Category Archives: History

Historical Bad@$$: Nikola Tesla

Yes, Tesla. The Serbian-American inventor who worked for Thomas Edison, who was obsessed with the number 3 and died broke trying to tend for an imaginary pigeon that shot lasers from its eyes (the term laser hadn’t been invented yet though). He has an SI unit named after him (the tesla, represented by the symbol T, is a measure of the strength of a magnetic field), and his inventions include no less than:

  • Alternating Current (AC, still in use today)
  • The light bulb (namely the fluorescent lamp, still in use today) and neon lighting
  • Radio (Tesla let Marconi, the person credited with radio, use 17 of his, Tesla’s, patents)
  • Radio (invented 18 years before the person credited with its invention)
  • X-ray photography (Tesla x-rayed his own hand as a test, and he knew of the dangerous effects of x-rays)
  • The remote control
  • The electric motor
  • Wireless communications

He also:

  • Had the first hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls built
  • Experimented in cryogenics
  • Held patents for the predecessors of transistors (used in computers)
  • Sent the first radio transmissions into space
  • Determined the resonant frequency of the Earth
  • Almost destroyed a New York suburb using a resonance machine (also known as an earthquake machine)
  • Reproduced ball lightning in his laboratory (a feat not attained since)

Finally, Wardenclyffe.

Remember the Niagara Falls hydroelectric plant? Yeah, that was built to help provide cheap electricity to the Wardenclyffe Laboratory which would, get this, electrify the Earths atmosphere, providing free electricity to everyone. Unfortunately, the Wardenclyffe tower, from which electricity would be broadcasted, was destroyed in 1917. In October 2012 a crowd-funded project collected $1.37 million, plus a $850,000 grant from the state of New York, to build a museum to Nikola Tesla on the old Wardenclyffe grounds.

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From the Archives: Historical Bad@$$es: The Moonwalkers (August 25)

In memoriam of the first moonwalker, Neil Armstrong, today’s fun fact is about the moonwalkers:

Nine manned missions to the moon have taken place since 1968 when the Apollo 8 mission was launched, and all have been undertaken by the United

States. Of those missions (Apollo 8, 10-17), six (Apollo 11, 12, 14-17) landed on the moon. The following is the list of people who have been to the moon (meaning they have at least been in orbit around the moon), in order of date orbited, then rank for mission. Those marked with an asterisk (*) walked on the moon during the indicated mission, those marked with a caret (^) are appearing on the list for a second time.
Apollo 8: Commander Frank Borman II
Command Module Pilot James Lovell Jr.
Lunar Module Pilot William Anders
Apollo 9: Commander James McDivitt
Command Module Pilot David Scott
Lunar Module Pilot Russell “Rusty” Schweickart
Apollo 10: Commander Thomas Stafford
Command Module Pilot John Young
Lunar Module Pilot Eugene Cernan
Apollo 11: Commander Neil Armstrong*
Command Module Pilot Michael Collins
Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr.*
Apollo 12: Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr.*
Command Module Pilot Richard Gordon Jr.
Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean*
Apollo 13: Commander James Lovell Jr.^
Command Module Pilot Thomas Mattingly II
Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise Jr.
Apollo 14: Commander Alan Shepard Jr.*
Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa
Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell*
Apollo 15: Commander David Scott*
Command Module Pilot Alfred Worden
Lunar Module Pilot James Irwin*
Apollo 16: Commander John Young^*
Command Module Pilot Thomas Mattingly II
Lunar Module Pilot Charles Duke Jr.*
Apollo 17: Commander Eugene Cernan^*
Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans
Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt*

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Double Post Part 1: From the Archives: Nukes (July 22)

Okay, it’s past midnight where I am, so I’ll post this now and have something else for you all later today.
Since the first nuclear test in 1945 at the White Sands Missile Range, then White Sands Proving Ground, there have been around 2000-2100 nuclear detonations in either the form tests or use as a weapon. Of these about 1000 are American, 700 are Soviet/Russian, 200 are French, 45 are British, 45 are Chinese, 6 are Indian, 6 are Pakistani, and two are North Korean. Unconfirmed tests include Iranian, German and Japanese devices. The three most prolific testing years were, in order of most tests to least, 1961, 1958 and 1968. About 140 nuclear tests occurred in 1961, with about 100 of those being American. The longest period of time between two nuclear tests was a span of about 100 months from June 1998 to October 2006. Since 1998, the only nation to perform confirmed nuclear tests has been North Korea. The “Doomsday Clock” is a subjective measure of the danger of nuclear catastrophe based on current events. Initially set at 11:53, the closest the Doomsday Clock has gotten to midnight (global nuclear disaster) was 11:53 in 1953. The farthest the Doomsday Clock has been from midnight was in 1991 when the clock was set to 11:43. The Doomsday Clock is currently set to 11:55

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The Three Worlds

Generally, the terms first-world and third-world are used to describe rich countries and poor countries, respectively. But how did the terms get their start? You don’t actually have to look too far back, because the terms arose, under slightly different meanings, during the Cold War. ‘First world’ used to refer to the United States and its allies, most of which were democratic and capitalist, ‘Second World’ used to refer to the Soviet Union, its allies, and other communist or socialist states, and ‘Third world’ referred to neutral or unaligned nations. Under the old definitions, the wealthy nation of Switzerland would have been considered a “third world nation”, while the relatively poor nations of Burma and Mozambique would have been considered “first world nations”. Finally, a more recent term “fourth world” refers to smaller populations, typically those excluded from global or industrial societies.

