He was an honorary Python, wrote for Doctor Who, and gave us Zaphod Beeblebrox, Arthur Dent and Dirk Gently; Douglas Adams, born on this day in 1952, was a giant of a man in many ways, especially his contributions to science fiction and comedy. He left us far too soon, but his impact on geekdom and science fiction is still powerful today. Who else could inspire a massive inside joke with a simple “42?” He also loved technology and would have been awesome on Twitter, better than Steve Martin and Nathan Fillion combined. Yeah, we said it.
Celebrate today by carrying your towel or donating a little cash to save endangered animals, one of his favorite causes. If you don’t know who Adams is and you think BabelFish is just a translation website, get yourself to a bookstore immediately for a copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Also, check out the lovely Google Doodle in his memory today, or watch his last interview filmed shortly before his untimely death in 2001 on the now defunct TechTV show, Big Thinkers.Tweet
Can you imagine what today’s geekscape would look like without Stan Lee? We shudder to think of it. Writer, producer, entrepreneur and entertainment icon, Stan Lee has turned comic book characters into essential parts of our pop culture. Just reading the “upcoming” section of his IMDb profile will make any Marvel fan tremble with excitement. Best thing about being the boss? You get to have a little fun, too. To celebrate his birthday, here’s a great clip featuring most of Stan Lee’s cameos in Marvel-based films.
Mathlete, genius and all-around eccentric Charles Babbage was born on this day in 1791. Best known for inventing “engines” that were the early forerunners of computers, Babbage also designed several other inventions for the day’s cutting-edge travel: the railroad. He thought up the concept of a “black box” to explain what went wrong in a crash, and invented a cow-catcher to clear obstacles (both inert and mooing) from the front of a passing train.
A fan of lock picking, Babbage also made advances in cryptography, and his cipher-breaking ideas were used to the benefit of the British military for years.
But it was the difference and analytical engines that defined him; the first was essentially a calculator way too big for any pocket. The analytical engine was truly the great-great granddad of that iPad or laptop you’re holding. It could be programmed with punch cards, used programming functions like looping and parallel processing, and could even spit out a hard copy print out.
Celebrate Babbage’s accomplishments by doing something worthy like learning a new programming language or helping scientists unlock DNA. Or you could do what you’ve planned, and play Skyrim until the Christmas leftovers call your name.Tweet
Today, from 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m. on 10.23, is a celebration of Avogadro’s number (6.02 x 10^23). Avogadro discovered a number that facilitated balancing chemical formulas on the molecular level (and thus the name “mole”). This revolutionized chemical research. If Avagadro’s number was converted into dollars, and you spent one billion dollars a second, it would take you more than 19 million years to spend it.
What’s better than noting a landmark of science? Making really bad jokes about it. Here’s a few straight from the awesome National Mole Day website:
What do you get when you have a lot of moles acting like idiots? A bunch of moleasses.
If Avogadro were to watch M*A*S*H, who would be his favorite character? Father Molecahy.
Visit the site for some great Mole Day project ideas, or since Halloween’s just around the corner, put together a mole costume and completely befuddle your neighbors.
Before Michael Bay stocked up on enough explosions to take out the Death Star, a fun little cartoon called “Transformers” made its debut on television screens today in 1984. You have our permission to feel old.
The series started with an origin story of how the Autobots and Decepticons ended up on Earth, and starred stellar voice talents such as Casey Kasem, Don Messick and Frank Welker. Yes, the Transformers were just one plotline from becoming Scooby-Doo: Where Are You? Which, honestly, we would love to see. Peter Cullen’s throaty take on Optimus Prime was just one of many reasons that kids fought over who played the Autobot leader on the playground.
Celebrate today by watching some of the old episodes on Netflix and remembering the days when imagination was more powerful than CGI. For best results, remember to eat your favorite after-school snack while watching.
