HoST Fall 2011

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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


Updated: 11/30/11 1:19 PM



Found a better Kepler animation:


Project Sources are located here: Project_Resources [Most of them are now posted.  The last couple will be available shortly.]

I've written up some suggestions for many of you and also assembled some scholarly sources. 

Everybody needs to start poking around in these materials and see what they can use and how they might use them. Groups should discuss amongst themselves what looks good or come up with new and/or different sources. 

For Tuesday


I have become aware that many of you do not have the Bown book, through no fault of your own. 

Here is a PDF of the reading: Bown-Damnable-Chs3-6.pdf [14.2 MB]. 

This reading is now due for Wed. and the Pollan reading is due today. 


1-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 that there was little warfare going on during this period and gun tech. 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.  [For a correction to this historical error, see Kenneth Warren Chase. Firearms: A Global History to 1700. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. – n. 84, p. 253.]


For Wednesday


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



For Thursday


1- Homework: Each of you will write up a progress report on your projects.  Discuss what role you will play in a group (if you are in a group) and discuss what sources you have found that will inform that your project.  Give full citations to these sources.  Some of these sources must be valid, scholarly sources, such as the ones I listed on the Project Resource page.  [Project_Resources]  Internet sources must be credible and have full citations. If your primary activity will be more about experimentation or construction or data collection or creative writing, discuss how this will happen, how this informs your larger topic, and how you intend to document it.  These reports don't need to be any more than a page long.  Make them look nice.  Pretend that you are writing up a report to the people or organization that gave you a grant for this research. 



Citations for the above readings and audio:


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" [if you can find it] and write a treatment for a new 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.




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