The History and Importance of Glass

This is a follow-on video from my collaboration with Andy George and his compelling How to Make Everything youtube channel. Here I explain why glass was so critical through history and our development of science.  Complete with cute cartoon animations…!

 

The Knowledge Want to read more about the behind-the-scenes fundamentals of how our modern world works, and how you could reboot civilisation if you ever needed to...? Check out The Knowledge - available now in paperback, Kindle and audiobook.

How to make glasses from Scratch

I recently collaborated with Andy George and his fascinating How to Make Everything youtube channel on a project. I helped Andy to make glass from scratch, using only the raw ingredients you can gather yourself from the natural environment. You can collect silica from sand, potash from wood ashes, and lime from chalk or limestone. Andy then ground his glass into lenses for a pair of spectacles. Have a watch of the video below here! There’s also a follow-on video with cartoon animations on why glass was so critical in the history of us developing science.

 

The Knowledge Want to read more about the behind-the-scenes fundamentals of how our modern world works, and how you could reboot civilisation if you ever needed to...? Check out The Knowledge - available now in paperback, Kindle and audiobook.

The Knowledge: Quick Reference

Guest post by Dave Zeiger

In the broad sense, The Knowledge is a compendium of information useful to post-cataclysmic persons and societies. The near-term object is to help survive and thrive in collapsed conditions, while the greater goal is renaissance.

Concise summations of a wide range of disciplines and skills rendered in durable medium – able to resist rough handling or exposure to the elements – will increase the chances of success.

Fortunately, much thought and effort has already gone into this kind of summary for students, professionals and hobbyists. Together, they comprise a goldmine of supplemental information to that presented in The Knowledge.

Such fundamentals as the scientific method, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine and select mathematics. Technologies such as accounting, electronics, mechanics. Skills such as first aid, weather forecasting, sailing and navigation. Identification guides for wild edibles, birds and animals, and survival techniques.

These are already available, though may take some looking.  Together, they comprise a gold mine of information supplemental to that presented in The Knowledge.

As a next step forward, we might begin to collect and share what exists, rate it by level and modify as necessary for survivors. We might organize pages to fill current gaps, drawing on our own and expert experience. Each is an art in itself, and synopsis is another. Collaboration encouraged!

Blacksmithing, tinsmithing, stone masonry, carpentry… the list of possibles goes on.

The three ring binder format is not only widely established but it allows tailoring to one’s individual interests and needs. It is extensible as new information becomes available. It can organize one’s own notes and sheets. It can be short-listed in time of flight. The binders themselves are available in a number of rugged designs.

Some currently available materials and services:

Search terms include quick study, quick reference, cheat sheet, study guide, infographic, etc. + topic

The Knowledge Want to read more about the behind-the-scenes fundamentals of how our modern world works, and how you could reboot civilisation if you ever needed to...? Check out The Knowledge - available now in paperback, Kindle and audiobook.

Library of Things

Throughout much of human history, objects, tools and land weren’t owned, but shared between the community. Certainly as hunter-gathers, the concepts of ownership and amassing wealth would have been completely alien to people constantly on the move and needing to carry all possessions in their hands. Putting down roots as farmers allowed accumulation of resources, but even through to the 17th century, practically every human settlement had a “commons” – land that the locals all shared for cultivating crops and grazing livestock. Farmers worked alongside each other, helping each other out, and shared tools.

Much of this has now changed in today’s modern consumerist world.

However, set-ups like the Sharing Depot in Toronto are now bucking this trend. Offering a “library of things” for it’s two-thousand members, a subscription of $50 a year provides access to tens of thousands of dollars of tools, games, and sports equipment. And this isn’t an isolated effort – there are an estimated 80 tool libraries across North America, Europe and Asia.

Not only is this wonderfully community-minded and a far cheaper way to access the tools and equipment you need — sharing rather than owning — it’s also far more environmentally friendly.

 

Read more about the Sharing Depot of Libraries of Things in The Atlantic

The Knowledge Want to read more about the behind-the-scenes fundamentals of how our modern world works, and how you could reboot civilisation if you ever needed to...? Check out The Knowledge - available now in paperback, Kindle and audiobook.

