The first doctor to champion hand-washing was beaten to death

In 1846, large numbers of women and babies were dying during childbirth in Vienna. The cause of death was puerperal fever, a disease that swells then kills its victims. Vienna’s General Hospital had two maternity clinics. Mothers and newborns were…


All our lives, people have been telling us we are just one catastrophe away from annihilation. Climate change is today’s most common concern, but overpopulation, nuclear war, pandemics, and the rise of artificial intelligence are also popular. …


How do new things come to be? Creations are neither miracles nor magic, but the consequence of many small, often meandering, steps. …


In the Indian Ocean, fifteen hundred miles east of Africa and four thousand miles west of Australia, lies an island that the Portuguese knew as Santa Apolónia, the British as Bourbon, and the French, for a time, as Île Bonaparte. Today it is called Réunion. A bronze statue stands in…


Why people who brainstorm are wasting their time.

Brainstorming was invented by advertising executive Alex Osborn in 1939 and first published in 1942 in his book How to Think Up. This is a typical description, from James Manktelow, founder and CEO of MindTools, a company that promotes brainstorming as a way to “develop creative solutions to business problems”:


No one who knows the history of science would ask this question.

The dumbest question you can ask a scientist — or any other creator, inventor, or discoverer — about his or her work is,

“What’s the economic value?”

One reason: In 1888, after eight years of experiments, Heinrich Hertz…


SANTA CLARITA, California — Cesar Millan crosses the road to meet me. Two pit bulls, a Chihuahua, and a Yorkshire terrier — named Junior, Taco, Alfie and Kaley Cuoco — follow. Off leash and at heel, the dogs are calm, almost languid. …


The word “creativity” was made up less than a hundred years ago. It is time to stop using it.

People living in the twentieth century heard a lot of talk about “creativity.” People living in the twenty-first century will not. Creativity is not dead yet, but its end is in sight. Alfred North Whitehead invented the word in 1926.

75 years later, it was one in every 70,000 words…


In 2013, a dance craze came and went within weeks. Why?

Experts said the “Harlem Shake” phenomenon was emergent behavior from the hive mind of the internet — accidental, ad hoc, uncoordinated: a “meme” that “went viral.” But this is untrue. …


The truth behind football’s latest “controversy” and what it tells us about ourselves.

Update, May 6, 2015: On May 6, the National Football League released its report on the “Deflategate” controversy. The report is damning. While all the game balls measured (including the Colts’) showed significant pressure drops between pre-game…

Kevin Ashton

Called a thing the Internet of Things. Wrote How to Fly a Horse—The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery, available at http://amzn.to/1llqnbc

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