If you ever stood in a corner fiddling for hours with the rabbit ears on the TV, you can thank—or curse—Marvin P. Middlemark, born today in 1919. His invention of a set-based, dipole antenna made television reception stronger, and opened the door to our modern TV culture. Before those distinctive rabbit ears, the picture you received on your screen was it, and there was no changing it unless you moved to a house closer to the transmitter. Once the TV-hungry masses had antennas, though, the world was their grainy oyster, especially if they discovered standing on one foot and holding the tip of the rabbit ears in aluminum foil while stretching toward the window.
Middlemark also helped NASA develop communication technology for the Apollo missions, but some of his inventions, like the water-powered potato peeler, didn’t find a market. No worries, though, because the eccentric inventor made his millions and shared the wealth often with those less fortunate. When he died in 1989, his estate distributed 15,000 pairs of gloves to homeless shelters per his last request. At least they received something useful; his estate also consisted of a stained glass collection, including colorful tributes to Einstein and Marilyn Monroe, several Chinese tractors, lots of statues of Greek deities, plus miniature horses, donkeys and reportedly a chimp who had a drinking problem. No word on if the chimp could tune a TV or use the potato peeler.
Today 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.Tweet
Yes, yes, today is Earth Day, so Hack the Planet, er, Save the Planet and all that. (Sorry, had a bit of a Angelina Jolie-Jonny Lee Miller flashback there.) Today is also the birthday of Immanuel Kant, born in 1724. Kant became one of the most influential philosophers of his time. He championed both experience and reason together for a new approach to philosophy, and his work in idealist thought still affects modern philosophers today. He also worked in mathematics, anthropology and astronomy, and was even an early influence in the life of a young Albert Einstein.
Celebrate today by hugging a tree and buying a beer for a philosophy major; chances are, that former student is now also your bartender. We’ve also thrown in the excellent ode to thinking above by the professors known as Monty Python. (Language warning, just in case you’re NOT familiar with their work.) Tweet
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.
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
Unless you’ve been abandoned on a deserted island by your crew, you know today is Talk Like A Pirate Day! This yearrrrr marrrrks the 10th anniversarrrry of the holiday, and each one holds more booty for the swarthy mates of the sea. Dress up in full pirate gear and walk into a Krispy Kreme for your complimentary dozen donuts, or just talk like a pirate to receive one donut. But really, who wouldn’t go full Johnny Depp for the whole treasure chest? Arby’s is also offering discounts for the day via their text marketing program.
If you’re on Facebook, make your day more arrrrthentic by switching your language to Pirate. If nothing else, it will liven up those endless political jabs and inspirational doggie photos cluttering your Wall. If you need more Yo-ho-ho-motivation, visit the official Talk Like A Pirate Day site or enjoy the Talk Like A Pirate Day song 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
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
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.