The Radium Girls

1917. As a war raged across the world, young American women flocked to work, painting watches, clocks and military dials with a special luminous substance made from radium. It was a fun job, lucrative and glamorous – the girls themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered head to toe in the dust from the paint. They were the radium girls.
As the years passed, the women began to suffer from mysterious and crippling illnesses. The very thing that had made them feel alive – their work – was in fact slowly killing them: they had been poisoned by the radium paint. Yet their employers denied all responsibility. And so, in the face of unimaginable suffering – in the face of death – these courageous women refused to accept their fate quietly, and instead became determined to fight for justice.
Drawing on previously unpublished sources – including diaries, letters and court transcripts, as well as original interviews with the women’s relatives – The Radium Girls is an intimate narrative account of an unforgettable true story. It is the powerful tale of a group of ordinary women from the Roaring Twenties, who themselves learned how to roar.

The book is available here and is a fascinating read whether you are into watches or not.

Innovation and Its Enemies


The rise of artificial intelligence has rekindled a long-standing debate regarding the impact of technology on employment. This is just one of many areas where exponential advances in technology signal both hope and fear, leading to public controversy. This book shows that many debates over new technologies are framed in the context of risks to moral values, human health, and environmental safety. But it argues that behind these legitimate concerns often lie deeper, but unacknowledged, socioeconomic considerations. Technological tensions are often heightened by perceptions that the benefits of new technologies will accrue only to small sections of society while the risks will be more widely distributed. Similarly, innovations that threaten to alter cultural identities tend to generate intense social concern. As such, societies that exhibit great economic and political inequities are likely to experience heightened technological controversies.

Drawing from nearly 600 years of technology history, Innovation and Its Enemies identifies the tension between the need for innovation and the pressure to maintain continuity, social order, and stability as one of today’s biggest policy challenges. It reveals the extent to which modern technological controversies grow out of distrust in public and private institutions. Using detailed case studies of coffee, the printing press, margarine, farm mechanization, electricity, mechanical refrigeration, recorded music, transgenic crops, and transgenic animals, it shows how new technologies emerge, take root, and create new institutional ecologies that favor their establishment in the marketplace. The book uses these lessons from history to contextualize contemporary debates surrounding technologies such as artificial intelligence, online learning, 3D printing, gene editing, robotics, drones, and renewable energy. It ultimately makes the case for shifting greater responsibility to public leaders to work with scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to manage technological change, make associated institutional adjustments, and expand public engagement on scientific and technological matters… More here.

Now this is a subject I want to understand more about. Bought.

The iPhone didn’t emerge from nowhere


Kramer’s idea did not come out of nowhere, either. It followed in the footsteps of the Sony Walkman, a portable cassette player. The Walkman was made possible by the invention of the cassette tape in 1963, which was itself made possible by reel-to-reel tapes in 1924, and so on back through history, everything emerging from the ecosystem of innovations before it… More at Wired.

The book the above article comes from is released today. My pre-order has been placed. Thanks to Bob.

There is another piece that looks at the world before the iPhone which is here. It’s rather good;)

Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed With Time


Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana. The Beatles learn to be brilliant in an hour and a half. An Englishman arrives back from Calcutta but refuses to adjust his watch. Beethoven has his symphonic wishes ignored. A US Senator begins a speech that will last for 25 hours. The horrors of war are frozen at the click of a camera. A woman designs a ten-hour clock and reinvents the calendar. Roger Bannister lives out the same four minutes over a lifetime. And a prince attempts to stop time in its tracks… More at Amazon.

I’m reading this at the moment and so far it is very, very good. Learning lots of silly new facts.

No backups here

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The manager of Terry Pratchett’s estate says he’s honoured the late fantasy author’s wishes by destroying a hard drive containing his unpublished works with a steamroller.

Rob Wilkins posted a picture of himself near a steamroller and tweeted: “About to fulfil my obligation to Terry.” More at cbcnews.

Thanks yet again to Bob!

How Bullshit Conquered the World


2016 marked the birth of the post-truth era. Sophistry and spin have coloured politics since the dawn of time, but two shock events – the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s elevation to US President – heralded a departure into murkier territory.

From Trump denying video evidence of his own words, to the infamous Leave claims of £3.. More here. 50 million for the NHS, politics has rarely seen so many stretching the truth with such impunity.

Bullshit gets you noticed. Bullshit makes you rich. Bullshit can even pave your way to the Oval Office.

This is bigger than fake news and bigger than social media. It’s about the slow rise of a political, media and online infrastructure that has devalued truth.

This is the story of bullshit: what’s being spread, who’s spreading it, why it works – and what we can do to tackle it… More here.

My ever expanding reading list just got bigger.

Flipback Books


Over the weekend my wife and I had to wait around while my daughter was doing dance rehearsals and we came across an old fashioned book shop in an otherwise modern town.

As we looked around I happened upon some flipback books that I had never seen before and I was immediately taken with the idea.

Imagine a paper book that fits in your pocket and which feels like a small Kindle in the hand, and then imagine that the text is perfectly legible and you have a sense of what the flipback books are like.

From what I can see very few titles have been released and judging by the dates on the manufacturers Facebook page it looks as though the idea is no more, but I have to say that it feels like a missed opportunity.

Check out Amazon for a small selection of available titles- you may be surprised at how much you enjoy the format.

Mosul’s Library Without Books


I could smell the acrid soot a block away. The library at the University of Mosul, among the finest in the Middle East, once had a million books, historic maps, and old manuscripts. Some dated back centuries, even a millennium, Mohammed Jasim, the library’s director, told me. Among its prize acquisitions was a Quran from the ninth century, although the library also housed thousands of twenty-first-century volumes on science, philosophy, law, world history, literature, and the arts. Six hundred thousand books were in Arabic; many of the rest were in English. During the thirty-two months that the Islamic State ruled the city, the university campus, on tree-lined grounds near the Tigris River, was gradually closed down and then torched. Quite intentionally, the library was hardest hit. ISIS sought to kill the ideas within its walls—or at least the access to them… More at The New Yorker.

This needs some of your minutes today.

The Secret History of the iPhone


The secret history of the invention that changed everything-and became the most profitable product in the world.

Odds are that as you read this, an iPhone is within reach. But before Steve Jobs introduced us to “the one device,” as he called it, a cell phone was merely what you used to make calls on the go.

How did the iPhone transform our world and turn Apple into the most valuable company ever? Veteran technology journalist Brian Merchant reveals the inside story you won’t hear from Cupertino-based on his exclusive interviews with the engineers, inventors, and developers who guided every stage of the iPhone’s creation.

This deep dive takes you from inside One Infinite Loop to 19th century France to WWII America, from the driest place on earth to a Kenyan pit of toxic e-waste, and even deep inside Shenzhen’s notorious “suicide factories.” It’s a firsthand look at how the cutting-edge tech that makes the world work-touch screens, motion trackers, and even AI-made their way into our pockets.

The book is released on 22nd June.

If you want to understand more about the recent history of the iPhone, you can of course read How did we get to the iPhone? now.


In 1991 very few of us were aware of the digital age that was about to change so much in our lives. The personal computer, as we know it today, was not a product that every home put a roof over. People used Atari’s, Commodore 64’s and Amstrads with some IBM clones found in a few large businesses and in the bedrooms of the serious computer geeks. Windows 3.0 was a year old and most computers that could run it were way out of reach, in financial terms, of the average person. And even if they were a quarter of the price, most would not understand why they needed one. Life worked as it was- we contacted each other using landlines or post and the thought that everything took time to complete never entered our minds as a problem. It was normal and it was, looking back now, serene. Then again, everything looks easier when you think back and I am sure that many people were just as stressed as the 14 hours a day business people of today.