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Laser Day

maimanToday they’re on everything from our pens to the heads of villainous frickin’ sharks, but before 1960, lasers were just a dream. In that year, Theodore Harold Maiman invented the laser using a pink ruby, proving that diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they won’t remove that regrettable tattoo. Maiman was born today in 1927, and to say his work at Hughes Research Laboratories changed the world is an understatement. Lasers have revolutionized medicine, electronics, communications and, of course, pop culture. Without lasers, could you have the idea of a lightsaber? Or a phaser?

Maiman created his own company around his invention in 1962, and continued to be a major part of the high technology world until his death in 2007. Celebrate his creation today by digging out the laser pointer and entertaining the cat.

National Cereal Day

cerealstartrekWhether you’re in favor of Boo Berries or bran, cereal has been an essential part of our complete breakfast for more than 100 years. For a certain number of us, Saturday mornings with the Road Runner weren’t the same without a big bowl of cereal so sweet, it made your eyeballs vibrate. Cereal has gone through a lot of phases since those first boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes hit stores as a health food in 1895, but they all break down to variations of oats, rice, wheat or corn.

Not that exciting? Think back to your days as a kid, bouncing down the cereal aisle looking for Tony the Tiger, Ribbit the Frog, or Lucky the Leprechaun. If you were fortunate, you scored a box of Cap’n Crunch. If not, Mom slipped a box of Life in the cart. (‘But Mikey likes it!’ fooled no kid ever.)

Thanks to savvy marketing, the cereal aisle has also seen its share of movie and TV tie-ins, with various bowls of breakfast named after Xena, Batman, Star Trek, Star Wars, E.T., Gremlins, the Hulk, Indiana Jones, Pokemon, Mr. T and even Urkel.

Celebrate today with a bowl of your favorite crunchies in some milk and check out Mr. Breakfast, an amazing site featuring cereal history. All your favorites are there, so save the heart-smart box for another day and rip into those Froot Loops for old times’ sake.

 

Flickr/Robert Couse-Baker

National Grammar Day

grammardayIf you’ve ever accidentally swapped “your” for “you’re” on a Facebook status, you know how passionate some people are about grammar. Whether you’re a frequent grammar abuser or the one holding the wooden ruler of correction over someone’s knuckles, take a moment to appreciate the intricacies of language. English is one of the toughest languages around. It steals from other languages, mocks those trying to learn it, and acts all innocent when spoken but gets demonic when someone tries to spell it.

Celebrate today by looking up a new word, re-reading the Elements of Style or using proper spelling in your texts for the day. Not only will you make the grammar fans happy, you’ll shock someone with your language skills.

While you’re in a grammarian groove, visit Grammar Girl’s site for celebratory e-cards, wallpaper and other goodies.

 

 

Flickr/jmawork

 

National Mole Day

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.

 

Photo credit: Cowboytoast at Flickr.com.

Wiffle Ball Day

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.

 

Photo credit: Flickr/DBduoPhotography

John Venn Day

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.

 

Photo credit/Wiki Commons

Patent Day

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?

System Administrator Appreciation Day

If you’re reading this while shopping online, playing Words With Friends and pretending to work on that spreadsheet shared from the corporate office, take a moment and thank your SysAdmin. As the world becomes so interconnected that we can see each other’s lunch Instagrams before they happen, SysAdmins take it all in stride and keep us all hooked up to the life support we call the Internet.

Celebrate today by taking your SysAdmin out to lunch, buying him or her a little gift, or just supplying them with a regular monthly case of Tums. They deserve it.

Today is also Gary Gygax’s birthday, so if you’re really feeling creative, write up your own tabletop mini-game campaign, and stack the deck so your SysAdmin is the hero. You’ll have the smoothest network in the whole city.

 

Photo credit:Flickr/Salid

Moon Day

Today in 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin of Apollo 11 landed on the moon aboard the Eagle lunar module, making history as the first men to set foot on non-earthly soil.

They carried with them eons of man’s curiosity about the so-close-yet-so-far-away rock reflecting light in the night sky. That curiosity received a 21-hour indulgence as the two astronauts walked on the moon and collected lunar samples before finally catching a ride with fellow astronaut Michael Collins aboard the Columbia command module.

While Armstrong and Aldrin made history in the dust of the lunar surface, Collins would never have the chance to walk on the moon. After he played carpool mom for the other astronauts and kept the motor running on the command module, he never went into space again. His two space flights (one previously on the Gemini X mission) would earn him some notable bling, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an honor also bestowed upon his crewmates.

To celebrate, re-live those first heady moments during the landing with the video above.

World UFO Day

Look, what’s that up in the sky? It’s World UFO Day!  Today true believers are celebrating the potential of the universe to sustain life out there. Most of them are thinking little gray dudes instead of water on Mars, but hey, who are we to argue? It’s about the amazing diversity of the universe and the possibility that someone, somewhere, caught an “I Love Lucy” episode and developed faster-than-light travel so they could record the whole series.

Celebrate today by videotaping whatever moves in the sky. Sure, it could be swamp gas from a weather balloon trapped in a thermal pocket and reflecting the light from Venus, or it could be intelligent life coming to earth and begging us to quit sending shows about the Kardashians into outer space.