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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: How Do You Recycle a Subway?

February 16, 2016

Subway Token Cufflinks | UncommonGoodsRetired NYC subway cars have to go somewhere. From August 2001-April 2010, the NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority sent 2,500 retired cars to New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia. The cars were stripped and decontaminated before being dropped into the ocean to serve as homes for the many species of fish and crustaceans that could colonize the structures—think a coral reef made out of subways. Underwater photos have shown that the new structures are thriving. They provide thousands of square feet for invertebrates like blue mussels to live on, along with food and shelter to slower fish that might need to duck into safety from a predator. Now if only we could figure out what fish rush hour is like?

 

 

Subway Token Cufflinks | $170.00

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: How Romantic is the Animal Kingdom?

February 14, 2016

The Happy Elephant | UncommonGoods

So romantic. Welcome to the Valentine’s Day edition of Uncommon Knowledge—a place where we can talk about all the romantic things animals do for each other. For one, sea otters hold hands when they sleep. They do this mostly so they don’t drift away from their pals while they snooze on their backs in the water, but the result is true intimacy.

Another romantic gesture? Penguins will propose to new mates with a pebble. Many penguins assemble their nests out of pebbles, so really, it’s a way of offering their beloved a promise to build a home with them. Maybe we can follow suit and start replacing engagement rings with a nice adjustable rate mortgage?

Brolgas cranes, like most cranes, are monogamous and will mate with the same partner every year, typically at the same nesting spot. However, the brolgas know a thing or two about keeping the romance alive—no matter how many years they’ve been together, the brolgas will still court their mate with an intricate mating dance. Ooh la la!

Okay, let’s do some rapid-fire romance: Ready for a puppy fact? Male puppies will intentionally let female puppies win when they play-fight so they can get to know them better. Like seahorses? They’re monogamous and will hold each other’s tails when traveling.

Ain’t love grand?

 

The Happy Elephant | $68.00 – 150.00

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Can Machines Love?

February 10, 2016

Lil' Mib (Message in a Box) | UncommonGoodsThe question of whether robots and computers can love is at least as complex as defining love itself; poets and greeting card writers have been grappling with that one for ages. The question of digital love hinges on the effectiveness of artificial intelligence (A.I.) and the ability of A.I. to give rise to emotions. In the course of predicting true A.I. in the early 1950s, computer scientist Alan Turing developed the Turing Test, a tool to assess whether a machine’s intelligence is indistinguishable from a human being’s. A.I.s have come a long way since, making Turing’s test a blunt instrument, but not settling issues of whether they can feel. But if Hollywood is any indication, we can be sure of this at least: humans can love machines—sometimes tragically. In the Sci-Fi classic Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) falls for the Replicant femme fatale Rachel (Sean Young), challenging his sworn duty to “retire” Replicants who try to pass for human. More recently, Her has Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) becoming enamored of his sophisticated new OS, Samantha (seductively voiced by Scarlett Johanssen). Their affair is all the more surreal for the fact that “Samantha” is a disembodied A.I. with no physical form. Hollywood continues to be infatuated with the question of A.I. love, offering dark cautionary tales like Ex Machina (2015). We may be fated to fall in love with the computers that we interact with every day, but can they love us back? I tried this simple experiment: I asked Siri on my iPhone “do you love me?” With analytic coolness and a dash of irony, she replied, “you’re looking for love in all the wrong places.”

Lil’ Mib (Message in a Box) | $66

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Does Juliet Still Get Mail?

February 8, 2016

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Indeed, she does! In fair Verona where we lay our scene, the volunteer Secretaries of il Club di Giulietta (the Juliet Club) receive, read, and respond to more than 6,000 letters from the lovelorn each year. Think of it as “Dear Abby” with a Shakespearean inspiration. Believe it or not, you can pen your desires, romantic dreams, and tragic tales of unrequited love, address them simply to “Juliet / Verona,” and they’ll be delivered to the Club’s team of concerned cupids. The Secretaries read every one, save them in an archive, and send a handwritten response to the author with encouragement and advice for how to mend a broken heart. If you’re not into the pen-and-paper approach, you can pour your heart out digitally in a note via the Club’s website. Whatever form it takes, your letter will play a role in a centuries-old romantic tradition inspired by the Bard’s timeless tale of star-crossed lovers.

Juliet Capulet Print | $110-180

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Uncommon Knowledge: How Mad Can a Kid Get About Candy?

