We sometimes think (in our age of progress) that if we look back, we must see very primitive creatures.
But even if we go back ten thousand years, we don’t find primitive humans. We find modern humans. Genetically, we have not changed very much in 10,000 years. What has changed? We have learned a huge amount of chemistry, biology, etc. Of course we didn’t know which bits were useful. It took a hundred years to figure out. That’s how science works.
The discoveries of past centuries created some rapid changes. Example of progress: within a few hundred years we went from knowing what gunpowder was, to seizing guano Islands, to synthesizing ammonium nitrate to nuclear weapons.
Ancient impulses with modern weapons are weird. I have this picture in my head of an angry person saying “I’m going to get that guy. I’m going to go lay claim to a guano Island, refine potassium nitrate, make black powder, and use an explosion to propel a small metal ball through his body.” Then the pre-modern human says “I’d just hit him with this rock. Simpler.”
Jack Conte posted a video (Why Do People Watch RHETT & LINK?) about the history of Rhet, Link and their Youtube show, Good Mythical Morning. I’ve watched their stuff before, but lost interest at some point.
I had no idea that the production team was 100 people. Now that I think about it, it makes sense. I think it’s interesting that the impression I had while watching it was maybe five people involved? Why did I form that impression?
In retrospect, it’s obviously not right. They put out way too much content to be a small team. I see that. From planning, to coordinating guests, to coordinating props/supplies, to filming to editing and cleanup… if 5 people tried to do it, each episode would take a week to produce. There are clearly more than 200 man-hours of work in each episode.
Another example, not YouTube: look at the Goodenough lab (podcast profile in C&EN). They have produced a lot of great scientific work in the battery field. And if you saw a talk by the Head Professor In Charge, you would see all the acknowledgments. He would give credit to the funders and associated students and scientists who contributed. But it would still be easy for me to come away with the vague impression that the scientist in front of me did it all (even though a moment’s reflection would dispel that idea).
Why do I form the impression that the thing I’m seeing is the product of a small team or even one person? I think it is because I want to do all the work myself in my own projects. I want to do it all: from planning, to ordering supplies, to experiments, to analysis, to the written and video products at the end.
The Iron Battery Project started that way, but it had several students working on it in the end. It was no Goodenough battery or wildly successful morning show, but I had the most fun when I could get my hands on it.
Here are some highlights of other things I’ve been reading and watching.
The Tail End – Soundtrack (2021) – YouTube reminds me of “Shiny Happy People” mashup with “Mad World.” That would be a great Pomplamoose song, actually.
Welcome to O’Town – YouTube – Perfect short movie with cute characters
The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill | WIRED – Science is personality driven. Langmuir was wrong. Aerosols are important for transmission and 100 microns (rather than 5 microns) is small enough for a droplet to stay in the air and transmit a pathogen.
Errementari (2017) – IMDb Good movie about a blacksmith who sold his soul to a demon.