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Seven Curious Things Online this Week

The future is scary: hadron colliders, HD-video iPhones and nanotube lightbulbs are as bizarre as they are promising. Thankfully, this week on the Web shows us that not all that much has changed; we're still the same gawkers we were 100 years ago, and we still need hammers and rope to get things done.

The Old-Time Face Book

According to The New York Times, the social networking fad we discuss so much may not be new to humanity.


According to a 1902 newspaper article unearthed from the archives of the Boston Daily Globe, a game called "Face Book" emerged around the turn of the century and achieved massive popularity. Academics studying the game say it involved players sketching out cartoon caricatures of each other, and reveals an interesting parallel between image-building then, and image-building with Facebook walls and MySpace pages today.

The ancestral thread lies in scrapbooking: the hobby of collecting tidbits about one's life in one centralized medium. The study of Face Book and other parlor games has led to a bonafied academic study of the tradition, and the extent to which digital social networks carry it on. A related find: something that appears to be an emoticon, drawn in the marginalia of one of Abraham Lincoln's speeches.

The Daily Show Visits the Doomsday Machine

There's nothing like a rich whiff of pseudoscience to cloud progress on one of the world's greatest scientific experiments. The Daily Show's John Oliver is happy to isolate the reek—and TV news' eagerness to perpetuate it—on last night's episode of the Daily Show.

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BusinessWeek Bets on iPhone Video

A post by Peter Burrows on BusinessWeek's Web site yesterday postulates that there is good evidence of a video-editing iPhone in the works. Not only in the works, but imminent, and ready for release at Apple's upcoming developer conference in June.


Burrows believes that video is the only entertainment medium that the iPhone has yet to conquer, and that with iMovie as one of Apple's trademark apps, that deficit won't last long. He also points to evidence in the iPhone's operating system that video recording capability, while now disabled, is in the device's genes for future software releases. Straight-to-YouTube uploading would also dovetail nicely with the iPhone's YouTube app, which has largely been forgotten in the swarm of apps created by third-party developers.

Tools Everyone Should Own has a list of 50 tools everyone should own, starting with socket wrenches and ending with the lowly extension cord. Oh, and don't forget the ball-peen hammer and the volt/ohmeter. (Below, a dust mask.)


Chances are you probably have most of these—or your neighbor does, ready for borrowing—but take a look and see how you can fill out your toolbox. If you're as cash-strapped as the rest of the country, the next home or apartment repair you do might be best served by a little DIY know-how.

Pentagon Using Twitter

In what might amount to the biggest misappropriation of social cachet in the history of American government, the AP is reporting that the head of Army command is turning to Twitter and Facebook to drive recruitment.

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Apparently at least one top commander in Iraq has a Facebook page to answer teens' questions about the war. The Air Force and the Marine Corps are looking into the technology as well. The Navy says some of its commanders are using Twitter, and the Army has gone so far as to create a "virtual recruiter" that can answer questions on the Army's Web site. Because nothing speaks to a tradition of service like two of the least-reliable platforms on the Web.

Why Does Bogus Medicine Sell?

If non-medicinal treatments rarely work to cure illnesses, how does the industry stay afloat? That's the question posed by a recent article in ArsTechnica that went viral this week.


To understand the phenomenon, researchers have created mathematical models to try to glean how word of poorly-performing herbal treatments disperses, and how decisions to use those treatments inform others' actions. The finding: the more efficacious the treatment, the shorter the "demonstration period" involvled in the healing, and the less distance it gets in social circles.

Smallest Ever Lamp Made from Nanotube

If the world of nanotechnology doesn't blow your mind, consider this: the world's smallest incandescent lamp, made from a single carbon nanotube, is invisible to the naked eye until it's turned on. Sure, it only releases a few million photons, but since the human eye is single-photo sensitive, the light is plainly visible.


Aside from the sundry uses of microscopic light sources—think your dashboard glow looks cool now?—the nano-lamp also puts in relief one of the emerging incompatibilities in physics: what New Scientist calls "the mismatch between thermodynamics and quantum mechanics." Scientists are looking for ways to resolve the friction between the two fields, and the carbon nanotube might be a perfect medium for experimentation.