James Clerk Maxwell

Today we celebrate the 190th anniversary of the birth of Scottish mathematician and physicist James Clerk Maxwell (13 Jun 1831 – 5 Nov 1879). Between 1864 and 1873, Maxwell developed four important mathematical equations that describe the behavior of electric and magnetic fields and their interrelated nature. He showed that any oscillating electric charge produces an electromagnetic field, and that this electromagnetic field propagates outward from the oscillating charge at the speed of light. He then correctly deduced that light itself is an electromagnetic phenomenon, and proposed that since electric charges can oscillate at any frequency, there should be a whole spectrum of electromagnetic waves of which visible light is only a small part. We now know that the electromagnetic spectrum does include many other types of “light”, namely gamma rays, x-rays, ultraviolet, infrared, microwave, and radio waves. They are all exactly the same phenomenon, differing only in their properties of frequency, wavelength, and energy.

Email Overload: “Digest” It

Like many of you, I have more than one email address. One of those email addresses I use as a catch-all for nonprofits, political organizations, and commercial entities.

Over time, the volume of email I’ve received at that address has increased exponentially. Many senders subscribe me without my having ever opted in, and many senders send multiple emails a day (or per week)—and they don’t always give you the option to opt down. I unsubscribe from many every month, but the emails I receive daily keeps on growing.

I’m tempted (often), to unsubscribe from everything, but every once in a while I get an email that is important enough or useful enough that I’m glad I got it.

What to do? I am making a conscious effort to cut all of the insidious time wasters out of my life (this becomes much more important as we get older), freeing up precious time for what is most important. Email is one of the worst offenders.

Many online discussion groups have a “daily digest” option with all of the posts for the day being assembled into a single email, with a topical index at the top. I would like the ability through my email service provider to batch together emails from a variety of senders into a single daily email. It would work something like this:

  1. Create a list of email domains that you want batched (facebookmail.com, ewg.org, onefairwage.org, etc.)
  2. Activate the digesting service so that all emails coming from these domains gets batched into a single daily email with the subject line and sender of all the emails listed in the top section, followed by the full contents of the emails in sequence below that.

You’d have the option to receive the email sorted by time received in either ascending or descending order. You’d also be able to add or remove email domains from your list at any time.

Sure, it is going to be one long email for many of us, but it would go a long way towards reducing the clutter in our inboxes.

Another option would be to have an email service provider (unfortunately, digest.com is already taken) that will provide you with a pass-through email address that does this digesting for you, then forwards the daily email to the email address of your choice. You would update your senders with the pass-through email address. Let the digesting begin!