Links for December 5th

  • Planet Money: Why Burn Doctors Hate Instant Soup
    Styrofoam "Cup Noodle" style containers turn out to be wildly dangerous. They spill easily, and hospitals throughout the country get a never-ending series of little kids who have been burned as a result of these things falling over. Companies that make short, squat containers don't have any problem—it's the tall, thin containers that are really hazardous.
  • Marc Newlin: You should probably start burning your mail—What I learned from the DARPA Shredder Challenge
    Last month DARPA sponsored the Shredder Challenge, an open competition to develop software that can take crosscut shredder scraps and reassemble them. Marc Newlin, who came in third place, wrote up this helpful description of how his program worked. It functions just as I had sketched out my own idea for it, proving yet again that any dope can come up with ideas, but real developers ship.
  • The New York Review of Books: Defending an Anthology by Rita Dove
    Some pretty great spats have been played out in the pages of the New York Review of Books, and Rita Dove's rebuttal to Helen Vendler's review of her her poetry anthology for Penguin should certainly be categorized as such. Rita is an acquaintance, and I'm inclined towards siding with her in the first place, but I really think she lands some pretty good punches on Vendler.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

3 replies on “Links for December 5th”

  1. Isn’t this why we have tort lawyers? If this is happening as often as the author suggests, it is hard to believe there haven’t been plenty of lawsuits. Seems like that is how you get companies to change. It’s hard to see how a squatter cup would adversely affect sales.

  2. My guess is that there haven’t been plenty of lawsuits because the parents of the victims chalked it up to an accident—nobody’s fault, really. Now that the makers of these products know that they’re dangerous, though, they’d be crazy not to change them, because then they’re quite clearly at fault.

    It’s very similar to the famous Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, the hot coffee case. McDonald’s was deliberately keeping their coffee at dangerously hot temperatures, knowing that it would produce third-degree burns (!) in just two seconds of contact with skin. They’d had over 700 such burn incidents with their over-hot coffee. A 79-year-old woman who spilled their coffee on her lap suffered horrific burns to her genitalia and thighs, requiring skin grafts and two years of treatments. She asked them for $20,000 to cover her medical expenses. They offered her $800. That was when she hired a lawyer. McDonald’s still wouldn’t pay her bills, so she took them to court. The jury awarded her $200,000, plus they awarded punitive damages of $2.7M—a number they chose because it’s how much McDonald’s makes in two days of coffee sales. McDonald’s eventually settled, after appeals, for under $600,000.

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