A Recent Artifact with Stories to Tell

By KLG, who has held research and academic positions in three US medical schools since 1995 and is currently Professor of Biochemistry and Associate Dean. He has performed and directed research on protein structure, function, and evolution; cell adhesion and motility; the mechanism of viral fusion proteins; and assembly of the vertebrate heart. He has served on national review panels of both public and private funding agencies, and his research and that of his students has been funded by the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and National Institutes of Health.

I cannot help myself.  When I travel, I buy books.  ‘Tis a sickness for which I have found no treatment, yet.  Several years ago, I returned from a visit to London and the British Museum with A History of the World in 100 Objects (2010) by Neil MacGregor, who was then the museum director.  The objects were chosen to “address as many aspects of human experience as proved practicable…and tell us about whole societies, not just the rich and the powerful within them.”  These remarkable artifacts include an Olduvai Handaxe (#3, 1-1.2 million years old from Tanzania) and a Clovis Spear Point (#5, 11,000 BCE, Arizona) from a million years later.  They are similar in shape and look simple, but they took great skill to make.  Arrowheads and spear points that look outwardly similar were collected on the farms of my grandparents’ generation throughout Middle Georgia (and eventually dispersed, probably ending up in flea markets).  Some were made of native stone, and some were trade goods from farther reaches of North America[1].  They were altogether full of wonder.

An Early Writing Tablet (#15, 3100 BCE) in clay from Southern Iraq presaged great things, as shown 2,500 years later by the Flood Tablet of Nineveh (#16, 700-600 BCE ) from Northern Iraq near Mosul, which is a “prequel” to The Great Flood of Noah.  When the tablet was deciphered by one George Smith (1840-1876), an apprentice printer working near the British Museum who spent his spare time in the Museum’s tablet room, it quite naturally shook up the world of ancient history and Biblical scholarship:

demolish the house, and build a boat!  Abandon wealth and seek survival.  Spurn property, save life.  Take on board all living things’ seed!  The boat you will build, her dimensions shall be equal: her length and breadth shall be the same.  Cover her with a roof, like the ocean below, and he will send you a rain of plenty.

This was written 400 years before the earliest surviving version of Great Flood of Noah in the sixth chapter of Genesis:

God said to Noah: An end of all flesh has come before me, for the earth is filled with wrongdoing through them; here, I am about to bring ruin upon them, along with the earth.

Make yourself an Ark of gofer wood…And this is how you make it: Three hundred cubits the length of the Ark, fifty cubits its breadth, and thirty cubits its height…As for me, here, I am about to bring on the Deluge, water upon the earth, to bring ruing upon all flesh that has rush of life in it, from under the heavens, all that is on earth will perish…and from all living-things, from all flesh, you are to bring two from all into the Ark, to remain alive with you…a male and female of each[2].

This tablet represents both an early form of narrative literature and evidence that there was a core event behind both versions of the Great Flood, the earliest found in the eleventh chapter of the Epic of Gilgamesh dating to the third millennium BCE.  This would have greatly disturbed Isaac Newton, who in addition to being enthralled with alchemy, was much interested in the Bible and Biblical chronology and its significance for the study of history.  Such is the nature of the artifacts of human life.

Next, we have money in the form of a Gold Coin of Croesus (#25, minted in modern day Turkey, 550 BCE), Gold Coins of Abd al-Malik (#46, minted in Damascus, 696-697) from a millennium later, and Pieces of Eight (#80, minted in Potosí , Bolivia, 1573 – 1598).  The Lydians of Croesus’s kingdom were among the first to use coins as a means of exchange, and people still want to become “rich as Croesus.”  The two dinar coins from Damascus were minted in the century following the death of Mohammed in 632.  Abd al-Malik was the ninth caliph – leader of the faithful – and successor to the Prophet Mohammed.  Before Mohammed, Arabic was barely a written language, but after Mohammed written Arabic was necessary to record the Word of God faithfully.  The second coin contains one of the earliest Qur’anic texts in existence.  The silver of Potosí made the Spanish kings of the 16th century the most powerful in Europe by paying for their armies and their armadas.  Castile has long since faded as world hegemon.  Many of the people of Potosí are still poor, and silver miners still die of silicosis.  Colonialism has long lasting consequences, something often forgotten by those with little historical memory and even less imagination.

