Image description: According to the U.S. Department of Energy:
Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla were two of the greatest energy inventors of all time. Some of their most significant contributions — from the battery and power plants to alternating current and the electric motor — came to light more than a century ago, and yet, they are still influencing how we use energy in our everyday lives.
That’s why we’re dedicating the entire week on Energy.gov to Edison and Tesla, exploring their lives, some of their inventions and how their breakthroughs are the basis for today’s clean energy technologies. As part of Edison vs. Tesla week, we are also hosting a Google+ Hangout to answer your questions about these two storied inventors.
Yeah, I’m that person who’s going to fangirl over self-portraits of great artists. Look at this handsome, talented man. And look at how he uses complementary colours and erratic brushwork contrasted with selective controlled detail to create an engaging portrait. (Seriously, is this not one of the most beautiful portraits you’ve ever seen? If it was in an art gallery near me, I would never go home. Luckily: internet.) ;9
Here’s something very special. In the 1950s archeologists made a great discovery near the city of Novgorod, Russia: they dug up hundreds of pieces of birch bark with all sorts of texts written on them. The 915 items are mostly letters, notes and receipts, all written between the 11th and 15th century. Among the more notable scraps is a marriage proposal from a man called Mikita to his beloved Anna: “marry me - I want you and you want me, and the witness to that is Ignat Moiseev” (item 377).
The most special items, however, are the ones shown above, which are from a medieval classroom. In the 13th century, young schoolboys learning to write filled these scraps with alphabets and short texts. Bark was ideal material for writing down things with such a short half-life. Then the pupils got bored and started to doodle, as kids do: crude drawings of individuals with big hands, as well as a figure with a raised sword standing next to a defeated beast (lower image). The last one was drawn by Onfim, who put his name next to the victorious warrior. The snippets provide a delightful and most unusual peek into a 13th-century classroom, with kids learning to read - and getting bored in the process.
More information - On the scraps in general, see here. Here is a full inventory, in Russian. On the excavation, see here and here. More kids’ doodles here and here. Some letters in this Flickr stream. The Leiden scholar Jos Schaeken published a book in Dutch on this material, which can be downloaded for free here (English translation to follow next year).