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The soaring dome atop the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Flower justly dominates the Florence skyline and has stood for centuries, ever since Filippo Brunelleschi designed it in the early 15th century. But scholars aren’t quite sure how this goldsmith with no formal architectural training managed to construct it. Brunelleschi built a wooden and brick model of his plan, but deliberately left out crucial details and left no comprehensive blueprints so his rivals could not steal his secrets.
Elena Guardincerri, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who grew up in a nearby town in Italy, thinks she can help resolve part of the mystery with the aid of a subatomic particle called a muon.
Brunelleschi found inspiration for his design in the inverted catenary shape of the Pantheon, which is an ideal shape for domes because the innate physical forces can support the structure with no need for buttressing. Robert Hooke phrased it best in the 17th century: “As hangs the flexible chain, so but inverted stands the rigid arch.” A chain suspended between two points will naturally come to rest in a state of pure tension; inverting that catenary shape into an arch reverses it into a shape of pure compression. Standard building materials like masonry and concrete would break fairly easily under tension, but they can withstand large compressive forces.
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A new app called HiHello is taking aim at business cards. While plenty of apps in the past have tried to kill the business card, they never achieved critical mass. Mainly, this is because most required that both parties – the business card holder and recipient – have their app installed. HiHello is different. Instead of forcing everyone to download its app, it simply generates a QR code that can be scanned by anyone with a modern smartphone.
HiHello specifically takes advantage of the fact that today’s smartphones now have QR code readers built in – users no longer need to download a separate QR code scanner app to exchange information over this format.
On iPhone, you can use the native iOS Camera app to scan QR codes. And on Android, Google Lens (a part of Google Assistant) offers similar functionality. (Although this should really be in its camera, too, ahem.)
What this means is that when a HiHello user wants to share their contact information with another person, all they need to do is have the recipient scan the QR code the HiHello app generates. The recipient doesn’t have to download or install anything, and is able to quickly save the contact information right into their phone’s address book.
HiHello also allows you to create different types of cards with different information on them.
For example, you could have one card for your business, one for your side hustle, and one for personal connections. This way, you can keep some of your information private, as needed.
You could create a card without your cell number for those contacts you didn’t want to be able to reach you by phone; or you could create a card with your virtual number (e.g. a Skype line or Burner) for dating prospects. You could create a card with your home address, cell and personal email for your family and friends. Or you could make one with your office address, work email, fax and office line for business contacts. And so on.
The idea for the app comes from K9 Ventures founder Manu Kumar, who along with co-founder and CalTech and Columbia alum Hari Ravi, and a small team of under half a dozen, has been working on the app following the release of iOS 11, which introduced the QR code reader functionality in the native camera app.
Kumar, in particular, has been trying to solve the problem of business cards for years. In 2009, he co-founded CardMunch to turn business cards into digital contacts. The company was sold to LinkedIn a few years later, but LinkedIn abandoned it and shut it down.
“LinkedIn…failed to recognize the potential for what this could do for them, and in a typical big company fashion proceeded to ruin and eventually kill the product,” Kumar wrote in a blog post about HiHello’s launch. “Yes, I’m still peeved,” he added. (So are we.)
Kumar also noted that another problem with business cards is that people have to carry around different ones to represent their different roles or jobs.
“The information you choose to share with someone is often dependent on the context in which you are meeting that person,” he said.
To address this issue, HiHello allows users to create multiple cards with different information on them which can be shared via the QR code scan in person, or sent out via text message or email – without exposing the email or phone number tied to your phone.
HiHello has also made it easy to find the right card quickly through its iOS and Android widgets that let you choose which card you want to share with just a tap.
The app is straightforward to set up and use. You’re first walked through a form where you enter in your basic contact information to get started, and can then proceed to customize the different card types like “work” and “personal,” for example. You can also just choose to share your phone or email. (See above photo).
When someone scans the QR code, it launches a website hosted on hihello.com where there’s a link to save the information directly to their phone’s contacts. This link can be sent in other ways right from the QR code screen as well, thanks to buttons at the bottom for “Message” and “Mail.”
The new app is the first step in a bigger vision the company has for contact and relationship management, Kumar notes.