2017 Winter

Pittsburgh Quarterly Archives
Pittsburgh Quarterly Contributors
Tom Imerito

Tom Imerito

Tom Imerito is president of Science Communications, a Pittsburgh technology communications consultancy.

Christmas in Utopia

It’s early morning on Christmas Eve in the town of Economy, Pennsylvania. The year is 1828. Twenty-​seven-​year-​old Catharina Langenbacher awakens to the five o’clock gong of the grandfather clock in the sitting room downstairs. By the time she clambers down the crude staircase, her widowed mother is preparing breakfast. Catharina’s 35-​year-​old brother, Romelius,…

Once Upon A Tunnel

The calamity began at the stroke of midnight on May 10, 1924, when Pittsburgh Street Railway Company employees walked off the job. The streetcar strike threw commuters into a tizzy, and the following morning South Hills commuters jumped into their cars and headed for the recently opened Liberty Tunnels. Between 7:30 and 8

The Internet of Things

We carry our smartphones everywhere, and they connect us to everything. We feel comfortable talking to them and having them talk back. We call them phones, but they’re pocket computers, as powerful as the supercomputers of a decade ago. We use them as calculators, cameras, memory aids, executive assistants, voice recorders, word processors,…

Transhumanism

It was my first interview with an artificial intelligence — a talking head without a body. The conversation was awkward, but considering that Bina48 is an android, it went better than I expec-​ted. Bina48 is a synthetic replica of a real woman named Bina Rothblatt. We met at a Juniata College conference called Our Transhuman…

Electrifying Knowledge

In 1995, Carnegie Mellon University’s Professor Raj Reddy organized a meeting in Shadyside of the world’s foremost digital thought leaders to discuss the feasibility of electronic libraries. The idea of very large Internet libraries had been gestating in Reddy’s mind for about 15 years, but it was not until then that desktop computers,…

Kissing my privacy goodbye

I first became aware that my online privacy wasn’t nearly as confidential as I thought while shopping online with my sister who lives in Florida. Separated by 1,000 miles, phones pressed to our ears, eyes glued to computer screens, my price for a particular web cam was a bargain at $3.37; hers was…

Ancient Dig

Twelve thousand years ago, a Native American hunter left a flint spear point at a campsite beneath an overhanging rock along Cross Creek, a tributary of the Ohio River some 29 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. The three-​inch by one-​inch point was a re-​sharpened remnant of a larger spear or arrow head. But the…

Quantum Couple

He grew up in Manhattan; she, in Patna, India. Both were taken with the way physics accounts for the world around them. After completing undergraduate studies at Harvard and the Indian Technology Institute, respectively, they met as first-​year physics doctoral students at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Upon arrival she found herself…
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