The Twitter #weirdscifacts from June 06 – June 19 are below the fold!
85. June 06: c. 8000 yrs ago, a bursting ice dam in N. America released enough freshwater into the oceans to trigger a mini Ice Age. This observation is significant in the context of global warming: it shows that a relatively small event can have long-term global implications.
86. June 07: Egyptology goes back to early Arabic scholars (13th cent. and earlier) who studied ancient Egyptian language & monuments. Circa the 13th century, the Arabic world was arguably the most advanced scientifically and culturally, and with this in mind it is not surprising that they also showed interest in understanding the ancient Egyptian civilization whose remains were obviously “in their face”.
87. June 08: Mathematician Kurt Gödel used his wife as a food taster (fear of poisoning) and starved to death in 1978 while she was sick. This is further evidence for the strong correlation between genius and insanity.
88. June 09: In 1960, physicist Leo Szilard underwent treatment for cancer — using a regimen he designed himself (& went into remission).
89. June 10: The earliest “scientific” description of invisibility was in an 1862 horror story by Fitz James O’Brien, “What Was It?” The story concerns an invisible monster, and one of the characters explains it scientifically in a manner very close to some of the invisibility I’ve talked about on this blog. This seems to be about 100 years before anyone would actually study the possibility of truly invisible objects in the scientific world!
91. June 12: Egyptologist Howard Carter (1874-1939) once rappelled down the side of a cliff to confront tomb-robbers in a cliffside tomb! You can read about Carter’s exploits in his own words in his “The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun”. In short, Carter received word that some robbers were working at night in a previously-unexplored tomb on a cliff side that could only be reached by rappelling. With the aid of some colleagues, he rappelled down the cliff to meet the robbers doing their business, and gave them the choice — leave immediately, or be stranded in the tomb permanently! (He had control of the rope.) The robbers took the option to leave.
93. June 14: Young Isaac Newton (1642-1727) flew kites at night w/ lanterns on them and scared the locals!
94. June 15: Mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), a fundamentalist Christian, nearly got a priest burned at the stake for heresy. Pascal converted to a sect of Catholicism known as Jansenism in 1647. His father had broken his hip and was attended to by two doctors who were members of the sect, and Pascal was converted through conversations with the doctors. His faith quickly became a very fundamentalist sort.
95. June 16: Cardano (1501-1576) stole and published Tartaglia’s solution for cubic equation; now known as “Cardano’s solution”. This is another statement that is somewhat imprecise! Cardano learned of Tartaglia’s solution, and wheedled it out of Tartaglia with promises of high-society introductions; in exchange, Cardano apparently agreed to keep the method secret. However, it seems that another mathematician managed to independently find the same solution later, and Cardano decided to publish it as part of his book on algebra, at least formally breaking his word. I am most amused, however, that the solution is now known as Cardano’s solution, even though he played no part in actually finding said solution, just in publishing it!
96. June 17: Gabriel’s horn, a geometric object with finite volume and infinite surface area. (vuvuzela?) This is, in principle, an object of infinite length. However, one can imagine making various finite versions of it of increasing size, and one would find that the volume approaches a constant value while the surface area increases without bound.
98. June 19: Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) published some 400 mathematical articles after going almost completely blind! Euler was one of the giants of mathematics, and made huge discoveries even after he completely lost his vision! He had a secretary to whom he would dictate his ideas. (Take that, Beethoven!)