On a more familiar domestic front, we have the Early Victorian Tea Set (#92, Staffordshire, 1840-1845).  As luxuries became necessities in the 19th century, tea became ubiquitous in English society.  Although produced by Wedgwood, this earthenware set was definitely mid-range and intended for use in “quite modest British households.”  Nevertheless, this set was also decorated with drapes of silver, perhaps intended for a formal teatime midway between lunch and evening of the long 19th-century workday.  The ruling class also had an abiding interest in promoting tea drinking in the growing urban populations of Great Britain.  Tea was prepared using heated water, so it mimicked beer, port, and gin in that it was safe to drink in a London where John Snow removed the handle of the Broad Street pump.  Better to have the working classes of all stations staying relatively healthy and happy while drinking tea rather than gin!

The final two artifacts in the book are a Credit Card (#99, United Arab Emirates, 2009) and a Solar-Powered Lamp and Charger (#100, Guangdong, 2010).  Like all the others, they certainly have a story to tell.  But I have something in mind, perhaps more prosaic, that also speaks to us today: the Coke Bottle.

I found this artifact several years ago when cleaning out an office.  As was the practice when this bottle was made, the location where it first passed through a bottling line is present in raised letters on the bottom: Quincy, Florida, c. 1970-1980.  What does this bottle represent?

The contour Coke Bottle is a triumph of industrial design.  It is attractive and has become a trademark of the Coca-Cola Company.  This bottle is also evidence of sound thinking about the present and the future.  It is functional as well as practical, easily held.  Most importantly, it was reusable rather than recyclable (the latter is mostly observed in the breach, whatever the religion of the Professional Managerial Class – PMC – in all its guises tells us).  Although an expert collector could probably look at the scratches surrounding the widest part of the bottle where it touched other bottles in the bottling line and rubbed against the partitions in a crate of 24 bottles in which it was commonly shipped, this bottle has clearly been used many times.  When found, the Quincy Bottle had traveled about 200 miles along two-lane highways and farm roads.  It would have continued its wanderings had someone returned it for the deposit after drinking its contents[3].

The Quincy Bottle is also evidence of the importance of a local economy to the health of a community.  Quincy is 25 miles northwest of Tallahassee, and has had a stable population of approximately 8,000 for the past 60 years.  This small town within a short drive of the capital of Florida nevertheless supported a Coca-Cola bottling plant.  My southern hometown of 20,000 supported a large Coca-Cola bottling plant from the 1920s through at least the 1970s.  It was good business for the owner and a source of stable employment in the community.  Anecdotes are just that, but the owner of the bottling plant was a neighbor (we lived on the side street behind his fairly grand house with the large organ in the living room).  Although my dealings with him were those of a neighborhood kid, his reputation as a community leader was sound if the adults I knew were telling the truth.  I do know that after a tropical storm his workers used their heavy equipment to remove downed trees throughout the city.  At the time there were more than one thousand local Coca-Cola bottlers across the United States in small towns and major cities.  Now, the bottlers, which are separate from the Coca-Cola Company, have consolidated into regional behemoths and the local bottlers are no more, having been reduced to distributors if they survived at all.  Thus, a common story of consolidation and profiteering with little recognition of local consequences.

The returnable and reusable bottle of any kind is rare these days.  Yes, several states collect deposits on each single-use bottle sold, glass or plastic, but it seems likely that most of them are thrown away rather than recycled.  The 6.5-ounce bottle in the photographs could be reused until it was chipped and removed from the production line by one of the workers who we could watch the large front windows of the local bottling plant.  In retrospect, this seems to have been intentional on the part of the local bottler.  Showing the kinetics of an important local firm to the public is good business (and certainly enthralling to children).

