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Leonardo Da Vinci

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Sometime between 1498-1500, Leonardo da Vinci invented the ball bearing via detailed drawings of how it would work. It was round about the time he was working on his famous helicopter sketches (most possibly inspired by nature i.e. wind dispersal seeds or helicopter whirlybird seeds). He must have reasoned that the propeller was going to need to spin really, really fast.

He can be forgiven for not being a very good mathematician; in fact his maths was so far off on the weight-to-lift ratio, that had he known and understood the numbers involved - he probably would have never bothered with his designs.

But he understood something would have to allow the propeller to turn extremely fast without too much fiction. And so he invented the ball bearing; providing detailed drawings of how a low coefficient of resistance would work. Pure genius; I believe this to be one of the greatest inventions, and without it there would have been no industrial revolution.

A ball bearing uses balls, rollers and a lubricating substance, to significantly reduce friction and maintain separation between surfacers. As a ball turns it has a much lower coefficient of friction (drag or resistance) than two flat surfaces moving plainly against each other. The purpose of a ball bearing is to reduce the surface area and rotational friction, while efficiently supporting a load (for example: a hub, axial or shaft). The science of lubrication is complicated but basically; a lubricate thats works is a lubricate that sees to it that the two surfaces never physically touch without the microscopic amount of lubricant.

Leonardo da Vinci is revered as a genius and luminary, even though he was very unsuccessful at anything other than his painting. Almost all of his inventions where completely impractical. His flying machines never even came close to lifting off the ground, most where in fact never even made - only conceptualised. He was quiet possibly the most impracticable man to have ever lived.

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My old Boulder High School friend Rick Rosner is deeply weird and very funny. I also knew he was smart -- he liked to talk about quantum physics during lunch in the school cafeteria-- but I had no idea he was as smart as this. Here's Madeleine Scinto's profile of Rosner in The Daily.

If you believe his IQ scores, the smartest person in the world just might be a 51-year-old former male stripper from Southern California who writes jokes for a famous late-night TV host and speaks openly of his addiction to online porn.

Rick Rosner describes himself as a cognitive freak of nature and has a raft of astronomically high IQ test results to buttress his case, including certified results in the 190s — the rarified territory of historic geniuses like Isaac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci. The Giga Society, a club for the handful of individuals who have posted one-in-a-billion scores on IQ tests, counts him as a member.

“I’ve probably outscored anyone who’s ever taken these types of tests on at least 10 of them,” Rosner told The Daily. “And right now I have a score that places me in the one-out-of-2 billion people range.”

But sometimes being one in 2 billion isn’t quite special enough — especially for a guy who is prone to strange obsessions and who welcomes media attention. After stepping away from intelligence tests for more than a decade, Rosner has come back to them as part of a middle-aged mission to establish himself as cleverest of the clever.

“I’ll challenge anyone to a face-off,” said Rosner.

A Beautiful, Dirty Mind: World’s smartest man – almost – is a TV joke writer and admitted pornoholic

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Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee, made a name for himself as a crime photographer in New York in the 1930s and 1940s, creating gritty scenes of the horrors of urban life.

After ditching his career as a photojournalist, Weegee moved to Los Angeles in 1947. It was in California that he began experimenting with distorted images, photographing celebrities, news clippings and even scenes from television. Though he produced distorted images of a wide range of subjects from presidents to movie stars, Weegee turned his surrealist lens on the classical world’s most famous painting, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, in the late 1950sHis photographic homages to the da Vinci masterpiece feature one with an elongated forehead, one with a square face and another image with two sets of eyes. In one picture, the photographer even manages to flip her enigmatic smile upside down.

Recently, the Prado in Madrid confirmed its copy of the masterpiece was painted by one of Leonardo da Vinci’s students in the master’s studio at the same time da Vinci was working on his own Mona Lisa. “The copy invites you to see it with new eyes,” says Prado curator Miguel Falomir of the museum’s version, which features vibrantly restored colors and definition.

While there are no shortage of homages to the da Vinci masterpiece, Weegee’s surrealist interpretations of the Mona Lisa are beautiful and unique in their own right. They also invite the viewer to revisit the iconic painting with ‘new eyes’—but hopefully not two sets of them.

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Science journalist Jessa Gamble has a new book coming out that's going to be about the cultural differences that determine how humans perceive time. Awesome! In a post at the Last Word on Nothing blog, Gamble talks about how these differences affect the way we sleep.

Perhaps you'd prefer somewhere with a concept of time that fits human activities, rather than a soulless number on a digital clock. In Sudan, the Nuer people are cow herds and tell the time according to the day's work schedule. The clock might read milking time, pasturing time or cattle-moving time. According to anthropologist Wade Davis, Borneo's Penan people measure time using subjective perception. If a hunting trip reaped a lot of meat, it's understood to have taken a shorter time, even though it could have lasted several days.

I also assume you'd like to be somewhere you can consistently enjoy a good night's rest. Cultural conceptions of a good night's rest are wildly variable. For example, my earliest immersion in a non-Western culture was as part of Canada World Youth, a program that pairs a group of Canadian teens with, in our case, an Egyptian counterpart. Beyond the obvious mismatch between Canadian teen culture and the priorities of Islam, there were countless small divergences. For the Canadians, a common theme, unexpectedly, was the sanctity of sleep. Once asleep, a North American adult is likely to be, if not tiptoed around, at least left undisturbed unless there is some type of emergency. In contrast, if I retired at 10 in Egypt, I might be woken at midnight by someone asking where I put the spatula. I started to wonder why I had ever thought sleep was a state deserving of respect. Perhaps it is only when a society becomes chronically sleep-deprived that hours of it are horded and jealously guarded from disruption.

This bears out in the research. Solitary sleep on a softly cushioned surface, between four walls and under a roof--it's hardly typical. Anthropologist Carol Worthman has spent many years in the field studying nighttime in traditional societies. In contrast with the Western sleep model--a regular bedtime followed by continuous sleep until morning--the Eje of Congo have some level of social activity persisting through all hours. The sleeping area of a family will see coming and going as some members retire, grooming each other for parasites that might disturb their sleep, and others hear the familiar strains of a thumb piano and get up to dance.

Via Ed Yong

Image: Sleeping with Bo, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from joi's photostream

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