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Made by humans…a label I would be proud to display

September 29, 2011

The best blog post I read today was from Lost in Recurision, Humans did that! (and you could too). In it, Paul Salomon describes a simple but profound truth. That awesome thing you’ve been awing about—you know, the ipod, the Schrodinger equation, bBeetohven’s 9th symphony, and all the works of art in all the museums in the world—a human made it.

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard heard students or even just acquaintances say things that belie the idea that they couldn’t possibly understand physics because they aren’t a rocket scientist, or Einsten. Well, guess what—rocket scientists and Einstein are humans. The neurons in their brain are connected in much the same process as ours, and in every occasion where I’ve decided to investigate it, every staggering work of genius has been preceded by a correspondingly staggering amount of hard work.

So what if we could make this more transparent to our students? What if we could help them to see where their math textbook, physics formula, beautiful poem, or handheld calculator was made by a human, who at one point was 16 and struggled with something in school.

So that inspired me to send this tweet:

to which he responded

which led to a flurry of design (I really love graphic design, and that I get to indulge this interest through teaching), and ultimately this final desgin for a bumper sticker sized image, as well as a smaller 1″x3″ image.

View this document on Scribd

So I can’t wait to start putting these up all around my classroom.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Tara permalink
    September 29, 2011 6:08 am

    I want one!! That sounds really cool and would help many people, including me, realize that anythng’s possible. If Einstein, Bach, and milliOns of peoPle in small Asian countries can make what they do/did, then why, with dedication, can’t I? 🙂

  2. September 29, 2011 10:11 pm

    Loved working on this with you, John, and thanks for the endorsement!

    Something I left out of my post was that I see this even in any little dinky thing. I have a plain pine box dresser in my apartment, and thought it’s nothing special, someone made it by hand. Could I?

    When I watch some dinky local commercial I listen to the background music or strange little jingle, I realize that someone wrote that, and I get blown away! Could I do that? It’s nontrivial work. It’s a real act of creation, whether you love it or not. Whether it’s groundbreaking or not.

    People have a hand in every thing. Look at one thing in your room and ask how many hands touched it before yours?

    • October 1, 2011 12:30 pm

      You’re exactly right. I think of my early days in woodshop in middle school, and the hours I spent sanding a squirrel shaped napkin holder for my grandparents. It led me to always marvel at many of the things you find around—wooden furniture with perfect corners, and beautifully smooth finishes. And even for things that are machine made, I still find comfort in knowing that humans made the machines.

      And it also occurs to me that if we’ve got a “made by humans” sticker, we really could also use a “made by nature” sicker as well (though I would never want to affix it to anything—to remind us of the beautiful works of art we see around us made by evolution—the structure of bark on a tree, the iridescence of a moth’s wing, or the incredible sensitivity of bat echolocation.


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