From my memory, sometime after the late-1970s, when reusable 32-ounce contour Coke bottles were still sold in sixpacks at the local grocery store, it became “good business” to ditch the returnable bottle in favor of single-use plastic bottles, in sizes ranging up to two liters.  That has not worked out so well, but the substitution of glass for plastic and the overuse of plastic packaging has been an economy-wide process.  The deleterious effects of plastic pollution worldwide are well understood, despite denials in certain circles.

There is something else about the Quincy Bottle that jumps out at us today.  When my friends and I were collecting bottles for a movie ticket or something more lasting, a single serving of Coca-Cola was 6.5 ounces, available for a nickel during much of my childhood and a dime for the “king-size” 10-ounce bottle (a king-size RC – Royal Crown Cola – was 12 ounces for the same price, so that was often the choice).  Not only that, but in restaurants Coke did not come with free refills, often self-serve, as it does today.  Of course, in the South sweetened iced tea did come with “free” refills, and it undoubtedly had more calories than Coca-Cola or any other soft drink.  Still, the transition to larger serving sizes of virtually everything in the American diet was not a favorable development.  This is a long story, previously considered here, related to the damage done by the diet-heart hypothesis and the demonization of dietary fat and cholesterol, with the substitution of refined carbohydrates in food-like substances and industrial vegetable oil (e.g., margarine) for the lost calories from what at one time was rightly considered a healthy, balanced diet.  The consequences have been dire.

In any case, the dose makes the poison, which sugar is not in small amounts.  A current serving size for soft drinks and fruit juice-like drinks, which are also loaded with sugar, is the 20-ounce single-use plastic bottle.  What was a treat at 6.5 ounces[4] “The Pause That Refreshes” has morphed into something entirely different that could contain almost 400 empty calories instead of the 76 calories in the Quincy Bottle (the current 20-ounce plastic bottle contains 240 calories).  We can do better.  And we are starting to realize that diet and health are much too important to be left to Big Agriculture, Big Pharma, and their appurtenances.  This is even penetrating the diversified corporate consciousness.  Perhaps.  While public relations is just that, once in a while the truth sinks in and sometimes oozes back out.

What are the solutions to the disappearance of the reusable contour Coke bottle?  The first is prohibition of single-use plastic bottles (bottled water[5], soft drinks, peanut butter and mayonnaise jars and the like, plus other ridiculously elaborate and hard to open plastic packaging).  Coupled with this, we must require the concomitant return of the reusable bottle that is good for 20 or more refills, after which it can be melted down and made into new bottles or crushed and used in aggregate for road building.  Given that we are running short of sand, recycling the glass as roads seems like a good choice, even at the margin.  Whatever the final disposition of the glass, it will not add the horrific plastic burden in the ecosphere.

Production must also return to the smallest unit possible in a local economy.  Local business when possible is good business.  Making a mess at home is both noticed and frowned upon, or was at one time and can be again.  Besides, in the near future our world will shrink to human scale once again if what we call civilization is to survive.  One hears that a few large transnational corporations may be getting the message, perhaps because reality bites eventually.  Repeated doses of real democracy will be required, however.  The question is whether we as a people have the will.  There is reason for hope, even in the absence of optimism.

The artifact of the day with a story to tell is the returnable, reusable until damaged contour Coke Bottle.  It could find a place in the British Museum of 2123 or 3123, if the museum is still there, as an object lesson in what not to do.  What are some others?  Several years ago I would have listed the printed book, but it seems to be holding its own despite the e-book in various formats and the pdf.  Nevertheless, it is worrisome that students seem to be too attached to their laptops and tablets, which is a topic for another time.  The first two artifacts that jump out to me are related: The Tesla and the hypertrophied American pickup truck that has morphed into a more dangerous, outsized SUV, if that is possible.  Neither is what its producers and buyers believe, contrary to the hype and the expense, including the significant negative externalities associated with both.  A truck without scratches on the paint and scrapes in the bed is not a truck.  An electric car is a solution for absolutely nothing, and it is not emission-free in most of the world, despite what the license plate says around these parts.  The emissions, they just happen in a different place.

