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Inventors and Remarkable People

'The Yorkshire Aestel' – one of the original knowledge Gizmos to go under the hammer

September 18, 2008 'The Yorkshire Aestel' belongs to a small group of only seven known aestels; the most celebrated of which is the Alfred Jewel. An aestel is a pointer designed for the reading of manuscripts and most were commissioned by Alfred the Great, famous warrior king of England and one of history’s great champions of learning, justice and civilisation. King Alfred commissioned and sent aestels to all the bishops of his kingdom to accompany a copy of a translation of Pope Gregory I's Regula Pastoralis. Curiously, despite being one of the first man-made objects specifically designed to assist with furthering knowledge, this rare object is only expected to fetch between UKP10,000-15,000 when it goes to auction – perhaps this is a reflection on our modern values, perhaps the opportunity for a treasured possession of true meaning. A gold pointer steeped in history and the very roots of hand-written monastic scholarly endeavour , and dating from the late 9th Century is surely worth much more.  Read More

Sir Tim Berners-Lee
 Photo by Scott Henrichsen (scottfoto.com)

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and from the beginning a strong advocate for keeping it free and open to everyone, has officially unveiled an organization designed to do just that. The World Wide Web Foundation states its goal as seeking "to advance One Web that is free and open, to expand the Web's capability and robustness, and to extend the Web's benefits to all people on the planet."  Read More

Fishing for profits on world caviar market

August 28, 2008 Until recently, the Caspian Sea has been the world's main source of the sturgeon that produces the black fish roe delicacy we know and covet as caviar. Sadly, over-fishing and pollution have led to dwindling fishing yields in the region. Now scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have begun farming sturgeon with a view to supplying the growing caviar market. Given they now have 40,000 sturgeon in outdoor pools, and the average female sturgeon can produce US$3,000 worth of caviar, it looks like becoming big business.  Read More

A 23-year-old Australian PhD student has developed and patented a solar cell able to made using everyday items such as inkjet printers, nail polish and pizza ovens. Nicole Kuepper’s low-cost iJET cell is designed to provide renewable energy to those in developing nations.  Read More

The 1920s-era GPS is among the items on show at the British Library Business and Intellect...

A 1920s-era wrist-mounted display that allowed the sophisticated gentleman to peruse his planned route; a 1930s “electro massager” rewarded the user with a “zappy ending” in the form of electrical shocks; and a pair of glasses equipped with two battery-powered lights alternately provided its wearer with illumination and set their head on fire. Outlandish contraption expert Maurice Collins is exhibiting these, and 50 similar items, at the British Library Business and Intellectual Property Centre.  Read More

Max Robson with the low-cost turbine

A student from the University of Portsmouth in the UK has created a wind turbine made totally from recycled matter. Aimed at servicing the renewable energy needs of some of the word’s poorest countries, the low cost wind turbine is designed to be built by unskilled workers in less than a day using locally sourced scrap materials.  Read More

The inventor of stereo, Alan Blumlein. 
 Pic courtesy DJ History.

Historic recordings by the inventor of stereo, Alan Blumlein, have been digitally re-engineered to remove the crackles and hiss from the original 78 pressings so they can now be heard as they were meant to sound. The recordings, which include Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios in 1934, were made by Alan Blumlein, an EMI research engineer, who lodged the patent for “binaural” sound in 1931 and have now been digitally re-engineered by sound engineer Roger Beardsley.  Read More

Kevin Mitnick

July 21, 2008 Kevin Mitnick, the infamous computer hacker who was sentenced to solitary confinement in 1999 after prosecutors spun stories of his ability to "start a nuclear war by whistling into a telephone," has signed a deal with Little, Brown and Company to publish his autobiography.  Read More

The Mundaneum – the analog internet

Historians typically trace the origins of the World Wide Web through a lineage of Anglo-American inventors like Vannevar Bush, Douglas Engelbart and Ted Nelson. Now Belgian Paul Otlet another pioneer of information management and universally accessible information is beginning to gain recognition for his Mundaneum. Great video here on the life of the man who used terms like web of knowledge, link, and knowledge network to describe his vision for a central repository of all human knowledge – 100 years ago.  Read More

Stephane Rousson's Zeppy - pedal-powered airship.

May 1, 2008 Those magnificent men in their flying machines... the first purely human-powered aircraft, the Gossamer Albatross, crossed the English Channel in 1979 with its pilot Bryan Allen pedaling the feather-light winged plane across in two hours to collect the UKP100,000 Kremer prize. This feat caught the imagination of French cyclist Stephane Rousson, who this European summer will attempt to cycle across the Channel pedaling a twin-tilting-rotor helium airship. It's the first pedal-powered airship of its kind, complete with very delicate aerodynamics that mean Rousson will need to chance upon one of the three windless days of the year if he hopes to stay up-diddly-up-up and not go crashing down-diddly-own-down.  Read More

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