicules that consisted of five fingers and no thumb, which is surprising, seeing as he would have been looking at the very thing he was drawing. (A five-fingered hand, it’s worth noting, would not have been the strangest thing to adorn the margins of a Medieval manuscript).

In the 19th century, manicules had moved beyond books and into signage, advertisements, and posters as a way of directing the eye. They pointed the way to trains and pubs. In the “Wanted” poster for John Wilkes Booth following his assassination of President Lincoln, a manicule gestured towards the reward announcement. Manicules were even used on gravestones (pointing up toward heaven, of course).

While the popularity of manicules faded before the arrival of the 20th century, they aren’t completely extinct. A mutated version existed in early versions of the cursor, in the form of an upwards-pointing clenched fist. There are manicule emojis that point left, right, up and down. If you look hard enough, you can even find one in the Wingdings font. ☞ Scroll on for more manicules.

The Dying Art of Courtroom Illustration – Atlas Obscura

The Dying Art of Courtroom Illustration – Atlas Obscura

On a recent gray August Monday at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse, illustrator Jane Rosenberg found herself craning her neck and scrabbling for her pastels. The infamous Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was making his first public appearance in months, and it was Rosenberg’s job to capture the scene for Reuters. Seated next to her, with a brush pen and colored pencils, fellow courtroom artist Elizabeth Williams was also trying to capture his likeness, for the Wall Street Journal.

The artists had been waiting outside the door of the courtroom since 7:30 a.m., long before it opened, to get the best possible seats. When they finally made it inside, El Chapo was present for just 15 minutes. Williams finished one drawing; Rosenberg “very loosely” started two.

“He walked in the courtroom and looked over at his wife and children, and waved,” Rosenberg says. “Then he sat down in the chair by his lawyer, and stood up, started making arguments.” She sketched furiously to complete the drawings later, without any visual reference. “I couldn’t remember if he had on the same color bottoms as his top,” she says. Someone else in the courtroom later confirmed that he had.

Rosenberg is a self-proclaimed “dinosaur,” one of the last courtroom artists working today. Both she and Williams began working in the profession in 1980. Over nearly 40 years, Rosenberg has sketched a veritable who’s-who of celebrity courtroom drama: Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Martha Stewart, Tom Brady.

Courtroom art has been a feature of the American media landscape since just after the high-profile Charles Lindbergh case in 1935. The famous aviator’s infant son was kidnapped and murdered, and news audiences were insatiable in their demand for more coverage. The media, in turn, went from reportage to circus to full-on hullabaloo. Newsreels of courtroom action, filmed from secret cameras in the New Jersey courtroom, were sent to movie theaters across the country. And so, when the trial was over, the American Bar Association banned cameras from courtrooms altogether. (To this day, they’re not allowed in federal court, though that may soon change.)

One of the last courtroom photographs before the ban shows Charles Lindbergh testifying at the Hauptmann trial in 1935. PUBLIC DOMAIN

Illustrators stepped in to fill the gap, but, by 1980, many states had lifted the photography ban in their courts. A total of 47 states today now allow broadcast coverage of some, if not all, judicial proceedings. “The proliferation of cable television, the advent of the Internet, and the waning economy have combined to greatly shrink the market for courtroom art,” writes Phoebe Hoban in ARTnews.

Detailed, illustrative drawings of courtrooms date back at least as far as the 17th century. Each often serves as a guide to the court standards and mores of the place and time in which it was made. Honoré Daumier, a French caricaturist and artist working in the 19th century, is known for his own courtroom images, which depict nameless lawyers and other judicial workers deep in conversation, peaky faces looming out over dark robes.

At some point in the 19th century, illustrations started to depict particular court cases. Some were imagined rather than observed. There are, for example, a wealth of dramatic illustrations from this period of the Salem witch trials (around 180 years in the past, by then), showing young women writhing on the floor as townspeople in the background huff and simmer. Others were more journalistic. The Victorian weekly tabloid Illustrated Police News made heavy use of illustrations of definitive moments in contemporary trials, though journalistic conventions of the time meant that these were usually not credited to any one artist.

For Oscar Wilde’s famous 1895 trial for “gross indecency,” for instance, the paper ran a series of illustrations of Wilde and other key players in the courtroom. This practice, however, came to a stop in Britain in 1925, with the Criminal Justice Act, which is still in effect. Among other things, it prohibits taking photographs or sketching anyone in the room, whether “a judge of the court or a juror or a witness in or a party to any proceedings before the court.”