Outwardly simple and seemingly rational choices often have far-reaching consequences for those who cannot or will not imagine the day after tomorrow.  What other mundane artifacts will have a story to tell a hundred or a thousand or 10,000 years from now?  Good or bad, happy or sad, if stories are still told?


[1] The late, great Charles M. Hudson and his magisterial The Southeastern Indians.

[2] A favorite translation of the Books of Moses, The Schocken Bible: Volume 1. The Five Books of Moses, Everett Fox, translator.

[3] In the mid-1960s an enterprising 10-year-old could collect unreturned bottles and take them to the nearest neighborhood grocery store and get $0.03 per bottle.  This must have been a minor irritation to these stores, but all of them paid the deposit and then collected it back when the bottles were picked up.  When a movie ticket was only 50 cents for those younger than 13 and refreshments another 25 cents at most, life was good.  It usually took only a few hours to fill the saddle baskets on a Schwinn Stingray with the banana seat and make the grand sum of $1.50.

[4] Or a patent medicine.  My relatives in my grandparents’ generation were unanimous: A small bottle of Coca-Cola on crushed ice was the perfect treatment for an upset stomach and whatever else ailed you.  The ice had to be crushed, though, as in a mint julep.  I can’t remember that it worked, but it was used often.

[5] It was clear that we completely lost the plot when people started paying for water in plastic bottles that had been freely available, if not exactly free, at water fountains far and wide.  Admittedly this was before Flint (Michigan) and Jackson (Mississippi) and other similar catastrophes that keep arising, because markets.  The latest fad of alkaline water is beyond my ken completely.  It will not remain alkaline for long in the stomach, and homeostatic mechanisms will maintain blood pH in the normal range in a healthy person.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Harri

    Kindly note the often mis-represented claim of “Just two of ..each kind” (as people do not read the Bible)

    Genesis 7 contains directions and a distinction of Clean and Unclean:
    A classification of animals is to be noted in God’s instructions to Noah to take with him into the ark seven of each clean animal and two of each unclean animal. (Ge 7:2, 3, 8, 9) Since a flesh diet had not yet been authorized, this distinction between clean and unclean was probably determined on the basis of what was acceptable as a sacrifice

  2. Tom Pfotzer

    From the article above:

    Production must also return to the smallest unit possible in a local economy. Local business when possible is good business.

    And why is that? Because local production operations:

    a. enable resource re-use
    b. provide a new market for labor, which the global supply chains are systematically eliminating from their production operations
    c. cycle money back to the family, instead of siphoning it off and concentrating it in the hands of oligarchs
    d. need less transport and mining, addressing two of the principal causes of environmental degradation

    Did you know that most energy gets used for transport and HVAC? Take a look.

    What’s missing is a sufficiently adapted set of local-based production processes.

    === On the subject of evolving our production processes …

    Yesterday a friend sent me a link to a carpet manufacturer located in LaGrange, GA. The company partnered with the Biomimicry 3.8 organization to design a factory operation and related campus that actually Fixes the Planet as we Make our Living.

    This factory design doesn’t address materials reuse, but it does address carbon and water cycling, efficient building design (HVAC load), renewable energy use, and some other lesser issues.

    Biomimicry 3.8 has developed a conceptual framework, a set of metrics (performance measurements) for factory design. The framework is well-grounded on research into how the natural world can operate for millions of years without system failures and shows how to integrate these successful behaviors into human-designed production systems.

