Architecture Everyday Things SOI Blog Technology

Concrete is the 2nd most consumed substance in the world-behind water.

concrete blocks
Photo by 3093594 on Pixabay

Sometimes you hear statistics and they just don’t compute. I was recently struck by a couple after listening to a conversation with the author of The World in a Grain on the podcast 99% Invisible. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my brain around these.

The World in a Grain by Vince Beiser

We’re adding the equivalent of eight New York Cities to the world every single year.

Here’s another way to think about it. The amount of concrete that we use every single year is enough to build a wall 88 feet high, 88 feet wide right around the equator every year.

The World in a Grain, author Vince Beiser

99% Invisible website:

The title on this post came from here:

Everyday Things Science SOI Blog Technology

Lawn Mowers Suck

I’ve mowed many a lawn in my day and never really gave much thought to how a mower really works. I just thought that blade was spinning around so fast that it just whacked the grass off. Turns out, there’s much more to it than that as Destin illuminates in his Smarter Everyday Video. If you’ve ever replaced a mower blade, the first thing you notice is how dull they appear.

TLDW: Mower blades create a vortex to suck up the blades of grass and hold them in position for the mower blade to cut them. If it did not do this, the blade would simply push the flexible grass blades down as it impacted them. (Hmmm, too many “blades” in this could be confusing. Maybe that’s a good riddle about a blade cutting a blade.)

Internet Science SOI Blog Technology

Is Li-Fi the Future of Wireless Connection?

Before today, I had not heard of this new technology. Sounds promising, but I’m not sure how far along in development it is. Time will tell!

Everyday Things Technology Vehicles

Don’t Top Off Your Gas Tank!

My new go to Youtube mechanic is Scotty Kilmer! Here Scotty gives some advice on filling up. He recommends you NOT fill your gas tank until it can take no more, and why.

In the old days before paying for gas with a credit card became common, you would try to make the dollar amount come to the nearest dollar or fifty cents to save on loose change. But these days, I rarely pay for gas with cash, so following Scotty’s advice is much easier.

Everyday Things History Technology

Inventor of the Keurig Coffee Maker Sold His Interest for only $50k

John Sylvan invented the single serve Keurig coffee maker in early 1990s. Before the end of the decade, he sold out to investors for a mere $50,000. The company now has annual revenues in the billions of dollars.

Interestingly, the original concept and first machines were intended for offices where employees could create a fresh cup of coffee instead of relying on a full pot coffee maker which often got stale. When they finally developed a less expensive home version, sales really took off.

Government History Science SOI Blog Technology

Did cloud seeding make a hurricane hit the US in 1947?

One little tidbit of info in the latest 99% Invisible podcast episode was about the military’s attempt to weaken a hurricane.

Project Cirrus

Project Cirrus was the first attempt to modify a hurricane. It was a collaboration of the General Electric Corporation, the US Army Signal Corps, the Office of Naval Research, and the US Air Force. After several preparations, and initial skepticism by government scientists,[6] the first attempt to modify a hurricane began on October 13, 1947 on a hurricane that was heading west to east and out to sea.

An airplane flew along the rainbands of the hurricane, and dropped nearly 180 pounds (82 kilograms) of crushed dry ice into the clouds. The crew reported “Pronounced modification of the cloud deck seeded”. It is not known if that was due to the seeding. Next, the hurricane changed direction and made landfall near Savannah, Georgia. The public blamed the seeding, and Irving Langmuir claimed that the reversal had been caused by human intervention.[6] Cirrus was canceled, and lawsuits were threatened. Only the fact that a system in 1906 had taken a similar path, as well as evidence showing that the storm had already begun to turn when seeding began, ended the litigation. This disaster set back the cause of seeding hurricanes for eleven years.

At first the seeding was officially denied and it took years before the government admitted it. According to the Sept. 12, 1965 edition of the Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel, in 1947 a hurricane “went whacky” and “Twelve years later it was admitted the storm had in fact been seeded.”

Read more here,
Wikipedia page on Project Stormfury

From 99pi
“In 1947, Irving Langmuir’s research team at GE tried to break up a hurricane by dumping a lot of dry ice into it to see if it would collapse. But instead the hurricane changed trajectory, became stronger, and hit the Georgia coast. ”

99% Invisible “Making It Rain”

Everyday Things Podcasts Science SOI Blog Technology

Driverless Cars Still Have a Ways to Go

I’m looking forward to the day I don’t have to pay attention to driving my car and I’m all too ready to leave the driving to a computer. But, insiders in the engineering of this, caution that the tech still has a lot of ground still to cover. As one engineer in this latest podcast from Gimlet “Startup,” says that you hear a lot of people touting how safer we will be when we give up the control to a computer. In the US we lose over 30,000 lives to vehicle fatalities and most are attributed to driver error. What they don’t tell you, he points out, is that humans currently operate vehicles for 100 million miles for each fatality. That’s a pretty good record and he doesn’t think computers are even close to that yet.

History SOI Blog Technology

Vintage Computer Stories

Just discovered a great Youtube channel about vintage computers, tech and video games. Lazy Gamer Reviews helps us remember what it was like back in the early days of personal computing. He brings back those fond memories of my childhood, when we thought 8k was a lot of RAM!

Here’s an explanation of why early computers had a physical lock on them.

And what that Turbo button was really for.

Entertainment History Podcasts Science SOI Blog Sports Technology

Billiard Balls were made of Ivory up until the 1950s

According to this excellent 99% Invisible podcast, billiard balls were made of ivory tusk up until they found a suitable replacement in the 1950s. Think it’s easy to make a billiard ball, check out this video of the process.

Polygoon – Hoe biljartballen worden gemaakt from KNBB – Biljart TV on Vimeo.

Art Everyday Things SOI Blog Technology

Stairway to the Tree Canopy

canopystairI climbed a good number of trees in my youth. And with most of the larger ones, having to resort to either a ladder system or foothold boards nailed to the trunk to ascend. This new invention by a couple of young British designers is uniquely clever. I’d love to try this out!