Posting will likely be rather quiet for the next few weeks, as I’m taking another shot at National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo! In the meantime, I’ll be keeping up my usual features, such as my editor’s selections and my twitter #weirdscifacts! The facts for the week are below the fold…
197. Sep 26: One of the first pioneers of the study of cryptanalysis (math of code-breaking) was Arab mathematician al-Kindi (807-873).
198. Sep 27: Lightning bolts have temperatures of 50,000 F, some 5 times hotter than the Sun’s surface.
199. Sep 28: c. 1926, Chadwick and Rutherford employed 3 young women as “scintillation counters”. To quote a bio of Chadwick, “it was thought that… they were less likely to be distracted by thinking while counting!” (The experiment ended up being biased because the women were always told the hoped-for results in advance.)
200. Sep 29: Archaea, the “forgotten” third domain of living things.
201. Sep 30: Physicist Struve worked as a lumberjack while a refugee from the Bolshevik revolution, and was almost struck by lightning. (The lightning bolt hit an adjacent tent, killing 6 people.)
202. Oct 01: Emperor Hirohito of Japan (1901-1989) was a biologist and a Fellow of the Royal Society.
203. Oct 02: The 1945 Trinity nuclear test got its name from Oppenheimer, who was inspired by the poetry of John Donne (1572-1631).
204. Oct 03: The wholphin, a cross-breed between a dolphin and a false killer whale. (FKW also a dolphin species, tho.)
204a. (via @nialldeacon) Pioneering geologist James Hutton had a doctorate of medicine from Leiden with a thesis on blood circulation. There are lots of early scientists whose formal training was in a completely different field than their major achievements!
205. Oct 04: The brother of crystallographer Kathleen Lonsdale was a wireless operator who received the last signals from Titanic in 1912. Another example of how connected many scientists were to the history of their time.
206. Oct 05: In 1975, J.H. Hetherington co-authored a physics paper with his cat, F.D.C. Willard! (h/t @tttabata via @sc_k!) (Read the cat story here; scroll down to “Cats and Publishing Physics Research”.)
207. Oct 06: Dating back to the 1600’s, thermometers were filled with Brandy instead of mercury. (h/t @anthinpractice) @ericmjohnson wryly noted: “But for some reason the levels kept going down, even when it wasn’t getting colder. ”
208. Oct 07: In 1990, father/son physicists R.S. Knox and W.H.Knox published an April 1 article with fictional authors Hoose and Zare.
208a. Follow-up to the previous fact, via @allinthegutter: “Physics can also boast Drs Lewney, Boffin & Nutter who were once in same dept, but sadly never published together.”
210. Oct 09: The gallium disappearing spoon trick; see the video here! Gallium melts at 85 degrees, and will vanish in a cup of tea — apparently this has been a long-standing practical joke amongst chemists at tea-time. h/t Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon