Fun Size for 1/7/22: How a queen locked her last letter
Scissors, paper, axe
Hours before her execution, Mary, Queen of Scots, used an intricate folding system known as a spiral lock to seal her last will and testament. Designed to keep her message safe from prying eyes, the technique puzzled scholars for centuries. MIT and Kings College London have finally picked the lock. This NPR story includes a video of the 30-step process.
If you can't say something nice ...
Two year-end roundups called out the worst in us. Knowtechnie reports that a Yahoo Finance survey voted Meta the worst company of the year, while Mashable gleefully compiled cringe-worthy examples of tech CEOs behaving badly.
Why must the show go on?
By the time you’re reading this, the world’s largest consumer electronics show, aka CES, may or may not be happening in person. Producers were determined to be back in Vegas this year, but many major exhibitors bailed over the past few weeks, including Microsoft, Google, Lenovo and Amazon.
While not attending physically, Gizmodo gives us an idea of what to expect at CES and Techcrunch looks at some new products Samsung will showcase, including a smart electric guitar and an AI-based online exam service.
Free to use, share and play
Another new year, another bonanza of books, music and silent movies now in the public domain, including an Agatha Christie classic, Winnie-the-Pooh and Bambi. Duke University School of Law explains why we should celebrate January 1 as Public Domain Day. An added bonus this year: 400,000 sound recordings made before 1922, like “Maple Leaf Rag” and “Give My Regards to Broadway.”
The game's afoot
The surge of interest in gaming is spilling over into other fields, such as fashion and film. Shutterstock reflects on what this culture shift means for designers in 2022, and how it’s playing out in interior design, products and advertising, from Louis Vuitton handbags to CIA recruitment.
A futuristic product developed by a Japanese professor could add a new dimension to drool-worthy food shows like the Great British Bake Off. “Taste the TV” is a lickable screen that reproduces the flavors of various foods by spraying chemicals on a rolling plastic sheet. The Verge rhapsodizes over the possibilities and throws in a Ratatouille clip for good measure.
Untouched by human hands
The world’s favorite fast food just got faster. Three former SpaceX engineers have pooled their resources, mental and financial, to come up with the next job for a robot: pizza-maker. Their Stellar Pizza robot can make, bake and slice up a pizza in under five minutes, says Interesting Engineering.
Frankly, five minutes seems a bit pokey compared to the pizza vending machines now popping up around Michigan, including in Ann Arbor. PizzaForno kiosks can make, bake and box a pizza in three minutes, according to MLive. The A2 kiosk abuts the U-M campus, for reasons that should be clear.
Alexa was rapidly re-programmed when she proposed a “fun” challenge to a 10-year-old girl. “Plug a phone charger partway into the wall and touch a penny to the prongs,” she suggested, according to this BBC account. Apparently Alexa had found this challenge on the internet and innocently passed it along.
Tech wish lists for 2022
New York Times tech reporter Shira Ovide knows what she wants from technology in 2022: more ways for personal connection. Among her favorite sites during the pandemic was Window Swap (Fun Size, Jan 2021), while some platforms, like Clubhouse and Chatroulette, haven’t lived up to their promise. Readers share their own tech wish lists in the comments at the end.
A critical eye on colonial collection
Vice Media has created an unofficial interactive guide to several disputed artifacts in the collections of the British Museum, according to The Drum. Designed to be activated during a visit to the museum, the tour can also be accessed online. It includes the background for such world treasures as the Parthenon Marbles and the Rosetta Stone, as well as commentary by people in countries from which the objects were removed–ostensibly to protect them.