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Archive for the ‘Trivia’ Category

Look Out, World, Here Comes Tom Edison

February 11th, 2008 by iDunzo

February 11, 1847: Thomas Alva Edison is born.

Edison is front and center in the pantheon of prolific inventor-entrepreneur-opportunists. Alone or jointly, he held 1,093 patents, a record unlikely to be approached, let alone surpassed.

Thomas Edison received his first patent in 1869, at the age of 23. It was for an “electrographic vote recorder,” which allowed a legislator to cast a vote for or against an issue by turning a switch either left or right. It was a complete flop, ironically because it was too efficient and interfered with the ability of pols to lobby for vote-switching — something that was commonly done during the time it took to count votes by hand.

Edison’s extensive background in telegraphy influenced the direction his inventing would go, and he spent a lot of time ignoring his day jobs and concentrating on his moonlighting projects.

It was his development of an improved stock ticker and the sale of its patent for $40,000 (around $600,000 in today’s money) that gave Edison some financial independence and allowed him to turn to full-time inventing. Talk about opening the flood gates.

Over the course of his career, these were just a few of the things Edison either invented or had a hand in developing: the carbon transmitter (which made a practical telephone possible), the phonograph, the incandescent light bulb, the kinetoscope (forerunner of the modern film projector), the dictaphone and the mimeograph machine, along with a mighty host of lesser-known things.

He built the first functioning central power station (in Brockton, Massachusetts), and his laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey, is generally acknowledged as the world’s first true research-and-development center.

There were some failures along the way: Edison came out on the losing end of the battle over direct current versus alternating current with George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla, and his attempt to marry audio to silent film — which resulted in The Great Train Robbery in 1903 — wasn’t a success. A few ideas were just loony: a concrete piano, for example.

But nothing is perfect, not even genius, and while Edison’s genius is indisputable, history has judged him less kindly in ethical matters. If his personal ambition didn’t exceed his intellect, it certainly came very close to matching it.

In an era characterized by its ruthless, cutthroat business tactics, Edison was at the head of the pack. He didn’t care whom he stepped on or exploited to achieve his ends, and he muscled in on lesser-known inventors to make some dubious patent claims.

Edison was a man with many colleagues, subordinates, competitors and even admirers, but few friends. He had a family, which he largely ignored. He was a very old man, sidelined by poor health, before bothering to stop and smell the roses.

His payoff is that he remains the iconic American success story, with all that it means.

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A Distress Call for Ships in Danger Upon the Sea

January 7th, 2008 by iDunzo

January 7, 1904: “CQD” is adopted as the international distress signal for the operators of Marconi wireless installations.

The Morse code signal (dash-dot-dash-dot, dash-dash-dot-dash, dash-dot-dot), which became effective February 1, 1904 was approved for maritime use by the Marconi International Marine Communications Company.

Although widely used by Marconi operators, CQD never became a true international standard.

Two years later, members of the International Radiotelegraphic Convention meeting in Berlin adopted SOS as the standard distress signal, and CQD began fading from the scene.

CQD originated by combining CQ, which alerted stations that a message was incoming, with D for “distress.”

SOS, on the other hand, represents the Morse equivalents for those letters (dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot). It does not stand for either “Save Our Ship” or “Save Our Souls.” SOS was adopted because it’s easy to send and easy to decipher.

SOS remained the maritime distress signal until 1999, when it was replaced by the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System.

The most famous maritime distress call of all time was sent by the RMS Titanic following its fatal collision with an iceberg in April 1912.

In that instance, Marconi radio operator Jack Phillips began by sending the CQD signal, then still commonly used aboard British ships.

On the suggestion of his junior, Harold Bride, Phillips began alternating between CQD and SOS.

Both signals were received, and the ships that could responded, but …

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I Give You the Planet Vulcan

January 2nd, 2008 by iDunzo

January 2, 1860: French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier announces the discovery of Vulcan, a planet orbiting between Mercury and the sun, to members of the Académie des Sciences in Paris.

Le Verrier, who used Vulcan to explain an anomaly in Mercury’s orbit, already enjoyed a stellar reputation among astronomers, having discovered Neptune in 1846 using only mathematic principles to detect its presence.

Turns out Le Verrier was a bit hasty this time, not to mention gullible, basing his claim on some pretty dubious observations by one Edmond Modeste Lescarbault, a provincial physician and amateur astronomer working from a homemade observatory.

Le Verrier interviewed Lescarbault at length, though, and was convinced that the good doctor knew what he was talking about.

Doubts about this “new” planet surfaced immediately and the professionals set to work attempting to either confirm or debunk Vulcan’s existence.

