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Daguerreotype Q&A

Since my recent visit to the End of the Oregon Trail, I've been wondering about daguerreotypes. After a bit of research, I bring you this Daguerreotype Q&A:

Why doesn't anyone smile in these pictures? The common answer for this is a partially fact-based myth: because it took a long time to expose the image, the subject had to sit still. And, the story goes, frowning is easier to hold in place than smiling. The truth is that very early daguerreotypes (those from 1839-1845) did take 60-90 seconds of sitting still to capture an image, but the majority of daguerreotypes we see today are from post-1845, when new technology (the addition of bromine fumes to the process) reduced exposure times to a few seconds. A more plausible story is that people weren't used to having their pictures taken -- the expense and seriousness of the occasion (getting quite possibly the only photograph you'd ever have of yourself) led people to adopt a serious pose.

When were daguerreotypes popular? Although they're well known today (possibly due to Brady's Civil War images), daguerreotypes were merely one of several competing formats in nineteenth-century photography. They were introduced by Louis Daguerre in 1839 and remained popular into the 1860's. Because daguerreotypes developed a positive image directly onto the photographic plate, there was no way to reproduce them without sitting for multiple shots (there was no negative). This, combined with the expense, fragility, and technical difficulty of the process led to competitors including:

  • Calotype - which used paper negatives
  • Ambrotype - which produced a ghostly positive glass image that was then backed with black paper to produce a complete photograph
  • Tintype - which was durable (being printed on a plate of metal) and thus popular during the Civil War for soldiers in the field

Does anyone still make daguerreotypes today? Yes, though it's a complex and potentially toxic process. The Contemporary Daguerreotypes site (warning: a few tasteful nudes are included) features the work of modern daguerreotypists. See also: The Daguerreian Society, which has an excellent Daguerreotype FAQ with tips on preservation and much more.

Are there daguerreotype images online? I'm so glad you asked, rhetorical question-voice. Check out America's First Look into the Camera from the Library of Congress (including lots of Mathew Brady material). Also try The Daguerreian Society's searchable daguerreotype database or Daguerreotypes at Harvard. Finally, searching Google Images for "daguerreotype" turns up a variety of fun stuff.

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This AI Tool Will Help You Write a Winning Resume
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For job seekers, crafting that perfect resume can be an exercise in frustration. Should you try to be a little conversational? Is your list of past jobs too long? Are there keywords that employers embrace—or resist? Like most human-based tasks, it could probably benefit from a little AI consultation.

Fast Company reports that a new start-up called Leap is prepared to offer exactly that. The project—started by two former Google engineers—promises to provide both potential minions and their bosses better ways to communicate and match job needs to skills. Upload a resume and Leap will begin to make suggestions (via highlighted boxes) on where to snip text, where to emphasize specific skills, and roughly 100 other ways to create a resume that stands out from the pile.

If Leap stopped there, it would be a valuable addition to a professional's toolbox. But the company is taking it a step further, offering to distribute the resume to employers who are looking for the skills and traits specific to that individual. They'll even elaborate on why that person is a good fit for the position being solicited. If the company hires their endorsee, they'll take a recruiter's cut of their first year's wages. (It's free to job seekers.)

Although the service is new, Leap says it's had a 70 percent success rate landing its users an interview. The rest is up to you.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Space
Watch NASA Test Its New Supersonic Parachute at 1300 Miles Per Hour
NASA/JPL, YouTube
NASA/JPL, YouTube

NASA’s latest Mars rover is headed for the Red Planet in 2020, and the space agency is working hard to make sure its $2.1 billion project will land safely. When the Mars 2020 rover enters the Martian atmosphere, it’ll be assisted by a brand-new, advanced parachute system that’s a joy to watch in action, as a new video of its first test flight shows.

Spotted by Gizmodo, the video was taken in early October at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Narrated by the technical lead from the test flight, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Ian Clark, the two-and-a-half-minute video shows the 30-mile-high launch of a rocket carrying the new, supersonic parachute.

The 100-pound, Kevlar-based parachute unfurls at almost 100 miles an hour, and when it is entirely deployed, it’s moving at almost 1300 miles an hour—1.8 times the speed of sound. To be able to slow the spacecraft down as it enters the Martian atmosphere, the parachute generates almost 35,000 pounds of drag force.

For those of us watching at home, the video is just eye candy. But NASA researchers use it to monitor how the fabric moves, how the parachute unfurls and inflates, and how uniform the motion is, checking to see that everything is in order. The test flight ends with the payload crashing into the ocean, but it won’t be the last time the parachute takes flight in the coming months. More test flights are scheduled to ensure that everything is ready for liftoff in 2020.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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