    Here’s a quote from the piece I linked to above:

    When the forest and the city are
    functionally indistinguishable, then we
    know we’ve reached sustainability

    ~ Janine Benyus

    1. Mangelwurtzel

      We operate a bottle re-use system for our farm business (not milk!), and many people are happy to do their part, but we sweeten the deal with a two dollar deposit. One frustrating aspect is that there are not many affordable small scale bottle washing systems available, so we have implemented our own, which is slow. Is it worth it? Probably not, from a strictly monetary standpoint, but we feel good about it. My hope would be for municipalities or states to subsidize a re-useable packaging standard, like the Mason jar, but that does add significantly to shipping weight, so such tradeoffs would have to be evaluated.

      1. Tom Pfotzer


        First, thanks for doing your part to do bottle re-use. You’re swimming upstream right now because you’re a pioneer, but the local infrastructure isn’t going to happen without a critical mass of pioneers. More power to you, as you are “what it takes”.

        Your idea of std form-factor containers, with central-point distribution, re-collection, wash etc. is the way to go. If this could be tied into a central point farmers’ market, complete with commercial kitchen, controlled-temp warehouse, food truck pavilion with social space (big enclosed garden with sound-stage), CSA pickup, etc. – pull all the main functional and social uses together into a central loc, well, then, ya got something pretty different. Then the economics – for all the products and suppliers _and_ the customers…starts to really make sense.

        If you add in a recycling, re-use and refurb center to that facility, well, then you get the Genius In Economy Re-Design award.

        And this is what I mean when I talk about “redesigning the economy”. There are permutations of production, distribution, and consumption that really can work well (leverage the strengths) in the local context.

        We’re just not far enough up the learning curve yet to hit on the really great permutations. But we’re closing in. What I just said above (consolidated central ops for all things local) is starting to seep into people’s consciousness.

        Pretty soon we’ll have a few prototypes to point to, and learn from.

        And if the progress toward those permutations that actually work seems slow, just remember that the national and global supply chains have had a 150 year head-start, and they got their inputs for peanuts (strip mine the environment).

        Our job is _way_ harder than theirs was.

        1. Mangelwurtzel

          Thanks for your comments, Tom. I always appreciate your positivity and vision, which we will need both of in spades – if we are ever to effectively reimagine / reorganize our society to less energy-intensive ends.

    2. KLG

      Thank you, Tom! I will use this, with attribution of course, for something else I am currently working on.

  3. ambrit

    Several notes.
    Back in the late 1970s and most of the 1980s we lived in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. The centre of the place, which is North of the Lake, (Lake Pontchartrain, just to the north of New Orleans,) is called the “Ozone Belt.” Due to the medicinal properties of the air there, (the other spot like it in North America is in New Mexico,) it became the site of numerous tuberculosis sanitariums. The town of Abita Springs is in the centre of the “Ozone Belt” and has a quite well known natural spring. This artesian water source is the origin of a bottled water product, “Abita Water.” At one time, a local property owner had an artesian well in a small piece of ground adjacent to the ‘main drag’ through the town. She had a multiple outlet well head built and allowed one and all to come by and fill their jugs. All she demanded was that the place be kept clean. It was. We generally bought plastic bags once in a while and cleaned it up. A true crowd sourced endeavour.
    Then the Abita Water company was bought up by a transnational from Japan. Soon, the local bottling plant was moved across the lake to Metairie. The water is still sourced from a large artesian well head in Abita Springs, but that water is trucked across the lake to the “new” bottling plant. The local workers were given the choice of either commuting fifty miles each way to keep their jobs or enter unemployment.
    Then the company “leaned on” the Town Council and had the roadside water source closed down for “health and safety” reasons. (I got this information from an insider.) After several years of often fractious protests, the town opened up a four spigot artesian water “Public Dispensery” in the town park. You now often have to wait in line to fill your jug.
    So much for “civilization.”
    We also used to be able to find flint arrowheads on the high grounds adjacent to the local rivers and creeks. This area has been inhabited by indigenes all the way back to the post Younger Dryas Catastrophe period. Early reports from explorers like the early French and DeSoto state that the Deep South was densely populated. Then the pandemics began, and the ‘locals’ never fully recovered.
    Now we are doing it to ourselves, all over again.

