Weird science facts, September 12-September 25

I’ve been at the OSA Frontiers in Optics meeting in Rochester this week, and haven’t had any time to get blogging done (the absence of wifi in the convention hall and the crappy wifi in the Hyatt didn’t help).  Nevertheless, here’s this week’s recap of twitter #weirdscifacts, just a little late!

You will notice a few “bonus” facts in the list: other folks are getting into the fun of listing their own weird science trivia, and I’m including them in the posts!

183. Sep 12: Eccentric scientist/inventor Nikola Tesla was good friends with Mark Twain!

184. Sep 13: Lucy Everest Boole, mathematician and daughter of George, had relatives who believed in homeopathy and psychic powers. (Boole’s great-uncle was Colonel Sir George Everest, who had a certain mountain named after him!)

184a. : (via  @archymck) Frequency-hopping radios used in secure communications, were invented by actress Hedy Lamarr and composer George Antheil.

185. Sep 14: Neutron discoverer Chadwick was imprisoned in Germany during WWI — and participated in a prison scientific society. Foreign scientists were incarcerated — and fortunately not treated poorly — during WWI.  Chadwick and colleagues were able to get permission and supplies to perform scientific experiments to pass the time.

186. Sep 15: Neutron discoverer Chadwick planned to do math at univ. but was mistakenly examined for physics — was too shy to correct it! Students had to take an entry interview/exam to assess their level on entering university.  Chadwick was supposed to do math, but realized halfway through his exam that he was being tested on physics!  He was to embarrassed to correct the mistake, but shortly thereafter decided that he really did like physics better, anyway.

186a. (via @blakestacey) C.C. de la Tour, who discovered the critical point in thermodynamics, also invented an improved siren.

187. Sep 16: Via @edyong209, the spider that can build webs across rivers!

188. Sep 17: Crystallographer Kathleen Lonsdale was imprisoned in WWII as conscientious objector; later became advocate for prison reform. (She recorded a worried query before prison: “Do the police come for one or do I just have to go to prison by myself ?”)

189. Sep 18: Physicist R.W. Wood (1868-1955) would clear his 40ft spectrograph tube of spiderwebs by making the family cat run through it.

190. Sep 19: Naturalist George Cuiver made science society connections when he recognized H-A. Tessier, hiding from French Revolution. (This #weirdscifacts taken from @Laelaps‘ upcoming book, Written in Stone!) Tessier was part of the upper class and rightly feared for his life.  He was living under an assumed name, giving lectures, and by the content of the lectures Cuiver identified him.  Because he promised not to reveal Tessier’s identity, however, he was introduced to Tessier’s scientific colleagues and consequently entered the scientific society.

191. Sep 20: The scientists at the Trinity nuclear test in 1945 set up a betting pool, with options from “dud” to planetary destruction. It was considered a remote possibility that the nuclear blast would ignite the Earth’s atmosphere and obliterate all life on the planet.

192. Sep 21: Isaac Newton, crimefighter!  (If you haven’t read @tomlevenson‘s book yet, you should: Newton and the Counterfeiter) Newton worked as Warden of the Royal Mint after making his groundbreaking scientific discoveries, and pursued devious criminal counterfeiters.

193. Sep 22: Computer scientist Alan Turing was an avid runner, and once ran 9 miles to a conference when public transport was snarled.

194. Sep 23: Specimens of lion’s mane jellyfish have been found with a bell diameter over 7 feet and tentacles of length 120 feet.

195. Sep 24: In late 1800s, leeches were thought to be weather-sensitive and inspired at least one forecaster: The tempest prognosticator. (h/t to @anthinpractice for pointing me towards this one!)

196. Sep 25: Recent research suggests that tiny phytoplankton may influence the strength and location of hurricanes!

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2 Responses to Weird science facts, September 12-September 25

  1. Thony C. says:

    #184: Mary Everest-Boole, George’s wife and Colonel Everest’s niece, spent a large part of her childhood living in France in the house of Samuel Hahnemann, the inventor of homeopathy, who was a friend of her father’s. Boole is said to have died of pneumonia because his wife wrapped him in wet sheets after he caught a chill in a downpour, applying the homeopathic principle of like curing like!

    BTW the name Everest is correctly pronounced Eve-, as in evening, -rest.

    Turing who was also a passionate chess player, invented round-the-houses-chess, in which the players took off on a 800 yard plus sprint around the block in between making moves on the chess board!

  2. Thanks for the comment — your facts will be great future #weirdscifacts!

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