By the Second World War well over 90% of urban families in the US had their own radio.  Let’s assume the same was true in London.  And the radio provided accurate time information, hourly.

And yet Ruth Bellville continued her father’s business of ‘selling the time’ by setting her chronometer at the Greenwich Observatory and personally touring her 50 remaining clients to allow them to set their clocks accurately.  This business, started in 1836 with about 200 customers, seems spectacularly anachronistic.  Was it the value of accurate time?  Maybe in the 1840s.  Or status value?  Maybe in the 1840s.  And what was the value nearly 100 years later, in the 1930s?  Social continuity?  Perhaps the human face of data?

Interesting stuff, value.


At the core of effective communication is a ‘theory of mind’ – knowing what the other person is thinking.  Perhaps the most significant thing about the new ‘Baxter Robot’ ( is its interface which gives you some idea of its status – what it’s ‘thinking’.  Innovative in so many ways, I think this is the most brilliant.

Baxter face 130621

This was the profound insight that enabled Charles Parsons to develop the steam turbineIMG00484-20130613-1109 architecture we know today – multiple rows of blades on a single shaft, each row of blades extracting power from the jet of steam.  And from there to power station turbines.




I had a fascinating few hours last week at Cambridge’s Whittle Laboratory where the gas turbine engines they research are part of Parson’s heritage.  And where, incidentally, researchers continue to have quite profound insights, now into the aerodynamics of the blades in aero engine compressors and how blade shapes can be designed to reduce fuel consumption.IMG00485-20130613-1115