The Sky Is on Fire! Your Complete Visual Guide to the Northern Lights

Rebecca Rosen:

Over the past week, Norway has been witness to some jaw-dropping light shows, the result of an M8.7 class flare and a coronal mass ejection in a direction pointed toward Earth. Many Norwegians shared their photos of the northern lights — or “nordlys” in Norwegian — on Flickr, where we reached out to them for permission to republish them here, in the gallery above. Through Flickr, we can see halfway across the world, to the skies above Trondheim and across Norway.

Kodak Files for Bankruptcy Protection


IT WAS the Apple of its era. Just like the late Steve Jobs with computers and music-players, George Eastman (pictured below behind the camera, with Thomas Edison) did not invent the camera and photographic development. But he simplified the technology. He outmaneuvered rivals. And he marketed his products in novel ways.



Yet the empire Eastman started to build at the end of the 19th century, and which dominated the 20th, did not last long into the 21st century. On January 18th Eastman Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York. The firm was laid low by the rapid shift to digital photography and away from film, where Kodak once earned 70% margins and enjoyed a 90% market share in America.



These handsome profits meant that the firm could invest huge sums in research and development. Yet ironically, extensive R&D contributed to Kodak’s undoing, since the firm ended up pioneering the very digital cameras that went on to kill its core business. The profits also allowed Kodak to be a generous and caring company for generations of employees in Rochester (New York), where it is based, and beyond. This, too, added to its troubles, since its pension obligations left it with less capital to diversify or invest in promising areas that might have saved it.

Kodak’s icons.

Who Cares?

Seth Godin:

Unless someone does, things start to fray around the edges.

Often it’s the CEO or the manager who sets a standard of caring about the details. Even better is a culture where everyone cares, and where each person reinforces that horizontally throughout the team.

You’ve probably been to the hotel that serves refrigerated tomatoes in January at their $20 breakfast, that doesn’t answer the phone when you call the front desk, that has a shower curtain that is falling off the rack and a slightly snarky concierge. This is in sharp relief to that hotel down the street, the one that costs just the same, but gets the details right.

It’s obviously not about access to capital (doing it right doesn’t cost more). It’s about caring enough to make an effort.

The Rise of the Craft Film

Steven Walsh:

Before prohibition the seaside landscape of beer was flourishing. Variety was truly the spice of life, and every locale had its own. Styles traveled from the old world, and were enjoyed in the new. Then the 21st amendment happened, and the fields were burned, and salted. A once flourishing industry was destroyed, and all that remained was a weakened few. Before the microbrew revolution, 3 players came to dominate the entire empire. The feudal consumer was left to choose between three piss colored lagers all tasting exactly the same. They obtained these thrones through a brutal war. Expensive marketing budgets boasted a generic flavor that was at best, not offensive. As large corporations tend to do, the players got big, and they earned power. They used this power to influence policy in an effort to maintain their oligopolistic positions.



It’s hard for me not to draw parallel lines between Hollywood today, and big beer. Today only 6 studios produce nearly the entirety of our big screen entertainment. Much like beer they rely on marketing to drive their product. A script can be great, but if a studio can’t find a sure way to market it, it’s dead. The result is a series of the same movies over and over again. We put up with these movies, because when we go to the theatres, much like the bars of yesterday… there just aren’t any other choices. There is something happening though. The home-brewers are starting to talk to each other!

Apple and the American economy

The Economist:

THE macroeconomic discussions that Apple’s success prompts tend to be very curious things. Here we have a company that’s been phenomenally successful, making products people love and directly creating nearly 50,000 American jobs in doing so, criticised for not locating its manufacturing operations in America, even as Americans complain to Apple about the working conditions of those doing the manufacture abroad: life in dormitories, 12-hour shifts 6 days a week, and low pay. It isn’t enough for Apple to have changed the world with its innovative consumer electronics. It must also rebuild American manufacturing, and not just any manufacturing: the manufacturing of decades ago when reasonable hours and high wages were the norm.



The utility of Apple, however, is that it does provide a framework within which we can discuss the significant changes that have occurred across the global economy in recent decades. Contributing to that effort is a very nice and much talked about piece from the New York Times, which asks simply why it is that Apple’s manufacturing is located in Asia.