There was concern at the time that photographers or artists might wig out lawyers or defendants, and therefore obstruct the path of justice. Unobtrusive fixed cameras have since been installed, but there’s still a demand for further depictions of certain cases. So British court artists circumvent the law by taking feverish notes about everything they observe—from posture to personal grooming to the color of someone’s tie—and then prepare their sketches outside of the courtroom. Court artist Priscilla Coleman became the first person to be given permission to draw in a courtroom in the United Kingdom in nearly 90 years, at an appeal hearing at the Supreme Court in 2013. At the time, a spokesperson from the court told the Evening Standard that while ordinarily photographers still weren’t permitted in the court, Coleman had been as noninvasive as the fixed cameras.

The golden age of real-time courtroom art in the United States began with Leo Hershfield, hired by NBC to sketch the congressional censure of Joseph McCarthy in 1954. He was rapidly ejected, allegedly, for “behaving like a camera.” After that, illustrators were obliged to work from the same kind of fastidious notes as their British counterparts, until 1963 protests, led by courtroom art “grande dame” Ida Libby Dengrove, “freed them to work on the spot.” That same year, TV news expanded from 15 minutes to a full half-hour, sending demand for courtroom sketches sky-high, as news editors struggled to fill the extra time. One high-profile case followed another: the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and John Lennon, for example. Illustrations were more in demand than ever before, and a new vanguard of illustrators, including former war artist Howard Brodie, went marching into the country’s courts.

The cases from these years that the artists love best are not always those that the public remembers. Rosenberg fondly recalls the trial of the wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan. “I loved drawing all those bottles of wine, because they laid them out as evidence,” she says. “It was so much fun—like being back at art school.” And for Williams, a particular favorite was the cocaine-trafficking trial of automaker John DeLorean trial in 1984. She had a fantastic vantage point, she says, loved drawing former model Cristina Ferrare’s “fabulous clothes,” and enjoyed the support of encouraging, more seasoned colleagues. At that time, court illustrators were commonly sent along with reporters, who would tell them what to look out for. These days, they mostly work alone and hope they manage to capture what their client news organizations want.

Photographs might seem a better method for capturing an accurate likeness, but courtroom sketches provide something extra, something about the emotional resonance of what happened, Rosenberg says. “It can provide more of an essence.” Williams remembers seeing a heavily cropped photograph from a trial that failed to show how a 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound defendant dwarfed his attorney. “And that’s a very important part of what that scene was,” she adds. On top of that, a photograph might capture someone between expressions, or with a fleeting grimace that doesn’t necessarily characterize the overall emotional tenor of a courtroom situation or moment.

All courtroom illustrations are necessarily impressionistic in this way, writes Katherine Krubb, who curated the 1995 exhibition Witness of the People: Courtroom Art in the Electronic Age at what was then called the Museum of Television and Radio in New York (now the Paley Center for Media). “[They] seek to capture scenes from everyday modern life in flickering, fleeting images,” she writes, comparing them to the work of 19th-century artists Edgar Degas or Édouard Manet. “The pursuit of verisimilitude leads to exaggerations and distortions.” There tends not to be much physical action in a courtroom: Instead, artists must rely on minute changes of facial expression to communicate the drama of the proceedings.

Rare moments of action often reap some of the most famous courtroom images: Bill Robles’s 1970 drawing of Charles Manson leaping from the defense table, intent on stabbing Justice Charles H. Older with a pencil, for instance. (Manson is mostly a frenzied scribble, his pencil soaring toward the judge.) “That was my first trial,” Robles recollects. “I’d never set foot in a courtroom before.” Williams remembers catching what she later described as “a great moment,” rather than “a great drawing,” when she drew notorious fraudster Bernard Madoff cuffed and being led away by officers.

Increasingly, the few remaining court artists are expected to do this thoroughly analog job in a digital world, where technology affects everything—from the challenges of creating these images to their public reception. In court, Rosenberg “wriggles around” to get the best view she can amid a forest of computer screens. Immediately afterward, she must photograph and email her work to a television studio, where it features on news broadcasts.