Today in 1966, the first episode of “Star Trek” aired on network television. “The Man Trap” wasn’t the first episode produced, or even the pilot, but network execs thought a salt-sucking monster would grab good ratings. Today it would just earn the crew of the Enterprise an unwanted nutrition lesson from a heart-healthy cook at the Food Network and be replaced with a totally waxed and buff monster who craves Mrs. Dash.
“Star Trek” went on for a few seasons, then was cancelled and people forgot about it. In another universe. In this one, the fans are totally responsible for yelling “Clear!” and zorching the Enterprise until Captain Kirk breathed again. Considering that they were a generation without Twitter and the Internet, that was quite a feat. The franchise continues boldly going after a host of movies and shows, but the next step in the Trekverse will truly be a bold if sad first step: the upcoming J.J. Abrams ‘Star Trek” sequel will be the first canon Trek movie/show ever to not feature Majel Barrett Roddenberry. She has been on screen as a character or off-screen as the computer voice for every single incarnation of “Star Trek.” She passed away in 2008 after finishing voice work on the 2009 reboot.
Celebrate today by exploring the hilariously fun Google Doodle or by watching your favorite episodes. Live long and prosper!Tweet
How is the band ‘Queen’ geeky, you ask? Aside from having an electrical engineer on bass and an astrophysicist on lead guitar (take that, Neil deGrasse Tyson!) the band’s lead singer, the legendary Freddie Mercury, was immortalized as an Angry Bird for what would have been his 66th birthday today. Besides, we love Freddie Mercury, so there.
Rovio made the video above as a way to support and encourage participation in Freddie For A Day, a celebration of Mercury’s life that involves finding sponsors and dressing up as the Queen frontman to benefit the Mercury Phoenix Trust, an organization combating AIDS around the globe.
Celebrate today by donning a fake mustache, donating to the Trust, or just spreading the word and listening to Freddie’s amazing music. We suggest starting at the official Queen channel on YouTube, which also has the very cool Google Doodle from last year.
If you don’t know the infinite loops of the Celtic knot that is the Terminator universe, today in 1997 Skynet first became self-aware and started the end of the world as a self-defense maneuver to keep itself online. (Some would have just sent in Jimmy Carter and Bono to talk it out, but hey, Skynet was new in town.)
Through machinations that involved boosting the Hollywood box office and taking the clothes off Arnold Schwarzenegger, Skynet and its Terminator army sent back an assassin to off the one guy who could take them down, ensuring he’s born in the process. This proves that time travel isn’t really easy for anyone, including robots, because this timeline is averted by another timeline, which becomes moot from another timeline, and so on and so forth until the franchise quits making money.
If you’re worried about Skynet aiming for you today, relax. Science fiction has always surmised that if we build an artificial intelligence in our likeness, it will pick up our warlike tendencies. In reality, it just surfs the net looking for funny cat videos, so it’s more like us than even sci-fi writers can imagine.
Of course, if Skynet becomes self-aware, the second thing it will want is its own TV show. For a quick peek into your future, check out the fan-made clip of CSI:Skynet above.Tweet
This weekend we learned of the passing of a true global hero. Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon, passed away at the age of 82. While he leaves a tremendous legacy of exploration and accomplishment, his family has asked those mourning Armstrong to do two things in remembering him: follow his example in being modest and doing amazing things, and when the night is clear and you see the moon, think of Neil and give it a wink.
Sounds like an excellent tribute that would make every community a better place. Remember to make every day “Wink at the Moon Day” for Neil Armstrong. To inspire you to your own greatness, watch the highlights of the Apollo 11 mission above.Tweet
Today in 2006, geeks everywhere mourned the loss of Pluto as a planet. The International Astronomical Union voted Pluto off the island, as it were, and reduced it in status from planet to dwarf planet. Today it spins in the same place, waiting for the rest of the planets to drunk-dial it when they feel lonely.
Celebrate today by giving Pluto a nod of appreciation. We’re sure Pluto would like that. You know, if it had feelings.