HoST Fall 2010

Tues/Thurs. starting at 4:00 in Babio 203

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Week of 11/23

[Just Tuesday, Thursday is Thanksgiving]


Assignment 12

Agriculture, Industrial Revolution, and Explosives

The 1942 Monarch EE lathe, a tool so versatile, Mr. Hjorth said, that it "can make itself."

Machines with such incredible precision haven't been around all that long. 

Imagine the things Galileo or Agricola (16th c.) or Biringuccio could have made with one of these.

Czap-A Painstaking Devotion to Preserving Lancias



Read Bown: Chs. 3, 4, and parts of 5. [You need only skim pp 101-108] Beware! Bown completely misrepresents Japanese firearm history on p. 112.  This is an interesting myth that has been propagated in the western world due to a few western historians not being careful and everybody else quoting them.  There was a general ban on all weapons in Japan starting in 1588 that applied to commoners, but it was only sporadically enforced and it turns out that exceptions were frequently made for firearms if used for hunting and the guarding of livestock against attacks from wild animals.  The general population had access to firearms and there was a healthy manufacturing industry throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.  It is true in as much as there was little warfare going on during this period and gun tech. advancements stagnated, but production didn’t actually cease.  This error in history can be found in many sources.  I have found it in 3 prominent sources so far, including Jared Diamond and it is clear that there are several more out there. The moral to the story: If you are going to write about Japanese history and you don’t read Japanese, you might want to run your ideas by a Japanese historian just to see if s/he sees a glaring error.  [See Chase, Kenneth Warren. Firearms: A Global History to 1700. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. – n. 84, p. 253.]


Read  “This Steer’s Life” by Pollan:   Pollan_This_Steers_Life-391KB.pdf


Be ready for a quiz covering both readings.

Citations to the above readings:

Bown, Stephen R. A Most Damnable Invention : Dynamite, Nitrates, and the Making of the Modern World. 1st ed. New York: T. Dunne Books, 2005.


Pollan, Michael. "This Steer's Life (Power Steer)." New York Times Magazine, March 31, 2002.

For you movie buffs, I highly recommend...


“The African Queen” (1951) has it all:  Steam engines, boats, explosives (not much agriculture though).


This is actually a great movie.  Here is the trailer: Youtube-African_Queen-trailer

Note the over-the-top sexual innuendo throughout.

Hands down the best explosives movie ever made was “Wages of Fear” [Le Salaire de la peur (French) – 1953] starring hunky Yves Montand and Véra Clouzot.  It was remade in 1977 in English as “Sorcerer” starring Roy Scheider, but it opened opposite “Star Wars” ... guess which movie got more attention.  I haven’t seen “Sorcerer,” but “Wages of Fear” is unbelievably intense.  I highly, highly recommend it.

Short and Long Essays:  Only need to differ in length and the long essay needs to have at least one more source of your choice.  That extra source for the long essay needs to be well cited and shouldn't be bs... actually use it.


Everybody should feel free to pull from past classes or from outside sources.  Essays should connect to this week's readings in some way, but that connection need not be the primary focus of your essay.


Ideas:  1) Write up a short script for a TV show or movie [E.g. Numb3rs, Simpsons, Law and Order, Doctor Drama, etc.] that incorporates some issue from this week's reading.

            2) Watch "Wages of Fear" [you'll have to find it on your own] and write a treatment for part 2.

            3) Write a short piece of historical fiction that gives more detail to something you read for this week.

            4) Look into Davy's "safety lamp" and/or Bickford's "safety fuse." Write these up in more detail and explain why they were so important.

            5) Write on how explosives aid construction.  How destruction allows for construction.

            6) Discuss the ethics of the meat factories we call farms or ranches.  Is meat natural? 

            7) Relate Pollan reading to PETA's $1 million dollar prize for artificial meat. [In vitro meat Wiki-article, TIME article]

            8) Latch onto some other detail in the readings and go with it.  If something moves you, take it out for a test ride.


Optional ReadMe Files



Wortham-With Kinect Controller, Hackers Take Liberties- NYTimes 11/22/10

Tech, developed for games, put to new, unintended uses.


Saplosky-This Is Your Brain on Metaphors-NYTimes-2010

The first few paragraphs of this essay are a bit dull, but it pays off later. 

Think about our readings from early in the term while reading this. 

How do Biblical or Babylonian or Platonic or Ibn Tufaylic metaphors relate to the ideas in this essay? 

How has metaphor existed in the history of science?


Drew University Mappaemundi Project

This is an interesting way to present historical maps being developed by Drew University.

It's sort of a scholarly Wiki approach to historical maps.

The "Cotton Map" (the first one listed in the Table of Contents) is the most similar to the Peutinger/Agrippa Map we looked at before.

Can you find Jerusalem, Alexandria, Britain, and Rome?  It's easier since somebody else added labels.


Overbye-A Costly Quest for the Dark Heart of the Cosmos-NYTimes-11/16/10

Another run at aether, sorry, "Dark Matter."

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One of the gigantic water pipes that supplies New York City with water.

Working on the Rondout-West Branch Tunnel of the Delaware Aqueduct in 1942.

In recent years cracks have caused flooding in Wawarsing, N.Y., in Ulster County.

Link to Article