On top of that, illustrators are at the mercy of thousands, if not millions, of internet hot takes on their work. Rosenberg, for example, went viral after one of her sketches of Brady, quarterback on the New England Patriots, caught the world’s attention in August 2015. It was variously labeled “troll-faced,” “haunting,” and like it was “put in one of those machines that crushes cars.” Rosenberg found herself the victim of the opprobrium of vicious football superfans. “I got a lot of negative bullying on the internet,” she recalls. “A lot of that was from rabid Patriots fans. I didn’t know about that world, but I’m learning about it.” More recently, Taylor Swift’s sexual assault case made headlines not just for its outcome, but for sketch artist Jeff Kandyba’s perceived failure to capture the pop star’s likeness.

This artist’s rendition of Taylor Swift is a very good sketch of Rolf from The Sound of Music.

— Anne T. Donahue (@annetdonahue) August 9, 2017

And now the days of courtroom illustration may be numbered. “It’s a matter of time,” says Williams. “I always thought it was.” In March of this year, senators Amy Klobuchar and Chuck Grassley introduced bipartisan legislation that would finally allow cameras back in federal courtrooms. If it passes, this could be the final nail in a coffin that’s already almost sealed. “That’s pretty much going to do it in,” Williams says, a little wistfully.

Robles is more circumspect. “They’ve had cameras for years, but a lot of the judges—the TV stations petition the court to allow a camera in, and they deny them that right. So that’s where we come in.” Judges famously banned cameras at Lindsay Lohan’s 2011 trial, for instance. Robles is currently preparing for the forthcoming murder trial of real estate scion Robert A. Durst. Though they may be a costlier option for media companies than using photographers, “we’re a necessary evil,” he says. “When there’s no cameras permitted, we’re king.”

Today, illustrators might work just 100 days in a good year, says Robles, and usually only for extremely high-profile cases. “People probably think it’s a piece of cake,” he adds. But key players are moving around the courtroom all the time, refusing to pose, and sometimes hiding their faces between newspapers or their hands. “But sooner or later, the judge will make them uncover their face,” he says. “So you get them one way or another. They never escape.”

It’s a hard, insecure job, Williams says. “Sometimes you can sit there and struggle. You can never, ever sit back and say, ‘Oh, this is going to be a breeze.’” She adds, more seriously, “This business will destroy you, if you think that. It will chew you up and spit you out. It is a tough business, and it takes nerves of steel to do it. I’ve seen artists just fold up and—‘Forget it, no,’” she says. Robles too has observed fellow illustrators running out of the courtroom when confronted with “death pictures and mutilations and so forth.” Today there’s barely enough available work for experienced artists, and no space for new ones.

On top of that, it can be very stressful. “But I’ve been doing it so long, it’s routine. A novice, I think, would be paralyzed.” It’s occasionally a struggle not to take the emotions of the trials home with her, says Rosenberg. “Sometimes it affects me, sometimes I cover horrific trials which make me cry.” But, somehow, this, and the punishingly early starts, don’t diminish her enthusiasm for the job. “I love it still,” she says. “I was telling my husband the other day, if I won the lottery, I would still do it—but I’d pay a sherpa to carry all my supplies for me, so I just had to show up.”

Why the Can Opener Wasn’t Invented Until Almost 50 Years After the Can | Smart News | Smithsonian

Why the Can Opener Wasn’t Invented Until Almost 50 Years After the Can | Smart News | Smithsonian

How did the first tin cans get opened? A chisel and a hammer, writes Kaleigh Rogers for Motherboard. Given that the first can opener famously wasn’t invented for about fifty years after cans went into production, people must have gotten good at the method. But there are reasons the can opener took a while to show up.

Our story starts in 1795, when Napoleon Bonaparte offered a significant prize “for anyone who invented a preservation method that would allow his army’s food to remain unspoiled during its long journey to the troops’ stomachs,” writes Today I Found Out. (In France at the time, it was common to offer financial prizes to encourage scientific innovation–like the one that led to the first true-blue paint.) A scientist named Nicolas Appert cleaned up on the prize in the early 1800s, but his process used glass jars with lids rather than tin cans.

“Later that year,” writes Today I Found Out, “an inventor, Peter Durand, received a patent from King George III for the world’s first can made of iron and tin.” But early cans were more of a niche item: they were produced at a rate of about six per hour, rising to sixty per hour in the 1840s. As they began to penetrate the regular market, can openers finally started to look like a good idea.

But the first cans were just too thick to be opened in that fashion. They were made of wrought iron (like fences) and lined with tin, writes Connecticut History, and they could be as thick as 3/16 of an inch. A hammer and chisel wasn’t just the informal method of opening these cans–it was the manufacturer’s suggested method.