February 7, 2016

People Feeder | UncommonGoods
When you raise the price of a chocolate bar 3 cents? Super mad.

On April 25, 1947 in British Columbia, a group of kids walked down to Wigwam Café, their local candy shop, and were shocked and dismayed to find that the nickel they’d typically saved from their allowance would no longer buy them the chocolate they craved. Literally overnight, the shopkeepers had raised the price by 60%, making it a whopping 8 cents for a three-ounce candy bar.

Rather than take this injustice lying down, the kids ran home and scrawled signs professing the injustice. The strike had begun. Singing a catchy protest song (“We want a 5-cent chocolate bar/8 cents is going too darn far”) and carrying pithy signs (“Candy is dandy, but 8 cents isn’t handy!”), the little protesters marched up and down the street until almost all of the town’s kids had joined the “Chocolate Bar Strike.” The local paper snapped a picture and soon kids across Canada began picketing their own corner stores.

On April 30, 200 kids marched on the British Colombia capitol building, effectively shutting down government business for the day. All in all, 3,000 kids were said to have signed pledge cards stating that they’d boycott candy until the price went down. And their threats weren’t empty—candy sales went down 80%.

They almost won, too, but critics began to suggest that the National Federation of Youth, an organization with members affiliated with the Communist Party, had orchestrated the strike. There was no validity to these claims, but boycott had now been painted Red and parents forbade their kids from taking part. The price remained as it was, and to this day, the remaining kiddos (now grown) maintain that they’d only protested to let their voices be heard.

 

 

People Feeder | $38.00

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Uncommon Knowledge: Do Plants Have Sibling Rivalry?

February 3, 2016

Micro-Greens Kits | UncommonGoodsQuite the opposite, actually. Plants are extremely considerate of their siblings—other plants grown from the seeds of the same mother plant—and won’t compete with their brethren the way they would with non-related plants.

A study of more than 3,000 mustard seedlings found that chemical cues given off during root growth will alert the plant to their nearby family and will change the way the plants grow. Instead of rapidly growing their roots to take up as many nutrients as possible, plants that were growing near siblings developed a shallower root system and intertwined leaves so they’d all have an equal chance at survival. The jury’s still out on how plant siblings feel about each other during long car rides, when one is using the bathroom for too long, or after their parents tell them to share the last piece of cake.

 

Micro-Green Kits | $48.00

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What’s the World’s Oldest Love Song?

February 1, 2016

Heart Venn Diagram Print | UncommonGoodsOdes to love are almost as old as language and love itself. For many years, the Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) from the Old Testament of the Bible was widely considered to be the earliest poetic tribute to matters of the heart. But in 1951, Sumerologist Samuel Noah Kramer found an older ode on a cuneiform tablet from the excavation of the Mesopotamian city of Nineveh. It had been unearthed in the mid-nineteenth century but put in a drawer until Kramer rediscovered it. When he translated it, Kramer found the tablet contains the Love Song for Shu-Sin (c. 2,000 BCE), part of an annual rite known as the “sacred marriage.” Sounds pretty tame and ceremonial, right? Guess again—it’s actually pretty steamy stuff, offering lines like You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you. Bridegroom, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber…Lion, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber. So, before Solomon’s lover likened his lady to “a mare among Pharaoh’s chariot horses”—and a couple of millennia before slow jams—the Neo-Assyrians were heating things up with a love song for the ages.

Heart Venn Diagram Linocut Print | $28

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Who Invented the Cubicle?

January 25, 2016

Personality Desk Signs | UncommonGoodsThe short answer is Robert Probst (1921 – 2000). But Bob was quick to point out that the cubicle and cubicle “farm” as we know them are a far cry from his original intent. Probst, a designer, inventor, and former college art professor, developed the Action Office system in 1960 as head of R&D for Herman Miller. The system was influenced by the German concept of Bürolandschaft or “office landscape,” a way of making open office plans more organic and hospitable through various desk configurations, partitions, and potted plants. Probst’s Action Office was a modular system that could be configured in various ways to suit different corporate environments, but its open angles (not 90 degrees) didn’t box workers in, and its mix of private and common spaces encouraged employees to move around throughout the day. And lest you think that the “standing desk” craze is a recent development, Probst incorporated the concept into his system as a way to improve blood flow. It was only decades later when office floor space costs soared that Probst’s office system was corrupted into the dreaded cubicle farm by large corporations looking to squeeze in as many people per square foot as possible. But however boxy and generic your workspace might be, remember: things could be worse…

Personality Desk Signs | $28

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