Although numerous reports of “transits” by heavenly bodies passing in front of the sun were received, no reliable observation of Vulcan was ever made.

Le Verrier also theorized the existence of a second asteroid belt in the solar system. He got that one wrong, too. Le Verrier steadfastly maintained Vulcan’s existence to his dying day in 1877.

The hubbub pretty much died with him and the idea was put to rest for good with the publication of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity in 1915, which explained Mercury’s eccentric orbit as a byproduct of the sun’s gravitational pull rather than the presence of a nearby planet.

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Happy New Year 2008 Plus 25 years of TCP/IP

December 31st, 2007 by iDunzo

Google does it again with a great tribute logo to the year 2008 which is just a few hours away:

Happy New Year & 25 years of TCP/IP

Not only are we celebrating the upcoming year 2008, we are also celebrating 25 years of TCP/IP which is a very important part of the intarweb :)

So with that in mind, how about a little TCP/IP technology trivia?

The Internet protocol suite is the set of communications protocols that implement the protocol stack on which the Internet and most commercial networks run.

It has also been referred to as the TCP/IP protocol suite, which is named after two of the most important protocols in it: the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), which were also the first two networking protocols defined.

Today’s IP networking represents a synthesis of two developments that began in the 1970s, namely LANs (Local Area Networks) and the Internet, both of which have revolutionized computing.

The Internet Protocol suite—like many protocol suites—can be viewed as a set of layers.

Each layer solves a set of problems involving the transmission of data, and provides a well-defined service to the upper layer protocols based on using services from some lower layers.

Upper layers are logically closer to the user and deal with more abstract data, relying on lower layer protocols to translate data into forms that can eventually be physically transmitted. The TCP/IP reference model consists of four layers.

Want to know more? Check out the official Internet protocol suite Wiki.

On that note, have a Happy New Year. See you next year!

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Ike’s Greeting the First Recorded Message From Space

December 19th, 2007 by iDunzo

December 19, 1958: The first radio broadcast from space is transmitted to Earth, with President Eisenhower sending greetings to an international audience.

The technology wasn’t new (a tape recorder was used) but the delivery method was and Ike sounded suitably impressed:

“This is the president of the United States speaking. Through the marvels of scientific advance, my voice is coming to you from a satellite circling in outer space.”

He went on to convey his best wishes, and those of his country, to “all mankind … for peace on earth and good will to men everywhere.”

Eisenhower’s message was prerecorded, then launched into orbit with the U.S. Army’s first Project SCORE experimental satellite.

The primary recorder failed during the satellite’s first orbit but on the second pass the message was successfully transmitted using the backup recorder. Indeed, having a back up plan can be the best life insurance of an important endeavor like this.

Despite the cheery message on board, the satellite’s real purpose was to hang tough with the Russians, who had already put two satellites into orbit — Sputnik 1 and 2 — more than a year earlier.

The satellite, built earlier that year by the Army’s Signal Research and Development Laboratory at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, was launched aboard an Atlas ICBM provided by the Air Force. It was intended for a low trajectory orbit, meaning a short life.

After 12 days in space the batteries failed and the satellite burned up upon reentering earth’s atmosphere on January 21, 1959.

Source: Space Policy Project

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Laughing Gas Dulls the Pain of a Savage Dentist

December 11th, 2007 by iDunzo

December 11, 1844: Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is used as a dental anesthetic for the first time.

English chemist Joseph Priestley, discoverer of oxygen, first synthesized nitrous oxide in 1775. Priestley, however, was content with having “discovered an air five or six times as good as common air.”

He did not experiment with inhalation, however, so did nothing toward developing its practical and recreational uses.

Nitrous oxide, along with chloroform and ether, became popular anesthetics. While not sufficiently effective as general anesthetics for the modern operating theater, all were effective enough to become popular in dentistry. Of the three, nitrous oxide is still widely used.

Nitrous oxide is also used as an aerosol-spray propellant, especially in whipped-cream canisters and cooking sprays. Its solubility in fatty compounds allows for up to four times as much whipped cream to be produced as the liquid contained in the can.

Owing to its nontoxicity and relatively easy storage, nitrous oxide is also a popular oxidizer for rocket motors and is used in car racing to boost power.

Outside the commercial world, nitrous oxide is best known for its recreational use as an inhalant for getting high. The resulting euphoria is often accompanied by some pretty loopy behavior, which is where the “laughing gas” moniker comes from.

For every upside there’s a downside, though, and nitrous oxide’s is considerable. It’s a major greenhouse gas and therefore a major contributor to global warming.

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