Archive for science

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.

Pi, Einstein and Chips Day

Has math ever looked so delicious?

Has math ever looked so delicious?

Today celebrates three things geeks love: Pi, Albert Einstein and potato chips. The numerical shorthand for today is 3/14, which corresponds to 3.14, the beginning of pi. Diehard fans will likely celebrate at 1:59 and 26 seconds, so have a slice of apple pie nearby. While no one knows the exact hour and minute Albert Einstein was born (although it would be awesome if it was 1:59:26) he’s still a rock star in the physics world, and his name has even become shorthand for genius in the mundane, everyday world. As for potato chips, do we need to elaborate? Any day is a great day to celebrate them, but this is, in fact, National Potato Chip Day.

Celebrate all three by taking a physicist out to lunch (with pie for dessert, of course) today, and if you find a potato chip on your plate that looks like Albert Einstein, head straight to eBay. Ka-ching, baby.

 

 

 

Photo credit: Flickr/djwtwo

 

International Women’s Day

2013internationalwomensday

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.

RIP Neil Armstrong/Make Every Day Wink at the Moon Day

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.

Gemini 5 Day

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.

Mars Curiosity Day

The first semi-self portrait of Curiosity. If there were bathroom mirrors on Mars, we'd be seeing a lot more of the rover on Twitter.

Most of our geeky historic holidays are from decades or even centuries ago, so it’s a thrill when history is being made this very moment. The Mars Curiosity rover landed during the wee hours of the night, and the entire geek world erupted in applause, cheers and humorous tweets.

After the deconstructing of the space shuttle program, it’s nice to have something new in terms of exploration. NASA has pulled out all the stops by releasing the photos Curiosity takes as they come in, and even setting up a Twitter account for the roving SUV-sized paparazzi machine. If there is any life on Mars, they should buy giant sunglasses now.

Of course, there’s a lot more to Curiosity than cameras; the rover has its own geological toolkit, including items to drill, scoop, and sort samples. There’s also a laser onboard, but that’s to check what a distant rock is made of. Really. *coughlightsabercough*  Curiosity also won major cool points for hitting the planet in true James Bond/Mission Impossible style, dangling from cables on a rocket backpack. Take that, rest of the science world! Boo-yah!

As Curiosity continues to explore and wow the world, you can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter. Celebrate today by keeping the latest info open under the PowerPoint presentation you’re supposed to be working on today.

Photo courtesy of NASA

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?

Amazing Women Day

Today would be Amelia Earhart’s 115th birthday, but since Dr. Sally Ride just passed away, we thought it would be appropriate to celebrate them both.

Earhart and Ride were incredibly smart women who made history. Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1928, and she conquered the Pacific Ocean in 1935. She disappeared in 1937 trying to break another record by flying around the world, and her legend grows stronger every year as investigators attempt to piece together what happened.

Sally Ride came back from her history-making flight as the first American woman in space in 1983, and it was so good she did it again the next year. Her astronaut days were cut short by the Challenger tragedy, so after assisting NASA in finding answers, she went the extra mile here on Earth and founded a company that produces educational materials for kids (girls and boys) to get them stoked about science. She was a physicist, an astronaut and an inspiration to generations of little girls who watched her soar into the sky.

Appropriately enough, a third woman from the world of pop culture and TV has a birthday today: Lynda Carter, the Wonder Woman who thrilled us in the 1970s. She also inspired us with a sweet shot of Girl Power back in the day.

Celebrate our three Wonder Women by going out into the world and doing something amazing. Who knows? We could be singing your praises soon.