Reading 100 All TIME Novels
Follow my quest to read every book from Time Magazine's 100 All Time Novels.
The Complete List
Reading All Time Novels on CBC
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
The Toaster Project
I came across an interesting book yesterday at the bookstore that provided me with a quick little diversion from my regular reading,
The Toaster Project: Or A Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance From Scratch
Author Thomas Thwaites embarks on a journey to build a toaster, something we use almost everyday, but likely have little to no understanding of how it works or how it is made.
His mission isn’t just to acquire the different parts and put them together, a difficult task in itself, but also to make each part from scratch.
Of course ‘from scratch’ can be difficult to define.
He quotes Carl Sagan who once said, if you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”
For the purpose of this book however, Thwaites decides he wants to build all the pieces from raw materials, such as the casing, the heating element, and the wiring, and then put them all together to make a functioning toaster.
The problems arise immediately, as he discovers it is nearly impossible to acquire copper, steel or oil on a domestic scale.
As a representative from BP told him, “we’re just not set up for the scale you’re working at.
If you wanted a tanker full, we could maybe help…”
Then of course, most people also lack the necessary tools to turn raw ore into copper or oil into plastic.
Even with the knowledge of how to do so, these are herculean tasks.
The most intriguing part of the book for me was how people are so interconnected and reliant on others to have the things we use everyday.
Our overall knowledge may be much greater than the average person two hundred years ago, but if transported back in time, we’d be incapable of reproducing any of the devices we take for granted today.
In the end, Thwaites’ toaster cost $2000, with only 22 different parts, doesn’t’ work very well, and quite frankly looks terrible.
But he was able to make a toaster; sort of.
It was an enjoyable read overall, but I was hoping it would delve deeper into the actual making of the toaster.
Instead, most of the book talks about acquiring the raw materials and turning them into metals and plastics.
Don't get me wrong, that was interesting, but p
ersonally, I was more curious about the difficulty of making copper wiring, or creating the spring that will pop the toast up, and then trying to put them all together to make a functioning electrical appliance. It has made me pause and think about the things around me however and in a way, how helpless I really would be without my usual comforts. In the end, I like to think that was the point of the book.
Share This Page:
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Share to Twitter
Share to Facebook
Share to Pinterest
Post a Comment
Post Comments (Atom)