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
Astronaut Charles Conrad on the Gemini 5 mission. Photo credit: NASA
Today in 1965, astronauts Gordon Cooper and Charles Conrad left our earthly terrain to push the boundaries of manned space flight. Their goal was to spend eight days in space so NASA would better understand the effects of spending more time in space. It was also a nose-tweak to the Russians, who set the former record for man in space just two years earlier. Cooper and Conrad easily beat the Russians’ duration record of four days with a then-whopping eight days in space, although the mission didn’t always go smoothly: there problems with water supply, thrusters and general conditions. While the men had experiments to keep them busy, at least one lamented the lack of reading material. You know, because looking down on the gorgeous site of the earth gets old when there’s nothing else to do for eight days.
Still, the mission was deemed a success, and took man one step closer to the reality of living in space. This mission is also noteworthy since it is the first one to have its own patch, thanks to Cooper. After Gemini 5, every NASA manned mission in space would have an insignia patch, a tradition that continues to this day.Tweet
Sometimes science shows us the secrets of the universe, sometimes it takes us to space…and occasionally it just gives our kids something cool to play with. The Wiffle Ball was invented today in 1953 by David Mullaney as a game for his 12-year-old son. The holes in the ball gives it a curving and often unpredictable flight path, so kids of any age have a fair shot at winning. Mullaney’s new ball-and-bat game has become tremendously popular through the decades, and there are even Wiffle Ball leagues for players with a lightweight plastic passion.
In the long run, Mullaney gave his kid much more than a way to pass the time on summer afternoons; he gave him—and his grandson—a business to run after those childhood afternoons were gone.
Without today’s birthday boy, we would have never experienced great radio shows like The Shadow, or made out in the moonlight serenaded by Duran Duran. Alan Hazeltine was born today in 1886. He was an engineer, inventor, physicist and professor, but his greatest claim to fame was the neutrodyne circuit, which squelched noise while boosting good signal. This circuit made commercial radio a viable business model in the early 1920s.
While progress would push past his circuit to better technology, he still scored a cool $3 million for his patents by the end of the decade, and did what any of us would do: go to Europe for a nice long vacation to study art, and, since he was a geek, study math too.
After his sweet vacay, Hazeltine came back to the U.S. and once again picked up his teaching job at the Stevens Institute of Technology. He consulted and also had a hand in the development of television.
He passed away in 1964, but we still want to thank him for all those great tunes and radio plays that came along because of his invention, from the country-wide freakout during the War of the Worlds broadcast to the original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. Then again, he also paved the way for A.M. talk radio and not-so-wacky morning DJs.Tweet
Born today in 1834, John Venn became a minister, a professor at Cambridge, a tinkerer and had a serious man-crush on logic. He wrote several books on logic and philosophy, but his lasting legacy was the Venn diagram, a method of visually showing the connections and results of different sets of data. He passed away in 1923, but his diagram, used for years in logic, computer sciences and other disciplines, has now become its own meme on the Internet.
While Venn received many tributes, including an obituary in the New York Times, perhaps the coolest is still available for viewing at Cambridge: a stained glass window (shown above) featuring the Venn diagram and his name.
Celebrate today by coming up with your own Venn diagram; extra points if it mentions geeks, bacon or cupcakes.
Spider-Man, Spider-Man….while you sing the rest of the song in your head, we’ll tell you that today in 1962, Spider-Man made his first appearance in the Marvel comic Amazing Fantasy #15. Creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko made Peter Parker noticeably different from the accepted superheroes of the day, in that he was a teenage hero without a mentor who had to figure everything out the hard way, from life as an orphan to struggling to make ends meet to dealing with a pesky juiced-up spider bite.
Parker learned and shared each hard-won lesson, including the most-quoted “With great power comes great responsibility,” although “Girlfriends will only bring you pain” should have been a close second. The classic storylines kept Spider-Man firmly against the wall, but we all knew he could climb up it like an angsty champion. True to form, the web-slinging hero has taken many jobs over the years: some of us grew up with him (and a very groovy Morgan Freeman) on The Electric Company, he’s been in countless cartoons, is occasionally teamed up with The Avengers or the Fantastic Four, explored his belly button in a trio of movies, broke dangerous new ground (and occasionally a few limbs) on Broadway and was recently re-booted back to his nerdy roots. That’s a lot of action for one teen to handle, even if he is mutant-powered, but we know the Amazing Spider-Man always pulls through.Tweet
When we think of patents, we think of new machines or crazy gizmos, but the first patent, awarded today in 1790, was for a chemical process. Samuel Hopkins received a patent for potash and pearl ash, essential ingredients (for the time) in making soap, glass, dyed fabric and were even needed to make gunpowder. Potash, an alkali, was much in demand during the 18th century, and Hopkins’ new process made it purer and more potent. His patent, signed by George Washington, spurred economic trade within the newly formed country, since people could sell the ashes from their stoves and fireplaces and buy a chemically uniform potash for everyday use.
Today, patents are awarded for everything from flying cars (there are at least five in recent years) to minor differences in software. More than 8 million patents have been issued since that first one by Hopkins, and tech corporations hold thousands of U.S. patents, with IBM holding more than 3,000. Still, there’s always room for the little guy to make a difference, so celebrate today by engaging your brain and coming up with the next big thing to change the world. What will be your potash moment?Tweet