The first can opener was actually an American invention, patented by Ezra J. Warner on January 5, 1858. At this time, writes Connecticut History, “iron cans were just starting to be replaced by thinner steel cans.”

Warner’s can opener was a blade that cut into the can lid with a guard to prevent it from puncturing the can. A user sort of sawed their way around the can’s edge, leaving a jagged rim of raw metal as they went. “Though never a big hit with the public, Warner’s can opener served the U.S. Army during the Civil War and found a home in many grocery stores,” writes Connecticut History, “where clerks would open cans for customers to take home.”

Attempts at improvement followed, and by 1870, the basis of the modern can opener had been invented. William Lyman’s patent was the first to use a rotary cutter to cut around the can, although in other aspects it doesn’t look like the modern one. “The classic toothed-wheel crank design” that we know and use today came around in the 1920s, writes Rogers. That invention, by Charles Arthur Bunker, remains the can opener standard to this day.

Los Angeles is dressing up violators’ cars with ‘smart’ parking boots | Smart Cities Dive

Los Angeles is dressing up violators’ cars with ‘smart’ parking boots | Smart Cities Dive

Outdated parking enforcement tech is getting the boot in Los Angeles.

Earlier this summer, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) launched a one-year “smart” parking boot pilot to increase enforcement efficiency — after years of towing cars instead of booting them. Parking violators may recognize a familiar yellow device attached to one of their car’s wheels, but the SmartBoot also sports an electromagnetic keypad that adorns the face of the device.

The ticket left on the car includes a number that the violator can call to pay the ticket over the phone, after which they are given a code to put into the keypad on the boot, allowing it to come off on the spot. Before the code is released, drivers have to answer if they can lift 16 pounds, the weight of the boot. If they can’t, PayLock gets a cop to get the boot off for them.

“People have responded a lot more positively to them because they can be on their way,” said Oliver Hou, an engineering associate at LADOT. “Instead of three hours, it’s three minutes.”

The boot will only be put on cars that have five or more unpaid parking tickets, all of which will have to be paid at once to unlock the device. Violators are told to return the boot within 24 hours to one of four locations throughout the city. If it is not returned, they can be fined $25 fine per day up to the cost of the boot, or $500 — a fee which can add to the already-large pool of funding from parking enforcement. Unpaid parking tickets in Los Angeles added up to $21 million over the last five years. According to NBC Los Angeles, paying those tickets could fill 1 million potholes or hire 300 new city firefighters.

.@LADOTofficial says new self-release boots take 5-10 mins to take off from the time parking violators call to pay their tickets. @KNX1070

— Cooper Rummell (@KNXCooper) July 26, 2017

The SmartBoot, built by PayLock, had its first program in Hoboken in 2003. Since then, the boot has been used in 20 municipalities, counties and colleges and used over 400,000 times in the past 10 years. Beside manufacturing the device, PayLock runs a help center for people to call in with their ticket number for payment assistance. The company can three-way connect friends and family to the call to help complete multiple electronic methods of payment.

Matt Silverman, executive vice president at PayLock, said that the SmartBoot allows cities to find middle ground between being aggressive about going after unpaid tickets and not going after violators at all.

“We are changing the status quo of how cities can treat people,” he said.

Within days of the launch, NBC Los Angeles reported at least one SmartBoot was found on a wheel discarded at a tow truck yard. “Nothing is foolproof,” Hou said. “No boot is going to fit 100% of vehicles.”

However, according to Silverman, PayLock has found that their boots are less likely to be vandalized than a traditional boot.

“People have an option that they didn’t have it before,” Silverman said. “You change the decision making model in people’s mind.”

Getting rid of a boot, regardless if it’s smart or not, is a time-honored tradition. Youtube is full of videos and the web has tutorials showing how to remove boots from cars.

“People always find a way,” Hou said.

PayLock gave Los Angeles 500 SmartBoots for free, but they make revenue by receiving part of the $150 boot fee that Los Angeles charges violators.

Even though parking tickets and boots are usually things that aggregate drivers, PayLock still cares what their users think.

“You can call us crazy but we we send out a customer satisfaction survey,” Silverman said. “We get some interesting comments.”

For Los Angeles, even with a discarded boot or two, the program seems to be working. Since launch, LADOT has done over 973 boot applications, 305 tows and has brought in over $281,000. The program has collected over 1,863 parking tickets, and LADOT will evaluate next summer if they would like to continue using the technology.

[I cannot image getting any useful product information from the customer satisfaction surveys.]