July 14, 1881 the "Book of 96 Fools" was published in
Berlin – the first telephone book. It was popularly called
the "Book of 96 Fools", because the (so-called) man
from the street pitied them, these first 96 German participants
that had fallen for this "swindle from America": the
The relationship between
what is new and innovation is by no means apriori clear: not everything
that is merely new is called innovation (see: the new winter collection
or the new construction of a normal residential building), and
not every innovation consists entirely of something new. A certain
novelty, specific new aspects – regardless of how they are
specified – are necessary conditions for an innovation.
Thus before we turn to more complex questions of scientific or
economic innovations, we should address the seemingly simple question
of what "new" actually means and what are the criteria
for what is new. How does something new become New?
The new always presupposes
a beginning without a predictable end, because otherwise the new
could be simply derived from the old and would thus be formally
situated in a clear and unequivocal connection with the given.
In this respect, old Sir Popper rightly speaks of the non-prognosticability
of new knowledge. What is new breaks with the past and establishes
a beginning. This is also the reason for its close proximity to
chance. Mountains of books have been written on innovation in
the attempt to weed out exactly this moment of chance from the
innovation process – in the end it pops up like a little
pixie in a hidden place.
I stood there and stared
into the sky.
It is easy to make
a smaller smoke ring machine. But I wanted to make smoke rings
with a diameter of seventeen meters.
I thought about it.
I would have to build
a combustion chamber as high as a house and as big as a soccer
field. But maybe there is a different, more economical way.
It is possible to build
semi-rigid structures from air-filled fabric tubes. Firm walls
of this type would resemble an air mattress. My "smoke ring
chamber" could thus be built with a sewing machine and a
few old parachutes (which can be obtained). A small fan would
do to provide the pressure.
I could make a 35-meter
wide "igloo"-shaped construction with a 17-meter large
hole in the center of the roof. Then the smoke rings could get
out through the top.
To produce a smoke
ring, I would thus put the chamber under pressure: a "venetian
blind" is placed over the hole, which is closed in the beginning.
Another fan then raises the pressure a little. A foldable supplementary
chamber might even be added to the main chamber, which would have
rubber ropes around it so that it could be inflated like a balloon.
When the venetian blind
is opened suddenly, the air escapes quickly, forming a ring spiralling
upward as it does so. To make the spiral visible, I would heat
the air and generate a mist using a condensation vaporizer. When
the heated air meets with the outside air, the drop in temperature
creates additional fog.
I expect that the 17-meter
smoke ring will have a very long life. As it floats upward, the
warm air will carry it much higher than a generator normally would.
The ring-shaped cloud might even reach the stratosphere and produce
a real cloud. That would probably look very strange on a cloudless
day. If I start the generator repeatedly, a chain of 17-meter-wide
smoke rings would rise up slowly into the sky. There would be
a perpendicular, dotted, kilometer-high line from the ground up
to the sky. Smoke "pixels" against the background of
the blue sky, very similar to the laser spotlights used at night
for vulgar advertising and village discos. It could probably be
seen for a hell of a long way in the distance in the daylight.
So let us
stand with both feet firmly in the clouds. With a series of ten
huge generators built side by side, we could make gigantic dot-matrix
 letters rise up to the sky ...
 Note for
non-nerds: dot-matrix printers are also known as pin-printers.
Not many are sold anymore, though.
by Jim Janecek