Einstein’s Theory of Relativity explained by 1923 film

In 1923, Max and Dave Fleischer created a silent animated film titled “The Einstein Theory of Relativity,” which illustrated the key concepts of this early 20th-Century scientific breakthrough. It’s fascinating to see how differently Einstein’s theory was explained nearly a hundred years ago. The marvels of modern technology chosen by the filmmakers include steam engines, steam shovels, and biplanes. A flight to the moon is illustrated by a man with a gas mask hopping into a massive artillery piece a la Georges Méliès’s interpretation of Jules Verne in the 1902 silent film “A Trip to the Moon.” (Goddard’s newfangled rockets had not yet made an impression, apparently.)

The Einstein Theory of Relativity 1923 from ricordidimenticati on Vimeo.

Historical amusement aside, it’s an entertaining and often beautiful way to learn about Albert Einstein’s famous theory.

Via Boing Boing.

Hong Kong skyline

Despite the many years I spent in Tokyo, a brief trip to Hong Kong in 1989 blew my mind. From the heart-pounding flight across the harbor into Kai Tak Airport to the fanciest brunch ever at the Mandarin Oriental, the trip was full of amazing experiences.

This time-lapse video captures some of the magic of this wonderful city.

The alien past

There are shared themes between the science fiction and archaeology books I’ve been reading lately. There’s a sense of otherness, of alien intelligences glimpsed across a void.

Göbekli Tepe

Photo by Vince Musi from National Geographic

As little as we know about the builders of Newgrange in Ireland, we know even less about the builders of Göbekli Tepe in Turkey. What we do know about these monuments is that the first were built about 11,000 years ago, during the earliest years of the Eurasian Neolithic. In other words, Göbekli Tepe predates our current understanding of when agriculture began. (And yes, it also predates Stonehenge — by six or seven thousand years.) It’s hard to imagine what motivated tribes of hunter-gatherers to create such monumental architecture, full of animal sculptures and mysterious standing stones. It’s also hard to conceive of why each succeeding structure grew smaller and less sophisticated over time.

So this is where archaeology, science fiction, and poetry all converge. As a poet, archaeology enables me to explore that alien otherness while remaining grounded in the scientific reality of human experience.

More about Göbekli Tepe:

Clear Skies

September 12, 2001

The day after, we drive the dogs to the park,
still unsure about the place of happiness
in our new world, but weary of predicting
where our bombs will fall first, sick of watching it
happen over and over on every channel.
The dogs break the silence in an empty field
just beginning to green from September rain.
The evening sky is clear of contrails, a gull
the only wings aloft over the lake. I hate
myself for thinking this is beautiful.

Acheulean tools geologically dated to 1.76 million years ago

A study being published later this week in Nature reports that geologists have dated the Kenyan sediments where a collection of Acheulean tools were discovered, such as the hand ax below, to 1.76 million years ago — at least 160,000 years older than previous dates for technology created by Homo erectus.

Acheulean hand ax

Although the New York Times article summarizing the study focuses on the newsworthiness of these tools as the oldest, it makes a few other interesting points.

The story of human progress is unavoidably a story of technological innovation, Paleolithic designs fading into oblivion as Neolithic tools take their place. Right? Not necessarily.

In reality, it’s not always as simplistic as one technology giving way to the “next,” as these recently dated discoveries show. Older Oldowan tools were discovered alongside the more advanced Acheulean tools, indicating that “the two technologies are not mutually exclusive.”

Other highlights (or, things Andrew didn’t know):

  • The first humans to leave Africa didn’t take the Acheulean technology with them.
  • Acheulean technology wasn’t widely adopted for another several hundred thousand years.

Full NYTimes.com article via Boing Boing.