The Flairdrum, A Robot That Sniffs Whiskey, And What It’s Like To Be “12% Machine”

I find you the finest reading material in my weekly Linkfest

Clive Thompson
8 min readMar 1, 2022


“Nababeep Mine — 302,500 tonnes of copper” by Dillon Marsh

Monday came and went.

You’re still here!

Reward yourself with my weekly Linkfest — straining at the seams with the best reading findable from the endless bazaar of the Internet.

Let’s begin …

1) ⛏️ CGI spheres that show the scale of mining

Dillon Marsh is an artist who takes photos of the locations of major South African mines, then adds a CGI image of the metal that’s mined at that location. The massive spheres loom over the landscape like ominous spaceships, come in for a landing.

Marsh calculates the size of each sphere to represent how much metal has come out of each mine. That one above? Copper.

Given how badly these mines have toxified their local environments, the clean and spare lines of the spheres feel like a crisp metaphor for how we in the industrial world abstract away the ghastly environmental externalities of mining. As Marsh puts it on his site …

Whether they are active or long dormant, mines speak of a combination of sacrifice and gain. Their features are crude, unsightly scars on the landscape — unlikely feats of hard labour and specialised engineering, constructed to extract value from the earth but also exacting a price.

[snip] … the intention is to create a kind of visualisation of the merits and shortfalls of this industry that has shaped the history and economy of the country so radically

Tons more of images of this stuff (and other of Marsh’s projects) at his site and his Instagram feed.

2) 📖 Online scan of the 1851 “Iconographic Encyclopædia”

The Iconographic Encyclopædia is an astonishing and gorgeously illustrated nineteenth-century work:

Published between 1849 and 1851, the 10-part collection…



Clive Thompson

I write 2X a week on tech, science, culture — and how those collide. Writer at NYT mag/Wired; author, “Coders”.