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The Robot Smiley
Think the global-warming debate is relatively modern? Nope — in fact, back in the 19th century, major thinkers speculated wildly about global warming, with one major difference: They thought it was a totally awesome idea. In a hilarious essay in the current issue of the Village Voice, author Paul Collins tracks the history of people who actively proposed schemes to melt the polar ice caps. One read as follows:
“A jetty … extending eastward from Newfoundland across the water on the Great Banks” could divert the warm Gulf Stream upward toward the Arctic, noted The New York Times of one proposal in 1912. The man behind climate change this time was Carroll Livingston Riker, an engineering wunderkind who had already designed both the world’s first refrigerated warehouse and a dredging system that successfully cleared the Potomac River at half the cost of government estimate. Building a 200-mile-long jetty would cost $190 million—less than the cost of the Panama Canal, the Times pointed out—and it was, Riker insisted, not visionary at all. “It is exceedingly practical,” he said flatly.
Imaginations ran wild, and The Washington Post envisioned Manhattan becoming a tropical paradise: “People would be gathering oranges off the trees in Central Park, or picking cocoanuts from palms along the Battery, [and] hunting crocodiles off the Statue of Liberty.” The prospect sounded so splendid to New Yorkers that Senator William Calder tried to get $100,000 appropriated for a study of the idea.
After World War II, one big idea was to simply nuke the polar regions, as per the poster above.
I'm Clive Thompson, a writer on science, technology, and culture. This blog collects bits of offbeat research I'm running into, and musings thereon.
Currently, I'm a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. I also write for Fast Company and Wired magazine's web site, among other places. Email or AOL IM me (pomeranian99) to say hi or send in something strange!
May 20, 2011 » 02:28 PM
From Christopher Kennedy’s very droll book “Neitzsche’s Horse”.
July 28, 2010 » 07:35 AM
“Wr” - S
July 06, 2010 » 10:05 AM
My Xbox broke, and I was trying to Google some possible technical solutions, when I noticed that Google appears to be encouraging me to make a typo. I suppose it’s possible that Google’s algorithms know that typing “wont” instead of “won’t” would produce better results.
June 29, 2010 » 05:00 PM
On the other hand, when I tried the test for multitasking, I was pretty abysmal. I performed worse than people who identify themselves as heavy multitaskers, and those who identify as low multitaskers.
June 29, 2010 » 04:58 PM
I finally got around to trying out the interactive “test your distractability and multitasking” page at the New York Times, which they put up alongside their story earlier this month about how computer distractions are eroding our lives.
According to the test, I guess I have good focus — I’m not very distractable!
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