Re-Evaluating Germany’s Blind Faith in the Sun

Alexander Neubacher:

The costs of subsidizing solar electricity have exceeded the 100-billion-euro mark in Germany, but poor results are jeopardizing the country’s transition to renewable energy. The government is struggling to come up with a new concept to promote the inefficient technology in the future.

The Baedeker travel guide is now available in an environmentally-friendly version. The 200-page book, entitled “Germany – Discover Renewable Energy,” lists the sights of the solar age: the solar café in Kirchzarten, the solar golf course in Bad Saulgau, the light tower in Solingen and the “Alster Sun” in Hamburg, possibly the largest solar boat in the world.



The only thing that’s missing at the moment is sunshine. For weeks now, the 1.1 million solar power systems in Germany have generated almost no electricity. The days are short, the weather is bad and the sky is overcast.


As is so often the case in winter, all solar panels more or less stopped generating electricity at the same time. To avert power shortages, Germany currently has to import large amounts of electricity generated at nuclear power plants in France and the Czech Republic. To offset the temporary loss of solar power, grid operator Tennet resorted to an emergency backup plan, powering up an old oil-fired plant in the Austrian city of Graz.

Infrastructure Spending

Michael Pettis:

In the paper Flyvbjerg looks at infrastructure projects in a number of countries (not in China, though, because he needed decent data) and shows how the benefits of these projects are systematically overstated and the costs systematically understated. More important, he shows how these terrible results are simply the expected outcomes of the way infrastructure projects are typically designed and implemented.



It is not a very happy paper in general, but I am pretty sure that many people who read it probably had a thought similar to mine: if infrastructure spending can be so seriously mismanaged in relatively transparent systems with greater political accountability, what might happen in a country with a huge infrastructure boom stretching over decades, much less transparency, and very little political accountability? Isn’t the potential for waste vast?

Dems’ SOPA support risky in 2012

Ryan Rainey:

The technology industry might be crucial for the economy of Wisconsin’s second-largest city, but our congressional delegation has been reluctant to heavily contribute to the debate about SOPA and PIPA. It took until Wednesday’s online “blackout,” in which The Badger Herald participated, for Madison’s own Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin to release a statement announcing she would not support the legislation.

Last Tuesday, Baldwin’s press representative said she had “some reservations” about the legislation. Baldwin still was staying unusually quiet about the issue.

Baldwin has rightfully earned her title as one of the most effective progressive voices in the House of Representatives. However, her reluctance to be one of the major progressive voices to come out early against SOPA and PIPA exposes several important aspects of her position in Congress, her campaign for Senate and the disappointing representation of Congress’ Democratic caucus.

Ever since her first Congressional victory in the 1990s, Baldwin has essentially been a shoo-in to win Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District. Still, she needs donations to keep her biannual campaigns afloat, and she predictably receives large donations from trade unions and equal rights advocacy groups.

A brief scan of the history of donations to Baldwin’s campaign committee might explain her reluctance to oppose SOPA immediately. In 2010, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association donated $10,000 to Baldwin’s campaign, tying it with three other unions as the top donor to the Baldwin campaign. Unsurprisingly, the NCTA is one of the many organizations affiliated with the entertainment industry that supports SOPA.

Nuburgring

Raphael Orlove:

It’s hard to wrap your head around the size and complexity of the gearhead Mecca, the Nürburgring. Made by the people at Carbuzz UK, this is all the info you need to prepare yourself for your next Bridge-to-Gantry Hajj.


When an English journalist visited the track for its opening race in 1928 he remarked, “it seemed as if a reeling, drunken giant had been sent out to determine the route.” If that alone doesn’t make you want to get out to the longest permanent racetrack in the world, then this visual breakdown of all of its narrow, twisting, deadly glory will.

Art & Car Design

Stephen Bayley:

To appreciate the resonance of the last decade’s revolution in BMW design, it’s necessary to understand the company’s huge historic debt to a modernist ideas factory that became the world’s most influential art school.

‘Art and technology : a new unity’ was the Bauhaus slogan and before the Second World War, BMW already had a department of Kunstlerische Gestaltung (Artistic Development), the first of its kind. The Nazis closed the radical Bauhaus in 1933, but in the fifties its spirit was revived in Ulm’s Hochschule fur Gestaltung. Everything we understand by German Design was confirmed by Ulm: clarity, discipline, logic, fuss-free surfaces and the (sometimes forbidding) semantics of technical authority.


The modern BMW look is established – with Hofmeister knick