  4. Paul Harvey 0swald

    Beautifully written KLG. I am of a certain age – and of socioeconomic background – that I remember collecting those returnable soda bottles. (And the fat quart bottles! 25 cents, wasn’t it?*). No theater in that Small Town of 2,100, but if I rode that Schwin long enough I could trade glass for chocolate any day of the week.

    *These damn modern gadgets. I can find the symbol for the British Pound, the Euro, even the Japanese bloody Yen!, but the good ole pedestrian US cents? Where’d that get to? It’s apparently somewhere next to that 6.5 ounce glass Coke bottle.

    1. katiebird

      This, right? ¢ (I did copy/paste):

      In Unicode U+00A2 ¢ CENT SIGN (¢)

      1. Antagonist Muscles

        On my computer, I use a compose key, which I mapped to the mostly worthless Menu key. I suppose one could map it to Scroll Lock because does anybody really use the Scroll Lock key? Nevertheless, to generate the ¢ symbol, I sequentially press Menu → c → |. After that key sequence, a ¢ magically appears. The third button is the backslash/vertical bar button.

        Other useful characters such as the ñ in jalapeño or ü in Türkiye can be similarly composed by pressing sequentially Menu → ~ → n and Menu → ” → u, respectively. Of course, if you are writing in Spanish or German, you would probably choose a keyboard layout where those common characters are more easily accessed. Notice that I generated printed arrow keys, but I could have used “->” instead of →. For linux specific information, read the Arch Wiki article on keyboard configuration.

  5. Wukchumni

    I’m a bit younger than KLG, and we moved into one of the first subdivisions 25 miles east of downtown LA, and my entire childhood they were building homes all around me, and the object of my desire was 12 & 25 oz (there was only 2 sizes) returnable soda bottles which were worth 3¢ & 5¢ each.

    I remember getting a lesson in hard drinking, in that it was common to find 20 empty brown beer bottles @ a house, which were worth zero-how frustrating, if only the construction crew drank soda pop instead!

    My father was into arbitrage and so was I at a tender age, and he was big on driving us to Tijuana to show us the cardboard shacks on the hill people were living in, me? I was all about somehow procuring firecrackers and something else, in that there was no deposit on Mexican soda bottles which looked the same aside from the wording being in Spanish, so i’d fill a gunny sack with them and take them back home where the supermarket checker never looked too hard @ your buck, buck fifty bounty.

    Old coins are interesting artifacts in that nobody throws away money, so as a consequence they are the most comprehensive historical item and by far the commonest, you can really discern how things were going simply by the art expressed in the design.

    The Spanish could give a fig in regards to how Pieces of 8 looked as they were minted crudely and it was more for accounting than anything else, as the coins were melted and recoined in Europe once the galleons made it back to Spain, precious few ever circulated in what is present day Bolivia.

    Compare the artistry of #31, a silver Tetradrachm of Alexander the Great, minted almost 2,000 years before the Piece of 8, its like night and day.

  6. PlutoniumKun

    The original coca cola bottle was indeed a design masterpiece. It was typical of the period that bottles were very distinctive, representing their brand and re-use. Dump digging for bottles was (maybe still is?) a popular hobby in parts of old industrial England, where many bottles would end up in the slag heaps that were then often recycled into canal or railway embankments. Mind you, I once discovered one canal embankment was a little bit toxic due to all the cadmium in the ash – it was often used for staining glass.

    Re-using bottles should be the norm. But its not always the best option – its years back but I recall one study that found that reusing milk bottles was more energy intensive than recycling due to the very high temperatures needed to clean the milk proteins out.

    One interesting alternative is aluminium for packaging. It is very easy to recycle (it is also easy to take out of waste streams) and produces containers much lighter and easier to transport than bottles. They are even experimenting with alu canned wines, although I don’t see too much of a market for this. Comparative studies often produce unexpected results.