The Life-Changing Magic Of Decluttering In A Post-Apocalyptic World

Tom Gauld is a Scottish cartoonist and illustrator. He’s produced artwork for The New Yorker, New York Times, The Guardian, and New Scientist, and I’m a huge fan of his work (also see his Dystopian Road Signs). His latest short comic for newyorker.com, ‘The Life-Changing Magic Of Decluttering In A Post-Apocalyptic World’  is a hilarious take on keeping your home mess-free after an apocalypse…

Read the whole cartoon on The New Yorker website.

 

 

The Knowledge Want to read more about the behind-the-scenes fundamentals of how our modern world works, and how you could reboot civilisation if you ever needed to...? Check out The Knowledge - available now in paperback, Kindle and audiobook.

Paperfuge: low-tech solution for hospitals

One of the greatest challenges facing hospitals and field healthcare centres in the developing world is keeping their basic equipment running. Access to electricity or replacement parts for key machinery cannot always be relied upon. The Knowledge discusses one solution of designing incubators out of motorcycle spare parts, as these are often far easier to get hold of around the world than dedicated medical components. Now Manu Prakash at the Stanford University has designed another ingenious solution.

Centrifuges are machines that spin at very high speed to help separate samples, and are vital for a huge range of hospital tests. But they need electricity to run, and key components can be difficult to replace. Prakash has taken inspiration from an ancient toy, known as the whirligig, and produced a functional centrifuge out of incredibly simple materials – it needs only disks of paper, string, and wooden handles. His ‘paperfuge’ is ultra-low-cost, and can easily be made by readily-available materials anywhere in the world.

 

 

Despite this simplicity, the paperfuge can achieve spin rates of up to 12,500 rpm – just as good as a hospital lab machine – and so separate blood plasma from red cells and help detect diseases such as malaria, African sleeping sickness, HIV and tuberculosis.

You can read more about this brilliant, low-tech invention in their academic publication Hand-powered ultralow-cost paper centrifuge (Nature Biomedical Engineering), or in an article in The Atlantic.

 

The Knowledge Want to read more about the behind-the-scenes fundamentals of how our modern world works, and how you could reboot civilisation if you ever needed to...? Check out The Knowledge - available now in paperback, Kindle and audiobook.

Desert greenhouses grow veg using only sunlight and seawater

A novel concept farm in the desert of South Australia is now producing 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes a year. And best of all, it does all of this with only sunlight and seawater.

Writing in New Scientist, Alice Klein explains how the futuristic greenhouses need no pesticides, fossil fuels, soil, or groundwater, and are entirely self-sufficient. Seawater is desalinated using solar power for watering the plants, and inside the greenhouses seawater-soaked cardboard lining keeps the environment nice and cool. During winter, solar power warms the greenhouses.

With a burgeoning human population,  shifts in rainfall driven by climate change, and increasing demands on freshwater, this is exactly the sort of novel technology that  could support future farming.

Read the full report in New Scientist.

The Knowledge Want to read more about the behind-the-scenes fundamentals of how our modern world works, and how you could reboot civilisation if you ever needed to...? Check out The Knowledge - available now in paperback, Kindle and audiobook.

TED talk

The TED talk that I delivered last year on the main stage in Vancouver has now been released.

Over 18 minutes I explain the principals of how you could go about rebooting civilisation after an apocalypse. This thought experiment was a way of holding up a mirror to our  world, to explore all the behind-the-scenes fundamentals of how modern civilisation works; the stuff we just take for granted in our everyday lives. What enabled society to progress through the centuries and millennia of history?

In this talk I focus on three areas of capability: Food, Fire, and Knowledge.

You can also see stills from this event, and a live-scribed Infographic of the talk.

 

The Knowledge Want to read more about the behind-the-scenes fundamentals of how our modern world works, and how you could reboot civilisation if you ever needed to...? Check out The Knowledge - available now in paperback, Kindle and audiobook.