Weird science facts, March 28 – April 10

(I’ve been doing a daily “weird science fact” on Twitter, with the goal of doing a full 365 days of facts.  The problem is that Twitter doesn’t allow one to search further back than 1 week!  I’m going to keep a weekly log of the weird facts of the week on the blog, but will do 2 weeks at a time until I catch up.)

The Twitter #weirdscifacts from March 28 – April 10 are below the fold!

15. Mar 28: Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749-1827) was one of the first scientists to introduce the idea of a black hole.

16. Mar 29: Lightning can be “fossilized”, forming an object known as a fulgurite.

17. Mar 30: Largest natural underground chamber: Sarawak Chamber of Malaysia. 2300 ft L x 1300 ft W x 230 ft H! This chamber was discovered by three Englishmen in 1985.  It is littered with house-sized boulders, and it took some time before the explorers realized that they were in a single massive chamber — one reportedly suffered from an acute attack of agoraphobia when reality set in.  Look at the measurements, and imagine how many simultaneous football games could be held in a space that size — completely underground!

18. Mar 31:  Emile du Chatelet (1706-1749), an early woman mathematician, wrote a 738-page scientific criticism of the Book of Genesis.

19. Apr 01: 1st diagnostic use of X-rays in Australia: W.H. Bragg examining broken elbow of son W.L. in 1896. (Joint Nobel winners 1915.) It is a weird not-quite-coincidence that the first diagnostic use of X-rays in Australia would be associated with two men who would jointly win the Nobel for X-ray crystallography.

20. Apr 02:  Arnold Sommerfeld (1868-1951) worked on a primitive form of “stealth technology” for German aircraft to defeat Allied radar. Sommerfeld described the technique, essentially using anti-reflection coatings tailored for radar, in his 1954 Optics book.

21. Apr 03: Physicist R.W. Wood (1868-1955) co-authored two sci-fi novels around 1915, the first oddly prescient about atomic power.

22. Apr 04: Giant Crystal Cave: ’nuff said.

23. Apr 05: James Joule (1818-1889), pioneering thermodynamics researcher, first studied science to improve the family brewery.

24. Apr 06: The 1815 eruption of volcano Tambora was heard in Batavia, 1200 km away, and interpreted as more local cannon fire. The eruption of Tambora was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history, ejecting an estimated 160 cubic kilometers of material.

25. Apr 07: 2 years before the Michelson-Morley experiment, A.A. Michelson had a breakdown and was committed to psychiatric care. Michelson essentially overworked himself, and most colleagues expected that his career was over.  In fact, much of his greatest work was ahead of him.

26. Apr 08: Enrico Fermi’s 1930s paper on beta decay was rejected by Nature because “it contained speculations…too remote from reality”. We’ll see a number of examples of this sort; journals have had a sketchy track record at times when it comes to revolutionary discoveries!

27. Apr 09: James Clerk Maxwell’s first scientific paper was published when he was 14 years old, by Royal Society of Edinburgh. His paper was titled, “Oval curves”, and described a mechanical means for drawing multifocal curves.

28. Apr 10: Physicists Ludvig Lorenz and Hendrick Lorentz derived the same equation (c. 1870) independently less than ten years apart. The equation in question, now known as the Lorenz-Lorentz equation, is a crucial early formula in describing the relationship between the electrical and optical properties of matter.

This entry was posted in Weirdscifacts, [PhysicalScience]. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Weird science facts, March 28 – April 10

  1. Jac says:

    Like the blog! Thank you.

    Joules drinkers held a wake in the Stone brewery when it closed in the seventies. Tears flowed and fluids were rapidly replaced.

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