Weird science facts, July 18-July 31

The Twitter #weirdscifacts from July 18 – July 31 are below the fold!

127. July 18: Horror author H.P. Lovecraft wrote an astronomy column for a local newspaper — and got into print wars w/ astrologers! I’ve blogged about this previously — Lovecraft did a pretty good job debunking the astrological nonsense.

128. July 19: In 1813, Michael Faraday ended up traveling with Humphry Davy to the continent not only as his assistant, but also his valet! (Davy’s valet canceled at the last minute before the trip, forcing Faraday to fill in the dual scientist/valet role.) It’s quite remarkable to see Faraday’s progression — he went from being a lower-class worker who was ignored by the Royal Society, to working as an assistant/valet to Davy, to eventually being one of the most distinguished and revered scientists in the world.

129. July 20: After the deadly 1902 eruption of Mt. Pelee, a massive obelisk grew from it to 2300 ft, sometimes at rate of 50 ft/day! (The obelisk collapsed rapidly, and was known as the Tower of Pelee.)

130. July 21: Early Egyptian antiquities collector Belzoni (1778-1824) originally worked in the circus as a strongman.

131. July 22: Michael Faraday was inspired early in his life, pre-scientific career, by a self-help book by Isaac Watts, “Improvement of the Mind”. Read a late edition of this book for yourself!

132. July 23: The first paper describing a nano-optical imaging device was written over 80 years ago, by E.H. Synge, in 1928. Synge was the first to suggest that the resolution limit of optical imaging could be overcome by passing light through a subwavelength-size hole in an opaque screen — and by placing the hole very close to the object to be imaged.  This is the central idea of modern nano-optical probes, which were not put into use into the 1980s!

133. July 24: Many historical sea serpent sightings are thought to be misidentified giant squid! This is discussed in Richard Ellis’ excellent book, The Search for the Giant Squid. For certain sightings, such as the sea serpent spotted by the HMS Daedalus in 1848, the identification really jumps out at you.

134. July 25: Mathematician Ludovico Ferrari (1522-1565) is rumored to have died of arsenic poisoning via his greedy sister!  (His sister immediately married and lost all her money to her new husband, who quickly left her.) This is another one that isn’t confirmed, though the story seems rather suspicious.

135. July 26: In 1935, physicist von Laue held a Nazi-forbidden memorial for a Jewish colleague — and was one of two professor attendees. von Laue was a bad-ass who vehemently opposed the Nazis.  Check out the Wikipedia page to see more of his overt resistance to National Socialism.

136. July 27: Water at the Earth’s equator is more deuterium-enriched than at the poles! (h/t @modernscientist!)

137. July 28: c. 1800, Chemist Humphry Davy discovered the giddy effects of nitrous oxide by self-experimentation — and shared w/ friends.

138. July 29: The odd “sailing stones” of Racetrack Playa.

139. July 30: Mathematician von Neumann died in 1957 under military security lest he inadvertently reveal nuclear secrets on his deathbed.

140. July 31: Humans have landed spacecraft on the surface of Venus, and taken pictures there! I don’t recall hearing much, if anything, about these missions when I was a kid.  I suspect the Cold War may have had something to do with it.

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