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The Story Behind the Largest Coffee Lid Collection in the World

New York University professor Louise Harpman is a proponent of a sort of mindfulness she calls “visual literacy.” The concept is simple: to notice that every little thing around us has been designed by someone. It’s that idea that might help explain why Harpman keeps over 550 disposable coffee lids under her bed.

Those lids—stored in acid-free boxes—are the largest collection of independently patented coffee lids in the world. Harpman co-owns them with her partner Specht Harpman, and the myriad of lids cover an evolving type of very specific invention. They are constantly updating the collection, which has garnered a lot of attention over the years, from a feature in Cabinet Magazine to an exhibit at the National Museum of American History.

In the video above, Harpman talks about her interest in the plastic coffee lid, both from a design perspective and as the language of America’s on-the-go dining culture. Each lid has its own nuance and (theoretically) innovation, which are all part of a larger story about the history of mobile caffeination.

According to Harpman, “We tried to understand what it was that was driving innovation. What problems are the designers trying to solve? Why isn’t there a best lid? Why don’t we have the equivalent of the paper clip? There’s still always improvements being offered.”

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iStock
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Why You Might Not Want to Order Tea or Coffee On Your Next Flight
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iStock

A cup of tea or coffee at 40,000 feet may sound like a great way to give yourself an extra energy boost during a tiring trip, but it might be healthier to nap away your fatigue—or at least wait until hitting ground to indulge in a caffeine fix. Because, in addition to being tepid and watery, plane brew could be teeming with germs and other harmful life forms, according to Business Insider.

Multiple studies and investigations have taken a closer look at airplane tap water, and the results aren’t pretty—or appetizing. In 2002, The Wall Street Journal conducted a study that looked at water samples taken from 14 different flights from 10 different airlines. Reporters discovered “a long list of microscopic life you don’t want to drink, from Salmonella and Staphylococcus to tiny insect eggs," they wrote.

And they added, "Worse, contamination was the rule, not the exception: Almost all of the bacteria levels were tens, sometimes hundreds, of times above U.S. government limits."

A 2004 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that water supplies on 15 percent of 327 national and international commercial aircrafts were contaminated to varying degrees [PDF]. This all led up to the 2011 Aircraft Drinking Water Rule, an EPA initiative to make airlines clean up. But in 2013, an NBC investigation found that at least one out of every 10 commercial U.S. airplanes still had issues with water contamination.

Find out how airplane water gets so gross, and why turning water into coffee or tea isn’t enough to kill residual germs by watching Business Insider’s video below.

[h/t Business Insider]

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Montaag
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Design
This Concrete Block Makes a Fine Espresso
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Montaag

Have you ever thought your kitchen could use more of a Soviet Union vibe? Do you find the fixtures in abandoned buildings charming? Then the AnZa espresso machine—essentially a coffee maker encased in a concrete block—may be for you.

According to Curbed, the AnZa is part of the art and installation aesthetic dubbed Brutalism, an architectural movement using spare, blocky designs. Moving away from the sleek, shiny appearance of most modern appliances, design firm Montaag crafted a rough block with simple knobs. As post-apocalyptic as it may look, it’s reputed to make a very good cup of espresso. And it’s “smart”: a smartphone app can adjust the brewing temperature to the user’s preference.

A close-up of the AnZa's knob
Montaag

The project’s Kickstarter recently met its $145,000 goal and is now accepting preorders at Indiegogo for $799. You can hoist this subjectively beautiful appliance on your countertop beginning in March 2018.

[h/t Curbed]

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