Wednesday, August 21, 2013

new article on newmatics in new scientist

The front cover of the latest New Scientist proclaims the end of infinity, and in smaller font, that "vintage postal pipes make a comeback". Turn to page 36, or sign in online, and you can read Jacob Aron's great feature about pneumatic tube systems.

Fittingly the article begins in a windowless room in a London basement. At first, we are not told where this basement is - it could be anywhere in the city. The tubes are hidden, and that is the point. Later we find out that the basement is in the University College Hospital, and are told that hospitals are the booming market for pneumatic tube systems.

There are some terrific stories in the article, such as the one about the secret pneumatic message system between composer Guiseppe Verdi and Arrigo Boito, where notes about the opera they were working on were shuttled under the streets of Milan. Academic Holly Kruse is interviewed about the social impact of the tubes, and I had the opportunity to speak to Jacob Aron too (read some of my comments at the end of the article) and talk about this "antique messaging technology" made new again.

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