Twitter Weird Science Facts, Volume 11

Time for another round-up of weirdscifacts from Twitter!  Read below to find out what this creepy 1873 woodcut is depicting.

The_Burial_of_Captain_Hall

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Twitter Weird Science Facts, Volume 10

On a personal note: still going through a rough patch of life, and so I’m still on a sort of unofficial hiatus from writing substantial posts — though I may write one here or there. Hopefully will be back and active in a month; in the meantime, I will continue updating my weirdscifacts.

Welcome to the 10th volume of Twitter Weird Science Facts! Read below to discover the sinister secret of this otherwise adorable bird.

1280px-Vampire_finch_(4229090408)

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Twitter Weird Science Facts, Volume 9

Been a rough couple of weeks for me personally, and I haven’t had the time or the energy to write some solid science posts.  In the meantime, please take a look at the latest weird science facts posted on twitter.

Let’s see what the last two weeks of weird science facts on twitter have revealed!  Click below the fold to learn more about wombat poo than you probably ever thought you would want to know.

commonwombat

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Valley of the Flame, by Henry Kuttner

Henry Kuttner (1915-1958) may be referred to as “one of the most important science fiction authors you’ve never heard of.”  He was incredibly prolific and versatile, writing countless short stories of science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller, and adventure, as well as over a dozen novels.  Many of his works have been adapted into movies and episodes of television shows, including The Twilight Zone. One of my favorite science fiction stories of all time, “Private Eye,” was written by “Lewis Padgett,” the pen-name of Henry Kuttner and his equally talented writing wife, C.L. Moore.  I’ve blogged about a number of his novels before — The Time Axis, Destination Infinity, The Well of the Worlds — and I’m always eager to read more of his bibliography, though it isn’t always easy to find it.

I recently came across a reprint of Kuttner’s novel Valley of the Flame (1946), and jumped at the chance to read it.  The cover below is that of the first book edition, from 1964.

ValleyOfTheFlame

The story is a somewhat standard “lost world” adventure story, with a few twists.  One of those can be seen on the cover of the book: the lost world, the titular Valley of the Flame, is inhabited by intelligent, hyper-evolved cat people!

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Twitter Weird Science Facts, Volume 8

Time for another recap of weird science facts from Twitter! Click below the fold to see how the system pictured below provided entertainment for Victorian folks.

theatrephone

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Optics by hot air balloon?

The first in a (hopefully) series of posts inspired by topics covered in my upcoming textbook on singular optics.

Crewed balloon rides have a surprisingly large role in the history of science.  The first untethered balloon flight was performed in Paris on November 21, 1783, and the achievement of human flight opened up new possibilities for scientific measurement and, indeed, exploration.

The first untethered balloon flight, November 21, 1789.

The first untethered balloon flight, November 21, 1783.

Primarily, ballooning offered a novel opportunity to study the chemical properties of the upper atmosphere and the wind currents at high altitudes, and it filled this role for over a century.  Unfortunately, many early flights were deadly: I’ve blogged before about the fateful 1875 flight of Gaston Tissandier, Joseph Croce-Spinelli and Théodore Sivel, in which 2 of the 3 balloonists succumbed to oxygen deprivation.

Other discoveries awaited the adventurous at high altitudes.  Half of the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physics went to Victor Francis Hess for the discovery of extraterrestrial radiation (cosmic rays) from a balloon in 1913 (though hints of cosmic rays appeared even earlier).

In the 21st century, one wouldn’t think that there would be any physics left to be observed by balloon.  Recently, however, I came across a 2002 paper¹ by scientists from Hungary and Switzerland, titled “First observation of the fourth neutral polarization point in the atmosphere.”  In this paper, the researchers describe how they used measurements from a hot air balloon to verify a prediction of optical science that had remained untested for over 150 years!

A modern hot air balloon, from Wikipedia, because it seems like I should have one in this post. Photo by Kropsoq.

A modern hot air balloon, from Wikipedia, because it seems like I should have one in this post. Photo by Kropsoq.

The discovery is not, admittedly, Earth-shattering, so to speak, but it is a fascinating epilogue to an extended period of the history of physics and a testament to the ingenuity of scientists!

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Some more skydiving videos!

While I’m working on some new physics blog posts, here’s a couple of more skydiving videos that I took with a GoPro!

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