Joseph Hudson: Inventor of the Police and Referee Whistles

Metropolitan Police Whistle

Joseph Hudson set up a whistle factory in Birmingham, England in 1870. Around 1878, his Acme whistles were the first to replace the handkerchiefs and sticks of football referees.

In 1883 the Home Secretary invited competition from companies to replace the hand rattle that the London Metropolitan Police of the time relied on. Joseph Hudson, basing a new whistle on the sound he had heard when a violin broke from a fall, was awarded the contract for over 7,000 whistles. During testing on Clapham Common, the sound of the whistle was heard over a mile away.

In 1884, the company continued their whistle revolution, inventing the first reliable pea-whistle, the Acme Thunderer, which is still the most popular whistle today and has sold in the hundreds of millions.

Police Whistle photograph by Leo Reynolds

Re-Creating Famous Movie Scenes in Powerpoint or Keynote

Microsoft Powerpoint and Apple Keynote have come a long way. Now, rather than boring people with presentations that are full of bullet points, you can bore people with presentations full of pointless transitions and effects (as I often do).

The side-effect of these features is that you can easily create some relatively sophisticated animation. So I thought it might be interesting to re-create famous movies scenes using nothing but Keynote or Powerpoint. Above you’ll find my first attempt at the Stay Puft scene from Ghostbusters: you can download the Keynote file I used to create it (Creative Commons licensed – do whatever you want with it).

I’ve thrown down the gauntlet; will you pick it up? Let’s see what you’ve got.

Buy Chocolate Anuses at The Shop of Horrors in London

The Last Tuesday Society's Shop of Horros in Bethnal Green, London

The Last Tuesday Society “is devoted to exploring and furthering the esoteric, literary and artistic aspects of life in London and beyond.”

They hold a wide variety of beautiful, curious events, and I suspect we’ll be writing about them again in the future. But today we’d like to highlight their incredible Little Shop of Horrors in Bethnal Green, London. The shop of curiosities sells:

A wide variety of curiosities and oddities […] from human fetuses to shrunken heads, chocolate anuses, carniverous plants, orchids and mutated teddy bears, not to mention a fine selection of speciality teas, broken children’s toys and dead plants

It’s located at 11 Mare Street, and is currently open 12-6pm, Friday to Sunday.

Animal Bath Patents

Animal Bath Patent Illustrations

If you want to know what was truly important to any particular generation, you could probably do a lot worse than browse the patent applications of the time.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised whilst trawling through the patents of the late 19th and early 20th Century to find a glut of animal baths. At first I found them funny, but eventually found myself enamoured with the beautiful (OK, so sometimes funny too) line drawings. Those shown above are:

What’s the best old patent you can find in the database? Can you top the wonderfully simple sex aid (sorry, “Appliance For Assisting Anatomical Organs“) from 1897?

100 Years of Fears

A graph showing the volume of New York Times 'fear' articles from 1900-2009

Fear is a powerful psychological concept that politicians, activists and the media have used to their advantage since time immemorial. Although we might like to blame the modern media on a worsening condition of fearful press, it may not be wholly accurate.

The graph above, from the Google News Archive,¬†shows the volume of New York Times articles mentioning ‘fear’ since 1900. Perhaps we have become so oversaturated with fear that it is no-longer newsworthy.

Matching articles from each decade were passed into Wordle to extract the most fearful topics of each decade. A war-torn century was briefly broken by fears of politicians during the 20’s prohibition, communism and civil rights in the 60s, and AIDS in the 80s.