Category Archives: supply chain

Capacitors from the Congo

Bill Hammack makes instructional videos about engineering in everyday life. In this episode he explains why the conflict mineral Tantalum is used to make cell phone capacitors smaller. Even though only 2% of the raw ore Coltan originates in the Congo, it is impossible to trace in its refined form, which means that the 40mg […]

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Hard Labor

Another amazing resource for anyone who wishes to know more and act with information when choosing products or choosing which issue to tackle – the US Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child labor or Forced (slave) Labor (publicly available in pdf format). The dry checklist gives only a cursory glance – it […]

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Fashion without Trash

The fashion industry is the poster child for un-sustainable practices, as we’ve already seen from the myriad of social and environmental problems plaguing the cotton trade. Fashion designers share the responsibility, because they are so remote from the means of production – usually outsourced to Southeast Asia, Africa or South America – that their designs […]

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Heat Local

Last week John took me to see Highland Wood Energy, Scotland’s largest biomass heating company. While the idea of burning wood is not particularly new, modern chip and pellet furnaces provide a uniquely sustainable solution for regions with a natural overabundance of wood (whether from natural growth or industrial waste). In particularly isolated regions like […]

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The Food Tastes Better

It’s been a while since I’ve posted to this blog – not out of laziness, but because the Sourcemap project has taken hold of all my attention. That’s how I forgot to mention this video, shot with Matthew Hockenberry this past August, which depicts our first users ever: Robert Harris of Season to Taste Catering […]

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Prison Flight Maps

At the MoMA last week I stumbled across the elegant map-based visualizations of the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia’s School of Architecture. The Million Dollar Block project (pdf) explores the impact of incarceration on specific neighborhoods of New York City and Brooklyn in particular. The staggering visualizations at once depict the incredible expense of […]

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Structural Problems

The Bridgehead buildings in Linz (Austria) have a tortured history: they were built as the Fuhrermuseum, to house Adolf Hitler’s own collection of stolen art. This past year Linz celebrated as cultural capital of Europe, and a powerful series of interventions to one of these buildings sought to (literally) uncover the history of their construction. […]

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3D-Printed Clock

At the Ars Electronica / MIT Media Lab exhibit in Linz, Peter Schmitt presented his work on mechanical systems made by rapid prototyping machines – so-called 3-D printers. He makes the interesting argument that by producing these intricate mechanical devices using a single process, manufacturers could forgo the need for low-cost assembly and instead manufacture […]

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