Dan Lewis writes: “In 2015, a team of marketing researchers were looking at the buying habits of customers who frequented an unnamed chain of convenience stores, likely to help the store better understand its customers. And as one researcher, Professor Catherine Tucker of MIT, told the New York Times, they made a discovery that “was really an accident” — there were a handful of customers “who were really good at picking out failures,” so good that “a newly introduced product was less likely to survive if it attracted these buyers. (And if they bought it repeatedly, its chances of survival were even worse.) Professor Tucker called these people harbingers of failure because, statistically speaking, their fondness for a product heralded its demise.”
Who really invented the electric guitar?
From Ben Marks at Collector’s Weekly: “Many places deserve to be called the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll. Memphis often gets the nod because that’s where Sam Phillips recorded Elvis Presley belting out an impromptu, uptempo cover of “That’s All Right” in 1954. For author Ian Port, whose new book, The Birth of Loud, has just been published by Scribner, the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll could also be the former farming community of Fullerton in Orange County, California. That’s where an electronics autodidact named Clarence Leonidas “Leo” Fender and a friend named Clayton “Doc” Kaufman took a solid plank of oak, painted it glossy black, attached a pickup at one end, and strung its length with steel strings.”
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The plot to steal Coca-Cola’s other secret
From the South China Morning Post: “A chemical engineer was sentenced to 14 years in prison over what prosecutors say was a scheme to steal trade secrets about materials used in cans for soda and other drinks to benefit the Chinese government and a Chinese company. Xiaorong “Shannon” You, 59, of Lansing, Michigan, was sentenced on Monday by a federal judge in Greeneville, Tennessee, after a jury convicted her last month of charges that include possession of stolen trade secrets and economic espionage. Prosecutors say You accessed secrets about BPA-free internal coatings of drink cans while working at Coca-Cola in Atlanta and Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport, Tennessee.”
You can thank this man for our modern system of public water and sewers
Richard Conniff writes in Undark: “Uurban sanitary reform succeeded largely through the outsize influence of one peculiar man. Edwin Chadwick, now mostly forgotten, was a barrister, journalist, and social reformer. From the early 1830s onward, Chadwick campaigned for the British government to intervene in matters of public health and welfare. He promoted essential urban services, including public water supply and sewerage, street cleaning, and garbage removal. Chadwick’s work transformed the character and well-being of cities not just in Britain but, by example, worldwide. Along the way, he helped to establish the basis for the modern liberal state. “Few men have done so much for their fellow-countrymen as Edwin Chadwick,” biographer R.A. Lewis wrote, “and received in return so little thanks.”
On the trail of the Dark Avenger: the most dangerous virus writer in the world
From Scott Shapiro in The Guardian: “In the 1980s, there was no better place than Bulgaria for virus lovers. The socialist country – plagued by hyperinflation, crumbling infrastructure, food and petrol rationing, daily blackouts and packs of wild dogs in its streets – had become one of the hottest hi-tech zones on the planet. Legions of young Bulgarian programmers were tinkering on their pirated IBM PC clones, pumping out computer viruses that managed to travel to the gleaming and prosperous west. People started speaking of the “Bulgarian virus factory”. The founder of the Virus Test Centre in Hamburg, Morton Swimmer, was quoted in a 1990 New York Times article: “Not only do the Bulgarians produce the most computer viruses, they produce the best.”
This bike company found an out-of-the-box solution to its shipping problem
From Colin Nagy in Why Is This Interesting: “The Dutch bike company Vanmoof makes smartly designed e-bikes that need to be shipped to customers. Many of these bikes were being delivered damaged, setting off a chain of complicated and costly after-effects throughout their entire business. To solve the issue, they turned to a brilliant solution. The team redesigned their delivery boxes to look exactly like a television: an item that is essential to American households and that every delivery person knows the drill on how to delicately handle. According to the company, this change had a huge impact: almost overnight, the number of bikes damaged via shipping dropped by 70-80%.”