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Historical Bad@$$: George de Hevesy

George Charles de Hevesy was a 20th century chemist born in 1885 into a Hungarian Jewish family. During his life he became an acquaintance of Neils Bohr and worked in Ernest Rutherford’s laboratory. Along with the Dutch physicist Dirk Coster, de Hevesy discovered hafnium, and developed a method for the use of plutonium-212 as a chemical tracer, allowing chemists and biologists to follow chemical and biological processes as they happened. de Hevesy won the 1943 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on radioactive tracers. But this is the most bad@$$ part, in WWII de Hevesy took the Nobel Prizes of James Franck (a German Jewish physicist) and Max von Laue (an opponent of the Nazi party), and hid them in the Niels Bohr Institute Laboratory where he worked, so that they wouldn’t be taken by Nazi German forces…and he dissolved both solid gold medals in aqua regia (one of the few acids that can dissolve gold). After the war, de Hevesy precipitated the gold back out from the acid and returned the gold to the Nobel Society to have the medals recast.

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From the Archives: Operation Bernhard (August 17)

Notice: the following post is an obligatory fulfillment of Godwin’s Law, which may or may not be discussed in a later post.

Beginning in 1942 Nazi Germany devised Operation Bernhard, a plan to bomb and demolish the British economy. Using prisoners primarily from Sachsenhausen but also Auschwitz and other concentration camps, SS Major Krüger directed a team of about 140 prisoners to forge £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes which, at the program’s end in 1945, would end up totaling £134,610,810. The forged notes are considered the best counterfeits ever produced, being virtually indistinguishable from official Bank of England notes. The notes were never dropped on England, but were used by the Nazi foreign intelligence to pay for their activities. In early 1945 another similar operation was in the works to forge American $100 bills, but was cancelled one day after starting.

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Richest American Presidents

I’m going to keep this as unbiased as I can. Since the ratification of the Constitution of the United States only nine presidents have had a net worth of less than one million dollars (adjusted for inflation, all figures are in 2010 US Dollars, some presidents who are considered to be millionaires now may not have been when they were alive). The richest American President to date was John F. Kennedy who had a net worth (again, in 2010 dollars) of around one billion dollars. The next richest President was George Washington, with a net worth of 525 million dollars. The current president, Barack Obama, has a net worth of around 5 million dollars, largely from book sales, and is currently the 28th wealthiest. The nine Presidents who were not millionaires are, in order of the dates they were President, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, James Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge and Harry Truman. Finally, since the 2012 United States Presidential Elections are approaching, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney currently has a net worth of about 200 million dollars and, should he be elected President, he would be the fourth wealthiest, behind Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt.

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Historical Bad@$$: Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart

Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO was a highly decorated British military officer of Belgian and Irish heritage. Sir de Wiart was a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE), a Companion of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath (CB) and a Companion of The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG). A veteran of the Boer War, World War I and World War II. Over the course of his military career he was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip and ear, lost his left hand in 1915. During World War II a plane he was on crashed into the water about one mile off of the coast of Italian Libya, and Sir de Wiart and the rest of the plane’s crew swam the mile to shore were they were promptly captured. After seven months of tunneling during his time in the Italian POW camp, he escaped and spent a week disguised as an Italian peasant and then after was involved in the Italian surrender negotiations. After WWII, Sir de Wiart was the British Prime Minister’s personal representative to Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek. Sir de Wiart died in June 1963 at the age of 83.

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War

War is a state of organized armed conflict between two groups of people, typically nations. Periods of warfare tend to see increased mortality rates in the affected areas, aggression and social disruption, but also potentially increased rates of innovation as part of efforts to win. The largest war to date, in terms of the number of people who died as a result of said war, was the second World War, during which more than 60 million people died. The major participating nations in WWII were the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, the United States, the British Empire, Japan, the Republic of China, Italy and France. The first war to be recorded was one between Sumer, in modern Iraq, and Elam, in modern Iran, which took place in about 2700 BCE. The longest war to be declared was the Third Punic War, which began in 149 BCE. There was no declaration of peace between the Roman Republic and the Carthaginian Republic when the contract of surrender was signed in 146BCE. The mayors of Rome and Carthage signed an official peace treaty in 1985, 2134 years after the war began. Finally, the shortest war ever declared began on August 27 1896. The British Empire issued an ultimatum to the Zanzibar Sultanate, which expired at 9:00AM East Africa Time. At 9:02AM about 1,000 British or pro-British troops stormed the royal palace, which was taken at 9:40AM. The entire war lasted 38 minutes.

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Labor Day

Today, September 3rd, is Labor Day in the United States. Labor Day is dedicated to the contributions of workers and and labor unions, and was proposed when labor unions began gaining power. The first Monday in September is set aside as a federal and state holiday during which non-essential government employees are given paid leave from their work duties and federal and state offices are closed. Oregon was, in 1887, the first state of the United States to adopt Labor day as a state holiday, seven years before it became a national holiday. In many American school districts, classes start a day or so after Labor Day, making Labor Day the unofficial last day of summer. Finally, many countries celebrate Labour Day on the First of May, coinciding with International Worker’s Day, but Australia holds Labour Day on the first Monday of October, the second Monday of March, the first Monday in March or the first Monday of May, depending on where in Australia you are.

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