Just got back from ScienceOnline 2011 this week, and I’m hoping to put up a few posts about it over the next couple of days — as well as a few science posts! In the meantime, here are the Twitter #weirdscifacts for the past week. While I was at the meeting, I sent out a distress call asking for help in finding some facts, as I was too, um, “distracted”, to think clearly enough to find my own. A number of these are courtesy of other Twitterers!
305. Jan 12: c. 1870, physicist William Crookes was one of many to investigate and give credence to spiritualism. It’s easy to forget that, even until the middle of the 20th century, scientists still seriously allowed for the possibility of psychic/spirit forces that have been completely discounted today.
306. Jan 13: John Tyndall died in 1893 at the hands of his own wife. To quote Wikipedia, “In late years he was taking magnesia for dyspepsia and chloral hydrate for insomnia. His wife, who administered the drugs, accidentally gave him none of the former and a lethal overdose of the latter.” (h/t @darwinsbulldog)
307. Jan 14: Johannes Kepler found mathematical inspiration in a wine barrel. A lot of scientists have found inspiration from alcohol! Via Wolfram Mathworld, “When buying supplies for his second wedding, the great astronomer Johannes Kepler became unhappy about the inexact methods used by the merchants to estimate the liquid contents of a wine barrel. Kepler therefore investigated the properties of nearly 100 solids of revolution generated by rotation of conic sections about non-principal axes.” (h/t @blakestacey)
308. Jan 15: Joseph Black (1728-1799) discovered latent heat and founded thermodynamics while trying to improve whisky distillation. Like I said in the last fact, lots of scientists have been inspired by booze! (h/t @blakestacey)
310. Jan 17: The strangely long-lived belief in polymerized water.
311. Jan 18: Charles Dalziel (1940-1986) performed electric shock expts on 200 volunteers; developed safety devices. From shocking lots of people, Dalziel developed the ground fault circuit interrupter, which protects people in homes today from electrical shock.