Weekend Reads

Do you want something to read on the weekend? Here is a small1 collection of articles I’ve gathered in the last few days:

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It: Ancient Computers in Use Today

Companies traditionally used the 402 for accounting, since the machine could take a long list of numbers, add them up, and print a detailed written report. In a sense, you could consider it a 3000-pound spreadsheet machine. That’s exactly how Sparkler Filters uses its IBM 402, which could very well be the last fully operational 402 on the planet. As it has for over half a century, the firm still runs all of its accounting work (payroll, sales, and inventory) through the IBM 402. The machine prints out reports on wide, tractor-fed paper.

These guys really believe in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” moto. And here I thought my G4 Mac Mini from 2005 was old.

Grandma and Grandpa Buscemi

So how do you prank your parents? After they leave for the weekend, you replace all the family photos with photos of… Steve Buchemi!

From rotary to Siri: How the phone numbering system came and went

According to legend, Almon B. Strowger was a Kansas City undertaker who found he was losing business to a rival. Potential customers would telephone Strowger but “mistakenly” be connected to his competitor. Strowger noted that the competitor’s wife was the switchboard operator for the local telephone system. His revenge was to invent a device that would eventually displace operators almost everywhere.

The amazing story behind the telephone numbering system and it’s origins.

Let’s Get Physical: The Psychology of Effective Workout Music

Music distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and may even promote metabolic efficiency. When listening to music, people run farther, bike longer and swim faster than usual—often without realizing it.

OK, but how do you get up and start exersising in the fisrt place? That’s what I need to know!

The billion-dollar, cutting-edge science of convincing dogs and cats to eat what’s in front of them

Dry pet food, which took off in the 1940s, is nutritious but tasteless. Food scientists coat it with liquid or powdered palatants to entice cats and dogs to eat it.

It always puzzled me why our cats refuse to eat anything other than their dry food pellets (and shrimps – they go crazy over shrimps).

Green Bank W.V., where the electrosensitive can escape the modern world

This remote mountainous town is inside the U.S. National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000–square-mile area where most types of electromagnetic radiation on the radio spectrum (which includes radio and TV broadcasts, Wi-Fi networks, cell signals, Bluetooth, and the signals used by virtually every other wireless device) are banned to minimize disturbance around the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, home to the world’s largest steerable radio telescope. For most people, this restriction is a nuisance. But a few dozen people have moved to Green Bank (population: 147) specifically because of it.

I have some friends who would happily move to that place. I – on the other hand – wouldn’t last there for a minute!

A Family Consents to a Medical Gift, 62 Years Later

Henrietta Lacks was only 31 when she died of cervical cancer in 1951 in a Baltimore hospital. Not long before her death, doctors removed some of her tumor cells. They later discovered that the cells could thrive in a lab, a feat no human cells had achieved before.
Soon the cells, called HeLa cells, were being shipped from Baltimore around the world. In the 62 years since her cells have been the subject of more than 74,000 studies, many of which have yielded profound insights into cell biology, vaccines, in vitro fertilization and cancer.

Amazing story!

Taste testers sample $325,000 test-tube hamburger funded by Googler

At a media event in London on Monday, taste testers took a bite of the world’s most expensive hamburger, a five-ounce patty that cost $325,000 to grow in a lab.
Researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands produced the synthetic meat by placing stem cells extracted from the shoulders of cows in a nutrient broth. Google co-founder Sergey Brin funded the project.
After it was thawed and fried in a little sunflower oil and butter, the test tube burger earned rave reviews such as “close to meat” and “like meat.”

Just as I was going to order a couple of burgers (no joke)!

Feeding the Kiddie: A brief history of the children’s menu

If you thought the notion of artificial burgers is strange, take a look at this man’s ideas of what children should eat:

The ubiquitous lamb chop embodied the highest principles of scientific childrearing, the prevailing doctrine of the early-20th-century nursery. Its central text was The Care and Feeding of Children, by the pediatrician Emmett Holt. First published in 1894, it stayed in print for nearly half a century, instructing mothers, nurses, and, apparently, chefs that young children were not to be given fresh fruits, nuts, or raisins in their rice pudding. Pies, tarts, and indeed “pastry of every description” were “especially forbidden,” and on no account were such items as ham, bacon, corn, cod, tomato soup, or lemonade to pass a child’s lips before his 10th birthday.


  1. As a matter of fact, this is a rather large collection of articles. But, as we have a looong weekend coming up here in Greece, I thought it was appropriate.