    1. Revenant

      I have read that glass milk battles were less environmentally friendly BT that feels intuitively false. I suspect the plastic industry sponsored that study! The answer would be to leave them in an enzyme bath to digest the milk protein. A giant pond of Biotex! Then a quick wash in boiling water….

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, I’m sure there is a solution to the milk protein issue apart from super hot water.

        It does bring me back. Its kinda funny that people go on about the convenience of Amazon to anyone who can remember milk and eggs delivered every morning to your door. I remember in winter the local birds would take their share in the morning (as a child it was my job to take in the milk) – they’d lift the foil caps to have a little drink of the cream on top. I guess that with bird flu about to take off this wouldn’t be considered so benignly now.

  7. doug

    Long ago my BIL was in the Ga. legislature and tried to get a returnable bottle bill passed. I recall the data for return rates was divided into rural and urban, as they were different. The saved BTU’s was considerable. Never went anywhere.
    We used to play ‘travel’ when buying a coke, looking at the origin on the bottom, and the furthest away had to pay or had theirs paid for, depending on the game.

  8. BillC

    I remember those Coke bottles from the hall where my Boy Scout troop met around 1960. You omitted another teaching property of this artifact (at least in the Pensacola FL bottler’s territory): inflation. While I grew up there, the vending machines were upgraded to require 6¢ — took a nickel plus a penny to get your Coke! Didn’t last long before that was simplified to 10¢, just one thin dime.

  9. Louis Fyne

    One of the driving forces in recent years has been social media.

    Funny to think that in 10,000 years there might be little archaeological trace as to the relevance of social media in the 2020’s

  10. Tim

    California was the first to ban the single use grocery bag, so I assume it will be the first to ban other single use, not exactly recycled products. It is coming someday, but could be a decade or two away.

  11. thoughtful person

    I enjoyed the post though in honesty I did skim some of the quincy bottle section.

    “A truck without scratches on the paint and scrapes in the bed is not a truck.”

    Yes! This qoute resonates!

  12. Soredemos

    Nevertheless, it is worrisome that students seem to be too attached to their laptops and tablets, which is a topic for another time.

    If this is in relation to too much screen time, alright. But if it’s about a shift towards ebooks, I disagree with it being a problem. I love books as a physical object, but digital has plenty to recommend it. Physical books are more expensive, take up too much space after a while (believe me, I know), and you are killing trees to make them happen, even if this can be done sustainably.

    And of course ultimately the true worth of a book is the content it conveys, not the object of the book itself. If ebooks make something more accessible, by all means, do it.

    1. Yves Smith

      Retention is lower with ebooks:

      Many studies have shown that when people read on-screen, they don’t understand what they’ve read as well as when they read in print. Even worse, many don’t realize they’re not getting it. For example, researchers in Spain and Israel took a close look at 54 studies comparing digital and print reading. Their 2018 study involved more than 171,000 readers. Comprehension, they found, was better overall when people read print rather than digital texts. The researchers shared the results in Educational Research Review.


      I bought a Kindle and almost immediately stopped using it. I found I could not remember which book was the source of information. I need to see different fonts and page layouts to connect information with a particular book.

      1. Soredemos

        I’m gonna have to say I find retention to not be a problem based on all my daily internet reading, spearheaded by NC itself.

        Unless there’s some book version I can read to compare.

      2. katiebird

        (nodding) I always get fiction in ebooks (I can adjust the fonts depending on glasses or not) because I love to reread novels and the lessened retention makes it even more fun to reread.

        But I get hardcover reference books – because I actually want to learn what I’m reading and retention is important. Also, I can often use the Internet to get quick access to information (such as HTML formatting) … I don’t need an ebook for that.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the true worth of a book is the content it conveys, not the object of the book itself

      That’s not really true. The physical form factor of the book has many, many features, developed over the centuries, to optimize the act of reading: Typography, page design, scholarly apparatus like footnotes and annotations, etc. Also, IMNSHO, reflected light, from a page,

      Since this is the stupidest timeline, eBooks will eliminate all that.

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