Categories
Creativity Video Writing

The fascinating history of the pencil ✏️

“The pencil is a very perfect object,” says pencil obsessed Caroline Weaver in this TED video where she explains the history of the pencil. 

The origin of the pencil goes back to the innovative applications of graphite. Farmers and shepherds used graphite sticks wrapped in sheepskin and paper to mark their animals. 

In 1795, French painter Nicolas-Jacques Conté grounded graphite, mixed it with clay and water to make a paste that was then burned in a kiln to be inserted two cylinders of wood. This is the same method for making pencils we still use to this day!

The #2 Pencil

In the mid-American philosopher, Henry David Thoreau came up with the graphite grading scale for hardness in pencils, most notably the number 2 pencil. Number 2 pencils were thought to be the perfect balance of graphite and color. Conversely, Number 4 pencils were firmer — they contained more clay and thus wrote finer lines. 

Years later, America’s Joseph Dixon is widely credited for using machines to produce the first standard hexagonal-shaped pencils. 

The Attached Eraser and Yellow Pencil

Before the eraser, people used bread crumbs and rubber to get rid of marks. In 1858, American stationer Hymen Lipman patented the first pencil with an attached eraser. In 1889, the World’s Fair in Paris introduced the first yellow pencil called the Koh-I-Noor which had 14 coats of yellow paint with the end dipped in 14ct gold. Showing off the original plain wood grains quickly went out of style the iconic yellow pencil we know today was born. 

What an absolute fascinating video! 

Categories
Books Life & Philosophy Psychology Video

The 2-minute exercise that could make you more successful

According to Harvard psychologist Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage, it is happiness that begets success and not the other way around.

And one of the quickest ways to boost your mood is to start by sending someone a quick email every morning.

The simplest thing you can do is a two-minute email praising or thanking one person that you know. We’ve done this at Facebook, at US Foods, we’ve done this at Microsoft. We had them write a two-minute email praising or thanking one person they know, and a different person each day for 21 days in a row. That’s it. What we find is this dramatically increases their social connection which is the greatest predictor of happiness we have in organizations. It also improves teamwork. We’ve measured the collective IQ of teams and the collective years of experience of teams but both of those metrics are trumped by social cohesion.

For a longer-term impact on happiness, Achor advises checking your attitude, sociability, and how you choose to view challenges.

Read New Harvard Research Reveals How to Be More Successful and watch Shawn’s TED Talk below

Categories
Culture Psychology Social Media Tech

A surfeit of meaning

We’re consuming too much and paying attention too little, especially when it comes to bits and bytes.

Consumption eviscerates meaning. How many TED talks can you watch before getting bored of the same didactic stories? Writes Eliot on his BearLamp blog:

“When you watch your first video, it’s pretty new, it’s unique and insightful. The second delivers the same. And the fourteenth? It doesn’t matter how interesting this one is, it’s probably not the same wonderful feeling as the first video. It’s getting to be the same delivery of information. Despite being exciting, it’s also getting old. It’s losing its meaning…”

Humans starve for meaning, but it ebbs as soon as we get it. So we share it with others in an attempt to extend its relevancy and maximize our own life’s compass. But the audience is too busy or too jaded to care.

“If you don’t like what someone is sharing, posting – how someone is trying to get attention. You are saying, what is meaningful to you is not meaningful to me.”

Whether it’s Facebook or TED, the narrative about ourselves gets lost in the shuffle of inane abundance. We grow immune to meaning because everyone’s asking for it. The screen attention economy excites people and then turns them off; novelty drains with any platform.

The ludic loop numbs attention until the marketplace of ideas refreshes it once more.